The premise is simple: we ask people 1 specific question about their financial lives, and share the 20 most interesting answers with our readers.
In the first installment of “1 Vs 20”, since we’re still very much in the thick of COVID-19, the question on everyone’s minds is: how are people handling the financial aftermath of this global pandemic?
Here’s what we discovered:
As you might expect, some people have unfortunately lost their jobs or have had their hours reduced as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. Sadly, not everyone has the financial safety net to weather such a loss, and the uncertainty of the future is weighing heavily on many people.
1. “I have been working 20 years as an electrician in a manufacturing facility. There were a lot of cases of COVID-19 popping up in town, so we temporarily got furloughed. We were told that we would get unemployment benefits and a small bonus from our company to make up for it. As soon as the company found out that we would get the extra $600 a week from the government, they decided not to give us the extra pay that they promised. This would’ve been fine if not for the unemployment backlog. I was worried, but happy that I had some savings. I had to chew through much of my savings until unemployment checks finally arrived. Several coworkers of mine have still not gotten theirs.”
— Highly experienced electrician from Indianapolis, USA
2. “My hours got reduced at work so I’m making less money which in turn means I have less money to spend on things that I normally enjoy like movies, take-outs, etc. I feel that the stimulus bill that just got passed will keep me afloat but not for long unless they approve another package soon. I want this whole pandemic to be over as soon as possible so I can get my regular hours back. Having less money than I need brings on so much more unneeded stress.”
— Stressed out movie lover from Orlando, Florida, USA
3. “When a state lockdown was announced, we had to start working from home. I am an accountant who has never worked from home before, so I had to create a whole home office setup which was costly. One week after the lockdown, my employer announced a 50% pay cut for the next three months. What I make now can hardly sustain me and my family. I have bills to pay and a loan to service. It’s been a difficult two months and I think it is going to get worse unless the virus is brought under control soon.”
— Accountant from New York, New York, USA
4. “My ex-husband lost his job in a medical office. People aren’t coming in for medical visits anymore unless it’s truly urgent, so their office is running with barebones staff. Because of that, he’s no longer able to pay the child support that I depend on to take care of our 3 kids and pay for parts of our fixed living expenses. I have tried to do more online gig work to compensate for the lost income, but that doesn’t pay well at all. I am also homeschooling while working part-time, which takes time away from earning more money. It’s hard.”
— Working mother of 3 from Chestertown, Maryland, USA
5. “I was a sales manager at a clothing store. I have been laid off because of the whole coronavirus situation. It is very unfortunate because the owner of the store will probably have no choice but to close down the store forever. I feel bad for everyone involved and it’s just a very terrible situation that everyone is dealing with. Right now, I rely 100% on doing freelance work online. I have signed up for unemployment compensation but have not heard back yet so I don’t know what’s going to happen there.”
— Ex-sales manager from Miami, Florida, USA
6. “I am a software developer at a small firm in my city. One week before the national lockdown, our boss sent us an email saying that we were going to work from home until the end of the emergency and that our wages were going to be cut by 30% – every single one of us with no exception. This didn’t worry me at first. Working from home seemed pretty relaxing and I was surprised by my increased productivity. But now the pay cuts are up by 50% until who knows when, and a massive layoff is looming. I think I’ll have to use some of my savings to pay the rent and some other bills in the next months, so I really hope we can overcome this unpleasant situation and its dreadful consequences soon.”
— Software developer from Turin, Italy
A few retirees chimed in on the discussion:
7. “I am retired, so my income is set. However, I did move in with my daughter and son two years ago, and the three of us share expenses. They were both laid off from their jobs. We could get by on my income alone, but barely. Thankfully, both of them have just started drawing their unemployment benefits, and that helps a great deal. We should be OK now, but I wonder what will happen after this is all over. Will their jobs still be there? I very much worry about our financial future.”
— Retiree from Greensboro, North Carolina, USA
8. “I am now retired at age 63. My income stream consists of Social Security, monthly distributions from my 401(k) and surveys. My financial advisor did a terrible job managing my money for me. Even I knew the market would take a tumble because of the pandemic. My advisor did nothing proactive to protect my assets. In a span of three days, I lost $40,000 which is two years of income for me. The market has not stabilized and I am very worried about not having enough money in my retirement years. I do not want to have to depend on anyone. I think advisors should be fined for mismanagement and their lack of fiduciary responsibility. It’s very troubling.”
— Retiree from Evergreen, Colorado, USA
9. “My monthly income has not been affected by the COVID-19 as I am retired and living off Social Security and a monthly distribution from my IRA. However, as the stock market tumbled, the value of my portfolio dropped substantially. If the market continues to decline, it could cause me to have to reduce or cease monthly distributions from the IRA which will cut my income nearly in half. This will create extreme hardship in my household as basic necessities will not be met.”
— Retiree from Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA
A PhD student has to move back in with their folks, instead of doing cool things at the laboratory.
10. “I am a PhD student in the field of neuroscience who had just started his research when the pandemic started spreading. Because of the increased expenses needed for combating the COVID-19, the financial aid that I expected to receive for my research at the laboratory is temporarily cancelled. At this moment, I find myself back at my parents’ house, without an income and waiting for the quarantine to end.”
— Future neuroscientist from Natal, Brazil
Of course, we can’t forget the people working on the frontline. They’re called essential workers, but we’re pretty sure they put on cool outfits at night and become superheroes.
