Although everyone is experiencing the impact of COVID-19 differently, one thing has become evident. As a result of the pandemic, we’re all paying closer attention to our finances. Looking at life post-COVID, it’s going to be essential to have a financial plan.
Here are some action points to consider as life returns to some sense of routine and as you plan your financial future.
Pay off your revolving consumer debt first.
If you have consumer debt, or if you’ve gone into debt to cover your expenses through social-isolation, paying off any consumer debt should be your priority. This would be your credit cards and line of credits.
You want to start by making any additional payments on the highest interest debt while maintaining minimum payments on everything else. Once the first debt is paid off, roll all your payments onto your next debt. And so on, until you’ve paid off all your revolving consumer debt.
Set up an emergency fund second.
It doesn’t make much sense to put money in a bank account for an emergency fund when you have revolving debt that is incurring interest. Once you’ve paid off all your revolving debt, you will still have access to that money again should you need it, which acts like an expensive emergency fund before you have money in the bank.
Finance experts suggest you should have 3-6 months in a savings account in case you lose your job or experience unforeseen health issues. And in the face of the most recent global pandemic; the unexpected has just happened, this is the proof that the experts are right, and having an emergency fund is an excellent idea.
Then pay off your instalment loans.
With all your revolving debt paid off and a healthy amount of money in the bank to prepare for the next national emergency, you should start paying off your instalment loans, like a car loan or student loans. Start with the highest interest loans first, working your way through until everything is paid off. Most loans will allow you to make additional payments, double-up on payments when possible.
Start saving for a downpayment.
If you don’t yet own a home, and you would like to work through a plan to get you there, please contact me anytime. Although you don’t have to be completely debt-free to qualify for a mortgage, the less money you owe, the more money you are allowed to borrow in mortgage financing.
And the same principles used to pay down your debt can be used to save for a downpayment. The more money you have as a downpayment, the more you qualify for, and the less interest you will pay over the long run.
If you already own a home, you’re debt-free, and you have a healthy emergency fund, you should consider accelerating your mortgage payments.
Accelerate your payment frequency.
Making the change from monthly payments to accelerated bi-weekly payments is one of the easiest ways you can make a difference to the bottom line of your mortgage. Most people don’t even notice the difference.
A traditional mortgage splits the amount owing to 12 equal monthly payments. Accelerated biweekly is simply taking a regular monthly payment and dividing it in two, but instead of making 24 payments, you make 26. The extra two payments accelerate the pay down of your mortgage.
Increase your mortgage payment amount.
Unless you opted for a “no-frills” mortgage, chances are you can increase your regular mortgage payment by 10-25%. This is an excellent option if you have some extra cash flow to spend in your budget. This money will go directly towards paying down the principal amount owing on your mortgage and isn’t a prepayment of interest.
The more money you can pay down when you first get your mortgage, the better, as it has a compound effect, meaning you will pay less interest over the life of your mortgage.
Also, by voluntarily increasing your mortgage payment, it’s kind of like signing up for a long term forced savings plan where equity builds in your house rather than your bank account.
Make a lump-sum payment.
Again, unless you have a “no-frills” mortgage, you should be able to make bulk payments to your mortgage. Depending on your lender and your mortgage product, you should be able to put down anywhere from 10-25% of the original mortgage balance. Some lenders are particular about when you can make these payments; however, if you haven’t taken advantage of a lump sum payment yet this year, you will be eligible.
Review your options regularly.
As your mortgage payments are withdrawn from your account regularly, it’s easy to simply put your mortgage payments on auto-pilot, especially if you have opted for a five year fixed term.
Regardless of the terms of your mortgage, it’s a good idea to give your mortgage an annual review. There may be opportunities to refinance and lower your interest rate, or maybe not. Still, the point of reviewing your mortgage annually is that you are conscious about making decisions regarding your mortgage.
Want to review your existing mortgage, or discuss getting a new one?