3 In 5 Parents Say Remote Learning Will Negatively Impact Their Finances

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It’s hard to believe, but summer is almost over and another new school year is only a few weeks away. However, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, distance and hybrid learning will become the new normal this fall. Those with school age children will need to adjust in order to make this situation as successful as possible and many parents are in the process of converting their homes into a virtual learning space for their children.

This change in schooling is not only disrupting the educational system as we’ve known it, but a new survey conducted by Bankrate revealed that “61% of parents with school-aged children are forced to re-evaluate their finances and careers as they prepare for a unique school situation”. Parents also revealed that “they are not feeling particularly optimistic about the educational side of remote learning” with 42% of respondents anticipating negative impacts on their child’s education. 

One of the huge tangible expenses that goes along with remote virtual learning is technology. In the past, most pre-school children and even middle/high-school children did not have access to their own laptops, as it was not necessary for their educational success. However, remote learning is forcing all students, regardless of age or grade, to have undivided access to their own digital device to access their teachers, homework, and resources. And those families who had shared technological devices amongst a few family members are now forced to purchase a device for each person, which is a huge added expense. However, before purchasing your child a new computer, please check with your school to find out whether they are providing laptops for each student for the upcoming year since many districts will be offering them.

Another factor that will negatively impact parents as children begin remote schooling is time. In the pre-coronavirus world, parents had the ability to drop their children in school, enroll them in after-school activities, while also fully engaging in their personal careers. With students learning from home, needing supervision and assistance in their learning, parents are worried it will negatively impact their careers and work/life balance. Some parents will find they have to cut work hours to help their children learn or incur additional expenses such as tutors/babysitters so that they can continue to work. And on top of that, some parents may need to quit their jobs completely. 

While this transition will be difficult for many, it is crucial to remember the importance of utilizing all your resources, which we have spoken about in previous blogs. Reach out to family members for help, scan the web for good deals before making a big purchase and remember that we are all in this together. Lastly, as we adjust to our new complicated normal, remember to keep track of your finances and manage your money. You may find it useful to create a new budget for the upcoming school year since it is likely to look different than it did in the past. As always, if you have any questions about your portfolio or finances, please reach out to us and we are happy to help! 

Millennials Slammed by Second Financial Crisis Fall Even Further Behind

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If one economic recession wasn’t enough for millennials to grapple with, why not throw another their way? 

The economic hit of the coronavirus pandemic is looking pretty bad to millennials. We’ve been reading many articles discussing how unemployment seems to be looking the worst for their generation in contract to others. 

The 12.5% unemployment rate among millennials is higher than that of Generation X (born between 1965 and 1980), and baby boomers (1946 to 1964), according to May figures from the Pew Research Center

Millennials have found it fundamentally more difficult to start a career  and find jobs in comparison to other generations who are now married and have children. Research shows that even the most educated millennials are employed at lower rates than older college graduates and millennials’ tendency to work at lower-paying firms has caused them to lag behind in earnings.

As a result, the millennial generation has less wealth than their predecessors had at the same age, and about one-quarter of millennial households have more debt than assets, according to the St. Louis Fed. 

Between February and May, millennials got hit the hardest in terms of unemployment, according to the chart below by St. Louis Fed. Millennials are now at risk of falling further behind because they entered the pandemic in a weaker position than older Americans. 

For millennials who have been impacted by this second economic recession, it is important to take a step back and start re-evaluating their careers and financial lives. It is also crucial to start early, set up a plan, and stick to it to see it through in the long run. Building up your wealth is crucial, especially while you are stuck at home during the pandemic and economic recession. Putting aside even just a little bit of money each week or month will grow over time due to compound interest.  Think about investing some of the money you might have spent on going to the movies or out to eat or having some of your paycheck put directly into a different account that is solely for saving.  However, make sure you still treat yourself to a morning latte or favorite takeout from time to time – you CAN save for your future without sacrificing all the little extra things that make you happy.  

 Now is the time for millennials to consider seeking financial help and guidance to navigate these bumpy waters and prepare a plan to help them succeed financially in the long term. If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out and we would be happy to help create a financial plan to suit your individual needs. 

