Your survival plan for the government shutdown

The government shutdown is now in place, and along with it came a good amount of uncertainty, causing many Americans to wonder how they will survive financially.  

By some estimates, hundreds of thousands of federal employees will work without pay until the shutdown ends, while others may be furloughed indefinitely. Some workers are not adequately prepared to deal with a loss of income, even a short-term one. 

For those living from paycheck to paycheck or without significant savings, any income interruption is likely to put them over the financial edge and negatively impact credit. 

For example, consider the statistics below from the 2013 National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) Financial Literacy Survey:  

  • Thirty-three percent of respondents admit to not paying all bills on time; 
  • Thirty-nine percent have zero non-retirement savings; 
  • Thirty-nine percent carry debt over from month to month, and 
  • Sixteen percent have utilized overdraft protection in the last 12 months. 

“The government shutdown should be a wake-up call for everyone, as very few have absolute job security,” said Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the NFCC. “Whether due to an unplanned expense or a job loss, no one has ever regretted being financially prepared, and preparation starts with understanding where you stand today.” 

The NFCC and Money Management International (MMI) advise consumers to take the following steps to put themselves in a better financial position, regardless of what the coming months may hold:  

  • Assess your current financial situation – The NFCC’s new Sharpen Your Financial Focus™ program is the ideal place to start. The program consists of the following three steps, with the consumer free to start with whichever best meets his or her financial needs. Consumers can access the program by visiting SharpenToday.org
    • MyMoneyCheckUp™, MMCU, is the NFCC’s free online financial self-assessment tool, providing consumers with a means of evaluating four key areas of personal finance: budgeting and credit management, saving and investing, planning for retirement, and home equity. After answering a series of topic specific questions, a personalized assessment of the individual’s overall financial health and associated behaviors is generated. With areas of concern identified, the analysis suggests changes that consumers are encouraged to implement in order to become more financially independent. The tool is available in English or Spanish.  
    • A one-on-one financial review with an NFCC Certified Financial Professional to find solutions to any immediate concerns, and address long-term financial stability. 
    • A financial workshop providing a deeper understanding of topics of specific interest to them. 
  • Face the financial facts – After completing the financial discovery step in MMCU, consumers may find the results surprising. Don’t ignore them. Financial problems rarely resolve themselves, particularly in emergency situations. Take action sooner rather than later, as delaying only makes the problem harder to resolve. 
  • Take control – Admittedly, some things are beyond a person’s financial control, but some aren’t. Control what you can by doing the following: o Review the credit report and score, both necessary to fully understand the current financial situation, and provide a framework for next steps. 
    • Create a cash-flow calendar listing all sources of income. Next, plug in the dates all bills are due. This will ensure that bills are paid on time and protect the credit report and score from future damage.
    • Commit to paying down debt, and if necessary, suspend all charging, consistently moving toward solid financial ground. 
    • Reach out to a legitimate credit counseling agency for help creating a survival plan. 

“If there is a quick resolution to the shutdown, nothing has been lost by implementing the above steps,” continued Cunningham. “If not, consumers will be better prepared to face whatever comes their way financially.” 

For help navigating the financial strains brought on by the government shutdown, visit SharpenToday.org where financial survival tools can be found.  



Jessica Horton is a former copywriter and community manager at MMI.

  • The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization's Board of Directors.
  • The National Council of Higher Education Resources (NCHER) is the nation’s oldest and largest higher education finance trade association. NCHER’s membership includes state, nonprofit, and for-profit higher education service organizations, including lenders, servicers, guaranty agencies, collection agencies, financial literacy providers, and schools, interested and involved in increasing college access and success. It assists its members in shaping policies governing federal and private student loan and state grant programs on behalf of students, parents, borrowers, and families.

  • Since 2007, the Homeownership Preservation Foundation (HPF) has served as a trusted, neutral source of information for more than eight million homeowners. They are partnered with, and endorsed by, numerous major government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of the Treasury.

  • The mission of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD works to strengthen the housing market in order to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; and build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination.

  • The Council on Accreditation (COA) is an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. Their mission is to partner with human service organizations worldwide to improve service delivery outcomes by developing, applying, and promoting accreditation standards.

  • The National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), founded in 1951, is the nation’s largest and longest-serving nonprofit financial counseling organization. The NFCC’s mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior, and build capacity for its members to deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.