During times like these, the last thing you need is financial stress. What is most critical is the well-being of you and your family. Health care costs, food, water, and shelter are the essentials for your budget, but when emotions run high, spending is sometimes the vice we turn to for coping. This financial guide offers you free tips, advice, products, services, and financial aid programs to help you save and get access to money to ensure you have everything you need to manage some of the financial and emotional hardships that may come with Coronavirus. We’ll add more resources as we find them—so keep checking back.
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Financial planners and advisors are extremely empathetic to the impact of financial stress. Reaching out to a financial planner may help you work through your stressors and come up with an action plan to move forward with confidence. Here’s what some of our trusted experts are recommending:
Alicia Butera, CFP® of Intuit recommends:
- Try to stay calm. “Do not make emotional or short term financial decisions during this heightened economy.”
- Try your best to reduce expenses to a minimum. If you are experiencing reduced income, “Reducing your expenses to a minimum and working with your bank if you need access to cash or an extension on debt payments is a good idea.”
- Keep your money invested for the long term. If you are currently an investor, Butera recommends not checking the markets every day and cautions against making decisions based on media headlines. “We will all get through this, and be sure to reach out for professional help and guidance if you are struggling.”
Brittany Castro, CFP® and founder and CEO of Financially Wise, Inc. says:
- Be safe and stay healthy. “Do your part to help keep this now pandemic from getting worse. Check out online resources from the CDC on guidance about the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).”
- Check out 10 tips for what to do with your money right now in Castro’s latest blog post on Mint.
James Conole, CFP® and founder and CEO of Root Financial Partners explains, “We have a tendency to think of this as just one big crisis.” He recommends people think of this from three different perspectives:
- Health. Conole lists this as priority number one. “Stay healthy and follow the CDC guidelines on how to protect yourself and others during this time.”
- Personal balance sheet. “A crisis like this highlights the need to have a few months of living expenses set aside in savings in case there is a loss or reduction of income.”
- Investing. “As scary as it is, remain invested and keep investing as the market goes down. It may not seem like it, but the market will recover and this is an opportunity to invest in companies that are on sale.”
Bruce Porter, Financial Advisor, founder and CEO of SYV Wealth says:
- Don’t panic sell. “Panic selling is never a wise investment strategy.”
- Invest now if you can. “In my investment business, the greatest regret I have is not calling more people when the markets are down, encouraging them to invest more of their money.”
There’s no shortage of the psychological phenomenon we’re all witnessing, and potentially even partaking in. What is it about a pandemic that makes us feel the need to buy toilet paper? But more importantly, how might we all benefit from these times to make our lives even better in the future? To answer these questions, experts in the field of behavioral science may have the answers to leading happier and healthier lives starting today. Here’s the advice they are offering:
Dan Ariely is a Behavioral Scientist, the James B. Duke Professor of Economics at Duke University, the founder of the Center for Advanced Hindsight, and the author of the New York Times bestseller, Predictably Irrational. Needless to say, Ariely has some great advice to offer. He explains, “It is not often in life that we get to re-examine our financial expenses. For this, we need some sort of shock to get us to act, and we need the time to reconsider—the Coronavirus has given us both.”
Here are a few tangible things Ariely recommends doing to take advantage of these times:
- Re-examine your bills over the last six months. “I suggest that you think about the amount of pleasure something gives you in your daily life. If something gives you a lot of pleasure, write 10, if the pleasure is so-so, write 5. If it doesn’t give you much pleasure at all, write 0. Continue looking at all items this way.”
- Re-examine all discretionary spending. “Maybe for some of us it is our television and cable bills, for others it may be subscriptions… for others, it may be things like travel or restaurants…things that we use very occasionally but don’t derive much pleasure.” He suggests repeating the 10 – 0 exercise mentioned above.
- Create a plan for moving forward. “I don’t mean creating a plan for these Corona-days where we are stranded at home and our life circumstances are very different, but rather, creating a plan for the after-Corona-days. Think about what changes you want to make in the way you spend your money. At the end of the day, the best way to use money is to ask ourselves: what are things you can spend money on that bring you and your family happiness, and what are the things you spend money on that don’t give you a lot of happiness? Once you understand these things, you can create a better plan for better financial spending.”
Kristen Berman is also a Behavioral Scientist and co-founder of Irrational Labs. She explains, “Not many times in life do we get to completely change our daily routine—from our work-life, to what we eat and who we spend our time with. Consider this disruption a chance to disrupt your behavior—and save or earn money.”
