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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

Did the pandemic derail your financial goals?

Aug 23, 2021 02:02PM ● By Alan Becker
cartoon graphic of older bearded man with white board reading "retirement plan"

How to get back on schedule

Among the many devastating problems the COVID-19 pandemic caused was the fact that plenty of Americans were left fretting about the state of their finances.

In a Pew Research Center survey, about half of non-retired adults said the pandemic’s economic impact will make it harder for them to achieve their long-term financial goals. Among those experiencing a financial struggle, 44 percent estimated it would take them three years or more to get back to where they were before the pandemic. Another 10 percent are even more pessimistic, saying it’s possible they’ll never recover.

While sobering, these results are not so surprising considering portions of the economy shut down last year while our country battled the virus. Small businesses closed, some never to reopen again. Employees were told their services were no longer needed, and they went from drawing a regular paycheck to dealing with the frustrations of trying to collect unemployment. For many, savings plans took a hit. 

However, there’s light at the end of the tunnel as Americans become vaccinated and the economy begins to right itself. What’s done is done, though, and those whose finances took a major blow must now figure out how to stabilize themselves and get back on course.

Make a plan

Figure out where your finances are right now. Look at your monthly expenses and your monthly income and see how they stack up. Are there ways you can cut back on expenses?
Of course, that may mean making sacrifices, a hard ask as many have sacrificed so much already. Build confidence moving forward by writing down a plan outlining where your finances are, where you would like them to be, and what steps you need to take to get there.

Begin saving again as soon as you can

One of the most insidious aspects of financial struggles is that they beget other financial struggles. You can’t pay this month’s electric bill, so you charge it to a credit card, which means now you’re paying that bill off with interest, making it even harder to save for retirement or emergencies. But saving is important, and the sooner you can get back to doing it regularly, the better, even if it’s just a small amount to begin with.
One of the best ways to save is a 401(k) plan where your contributions go directly into your account without you ever touching the money. This is even better if your employer offers a company match which boosts your savings even more.

Consider postponing retirement

If you were forced to reduce your contributions to your retirement savings or had to dip into those retirement funds to meet monthly expenses, take another look at your retirement timeline. It might be wise to postpone retirement a few years, giving you more time to build back what was lost.

Review your Social Security options

When you close in on Social Security age, you have a decision and the pandemic may have changed what you want or need to do. If you take your Social Security benefit early at 62, this results in a reduced monthly check for the rest of your life. Alternatively, you can wait until your full eligibility age, which for most people is 66 or 67. Or you can put off claiming Social Security until age 70 and be rewarded with a bigger monthly check. Over a year into the pandemic, it may be time to review where you stand. If you lost your job, taking Social Security early may now make sense just to bring in some income. If you decide to keep working, you might want to postpone Social Security as well.

As difficult as it is, don’t let emotions rule your decisions. A financial professional can help you focus on the specifics of your individual situation to devise a tailored plan. Stay focused on what you can do, put your plan in gear, and with patience and fortitude you can begin to mend this financial wound.

Wild scam stories: Ameri-Save or Ameri-Scam?

My husband and I are in our 70s. With interest rates being so low, we decided to refinance our home mortgage.

In February, we called Ameri Save Mortgage Corporation and started the process at 2.25 percent. All was well at first, but soon, the person we were working with started treating us like children! When we asked questions, he’d say things like “You need to do it my way,” or that he was Batman and we were Robin! We thought it was a joke at first but as time went on, he proved to be more of a Joker. 

He told us we needed to send over documents to him via the online portal. He said we’d close in March but we didn’t because he was supposedly missing documents that we’d already sent him. We scheduled another closing date in April, at which time he told us NOT to pay our mortgage. So we didn’t—and we also didn’t close in April due to a document he hadn’t received even though we’d sent it several times. We rescheduled the closing again for May, and against his advice, we paid the late fee for our missed mortgage payment and our balance.

At the end of May, Amerisave denied our loan because we were two months late on our mortgage. When we told them we were only doing what we’d been told, they said it was a “hypothetical statement” and that loans were now in the 3+ percent category. Now our credit is compromised and we can no longer qualify for a low-interest rate. 

After an agonizing four months, we still have no loan. I believe we were targeted because they didn’t want to give us the original 2.25 percent rate we qualified for. When rates began to climb, they set us up for failure. 

Not only were we treated poorly by the loan originator and by management, we were lied to and cheated. We’ve contacted the Better Business Bureau and consulted with a lawyer. Thank you for letting me share this story with your readers so people don’t get scammed by them.

- Yvonne B.

Read more finance articles.

The best way to prevent others from falling victim to scams is to spread the word! 

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Email: [email protected] 

Mail: BEACON Senior News, PO Box 3895, Grand Junction, CO 81502

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