Talking About #business

Tips for Your Employees on How to Financially Survive the COVID-19 crisis.

As event organizers, business owners, and leaders of our organizations, our employees are like family! Their financial success depends largely on our ability to keep them on our payroll and continue to provide them a secure job. But with the COVID-19 corona virus crisis, some business owners are having to make the hardest decisions they’ve ever made – with forced layoffs, decreased hours, or cutting employee wages.

I’ve talked to several business owners and event organizers about this and they shared with me the devastating, crushing, emotions that they felt when they had to give this type of bad news to their employees.

So how exactly can we help our employees now? I’ve spent a lot of time this past two weeks reflecting on this question. I’m fortunate to have an amazing network of event organizers and business owners that I can bounce ideas off of, and here’s what we’ve come up with.

ROAD MAP TO HELPING EMPLOYEES NAVIGATE THIS CRISIS.

I recently wrote an article on how event organizers and business owners can financially sustain during the live events ban here.

Fortunately, many of those tips also apply to personal finances and to non-business owners! So today I’ll talk specifically about the programs and strategies non-business owners can use (aka your employees) to avoid financial ruin and bankruptcy.

DISCLAIMER: This article does not constitute legal advice or tax advice. Each state agency has different requirements and terms. Please check with your attorney, accountant, and your state specific agencies. These are suggestions only. Afton Tickets is no in way guaranteeing any specific outcome with these suggestions and tips.

My advice is to proactively take actions right now so that you have a backup plan. Even if you have a decent amount of cash reserves, the longer you can hold onto that cash, the longer your financial lifeline will last.

WHAT OPTIONS ARE THERE IF YOU RENT?

First and foremost, do not just stop paying your rent because there could be consequences. Just like with the banks right now, if you need COVID-19 disaster relief you need to talk directly with the creditor instead of just ignoring the payments due.

As soon as possible, have a conversation with your landlord. Plan out beforehand the main talking points, because the more you can explain the direct effects of COVID-19 on your income and inability to pay rent, the more lenient (hopefully) your landlord may be.

The stimulus package that Congress passed has many stipulations and fine print, but essentially it’s supposed to send adults approximately $1,200 (if you make less than $75,000 per year) and $500 per child. However, there are talks that checks could take 1 to 4 months to actually arrive. While this is helpful to most, if you rent versus own a home, you might start feeling the cash crunch before these checks arrive as your rent due date fast approaches.

I’ve seen reports claiming that 36.6% of U.S. household heads rent their home. So while the $2 Trillion stimulus package that the Senate just passed includes helping small businesses and sending eligible citizens the above stimulus check – as of yet there is little concrete relief for landlords. This does not bode well for the renters. I’ve also read that the house mortgage relief allowing forebearance of payments may not apply or be as available to landlords of rental properties.

After speaking with your landlord, no matter the outcome, I reccomend that you google search your local and state organization that deals with tenant rights. You should call them and ask for an update on what the current laws and COVID-19 relief looks like for renters because it’s going to vary state by state and region by region. The last thing you want to do, is get bad advice from your landlord. So I would check with your local and state agency as well. Ask them how you can find updates so that you can check their website weekly (or daily) in case a special renter relief program becomes available. Remember, if a renter relief program becomes available it could be on a 1st come, 1st serve basis (that’s how the SBA Disaster Relief Loans work), so the sooner you know about any new programs the more likely you are to be at the head of the line.

As renters, there is a lot of uncertainty at this point. If you literally cannot pay your rent, you should talk to your local and state agency to ensure you know the full implications and current eviction laws.

Here are some resources for Oregon renters:
Oregon Governor orders to suspend evictions amid COVID-19 crisis
Oregon.gov resources for landlords and tenants
Oregon Community Alliance for Tenants

Resources with information application to multiple states:
Investopedia article regarding COVID-19 Renters Assistance

NOTE ABOUT UTILITIES

If you pay your own utilities as a renter, call your utility company and ask if there is any type of COVID-19 relief available to suspend/delay payments due. Some cities and states have mandated that utilities cannot be shutoff during this crisis. Don’t just stop paying utilities, and don’t take my word for it. Call the utility company first and ask what options they can provide.

HOME OWNERS: SUSPEND YOUR HOUSE MORTGAGE PAYMENTS!