Some ideas Berman recommends:
- Learn a new skill you can brag about on LinkedIn. “Becoming an IT consultant or designer is only a course away.“
- Try your hand as a chef. “Pick one dish and perfect it to impress friends later. Homemade pizza? Honey glazed Salmon? Roasted carrots? (hint: always more olive oil and salt!)”
- Refresh your look. “Sell your old stuff on CraigsList or LetItGo for pick up later. Clean out your closets and make extra cash. Just remember to delay pick up or avoid contact with the buyer.”
- Market an existing skill. “See if there is a market for your skills on Upwork. Or find a new passion and search local and remote gig jobs on Steady.”
Paying rent and utilities may be some of the biggest challenges during these times. Alicia Butera, CFP at Intuit provides the following advice: “First ask your landlord if it is possible to get an extension on the full or partial payment if it can not be made. See if they are willing to let you go on a payment plan. It never hurts to ask and they will likely be happy to get whatever money they can. Then go to your main bank and see if they can pause a debt payment, hopefully with no interest, so you can use that money to make rent instead. Lastly, it could be a good time to pick up a side gig in an industry that is flourishing right now like food delivery, Grubhub etc., to earn a little extra cash.” Kristen Berman of Irrational Labs explains that behavioral science doesn’t have a solution for paying rent, but recommends leveraging the following resources for assistance:
Earn extra cash with a remote job
Many financial institutions offer flexible options for customers and small businesses. As some of our experts mentioned, be proactive by calling your financial institutions. This not only can help you save money, but more importantly, can reduce some of the stress you may be experiencing by not knowing the options you may actually have. Here’s a list of some of the banks and financial assistance they are offering:
- Capital One
- Willing to work with customers that are experiencing financial difficulties.
- Assistance includes minimum payments, deferred loans and fee suppression.
- Contact the bank directly through one of its many customer support lines.
- Citi issued a statement on March 9 that for 30 days, customers and small business customers are eligible to have their monthly service fees waived, fees waived on early CD withdrawals, fees waived on remote deposit capture.
- Some credit card customers may be eligible for credit line increases and collection forbearance programs.
- Some mortgage customers may be eligible for a hardship program through Cenlar FSB by calling 885-839-6253.
- Chase Bank
- In the past, Chase has waived fees or provided refunds, changed due dates and extended credit lines.
- Currently every situation is being handled on a case-by-case basis.
- PNC Bank
- They encourage customers encountering hardship to reach out to the bank directly; assistance will be addressed on a case-by-case basis. Customers affected by the virus who are encountering hardship can call 1-888-762-2265 for help.
- Wells Fargo
- Willing to work with customers that are experiencing financial difficulties by reaching out to their customer service for assistance at 1-800-219-9739.
- Wells Fargo donated $6.25 million in aid to help the public relief effort.
- Marcus by Goldman Sachs
- Customers with personal loans can postpone payments on their loans for one month with no interest, and their loan terms will be extended by one month.
- Payment relief on consumer loans, personal credit cards, business credit cards and business loans.
- Temporarily waiving ATM surcharge fees to help consumers and businesses access cash.
- Customers who use their BB&T and SunTrust credit cards for qualifying purchases at grocery stores and pharmacies will receive 5% cash back through April 15.
- Customers in need of assistance can reach out to the following numbers: Heritage SunTrust clients: 800-SUNTRUST (800-786-8787); Heritage BB&T clients: 800-226-5228.
- Apple Card customers can skip their March payments without incurring interest.
Aid for Small Businesses
If there’s one thing we can all do to give back right now, it’s supporting local and small business owners. If possible, shop at local food stores, order delivery from local restaurants and send flowers to loved ones from a local florist . Glowing reviews can also go a long way, especially if business owners are going the extra mile to support their community during stressful times. If you are a small business owner, there are options for you to receive free services and financial assistance. Here are just some of the resources I was able to find:
Free Video Conferencing Services
- FREE 3-month access to Emergency Remote Work Kits for critical front-line service providers, including eligible healthcare providers, educational institutions, municipalities, and non-profit organizations as well as any current LogMeIn customer.
- For free, you can host up to 100 participants, have unlimited 1 on 1 meetings, host 40-minute group meetings and receive online support.
Big Business Aid
- Intuit QuickBooks
- Free small business guide and resources that include financial preparedness plans, workplace prevention tips, first steps for business owners, ideas for virtual events, best practices for working remote, boosting employee morale and much more.
