Millennial Money: 6 Great Recession lessons that still apply

Millennial Money: 6 Great Recession lessons that still apply

By Melissa Lambarena Of Nerdwallet

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Great Recession demolished jobs across the U.S., and it eventually came for mine, too. After graduating in 2009, I worked four months as an entry-level executive assistant at a non-profit before being laid off.

I had limited financial knowledge, a short work history and a lot to prove to break into the field of journalism, my ultimate goal. Along the way, I picked up valuable lessons that might help you manage your finances during the coronavirus-related recession.

1. SAVE WHAT YOU CAN

My short work history disqualified me from receiving unemployment benefits, so I relied on my savings account. Even a small emergency fund of $500 can prevent you from falling into debt, and I had socked away enough to cover a few months of expenses.

If you’re still employed, “pay yourself first,” said Samuel Deane, a financial planner at Deane Financial in New York. “Even if it’s $20 every time you get paid, make sure you put that $20 away first and then live your lifestyle with the remainder.” Automate it with direct deposit if you can.

If you’ve lost your job, saving will obviously be tougher. Apply for unemployment if you qualify, and contact your landlord, creditors, area nonprofits and family members to seek relief. If you’re still employed but have had your salary cut, consider a side gig and work on trimming expenses.

2. THINK TWICE BEFORE REJECTING JOB OFFERS

After many interviews and dead ends, I applied for an administrative role at an accounting firm and got hired in December 2009. It paid about $7,000 less than my previous salary. I knew it wouldn’t put my career on track, but it would cover most of my bills, so I took it.

Amanda Grossman, now a certified financial education instructor in El Paso, Texas, made similar compromises after being laid off as a market researcher in Florida in 2008. She took a career counsellor’s advice and relocated to Texas for a lower-paying job in the environmental industry.

“(The counsellor) said, `Look, the economy is not doing well. You need to take that job, it’s going to keep going down; you’re not going to be able to find work,”’ Grossman said.

If your sector is hurting and unemployment benefits or savings are lacking, even a less-than-ideal role can help you ride out a recession.

3. GET SMART ABOUT MONEY

You’ll find a myriad of financial literacy resources online and at your local library, assuming it is open and safe to visit during the pandemic.

I struggled to save money on a lower salary. Credit cards became my emergency fund. I don’t recommend this approach, but times were tough. Had I learned about financial hardship programs, student loan repayment options or balance transfer credit cards, I would have saved heaps on interest and ditched debt faster.

4. ESTABLISH MULTIPLE STREAMS OF INCOME

I still wanted journalism experience and extra income, so on top of my new full-time job, I learned to shoot and edit video. I began freelancing in 2010. A year later, I also launched a small social media consulting business.

Grossman, too, had other goals. “I’ve always wanted to be a writer and I love, love, love talking about money,” she said.

While she was unemployed in Florida, she launched the blog “Frugal Confessions.” She learned new writing skills from books and sought feedback from editors at newspapers. In 2013, she left her environmental job in Texas to run her blog full time.

5. PROTECT YOUR CREDIT BUT PROTECT YOURSELF FIRST

In a crisis like COVID-19, many normal financial rules don’t apply. You may need to carry a credit card balance to buy groceries or address an emergency. You may need to make only the minimum payment to cover rent. You may even need to contact your card issuer and ask for relief options like payment deferrals.

Even with three jobs, I struggled at times to make the minimum payments on my credit cards due to high balances and interest rates. I never defaulted, but I did stress and scramble over it. I wanted a record of on-time payments and the good credit they build so that I could qualify for future low-interest rate offers.

That’s a worthy goal, but in times of emergency, prioritize getting back on your feet first. Once you do, you’ll have time to address your credit scores.

6. MAKE CALCULATED MONEY MOVES

Eventually, I left my apartment and moved in with roommates. I also read the post-recession climate and, in successive jobs, learned how to ask for a raise. Every year that my workload and responsibilities increased, I made a case for a higher salary. Asking is uncomfortable at first, but it gets easier. The extra money eventually paid off my debts.

