Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Credit score drop? How to diagnose why and what to do next. Also in the news: Put off debt payments to start saving now, going contactless as a way to pay safer, and many unemployed people aren’t aware of all the relief they may qualify for during the pandemic.

Credit Score Drop? How to Diagnose Why, and What to Do Next
If you got a payment modification and saw a score drop, it’s tempting to think they’re related. They may not be.

Put Off Debt Payments to Start Saving Now
In uncertain times, it makes sense to prioritize building a cash reserve over paying down debt balances.

Looking for Safer Ways to Pay? Go Contactless
Contactless payments like mobile wallets, P2P apps and tap-to-pay cards are easy to use and help lessen risk of contagion.

Many unemployed people aren’t aware of all the relief they may qualify for during the pandemic
Take a look at what’s available.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Is my money safe in a bank during the COVID-19 crisis? Also in the news: Helping home buyers keep their distance with e-closings, what kinds of credit card relief are available during the pandemic, and how to save for retirement while on unemployment.

Is My Money Safe in a Bank During the COVID-19 Crisis?
Should you be worried about your accounts?

Mortgage E-closing: Helping Home Buyers Keep Their Distance
Changes during the pandemic.

COVID-19: What Kinds of Credit Card Relief Can You Request?
Several options are being offered.

How to Save for Retirement While on Unemployment
Saving for the future is still important.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: For self-employed, filing for unemployment benefits is getting easier. Also in the news: How to pay rent when you can’t afford it, what to keep in mind with credit card payments during the pandemic, and how to find out what you owe the IRS.

For Self-Employed, Filing for Unemployment Benefits Is Getting Easier
What you need to know before filing a claim.

How to Pay Rent When You Can’t Afford It
Exploring your options.

COVID-19: What to Keep in Mind With Credit Card Bill Payments
Reach out to your card issuer.

Use This IRS Tool to Check What You Owe Them
Making sure you’re up-to-date.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to file for Coronavirus unemployment if you’re self-employed. Also in the news: Should you save your miles and points or spend them, 8 ways to switch up the new at-home normal, and a new episode of the SmartMoney podcast on what to do when you owe the IRS.

How to File for Coronavirus Unemployment if You’re Self-Employed

Double Take: Should You Save Your Miles and Points or Spend Them?

8 Ways to Switch Up the New At-Home Normal

SmartMoney Podcast: “Help! I Owe the IRS!”

Q&A: What to do after coronavirus takes away your job

Dear Liz: I’m a single mom who just lost my job because of COVID-19. I have a mortgage, a car payment, credit card debt and a child who is headed to college in the fall. What do I do? I am very scared.

Answer: This is a very scary time. Your job now is to identify and use all the resources that may help you. You’ll need to be patient and persistent because millions of people are in the same boat.

Your first task could be among the hardest: applying for unemployment benefits. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, signed into law on March 27, expanded unemployment relief to include the self-employed (including contract and gig workers), people who work part time, and those whose hours were reduced because of the pandemic.

The act also adds $600 a week to the benefit amount that states offer, a supplement scheduled to last four months, and extends benefits for eligible workers until Dec. 31. In normal times, benefits end after 26 weeks.

The expanded benefits, plus an unprecedented number of job losses, have overwhelmed state unemployment offices. If possible, apply online with your state’s labor department rather than over the phone or in person. You’ll be sent important follow-up information; to avoid delays in starting your checks, carefully read that information and respond to any requests.

Unemployment benefits vary enormously by state. You may get enough to sustain you if you cut unnecessary expenses — or you may not. If you come up short, you have other options.

If your mortgage is federally backed — and most are — the CARES Act gives you a right to forbearance for up to 12 months. There’s also a moratorium on foreclosures and foreclosure-related evictions for these mortgages.

Forbearance means you don’t have to make payments, although interest will typically still accrue. Federally backed mortgages include loans owned by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and various federal agencies.