Call your bank mortgage lender right away if you are a homeowner. Last week, the U.S. Congress was discussing relief for homeowner’s by forcing banks to give a 3 to 12 month suspension on mortgage payments. Since then, I’ve recently talked with associates who have already gotten paperwork for mortgage assistance due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Here’s the thing: you need to call your bank and verbally explain how COVID-19 has affected your income and your inability to pay your mortgage payment. Then they need to “code” your mortgage in their system as needing assistance. After all of that (you may be on hold for quite awhile, their phone lines are busy right now) they will likely send you a 25 page form to fill out. So the sooner you get started on this process, the better!

From what I’ve been told, banks still do not exactly know how much assistance they are going to give. But if you are able to suspend 3 months of your mortgage that is big savings. If this COVID-19 crisis continues it is also likely that the banks would extend this program.

Note: Nobody knows exactly how banks are going to handle this. They could suspend your payments without reporting to the credit report agencies and waive any late fees, but then require you pay those missed payments later on at the end of this. Or, best case, they may decide (or be forced by the government) to add on your suspended payments to the end of your mortgage loan. But either way, if you can avoid using your cash on the house mortgage right now, it’s going to increase your likelihood of riding out this corona virus storm.

PERSONAL CREDIT CARDS

Do you have any outstanding credit card balances? If so, you’re being charged interest and forced to make a minimum payment on it each month. Make a list of every credit card you have and list out the current balances of each, and the monthly minimum payment of each. You’ll also want to find out the annual interest rate you are paying on each card.

Note: If your APR rate is 24.25% that is per year. So an approximate way to see the interest you’re paying each month is to divide that by 12 and multiply it by your card balance. Example: $9,000 balance x (24.25% / 12) = $181.87 in interest per month, ballpark. This is useful to know when we get to the 0% balance transfer section.

Now, call each credit card company that you have a card with. If you have a balance on the card, ask what corona virus relief they are offering right now for suspending payments without penalty. Right now, I’m hearing that credit card companies are suspending payments 1 month at a time. So if they do suspend your minimum payment due for this month, you’ll have to REMEMBER TO CALL BACK BEFORE the next month’s billing due date in order to ask for another month. You’ll have to keep doing that for as long as this crisis (or your lack of income) lasts. Put these due dates on your calendar so you don’t forget your tasks each month! Even if you only owe $50, $25, and $99 per month over 3 credit cards – that adds up to $176 which can instead be used to pay your groceries this month!

You should call your credit card companies even if the card has a $0.00 balance. Why? To find out if they have any special offers right now as far as a 0.00% APR Balance Transfer or a lower APR interest rate.

TIP: If you have to use a credit card right now, if you did what I suggested up above and listed out each card’s APR interest rate – you now know which card to spend on. Use the one with the lowest APR interest rate.

THE POWER OF THE 0.00% BALANCE TRANSFER TRICK.

The other reason I suggest you call each bank and login to each credit card’s online banking portal is so you can check if there are any BALANCE TRANSFER OFFERS. Many times, if you have multiple cards or have a card you haven’t used for a long time, there will be a 0.00% Balance Transfer offer in your account. This could be a great way to save interest payments or get some much needed cash. Here’s how it works:

Make sure the Balance Transfer offer is truly a 0.00% APR interest rate.
Verify how long this 0.00% APR lasts. Usually they will last for 12 months or more.
Make sure you know what the balance transfer one-time FEE is. Usually it is 3.00% of the total balance of the transfer.

The benefits of a 0.00% Balance Transfer is as follows:
You can temporarily move money off of a higher interest rate card and pay no interest until the 0.00% balance transfer expires.
I’ve had colleagues who have overpaid a card balance with the 0.00% balance transfer and been sent the excess funds as a check that they could cash.

CAREFUL ABOUT HOW MUCH YOU TRANSFER TO A CARD
Typically, if a credit card has a balance of more than 50% of it’s credit limit that can decrease your credit score over time. If you’re in dire straits, you may choose to just ignore this warning. But ideally if you have a $0.00 balance credit card with a $15,000 credit limit, you would put no more than $7,400 (less than 50% of the credit limit remaining) onto that card with a 0.00% balance transfer. When in doubt, you can always call your primary bank and ask advice on how to do this without negatively affecting your credit score.