A recession’s impact is largely out of your control, but your reaction isn’t. With strategic steps, you can insulate yourself and create new opportunities.

_______________________________

This article was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Melissa Lambarena is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: mlambarena?nerdwallet.com. Twitter: ?lissalambarena.

RELATED LINKS:

NerdWallet: COVID-19 and your money: Our guide to getting relief and managing your finances http://bit.ly/nerdwallet-covid19-guide

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: An essential guide to building an emergency fund http://bit.ly/consumer-finance-start

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation: Money Smart Online Tools https://fdic.gov/consumers/consumer/moneysmart/learn.html

 

Millennial Money: Smart moves when cash is tighter than time

Millennial Money: Smart moves when cash is tighter than time

By Gregory Karp Of Nerdwallet

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Lots of people have more time than money nowadays. If you’re one _ maybe you’re taking a staycation or you freed up commuting hours by working from home _ optimize that extra time by making smart financial moves that won’t cost a dime.

“If you have time but no money, it’s time to become the best version of yourself,” says Ryan J. Marshall, a financial adviser in Wyckoff, New Jersey. “What separates successful people from people who struggle financially is often how they spend the time they are given each day.”

From the quick-and-simple to the more-involved, here are ideas to create your personalized money to-do list when you have more available hours than dollars.

SET GOALS

This is the obligatory recommendation to develop a household budget, perhaps using the 50/30/20 method to divvy up needs, wants, and savings or debt repayment. But creating a budget should be about liberation, not deprivation _ about finding money to spend on things you care about and cutting ruthlessly on things you don’t.

_ More free money moves: Calculate your current net worth (all you own minus all you owe); calculate a nest egg amount for retirement.

ASSESS SPENDING

Recurring expenses are the black hole of regretful spending. Examine your credit and debit card statements to identify subscriptions and re-justify them. When a recurring expense makes the cut, try to get a better price _ we’re looking at you, cable, internet and cellphone bills.

One big potential payoff? Compare auto insurance premiums by yourself or with help. “It can be a pretty painless process, by just forwarding your current insurance to a broker and having them shop it with multiple carriers,” says Autumn K. Campbell, a certified financial planner in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Some brokers work on commission only and don’t charge a fee.

_ More free money moves: Plan a “spending fast” (no spending for a number of days); learn about online cash-back shopping portals; decide on an allowance for children (you don’t have to begin until you have the cash).

PLAN DEBT PAYMENT

Develop a plan for paying down debt. Two popular strategies: Pay extra toward debt with the highest interest rate (debt avalanche) or pay extra toward the smallest debts to wipe them out quickly and get a sense of accomplishment (debt snowball).

_ More free money moves: Refinance your mortgage; refinance your student loan; transfer debt to a lower rate.

DEEPEN MONEY SMARTS

Money knowledge is the gift that gushes benefits over your lifetime.

Money advice online is abundant, but don’t forget about at-home digital access at your unsung public library. Beginners can check out the book “Personal Finance for Dummies.” Or you can consult Consumer Reports to get better products for the money you spend.

And while not everyone enjoys investing topics, you should have a basic understanding. “There are countless wonderful free resources such as Morningstar’s free investment classroom and Vanguard’s free articles hosted on their website,” says Avani Ramnani, a financial adviser in New York City.

_ More free money moves: Spend one hour every Sunday night researching an unfamiliar money topic.

MONITOR CREDIT

Your creditworthiness matters to your financial life, far beyond qualifying for a new loan. People with better credit live easier and less expensively. At minimum, learn about the main factors that affect your credit: payment history, credit utilization, credit history length and credit mix.

_ More free money moves: Check your credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com; check your credit scores (numbers that summarize your credit reports, available many places online); initiate a credit freeze if you’re worried about credit identity theft.

