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Opinion: Inflation is real – 3 ways to stretch your dollars

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If it seems that prices are rising every day, it is because they really are. In fact, the March consumer price index saw inflation reached a new 40-year record with 8.5%, beating February maximum.

And as inflation rises, so does the cost of living. Today, maintaining the lifestyle you are used to is more expensive, even if your habits remain the same. Not surprisingly, recent poll from American Psychological Association found that nearly 9 out of 10 Americans now cite inflation as a major source of stress.

Your first thought may not be to turn to your workplace for additional personal financial support, but your employer may be a well-positioned resource. In fact, eight out of 10 employers either you have a financial wellness program or you are actively implementing it, and financial benefits can help you expand your financial capabilities even in high inflation.

If you’re wondering what you can do to make your dollar go further, let’s talk about three ways your workplace benefits can help you cope with the impact of inflation on your finances.

1. Take advantage of employer-funded financial health benefits

Talk to your employer about benefits that can help you better organize your finances and fight inflation.

For example, a financial recovery program in the workplace may offer access to individual financial coaching or financial planning services, where you can create a personal budget or plan based on goals not only for your daily expenses but also for your long-term vision of your life. A planning tool or specialist can help you identify areas that need to be cut, save more, or change habits to help you survive such difficult times.

And don’t forget about retirement: while you don’t feel like you have the opportunity to save for the future right now, make the most of any employer benefits or workplace benefits – it’s a surefire way to start saving and increase your retirement growth account for any relevant contributions.

2. Settle your debt

It can be hard to think about debt management if you’re struggling to just make ends meet day by day, but because interest is very expensive, especially if you have variable rates – and they get more expensive with rising prices – keep your debt under control. the short term can really help you save time.

Start by figuring out the total amount owed, the interest rate you pay on each item of debt, and the minimum payment on each debt obligation. Then build a plan to reduce it – perhaps starting with the highest interest rate or the lowest balance.

If you have student debt, contact your employer to find out if they offer any workplace benefits that can help you. For example, the CARES Act allows employers to pay up to $ 5,250 in student loans on behalf of employees, and employees will not be liable to the U.S. federal income tax on these payments.

Two last thoughts: if you are having great difficulty managing your debt or you are overwhelmed with it, think about debt counseling. Many companies offer debt counseling services through their Employee Assistance (EAP) program or financial recovery provider, where you can work with counselors to figure out a debt management plan. Lastly, be sure to include debt payments and loan management planning in your budget!

3. Look for discounts and workarounds

The classic way to counter rising prices is to look for discounts and coupons on everyday goods. Need new clothes? Try a rack for clearance or used. Grocery stores? Squeeze coupons or buy in bulk. Go to work? Try old-fashioned vehicles with neighbors or public transport. Profitable hunting may not seem glamorous, but it can be a fun – and more importantly, fruitful – way to stretch your dollar.

Again, you probably won’t have to do all the work yourself. Many employers offer their employees prices through their financial recovery programs – in fact, according to EBRI 2021 Employers’ Financial Well-being Survey, 50% of employers offer discount programs. You may be surprised at what’s available, whether it’s exclusive rates for monthly subscription services, medical discounts or prescription discounts, or lower prices for popular brands.

From going to the grocery store to refueling, we all feel the pressure of inflation. So just remember that inflation makes it increasingly important to adopt smart personal finance techniques in budgeting, prioritizing, investing and saving – and the workplace benefits your employer provides can help you. Tightening your belt is never fun, but the benefits of the workplace can help you overcome the inflationary storm.

Crystal Barker Buceret is Managing Director and Chief Financial Officer of Morgan Stanley at Work

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