How to set financial goals and plan for your future, even in a pandemic

ALAMEDA, Calif. (KGO) -- The pandemic has sunk all too many into a financial black hole, but as expensive as the Bay Area is, it's still possible to achieve your financial dreams post pandemic. Here's a road map of one path to success.

The Dow Jones Industrial average hit an all-time stock market high on April 16, ending at more than 34,200.

Yet so many people are struggling.

An estimated 42 million Americans are expected to experience food insecurity this year.

Keith Oslie of Defined Financial Planning in Alameda thinks too many Americans live on the edge.

"Three out of four are living paycheck to paycheck, and another study that said three out of five Americans have trouble maintaining a monthly budget," Oslie said.

Pam Williams counts herself as among the fortunate ones. The non-profit youth program director is on the path to achieve her financial dream.

"One thing I've always lived by is if I can't afford it, I'm not going to spend it," Williams said.

She enjoyed the occasional vacation while saving up enough money to buy a condo.

"People dream about things, but to get to the dream, you really have to get to the plan. You have to make a plan," she said.

Olslie says that applies just as much to people who are out of work.

7 On Your Side has talked to so many people who have drained their 401(k) plans as a way to survive.

Congress passed the CARES Act which waived the 10 percent penalty for withdrawing money from retirement plans prematurely.

"It's going to have repercussions down the road for sure -- especially if you don't have a plan to recoup that and pay it back," Oslie warned.

He says if you're in your 20s or 30s, or even 40s, you have time. Make putting money into your 401(k) a priority.

However, if you have accumulated huge credit card debt, paying that down is the immediate priority. Pay off the cards that charge the highest interest rates first, and consider transferring that debt to a credit card that charges less or no interest at all.

Then, once you pay off your credit card debt, max out your 401(k) plans.

"So there is a catch-up clause in a 401(k). You can catch up and put extra money in toward your 401(k)," Oslie said.

Williams has been contributing to her 401(k) since her 20s. But regardless of how old you are, make it a priority.

She's also paid off her mortgage, and at age 61, she will be retiring in a few months.

"Wow, okay, did it!" she exclaimed.

We can't emphasize enough the two keys to success: get rid of that credit card debt and build up your retirement account.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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