When real estate agent Michelle Lewis saw 65% of her annual income disappear as the pandemic spread across the United States, she knew she needed to come up with an alternative way to earn some cash. Based in Atlanta but with most of her properties in Texas, Lewis had been hopeful that Texas' early reopening would see her income bounce back. But cases in Texas have surged in the past weeks, sending the state back into lockdown.
Fear of financial insecurity is widespread across the U.S.
As the country continues to deal with the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, the numbers of Americans filing for unemployment each week are rising. For the week ending July 11, initial jobless claims rose to 1.3 million for the week ending July 11, outpacing economists prediction of 1.25 million, marking the 17th straight week that initial jobless claims totaled at least 1 million. Continuing claims — which refer to those receiving benefits for at least two straight weeks — are currently hovering around 17 million.
August could be even worse. The financial relief that millions of people are currently receiving under the CARES Act is set to expire at the end of July. While the Senate has confirmed that it will soon begin debating the measures of another round of relief, experts predict that any sort of stimulus passed will take weeks to reach people, possibly beyond August.
Lewis is now trying to figure out how she can make it through this pandemic without relying heavily on her savings. Despite objections from her friends, Lewis began working with Instacart as a way to earn some extra cash. A contestant on NBC's "Titan Games," Lewis knows the value of hard work but needed help reaching her savings and investment goals.
At CNBC's Invest in You: Ready. Set. Grow Your Future Town Hall Special on Thursday, Lauryn Williams, a certified financial planner and three-time Olympic medalist, stepped in to help.
The CNBC & Acorns Town Hall featured everyday Americans who have been greatly affected by the current health, social and economic crises and paired them with some of the most respected financial experts and thought leaders, including Williams, Suze Orman and Gary Vaynerchuk. The goal was to answer guests' financial questions and present strategies, tools and takeaways as to how they could reset and rebuild their lives during the pandemic.
To help Lewis, Williams first suggested that she save more. "As an entrepreneur, it's important to increase your savings as much as possible because you have fluctuating income," said Williams. "When you have the fluctuating income, you have to have something to fall back on — not just for personal finances but also in your business finances."
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Williams told Lewis she'll need to build up an emergency savings of about $15,000 or six months of average monthly expenses. While these numbers can be daunting, Williams did have a game plan for Michelle.
Aside from working for Instacart, Williams said Lewis should try Airbnb Experiences — live, interactive activities designed and led by locals. They go beyond typical tours or classes by immersing guests in a host's unique world. Popular experiences include cooking classes with Momofuku founder David Chang.
Because of Lewis' experience as a competitor on NBC's "Titan Games," Williams believed the athlete has a lot to offer. "You can use your training expertise; you can use your motivational aspect and share virtually from your home," she said.
Williams also advised Lewis that she needed to separate her personal and business accounts while also creating a business savings account. "You have to put some money aside for taxes. Taxes throw off entrepreneurs quite a bit."
Williams' last piece of advice: Start investing. With her finances in order and savings accounts set up, the last step was to start saving for the future. As an entrepreneur, Lewis has lots of options, including a SEP IRA, Solo 401(k) and traditional IRA, but Williams wants her to keep it simple with a Roth IRA, which lets the owner put away money post-tax and withdraw the money tax-free, so it's easier to borrow from in times of crisis.
Watch the full "Invest in You: Ready. Set. Grow Your Future – A CNBC & Acorns Town Hall Special" here.
Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.
Disclosure: CNBC parent NBCUniversal broadcasts the athletic competition series "The Titan Games."