11. “My husband and I are both in industries which are considered essential. Thankfully our incomes have not been impacted much by COVID-19. We are getting fewer hours than we are used to but it is manageable. We feel very grateful that we still have money coming in but have been concerned about our COVID-19 exposure due to working with the public. I take precautions while working and so does my husband, but the fear is always there. People seem afraid of each other when they are out in public. You can feel their fear and anxiety. The longer this goes on, the worse it’ll get. I think the chance of things every returning to normal is pretty slim.”
— Unnamed hero from Canastota, New York, USA
12. “I am an essential worker. Because our sales have gone down, we do not have any more overtime, which I depend on for extra spending money. I also believe that the dollar value will go down, so I’m working for even less money. Meanwhile, people who are unemployed get over $600 per week, on top of unemployment compensations. That is currently more than what I make.”
— Unnamed hero from Glens Falls, New York, USA
This financially savvy person’s early retirement plan has been thwarted.
13. “I’m a part-time trivia host, and I depend on bars and restaurants being open to do my trivia shows. While I have a regular full-time job, I’ve grown accustomed to the extra income that comes with this part-time gig. I’ve been investing that money and pushing toward early retirement. That extra income is gone now so I’ve had to rework my plans to account for the absence. I’d like to believe that things will open back up soon but it’s not looking likely. Plus, I suspect that some of the bars and restaurants I worked at before will simply go out of business, and that would impact my bottom line too. And since the trivia gig is part of a franchise, the entire company will be hurt, meaning there may not be anything to come back to. All I can really do is keep my fingers crossed.”
— Part-time trivia host from Charleston, West Virginia, USA
You might think that freelancers — people that are used to working from home and managing varying incomes — might have an easier time coping with it. This freelancer says otherwise:
14. “I’ve always worked from home, so that did not change. However, there are now many more people working from home basically doing the same thing I am, so the amount of work I get has dropped quite a bit, and my overall income took a hit too (I get paid per task rather than per hour). I’ve had to tighten the belt a little bit but at least I still have some income. If the shelter-in-place orders remain in effect for the next few months, I’m not sure I will still make enough to get by.”
— Freelancer from Portland, Oregon, USA
For some, the financial impact came as an indirect result of the impacts on their desired lifestyle.
15. “I have what you might call a special diet. I only eat raw foods, frozen fruits and veggies. Before COVID-19 (and before people started stockpiling foods and supplies), I could go to a single store, get everything I need and be out in 30 minutes. Now I have to drive to several different grocery stores to try and get the same foods. Sometimes a whole shelf is bare. But the worst part is that some stores have raised their prices, so I’m shelling out more money on groceries while not making more in my job.”
— Raw vegan from Greenville, Indiana, USA
For others, it’s pretty much business as usual.
16. “A number of my coworkers have been furloughed and are on unemployment for the time being. Some of my family members have been furloughed as well and they are waiting it out until their place of business is allowed to open again. I have not been impacted as much as those around me because I have thankfully been fortunate enough to keep my job and also have enough savings to keep me afloat for about half a year. For now, I am working from home and social distancing just like everyone else, until further notice from my employer.”
— Fortunate person from Phoenix, Arizona, USA
17. “I’ve been very fortunate in that my job (Software QA) is one which can be done remotely from home, although there have certainly been teething problems with (and hardware upgrade costs for) some of the videoconferencing technology now needed to support daily meetings. My salary is (so far) unchanged and my costs for commuting and after-work socialising are now essentially zero. So I may even be SLIGHTLY better off in the short term.
The longer-term negative effects of the “COVID Contraction” on my employer’s customers in the software market are certainly worrying. So my job security is uncertain compared to before. I’m thus building up savings as a hedge against possible future job loss.”
— Software QA from Cambridge, United Kingdom
Last but not least, a few explained why they are better off financially than they were pre-coronavirus:
18. “The impact on my finances from COVID-19 has actually been positive. I get paid the same as before the pandemic but my expenses went down. I would normally have to pay $400 a week for my two kids’ daycare, but now that the daycare is closed, I pay nothing. We are also eating out less and spending less money shopping at various stores since most of them are closed as well.”
— Parent of 2 from Florida, USA
19. “In all honesty, COVID-19 has had a really good impact on my finances. It almost makes me feel guilty. My husband was just given a raise in April, and his employer even offered one additional week’s worth of pay at the end of May because of COVID-19. I am a nursing student and have been temporarily furloughed from my part-time (16 hours a week) job at a hotel. However, I have been able to make up my income and then some by simply taking on online gigs. In addition, we have not been spending as much money on gym memberships, gas and eating out because so much has been closed. We still eat out, but it is costing us a lot less because we would pick the food up instead of having it delivered.”
— Nursing student from Pinellas Park, Florida, USA
20. “I work remotely for a Washington-based tech company. At the start of the coronavirus outbreak, there was a modest interruption in the work projects being sent to me. As my colleagues and I adjusted to working from home and began working more efficiently, operations seemed to have returned to its normal pace. The combination of stimulus checks, my regular job and decreased social activities actually puts me in a better financial shape.”
— Remote worker from Sarasota, Florida, USA
Got a suggestion for an upcoming installment of “1 Vs 20”? Please send your awesome idea to [email protected]
Some responses have been edited for length and clarity.