Example of how this could save you money:

CREDIT CARD A:
$9,500 balance. 24.48% APR interest rate. $12,000 credit limit. Monthly minimum payment $247

CREDIT CARD B:
$0.00 current balance. $20,000 credit limit.
HAS A 0.00% BALANCE TRANSFER OFFER WITH THESE TERMS: 0.00% APR on balance transfers for 15 months. 3.00% balance transfer fee. APR goes up to 22.38% APR after 0.00% offer ends.

Credit Card A is costing this user $247.00 cash out of pocket each month as the minimum payment.
But about $193.80 of that minimum payment is INTEREST, which just goes into the bank’s pocket and does not pay down any of the original card balance.

Balance transfer fee is 3.00% of the $9,500 being transferred, so $285.

True savings here: Credit Card A over the next 15 months would cost the user $2,907.00 in interest – $285 balance transfer fee = $2,622.00 total saved in interest. Breaks down to $218.50 per month. So that is the true savings of utilizing this offer.

Once you make this transfer, Credit Card B will carry the balance and the minimum monthly payment this bank makes you pay will go directly to payoff the balance of the card, because it’s at 0.00% APR interest rate. This means you now pay off this card faster, plus you save the above savings from not paying the interest you would have paid on Credit Card B.

In this example, Credit Card B had a 20,000 credit limit, so by transferring over $9,500 onto that card we kept the credit saturation % under 50%. This helps the user’s credit score to not be negatively affected with too high of a credit card saturation balance.

IMPORTANT:
DO NOT spend or use this credit card AT ALL if you do a 0.00% balance transfer to it. That’s how the bank “gets you.” If you transfer $10,000 to a 0.00% balance transfer offer credit card that has a $15,000 limit, and then you spend $2,000 in extra purchases after the balance transfer and use that card – you are in trouble. The bank fine print says that the extra purchases after the balance transfer accrue at the higher 20.00% or more APR rate, and that will NOT STOP until the original balance transfer amount is paid off in full. Here’s what this means: In this example, the bank will now charge you the 20.00% or higher APR normal rate on that $2,000 every single month until you’ve paid down this card by $10.000, so you are stuck paying high interest. The bank won’t let you payoff that $2,000 portion of the card being charged high interest until you are done paying off the balance transfer full amount of $10,000.

PERSONAL EXPENSE BREAKDOWN

How much were you spending each month eating out at restaurants? Or on Grub Hub? Are you aware of all of the many recurring subscriptions that have racked up over the years? Maybe you have a decent idea, but do you know every single expense? Right now is the time to find that out.

Look through all of your credit card transactions line by line in your online banking portal so you are aware of everything you’ve been spending money on. Do the same in your checking account. I reccomend to look back over the last 90 days. Find out what you can cut. Do you really need your HBO or Spotify subscription right now? What recurring subscriptions can you cancel for now?

Make a list of 3 tiers of expenses: Cut for sure, Maybe Cut?, Last Resort. This lets you quickly categorize things into “cut for sure” you don’t need it, Maybe Cut? but it’s “painful” to part with, and Last Resort “I won’t cut this expense unless I’m inches from being homeless. If you make this list and keep it, it also allows you to re-check it weekly or monthly if things get even worse and you won’t have to go back and do all of this work all over again.

TIP: Google to find the top rated phone apps for budgeting if you haven’t done this before or aren’t the best at budgeting. You can use an excel spreadsheet or google docs, but it might be worth downloading an app that helps you track your budget, expenditures, and expenses in real-time.

Every little bit adds up. It may seem trivial to cancel a $14.99, $7.99, $24.99, and $17.99 subscription… But that adds up to $65.96 per month. That’s why making this list is so important, you can start to see how all of the little ways you can cut expenses can add up to big savings.

My advice is to cut as much as you can RIGHT NOW. Then if things get better start adding things back. What you don’t want to do, is fail to cut your expenses down as much as possible now, run out of cash in 6 weeks, and realize that you COULD HAVE made your cash lifeline last you twice as long if you had aggressively cut your expenses down right away. Remember, nobody knows how long this COVID-19 crisis is going to last or how long the negative effects of it will have on our entire economy and the job market!

