Life and money lessons from the pandemic

I’m a “be prepared” kind of person. I like having money in the bank and a good stock of emergency supplies.

But I wasn’t prepared to see empty shelves at the supermarket, or thousands of cars lined up at a Texas food bank, or nurses dressed in garbage bags because there wasn’t enough protective equipment.

The pandemic showed me that being personally prepared isn’t enough. Our communities need to be better prepared, as well.

That lesson may seem obvious in retrospect — many lessons are. But the revelation made me curious about what other people have learned from this year. In my latest for the Associated Press, four of my buddies in the personal finance realm agreed to share what the pandemic has taught them about money and life.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Read this before you refinance your federal student loans. Also in the news: COVID-19 accelerates no-exam trend in life insurance, low-cost ways small businesses can help employees save more, and what’s up with the latest COVID relief bill.

Read This Before You Refinance Federal Student Loans
Even with low rates, refinancing isn’t right for everyone.

COVID-19 Accelerates No-Exam Trend in Life Insurance
Staying away from the exam room.

Here are some easy, low-cost ways small businesses can help employees save more
Technology and competition have made workplace savings plans more accessible in recent years

What’s Up With the Latest COVID Relief Bill?
Things continue to move slowly.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Federal borrowers get to skip another student loan payment. Also in the news: A new episode of the Smart Money podcast on the financial lessons of the pandemic, how to recover after being denied a mortgage, and how to financially plan for having kids.

Federal Borrowers Get to Skip Another Student Loan Payment
New deadline of January 31st.

Smart Money Podcast: Pandemic Money Lessons, and Saving for a Down Payment
What we can take away from the pandemic.

Mortgage Denied? Here’s How to Recover
Determine the reason for denial — such as lack of credit history or a high debt-to-income ratio — then address it before reapplying.

How to Financially Plan for Having Kids
It’s going to be a long haul.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Want a raise in 2021? You may not even need to ask for it. Also in the news: How to be effective with your generosity in 2020, how to prepare for student loan payments to restart in 2021, and what to do if you’re behind on your rent or mortgage.

Want a Raise in 2021? You May Not Even Need to Ask for It
If you got a big tax refund last year, changing your W-4 form at work could put more money in your pocket now.

How to Be Effective With Your Generosity in 2020
Where your money can do the most good.

How to Prepare for Student Loan Payments to Restart in 2021
Time’s almost up.

Behind on your rent or mortgage? Here’s what to do
Important steps to follow.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to put 2020 financial survivor’s guilt to good use. Also in the news: The best tips for retirement savings at any age, how COVID-19 is accelerating no-exam life insurance, and is the new Visa Bitcoin rewards card worth it?

How to Put 2020 Financial Survivor’s Guilt to Good Use
Donating time or money can help people who have had economic setbacks in the pandemic — and also those who haven’t.

Best Tips for Saving for Retirement — at Any Age
It’s never too late — or too early — to make sound financial decisions and get yourself set up for retirement.

COVID-19 accelerates no-exam trend in life insurance
Social distancing mandates have hindered the medical exams that are often required for life insurance applications

Is the New Visa Bitcoin Rewards Card Worth It?
Visa dives into cryptocurrency.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to maximize travel rewards on holiday spending this year. Also in the news: Your guide to hotel travel with pets, why renting out your RV has become a lucrative pandemic side hustle, and how to avoid this fake Zoom meeting invite phishing scam.

How to Maximize Travel Rewards on Holiday Spending This Year
Think of your once-a-year holiday shopping as an opportunity to earn more points on your travel credit card.

Your Guide to Hotel Travel With Pets
Finding a pet-friendly hotel can seem complicated unless you know what to look for.

Why Renting Out Your RV Has Become a Lucrative Pandemic Side Hustle
Renewed interest in traveling by motorhome or camper van has fueled the growth of the RV rental market.

Avoid This Fake Zoom Meeting Invite Phishing Scam
Not even your boring work meetings are safe.

Putting financial survivor’s guilt to good use

Financial therapist Lindsay Bryan-Podvin of Ann Arbor, Michigan, specializes in helping people deal with their anxieties about money. But since the pandemic started, Bryan-Podvin has been hearing more about guilt than fear.

Several people who still have jobs and financial security felt guilty about having been spared while others suffered, says Bryan-Podvin, author of “The Financial Anxiety Solution.”

“I would start to hear things like, ‘I shouldn’t be complaining — my partner has it so much worse,’ or ‘I can’t even believe I’m telling you this because so-and-so in my neighborhood lost their job,’” she says.

The feelings clients expressed and the language they used were almost identical to what Bryan-Podvin hears from people with post-traumatic stress disorder, a mental health disorder that can be triggered by experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event.

In my latest for the Associated Press, what Bryan-Podvin offers better ways to cope.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Best tips for saving for retirement at any age. Also in the news: Rewards are now standard on starter cards, how to outsmart porch pirates, and watching out for fake COVID-19 testing sites.

Best Tips for Saving for Retirement — at Any Age
It’s never too late — or too early — to make sound financial decisions and get yourself set up for retirement. Here we cover the best moves to make in your 20s and 30s, your 40s and 50s, and your 60s and 70s.

On Starter Cards, Rewards Are Now Standard. Here’s Why
There’s no need to wait until you qualify for a traditional card to earn rewards. You can do it while building credit.

8 ways to outsmart package-thieving porch pirates over the holidays
Take these steps to keep your packages safe

Watch Out for Fake COVID-19 Testing Sites
Scammers are after both your money and your identity.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Biden’s student loan forgiveness could wipe out debt for 15 million borrowers. Also in the news: A new episode of the Smart Money podcast on what Biden may do for your finances, when to donate rewards to charity and when to give cash, and mortgage rates stay low as December deadlines loom.

Biden’s Student Loan Forgiveness Could Wipe Out Debt for 15 Million Borrowers
More than a third of federal borrowers could see their balances fall to zero with $10,000 in debt cancellation.

Smart Money Podcast: What Biden May Do for Your Finances and How to Make Money
What your finances could look like under a Biden administration.

When to Donate Rewards to Charity and When to Give Cash
Want to help a charity without tapping into your bank account? Sometimes donating your rewards can be a good option.

Mortgage Outlook: Rates Stay Low as December Deadlines Loom
Uncertainty ahead.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: ‘Better late than never’ applies to retirement investing, too. Also in the news: How to conquer Black Friday from your couch, 5 reasons your car needs a dash cam, and how to screen tenants when renting out your home.

‘Better Late Than Never’ Applies to Retirement Investing, Too
A late start in retirement investing is better than no start, advisors say. There’s still time to benefit.

How to Conquer Black Friday From Your Couch
No need to risk the crowds.

5 Reasons Your Car Needs a Dash Cam
Keeping yourself safe.

How to Screen Tenants When Renting Out Your Home
Proper vetting is important.