Personal finance expert Suze Orman has advice about living without a paycheck during the coronavirus pandemic.
Layoffs and closures have left millions of Americans unemployed, with record numbers of people filing for unemployment. According to CNBC, the Federal Reserve is estimating that the unemployment rate nationwide might be as high as 32%.
If you are living without a paycheck, Orman said there are four things everyone can do: Check your health insurance, call your creditors, apply for unemployment and save any stimulus or unemployment check you may receive.
"Believe it or not, it's not about how are you going to pay for things," Orman told TODAY's Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager in the fourth hour. "Can you just please check to see if you have health insurance in place? That is so important."
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Orman added that Healthcare.gov, a federal resource and system that is open for enrollment right now, is a way to get insurance if you have lost job-related coverage.
"Among everything, this is not the time to be caught without health insurance," she said.
When Hoda asked what people can do to make ends meet with bills due, Orman advised that people check the "places where you can get money from," like credit cards.
"Can you believe Suze Orman's telling you, 'Please use your credit cards'?" Orman joked. "And only pay the minimum payment due on them. You might even want to call your credit card companies and ask them to expand your credit limit, to increase it."
Don't be afraid to call and ask for help.
"Sometimes (calling) works, and here's the thing — what difference does it make?" Orman said. "If they're going to say no, at least you tried. So, you should call your credit card companies, your utility companies, all your insurance companies... Call every single one that you can and see if they will postpone, for 90 days, your payments."
Apply for unemployment insurance, which now covers more people than ever.
Orman also explained that more people than ever are currently eligible for unemployment. The coronavirus relief package created two main categories of benefits for individuals. One category, called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, offers benefits to those who would not typically qualify for unemployment, including gig workers, independent contractors, sick people and those caring for loved ones. The second category gives those currently getting jobless benefits in their state an extra $600 per week over the next four months.
"For the first time ever, unemployment has been opened up to people who are self-employed, gig workers, as well as part-time workers, so you go and you apply right now," Orman said, advising people to visit careeronestop.org for extra information.
If there are bills that truly can't be paid, like rent, Orman said that it might be necessary to "get rough."
"If your landlord isn't going to cooperate with you, chances are he isn't going to evict you, so don't pay it for now," she said. "I'm very serious about that. If you don't have the money and he or she isn't working with you, you've got to get rough with that."
Take care of yourself first.
The most important thing, according to Orman, is to make sure you're saving any money that does come in and taking care of yourself, even though that might lead to smaller problems in the future.
"What people should be doing is putting themselves first," Orman said. "If you get a stimulus check, if you get unemployment — which you should all apply for — please be careful what you do with that money. You should take care of yourself first. Listen, Suze Orman would never say this: 'If your credit score goes down, if something happens, I don't care.'
"Save your money to get through right now because these are hard times but you can do it, people, you have what it takes," Orman continued. "You have to be a warrior and not turn your back on this battlefield, and you have to have faith that everything happens for the best. You're stronger than you know."