9 Things You Can Do Right Now to Protect Your Financial Future

The economy may be uncertain, but you can still take action.

Predicting how the economy is going to be next month or next year is a frustrating exercise in dealing with uncertainty. It can be hard to see what actions you can take to maintain your financial well-being going forward.

Fortunately, there are moves you can make now to protect your finances, even with an uncertain economic future. Hopefully, the coming months won't mean job losses or cutbacks for you and your family (if they haven't already happened), but if they do, smart financial planning can provide a small cushion for you. Take these actions now, and you'll thank yourself later.

01 of 09

Create a Budget

Regardless of whether you already have one, now is an excellent time to take a close look at your spending. If you expect (or have already experienced) a loss of income, adjust your budgeted spending accordingly wherever possible. Money may be tight going forward, so saving wherever possible will only help you in the future.

02 of 09

Establish an Emergency Fund

If you don't already have an emergency fund, now's the time to make one. If you have money set aside for travel or non-essential spending, consider earmarking it for emergencies instead. Any amount you can tuck aside now specifically to help support you and your household during an emergency will help you later.

03 of 09

Research Balance Transfers

Money-saving expert Andrea Woroch suggests transferring any credit card balances you may be carrying to a card that offers 0 percent interest on balance transfers for the first 12 to 18 months. "This will give you some time to pay down the balance interest-free so you can keep more cash on hand for the unexpected," she says.

High-interest debt (often credit card debt) can be the most difficult to pay down because of the quick rate at which interest accumulates, adding to the overall balance. Low or no interest rates mean you'll pay less overall, so if you do have high-interest debt or are carrying a balance on your credit card, consider a balance transfer. To ensure it actually saves you money overall—or extends the time you have to pay off the debt without excessive interest—look for no- or low-fee transfers and do your research on any new credit cards before committing.

04 of 09

Pay Down High-Interest Debt

Beyond credit card debt, if you have any high-interest debt—a personal loan, say—and your income has not yet decreased, consider paying off that debt now, even if it means a small financial squeeze in the short-term, if you are able.

If something happens to your income later on (you or your partner lose your job or you experience a pay or hours cut, for example), you may not be able to make regular payments to reduce that debt, and it will continue to accumulate interest at a high rate. By the time you are able to make payments again, the amount you owe may be much higher than you expect, especially if you're penalized for missing any payments. Paying down that debt as much as possible now—even if you can't pay it off entirely—can help you down the line.

05 of 09

Look at Your Investments

The key word here is look: Don't touch (for the most part). "When the market is falling, the natural human instinct is to get out. It sounds counterintuitive, but for mid-to-long-term time horizons, it is extremely important to stay the course," says Scott Cohen, a certified financial planner with Northwestern Mutual. "No one can predict what will happen short term, but over the long run, the economy and markets will come roaring back."

If you do have investments, they may have lost value recently. Fight the urge to take a loss and withdraw all your money from the market, particularly if you're investing for the long term and have a cushion to live off of while your investments are down. If you work with a financial planner, talk with them about any particular investments you're concerned about, but try to stay calm.

"Make sure your portfolio has a healthy mix of bonds to stocks as they tend to act inversely: When one's down the other is up," says Ashley Russo, a financial advisor at Northwestern Mutual. "This will help smooth out the ride in the market."

06 of 09

Consider Insurance Options

Contact your insurance providers to see if you can get a discount or lower rate, or compare rates at different providers.

If you have time on your hands, consider purchasing new insurance now, as well. Life or long-term care insurance can take a lot of time to be approved for, depending on which provider you use, so starting now while you have the time can help the process feel less stressful. It's also possible to get life insurance quickly with companies such as Ladder.

07 of 09

Switch Banks

You may not want to abandon your current bank entirely, but now is a great opportunity to research other banking options, particularly if you're seeking a high-interest savings account or are currently paying fees on your checking or savings account.

08 of 09

Talk About Money With Your Family

Money stress is real, especially now, but learning how to talk about money while you have time to sit down as a family can help you manage financial stress better in the future. With younger kids, explain how market fluctuations are normal; with older kids, be frank about any negative financial impacts you may experience and discuss ways you can save as a family.

09 of 09

Get Your Credit Reports

Request your credit reports. You can get all three or just one or two, depending on the last time you checked your reports, for free at AnnualCreditReport.com. Read over your reports carefully for any suspicious activity, and if they reveal some less-than-ideal borrowing habits in your past, brainstorm ways to rectify them and improve your score.

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