HOMEOWNERS: LOOK INTO A REFINANCE OF YOUR HOUSE MORTGAGE!

Let’s face it, housing prices seem likely to fall as the economy slows down. Rising unemployment means we’ll likely see more house inventory come onto the market for sale as people get desperate and can’t pay their bills. So, in my opinion, if your backup plan is “if things get bad enough we’ll just sell our house,” then you may be in trouble. What if you run out of cash and nobody wants to buy your house? Or the market tanks and you can’t sell for 30% of what it’s worth right now? The same goes with selling your car. In 2 months is anybody going to want to pay $22,000 for your Subaru Ascent? Probably not. Everyone is tightening up their spending and in the same boat.

So it may be a good idea to check on refinancing your house mortgage. After all, the Fed recently cut interest rates to almost 0.00% for lending to banks. What if you could refinance your house and save $500 per month?

Call your mortgage lender and see what they can offer you.

WHY TO DO THIS AS SOON AS POSSIBLE:
The refinance underwriters are going to look at your most recent pay stubs and your W2 income from the past 2 years. So starting your refinance right now ensures that you have W2 income to show them before you potentially get laid off from your job, or get hours cut.

If you wait and try to refinance later on and you have lost your job it will be hard to get a refinance approved. It’s also important to do this ASAP before your credit scores decrease if you expect to lose your income soon or are not able to service your existing debt payments.

IMPORTANT THINGS TO KNOW:

  1. Ask if the refinance can be done with $0 up front cost. Friends of mine have been able to wrap the closing costs into the new mortgage and pay $0 up front costs.
  2. Ask how much lower your monthly total mortgage payment will be. I’ve seen several cases where my friends are saving 10% to 20% of their total mortgage payment which is a huge monthly cash savings.
  3. You can ask for a CASH OUT OPTION. This allows you to take out cash from your mortgage equity (so you are borrowing from yourself so to speak, on equity you have int he house) however this cash out option amount will be put into your new mortgage refinance with a super low interest rate and on a 30 year term. You can use this cash as a “safety cushion” to pay expenses, or you can use this cash out to PAYOFF another high interest or high monthly payment loan. For example, if you use the cash out option to pay off your car loan and that eliminates a $400 per month car payment, you just saved yourself a lot of money on your monthly expenses. You know your finances best, but this is a valuable tool to lower not only your house mortgage payment but also your other monthly expenses in general.
  4. Make sure you get a FIXED LOAN. Do not do a variable APR or an ARM loan that is interest only because your monthly payment could skyrocket. You want a FIXED LOAN so your APR interest rate is locked in for the life of the loan.

SO… NOW WHAT?

This is going to take a lot of time and effort. You may be on the phone with US Bank for one of your credit cards for 2 hours (hold times are crazy right now). Or, you may end up being on hold for 25 minutes and get kicked off multiple times (like one of my friends did) while on the phone with the disaster relief agency. But the point is, everyone is in trouble right now. Over 3.3 million people filed for unemployment just this last WEEK!

It may keep getting worse, and it’s up to you to do whatever is necessary to ensure you can financially survive this crisis. How many people do you know that just lost their jobs and are going to sit around watching Netflix in their pajamas all day?

I’m not saying you should not do that… But maybe spend 1/2 of the day working on getting your finances in order? The better you prepare yourself the less stress you’re going to have later on.

So go on, make those lists, gather up the phone numbers you need to call, put those wheels in motion and think outside the box. Take a deep breath, know that we’re all in this together, and know that I am rooting for you every step of the way.

I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

Please comment below with any thoughts or new ideas I can add to this list. What parts of this article helped you the most? Any other resources I should add?

New updates and changes are coming in daily from around the country. So I’ll try to jump in and update this article as much as I can over the next days and weeks.

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Ryan Kintz
Founder & CEO at Afton Tickets
Ryan Kintz is founder and CEO of Afton Tickets and Afton LLC. Ryan is an event organizer, event producer, concert promoter, and business owner. Afton Tickets clientele includes fairs, festivals, beer/wine/food festival, and concerts and events that range from 500 to 100,000+ attendees. Ryan has worked with hundreds of event organizers and event planners, over 800 music venues, and tens of thousands of music artists.