economic COVID campaign logoPUBLISHED MAR 17, 2020

What the Coronavirus Could Mean for Your Wallet

Editor's note: this article was updated on Mar. 27, 2020.

As the number of COVID-19 cases climb around the world, health and economic professionals are keeping a close watch. Here’s what the coronavirus could mean for your wallet:

Your investments are probably on a wild ride. The coronavirus has disrupted supply chains and hurt profits across industries. Since outbreaks don't exactly put people in a shopping mood, it's also slowing consumer demand. That combo helps explain why stock indexes have been extra volatile (aka rollercoaster-y) lately. Keep in mind: the US market has always bounced back after big losses over time and kept climbing.

Related: theSkimm on Bumpy Stock Markets

You might need to revisit future travel plans. The CDC has lots of thoughts on “nonessential” trips. See: social distancing. If you're thinking travel insurance will help you stay financially flexible, read the fine print. Standard travel policies often have exclusions for epidemics, and likely won't reimburse you because you're afraid of getting sick. "Cancel for any reason" policies are more expensive, but typically offer better coverage.

Your utility bills could be on the rise. You’re probably using more electricity, gas, and heat or AC than usual. Pro tip: if you’ve upgraded your wifi and other aspects of your WFH setup, see if your company will foot some of the bill.

It could cost less to borrow money. Rough economic conditions pressure central banks (like the US Fed) to lower interest rates. The Fed has announced two emergency rate cuts in March. That means you could get better borrowing terms when you buy or refinance a home. And a slight discount if you carry a balance on your credit card or other variable-rate debt.

Related: How to Pay Off Credit Card Debt

And you might be able to get a break on your existing loans. Lenders are getting more flexible. If you owe Uncle Sam back for college, you can request a 60-day pause on your payments. Interest-free. If you’re struggling with credit card, personal loan, or mortgage payments, call your creditor. Several banks have said they may waive fees or defer payments if the coronavirus is hitting you hard.

Related: What You Need to Know About the Coronavirus

You have more time to do your federal taxes. The IRS pushed the deadline back three months to give Americans some financial relief. Meaning you don’t need to send your return or check until July 15. But keep in mind: you might want to file ASAP if you’re expecting a refund. And while states are encouraged to follow the federal gov's lead, they can keep their Tax Days the same.

It might cost less to fill your tank. With factories pausing production and airlines cancelling flights, energy demand has dropped. Oil prices have followed. Meaning you could pay less at the pump….at least until oil-producing countries get on the same page.

The gov could send you free money. On March 25, the Senate passed a $2 trillion (yes, that's a T) relief bill. Which includes sending Americans who make up to $75,000 checks for $1,200 to stay afloat...and keep spending. Parents could get an extra $500 per kid. The amount would get lower the higher your salary. The House and Trump still need to sign off to make things official.

You might have trouble upping your income. When companies aren't doing well, they're more likely to freeze hiring and cut pay than hand out raises and bonuses. Millions of Americans have filed for unemployment in the past few weeks. Not great news for what might be on the way for the job market. (Check your state’s labor website if you need help. Eligibility requirements for unemployment benefits have loosened up recently.)

theSkimm: COVID-19 has rattled supply chains, work schedules, spring travel plans, and markets. We still don't know what the fallout from this virus will be, but try not to make any major, sudden moves with your portfolio. If you're in it for the long haul, you can probably afford to keep calm...and see what happens next.


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