Staying Positive in the Midst of a Pandemic

April 9, 2020

I am a bit of a news junky.  Not so much on the TV, but I have a couple of news apps on my phone that I regularly peruse to get the day’s important revelations.  I’ve changed.  As I flip through one national network’s app, I count 53 news stories.  A quick recount finds that only 11 of them are not related to the current pandemic and of those 11, two are the same story just in print vs. video format.

calculate budget

By no means am I trying to downplay the current health crisis.  But surely there has to be so much more than that going on right now.  A self-identified news junky, I’ve kind of given up, tired of the doom and gloom.

So I decided that a great blog for today, as we are working through the week that our government officials stated would be the Pearl Harbor of this generation, would be how to focus on the positive-in general and in our finances. Read the rest of this entry »


Mental Health and the COVID-19 Pandemic

April 7, 2020

by Tricia Werner, CSW-PIP
Clinical Therapist, PATH Program, LSS Behavioral Health Services, Sioux Falls

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) has caused great stress and a need for adaptation for even the most well-adjusted in our society. Consider those who have mental illnesses or addictions. For example, living with an anxiety disorder, depression or alcohol addiction can make it even more difficult to cope with constant updates about the sometimes deadly Coronavirus. Having to continually adjust one’s thinking, life and way of working—or having lost a job and seeking unemployment—with no end in sight, can take their toll. Regular stressors, such as financial, may become much more amplified. Having families home together all of the time while social distancing can be stressful, as well.

When there is a constant concern for safety, we may feel a need to fight or flight (run away) from the problem. These are adaptations that can be very useful. For example, being determined to get through this (fight), and avoiding the illness by staying away from others while social distancing (flight) are good things right now. There may be times we freeze and cannot think well also.

So what can help in this trial we are living through?

  • Know there is help available. There are local, state and national agencies to assist.  Although LSS continues to offer personal counseling on-site at all locations, telehealth services are a good alternative in today’s pandemic climate. LSS is here to listen, to help process the emotional impact on you and your family, and to help you better understand how this influences your own behavior as well as the behaviors of those around you. Learn more on the LSS website or call 1-855-334-2953 to schedule an appointment.

Nationally the Disaster Distress Helpline is there at 1-800-985-5990 and TTY 1-800-846-8517. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available at 1-800-273-8255. For Domestic Violence, visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 and TTY 1-800-787-3224. Consider your local counseling agency for visits with a therapist, either in person or through Telehealth. In South Dakota, call 211 for immediate support or visit the 211 Helpline for information on more resources.

  • Keep a routine. Know what is normal for you and monitor for any symptoms, such as difficulty sleeping or concentrating. Take your medications as prescribed. Control what you have control over. Take time to get good sleep, exercise and eat healthy foods. Monitor your thoughts. Meditate and focus on positives. Take deep breaths.
  • Take time to grieve losses. Whether it is the loss of a job or a loved one, take the time needed to grieve.
  • Take a break from the news. We are so connected to information like no time in the past, so are seemingly barraged with the new and changing directives regarding COVID-19 daily and sometimes hourly.
  • Spend time connecting with others. Talk with friends and family by telephone during social distancing for support.
  • Know that there are those who survived and thrived before, despite very difficult times. Various diseases were brought to the Native Americans that caused epidemics for them. The Spanish Flu of 1918 (H1N1) was a very deadly time for the world also when 500 million people or one-third of the world were infected. Other pandemics have occurred and gone.

 

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

 


A Big Day for a Small Coin

April 1, 2020

April 1st.  I know, you can never trust anything out of the ordinary on April 1st.  But I have something for you and I promise it isn’t an April Fool’s joke.  Aside from being April Fool’s Day, April 1st marks another national holiday.  Well, I don’t know that it’s a HOLIDAY, per se.  But it should be.

April 1st is National One Cent Day in the United States.  2020 pennyThat’s right!  A whole day to celebrate all that is the shiny copper penny.  It’s a day to mark the history of the copper penny, first introduced in 1793.  We can talk all about the different images on it (duh, Honest Abe Lincoln wasn’t even around in 1793, and the Lincoln Memorial was even later than that) and the change from solid copper to copper-plated pennies in 1982 due to the fact that the copper in the penny was now worth more than the face value of the penny itself.

That’s all great.  But let’s talk about the real important aspect of a penny – it’s monetary value…. Read the rest of this entry »


Student Loans and the Pandemic

March 26, 2020

This is a weird time to live in.  I was going to school in St. Paul, MN on 9/11.  Like my parents were able to recount with JFK’s assassination and the first moon landing, I can tell you exactly where I was when I found out about the terrorist attacks.  It was a time of changes, limits, and uncertainty.  And we all survived it.  9/11 is the closest I can come to what we are experiencing now.  This, however, is different.

