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Summary: Conditions during COVID-10 make paying bills, saving money, and increasing income all the more difficult. However, residents of WA, OR, ID, and CO can help their finances with credit counseling, wise investing, and relentless attention to job market dynamics.
We all know the old adage: “You can’t get blood from a stone.” With shelter-in-place orders and business downsizing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many wonder how they can improve their credit, increase their savings, and augment their income amidst dwindling opportunities. The coronavirus appears to have set in motion all the elements of a long-lasting economic downturn that eliminates jobs, strains government budgets, and forecasts a lengthy period of anemic economic growth. At the same time, both households and individuals are not without recourse. There are workable steps you can take that advance financial wellness, even during coronavirus restrictions.
Whether the concern is good credit at risk or bad credit getting worse, people have options to help stabilize and even boost credit scores while the pandemic rages. One way is to seek forbearance from lenders, be they mortgagees, auto financiers or credit card companies. Essentially, forbearance simply delays payments for a given number of months, allowing laid off borrowers to secure new employment or return to their old jobs. It allows self-employed customers to pursue alternative means of revenue. It gives borrowers a breathing room while credit status remains intact. While the financial obligation does not shrink, penalties and reporting are waived during the course of forbearance.
Another avenue is to keep unused credit accounts open (as long as no fees are charged). More open accounts with zero balances create ratios that enhance FICO scores. Meanwhile, consumers whose credit is already poor can still take advantage of credit counseling. Available in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Colorado, credit counseling can lead to a debt management plan and help struggling debtors to avoid bankruptcy. Credit counselors can also provide sound advice with regard to properly managing stimulus and unemployment payments prompted by COVID-19.
Sadly, many people feel compelled to tap into savings and retirement funds in order to survive the economic hardships that the pandemic has imposed. The idea of growing assets seems very much out of the question in the foreseeable future. Yet, just as many continue to work and their revenue streams keep flowing unabated. For these with unharmed income, step one is to be thankful as another kind of crisis may have given a worse result. Step two is to consider that stimulus check that every taxpaying American (should have) received. This can be directed toward college savings, investment funds, or property improvement, for example.
Keeping a detailed budget helps families to track where their dollars go. During the coronavirus shutdowns, travel is restricted. Monies for car repair, gasoline, and air travel are not getting spent. Putting them away is advisable. Similarly, restaurants, health clubs, and hair salons are closed in most cases. Budget-conscious people calculate these would-be expenses and can apply them to long-term concerns like health care and retirement. The coronavirus has placed numerous constraints on activities where you might otherwise spend these valuable funds.
For those who have been temporarily laid off or permanently terminated because of the pandemic, prospects might appear bleak in terms of employment. They need not be so, however. Intrepid research and a little hustle can still unearth excellent opportunities. First of all, learning where the open positions are is the initial threshold through which to pass. Classifieds and job search sites may be of limited use these days; networking, though, is never futile. Using the coronavirus downtime to research and make, or reestablish, contacts can pay enormous dividends.
Upgrading a professional website and polishing a posted resume are other ways to advance the likelihood of getting noticed by employers in need. With technology in mind, participation in GoogleMeet and Zoom seminars in your area of expertise not only provides continuing education, but it also exposes you to new people, some of whom may be looking for associates. Recruiters are also spending more time on social media so checking in on those platforms is advised as well. With persistence and strategy, workers may find a position better and more lucrative than the one they had occupied before the advent of COVID-19.
The Washington state Office of the Attorney General maintains a list of approved credit counselors for people endeavoring to take control of their bills and manage their money. Alternatively, the National Foundation for Consumer Counseling keeps a database of approved member agencies for referral in the Evergreen State (as well as each state listed below). Additionally, county agencies offer low-cost and free seminars on wealth building and investment strategies. Libraries and other institutions make several such programs available online during the pandemic. The statewide WorkSource system connects job-seekers with training and available openings.
Debt management counseling companies are required to register with the Oregon Division of Financial Regulation. Approved organizations will advise on a wide range of issues like budgeting, credit repair, loan modifications, and negotiating with lenders. For anyone looking to better their investment portfolio and increase assets, he or she does best to consult an advisor licensed by the state Division of Finance and Corporate Securities. Oregon boasts low taxation on capital gains so many take advantage of investment opportunities. For the unemployed and looking, the Oregon Employment Department’s WorkSourceOregon website assists with exploration, education, and certifications.
Gem State residents who wish to become better stewards of extended credit and financing can contact the Idaho Finance Bureau for assistance in locating approved counseling agencies. The bureau also offers information on fair debt collection, state laws governing credit, and discerning fraud by lenders. Low-income consumers can also contact Idaho Legal Aid Services, Inc. Financial planning advice is available through any consultant accredited by the Department of Finance Securities Bureau. In addition to offering ongoing pandemic unemployment assistance, the Idaho Department of Labor also offers displaced workers help in discovering new careers, improving job skills, and optimizing resumes for more call-backs.
As with Washington, consumer credit counselors are regulated by the Office of the Attorney General. These professional agencies operate under the auspices of the Colorado Uniform Debt Management Services Act, hence they must meet certain criteria, training, personnel, practices, etc, before registering with the AG’s office. Financial planners, on the other hand, are overseen by the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, Division of Securities. Coloradans needing professional consultation regarding their assets should refer to this agency to vet any prospects. Out of work residents, or those simply needing to make more money, can avail themselves of the resources (resumes, job searches, interviewing, and networking) at the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.
With interest rates at record low levels, refinancing might help homeowners in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Colorado improve their cash flow and overall financial health. Not always the best way forward, it has great potential for saving money and increasing future stability. Speaking with a mortgage professional helps to evaluate the pros and cons of a home refinance. If the numbers crunch well, you may have more money than during pre-COVID. If they do not, there is no charge for the conversation.
Sammamish Mortgage has been around since 1992 and has helped plenty of people get mortgages. We are based in the Pacific Northwest and help home buyers in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Colorado.
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