Ride Free: Fearless Money Management has a list of anti-capitalist ways to manage money, and below are some specifics on how to handle your relationship with your money in preparation.
Student loan forgiveness & repayment
If you are eligible for some form of forgiveness of your federal student loans (based on disability, public service, or anything else), it could be a very good idea to apply for that sort of relief right away, just in case it disappears. You can find info on how to do that here: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans/forgiveness-cancellation
If you are low or low-ish income, you might also qualify for “income-based repayment” of federal student loans. There are several programs under this umbrella, but basically, if you qualify, you will make loan payments that are a specific fraction of your income. If your income goes down (or up) so do your payments, and after a set number of years, the remaining debt may be forgiven. Apply now in case rules change; you may be able to stay in the program. https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans/understand/plans/income-driven
If you are a freelancer/self-employed, please file for an EIN (it’s free from the IRS), and even more important: start filing a schedule C on your taxes (which you can do without an EIN, it’s just cleaner to use EIN). Why? Because claiming the money you are putting in the bank (or paypal) means less likelihood of being sought for tax fraud on unclaimed income, and claiming the expenses means you – especially if you’re making $2-8k on a small biz venture – will actually incur a loss and pay less taxes overall. And who knows what taxes will be used for moving forward? Freelancers’ Union provides a guide to tax deductions.
If you want someone to help you file your taxes, local organizations across the country offer free tax prep services if you make less than about $54,000/year. Check out the IRS website for details on free tax return preparation and to find a location near you.
You can also use one of many online tax software for free to file your taxes electronically if you meet their eligibility requirements. These are part of the Free File Alliance.
United Way offers My Free Taxes to help you find out where and how to file taxes for free.
Consider whether any of the kinds of IRAs make sense for a bit of your savings — you can open one if you have earned income (e.g. you get a W2 or 1099 from a job). This may lessen your taxes now and in the future depending on what IRA you choose. Investing in diversified ETF’s or mutual funds that capture both U.S. and foreign markets might offer a bit more stability over the long term unless the entire market crashes forever. If you choose to invest, you can take money you have deposited out of a Roth IRA after 5 years if it turns out you need it.
Ride Free: Fearless Money Management has more info on investing even when you’re not into capitalism.
Put money into an HSA/FSA
These are tax-advantaged saving accounts that let you use pre-tax money for health costs. They’re available to employees if your company offers them (if yours doesn’t, ask them to consider it–it’s a small thing in the scheme of HR benefits). It’s a double win because you get the full value of your dollar (no taxes) and you also reduce your income (lower taxes overall). You can use pre-tax HSA/FSA funds on a ton of stuff including therapy, band-aids, contact lenses or glasses, copays, dental care, and any out-of-network health expenses that count toward your deductible. With a letter from your doctor, you can even use HSA/FSA funds for over the counter medicines for acne treatment, allergies, and cold medicine. Here a full list of FSA-eligible expenses.
Note: FSAs and HSAs have different rules and regulations so search online for details. You have to set aside an amount for your FSA before the end of the year for the following year. If you don’t use up all the funds, you lose them. HSA money rolls over but you have to be on a high-deductible plan/meet certain criteria to be eligible.
Get out of big banks
If you are still banking with the dudes who brought us Dakota Access pipeline and the subprime mortgage crisis then get out!
Visit banklocal.info for more information about how to change banks and a nationwide directory of local banks.
My Credit Union explains what is a credit union and how it’s different from a bank. National Credit Union Association (NCUA), a federal government agency, offers a Credit Union Locator to find NCUA insured credit unions nationwide.
Check with your credit union or favorite local bank to see what they offer.
Note: if you move your money into community development financial institutions (search for that phrase and your state for results!) like community development credit unions and banks then your money goes into our low-income, people of color, and immigrant communities as crucial capital for our homes, businesses, and education. When all other services get removed we’re going to have even more pressure on these groups, so moving money now helps us all later, and structurally supports shifting resources from the 1% to those who need it.
Managing money & check cashing
A horrifyingly little known financial resource for people in the Bay Area (and just possibly online) is Community Check Cashing. CCC, with which this guide has no financial nor professional involvement, is the country’s only _nonprofit_ payday and installment lender, in Oakland’s Fruitvale District. Their prices are typically 1/3 to 1/2 of predatory lenders’ prices, and they are honest folks who do the best they can for their customers. Can make a huge difference to someone laid off, facing medical bills, or in other difficult circumstances.
When people share resources with movements, people, organizations, legal defense funds — those folks have what they need to do their work, since a lot of grassroots work is not formally funded. If you have resources, consider what you can share and check out the Organizations to Support page.