RECONSIDER HOUSING AND CARS

Where you live and what you drive steer your money life more than most money decisions. Think critically about how your mortgage or rent, along with the cost of your vehicles, fit your financial life.

New cars lose value like they drove off a cliff, while used ones can be bargains. That’s why you can buy a 2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan for the same price as a new Kia Forte. If your mortgage or rent is more than 28% of your gross monthly income, it’s time to ask hard questions about where you choose to live.

_ More free money moves: Renegotiate rent; create a next-car account and plan to fund it; consider moving/downsizing.

AUTOMATE EVERYTHING

After you make a good money decision, put it on autopilot. That way, you won’t forget to stash away money or pay bills. And ultimately, you’ll have more time and money.

_____________________________________

This column was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Gregory Karp is a writer at NerdWallet.

RELATED LINKS:

NerdWallet: What factors affect your credit scores? https://bit.ly/nerdwallet-credit-scores

 

U.S. insurance adjusters in Calgary to respond to damaging hail storm

U.S. insurance adjusters in Calgary to respond to damaging hail storm

The excerpted article was written by 

A parking lot outside a hotel in northeast Calgary is full of American licence plates from states like Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Utah and South Carolina.

CRU Adjusters confirmed to Global News it has hired adjusters from across the continent following the hail storm that pounded the city earlier this month.

About 300 adjusters have come in from outside Alberta, including about 100 from the United States, for a mix of desk and fieldwork.

A CRU executive said it has strict COVID-19 protocols  — employees are to stay in their rooms as much as possible, wear masks when leaving, and practise social distancing at customers’ homes. Customers are contacted by phone and do not come out of the home for exterior inspections. When CRU adjusters have to go into the home, homeowners are advised to stay in different rooms during assessments.

Before being dispatched to Calgary, the adjusters had to answer health, travel and close contact questionnaires for CRU, and are advised to immediately self-isolate if they have any coronavirus-related symptoms and to contact Alberta Health.

The adjusters have been in Calgary for nearly two weeks and have more than six weeks work ahead of them. CRU said they are not planning on bringing any more adjusters to the province.

The adjuster company said they worked with the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) and Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), who deemed these adjusters an essential service and provided them with necessary documentation.

And according to PHAC’s website, the documentation excuses the adjusters from having to self-isolate for 14 days.

Alberta Health said it was unaware of this group of adjusters coming to Calgary, and have begun working with PHAC to monitor the adjusters.

One hotel employee Global News spoke with said they ask out-of-province guests to respect social distancing, and even ask them to skip attending the complimentary breakfast.

In email from General Manager Ryan Ocbina said Element by Westin Calgary Airport follows all provincial and federal public health guidelines and follows a chain-wide commitment to cleanliness during the coronavirus pandemic. Ocbina’s hotels also provide complimentary masks and have removed all high-contact areas like self-serve coffee.

In an emailed statement, IBC confirmed it does help insurance companies “gain approval from relevant authorities to bring adjusters in from outside jurisdictions to assist consumers in response to catastrophic events, if required.

“Insurers are utilizing as many in-house and local claims representatives as possible to manage the high volume of claims from this event.”

But most insurance companies Global News spoke with confirmed they are using local adjusters.

“We can confirm that the vast majority of insurers have been using Canadian adjusters,” the ICB statement said.

“Some insurers utilize third-party independent catastrophic adjusting firms during catastrophic events to ensure clients get help as quickly as possible.”

COVID-19 response highlights major differences between U.S. and Canada: U.S. profs

Read more

AP FACT CHECK: Trump vs. Twitter on truth and consequences

By Hope Yen, Calvin Woodward And Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON _ President Donald Trump and Twitter tangled over truth and consequences this past week as the social media giant flagged the president’s tweets for spreading false information and potentially inciting violence.

The episode left Trump fuming and threatening reprisals against the platform he uses constantly to hint at or lay out policy, talk up his record, sound off on critics and spread conspiracy theories and misinformation.

And in the same week that Twitter gave Trump a pass on his baseless innuendo about a broadcaster, the organization was left juggling fraught questions about freedom of expression and when and how to gag a president.

