The pandemic, related isolation and general upheaval over the past year have been challenging for many people. The negative effects of depression or even just the blues brought on by recent events can show up in all kinds of areas—including finances.
If you, a close friend or family member have fallen behind on regular money tasks, it can lead to dire consequences if not acknowledged in time. These are some possible signs of financial problems to be aware of in your own life, or with a loved one:
1. Missed bill payments
Feeling overwhelmed may lead a person to fall behind on regular bills. Over time, that can affect credit scores, trigger late fees and even interrupt services from credit card providers or utilities.
2. Lapsed insurance policies
Homeowners, auto, life and other types of insurance require consistent payments to maintain coverage. Missing just a few payments can lead to a potentially disastrous lapse in coverage—if an accident or illness occurs—as well as higher premiums when the policies are reinstated.
3. Unopened mail
Many of us will be reuniting with family members after months apart. Loved ones won’t always admit when they need help. Seeing piles of mail in the home can be a sign that they’re avoiding their bills.
4. Calls from collection agencies
If a loved one is receiving calls from bill collectors, their financial problems may be mounting.
5. Skipping regular investments
Emotionally challenging times could lead someone to miss making an annual IRA contribution, for example. While less alarming, there are consequences, given that investing in the market regularly is one of the easiest ways to build wealth.
If you realize that stress, sadness or depression has caused you or a loved one to fall behind on finances, the first step is acknowledging the problem. Then, you can begin to take steps to get back on track—with help, if you want it.
Look at the real picture
“Review bank accounts and outstanding debts, and check that all insurance coverage is up to date,” says Shelly-Ann Eweka, Senior Director, Advice & Financial Planning Strategy at TIAA. “Pay any late bills to avoid service interruptions, even if you can only afford to make the minimum payment. Many providers are making allowances for COVID-19-related difficulties.”
Enlist the help of a trusted advisor
TIAA clients have access to one-on-one financial advice. If you or your loved one is not a TIAA client, an employer may offer financial help or counseling through its retirement plan or employee assistance program. Or you can find a knowledgeable advisor through the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. An advisor can help you build a plan to get back on track, and then help walk you through a spending and saving plan, automatic bill pay and other options to help you stay on top of your finances going forward.
Enable a loved one to step in—even temporarily
Need more day-to-day help for yourself? Ask a capable friend or family member to step in. A spouse, adult child or other trusted loved one can help you sort through your current situation and figure out a way forward. Certain legal documents make it easier to render financial help. A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that allows another person to make financial decisions on your behalf, such as investment decisions and bill paying. A POA can be temporary, allowing you to take back control of your finances when you feel able.