Following the financial drain caused by COVID-19, financial institutions are offering tips to help bounce back and stay financially strong as the new year presses on.
“With many households developing a financial game plan for the first time and others revisiting outdated or inadequate ones, families are focusing on their financial futures in 2021,” said Bruce Robinson, Regional Vice President of Primerica, a financial services company.
“Wherever your starting point, here are some ways to start off strong,” he said.
One pointer Robinson, who is based in Marshall and has an office in Tyler, gives is to build up one’s emergency savings.
“Automating – and diversifying – your savings can help you build this vital savings account back up if you saw it diminish last year,” he said.
Robinson noted that about 46 million Americans had completely used up their emergency savings only six months after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in 2020, according to a survey conducted in August.
“The largest age group who responded this way was older millennials (26 percent), followed by Gen Xers (25 percent),” he pointed out. “As a rule, try to save up at least six-to-eight months of living expenses in a high-yield savings account in case you lose your current income stream.”
The next rule of thumb is to pay off high interest debt.
“If you are one of the 110 million Americans struggling with credit card debt, start the New Year by developing a debt reduction plan that works for you,” Robinson recommends, noting the average American household owes about $8,860 in credit card debt. “Writing down everything you owe, negotiating with your creditors, using every windfall as a credit card payment, and completely changing your lifestyle habits are ways to contribute to paying off what could quickly become a crippling problem.”
Robinson also advises families to review their goals and budgets as they forge ahead.
“Whatever your financial goals may be for 2021, updating your budget to meet those goals is the key to getting there,” he said. “If your aim is to pay off unmanageable credit card debt while building up your emergency savings, your strategy might be cutting back to a bare-bones budget allotting only for the basics like housing, food, utilities, transportation and bills, and leaving everything else to paying off debt and building up the emergency fund.”
If saving for retirement is one’s number one priority, Robinson advises to set a realistic savings goal amount with careful consideration and create a budget to help reach that goal.
“Make sure you’re taking full advantage of the matching opportunities your employer may offer if you have a 401(k) and other long-term savings options available,” he said.
Meal planning is also key, Robinson advised.
“Whether you’re feeding a family or just yourself, you’ve got to eat,” he said. “Planning your meals in advance can cut your grocery budget and save you precious time.
“You’ll be amazed at how much you can save with a little forethought,” Robinson shared.
He offered the following tips to help get started:
- Write down your meals: Starting with dinner, list some of your favorite meals or your family’s favorite meals, and what you eat or would like to eat on a regular basis. For instance, Grandma’s eggplant parmigiana with Caesar salad, black bean chili with jalapeno cornbread, shrimp stir fry and brown rice, chicken kebabs with roasted vegetables, tofu tacos with rice and beans, turkey burgers with sweet potato fries, roast beef with mashed potatoes and green beans. Make sure you have the recipes on hand. Look to the internet or cookbooks if necessary. Do the same for lunch and breakfast.
- Make a calendar: Consider your schedule or your family’s schedule. Allowing for a reasonable time for meal preparation, fill in a calendar with a variety of meals that makes sense for your household. Easy prep meals during the work or school week might be more practical. Friday nights could be reserved for homemade pizza and movie night. On Saturday mornings try a pancake breakfast, or an early afternoon brunch. And on Sundays, maybe a meal from the slow cooker or something off the grill would be appropriate.
- List the ingredients you need: Once you have your calendar filled in, use your recipes to list all the ingredients needed for each meal. This will be your grocery shopping list. Because your meals are planned in advance, shopping is easier because you know exactly what to buy. And when you start buying the same items on a consistent basis, you’ll know what to stock up on when those items go on sale.
- Consider meal planning apps: If filling out your own meal plan is overwhelming, there are apps and services online that can plan your meals for you, saving you even more time than if you were to devise a calendar yourself.
For more information or financial advice, contact Bruce Robinson via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 903-597-3080 or 903-503-8491.