You’re Running out of Time to Reverse this Retirement Withdrawal and Save on Taxes

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Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) are the annual withdrawals you must take from your individual retirement account and 401(k) plans after you reach age 72 (or age 70 ½ if you turned 70 ½ prior to January 1, 2020).  The CARES Act, the coronavirus relief act that took effect this spring, allowed retirement account holders to bypass required minimum distributions for 2020. Those that inherited IRAs are also allowed to skip the RMD this year.  (https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/n-20-51.pdf)

For those of you who have taken a Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) from your retirement savings at some point in the year, the clock is ticking for you to put that money back. If you already took the money out, you have until August 31st to put it back.  However, you shouldn’t wait much longer than August 20th, as there are several steps and contacts involved in the process. In order to avoid any errors in the transaction, it is advised to return any RMD funds as soon as possible. It’s important to note that this RMD waiver only qualifies for 2020, meaning next year you’ll be required to take your distribution as per usual. 

RMDs from traditional IRAs and 401(k) plans are subject to income taxes, so waiving the distribution or returning the funds could help you save on levies. But, make sure to give back the income taxes your custodian may have withheld, not just the net amount you may have received.

In other cases, some retirees opt to split their annual RMDs into 12 monthly disbursements, which means they have to return their monthly RMDs. In this scenario, you may have taken multiple distributions over the course of the year. Therefore, you’ll have to contact your custodian and have them hold the payments for the remainder of the year. You are allowed to replace the payments you have already received, too, but just ensure you cover the taxes withheld and act quickly.

Lastly, since the tax rules changed so rapidly this spring amid the coronavirus pandemic, savers should ensure that their custodians are marking the transaction as a “return of funds” and not a “contribution”, where you’d essentially be getting additionally taxed. 

Make sure to talk with your custodian to see if you are squared away and eligible to return your mandatory distribution for the year. If you have any questions or concerns about your RMDs, please reach out to us at info@shermanwealth.com and we’d be happy to assist you in any way. 

How Much Does it Take to Be Wealthy?

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The coronavirus pandemic has certainly shaken almost every aspect of the lives of Americans.  The stay at home orders, high unemployment rate and volatile market have many people thinking differently about the value of their money than they did before COVID-19 erupted in the country.

A survey conducted by Charles Schwab in January of 2020 regarding financial stability asked participants what it took to be financially comfortable, and survey participants cited an average of $934,000 in net worth. This number shifted down by 30% in June, to $655,000.

What is considered to be wealthy changed exponentially as well.  Respondents stated that $2 million in net worth today is considered wealthy, down by 23% from $2.6 million in January. In 2019, respondents said it took $2.3 million to be wealthy, down slightly from $2.4 million in the two prior years.

Americans’ attitudes about money play a role in their overall happiness, but when asked about the most important factor to their overall happiness today, survey respondents regarded those drivers in the same order as before the coronavirus outbreak:

  • Relationships – 39%
  • Health – 27%
  • Money – 17%
  • Lifestyle – 14%
  • Career – 3%

After months of stay-at-home orders and a change of lifestyle, the coronavirus pandemic has vastly impacted the way we think about the value of money. 57% percent of respondents said the coronavirus has financially affected them or a close family member.

At the same time, many respondents mentioned that they are more likely to start saving in general than they did before the pandemics onset. The need for an emergency fund is now more important to many than ever before.  Others said they are much more likely to consider hiring a financial advisor to set up a strong financial plan. 

If the coronavirus pandemic has impacted your finances or you are uncertain about your financial plan, please reach out and we would be happy to help you find a plan that works for you. If you have any questions, contact us at info@shermanwealth.com and we will answer any questions you might have. 

Here’s How to Prepare your Finances

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With the additional $600 per week unemployment benefits coming to an end this week, it is important to think about the ways in which you can prepare your finances for the months ahead. Many Americans are currently jobless and have been relying on these additional COVID-19 related unemployment benefits. There is much uncertainty as we navigate through the pandemic the best we can, but there is great value in coming up with a plan to start saving and getting your finances in order as your benefits may decrease in the coming months. 

Here are some key ways to be prepared for your future and what you should expect as any additional unemployment relief comes to an end. 