- Small Business Administration
By far most important are the wellness of you and your family. Many companies and organizations are providing free online services to ensure mental and physical health needs remain a top priority. Starting your morning off with 5 to 10 minutes of meditation and 20 to 30 minutes of exercise can do wonders for your stress levels and mood throughout the rest of your day. If you’re at home with your family, invite them to join you to create a happy indoor environment. Here are some resources I recommend:
- Curious Tribes
- Free mental health care with science-backed methods and facilitated virtual groups.
Fitness Apps and Videos
- Peloton at-home fitness app
- Free extended 90-day trial for at-home workouts application during the coronavirus outbreak. The in-app workouts don’t require any Peloton equipment, and include yoga, HIIT, stretching, and other categories.
- Nike Training Club app and Nike Run Club app
- Free guided training and outdoor running sessions
- Tone It Up fitness app
- 100% free to new members for the next month. The app includes a variety of workouts, from barre to HIIT to weights. It also offers meditation sessions that can balance out intense workouts.
- CARROT Fit app
- Free for the next two weeks in the App Store compared to its normal price of $4.99.
Animal and Pet Safety
For many of us, working from home is still mandatory to pay the bills, but when you add kids into the mix, being focused becomes even more of a challenge. To help keep your kiddos entertained, while also making the most of their time away from school, here are some free and fun educational resources you can tap into:
- Khan Academy
- Free for students (K-early college), parents and teachers and available in 40 languages.
- Includes exercises, quizzes, tests, instructional videos, math, grammar, science, history, AP courses, SAT prep and more.
- During school closures due to the coronavirus outbreak, Khan Academy is having daily live streams 9 a.m. PST/noon EST on Facebook, Youtube and Twitter.
- PBS Kids
- Free learning for toddlers up to pre-K students
- Includes printables to support kids in learning, in addition to PBS shows such as Wild Kratts and Dinosaur Train, and games designed to enrich their education.
- Free app for learning a language through a series of practice exercises.
- From Arabic to Portuguese, kids and adults will not fall behind with these fun and educational lessons.
- Minecraft Education Edition
- Free gamified learning perfect for Minecraft fanatics
- Focuses on coding, math, problem-solving all via the Minecraft way.
- Fluency and Fitness
- Free 21-day trial gives you access to over 60 math and reading activities and more than 600 videos designed to both educate and entertain K-2 grade students.
- All Kids Network
- Free content platform for children of all ages that provides access to thousands of fun kids activities like children’s crafts, worksheets, coloring pages, printable mazes, dot to dot, hidden pictures and more.
- Free access to their online library for 30 days.
- Access millions of ebooks, audiobooks, magazines articles and more.
At this time, the U.S. Department of State has issued a Level 4: Do not travel advisory. They explain that for countries where commercial departure options are available, U.S. citizens should return home. The following are updates on each U.S. airline’s flexible flight change or cancellation policies, in addition to known hotel and vacation rental change and cancellation policies. It’s recommended to follow the links provided for each company to get the latest updates about their policies (some are changing daily!), in addition to being mindful about how often you are calling reservation numbers to help out those stuck overseas who may more urgently need to reach customer support.
- Alaska Airlines is allowing no-fee changes and cancellations for:
- Tickets purchased on or before February 26, 2020 for travel through April 30, 2020
- Saver fare for travel through April 30, 2020
- Non-refundable First Class, main, or award tickets for travel through April 30, 2020
- New tickets purchased between February 27, 2020 and March 31, 2020: Non-refundable first class, main cabin and award tickets
- For award ticket travel booked before February 26 for travel through March 31, or if you booked a ticket between February 27 and March 31 for travel anytime in the next year; however you will need to pay for the difference in mileage cost.
- For reservation questions call: 1 (800) 654-5669
- American Airlines is allowing no-fee changes and refunds for:
- Tickets bought before March 1, 2020 and scheduled to travel until April 30
- Cash tickets booked between March 1 and 31, 2020
- Tickets bought to Europe, including the United Kingdom on March 11 or earlier for travel through May 31,2020.
- Tickets bought to Italy or South Korea purchased on or before February 24, 2020
- Tickets bought to Hong Kong purchased on or before January 28, 2020
- Tickets bought to China bought on or before January 24, 2020
- Award tickets booked before March 1 for travel through April 30, or for any tickets booked in March.
