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How ready are you for the pandemic?

Financial readiness is paramount to getting by the enhanced quarantine period.

With parts of the country stricken by COVID-19, a lot of Filipino households are carefully rationing supplies as everyone braces for the remainder of the enhanced community quarantine period. It is important to note that the quarantine could possibly be extended, given that a lot of people have yet to be tested and the government has yet to procure a sufficient amount of testing kits and provision enough testing centers.

So, are Filipinos financially ready to take on an extended quarantine?

According to eCompareMo, the country’s leading online financial marketplace, plenty of households will have some trouble keeping up with the financial demands in the event of an extension.

In the COVID-19 Financial Readiness Survey conducted by the organization in Metro Manila, around 71% of Filipinos failed to allocate an emergency fund. The survey—which had a total of 1076 respondents—reflects that a third of those who admitted to not having an emergency fund took home PhP20,000 and below monthly. Meanwhile, those who belong to higher income brackets have the luxury to apportion funds for emergencies over long periods.  

Having emergency savings, however, isn’t automatically indicative of being able to breeze through an extended quarantine.

Among those who have an emergency fund, only 40 percent possess sufficient reserves to last them for more than three months without making a dent on their savings, while 18 percent have enough allocated for a two- to three-month period. The remaining 42 percent are able to get by for merely two months or less, which is alarming. 

Photo: Vincent Ghilione

This underscores the need for the stimulus package handed out by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to workers and businesses affected by the lockdown. But that, alone, isn’t sustainable in the long run, thus prompting some companies to adopt work-from-home schemes and informal employees to find additional sources of income.

Despite the financial challenges, many Filipinos remain partially buoyant when it comes to job security and their finances. The respondents, on average, scored slightly beyond the halfway point on both scales. Those who belong to the PhP20,000 and below income bracket, however, fear for their jobs during the lockdown and would likely need a supplemental source of funds to sustain their daily living, especially if the quarantine persists beyond its initial 30-day window.

The lack or shortage of emergency funds may signal a time of struggle for many households, but this does not mean that living through the coronavirus pandemic is beyond the realm of possibility. Planning ahead financially, stocking up on essential goods, and finding a supplemental source of income, among others, are central to survival.  

The proper allocation of money to basic necessities gives one a clear view of the expenditures on goods, utilities, and other necessities, as well as serving as an indicator if there is sufficient financial space to accommodate incidentals like having food delivered, buying medicine, and finding transport. With allocation comes budgeting, so preparing a grocery list that covers at least two weeks is of utmost importance.

Besides food and beverages, disinfectants (alcohol and hand sanitizers), masks, hygiene goods, and cleaning products are essential for every household: items that can help ward off the disease. Similarly, the cost of carpooling with neighbors is to be accounted for by those saddled with the absence of public transport. 

All the goods need not be purchased in one go, but it is ideal to squeeze in as many products as one can into a single visit to limit the number of grocery trips. After all, the more time spent outdoors with other people increases the likelihood of getting infected with the coronavirus. Also, due to the presence of hoarders, buying a little extra is advisable.

Photo: Kate Trifo

In regard to finding a source of income, the internet grants its users an abundance of employment opportunities—be it full time, part-time, or freelance—provided one focuses on the right avenues. Websites like Upwork, Freelancer, and LinkedIn are home to thousands of jobs across multiple industries from all corners of the globe, and everyone is welcome to join and bid for projects or send in applications.

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The specialized groups on Facebook, on the other hand, offer a plethora of jobs coming from various local businesses, some of which are large, multinational corporations. For instance, the Independent Creative & Advertising Professionals group features a multitude of job postings for writers, photographers, videographers, and everyone else in the creative industry. One can find other large industry-centric groups on the said social media site. 

Going back to the eCompareMo survey, it states that the self-employed respondents fare well on the security of their ventures, albeit most of them not having emergency funds. This means starting a small business, like an online store, a drop shipping company, or a distributorship, can help one tide over the lockdown’s financial requisites. Furthermore, sellers of basic necessities can join up with other vendors to form a community cooperative, which brings the grocery closer to home, alleviating concerns caused by the public transport ban.

Learning a new skill also grants one an entire branch of potential earning opportunities. With all the free time endowed by the quarantine, any interest or skill can be honed by digesting countless instructional videos on sites like YouTube, Skill Share, and Master Class.

Time can also be spent reviewing the contents of one’s health insurance plan. Knowing the extent of coverage leads to possible discounts on the cost of medication and medical procedures, which may come in handy when dealing with the coronavirus. The need for this is emphasized on the eCompareMo survey, with over 55 percent of the respondents having no clue if their plans cover COVID-19 cases.

To those who have a more immediate need for cash, some of the country’s banks and lending companies have assured continued service accompanied by reasonable lending rates and longer grace periods. Thus, now is a good time to obtain a loan, which, when added to the stimulus package of DOLE, can comfortably cover the expenses necessitated by an extended lockdown.

Amid the efforts in being financially prepared for the pandemic, being updated with the latest reports on the coronavirus and the initiatives of the government sector is as critical as any of our aforementioned suggestions. Just make sure that those reports come from trusted sources like news agencies and government agencies, and not blogs from unreliable sources. At the end of the day, the next bit of news encountered could contain information that may very well change lifestyles and living conditions.

And, as far as living conditions are concerned, fate truly does favor those who are financially prepared for the threat of COVID-19. More significant than that, however, is the manner in which a person responds to a dire situation, as they find and apply viable solutions that can boost their finances, livelihood, and ultimately their daily life. With a calm mind and a sound plan, you can power through the lockdown securely and disease-free.  

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