Adjust your Budget 

A great place to start in uncertain times is with your budget. Sit down and attempt to cut out all unnecessary expenses along with looking into other options that may be cheaper. It’s important to think of all your essential monthly costs and see where you can save a buck or two. For example, take a look at your housing, food, utilities, and car payments to see if there are places you can cut down. Also make sure to take a look at bank and credit card statements to cut out those annoying hidden fees or unnecessary charges such as ATM fees. Also, think about selling items you may not use anymore for some extra cash. 

Contact your Creditors 

If you have not already called your creditors, you should consider reaching out to them and discussing your options moving forward. If you are only able to pay the minimum payment on your credit card bill, make sure to let your creditors know so they can figure out a plan and help you out. Many creditors may be able to offer you “financial hardship assistance” so that you can keep your credit in good standing even if you can’t pay more than a certain amount each month.

Build an Emergency Fund Even if You Don’t Think You Can 

We all know it’s important to have a cash cushion, especially in times of economic crisis. However, it can be difficult to think about how to build one when you are already strapped on cash. But, it’s never too late to start saving. The first step is to start reducing any debt. You should also try to put yourself into a “saving mindset” by incrementally setting aside a small stash of cash every month. You can contact your bank to set up auto payments to your savings account each month, which will help you get consistent with your saving habits. 

Expect a Drop in Your Credit Score 

While it’s important to maintain a strong credit score, in times of financial crisis it is okay to expect a drop in your score. As mentioned above, make sure to give your creditors a call to keep them in the loop about your situation. Also, if you are unable to pay your credit card balance in full, at least pay the minimum amount to keep your credit stable. 

Understand Your Costs

When you are strapped for cash, it is important to know which bills you should be prioritizing, for example, housing payments. While the additional unemployment relief is ending, so are the eviction moratoriums. Make sure to do some research and have a conversation with your creditors, landlords, and banks to fully understand the regulations and rules associated with your payments. 

Get Creative and Seek out Resources

Our current environment is a new adjustment for everyone, so don’t be afraid to seek out help even if you never have before. Your local city and state government offer information and resources ready to help you. When the additional coronavirus unemployment relief runs out, you may be able to qualify for government programs such as SNAP, Medicaid, and HEAP, according to CNBC. There are also many charities and organizations that are doing their best to help out those in need. 

Ask your friends and family for advice and we encourage you to seek out a financial advisor for guidance and clarify on your financial situation. If you have any questions or are uncertain about the future of your financial life, we are happy to help you in any way and help you figure out your financial future. Please contact us to schedule a free 30 minute consultation.

 

Recently Graduated? How to Establish A Good Credit Score

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Are you a recent college graduate? Are you starting your first job? While it’s extremely important to save money when you are first starting out, it’s also quite important to know how to spend money and understand the concepts behind your credit score and establishing good credit. 

As your first paycheck starts rolling in, make sure you are opening multiple lines of credit, including opening credit cards, putting your name on your school apartment lease, and signing your name on the comcast bill. However, when you open these lines of credit and sign your name, make sure you are paying your bills in full each month. If your roommate hasn’t paid your cable bill, make sure to stay on top of them so it doesn’t impact you down the road. However, if you have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and can’t pay the full bill, make sure you understand to pay the minimum and reach to your creditor to figure out a reasonable solution or game plan. 

Here are five important credit concepts that you should be aware of:

  1. Low credit scores can cost  you thousands 
  2. Your credit score actually measures your risk of not paying
  3. Credit repair companies charge for services that maybe you can do yourself 
  4. Your age has nothing to do with your credit score, except for how long you’ve been borrowing credit
  5. All types of companies can check your credit score

Unless you have a perfect credit score, there is always room for improvement. The bottom line is that when you are just starting out, it’s easy to overlook the small steps needed in establishing a good score. However, having a good credit score is something that should be maintained and will impact many financial decisions you are able to make in your lifetime. If you have any questions about your credit score, how to obtain credit or how to fix a bad credit score, please contact us for a free 30 minute consultation.

 

Are Your Employees Stressed At Work?