On and off social media, Trump stretched the facts or shredded them as he tried to make the best of a U.S. death toll surpassing 100,000 from the coronavirus, misrepresented his predecessor’s record on drug prices and toyed with the dangerous idea of taking insulin just because.

Here’s a look back:

100,000 DEATHS

TRUMP: “For all of the political hacks out there, if I hadn’t done my job well, & early, we would have lost 1 1/2 to 2 Million People, as opposed to the 100,000 plus that looks like will be the number.” _ tweet Tuesday, before the toll of known deaths passed 100,000.

THE FACTS: This opinion comes from his ego, not science, and evades the fact that the U.S. has experienced far more known sickness and death from COVID-19 than any other country. Well-documented failures in U.S. testing and gaps in containment in the crucial early weeks contributed to the severity of the crisis.

Early in the U.S. outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the death toll could have reached or exceeded 2 million if no steps had been taken to contain the disease. That is to say, if public health authorities, governors, mayors, the president and the public did nothing.

A do-nothing course was never an option and federal officials never forecast such an outlier death toll. Trump’s tweets overlook the fact that the U.S. response _ its weaknesses and strengths _ was never all about him.

___

TRUMP vs. TWITTER

TRUMP, on Minneapolis protests and rioting: “I can’t stand back & watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis. A total lack of leadership. Either the very weak Radical Left Mayor, Jacob Frey, get his act together and bring the City under control, or I will send in the National Guard & get the job done right. … Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” _ tweets Friday.

THE FACTS: His vow to send in the National Guard skirts vital context, though that’s not the larger issue here.

Minnesota’s governor already had activated the state’s National Guard in response to the chaos. Trump was unclear on whether he intended to have the federal government tap National Guard personnel in other states for the purpose of law enforcement in Minnesota.

U.S. law prohibits federal use of the National Guard or active-duty troops for domestic law enforcement. That prohibition can be overidden only in extreme circumstances. The Pentagon on Friday took the rare step of ordering the Army to put several active-duty U.S. military police units on the ready to deploy to Minneapolis if called.

The larger issue was Trump’s comment that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” That phrase from the violent front lines of the civil rights era evokes a brutal, hair-trigger police response and could be taken to mean Trump was threatening to have looters shot. Trump said later that is not what he meant and that he was not familiar with the origins of the phrase.

Twitter said the tweet’s closing line “violates our policies regarding the glorification of violence based on the historical context” and “could inspire similar actions today.” People had to click on the warning to access the hidden tweet. When Trump’s tweet was repeated on the White House account instead of his own, Twitter flagged it similarly.

Trump said later he did not mean his comment as a threat but as an observation that looting tends to lead to people being shot. “I don’t want this to happen,” he tweeted.

The protests were sparked by the death of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who pleaded for air as a white police officer kneeled on his neck.

___

VOTING FRAUD

TRUMP: “So ridiculous to see Twitter trying to make the case that Mail-In Ballots are not subject to FRAUD. How stupid, there are examples, & cases, all over the place. Our election process will become badly tainted & a laughingstock all over the World.” _ tweet Thursday.

TRUMP: “There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent. Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed.” _ tweet Tuesday.

THE FACTS: No, there aren’t examples and cases “all over the place.” Voting fraud is rare.

Two Trump tweets prompted Twitter to take the extraordinary step of attaching fact-checking notices, infuriating the president.

Trump appointed a commission after the 2016 election to get to the bottom of his persistent theory that voting fraud is rampant. But the bottom fell out. The panel disbanded without producing any findings.

Some election studies have reported a higher incidence of mail-in voting fraud compared with in-person voting, but the overall risk is all but imperceptible. The Brennan Center for Justice said in 2017 the risk of voting fraud is 0.00004% to 0.0009%.

