COVID’s impact over the past almost-two years has been far-reaching and devastating. For many, the toll of the pandemic has taken various forms — mental, physical, financial — and its ripple effects will be felt long after we return to a new normal. As the leading interest free loan organization for the Jewish community in Metro Atlanta, Jewish Interest Free Loan of Atlanta (JIFLA) continues to be on the front lines lending its support to fellow Jews who face unimaginable financial hardships as a result of COVID’s impact.

In anticipation of Jewish Atlantans needing additional financial support due to COVID, we quickly developed a unique COVID Financial Impact Loan used to assist with monetary challenges associated with the pandemic, related to loss of income. As we had anticipated, JIFLA has experienced a 200 percent increase in requests for loans from community members in financial crises.

An analysis of our COVID borrowers provides an eye-opening view of how the pandemic is affecting our Jewish community at large. Most notably, 73 percent of loan applicants are over the age of 40 and stated that the interest-free loans will be used for basic living expenses, including food, rent, bills and medical expenses due to COVID-19. With the younger generation of borrowers, assistance is mostly defined by the need for mental-health treatment, living expenses and affording professional development tools, such as a laptop to search for jobs and work opportunities.

This applicant trend is a reflection of the current financial hardships older Jewish community members are bearing — and quite honestly, aren’t prepared to handle. While the pandemic is affecting younger Jews who are also in need of financial assistance, our applicant data shows clear red flags that Jews in Atlanta ranging from 40 to 83 years of age are also struggling to make ends meet through this unprecedented time.

As an active member of the International Association of Jewish Free Loans (IAJFL) — a professional support organization for more than 50 Jewish interest-free loan funds throughout the world — JIFLA is one piece of a much larger system dedicated to helping fellow Jews maintain financial stability in challenging times. But JIFLA’s individual data helps us analyze and understand who specifically in our community has been impacted, the extent to which they have been affected, and what can be done in order to help them get back on a financially stable path. What our current data suggests is that older Jews are in need of resources and support when it comes to managing personal finances. With additional financial education, our community members can learn best practices to take control of their finances, and better handle unforeseen financial crises and ensure that there are rainy day funds to help weather unpredictable circumstances.

Here are some simple financial strategies to keep in mind as we continue to battle through the COVID-19 pandemic and as we prepare for future potential monetary setbacks:

Plan, Save & Save Some More

Saving is easier said than done, right? Planning ahead to survive is an essential mindset to start learning now, no matter your annual salary or revenue. First things first, make sure that you have an emergency fund in place, ideally of up to six months of expenses to provide a bit of cushion. But start with a goal of saving three months of living expenses. To realistically accomplish your savings goal, especially if your income fluctuates from month to month, save a percentage of your income each month rather than a set figure. Start small (5 percent) and then as you get more comfortable with this savings tactic, increase the overall percentage and follow this method religiously. Additionally, if you are aware of any upcoming significant increases in your expenses (i.e., buying a house or car, birth of a child, education costs, etc.) factor in and account for those costs.

Review Tax & Insurance Policies

A monotonous task to say the least, but this tip could save you headaches and money when all is said and done. It is worthwhile to anticipate any tax surprises and deal with them now. According to the IRS, unemployment compensation is taxable. This means if anticipated taxes weren’t withheld from those payouts, be on the alert that an upcoming payment may be around the corner. Get in touch with your CPA or a financial advisor to understand how this may affect your upcoming tax bill.

If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that life is precious. This pandemic doesn’t discriminate against age, sex, race or income. This means everyone needs to check that their insurance coverage is adequate and up to date, including health-care and life-insurance policies. Mounting medical bills or the death of a loved one is not only emotionally and physically taxing, but if it is not planned for appropriately, it can cause insurmountable financial burdens. Review your plans and confirm that your policies are updated and current to cover possible medical situations, especially where there are minor children involved, in case one or both parents are no longer able to work.

Increase Retirement Savings

COVID-19 has caused many people, younger and older, to unexpectedly lose their jobs. With the loss of a primary revenue stream, many people are being forced to pull from their retirement savings. Depending on age and career trajectory, peoples’ retirement funds vary drastically in terms of savings accrued over time. Moving forward, retirement savings must be increased to the maximum one can afford. What we have witnessed is that savers may be using retirement funds far sooner than expected to make up for lost jobs or careers cut short as a result of the pandemic.

For more information on how JIFLA’s interest-free loans can help support you through COVID-19 and beyond, visit: https://jifla.org/