Over 9 million UK-based workers have been furloughed by their employers during the pandemic. The government is paying 80 percent of their wages. But, many will be looking to top up their Covid-19 hit income.
While it’s great jobs are being protected, a lot of people will be facing a significant (20 percent) reduction in income. As the scheme has been extended until the end of October, this could have a much greater impact on their finances.
Here are my five top tips to top up any missing income and maximise your bank balance in the coming months.
We’ve all been told that right now your pension is like your face – don’t touch it. But, if you’re income has dropped significantly it may be worth reducing your workplace pension contributions to match your current salary.
HMRC states that staff can choose to reduce their contribution level (if their scheme allows) or opt out during this period. However, they stressed employers “must not encourage or induce [employees] to choose this option.”
If you choose this option, you should be careful as you could unwittingly take yourself out of the net completely. The minimum contribution is usually 4 percent of qualifying earnings.
But don’t worry, if you want to keep paying in you still can. Employers – even those struggling – should still be able to make their contributions as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme includes pension contributions for the amount paid.
Student loan repayments
As your Covid-19 hit income falls so does the amount of your student loan you need to repay. For some, losing 20 percent of their salary will take them below the repayment threshold. This means no money at all should be deducted from their pay cheque for student loans.
While the Student Loans Company have stated any necessary changes will be done “automatically”, it is worth double checking this happens. If it’s not amended, you’ll end up paying more than you need to.
If you’re living or working abroad and your income has changed you will need to notify them independently to make sure your payments reflect this.
A lot of people suggest putting aside the money you would usually spend on going out or socialising, while these things are off limits. In principal this is a good idea, but is a slight red herring as there are additional costs to being at home more – like increased utility bills or a more expensive weekly grocery shop. This means these savings can be quickly swallowed up.
Instead, I recommend going through your existing direct debits and seeing if there’s anything you’re still paying unnecessarily. Are you still paying an old phone contract? (guilty!) Or perhaps a gym membership you signed up to years ago but never went?
Mortgage holidays and rent breaks
Evictions have been suspended and landlords must now give 3 months’ notice if they want to end the tenancy. But, renters are still liable for their rent and should pay it as usual.
For those struggling to do this there are certain options available. Firstly, the government has asked tenants and landlords to try and come to an agreement regarding a rent payment scheme. “In this unique context we would encourage tenants and landlords to work together,” the government stated.
Universal Credit and Housing Benefit have increased, and Local Housing Allowance rates will pay for at least 30 percent of market rents in each area.
Meanwhile, homeowners have the option of taking a mortgage holiday, without affecting their credit score. This how now been extended until the end of October. However, lenders can still charge interest during the holiday, so homeowners could be left with a greater sum to pay at a later date.
Also, after the payment holiday ends, the monthly amount you pay may be higher. HSBC explained this increase will depend on the balance, mortgage term and interest rate of your mortgage agreement.
Banks must now offer £500 interest-free overdrafts for 3 months to support those negatively impacted by Covid-19.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has introduced a series of measures for consumers struggling in the current climate. These include:
- Banks offering a temporary payment freeze on loans and credit cards for up to three months.
- Allow customers who already have an arranged overdraft on their main personal current account, up to £500 charged at zero interest for three months.
- Ensure overdraft customers are no worse off on price when compared with the prices they were charged before the recent overdraft pricing changes came into force.
Making use of these temporary measures will not affect your credit scores. If the situation continues as expected, it is expected these measures will be extended further.
So there you have it, five ways to top up your Covid-19 hit income. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. How would you make up the extra 20 percent?