Crises are difficult to handle because they’re unpredictable, but controlling the things you can will put you in a better position to deal with uncertainty.
One of the things you can, and should, control to the best of your abilities, is your finances and the sooner you start the better.
Financial services provider, DirectAxis, suggests four things anyone can do to better manage their money in unpredictable circumstances.
1. Improve your credit score
Your credit score is the way the financial world sees you. It’s not about how much money you have in the bank or how much you earn, but how financially responsible you are.
Very few South Africans have perfect credit scores, which means nearly all of us have room for improvement. A twenty-point improvement should be achievable for most people.
Free online tools such as Pulse can be useful by providing an easy-to-understand breakdown of how your credit rating is calculated and what you can do to improve it. You are also able to check your progress over time as often as you like.
Benefits of improving your score is that you can get credit if you need it – an important consideration in uncertain times – and it could save you money. People with higher credit scores are regarded as less of a risk and can be considered for better rates on loans, insurance premiums and rentals.
2. Review your budget
Some of the assumptions you made at the beginning of the year may no longer be true. For example, you might not be able to count on the salary increase you were expecting. Interest rates have come down, but the costs of some goods and services are increasing.
Getting a clear picture of how you’re spending money puts you in control. It also allows you to determine where you might be able save and perhaps put a little money aside in an emergency fund.
Download our budget template to guide you through your budget review process.
3. Pay your debts on time
Although the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis isn’t yet known, it will be substantial.
Government, some banks and financial service providers have announced measures to make things easier for consumers.
But remember, unless you have a formal arrangement in place with a bank or financial services provider, simply skipping monthly payments is a very bad idea. It will negatively affect your credit score and will put you in breach of your contract with the lender.
It could also make you ineligible for any future concessions, or limit what you qualify for. Banks and financial service providers could disqualify anyone who has missed payments and are more likely to extend the best offers to the most dependable customers.
Before you apply for relief also consider that fees and interest may still be charged for the duration of a payment holiday.
The bottom line is that if you can pay, you should.
4. Improve your financial literacy
The better informed you are, the more likely it is that you’ll make good financial decisions. Although the world is facing an unprecedented crisis, the fundamentals underpinning sound money management haven’t changed.
Visit Make a Plan for helpful tips and tools. There are also plenty of other financial service websites, news outlets, expert blogs, videos and columns. In fact, the volume of information can be daunting, so decide on a few subjects you’d like to know more about and start there. But make sure that you visit sites you know are credible and reputable.
Compare the results. Over time you’ll identify the sites that offer information most suited to you and your needs.
It’s not unusual to feel vulnerable in uncertain times, but taking a positive step to control your finances can be extraordinarily empowering. Just get started.