Times are tough right now for millions of American households. The stock market experienced one of its worst quarters in history, and approximately 10 million workers filed for unemployment benefits over the span of just two weeks.
Although the present might be bleak, things will get better. The economy always manages to bounce back, so remember that this too shall pass. In the meantime, though, there are a few things you can do to improve your financial future.
1. Cut back on non-essential spending
Now is a better time than ever to comb through your budget and trim your expenses. If you don't already, start tracking your spending so you know where every dollar is going. It can be tough to tell exactly how much you're spending until you see all your expenses mapped out in front of you -- tracking your spending can help you determine where you should be cutting back.
If money is tight right now and you're having trouble paying the bills, you may need to make drastic budget cuts and eliminate anything that's not essential. But even if you're doing OK financially, it never hurts to look for a few areas where you can save a little more each month.
2. Prioritize your emergency fund
Right now is a prime time to make sure you have some money squirreled away in an emergency fund, especially if you're temporarily out of a job or have had your hours reduced. Ideally, you should focus on building an emergency fund before an emergency strikes. However, not everyone has that luxury, and if you don't currently have some savings set aside, now is the perfect time to do so.
It's tough to build an emergency fund if you currently have little to no income, but saving even a little is better than saving nothing. Once you've made your budget cuts, store any extra cash in your emergency fund. A high-yield savings account is a great place to park your money, because this type of account earns a higher-than-average interest rate and is protected against market downturns. In addition, if you need to withdraw your cash, you can do so without facing any fees or penalties.
You may not be able to save thousands of dollars overnight, but that's OK. By saving just a little bit at a time, you can build a healthy emergency fund that can protect your finances no matter what life throws at you.
3. Try your best to contribute to your retirement fund consistently
Saving for retirement may be the last thing on your mind right now if you're struggling to pay the bills, but if your financial situation is relatively stable and you already have a robust emergency fund, now is a great opportunity to invest in the stock market.
Although it may not seem easy to invest during a recession, market downturns are when stock prices are at their lowest. In other words, the stock market is essentially on sale right now, and you can take advantage of bargain prices. Then once the market starts to recover, you can watch your investments skyrocket in value.
If you stop contributing to your retirement fund because you're worried about investing when the market is down, you're missing out on valuable time to save. Saving for retirement is playing the long game, and every year counts. Take too long of a break and it will be more difficult to catch up later.
These are uncertain times, and many families are struggling. But by making a few money moves now, you can improve your overall financial health and set yourself up for a brighter future.