The author of this guest column is Carletta O. Beckwith, CPA, her firm provides taxation, accounting, and financial planning services. Let Carletta help lessen the stress of your tax season.  Call 732-873-0902 today to schedule an appointment.  Visit www.beckwithcpa.com for more information.

SOMERSET, NJ - If you are feeling the stress of coronavirus on your finances, chances are you are not alone. Over 26 million Americans have filed for unemployment since March 2020, 850,000 represented New Jersey residents.   The stock market has suffered losses. There is tremendous uncertainty in our economy and the ability to restart.  New housing construction projects are down.  Many people are scared, some are hungry, while others remain unscathed.

What can you do right now to improve your financial situation if you have been impacted by COVID 19?

Sign Up for Franklin Township Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

You can make two overall moves and that involves defense and offense. Just like in the game of basketball, defense is significant and keeps the team in the game. But we all know the game of basketball is not won on defense alone but by scoring points.  Both offensive and defensive plays are necessary to win the game.

What does all of this have to do with your finances?

If you have been financially impacted by COVID-19, there are 3 major defensive and offensive moves you can make RIGHT NOW to keep you in the financial game until the economy is up and running.

Defensive Plays

Prepare a Budget-Now more than ever it is imperative to live on a budget. You should be spending your money on paper before you receive it so that you know where your money is going.  I like apps/ money management tools like mint.com, everydollar.com and quicken.  There are several tools out there to assist.  You just need to pick one that works for you and use it.  You can also use good old fashion pen and paper.  You want to make an essential budget.  This is a bare bones minimum budget that you create that covers the basics.  The idea is to spend only on the basics and put the excess cash to use investing and saving.

Defer Bills- Almost all mortgage providers are granting a minimum of a 3-month deferral of payments.  These service providers are tacking the deferred payments to the end of the loan so you are not hit with the burden of making 4 payments when the deferral is over. Some bigger banks are offering longer extensions.  If you have a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac loan you are eligible for longer deferral periods. https://www.fanniemae.com/portal/media/corporate-news/2020/covid-homeowner-assistance-options-7000.html.  Every service provider’s offerings are different so please check with your provider for details.

For renters, Governor Murphy’s executive order has called for no evictions.  This would be in effect for up to 2 months after the State declares the health crisis is over.  https://covid19.nj.gov/forms/renter  This does not mean you are not responsible for the rent payments. The best thing to do is to talk to your landlord and you will find many landlords are offering some flexible payment arrangements.  You can also use your security deposit to pay rent according to the most recent executive order.  https://nj.gov/infobank/eo/056murphy/pdf/EO-128.pdf.  This can be done up to 2 months after the Governor declares the health crisis has ended.  You will later have to replenish the security deposit within 6 months of the end of the Public Health Emergency or when lease renews, whichever is later.

Contact credit card providers, health insurance, life insurance, auto insurance https://www.nj.gov/governor/news/news/562020/20200409a.shtml and take advantage of the 60-90 day deferral with the unpaid premiums spread over the remainder of the policy term.

If you should have any issues with your insurance provider, file a complaint with the Department of Banking and Insurance as these companies could face penalties for non-compliance. https://www.state.nj.us/dobi/consumer.htm#insurance.

Service providers of cable, internet, phone, wireless, heating and electric have also vowed to keep everyone connected and serviced during this difficult time. If you need help, it is out there, you just need to make the call.

Build your Emergency Fund-If you do not currently have 6 months of emergency funds saved, now is the time to work on this.  Due to the uncertainty and impending recession, I would suggest establishing a 12-month emergency fund.

Offensive Plays

Learn a new skill- Many people will lose their jobs after the economy reopens since our economy is headed toward a recession. Unfortunately, some jobs will not return.  Build skills that are marketable to make yourself so valuable that it would be hard for anyone to fire you. Alternatively, build skills that will allow you to make money in a side business.

Make more Money- Seek out promotions on your job. Do freelance work by using sites like Upwork.

Invest in something that will generate more money such as starting a business, investing in gold, real estate, and the stock market.  Take advantage of the opportunity that the virtual marketplace is offering.  Many new businesses are commencing due to the move toward virtual life.  What business can you start to add to the economy?

If you are interested in how you can learn more about these strategies and make yourself recession proof, I would love to hear from you.  Carletta can be reached at carletta@beckwithcpa.com or 732-873-0902.

Carletta Beckwith CPA LLC is a firm that provides premiere income tax preparation, tax planning, and financial planning services. Carletta Beckwith is a licensed CPA and CFP® and shares her extensive industry knowledge to deliver superior customer service and personalized attention to her clients.  To learn more about the services she provides visit www.beckwithcpa.com. 

You may email her directly at carletta@beckwithcpa.com.IRS Circular 230 disclosure: Any tax advice included in this written or electronic communication was not intended or written to be used, and it cannot be used by the taxpayer, for avoiding any penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer by any governmental taxing authority or agency. 

Disclaimer: Nothing in this document should be relied on and you should seek professional advice if you need tax or financial planning information or advice.  This publication should not be a substitution for personal tax advice as every tax situation is different.  You should obtain personal tax advice from a Certified Public Accountant or other tax professional to address your specific tax needs.  You should seek financial planning advice from a financial planning professional or CFP®.