The next wave of lockdowns is coming.
The post-Thanksgiving surge of COVID-19 infections has sent public health officials, governors and local leaders racing to try and control community spread and avoid the devastating winter that Dr. Anthony Fauci and others have predicted.
New cases are growing from coast to coast, and new restrictions and rollbacks of re-opening plans are happening in the vast majority of states nationwide.
Reason Foundation image -
America hopefully never experiences the kind of cratering economic activity that followed the initial COVID-19 shutdowns in the spring of 2020. But more bad times are coming. No question about it. How prepared is your household to ride out the winter, and how much risk is your family at for a financial train wreck?
Use this five-point checklist to assess where you stand. Then act accordingly - and quickly - to shore up weak spots and prepare for tough times:
1. Is your primary source of income at high risk for lockdown impact? - Food service, travel, and hospitality and entertainment continue to be the most badly damaged economic sectors. The summer and fall of 2020 brought a reprieve and lifeline for some as infection rates declined, warm temperatures allowed outdoor dining and other trappings of normalcy and business activity opened up again. But October and November saw America go backwards in the streetfight against COVID-19, even as progress on a vaccine has moved rapidly. Commercial real estate is also in flux in some locations - though long-term corporate leases may buy more time for those employed in the service of commercial properties. Airlines may be the most severely impacted - and if your employment is tied directly there keep a close watch on trends. Oil and gas drilling and auto parts and equipment also rank high among industries impacted. People are simply traveling much less. Most of us not at all.
2. Is your immediate community or the place where you make your living a COVID-19 hot zone? - Shutdowns and re-opening rollbacks hit small businesses first and hardest. They are underway and more are coming to a town near you - quite possibly yours. If where you live or work will soon be subject to rollbacks in economic activity, business closures and stay-at-home orders, your risk skyrockets for a major financial challenge.
Fast Company image -
3. How strong is your safety net and emergency savings reserve? - Many Americans who qualified for stimulus payments wisely paid down debt and socked away money. But the pressure to meet mortgage and rent payments, stay current with utilities, and cover food, medicine and the other necessities is a huge stress if household income takes a hit. The typical rules of thumb for emergency savings (three to six months worth of household expenses in cash) is simply out of reach and unrealistic in an actual emergency. Guess what? This is an ACTUAL emergency. For the most severely impacted households the goal is to preserve your fundamentals: the roof over your head, the lights and the heat still going, food on the table and medicines and health care not deferred. Also: cable television and costly streaming services are NOT real necessities. But in the world we live in 2020, WiFi really IS a necessity: being connected means being active and aware of the world around you - and being able to access opportunities and services you might otherwise miss.
4. Are you confident in your income security? - The best judge of where you stand and what level of confidence you have in your income security is YOU. If your employer says things are fine but you have an uneasy feeling or bad hunch, don't ignore your instincts. Also: when employers start making cutbacks that don't severely impact you right away, it could be that the next domino to fall is your level of pay or even your job. Confidence in your income security is critical. The American Consumer Credit Counseling Financial Health Index has been tracking that metric during all of 2020. The Q3 Index from ACCC found that just 22 percent of those surveyed were very confident in their income security six months from new. Meanwhile 10 percent reported they are not confident at all.
5. Do you have a back-up plan for earning money? - A side hustle, a moneymaking gig, or an "exit ramp" to another source of income if your workplace shuts down or your company fails should be in the back of your mind. The gig economy is how many earners have been supporting themselves completely. But it's also a critical tool for your financial safety net. Also: the age of COVID-19 may have halted the "handshake and business breakfast" style of in-person networking, but networking online is actually much more effective, efficient and less costly. These digital networking tools ranked by Techradar are the perfect place to start. Important to remember: don't wait until you are out of a job to start a strong program of networking. Networking and job seeking are two different things. Good networking creates relationships and opportunities for when the day comes where you may need them. The best time to start is right now.