by Kristian Negroni, Axiom Bank | After two major hurricanes devastated Puerto Rico, tens of thousands of people took what little they had left and fled the island – and more are leaving every day.
The vast majority are coming to Central Florida, looking to put the past behind them and begin a brand new life.
But starting over in an unfamiliar place brings many challenges, and many of them have to do with money.
Kristian Negroni knows exactly what these new arrivals face.
Negroni, a Puerto Rico native, has been helping his family and friends relocate to Central Florida after the back-to-back wallop of Irma and Maria.
And his role as an executive at Maitland-based Axiom Bank makes him uniquely qualified to offer financial advice to people arriving from the island.
Here are his answers to some of the timely money issues that new Puerto Rican arrivals may face:
Q: I’m not sure I have all the identification needed to set up a new account. What do I do?
A: If you’ve lost access to your driver’s license, social security card and other identification, you can request a provisional identification card to set up a new account or access an existing account. To apply for an Florida identification card, contact the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) at https://www.flhsmv.gov/.
Q: My money is in a bank in Puerto Rico. Can I transfer it here?
A: Yes. You can transfer your money through a “wire transfer,” which is fast, reliable and safe. When you “wire” funds, the money is transferred from one bank to another and then to your new stateside account. Fees for this can range between $15 and $25. Just be sure to work directly with your financial institution. Never use a third-party source. And stay alert for unknown companies offering your financial services with high fees.
Q: I haven’t been able to make loan payments since Maria hit. Am I going to get hit with late charges?
A: You might be able to avoid late charges. Some financial institutions are offering payment deferrals for three months. Call your creditors and tell them about your situation. Don’t just assume you can stop making payments.
Q. What are some missteps to avoid during tough financial situations?
One common mistake is to get a cash advance loan. Yes, you’ll have the money right away, but be wary of the risks in doing so. Cash advance loans are typically more expensive to pay off than borrowing through a bank. So, take the time to evaluate all your options and decide what is best for your family.
Q: I don’t have a job yet and I’m concerned about my budget. What’s advice can you give me?
Budgeting is going to be key for the first few months until you are set in a job and have found an affordable place to live. You may be caring for elderly parents now, or living off your savings until you find work. All that puts unexpected pressure on your financial situation. Consult a financial expert to help you create a manageable, but realistic, budget to help you get through the tough times.
Kristian Negroni is Senior Vice President & Market Executive for Axiom Bank, a community bank that provides retail and commercial banking services through 23 branch locations in Florida.