How to manage money and protect yourself financially amid COVID-19 pandemic

As the coronavirus pandemic creates an economic crisis for millions, a financial expert offers solutions on how to manage your money.
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Tackling online public school with their three children has become the new focus for Scott and Audrey Farris as both their jobs have been drastically cut back in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

"Come March everything just came to a screeching halt," Audrey said.

That includes their income and like many families, the Farris' are now struggling to juggle a mortgage, car loans and many other monthly bills.

"We don't have an end in sight and that's the scary part," Audrey said. "You don't know how long this is going to go on."

Personal finance expert Brian Gilder says a game plan is needed to navigate through financial difficulties.

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Gilder said if you're in the same boat as the Farris family, a game plan means prioritizing bills, making a list and picking up the phone. The first call made should be to your mortgage lender.

"You have to contact the mortgage company because if you don't do anything, they're just going to assume you can pay," Gilder said.

Gilder said mortgage lenders will defer your payments 90 to 120 days, but he warns to make sure those deferred payments are added to the end of your mortgage and not required in a lump sum payment.

If you rent, Gilder suggests calling your landlord, provide documentation of your job loss or reduced hours, provide a copy of your unemployment application and then make a partial payment if you can or work out a payment plan - but get it in writing.

And make similar calls to your car lender and car insurance company, then scour through your monthly statements, bank and credit card bills, and call them as well.

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"Tell them 'I want a new account where it has no fees involved' because people are getting nickle-and-dimed every month on these fees and they have no idea they are paying these fees," Gilder said.

According to Gilder, credit card companies are accommodating their customers, temporarily forgoing interest charges or allowing them to skip monthly payments.

Gilder says repeat the same drill with your cellphone, television and streaming service providers and even utilities.

"They want to keep the business, so many of them will talk to you and they do have lower plans," Gilder said.

The Farris family followed Gilder's advice.

"We made sure that the mortgage and the car payments were the ones that were placed on hold," Scott Farris said. "That really helped out a lot."

Audrey said going through a list in one day is not realistic.

"It's been weeks of trying to contact people and just being on that hold music for a long time," she said.

The couple says it's been worth the trouble.

"They are willing to work with you but you have to call," Audrey said. "Make your list and just keep going down it day by day."

Another tip is to pay attention to the social services offered by city or county leaders. Just on Tuesday, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors announced a rental assistance program offering up to $1,000 a month for three months to renters who lost their income due to the pandemic.
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