“Trump is simply wrong about mail-in balloting raising a `tremendous’ potential for fraud,” Richard L. Hasen, an elections expert at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, recently wrote in an op-ed. “While certain pockets of the country have seen their share of absentee-ballot scandals, problems are extremely rare in the five states that rely primarily on vote-by-mail, including the heavily Republican state of Utah.”

Trump’s push for in-person voting also runs counter to CDC guidance urging Americans to avoid crowds and keep 6 feet (1.8 metres) apart. The federal guidelines “encourage mail-in methods of voting if allowed in the jurisdiction,” given the coronavirus threat.

Trump himself voted by mail in the Florida Republican primary in March.

___

TRUMP: “The Governor of California is sending Ballots to millions of people, anyone … living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there, will get one. …This will be a Rigged Election. No way!” _ tweet Tuesday.

THE FACTS: Not true that Californians are getting ballots regardless of who they are. Only registered voters in California will receive ballots.

___

INSULIN

TRUMP, wondering about taking insulin even though he’s not diabetic: “I don’t use insulin. Should I be? Huh? I never thought about it. But I know a lot of people are very very badly affected, right? Unbelievable.”  remarks Tuesday at Medicare event.

THE FACTS: To be clear, taking insulin if you’re non-diabetic can kill you.

In people with diabetes, the pancreas cannot make insulin so they often require several doses a day. But that same insulin if taken in overdose or by non-diabetics can lead to hypoglycemic coma, which can have varied outcomes from confusion and dizziness to death.

Prodded by the president to speak to the wisdom of taking insulin when non-diabetic, Surgeon General Jerome Adams gently corrected him. He told Trump his body makes all the insulin it needs.

Trump stopped musing about the idea after that except to say he thought he’d asked “a very good question, actually.”

___

SCARBOROUGH

TRUMP: “A lot of interest in this story about Psycho Joe Scarborough. So a young marathon runner just happened to faint in his office, hit her head on his desk, & die? I would think there is a lot more to this story than that?” _ tweet Sunday.

TRUMP: “So many unanswered & obvious questions, but I won’t bring them up now! Law enforcement eventually will?” _ tweet Tuesday.

THE FACTS: He’s spreading a groundless conspiracy theory about MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman from Florida, and a woman who had worked on his staff decades ago. There are no “unanswered” questions after an autopsy report ruled the 2001 death accidental, despite Trump’s dark musings.

After Lori Klausutis was found dead in Scarborough’s Fort Walton Beach congressional office, an autopsy revealed she had an undiagnosed heart condition and a coroner concluded she passed out and hit her head as she fell. The coroner said the head injury caused the death and she was not struck by anyone.

Scarborough was in Washington when Klausutis died in Florida, a month after he announced he was leaving office.

Trump’s false tweets spurred Timothy Klausutis to ask Twitter to take down the posts about his late wife because they were causing pain to her family; Twitter declined to do so.

___

`OBAMAGATE’

KAYLEIGH McENANY, White House press secretary, referring to the former CIA director: “It was John Brennan who sat before Congress and said the Steele dossier _ paid for by Hillary Clinton, paid for by the DNC _ that that document played no part of the role in opening the Russia probe, when, in fact, we know it did; when, in fact, we know it was the impetus.” _ news briefing Tuesday.

THE FACTS: It’s obvious simply from the timeline that the dossier was not the impetus for the probe into Russia’s interference in the U.S. election and its contacts with Trump associates.

The FBI launched the investigation in July 2016, well before the case agents had ever seen the dossier. The FBI opened the investigation based on entirely different information: that a Trump campaign aide was said to have learned that Russia had dirt on Trump opponent Hillary Clinton.

The dossier contained unsubstantiated accounts of Trump’s personal behaviour. It did factor into applications the FBI submitted to conduct surveillance on a different campaign aide, Carter Page, but it is not the case that the dossier sparked the Russia investigation.

More broadly, McEnany was pushing an unsupported conspiracy theory that the FBI investigation was tainted with partisan bias and hatched by Democrats.

