A Message of Hope

Frozen over Como Lake near Hamilton, MT. We got out and took a hike to fight the cabin fever!

I try to go on regular walks during the week. Today as I walked out the door and down the street, it was quiet. Really quiet. Hardly anyone driving the streets of our neighborhood, and during the course of my 45-minute walk, I only saw a couple of people. The one person I encountered walking towards me on the same sidewalk deliberately avoided me (for good reason) and stepped off the sidewalk to pass farther from me in the street. The sky matched the mood, threatening rain with dark streaks streaming from the sky on the horizon. The feeling was nearly apocalyptic.

This pandemic seemed so far away for many of us when it was first reported. Every day, it seemed to grow more and more ominous, reaching closer and closer to home. Some parts of our country started to practice social distancing, then restaurants and bars started to close to serving the general public. Before we knew it, only “essential” business was allowed. As the giant gears of our economy and society seemed to grind to a seeming halt, all of a sudden there became a new fear of not enough work, and with it, not enough money to get by. The stock market tumbled and erased all the impressive gains our current president has seen during his time in office. Unemployment applications skyrocket each day, with more than two million claims made just this past week. There is a staggering amount of fear in the news, in our homes, and in our minds. These are unprecedented times. Is there any hope?

I’ll just start off and say that yes, there is hope. As my walk continued, the clouds above the mountains broke slowly and exposed the previously-hidden sun. The warmth on my face reminded me that the world continues to turn, and life does go on, even when it seems that it may all be falling apart. Now, I don’t want to discredit anyone that is going through a particularly rough patch right now. I know there are some extremely challenging situations facing people out there. But you already know all these things simply by turning on the news. I think a different tone and take on things can be helpful.

In the very near future, relief is coming in the form of $1,200 checks for many Americans facing an immediate need. Soon, many businesses should have access to various forms of relief via low/no-interest loans and other financial supports to help float them in these tumultuous times. Mortgage payments are being deferred or suspended in some cases and in some parts of the country. Most notably for this blog, student loan interest AND payments are paused until the end of September.

All of that said, there can still be a lot of panic about what can be done before that relief arrives. While some things may be out of your hands, there are a number of things that are still in your sphere of control. Here are a few things I would suggest:

  • Keep cash in hand. Not literally, but try to stay as cash-rich as you can.
  • Hold off on paying your student loans for now (double-check with your loan company before doing this). If your loans are federal, they are not accruing interest right now, and payments aren’t expected until the end of September.
  • Avoid at all costs any unnecessary expenses if you are short on cash. Review your recent bank statements, and cut out any “extra” expenses that you typically incur. If you are short on cash, one of the best things you can do right now is to minimize expenses.
  • If your work has laid you off or your hours have been significantly impacted, file for unemployment. Our country has these systems in place for you as a tax-payer to leverage when there is a need.
  • Avoid taking on debt if you can, especially on credit cards. It is tempting to swipe a credit card in these trying times, but take a step back and evaluate if your purchase is truly necessary. If you are honest about it, you might find it is not a necessity.
  • If you own a house and are truly in a pinch, check with your lender to see if your mortgage payments can be lessened, postponed, or if something else can be worked out. REACH OUT TO THEM before you become delinquent on payments (this is true for any debt you have). If you are a renter, reach out to your landlord and try to reach an agreement. In all likelihood, they will be reasonable about payments.
  • Take a deep breath. This too shall pass. It really will. While we don’t have a solid timeline yet, we do know this won’t last forever.

This pandemic is causing a lot of mayhem, but it is also a gift that we may not see if we don’t recognize its disguise. Time at home may give you the opportunity to reconnect with your spouse, your kids, or your pets. If you haven’t talked to a loved one or a friend in a while, now is a great time. Chances are, they have a whole lot of nothing going on right now, just like you!

While it may be difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel, I would encourage you to take advantage of the gift that is today. Try to lead a balanced life when possible, eating as well as you can, exercising when you can, and turning off the news. If you are a person of faith like me, take this time to pray that these difficult days would soon pass us by.

If you or a loved one have specific questions about your specific situation, feel free to drop me a line at justinovenell@gmail.com. I am not a financial expert, but I would be happy to verbally work through your situation with you. Sometimes it’s just nice to have someone to listen.

Above all, stay well, stay healthy, stay six feet apart. šŸ™‚

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