If you’re not sure whether your mortgage is federally backed, call your loan servicer — the company that takes your mortgage payments — and ask. Even if your loan is not federally backed, you may be eligible for some kind of relief. Explain your circumstances and ask what help is available.

Many other lenders, including credit card issuers, offer forbearance options as well. Some have information and application forms on their websites while others require you to call the customer service number to request help. Again, be prepared for long hold times.

You also can ask for more financial aid from your child’s college based on your changed circumstances. Check first to see if the financial aid office has an online form you can use or has outlined its preferred procedure for appealing a financial aid offer.

You may be tempted to put off asking for help, hoping that you will land another job before your household is on fumes. It would be more prudent, though, to assume you could be out of work for many months. Not only is unemployment skyrocketing, but a vaccine also could be a year or more away, indicating the economic disruptions likely will continue.

There’s one other part of the CARES Act that could help you: the “coronavirus hardship withdrawal.” The new law allows you to withdraw up to $100,000 from your 401(k) or IRA without penalty.
The withdrawal is taxed, but you can effectively spread the tax bill over three years. If you can repay the money within three years, you also can amend your tax returns and get a refund of those taxes.

Taking the money and not repaying it could have a devastating effect on your future retirement, but if you’ve run out of other options, a retirement plan withdrawal could help keep you afloat.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: What to do if you’re laid off due to Coronavirus. Also in the news: Coronavirus relief for small businesses and the self-employed, free ways to protect your mental health, and 4 things to do for your parents during the Coronavirus outbreak.

What to Do if You’re Laid Off Due to Coronavirus
One step at a time.

Coronavirus Relief for Small Businesses and the Self-Employed
What the CARES Act offers.

Free Ways to Protect Your Mental Health
Just as important as your physical health.

Do These 4 Things for Your Parents During Coronavirus Outbreak
We all need to take care of each other.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Does life insurance cover deaths from Coronavirus? Also in the news: Everything you need to know about Coronavirus stimulus checks, how expanded Coronavirus unemployment benefits work, and what to do if you can’t pay rent this month.

Does Life Insurance Cover Deaths From Coronavirus?
Looking at the exceptions.

Coronavirus Stimulus Checks: How Much You May Get and When
All the details.

How Expanded Coronavirus Unemployment Benefits Work
Independent contractors are covered.

What to Do if You Can’t Pay Rent This Month
Face the problem head-on.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Laid off due to Coronavirus? Take these 6 steps. Also in the news: NerdWallet Experts’ tips on handling finances during coronavirus, my experience flying from Mexico to the U.S. during the Coronavirus pandemic, and how to make a will during the Coronavirus lockdown.

Laid Off Due to Coronavirus? Take These 6 Steps
Keeping your head above water.

NerdWallet Experts’ Tips on Handling Finances During Coronavirus
Advice from the pros.

My Experience Flying from Mexico to the U.S. During the Coronavirus Pandemic
It’s a different world.

How Do You Make a Will During the Coronavirus Lockdown?
Getting creative.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: The scariest thing to find on your credit report. Also in the news: How to spend your day when you’re unemployed, advocates praise student loan scam crackdown, and how to get your student loans back on course.

The Scariest Thing to Find on Your Credit Reports
Beware of surprises.

How to Spend Your Day When You’re Unemployed
Getting off the couch is a good start.

Advocates Praise Student Loan Scam Crackdown, Demand More
The tip of the iceberg.

Ask Brianna: How do I get my student loans back on course?
Course correction.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to manage money in your 30’s. Also in the news: Student loan holders catch a home buying break, why you should get to work building an unemployment fund, and the 10 best entry-level jobs for 2017.

How to Manage Money in Your 30s
Taking the longview.

Student Loan Holders Catch a Home-Buying Break
It’s about to become a little easier.

Get to Work on Building Your Unemployment Fund
Preparing for the worst.

The 10 Best Entry-Level Jobs For 2017
We all have to start somewhere.