Prudence, humility and prayer are necessary for dealing with COVID-19’s financial fallout, according to a local business expert.
“We’re in a very different world now with new challenges,” said Guy Ciarrocchi, president and CEO of the Chester County Chamber of Business and Industry.
Ciarrocchi, a member of St. Norbert Parish in Paoli, said that the pandemic has left most area workers in one of three categories: unemployed, insufficiently employed or “over” employed.
That last group includes those whose firms have seen a windfall during the pandemic, such as online retailers, delivery services, supermarkets and home improvement stores.
With longer hours and larger paychecks, the challenge for these employees is to “make sure they’re saving those dollars,” said Ciarrocchi.
“It’s unlikely you’ll work at that breakneck speed forever,” he said. “Be responsible and set aside funds for when things go back to normal.”
On the other end of the spectrum, those who have lost their positions should review their household expenses to look for outlays that can be reduced or eliminated, said Ciarrocchi.
“Make sure you’re not paying for more than you need with your cell phone services, and ask yourself if you need 500 cable channels,” he advised.
Cancelling subscriptions to magazines and streaming services such as Netflix can also “reduce out of pocket costs,” Ciarrocchi said.
In addition, he said, don’t be too proud to “avail yourself of rental or mortgage assistance.”
“You just need to find a way to tread water” until the economic situation improves, said Ciarrocchi.
Those facing cutbacks in their work hours can find themselves “anxious and in between,” he said.
It’s important to remember that “almost everybody is having some experience of salary or benefits reduction” at the moment, said Ciarrocchi.
Even if you’re still coming into the office or logging onto your laptop, update your resume and LinkedIn profile, he said, since “heaven forbid you may be a week away from looking” for a new position.
Despite weeks of lockdown, “resist the urge to travel if you can’t afford it,” and look instead to “ways to get away without going too far,” Ciarrocchi said.
Be cautious about “borrowing against the future” by tapping into pensions or refinancing your house to access cash, he added.
“Those should be your last options,” he said, noting that consulting a trusted accountant or financial professional – something “counterintuitive in an era of online information” – can help families navigate more securely through the current financial crisis.
Bank accounts may be low, but that’s not a reason to stop supporting parishes and other charities, said Ciarrocchi.
“If you normally give $10, can you give at least $5 or a dollar?” he said. “If not, pick up the phone, call the parish office and ask if there’s something else you can do.”
Above all, said Ciarrocchi, take time to seek the Lord, regardless of how the pandemic has impacted your household budget.
“Find five to ten minutes, and find that quiet space in your house,” he said. “Breathe, pray and gather yourself. Most of us have been blessed and have never encountered times like this. If you need help, ask for it.”
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