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Implementing a Financial Wellness Program for Your Employees: A Guide

Over the past few months as we have all been living through the pandemic, anxieties are at an all time high, especially those relating to finances. There have also been notable impacts on employee productivity and engagement. As an employee, your career should be a source of financial relief and security, not of worry and additional stress. 

Given these unprecedented circumstances and the uncertainty that comes with COVID-19, ensuring that your employees feel a sense of financial stability is more important than ever. Implementing a financial wellness program within your company is a great way to ease anxieties and improve workplace satisfaction amongst your employees.  

What Is a Financial Wellness Program? 

Financial wellness programs are designed to alleviate the financial worries of your employees. They go beyond mere financial understanding; they promote a healthy relationship with money by offering the appropriate tools and guidance. These programs combine employee-centric education and application to yield better results. 

How to Implement a Program 

There’s no perfect financial wellness program; the best program for you depends on the nature of your business and the needs of your employees. There are many ways you can go about it: do you want to use a platform specially designed for financial wellness programs, or do you want it to be more of a program customized in-house? What do you want the focus to be? What would best benefit your employees?

Here at Sherman Wealth, we offer financial wellness services for employees and work with many local small businesses in establishing and implementing the right financial wellness program for their firm. We strive to develop a well-being strategy that will empower employees to learn, plan and make real changes to reach their goal of financial stability and success. If your company is in need of a financial wellness program, reach out to us and we will be happy to help you implement a unique program that is right for your team. Please let us know if you have any questions and contact us to get started!

 

Fees & Your Investments: What You Need To Know

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Whether your investment portfolio consists of a 401k or multiple brokerage and retirement accounts, it is important to understand the fees associated with your investments which can dramatically lower returns over the years. Here are some fees you should look out for. 

Account Fees:

For 401k accounts, there are typically fees charged by the plan provider to administer the plan. Brokerage accounts may also have various account service fees, so check the fine print for more details. Sometimes these are waived if you opt-in to electronic delivery and or meet certain account minimums.

Fund Fees:

When it comes to fund fees, ETFs tend to be lower cost than mutual fund fees. Most ETFs are passively managed index funds, while most mutual funds are actively managed funds although the reverse also exists. Actively managed funds will have higher fees, but fees will also vary depending on the underlying assets.

Expense Ratio

The expense ratio is the annual fee that ETFs and mutual funds charge their shareholders. It is expressed as the percentage of assets deducted for fund expenses such as management fees, administrative fees, operating costs, and all other asset-based costs incurred by the fund. Mutual funds also include 12b-1 fees in the expense ratio, which ETFs do not have. What is not included in the expense ratio of a fund is the cost to trade the fund itself.

Mutual Fund Specific Fees:

12B-1 Fees

These mutual fund fees are charged annually and are considered to be an operational expense associated with a fund’s “marketing and distribution.” This could be anything from paying brokers to sell the funds or providing sales incentives. These fees are included in a fund’s expense ratio meaning the higher the 12B-1 fee, the higher the expense ratio. Investors can locate more information about these particular fees in a fund’s prospectus.

Front-End Load Fees

Front-end load fees are paid out to a broker in the form of commission when he or she sells a mutual fund. When an investor purchases a front-end load mutual fund, a percentage of their investment, usually 2% to 5%, goes to the broker. 

Back-End Load Fees

Also known as a deferred sales charge or DSC, back-end load mutual funds charge a penalty fee if you sell your shares within five to ten years. Fees are highest within the first year of purchase, and decrease each year until the end of the agreed-upon holding period. 

Trading Costs:

Transaction Fees

Despite a trend of more brokerages offering free transactions, transaction fees still exist when buying and selling investments. The price range of transaction fees varies, and it should be an expense to keep track of if you make lots of transactions over time. 

Bid-Ask Spread

The bid-ask spread is a truly hidden cost to trading and is referred to as an implicit cost. This is the difference between the price to buy a security and to sell a security, which are not the same. Highly liquid securities will have very tight spreads, making this cost minimal, but it is important to pay attention to the liquidity of the fund. 

Advisor Fees:

Looking for someone to manage your finances? 

