This Week In Your Wallet: Without A Net
It’s about that time. No, not the end of summer. Or back to school. Although those are coming, too. I’m talking about the time when the financial benefits and protections put in place for COVID by the government are going to start to expire or vanish. In most cases, you’ve still got a month or two(ish) until they’re gone. But what that means is that – if you’ve been taking advantage – the time to plan for your new financial reality is #rightnow. What, specifically, are we talking about?
Student loan payments…unpausing:
It’s been a 17-month-long sigh of relief for federal student loan borrowers whose payments have been paused (and interest rates set to zero) since March of 2020. Collections on loans in default were ceased as well. Although some people used the zero percent rate like a credit card teaser rate and made additional headway on their principal, the majority didn’t. Although there are some consumer advocates pushing for this pause to continue, right now it’s scheduled to end on September 30. What does that mean for borrowers? It’s time to reach out to your loan servicer to make sure that a) all of your info is up to date, b) you know when your payment will begin again – and if it will be drafted from your account and c) you can afford it. If not, the time to look into an income-based repayment plan is ASAP.
P.S.: If college tuition payments are on the roadmap for your future, make sure you’ve signed up for the special content series we’re dropping next week called How To Pay For College. In reporting several of these stories, I learned about some new strategies – and important changes to the FAFSA – that you’re not going to want to miss.
Health insurance assistance…expiring:
We’re closing in fast on August 15, the date that a special open enrollment period which allowed consumers to shop for their own coverage at Healthcare.gov will sunset. If you haven’t checked this out because you don’t think you can afford a plan, do it now. The American Rescue Plan expanded the availability of subsidies (i.e. dollars toward a policy) for a greater number of people. Those benefits will continue to run through 2022. And, if you lost your job and lost your health insurance with it, you may be eligible for a tax credit that will essentially cover your premiums. That one expires at the end of this year. Either way, don’t wait to check these out.
It was a little more work to put federally-backed mortgage payments (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA, VA) on pause than it was with student loans. You had to reach out to your loan servicer to ask for a reprieve – but if you asked, you got, in 6 month intervals of up to 18 months. What this means, explains Ron Lieber and Tara Siegel Bernard in The New York Times, is that if you started down this path in March of 2020, you’re likely coming to the end of the road. Your loan servicer should reach out to you with options including the ability to tack your missed payments onto the end of your loan (making the term longer) or a loan modification (basically a mini-refi at rates your credit qualifies you for). If you still have time on the clock, it’s okay to let it run. And if you’ve yet to apply for forbearance, and you’ve had a job loss or another financial setback, you can do so now. (Foreclosures, again only on federally-backed mortgages, are on hold…but only until the end of this month.)
Other programs to know about: The NYT gives a comprehensive rundown of other changes – good and bad – coming our way. Click here if you are concerned about/interested in a subsidy for your internet service, making sure you grab an expanded deduction for charitable donations even if you don’t itemize, using up the money in (or adjusting the donation to) flexible spending accounts, and the end of supplemental unemployment benefits.
Yesterday was the worst day for the market since October with the Dow down roughly 700 points following a loss of about 300 on Friday. As I check in this morning, it’s looking to rally. Driving the drop: COVID fears. Cases are up significantly (although as many of the docs on morning TV noted, we are not seeing the same rate of growth in either hospitalizations or deaths, a sign that the vaccines are working.) But it’s not just COVID. Nor is it, this week, just inflation. Fortune’s Bernhard Warner suggests that a look at the bond market – which rallied yesterday as stocks dropped – contains some answers. Remember, treasury bonds = safety. They are where investors go when stocks, with their greater return, start to feel uncertain. And what they’re worried about right now is growth, as Warner writes in The Bull Sheet, “the new concern is over growth – that both economic growth and corporate profits have peaked.” That coupled with the chance that the Delta variant could, in his words, “squelch the recovery” is what you saw. re more days like yesterday in the offing? To me, this one felt like a long time coming, so we’ll see.
Getting Hired, Skillz Edition
We’re all about hiring this week at HerMoney as we welcome back our summer intern Molly Povich as a full-time staffer (woot!) We hired Molly because she has the skills we need – a clear ability to communicate, in writing and aloud, to digest complicated information then present it in a fun, lively way – not because she’s a finance whiz. Zoe Fisher, who joined us earlier this summer, is another case in point. She spent the pandemic working for a construction firm while using her free time to gain the skills – Google analytics, SEO, and others – that she believed would get her the job she really wanted.
As Irina Novoselsky, CEO of CareerBuilder, told us on this week’s podcast, “this is a great time if you’re a job seeker that’s looking to skip into a different role, or to move horizontally into a different industry.” What you need to do is to build a resume and tell a story about how your current skills translate into that new industry. She breaks down the A to Z of how, here.
Waving, Not Swaying
Frankly, I’m still upset about this. But not as upset as my husband. He thought the line was “Mary’s dressed, waiting.”
Have a great week,