debt default

With only days left until the U.S. default deadline, a mix of angst and anger are setting in at home and abroad. While the world watches, Americans such as you, our readers, most want to know what to do to prepare and how this will all affect our lives in the short and long term.

To help answer some of those questions, let’s start with 3 basics.

1. Your Investments

Experts on both sides of the aisle urge investors not to make any drastic changes. Instead, focus on having enough cash on hand in case of an emergency. “If you’ve got money in stocks that you need in the next five years, it doesn’t belong there – it never belonged there”, says TODAY’s Financial Editor, Jean Chatsky. “But, if you’re thinking long term, you have time to ride this out.”

2. Your Credit

Expect interest rates to shoot upward across the board for consumers. This will impact all kinds of borrowing including credit cards, car payments, and mortgages. The best thing you can do for yourself financially at this moment is to pay down or pay off credit card debt. The current average is at 15%, but is expected to rise considerably if a default takes place.

3. Your Job

Though we’re still coming out of the last recession, unemployment rates remain abnormally high as many companies are cautiously easing back into the marketplace. If you’re fortunate enough to currently be employed, you should ensure that you stay marketable and employable. If you’re looking for a job on the other hand, just understand that it may take a bit longer to find one. In either scenario, American consumers should be stocking up on short-term savings.