Financial advisors offer pro bono services, advice during pandemic

Posted at 2:21 PM, Mar 26, 2020

Financial Advisors offering pro bono service during this pandemic, along with tips if you are worried about falling short on bills this month.

COVID-19 is now being recognized as a health and financial crisis. It has infected tens of thousands of Americans and killed more than a 1,000, while sending the economy into a downward spiral as million are now suddenly unemployed.

“Every crisis has its own unique characteristics, but there are some things that remain consistent through them all,” said Evelyn Zohlen.

Zohlen has been a certified financial planner for 17 years. She advised clients through the 2008 Great Recession and now has teamed up with a coalition of financial planners from around the country, offering pro bono services to help more people through the financial impact of this pandemic. The services are for new clients and hopes to help underserved communities get through this crisis.

In addition, The Financial Planning Association (FPA) has released an e-book , listing 8 things its financial planners are advising everyone to do right now.

The list includes tips for “Outsmarting Your Brain” in order to stop you from panicking, along with advice to focus on what you can control right now. One of the biggest things within your control is your current cashflow and increasing it by cutting out non-essential spending.

For those worried more about end of the month bill, like mortgage payments or rent, advisors recommend contacting your lender or landlord.

“Many lenders and landlords are being flexible right now,” said Zohlen.

Mortgage lenders, leasing offices, most cable provides, cell phone services and even utility companies are offering up to a 90-day grace period on payments. However, and this is very important, most require full payment at the end of that grace period. Advisors recommend not taking the full grace period if you don’t need it.

“It is critical that consumers are aware, know the details,” explained Zohlen. “At the end of the day, folks are trying to be flexible and compassionate, but there is no free lunch, so you will still have to pay these eventually. Know what that looks like.”

Most credit card companies are also offering an interest-free grace period, too, that needs to be paid in full after the given grace period to avoid new interest, and federal student loans are eligible for no interest accrual for at least the next 60 days. However, do not assume these benefits automatically kick in.

“If there is any message that I could convey to folks watching this, it would be that there are options available and flexibility afforded to you, but none of it is a given,” said Zohlen. “You must make phone calls and contact your mortgage company, your student loan servicer, your credit card company you must contact all of them to coordinate and arrange this.”

With every lender or service, you should also request an email or letter confirming the details of the arrangement made.