When It Rains, It Pours: Financial Resilience During COVID-19

Financial Resilience During COVID-19

Meet Rhonda, a forty-six-year-old woman whose aging house is falling apart around her. And nothing in her bank account can stop it.

Two years ago, Rhonda’s husband passed away. To process her grief, Rhonda left her job and lived on their shared savings for one month, depleting most of what they’d had. Rhonda returned to her job as a nurse’s aide. But without her husband’s income, she struggled to make ends meet.

Then a series of bad occurrences happened, one right after the other, bulldozing Rhonda into financial distress. The last occurrence was the worst of them all.

First, the dishwasher gave out. A new dishwasher cost $400, and Rhona couldn’t afford it. Washing dishes by hand is easy enough, Rhonda thought. She’d save as much as possible in the upcoming months and see if she could replace it.

Then a cable snapped, and the garage door fell off its tracks. A piece of the door cracked off, leaving a hole just big enough for critters to crawl through. Repairing the garage door would cost nearly as much as replacing it. The cheapest option was $1,000. But a roll of duct tape cost just $3. Rhonda stretched the silver tape across the door’s cracks and holes. I really hope the neighbors don’t notice this. At least it would keep out rats, squirrels, and who knew what else.

A week later, after the rats had built permanent nests in the garage, Rhonda woke up to stifling heat and sweat-soaked sheets. The air conditioning’s condensate pump had broken. Rhonda found out it would cost $300–400 to replace, and she borrowed a squeaky plastic fan from her neighbor.

It was around this time that a confirmed case of COVID-19 reached her hometown; the governor announced to close all nonessential businesses and promoted self-quarantine of the citizens. Since Rhonda was a nurse aide, her work schedule hadn’t lessened but increased exponentially. The anxiety of the global spread of COVID-19, not to mention the exhaustion from oscillating between her workplace and her home that was falling apart, affected Rhonda’s performance at work. She made an easy-to-fix mistake with one of her patients but felt guilty for doing so, especially at a time like this. A coworker mentioned she looked burned-out and asked if she was okay. But Rhonda was not okay. The truth was that the world seemed to be falling apart, and though she went into work every day as a healer, she felt like there wasn’t much healing out there.

That night, Rhonda walked into her house and looked around. At this point, she needed $1,800 to complete the repairs that were driving her crazy, but how could she even begin to save up that amount of money when she had groceries, disinfectants, and soaps to buy? When she still had rent to pay, car insurance, credit card bills? Even with her overtime at the nursing facility, she was still paying off all of the interest and late fees she’d acquired (thousands of dollars during the last year) just to keep up with all her bills. What was so maddening for Rhonda was that all of these interest rates and late fees had to do with the timing of her pay, which—you guessed it—didn’t coincide with the timing of her bills, the timing of her household emergencies, or the timing of this global pandemic.

With her body feverishly hot and her house falling apart around her, Rhonda sat on the cool kitchen tile and cried.

Rhonda’s story isn’t unique, as the realities of our world in the midst of COVID-19 is one of emotional struggle and economic strain.

Even before the arrival of COVID-19, 78 percent of American workers live paycheck to paycheck, and because of the timing of pay, they often incur late fees and overdraft charges.[1] Sometimes, they are forced to secure high-cost payday loans just to make ends meet.[2] High-cost credit in particular creates cyclical debt, which makes staying afloat and setting money aside even harder. Emergencies only make matters worse. Sometimes, people can’t bounce back.

Much of this cycle is avoidable. How? By changing the timing of pay.

PayActiv does just this. An employee benefit offered at no cost to employers, PayActiv enables workers to access up to half of their earned wages when they need them. Timely access to earned wages helps employees avoid throwing money away on late fees and overdraft charges. PayActiv’s budgeting tools, financial counseling services, and savings accounts also help employees take control of their money—and plan for their futures. For employees like Rhonda, PayActiv can be the difference between weathering the storm or drowning in it.

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended our daily routines. Having to struggle paycheck to paycheck—uncertain if you can make it until payday—doesn’t have to be an option. There are far more important things to focus on during this time of global health crisis. PayActiv frees up the timing of your wages as well as the time spent in financial stress so that you can spend that time with your loved ones, take a walk outside, and breathe.

[1] Zack Friedman, “78% of Workers Live Paycheck to Paycheck,” Forbes, January 11, 2019, https://www.forbes.com/sites/zackfriedman/2019/01/11/live-paycheck-to-paycheck-government-shutdown/#3778c8834f10.

[2] Beth Brockland, Thea Garon, Andrew Dunn, Eric Wilson, and Necati Celik, U.S. Financial Health Pulse: 2019 Trends Report, Financial Health Network, 17, https://s3.amazonaws.com/cfsi-innovation-files-2018/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/16161507/2019-Pulse-Report-FINAL_1205.pdf.

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