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Personal Finance FAQ

Until You Lose Your Job, The Coronavirus Pandemic is Not a Personal Finance Emergency

This article is part of a series on personal finance during the coronavirus pandemic. Please check out the Coronavirus and Your Finances Series (link will open in a new window).

Like crying wolf, if you keep looking for sympathy as a justification for your actions, you will someday be left standing alone when you really need help.
–Criss Jami

We live at an apartment complex. We’re renters.

We own rental real estate, so we are landlords as well.

Yes, it’s possible to be both, as I detailed when we made the decision to sell the house we owned to move to an apartment.

So, we are on both sides of the equation, both in good times as well as in the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Recently, someone in our apartment complex’s text group suggested that all of should ask our apartment to discount our rent by 50% for two months.

Two people, who currently have jobs, immediately gave the text a thumbs up.

Our property manager sent out a letter to all of her tenants encouraging them to communicate with her in case there are challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The daughter of one of my tenants, who still has his job, and who lives under the same roof as him, posted it on Facebook with a bunch of curse-filled comments.

Yes, this pandemic creates a lot of economic and financial uncertainty.

It creates a lot of health uncertainty.

It does not justify anarchy.

It certainly does not justify people who, to this point have been financially unaffected by the coronavirus pandemic because they still have their jobs, acting in an irresponsible manner.

Yes, I get negotiating. I negotiate as hard as I can on a variety of financial transactions.

What I don’t do, though, is renege on a contract.

Sure, if you want to see if you can renegotiate a contract, that’s fair game.

But to expect people to give you something for free just because there’s a pandemic is nonsense.

This is particularly so if you haven’t been impacted financially.

When you signed your contracts for all of your obligations, there was an expectation of integrity on both sides.

The provider will provide what was agreed to. You will make payments as required.

If you do not make payments, there are consequences, which you signed up for when you signed a contract.

If you still have the ability and wherewithal to abide by your end of the contract, then you should.

If you can’t, then you should be proactive about discussing what can be done (see “What Should I Do If I Lost My Job Because of the Coronavirus Pandemic?” for more).

I know we’ve worked with our tenants who experienced disaster in the past.

We understand that crises hit. Stuff happens to good people that shouldn’t happen.

But, as we saw in “How Can You Ensure You Have Taken Care of Yourself Before You Take Care of Others During the Coronavirus Pandemic,” 50% of landlords are mom and pop owners.

If you still have a job and you want your landlord to cut your rent by 50%, then, by the transitive property, you should be willing to take 50% less income in your job. You should write a check back to the IRS (here’s how you make a gift to the Federal government) for half of your COVID-19 government stimulus check.

For 98% of my readers, this is a message that does not need to be reinforced.

For 2% of my readers, who have developed a sense of entitlement as a result of a crisis, hopefully this serves as a stark reminder that being prosocial includes honoring your obligations for as long as you are able to do so.

As I responded in the text group, I think asking for rent deferral options for those people who are truly facing economic hardship as a result of the coronavirus epidemic is very reasonable. However, for those who decide to completely renege on their obligations, particularly if they have not been directly impacted, good luck in ever getting to rent an apartment again.

By Jason Hull, CFP®

Jason Hull, CFP®, was the co-founder of Broadtree Partners, a firm that acquires $1-5MM EBITDA companies. He also was the co-founder of open source search consultancy OpenSource Connections, a premier Solr and ElasticSearch firm. He and his wife FIREd (financial independence retire early) at 46 and 45, respectively. He has a BS from the United States Military Academy at West Point and a MBA from the University of Virginia Darden Graduate School of Business.

You can read more about him in the About Page.

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