Economic turmoil caused by Covid-19 has left millions unemployed and struggling to pay rent and bills on time — in fact, 14% of Americans said they’ve spent their emergency savings to cover expenses since the start of the pandemic, a recent CNBC + Acorns survey, conducted by SurveyMonkey, shows.
One solution is to speak to your landlord or lender to ask for leniency on bills, Kevin O’Leary tells CNBC Make It.
So what’s the best way to handle that?
“If you’re in financial trouble right now and you’re negotiating, let me tell you the No. 1 rule: Make them understand that you’re good for [repayment] in the long run,” O’Leary says. “As soon as you get back on your financial feet, you’re going to make them whole.”
“Any provider that understands that you care about them just as much as they want you to pay them” will be more likely “to give you some flexibility,” O’Leary says.
Speaking with your landlord, cable or cell phone provider or lender and explaining that you have a plan can ease the negotiating process and allow for a repayment plan to be made, says O’Leary.
Detailing exactly how you plan to pay back any amount owed is a good idea, Kelley Long, financial planner and member of the American Institute of CPAs’ Consumer Financial Education Advocates, previously told CNBC Make It.
To do that, Long recommends starting a dialog in writing, offering to give at least a partial payment if you can, and from there, set dates for repayment with your landlord or lender. Once your plan is set and agreed on, be sure to communicate any hiccups as soon as possible – for example, if you need to skip a month’s payment, Long suggests asking to spread the payment out over the following six months or over a time frame realistic for you.
“Remember that your landlord needs income too, so approach this with empathy for what you’re asking,” Long said. Clearly explain that “you’re just paying late rather than asking for free money.”
O’Leary also suggests asking to speak with “retention officers” when negotiating bills from cable companies or cell phone providers.
A “retention officer” aims to “retain you as a customer,” he says, “the company wants to keep you as a customer.”
“So if you’re having trouble with [a] person yelling at you on the phone, calling you a deadbeat, speak to the retention officer and tell them that you’re going to make it up to them as soon as you get your job back, as soon as your furlough is over,” O’Leary recommends.
People “understand we’re in a pandemic,” O’Leary says. “They just want to hear it from you. So get on it and be honest with them,” and the sooner the better, experts say. “That’s what really matters.”