___

DRUG PRICES

TRUMP: “In the past, Obamacare prevented insurance providers from competing to offer lower costs for seniors. There was no competition, there was no anything, and they ran away with what took place, and the seniors were horribly hurt.” _ Medicare event Tuesday.

THE FACTS: President Barack Obama’s health law actually reduced out-of-pocket prescription costs for older people. And it did not prevent insurers from competing to offer lower costs.

The law reduced what older people had to pay back then by gradually closing the “doughnut hole,” a notorious coverage gap in Medicare’s popular “Part D” prescription drug plan.

A 50% discount that Obamacare secured from drug makers on brand name medicines yielded an average savings of $581 in 2011 for older people with high drug costs, according to an analysis at the time by Medicare’s nonpartisan Office of the Actuary, for The Associated Press.

The law also directed Medicare to pick up more of the cost of generic drugs, saving an additional $22.

On Tuesday, Trump announced that next year most older people will have access to prescription plans that limit monthly copays for insulin to $35, for an average savings of $446 annually.

By tackling the coverage gap, Obamacare helped Medicare recipients with high drug costs generally, not only patients who must take insulin to manage their diabetes.

On the claim that Obamacare stifled insurer competition, there’s no evidence of that.

“Given the large number of Medicare prescription drug plans available to seniors, it is not clear how the Obama administration prevented insurers from competing with each other,” said Tricia Neuman, a Medicare expert with the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

Neuman cited statistics for 2012, midway through the Obama years, when the average number of Medicare Part D drug plans ranged across regions from a low of 25 to a high of 36 _ more than enough to facilitate healthy competition.

___

TRUMP: “So we’re getting it down _ $35 per month … So it’s a massive cut _ I guess, 60, 70%. Nobody has seen anything like this for a long time. Sleepy Joe can’t do this _ that, I can tell you.” _ Medicare event Tuesday.

THE FACTS: Joe Biden proposes to do much more, whether he could get it done as president or not.

The Democratic presidential candidate supports allowing Medicare to negotiate prices with drug makers, restricting price increases to the inflation rate and limiting launch prices for new drugs that face no competition.

As a 2016 candidate, Trump also had backed Medicare negotiations. But he has not pursued that idea as president, although the Congressional Budget Office estimated it could result in significant savings for taxpayers and consumers.

Congress is at an impasse over legislation to reduce drug costs, including a bipartisan Senate bill backed by Trump that would act to limit price increases for medicines already on the market. But it would not authorize Medicare to negotiate prices.

___

HEALTH CARE

TRUMP: “We’re always working on preexisting conditions and saving your preexisting conditions. And as long as I’m President, you’ll always be protected on preexisting conditions.” _ Medicare event Tuesday.

THE FACTS: His administration’s actions say otherwise. It has been pressing in court for full repeal of Obama’s health law, which requires insurers to take all applicants, regardless of medical history, and charge the same standard premiums to healthy people and those who had medical problems before or when they signed up.

Trump and other Republicans say they’ll have a plan to preserve protections for people with preexisting conditions, but the White House has provided no details.

___

Associated Press writers Eric Tucker and Robert Burns in Washington and AP News Researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.

___

Forced to adapt, businesses rethink how they make money

By Joyce M. Rosenberg

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW YORK _ Many business owners are changing the way they make money as they attempt to recoup revenue lost to the coronavirus outbreak.

The changes can look subtle; for example, when owners of clothing stores decide to beef up their internet business. But often such adjustments involve an entire rethinking of the business model the blueprint that encompasses the key aspects of running a company with significant changes to staffing, technology and inventory.

For many companies, it’s a matter of survival, but for others, the changes have been a silver lining amidst the crisis.

When Big Bottom Market, a cafe and food shop in Guerneville, California, closed in mid-March, “I had to take stock of what we had and think about how we could evolve the business,” says co-owner Michael Volpatt.

