Millions of Americans are concerned about protecting their credit during the coronavirus pandemic, and especially women.
We’re all affected by the coronavirus pandemic. But some are facing greater financial challenges as they wait for the economy to rebound. Almost 90 million Americans are worried about their credit scores and whether they will be damaged before the crisis is over.
Women, in particular, are fearful of losing ground. Women are 21% more likely than men to expect that their debt levels will increase as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new WalletHub survey.
Women earn less and generally have a more fragile financial safety net than men. The coronavirus pandemic has been especially damaging to women, who are more likely than men to be employed in the service, hospitality and retail industries that have been disproportionately affected by coronavirus shutdowns and work-at-home mandates.
In fact, the New York Times has even coined the term “shecession” to refer to the negative economic impact of the pandemic on women, a reference to the fact that “a majority of the jobs lost in April were held by women.”
It’s normal to feel anxiety in times of great uncertainty, like this. That’s why it’s especially important for women to take concrete steps to protect their credit, so they don’t lose financial ground during the crisis. Here are 5 simple steps you can take to protect yourself and be prepared for the rebound.
Understand why it matters. A few late or missed payments can affect your credit score, which in turn can cost you hundreds or even thousands of dollars more in higher interest payments on mortgages, credit cards and insurance. Keeping your credit history strong saves you money.
Reach out. If your income has been cut, or you worry about paying your bills, reach out right away to your lenders, landlords and credit card companies to see how they can help you. Payment concessions they agree to will not harm your credit.
Pay just the minimum. We often urge consumers to pay off credit card balances in full each month, and that’s always a goal to strive for. But in times of crisis, save your cash to ensure you can make minimum payments on all your bills. Paying down the balances will have to wait until later. Paying at least the minimum keeps your credit pristine.
Keep an eye on it. There’s no substitute for monitoring your credit to ensure you’re on top of all your bills and everything is being reported correctly, especially if you are taking advantage of any special forbearance programs under the CARES Act. Delayed payments made under those programs with the consent of your lender will be considered paid timely. Free credit monitoring services are available online through several membership and consumer groups as well as credit card and credit rating companies.
Take advantage. Check out all the stimulus and benefit programs you may be eligible for, like unemployment benefits, small business and other loans, subsidized healthcare premiums and provisions under the CARES Act. The sooner you get on your feet, the faster the overall economy will pick up, and that helps everyone in the community.
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