Maybe it is the global impact, or the prolonged uncertainty, the increased social media noise, or perhaps my increased responsibilities, but this pandemic is different.

But it is the same, too.  This will pass.  Things will return to normal, even if it is a slightly different normal.  Like 9/11, we just need to get through this stretch and get to the other side.

The only thing certain about our finances is that they are somewhat uncertain for most of us.  Reduced hours.  Layoffs.  Business closures.  It is all going to impact us.

So what do we do about it?  In the credit counseling world, we talk about ‘emergency budgets’.  This is an adjustment to our spending that reflects a change in circumstances and protects us for the future.

There are a LOT of directions I could go with this.  Today, I specifically want to talk about adjusting your student loans.  For those that have them, they can be a significant cash outlay every month.

But you do have options.

First, the hard ones.  Private student loans.  These tend to have fewer options.  One of the benefits of the far-reaching impact of the pandemic, however, is that more and more businesses are being understanding with their clients.  Especially if you have a change of income, be talking with your private lenders BEFORE you are late with a payment.  Explain to them what is happening in your life, and ask for specific solutions.  They may or may not give you what you are asking for, but you never know until you ask.

Federal student loans, on the other hand, give us many more options for adjustments.

A fairly easy option that nearly all federal student loans will qualify for is going to an income-driven payment.  You will have to report your income, location, and family size, but they will then calculate a payment for you based on your available disposable income.  While there are no hardship requirements to move into this payment option, you may qualify for a payment as low as $0 and still be considered current on your student loan.

Another option that borrowers have with federal student loans is to go back into deferment or forbearance.  With slightly different requirements, they both allow you to not make payments for a period of time, much like your initial 6-month deferment right after you finished school.  Do be aware that your loans may still be accruing interest during this time.  But that may be a small price compared to going into default with your loans.

So how do you go about this?

You can find a ton of information at StudentAid.gov.

studentaidgovlogo

You can find out about the different payment options.  You can learn about the differences between and requirements for deferment and forbearance.  They are laid out on their Temporary Assistance page.  You can also log in to the National Student Loan Data System through which you can apply for these different options.

Yes.  This does potentially prolong and even increase the overall cost of your student loans.  But in times of crisis, we sometimes have to prioritize where our money is going.  That is what these federal student loan options provide you the freedom to do.

Finally, there are some temporary measures that are being proposed and approved.  Because these are changing daily, I am going to direct you to the Department of Education’s web page for the latest information.

If you would like someone to talk through these options and help you establish an emergency budget, the counselors at the Center for Financial Resources are still here and helping people.  In addition to face-to-face appointments, We have and continue to offer appointments via phone and the internet.  We can help you with your finances while still respecting social distancing and quarantines.  You can schedule an appointment by calling us at 605-330-2700 or by visiting our website.

 

written by Breck Miller, Community Relations Coordinator
image courtesy StudentAid.gov

LSS Center for Financial Resources
Consumer Credit Counseling Service | Housing Resources | Sharpen Your Financial Focus| Financial Fitness Education
705 East 41st Street, Suite 100 |Sioux Falls SD 57105-6047
605-330-2700 or 888-258-2227
www.LssSD.org
Strengthening Individuals, Families & Communities

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Volunteer Relationships During Social Distancing

March 20, 2020

At LSS Mentoring Services, our work to “empower people to succeed by establishing trusting relationships with dvolunteers” is not something that is possible in the formats that we are accustomed to.

We also know that there are urgent needs and many unknowns for people to wrap their heads around. There are many essential services at LSS that are here for people in this time of need. While Mentoring Services may not be top of mind, we are doing the following to help matches get through this time!

CLIMB
If you’re looking for ways to help kids in need and going to school is not an option, being an LSS Climb mentor is a way for you to get involved! The LSS Climb program matches volunteers with kids ages 7-14 with the intent of meeting outside of school. While public meetings are not ideal given the current conditions, matches can still interact using technology – or even via a simple phone call. There are 22 kids waiting for a mentor right now, and still will be waiting this summer.

USUCCEED
This program is for high school students and their mentors and allows for meetings in OR out of school. Matches in this program are often communicating via text, phone or social media already. That is just as important now as ever!

We have 21 high school seniors in this program, and our goal is to make those students feel especially positive and celebrated! While this is not the senior year they imagined, the Class of 2020 is one that everyone will remember.

BETTER TOGETHER
Better Together volunteers are matched with independently living adults aged 65 and up (called neighbors). Across the program, volunteers are helping their match by getting necessary groceries and household goods, allowing this vulnerable population to stay home. Volunteers and staff are calling and checking in often, as we know our older friends are perhaps feeling more isolated now than before. We are able to provide information to Better Together neighbors who do not have the ability or access to online resources. It is amazing what a simple phone call from a Better Together friend can do to lift spirits for both volunteers and neighbors!