- For reservation questions call: (800) 433-7300
- Delta Airlines is allowing fee-free changes for:
- Tickets purchased on or before March 9, 2020 for travel until April 30, 2020
- Tickets purchased between March 1 and 31 for travel until February 25, 2021
- Award tickets scheduled to travel before April 30
- Award tickets booked in March for travel between now and February 2021
- For reservation questions call: 1 (800) 221-1212
- Frontier Airlines is allowing one-time modified or refunded 90-day flight credit for:
- Tickets booked before March 10, 2020 for travel before April 30, 2020
- Tickets booked between March 10 and 31, 2020 for travel through November 9
- For reservation questions call: 1 (801) 401-9000
- Hawaiian Airlines is allowing one-time fee-free changes for:
- Tickets for flights booked between March 1 and March 31, 2020
- Tickets booked for the Merrie Monarch Festival are eligible for refunds for flights on April 11 to 17, 2020 for travel to Hilo (ITO) and Kona (KOA) and April 15 to 21, 2020 for travel from Hilo (ITO) and Kona (KOA).
- Bookings made prior to March 9, 2020 for travel between March 1, 2020 and April 30, 2020.
- For reservation questions call: 1 (877) 426-4537
- JetBlue Airlines is waiving cancellation and change fees for:
- All flights on March 10 through April 30, 2020.
- Tickets for travel dates before June 1, 2020.
- Tickets for flights booked between March 6 and 31, 2020 for flights before September 8, 2020.
- Award tickets booked for travel before April 30, or for tickets booked in the month of March.
- For reservation questions call: 1 (800) 538-2583.
- Southwest Airlines continues to honor their travel credit without penalty for changes made up to 10 minutes before your flight. For reservation questions call: (800) 435-9792
- Spirit Airlines is allowing a one-time fee-free change or cancellation flight credit for all tickets.
- If you choose to cancel, your flight credit is valid for six months.
- For reservation questions call: 1 (855) 728-3555
- United Airlines is allowing fee-free changes and cancellations for:
- Tickets purchased from March 3 to 31, 2020
- Tickets purchased prior to March 3, 2020 for travel until April 30, 2020 can be re-booked for a year from the original ticket issue date or December 31, 2020—whichever is earlier.
- For reservation questions call: 1-800-864-8331
Hotels and vacation rentals
- Airbnb offers a fee-free cancellation policy for: All bookings made before March 14, 2020 for reservations starting on or before April 14, 2020.
- Reservations made after March 14, 2020 are not covered by this policy
- For reservation questions call: 1 (855) 424-7262
- Hilton offers a fee-free change and cancellation policy for:
- Existing bookings for stays before April 30, 2020
- New bookings made until April 30, 2020
- For reservation questions call: 1 (800) 445-8667
- IHG offers a fee-free change and cancellation policy for:
- All existing or new bookings for stays between March 9 and April 30, 2020.
- Hyatt offers a fee-free change and cancellation policy for:
- Existing bookings made before March 13, 2020 for travel before April 30, 2020.
- New bookings made after March 13, 2020 for travel at any time.
- Advance purchase non-refundable reservations made on or before March 8, 2020 can be canceled for 10,000 Hyatt points instead of the original payment amount.
- For reservation questions call: 1 (877) 424-2449.
- Marriott Bonvoy offers a fee-free change and cancellation policy for:
- Existing bookings for travel at any time as long as they are changed or canceled before April 30, 2020.
- New bookings made before April 30, 2020.
- For reservation questions call: 1 (800) 535-4028.
- Radisson offers fee-free changes and cancellations for:
- Wyndham is only currently offering fee-free changes or cancellations for:
- All booking through April 30, 2020 if the request is received with 24-hours notice.
- All guests prohibited from traveling to their booked hotel under applicable law.
- New and existing bookings for stays after April 30, 2020 with a 48-hour notice.
- For reservation questions call: 973-753-6000.
Free tips for booking future travel
- Be mindful that your travel plans may not work out.
- Ask yourself how much the trip will really cost you (i.e. time off work, dog boarding, etc.).
- Read the fine print for all airline and hotel cancellation policies.
- You may have to pay fare differences for flight and destination changes.
- You may only get a one-time change or cancellation option.
- There may only be an airline or hotel credit-only refund option.
Do you have recommendations for free products or financial aid that can help others? Share them in the comments below.
Jackie Porter, M.S. is a behavioral scientist at Intuit, and previously a writer for Intuit’s Mint and Turbo products. She is earning her PsyD in Psychology and is a health and fitness fanatic.