Are We in a “Shecession”?

Mari Adam

CFP®, MBA, CRPC®, Client Advisor & Branch Manager

May 14, 2020

Summary

Women tend to fall behind men when it comes to financial wellness, and this pandemic is no different. While millions of Americans are concerned about protecting their credit during the coronavirus pandemic, women are being impacted especially hard.

 

Managing your credit score during a pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic is impacting all genders, ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds. But some are facing greater financial challenges as they wait for the economy to rebound. Almost 90 million Americans are worried about their credit scores and whether they will be damaged before the crisis is over.

Women in particular are fearful of losing ground; they are 21% more likely than men to expect that their debt levels will increase as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new WalletHub survey1. In addition, women earn less and generally have a less secure financial safety net than men. The coronavirus pandemic has been especially damaging to women who are more likely than men to be employed in the service, hospitality, and retail industries that have been disproportionately affected by coronavirus shutdowns and work-at-home mandates. In fact, The New York Times has even coined the term “shecession”2 to refer to the negative economic impact of the pandemic on women, a reference to the fact that “a majority of the jobs lost in April were held by women.”

It’s normal to feel anxious when the future is uncertain. That’s why it’s especially important for women to take concrete steps to protect their credit, so we don’t lose financial ground during the crisis. Here are 5 simple steps you can take to protect yourself and be prepared for the economic rebound.

  1. Understand why it matters. A few late or missed payments can affect your credit score, which in turn can cost you hundreds or even thousands of dollars more in higher interest payments on mortgages, credit cards, and insurance. Keeping your credit history strong saves you money.
  2. Reach out. If your income has been cut, or you worry about paying your bills, reach out right away to your lenders, landlords, and credit card companies to see how they can help you.3 So far, 3.5 million mortgage borrowers have requested forbearance, representing nearly 7% of all mortgages nationwide.4 Any payment concessions they agree to will not harm your credit.
  3. Pay the minimum. We often urge consumers to pay off credit card balances in full each month, and that’s always a goal to strive for. But in times of crisis, save your cash to ensure you can make minimum payments on all your bills. Paying down the balances will have to wait until later. Paying at least the minimum keeps your credit pristine.
  4. Keep an eye on it. There’s no substitute for monitoring your credit to ensure you’re on top of all your bills and everything is being reported correctly, especially if you’re taking advantage of any special forbearance programs under the CARES Act. Delayed payments made under those programs with the consent of your lender will be considered paid timely. Free credit monitoring services are available online through several membership and consumer groups, as well as credit card and credit rating companies like Experian.
  5. Take advantage. Check out all the stimulus and benefit programs you may be eligible for, like unemployment benefits, loans for small businesses, subsidized healthcare premiums, and provisions under the CARES Act. The sooner you get on your feet, the faster the overall economy will pick up, and that helps everyone in the community.

Ensuring you have a strategy for keeping your credit score as high as possible will provide long-term benefits as we get to the other side of this crisis. Reach out to your advisor if you have any concerns about your individual situation.

 

Footnotes

1 ‘Coronavirus Credit Score Survey & Tips to Protect Your Score,’ WalletHub, May 6, 2020,

https://wallethub.com/blog/coronavirus-credit-score-survey/73921/#tips-to-protect-your-score

2 ‘For the First Time in Decades, This Recession Is a ‘Shecession,’ The New York Times, May 9, 2020, https://nyti.ms/35R7OM1

3 ‘Help for Credit Cards & Loans by Financial Institutions During COVID,’ WalletHub, May 5, 2020,

https://wallethub.com/blog/coronavirus-help-credit-cards-loans/73967/

4 ‘If you’re skipping your mortgage payments, watch out for this costly mistake,’ MarketWatch, May 3, 2020, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-no-1-mistake-to-avoid-if-youre-skipping-your-mortgage-payments-2020-04-28?mod=article_inline

 

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