58% of Americans Are in Recovery Mode From the Pandemic. Here's How to Move Forward

by Maurie Backman | Published on Aug. 31, 2021

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Still reeling from the pandemic? Here's your game plan.

The coronavirus pandemic impacted the U.S. economy in a very meaningful way. Not only were countless businesses forced to shutter early on in the outbreak, but millions of jobs were shed due to ongoing restrictions and economic concerns.

That dealt a blow to Americans on an individual level. Not only did many people lose their jobs or see their income decline, but many workers had to take on added expenses to keep collecting a paycheck, like extra childcare costs. Meanwhile, a lot of people had to put their retirement plan contributions on hold to focus on boosting their regular savings accounts for emergencies or to cover their near-term bills.

It's not surprising, then, to learn that 58% of U.S. adults aged 18 and up say they're in financial recovery mode from the pandemic, according to the results of Northwestern Mutual's Planning & Progress Study that were published at the end of June. Of those who consider themselves in recovery:

  • 18% say they're in the early stages of it, which means they may have a longer road ahead
  • 47% are in mid-stage recovery
  • 34% are in late-stage recovery, which means they're closer to moving past the events of the past year

Now the good news is that 89% of those who consider themselves to be in financial recovery mode are confident they'll ultimately recover in full. But if you're still grappling with that recovery, here are some moves that may be helpful.

1. Track your progress

Maybe instead of adding $3,000 to your savings in 2020 like you wanted to, you instead landed $3,000 in debt. That's a harsh blow. But rather than dwell on that setback, track your progress toward recovering from it and acknowledge each milestone along the way.

Do a celebratory dance in your kitchen every time your debt load decreases by $100. Or reward yourself with a modest treat (say, a takeout meal so you can get out of cooking) for every $500 in debt you eliminate. It's important to stay mentally strong in the course of getting your personal finances back on track, so do what you can to be kind to yourself.

2. Get on a tight budget

If you're trying to recover financially from the pandemic, knowing exactly where your money goes every month is essential. And to that end, a budget can help.

You can set up a budget using a spreadsheet, notebook, or budgeting app, which will actually link up your various accounts and track what you're spending. Figure out which budgeting method is best for you so you can get a handle on your expenses, and try to identify ways to cut back.

3. Pick up a side job

Though the U.S. economy is still down many jobs compared to the number available before the pandemic, certain industries are desperate for workers. Restaurants in particular have been starved for labor, so if you're willing to pick up a side gig, it's worth applying at local eateries for some evening or weekend shifts.

That said, you may be able to find a side hustle that's more flexible, whether it's driving for a ride-hailing service or doing data entry from home. Boosting your income could help you pad your savings, pay off some debt, and move forward from whatever setbacks you faced in 2020.

Given the extreme nature of the pandemic, it stands to reason that a lot of people are still trying to recover from it. If that's the case for you, remember that the coronavirus crisis was an unprecedented event, and your personal recovery might take time. Do your best to stay positive as you and so many people around you work hard to move past it.

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