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The pandemic brought about by the COVID-19 has left many Filipinos unsure about their financial stability not only during the quarantine, but more importantly, after, when everything goes back to normal. The question that most ordinary people are asking is how can I pay the mounting bills that were suspended during ECQ?

While the nation prepares to reboot the economy, it is also critical to plan now on how we are going to restart, knowing that we have financial obligations that we need to face. Expectedly, some of us will be more heavily affected than others, especially those who are in the no-work-no-pay category, are self-employed, or are stranded OFWs. By acting strategically, we may be able to lessen the impact of it on your wallet.

Whatever financial situation you are in, there are sensible ways to approach this financial problem. And now is the time for you to plan, while you are sitting at home with a less hectic schedule. Here are some guides that could help you get through and have a meaningful start after quarantine.

Know your options

You don’t need to be overwhelmed by the mounting bills. It is quite understandable if you cannot pay all of them all at the same time. The important thing is to know what options are available for you. For example, MERALCO offers a four-month installment option to settle your accumulated bills. Water companies like Manila Waters give additional 30 days grace period on top of their existing 60 days grace period to settle your accounts.  The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) announced that renters are allowed to pay their rent dues in installment for six months after the 30 days grace period. The Bayanihan Act (RA 11469), directs all lenders to grant a 30-day grace period for the payment of all loans falling due during the period of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ).

Knowing what options you have will allow you to come up with a better plan and strategies on how you will be able to eliminate your overdue bills.

Prioritize

After knowing all your options, the next step in overcoming your financial anxiety is accepting that things are going to be different for a while. If you are used to having an elaborate family day every weekend, you must accept that you may need to suspend that for now. If your income is not enough to handle all your pending bills, you need to strategize which to pay first and which to delay. Depending on the type of bill, you may be able to arrange a payment plan following the above options. Prioritizing will prevent you from incurring immediate consequences of not keeping up with the more serious bills. Priorities should include food, health, rent, and utilities.

Use your Emergency Fund

If you follow the usual advice of most financial planners for creating a fully-funded emergency fund, you will be in control of your finances amidst this situation. The typical emergency fund should be three to six months of your monthly expenses. Now is the time to use that if your income is not enough to handle your accumulated bills. Don’t be afraid to use those extra savings. The whole purpose of the emergency fund is to use it when their financial emergency.

Be flexible

The spread of COVID-19 has thrown many household economies into turmoil. Removing discretionary expenses from your budget might be painful. But if you want to get back on your feet fast, you need to swallow the bitter pill. The goal is to trim as much of the unnecessary expenses from your budget to preserve as much of your income and savings as possible. If you think you can no longer afford an expensive private school for your children, then be honest with them about the current situation as you look for acceptable alternatives.

We have been through many challenges in the past, and we survived it as Filipinos. Maybe COVID-19 will be another “Yolanda” that we need to win over. There is no universal solution on how to handle financial problems, but during times of great uncertainty, keeping your finances in order is key to survival. With or without COVID-19, sound financial planning is important to protect yourself from going into the negative in the event of a life-changing challenge.

Christopher Cervantes
CIS, CSR, RFP

Christopher G. Cervantes, is a registered financial planner, a certified investment solicitor, and Certified Securities Representative.  He is also the author of the book Financial Planning for the Fast Changing World and The Seed Money.  Aside from being a financial planner he was also an active seafarer for 17 years with a position of Chief Officer on board oil and chemical tankers.   It is his mission to help his fellow seafarers and OFWs to attain financial freedom through sound financial education.  For any questions email him at: [email protected]   You can also find him on www.facebook.com/FinancialPlanningfortheFastChangingWorld and www.cardinalbuoy.com