4 Financial Lessons We Learned From the Pandemic

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A lot of people are still reeling from the coronavirus crisis, and since the outbreak is far from over, that's understandable. But for better or worse, the pandemic has taught us a thing or two from a financial perspective. Here are a few important lessons we can all benefit from.

1. Always have emergency savings

Nobody could've predicted what a disaster 2020 would ultimately turn into, but the reality is that financial emergencies can strike any time, without warning. Many people found themselves in dire financial straits this year when their incomes took a hit or their jobs were eliminated. But a layoff can happen outside a pandemic, as can the need for a sudden home or car repair. That's why it's crucial to always have a healthy sum in a savings account. As a general rule, you should aim for an emergency fund with three to six months' worth of living expenses. That way, you'll have protection from the unknowns that could otherwise upend your finances.

2. Aim to have a backup income source

Side hustles were becoming increasingly popular before the pandemic, and people who have one may fare better during the crisis than those who don't. The biggest upside of having a backup income stream is the protection it affords if your main job goes away. And in light of the pandemic, it's best to aim for a side hustle you can do as independently as possible -- for example, driving for a rideshare company, doing marketing work from home, or anything else that doesn't rely on being in a specific place or answering to a specific employer.

3. Steer clear of unhealthy debt

A lot of people have taken on debt during the pandemic, and that can't always be helped. But those who had debt before the coronavirus outbreak have likely had extra stress on their plates during the crisis, since they're forced to tackle those debt payments on top of their essential bills. Your best bet is to always steer clear of unhealthy debt (such as credit card balances; mortgages or car payments are considered healthy debt) so you don't have the burden of another expense if things go south. Also, too much unhealthy debt can lower your credit score, making it harder to borrow money when a crisis arises and you need a loan.

4. Don't be shy about asking for help

A lot of financial relief has been available during the pandemic, but it's been necessary to ask for most of it. Over the past nine months, homeowners have been able to put their mortgages into forbearance; credit card companies have waived late fees and worked out payment schedules with borrowers; and utility companies have provided customers a lot of flexibility. Even when we make our way out of this pandemic, you may still be eligible for relief if your financial situation takes a turn for the worse, so never hesitate to request some help.

Though we're clearly far from out of the woods with the pandemic, we can still take these lessons to heart now and make changes in light of them. Doing so will, ideally, give you hope for the future as we wait for things to turn around in 2021.

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