While some advisors are commission based and make money through the commissions associated with each investment transaction, here at Sherman Wealth, we are a fee-only (RIA) financial planning advisor, and can help you manage your finances and encourage you to think differently about your money.

As a fee-only registered investment advisor (RIA), we charge a flat rate for our services. RIAs have a fiduciary responsibility to act in their clients’ best interests. Unlike investment brokers who can end up costing the client a lot of money depending on the frequency and volume of trades, we provide advice and make transactions without taking commission-based compensation. RIA’s  tend to use low-fee investments, including low-cost no-load mutual funds, individual stocks and bonds and investments that do not have 12B-1 fees.

If you have any questions or think we could be of service to you, please sign up for a free 30-minute consultation here. We would be happy to help you and answer any questions you may have. 

 

5 Ways to Manage Your Finances Under COVID-19

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Managing your finances isn’t simple. Throw a global pandemic into the mix and you might be finding yourself overwhelmed and unprepared for the future. Now is the time to self-educate and start finding ways to manage your money for both the short and long-term. 

Here are a few tips on how to manage and improve your financial situation during the coronavirus pandemic. 

 

  • Focusing on building savings

 

While it is always important to invest and allow your money to compound, it is crucial to focus on building up your savings account to ensure you have a cash cushion for a rainy day, or in our case, the coronavirus pandemic. While you may be currently saving around 20-30% of your income, right now focus on investing 10% of your income towards a long-term goal, such as your retirement plan. 

 

  • Spending money on take-out/delivery, and supporting local businesses

 

As we approach the beginning of July, finally entering country-wide re-opening stages, it is still important to be supporting local businesses who have suffered a beating these last few months. Ordering takeout/delivery is a great way to mix up your daily meals and give your kitchen a break, while also stimulating the economy. 

 

  • Building a larger emergency fund

 

As mentioned earlier, it is crucial to have a cash emergency fund to be able to cover around 6 months of living expenses. No matter your job, we see how great of an impact unprecedented global events can have on our economy, so knowing you have a few dollars in your pocket is a great reassuring measure to take. 

 

  • Buying Comfort

 

As we slowly begin to reacclimate into our daily routine, it is important to put our spending into perspective. While there is nothing wrong with retail therapy, there are ways to make online shopping less expensive. Make sure to use free browser extensions to get cash back on your purchases. Also, if you always pay your full credit card balance monthly, you can use your credit card to accumulate miles and points. Lastly, remember to ask yourself if your purchase is necessary and worth it before submitting your order. 

 

  • Giving more

 

Now more than ever, it is important to give back to the community and help those who are less fortunate. If you are in a stable financial situation, remember to help those around you by directing your extra income towards donating to charities and organizations you strongly believe in. 

 

By re-evaluating your financial situation and altering the ways you use your money, you can set yourself up for long-term financial success. Consider speaking to a financial advisor before making any big changes to your current financial plan. We offer a 30-minute complimentary financial consultation for those who have questions or concerns about their personal situation and how we may be able to assist you. If you have any questions on your current situation, please contact us and we will be happy to help you! 

Did You Take A Required Minimum Distribution In 2020 From Your Retirement Account? If So, You May Be Able To Put It Back.

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If you took a required minimum distribution from your retirement account this year and want to reverse it, you now may be able to. The IRS announced on 6/23/20 that anyone who already has taken an RMD in 2020 from certain retirement accounts has until Aug. 31 to put the money back. (https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/n-20-51.pdf) The announcement comes several months after the CARES Act eliminated those mandated distributions for the year — yet some people already had taken them before the law’s passage.

The CARES Act, signed into law in late March, enables any taxpayer facing an RMD in 2020 from their defined-contribution retirement plan — including a 401(k) or 403(b) plan — or their individual retirement account, to skip those withdrawals this year. This includes anyone who turned age 70½ in 2019 and would have had to take the first RMD by April 1, 2020. The waiver does not apply to defined-benefit plans (i.e., pensions.)

The IRS’s new relief applies to individuals who face RMDs either due to their age or because they inherited an account that comes with those mandated withdrawals.  If you have any questions about these new rules, please contact your CPA for guidance.  And, as always, please contact us if you have any questions relating to RMDs or other issues related to your finances.