Fiscal and Physical Health

They not only sound alike; both also have a great deal to do with your overall wellbeing

By Tiffani Vargas

COVID-19 has impacted everyone. We’re not only concerned about our physical health, but also how ensuing economic impacts will affect our futures financially. I have a unique perspective on both aspects as the Senior Vice President for Real Estate and Consumer Lending at SAFE Credit Union, as well as a certified fitness instructor.

There are real correlations between physical health and stress over money. People feeling anxious over their personal finances are twice as likely to experience health effects including headaches, depression, and other ailments. While as little as five minutes of physical exercise can temporarily reduce your stress, even a good workout in the safety of your own living room won’t put money in your savings account.

SAFE Credit Union knows how important having financial peace of mind can be for our members and neighbors. Even before Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered the state to shelter-in-place in mid-March, SAFE gathered cross-functional teams including those focused on lending, saving, digital banking, IT security, branch, and more to identify ways SAFE could quickly assist our members in meaningful ways. The solutions include easily accessible ways through Online Banking and our Mobile App for our members to defer payments on loans and credit cards as well as apply for low- to no-interest short-term loans.

 

One reason why many of us feel such anxiety right now is a loss of control over so many aspects of our lives. We’re staying home for the wellbeing of our families and neighbors. Some of us are juggling a number of stressful situations — home-schooling children, competing for workspace and bandwidth with spouses, and trying to care for older relatives from a distance. All of our favorite places that we turned to for stress relief such as restaurants, sporting venues, gyms, and coffee shops are closed indefinitely. And the news covers story after story about people facing reduced incomes and job loss and small businesses struggling to map out their future. It can feel a bit overwhelming.

I can’t help you with the home-schooling and jockeying for wi-fi, but I can provide some ideas to help you “get moving” to take control of your financial situation.

Prioritize your bills

The most important expenses right now are those that keep a roof over your head, food in the cupboard, and necessary medicines at hand. Thankfully, people struggling with those basic expenses can get help.

Work with your financial institution, credit card companies, and utilities to see about deferring payments. Credit unions like SAFE are offering programs allowing members to skip payments on credit cards, vehicle loans, and personal loans. Mortgage service providers are offering forbearance options that allow homeowners to put off payments for a few months. Keep in mind that none of these programs are automatic. You will need to contact your financial institution directly to learn how to take advantage of these options.

Make a budget

Having a solid idea of how much money is coming in and how much is going out in expenses can help you avoid overdraft fees or other unpleasant surprises. This is especially important if you’ve experienced a change in income. Tally up income coming in and note your most pressing expenses. Find costs to cut or reduce to help you get through this time. You can find easy-to-use budgeting tools online (SAFE has a robust one for our members through our Mobile App and Online Banking) or use tried-and-true pencil and paper.

Emergency loans

You may find yourself needing a bit of extra cash to get you through. Many credit unions are offering their members no- to low-cost short-term emergency loans. These loans are part of our mission of people helping people. They are a far better alternative to the higher rates on payday loans and advances on credit cards. In many cases, you need to be a member so check with your current financial institution first.

These are unusual times, and the hope is that we can start to return to a new normal soon. In the meantime, let’s do all we can to stay physically and financially healthy. I’m proud to be a leader at SAFE, which has been serving the community for 80 years. We’ve walked side by side with the community through many ups and downs over the decades, and we’ve always come out more resilient. Be well. Be SAFE.

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