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3 Ways to Prepare for the Unexpected During Financial Literacy Month

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April is Financial Literacy Month! Woohoo!  Okay, we realize you’re probably not that excited about it or even know anything about it. Who could blame you with everything going on in the world today?

But the truth is, many of us are thinking a lot about our finances lately – and the economic worries we now face. All around the country, people of all ages are wondering Will I be able to afford groceries? Pay my rent or mortgage? Send my kid to college? Or ever have the money to retire someday?

None of us could have ever predicted the health and financial challenges we’re facing today. We can, however, heed the most important financial lesson we have learned from them: the importance of being financially prepared for the unexpected.

Here are three things you can do  to prepare for a better financial future:

  1. Build an emergency fund. According to a Federal Reserve study released in 2018, the average American doesn’t have money saved to cover a $400 expense. So if you find yourself living paycheck to paycheck, you’re not alone. You’re also probably facing enormous difficulty if you’ve experienced or are about to experience a job loss. Or if you’re facing an unexpected expense like car repairs.  You may not be able to accomplish this now, but if you can, start building emergency savings with at least six months of expenses. Your savings should be in an interest-bearing, liquid savings account and be used only for emergencies (of the non-fashion variety). To make saving easier, have money automatically transferred from your paycheck or checking account to your savings each month.
  1. Build a budget. Putting your finances, especially your spending under a microscope isn’t fun. It is, however, necessary, especially now. You need to understand how much you make, what your expenses are, and where you stand. The only way to accomplish that is by creating a budget to guide you with your spending and saving. Take inventory of all your expenses – your rent, Spotify and other subscriptions, student loan and credit card payments, car payments, commuting costs, food and entertainment expenses, clothing purchases, etc., and then try to look at ways to cut expenses. The good news is that there are lots of tools to help you track your spending and budget, including apps, such as Mint or Quicken. You can also set spending and balance alerts with Internet Banking and Mobile Banking.
  1. Get rid of high-interest debt. For most people, debt is just a part of life with mortgages, car payments, and student loans.  What doesn’t have to be part of your life, though, is high-interest credit card debt. In times like these, it’s hard enough to pay your rent or mortgage, let alone make high credit card payments.

Write down the debt you have, including the amounts you owe, the monthly payments, and the interest rates you’re paying. Start by paying off the highest-interest rate cards first. Or, you could consider transferring your credit card balances to a lower-interest credit card or personal loan. If you do this, be sure to avoid running up additional debt with your credit cards.

If you’re experiencing difficult making any payments, contact the credit card companies immediately to let them know. The worst thing you can do is nothing. Avidia Bank is currently also offering a Skip-A-Payment program as well as other payment modifications and account enhancements.  Learn more here.

With all that’s happened recently, you may find yourself in financial survival mode. That actually makes now, during Financial Literacy Month, the perfect time to work on your budget. Then, when this is all over, you’ll have something else to celebrate – being on your way to better financial health. Woohoo!