COVID-19 has taken over our newsfeeds, our group chats, and our thoughts. Chances are it’s also impacting what your office looks like (hint: it might feature your bed), how your investments are doing, and eventually the interest rates on your savings and loans. That’s a lot to keep up with. So we Skimm’d answers to some of the biggest money questions on your mind right now.
Is COVID-19 testing free?
Generally, yes – even if you don’t have insurance. If you think you’ve been exposed and have symptoms, call your doctor or local ER to find out if (and where) you should get tested. For now, regular costs apply when it comes to treatment.
Will I get my money back if I cancel travel plans?
Many airlines, hotels, car rental companies, and tour providers are being more flexible than usual with their change and cancellation policies. If your flight is canceled, a refund’s probably coming. For everything else, it varies. Call and see what you can negotiate. Prepare for a few hours of hold music.
What if I bought travel insurance?
Standard travel insurance might cover you if you get laid off, summoned for jury duty, or sick. But not if you’re worried about getting sick or following social-distancing orders. If you bought a more expensive, “cancel for any reason” insurance policy, you’re likely entitled to (most of) your money back.
What do I do if my wedding is coming up?
The CDC is probably raining on your day. And not in the ‘good luck’ kind of way. They advise against gathering in groups of more than 50 until at least May. Meaning it may be time to start un-planning.
Venues and vendors are likely willing to work with you on a Plan B. Get everything in writing, and understand the conditions of changed contracts before you make any additional deposits. And tell your guests ASAP so they can adjust their own plans.
What effect will the coronavirus have on the job market?
Experts say millions of jobs could be impacted. The US Dept of Labor is taking steps to loosen typical eligibility requirements so more people qualify for unemployment benefits. Especially as companies temporarily pause operations and more workers step in to help care for sick family members. Check your state’s labor website for more info.
How does all of this impact my student loan payments?
The government’s been working on ways to help. As of March 13, federal student loan interest dropped to 0% for at least 60 days. While that won’t actually lower your payments, 100% of your money will go toward the loan principal. So you’ll (eventually) be out of debt faster. If that’s not enough, you can request a two-month pause on your payments. Interest-free.
Could I get a break on other loans, too?
Call your creditor and ask. Some financial institutions (think: JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs) have said they’ll waive fees, increase spending limits, and maybe even defer payments for those affected by the coronavirus.
Is it a good idea to refinance my home?
It might save you money. The Fed’s cut the federal funds rate (a benchmark percentage that influences mortgage rates) to near zero. But before re-signing on the dotted line, do your homework to be sure it makes sense. And compare rates from multiple lenders. There’s a rush to refinance right now, and that demand could temporarily drive rates up.
Should I worry about the stock market?
Things have been extra bumpy lately, and there’s no way to know for sure what stocks will do next. In the past, the US market’s always recovered. And kept climbing. If you were already planning to invest for the long-term (think: years or even decades), try to keep calm and carry on with your regular investing strategy. And maybe accidentally lose the password to your retirement account so you aren’t constantly checking up on it.
What can I do to protect myself financially?
We have a guide on how to save more money now. Read it here.