These decisions were a bright spot during challenging times.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many changes -- most of them tough ones. However, during these troubled times, I made three financial decisions that I'm really happy with. They have already paid off or will likely end up doing so. Here's what they are.
1. I kept my money in the stock market
When the pandemic hit the U.S. hard in March and states began shutting down, the stock market crashed.
Fortunately, I tend to invest for the long term, so I made the decision not to sell any of my stocks or make other adjustments to my existing holdings. Instead, I decided to increase the amount I was investing in the stock market, looking at the crash as a buying opportunity.
The market quickly rallied and my portfolio balance has grown considerably since March. As a result, I'm glad I stuck to my guns and didn't let panic lead me to sell at a loss during the downturn.
2. I refinanced my mortgage
Mortgage rates fell dramatically during the pandemic, hitting new record lows multiple times. When I saw how low rates had fallen, I made the decision to refinance my mortgage. This choice reduced my interest rate, making the cost of borrowing lower.
And I was actually able to take a cash-out refinance on my mortgage loan for my primary home and use the money to entirely pay off a mortgage on another property I own. This means I reduced my monthly obligations and streamlined my payoff process since I now have one mortgage instead of two.
Mortgage rates have been climbing up from those record lows in recent weeks. While they remain competitive, I'm glad I jumped at the chance to refinance at an extremely low rate that may not be available again any time soon.
3. I redirected my dining out budget to emergency savings
When dining out at restaurants became impossible due to the pandemic, we decided to shift to cooking more at home instead of getting takeout. This freed up quite a bit of money in my budget. While we don't eat out all the time, we did do so fairly often because it's challenging to cook, take care of a toddler, and work. But we were pleasantly surprised to find out we actually enjoyed making meals.
When I stopped eating out so much, I decided to redirect the extra money I'd been spending at restaurants toward bulking up my emergency fund. I already had money set aside for emergencies. But with the economic uncertainty the virus was causing, I decided I wanted even more cash set aside for a rainy day. As a result, all the money that had been earmarked for restaurant spending went right into a high-yield savings account.
By making these choices, I've ended up with more money in savings and in my investment portfolio, plus I reduced monthly payments. I'm well aware this has not been the experience for everyone, or even for most people, and that I was very privileged to keep my income and be able to make these choices. Many others weren't so lucky.
For those facing financial hardship, the government has provided more relief as a recently-approved third stimulus bill expanded unemployment benefits and is in the process of sending $1,400 stimulus checks to most Americans. These direct payments may not be enough to help get caught up on all financial obligations, but it's a start. If you need other financial help, check out our coronavirus resources to see what's available.
And you shouldn't feel bad if you're coming out of the pandemic in a worse financial situation, as that's the fate of millions in the face of this global crisis. But, hopefully, once life returns to a new normal, you'll also have the opportunity to get back on track and make financial decisions that set you up for a more secure future.
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