Financial recommendations in uncertain times

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Wausau With an increasing number of people applying or unemployment benefits and a federal stimulus package expected to pass Friday, using money wisely is extremely important.

a woman with unpaid bills has many debts. unemployment and personal bankruptcy

The good news for people who are facing financial hardship right now is there are a lot of changes meant to help. The stimulus package will provide individuals money under a certain income threshold, unemployment benefits have been expanded, and student loans will not be gaining interest during this time.

Basic utility providers, like Wisconsin Public Service, are also suspending disconnections during this time for people who cannot make payments. It also has tips online to reduce energy costs for when that changes.

"One of those tips is to set their thermostat back 7-10 degrees when they are asleep," Matt Cullen, WPS communication specialist said. "That way their furnace is not running while they're asleep and they're not able to notice the extra heat that is generating."

They also have energy assistance programs for people who qualify, as well as programs that allow payments to be more stable each due date. Regardless, he urges people in an uncertain or struggling situation to contact them so they can find a solution that best fits their situation.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court also suspended in-person court appearances for any new or pending cases, including evictions, through May 1. That, however, will not necessarily stop landlords or mortgage lenders from filing suit causing eviction eventually, so CEO and financial advisor of Prosper Wealth Management, Tony Liddle said keeping in contact with those lenders and landlords is key.

He said with some of these billing blocks and additional government payments now is the time for people in financial hardship to focus on critical payments.

"Obviously food is going to be number one," he said. "And then the essentials that are most important for your family, literally can't live without."

What those critical payments are will depend on each family's situation. He also suggests looking to the companies and industries that are currently hiring if you are in a place where you can work and not potentially endanger yourself or others to the virus.

For those in a more stable spot financially, Liddle recommends taking advantage of the zero or low-interest payments, like paying more student loan debt off. He said investing in a retirement plan is another place to wisely put money to benefit you in the future. With the markets down as significantly as they are, for those who have been waiting to buy in, he said now might be the time.

Planning for retirement, Liddle said he recommends having two years' worth of cash in the bank in case something like this pandemic happens. But he urges planning for this needs to be done sooner rather than later.