Five steps to take after a financial disaster
As we sail into 2021, many Americans are struggling with the aftershocks of financial disaster. Whether it’s due to a layoff, a smaller workload, medical expenses or a change in family circumstances, the financial fallout of COVID-19 has been devastating.
Recovering from a financial disaster, due to a pandemic or any other reason, is never easy; however, with hard work and the ability to look forward, it can be done.
Step 1: Assess the damage
Evaluate exactly how much financial recovery you need. Are you thousands of dollars in debt? Do you need to find a new job? What are the long-term financial implications of the recent disaster?
Crunching the numbers and putting it all on paper will make it easier to take concrete steps toward recovery.
Step 2: Accept your new reality
Shock and denial are valid stages of grief for any major loss or disaster, but for recovery to be possible, it’s important to reach a place of acceptance. You can vent to a close friend, express your feelings in a journal, de-stress with your favorite low-cost hobby and then let go. Constantly harping on what could have been will only drain you of the energy you need to move on.
Step 3: Outline your goals
Clearly defining your goals will make it easier to go forward. Are you looking to rebuild a depleted emergency fund? Find gainful employment? Pay down your medical bills?
As you work through this step, choose goals that are SMART:
Step 4: Create a recovery plan
Your plan should consist of consecutive steps that lead to a life of complete financial wellness. Here are some steps you may want to include:
- Trim your spending until you can spend less than you earn.
- Build a small emergency fund to help you get through an unexpected expense.
- Seek new employment or new income streams.
- Start paying down debts.
- Save more aggressively, with one eye toward your retirement and another toward a large emergency fund with up to six months’ of living expenses.
Step 5: Make it happen
Put your plan into action! If you were careful to set goals that are SMART, you should be able to take the first steps in your plan immediately.