Volpatt started a daily cooking show on Facebook in hopes of drawing customers to Big Bottom’s page on the online marketplace Etsy. He succeeded: Daily visits jumped 66% and customers stocked up on merchandise including biscuit mixes, coffee, preserves and T-shirts. That revenue from Etsy covered Big Bottom’s monthly rent, utilities and insurance.

The cafe, which gets business from visitors to California’s Sonoma wine region, reopened with social distancing steps May 8, selling meals and merchandise at the door. Business is down 80% from its usual pace the cafe can normally seat 40. During the week, the cafe’s business is mostly from people who live locally, but the weekends bring people from all over the Bay Area.

Volpatt doesn’t know when he’ll fully reopen the cafe but going forward he expects to get substantial business from the internet. He’s even hiring a staffer to help build Etsy sales.

Four months after launching the Velvet Window clothing store in Dallas, Amy Witt was forced to close its doors. She soon realized she’d need to adjust her approach to ensure customers came back when the store reopened.

“The forced closure gave me the opportunity to say, `what’s wrong with my business how do I fix it?”’ Witt says.

Before the outbreak, 85% of Witt’s business came from shoppers coming into the store. With the shutdown, she realized she needed to be more aggressive with social media to draw shoppers to her website; she needed revenue and to engage with her customers. She taught herself and her staff how to make Velvet Window more visible in internet searches. She picked up new customers, including some outside the Dallas area.

As she prepared to reopen May 1, Witt concluded she had to offer more services and accommodations in a retail environment reshaped by the outbreak. So she set up private shopping hours for some customers _ for example, those most at risk for complications if they contract the virus. She’s using video or messaging apps to show her fashions to others anxious about coming to the store. Curbside pickup or deliveries can also be part of the deal.

She sees all these steps as elements in a new business strategy: “It’s something we will continue to offer” even after the current crisis ends, Witt says.

Overhauling or refining a business model should be an ongoing part of running a company; even successful owners often think about making adjustments. But any crisis forces owners to reassess their business. After companies were forced to lay off staffers during the Great Recession, many turned to freelancers when they began hiring again. That saved money on salaries and benefits and gave owners more flexibility.

Business models are likely to undergo significant changes in the coming months given the damage to the economy from the outbreak. A lot of uncertainty remains about how much consumers will be willing to spend, travel, dine out and go to sports and entertainment events _ and when social distancing measures that limit business will be lifted.

Before the outbreak, D’Artagnan sold most of its high-end meats to restaurants where customers might pay $50 for filet mignon or dine on exotic varieties such as squab or quail. But with restaurants closed, half the company’s business is now from people buying meat to cook in their own kitchens or on the backyard barbecue. That means the Union, New Jersey-based company ships smaller cuts and packages of beef and chicken to consumers rather than the larger cuts and whole animals it delivers to restaurants.

“It’s a very different demand in the kind of animals people buy to cook at home instead of ordering in a restaurant,” owner Ariane Daguin says. The changes mean different procedures for butchering and packaging the company’s products.

D’Artagnan’s e-commerce business, which accounted for 10% of revenue before the outbreak, is up five-fold, says company president Andy Wertheim. The company won’t know until restaurants are operating again what their demand will be, or whether people will continue to do their cooking at home. But, Wertheim says, D’Artagnan is prepared to have a different business model going forward and increase its staff to get the work done.

The changes at some companies have come from serendipity rather than crisis. At law firms, shelter-in-place rules have forced attorneys to meet with clients over video rather than in a traditional office visit.

Attorney Katherine Miller’s work includes mediation in divorce and family law cases. She says the virus outbreak has chipped away at clients’ reluctance to hold meetings online. She plans to use that change in attitude to expand her practice.

With the use of video meetings, it will be easier to co-ordinate schedules when all the parties don’t have to travel to her office, and Miller will have less travel time when she attends meetings. And she won’t be limited to her current practice area, New York City and its northern suburbs.

“I used to think, this is going to be an uphill battle to convince people that it’s a good idea. But now because of the coronavirus, I don’t have to do that anymore,” she says.

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