The United States is being watched by the world as congressional lawmakers struggle to reach an agreement over how to end stalemates over the national budget and debt.
The impasse also is fraying nerves domestically as Americans worry about how a default could affect their households.
Sharon Epperson, CNBC personal finance expert, and TODAY financial editor Jean Chatsky provided some insight Monday into three areas where people would feel the pinch if the nation defaults on its debt obligations.
1. Your Investments
Don’t rush to make any changes, stressed both experts.
“This is not a time to rush to sell investments,” Epperson said. “It is a time to make sure you build up enough cash on hand in case of an emergency. This could be a big one.”
Expect the financial markets to be rocky this week as lawmakers continue to argue over resolution, Chatsky said. That's okay if you've been wise about the vehicles being used to hold short-term savings.
“If you’ve got money in stocks that you need in the next five years, it doesn’t belong there – it never belonged there,” Chatsky said. “But if you’re thinking long term, you have time to ride this out.”
2. Your Credit
Expect interest rates to change, and not beneficially.
If the United States defaults, that means borrowing costs for future loans will skyrocket. Those costs will trickle down to consumers.
“That’s going to impact everything that you are going to be borrowing as well, and that includes credit cards,” Epperson said.
The current average interest rate for credit cards is 15 percent, but would probably rise under a default – so pay off the credit card debt, she said.
As global confidence in U.S. treasuries drops, other interest rates for consumers will probably increase, including mortgage rates and car loans, Chatsky said.
“Pay up as much of your short-term debt as you can,” she said.
3. Your Job
A default could usher in another national recession, disrupting the nation’s economy just as it climbs out of its last downturn. In that case, companies will stop hiring, Epperson said.
“If you’re fortunate enough to have a job right now, you need to focus on that job and make sure you stay marketable and employable at this time,” she said. “And if you’re looking for a job, realize that it may take a bit longer to find one.”
Chatsky said that’s why shoring up short-term savings could be crucial.
“If this actually does happen, we could start to feel the affects in Social Security payment, in tax refunds, very quickly,” she said. “Those things will be delayed.”