At a time of unprecedented stress in many homes in Ireland, financial planner Eoin McGee believes that open communication is key when it comes to tackling issues.
The presenter of RTÉ’s How To Be Good With Money says many couples have seen major changes as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“There’s a lot of families and couples out there where the dynamic has shifted completely,” he says. “Maybe the breadwinner has lost their job and the second earner in the house is now the main breadwinner.
“That can cause a huge shift and what is important is that it is discussed openly and honestly. Often the person who is still at work doesn’t really appreciate just how hard it is for the other person to take a step back. They can feel some of their self-worth start to diminish unless the other person is very mindful of it.
“It requires a huge amount of conversation, and keeping communication wide open, to ensure you can get through it.” If you have suffered a loss of income and are feeling overwhelmed, Mr McGee recommends addressing your situation head-on.
“One of the things that upsets people [in the initial shock] is they don’t know where their next pay packet is coming from,” he says. “They feel like they have lost control financially. And one of the ways you can take control back is to look at your bank account, see how much money is in it, work out when the next social welfare payment is coming in and when you have done that, give every single euro in your bank account a job.
The jobs you give each euro can change, but the key thing is you are controlling your money, the money is not controlling you.” Don’t despair if you fear that funds aren’t there to meet all your obligations. Work out what you can and can’t pay and then open up communication with your bank or the relevant utility companies.
“The first thing you need to do is identify what the bills are going to be,” Mr McGee says.
“From a practical point of view write down what’s coming out of your account. Remember you can change your direct debit dates if you want to, people think they are stuck but you can change them. Write down what’s going to come out before you get paid next, work out what you need and see if you have enough.
“These companies are being excellent at engaging with people who are struggling at the moment.
“If you are really struggling, banks are giving payment breaks. It was a 5-minute phone call and done for three months, now they are asking you to fill out some forms and bits and pieces, which is disappointing .. but you can still get payment breaks.
“If your circumstances have changed, don’t stick your head in the sand. Engage with your bank and explain what’s going on - that goes for everything from car loans to personal loans to mortgages. Work with people.” He says Money Advice and Budgeting Service can be a huge help for people who are struggling and also recommends the online budgeting tools on the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission website. If you are not used to drawing up and sticking to a budget the budget planner and spending calculator at ccpc.ie offer a useful template.
Mr McGee acknowledges the severe stress many are under in the current situation and believes it is crucial for individuals not to blame themselves for what are global events entirely outside their control.
“I’m taking from the negatives if you have lost your job, and some people have lost their job three times in the last year, it is really tough,” he says. “ [But] it’s not your fault if you lost your job and your next employer knows that.
“Times are difficult for a lot of people, you’re not on your own.”