EVERYDAY HEROES
This is our school-based mentoring program that serves over 1,200 Sioux Falls area students each week. Since the program is school-based, that means matches are not able to meet when school is not in session. A number of mentors have reached out to ask if they can help their students. While there is not a way to do that now, know that if and when school is resumed, we will do our best to arrange virtual meetings or provide some means for mentors to communicate with their student, even if it is not in person at this time.

Please know that we are accepting applications for new volunteers (we were able to train a few this week!) and have the capability to deliver training via Zoom at this time. Parents are still enrolling their kids in Climb and USucceed, and those that are waiting will be contacted to let them know they have a match! If nothing else, that news alone will give kids hope and something to look forward to. Matches can start communicating in what ever ways feel comfortable when they have completed training and screening. The same goes for older adults waiting for a Better Together volunteer. Lastly, LSS is sending on names and applications of Everyday Heroes mentors to school staff so they can start thinking about potential matches.

To apply for youth mentoring programs, here is the application.

To apply to be a Better Together volunteer, here is the application.

 


5 Steps to Prepare Yourself Financially for the Uncertainty of Coronavirus

March 19, 2020

A topic that is only going to increasingly become a problem, this is something that I wanted to address.  As a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, we got the following blog and thought it was a great piece of information to share with you.

As people work to deal with the aftermath, know that at this time, the Center for Financial Resources continues to provide counseling services via phone and over the internet.  You can contact us directlyto set up an appointment.

So without further ado, a blog written by Courtney Nagle:

The coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread and is now considered a pandemic. People are scrambling to gather essentials for their homes and are on high alert wondering how this situation will continue to evolve and what effects it will have on the economy, work and the coming months. Unfortunately, it’s unpredictable how exactly everything will pan out but one thing’s for sure, is it is wise to prepare.

As we prepare for more school closings, businesses and mandatory working from home, here are some steps you can take:

  1. Contact your creditors as soon as possible. If you anticipate the inability to make your monthly credit card payments, it’s important to open that line of communication. Ask for temporary hardship concessions like interest-only payments or forbearance.
  2. Keep priority obligations on track. First and foremost, it’s important to pay your rent or mortgage. If you experience loss of job or income, be sure to maintain open communication with your creditor or landlord.
  3. Develop an emergency spending budget. This is a leaner much stricter version of your budget. Pause all “fun budget categories” like dining out, extracurricular activities, anything that is more of a want than a need. Set a realistic budget for utilities and food expenses. Make a list of all your current obligations. Circle the things that are wants so you can see how much you could realistically save if you pause subscriptions, limit travel and make affordable meals at home.
  4. Identify community resources and if there are any government assistance programs available. Government officials are still working through what options and if there will be opportunities for health care reimbursement established in the coming days. Communities agencies may help with food banks, temporary assistance with utilities, etc.
  5. Reach out to a nonprofit financial counselor to find ways to eliminate debt and reduce financial obligations. Debt is often the roadblock that keeps people from being able to establish financial stability. According to CNBC, the biggest hurdle that is causing people to live paycheck to paycheck and preventing them from building an emergency savings fund is debt.

If you have limited resources and not much in a savings account, you are not alone. About 40% of Americans say they don’t have $400 available to cover unexpected bills. With so many living paycheck-to-paycheck, even missing one paycheck could lead to financial struggle.

Now is a good time to prioritize paying down debt to the best of your ability because interest rates are typically highest for revolving lines of credit. To do so, The NFCC is here to help! Our nonprofit credit counselors are on standby to help you strategize and figure out the best way to make it through this uncertain financial season. Amid trying to stay healthy and manage your households, it’s important to not have the worry and stress of debt.

Get a financial checkup today!

 

LSS Center for Financial Resources
Consumer Credit Counseling Service | Housing Resources | Sharpen Your Financial Focus| Financial Fitness Education
705 East 41st Street, Suite 100 |Sioux Falls SD 57105-6047
605-330-2700 or 888-258-2227
www.LssSD.org
Strengthening Individuals, Families & Communities

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Is Credit Karma Worth It?

March 12, 2020

It’s a question that comes up fairly frequently in our classes when we are talking about credit reports and scores – “Is Credit Karma worth it”?

That’s a great question.  It’s one that deserves a conversation, but also one that just isn’t as easy as a quick ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

First, a disclaimer – I have a Credit Karma account.  I use it some.  But neither I nor our organization have any affiliation with them.  This is just a summary of the conversation that has come up in our classes over time. Read the rest of this entry »


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