With bills to pay and mouths to feed, furloughed federal employees have been hit hard by the partial government shutdown.
Without knowing when the shutdown could end and the next paycheck could come, it's important for federal workers to think ahead and budget their finances to stay afloat. Local financial advisers say going without a paycheck makes addressing the essentials — housing, food and utilities — the top priority.
But, it's also important to speak with your financial institution, creditors and others to help make it through this time of uncertainty. Here's a round-up of advice for federal employees who are facing immediate stress due to the shutdown.
Work with your creditor
If you're afraid you might miss a payment on a credit card, mortgage or other loan, it's time to communicate with your creditor.
Missing payments can take a chunk out of your credit score. To avoid that, talk with your creditor to see if there are programs in place for furloughed workers. Alternatively, creditors may have programs to help people with temporary disruptions in their finances.
Several Quad-City banks and credit unions have announced policies to help federal government employees during the shutdown.
For example, IH Mississippi Valley Credit Union is offering members a 12-month payroll assistance loan, up to $5,000. Affected members may also defer one monthly payment of any consumer loan, excluding mortgages, at no charge, according to a news release.
R.I.A. Federal Credit Union also is offering members the option to defer payment on a loan or take out a payroll-impaired loan at a lower than average rate.
Make sure to avoid predatory lending, though, and don't rack up debt when it's unnecessary.
Deal with loans as best as you can
From credit cards to mortgages, federal employees should try to continue making the minimum payment on loans.
For credit cards, making the minimum payment will save you from having your account reported as delinquent. You may be charged a late fee, but it could help save your credit score. Some creditors may extend the date your payment is due.
It may be possible to request forbearance for some loans, mortgages, auto and student loans.
Waiting it out
While you wait out the partial federal government shutdown, there may be other ways to earn some additional income.
Practicing patience during this time will probably mean watching your spending more than usual, cutting down on unnecessary expenditures and enjoying experiences, rather than new products.
Furloughed workers may also consider picking up a side gig, such as an app-based job. The gig economy is a quick way to set your own hours to earn some cash.
Once the shutdown is over, it's likely federal employees will receive back pay, as they have in the past. And with tax return season upon us, filing early will ensure you receive your refund earlier to help make up for the time without pay.