From Surviving to Thriving
Financial Moves & Mindset Shifts to Create a Secure Future
by Alacias Enger

In the August 2020 issue, Chris and Anita were featured as they navigated the tumultuous waters of a pandemic-related income loss. At the time, Anita, who had been a stay-at-home parent, reentered the work force stocking shelves at a local supermarket after learning that her husband had lost his job vending at a large concert and sporting event arena. When COVID-19 struck, it annihilated Chris’s entire industry, and they both anticipated it would be among the last to return.

Both the Coronavirus Recession and The Great Recession have taught us that economic downturns can have longevity. The first priority is to increase the distance between your family and financial disaster. Having endured the financial crisis of the previous decade, Chris and Anita have long since learned this lesson and immediately took appropriate steps. Anita’s new position produced less income that Chris’s had, resulting in a $700 per month burn rate, which is significantly less than it would have been had she not acted so quickly, but still a concerning number. Chris is a natural born saver and the couple had built up a four-month emergency savings through frugality and careful budgeting. The unexpected is exactly what emergency savings is for, though with the duration of the crisis being uncertain, the next priority is to protect your savings. Fortunately, as soon as Chris received unemployment, that burn rate was reduced to zero. Moreover, they didn’t have to worry about any lapse in insurance coverage, as this family of three was receiving coverage through the Oregon Health Plan. Additionally, Chris already uses CAREAssist (Oregon’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program) to ensure access to his medications. Through financial agility this family has insolated themselves from the harsh financial turmoil of the current economic environment.

Time is a force of its own when considering matters of economic uncertainty. So long as Chris continues to receive unemployment, his family’s monthly budgetary needs are being met. But eventually, unemployment runs out and the critical question becomes how can we utilize this time and all available resources to propel ourselves forward?

The couple’s growing concern over the future of Chris’s once thriving industry inspired a career shift. Anita’s mother is a medical coder and had been discussing with them the possibility of mentoring Chris through a career transition into her industry. Since this had already been under consideration, Chris jumped at the opportunity to kick-start a new career and utilized his family’s first round of stimulus to enroll in a course. Chris and Anita were no longer viewing this unemployment compensation as a survival tool, but rather as an opportunity. This key mindset shift has been the vital piece in transforming this family’s outlook on both the status quo and future. With each financial resource we’re given, we must ask ourselves, “How can this tool be used as an opportunity to thrive?”

The couple decided to fully embrace this new role reversal. Anita was able to train in other non-customer facing positions at work allowing her to limit exposure to COVID-19, and also pick up extra shifts. Meanwhile, their daughter’s school finally reopened, so after taking her to school, Chris could spend the majority of his day studying.Chris and Anita had resolved to emerge from this financial crisis stronger and more secure than they had been previously.

Unfortunately, they ran into multiple snags when Chris’s unemployment ran out before the next extension had been granted. In each occurrence (December 2020 and March 2021), he experienced a one-week lapse in unemployment benefits which also triggered a reverification process creating further processing delays. They were able to bridge this income gap using funds from the third round of stimulus checks that were issued when the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 was signed into law on March 11, 2021. This plan provided Americans with further relief by expanding unemployment benefits through Labor Day including a $300 weekly supplement. The news of his unemployment extension came just as he sat for and passed the examination, licensing him as a medical coder. Now Chris will be able to utilize the next several months of this expanded unemployment benefit while he secures employment in his new career path, one that will almost immediately double his family’s income.

In the current economic environment, there are numerous hurdles to overcome, and the first is one of survival. But like Chris, we all deserve the opportunity to financially thrive in this life and owe it to ourselves to work toward the future we want to create.

Alacias Enger is a performing artist, writer, and educator. She lives with her partner in New York City, and is the founder of blogs “Sense with Cents” and “Travel Cents.” Follow her on Twitter @sense_w_cents.