I can honestly say I’ve never had a month like March 2020 before in my lifetime.
Just a few weeks ago it seemed like the coronavirus was some distant disease in China. I really didn’t pay much attention (except for being annoyed by how it was negatively affecting our 401k).
That seems like forever ago.
So much has changed since my last financial report. A lot of it is bad, but there are some bright spots.
I just keep thinking how crazy it is that life can change so drastically, in a relatively short amount of time, for the entire world.
For the entire world!
And it’s not over yet. Nobody knows where the bottom is. Nobody knows how long this will be our reality. But, I think everybody knows this will forever change certain landscape pieces of American culture.
Right now, I’m not terribly worried about our finances. We have some in savings, we qualify for unemployment income, and the government is helping out, too.
But if things continue as they are beyond 3 or 4 months, then we’ll be entering no man’s land. I have no idea what waits for us there.
One thing that is strangely comforting is, we’re all in this together. We didn’t do anything wrong or make stupid mistakes. We’re not being irresponsible or penalized for bad financial choices.
We’re just caught in this moment in history when something outside of our control is rearranging life as we know it, on a global scale. It’s a circumstance nobody was expecting, and it’s extremely inconvenient.
We can’t change it or force it to go away. And we certainly can’t ignore it and just wait for everything to get back to normal.
Like Dr. Fauci said, “You don’t make the timeline. The virus makes the timeline.”
But, to put things in perspective, this chaotic circumstance is, in one way, just like any other. It may have imposed itself into our lives through no prompting of our own, but we can all choose our reaction to it.
We each have control over what we think about it, how we feel about it, and how we respond to it.
(*Reread that last sentence and let it really sink in.*)
Nothing – nothing – has control over your mind and emotions. What you *choose* to think will have a direct impact on how you feel. So, if you don’t like feeling stressed or anxious or worried, then be intentional about your thought life.
No, your thoughts won’t change your circumstance. But they’ll change your perception of it, and this makes all the difference.
With that said, here is the overview for March.
A month ago my husband and I were still working and our son was in school.
At first, a couple of conventions had been cancelled and we were both a little surprised at what seemed like drastic measures. There were also rumors going around school that spring break would be extended to two weeks.
Then one day it was like the dominoes started dropping in quick succession.
My husband got furloughed, schools were ordered to close for at least a month, and the coronavirus stats just kept accelerating.
I started reaching out to our creditors immediately. I didn’t want to get caught in a huge backlog that I knew was imminent.
I also started paying close attention to the President’s updates. Admittedly, I’ve never been more aware of what the government is doing than I am now. I check my state’s COVID-19 website daily, and I’m always checking for live news conferences.
Thankfully, we’re all getting some form of financial support. This is a bright spot in the middle of this storm. Yes, there’s a lot of bad, but there’s also some good happening, too.
Here’s my own good & bad for March:
GOOD: Before everything took a sharp turn south, I used some of my paycheck to pay off a reserve loan we have through our bank. It’s basically like a line of credit that acts like overdraft protection. Every time our account dips below zero, the reserve loan steps in to cover the shortage. We don’t use it very often, but it’s been building up for some time. So, I decided to pay off the whole thing, and that felt good.
GOOD: I also paid a little extra on my student loan. It wasn’t a whole lot over the minimum payment, but I realized that a little is better than nothing.
BAD: My husband was placed on a 90-day furlough. That number is flexible; it all depends on the timeline of the virus. So, now he’s home all the time and trying to stay busy. Just this morning he said it feels like we’re retired.
BAD: Our school district shut down on March 13, which meant all of my sub jobs were cancelled until at least April 17.
GOOD: Both my husband and I qualify for our state’s unemployment insurance. My husband’s regular income qualifies him for the maximum weekly benefit, while mine is much lower. It took him over a week to complete the online claim because the system was overloaded. But, now he’s in and we just have to wait 4-6 weeks for the first check.
GOOD: The $2T stimulus bill that was recently passed will provide $600 of unemployment income weekly for 4 months, over and above what we’ll get from the state. I’m still not sure if that’s for each of us, but I’m so thankful for it.
BAD: Colorado is currently under a “stay-at-home” mandate set by the governor, until April 11 (unless rescinded or modified). This means we can’t see our daughter, who lives in a separate residence. Of course, if there is an emergency we’ll do what we need to do. But, it sucks that we have to keep our distance for over 2 weeks.
GOOD: Social distancing sucks, but it has prompted us to get outside more. We try to take daily walks around our neighborhood, or go to a local dog park with our dog. These things are free, good for our health, and gets us out of the house.
GOOD: Since my husband isn’t drawing a paycheck every week, our HSA won’t be getting any contributions either. So, I reached out to each health provider and was able to put all of our bills on hold. Every provider was extremely helpful and compassionate toward the situation.
GOOD: My husband and I decided to take out a 401k loan as extra security in case we need it. We could have taken a hardship withdrawal, but we didn’t want to pay taxes or fees and we want to eventually put it all back. The stimulus bill will allow us to delay loan payments for up to a year.
GOOD: I was easily able to defer my student loan payments for 3 months, and the stimulus bill allows for up to 6 months of delayed payments with no interest penalty.
GOOD: The recently passed stimulus bill will provide a one-time check of approximately $3,000 for us. This will be a huge help as we tighten up our budget.
BAD: I called our mortgage lender the day my husband was furloughed, and they were not very helpful. They discouraged both a loan modification and forbearance. However, accommodations are being changed on a daily basis, and it’s possible that lenders could be able to offer more helpful solutions in the near future. Until then, we’ll make our mortgage payment a priority, even though it’s our largest monthly bill.
BAD: Our 401k has been taking a beating. At one point, it was down 34%. Right now we’re down 25%. We’re also not making any contributions right now, besides taking out a loan from it. I just hope when this is all over, things bounce back fairly quickly.
BAD: The unknowns. How long we’ll be out of work, how far our savings will stretch, how many people will have to suffer.
GOOD: I’ve written 4 articles for Medium, and made $90 so far!
GOOD: My whole family is healthy, as well as my mom, brother, and in-laws. That’s the best “good” of all.
Our Savings & Debt
Things are all upside down right now, as I’m sure it is for most people.
Instead of putting money in savings, we’re starting to draw from it. And instead of paying down debt, we have to delay payments for the foreseeable future.
Everything’s topsy turvy, but we’re adjusting.
It will probably be like this for the next 2-3 months, at least.
Even in the midst of adversity and uncertainty, we can still express gratitude.
These are just a few things I’m thankful for right now:
- that I live in America, where our government and health care workers are doing what they can to help people who are really struggling right now
- that everyone I know and love is still in good health
- that I have financial resources that will support my family through this crisis
- that I get to spend so much time with my husband and son – taking walks, playing games, watching movies, and just being together
- that I can still “go” to church online
- that my daughter works in home healthcare and therefore is able to continue working and generate income
- that I have lots of time to catch up on home projects and read books that have been on my reading list for months
- that my older son lives with us and doesn’t have a rent payment right now
- that (so far) I’ve been able to keep our groceries and household items fully stocked
- that I have Hulu and Netflix and every night is movie night!
- that I have access to the internet, where I can write my blog posts, stay informed, and stay connected with friends and family
Life is tough right now, my friend. It’s more important now than ever to not lose sight of the goodness in your life. Don’t let those blessings get buried underneath all the doom & gloom going on all around you. Take time every day to write down a few things you’re thankful for.
Hopefully, a few months from now, you’ll look back at this time and be amazed at the amount of strength you never knew you had. And then, you’ll move forward stronger, better, smarter, and ready for anything.