When the financial fallout from the pandemic hit home for her last March, Meghan Fernandes was terrified. The 29-year-old mother of three lost both her jobs—first, her position as general manager of an ice-skating rink near her home in Little Falls, New Jersey, then her part-time gig as a furniture sales rep—which cut her family’s income by a third. They’ve stayed afloat managing on husband Mike’s salary from his job at an international shipping company, plus unemployment benefits, while doing everything they can to save money. Fernandes has set up tight budgets, taken scissors to her credit cards, stopped ordering takeout, slashed spending at Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts by 75 percent and mastered the art of home haircuts for stepson Zack, 15, and sons Colton, 5, and Hunter, 2.
It’s been a traumatic six months, Fernandes says, but not all of the impact has been bad. As a result of her newfound frugality, she was able to pay off her student loan in August and expects to pay off her new car in 24 months and their mortgage in 10 years—a full decade ahead of schedule. “I’ve totally changed my outlook toward money,” she says. Perhaps the biggest difference: a greater confidence in her ability to handle whatever comes her way. Before the virus, her family felt vulnerable to economic forces outside of their control. “Now, if something big happens again, I’ll be ready,” Fernandes says. “I know I won’t get stressed out.”
Like the Fernandes family, the vast majority of Americans have been pushed by the pandemic economy to make sweeping changes in how they manage their money—some 84 percent of Americans, in fact, according to a new nationally representative survey from Newsweek and LendingTree. As with Fernandes, many of the new habits are positive ones and nine out of 10 people expect to stick with at least some of them long after the current crisis has passed. The changes extend not just to what people do with their money but also how they feel about their financial futures and the country’s—feelings that cut across age, income, gender and racial lines and are true for people whose finances have been directly affected by the pandemic as well as those who haven’t taken a personal hit.
“There is a universality to this crisis,” says Tendayi Kapfidze, LendingTree’s chief economist. “Even though the impact is hitting people with lower incomes to a greater extent than those with higher incomes, people with more wealth feel the risk as acutely.”
READ MORE: https://www.newsweek.com/2020/09/04/how-pandemic-will-change-way-we-manage-money-forever-1528556.html