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

rmd

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.

Bullet Journaling Your Way Toward A Budget

bullet journaling

Many of us have tried to create a budget and stick to it at least once. Some people choose apps on their phone or spreadsheets on the computer to help them complete this task. But, for those who prefer a more creative approach, a better option might be bullet journaling. Bullet journaling is an organized system that helps people kickstart their to-do lists, stay on track with goals and switch up their approach to keeping their personal finances in order.

How Does Bullet Journaling Work?

Bullet journals can look like basic line writing, or you can add color and design elements to make it fun and attractive. Regardless of what you want to create, it’s most important to make your journal exciting enough to stick with. Your bullet journal should be customized to your liking in order to help you meet your goals.

How Can Bullet Journaling Help You Reach Your Goals?

Bullet journals are an all-in-one way to keep track of your expenses and reach your goals. It allows you to keep a record of:

  • Your financial goals
  • Your spending habits
  • Miscellaneous observations you have made about your money habits

Being able to actually see everything in writing and holding yourself accountable makes it much easier to keep track of how much you’re spending, what types of items you’re buying and how other factors (like your mood) could be affecting your money habits. 

How to Use Bullet Journaling For Finances

While bullet journaling can be used for anything from tracking sleep patterns to weight loss, dream journaling or tackling your daily to-do list, there are a few ways you can use a bullet journal to develop a better budget.

Plan for Upcoming Purchases or Trips

If you’ve been wanting to make a big purchase or splurge on an upcoming event, use your journal to keep track of how much you need to save. If you are planning for a vacation, find out the cost of flights, hotels, food, etc. and start putting aside money for that. If you are looking to purchase a new car, you can keep track of what your monthly payments would look like based on what the loan costs might be. Drawing a visual representation of what you’re saving for can help make your goals feel more tangible. As you set money aside, you might want to include something in your journal that you can color to visually show how much you have saved.

Track your Monthly Expenses

According to a recent survey, only 14 percent of respondents used cash to pay for everyday purchases.1 Using credit or debit cards for most of your purchases can add an extra challenge when it comes to budgeting since it is an easy way to lose track of how much is being spent.

If you still prefer to avoid cash for your purchases, use your bullet journal to track your credit/debit expenses at the end of each week or month. You should create a list of how much money was spent and what it was spent on.  You can also get creative and draw graphs symbolizing certain categories (food, gas, eating out, entertainment, etc.). Having a visual tool to compare what you’re spending and what you’re saving can be an eye-opening way to reassess your budget.

Pair it With Your Favorite Financial App

If you’re interested in using a budget tracking app, you can always pair your bullet journal with an app like Mint or YNAB. Apps can be more useful in immediately alerting you to overspending and help you budget in real-time. While journaling is still great for reflecting on your spending, an app can help keep you more accountable upfront.

 

Bullet journaling is a simple way to get your finances in order and it can make staying on track much easier. It provides a way for you to outline what needs to be done in order to accomplish your goals and allows you to constantly remain mindful of your expenses. If you need any assistance in starting your own budget journal or have any questions relating to your future financial goals, please feel free to contact us – we are here to help!

 

4 Financial Red Flags When Dating Someone New

relationship

It might seem strange to talk about finances when you first start dating someone new. People often try to overlook financial issues when embarking on a new relationship as it can be uncomfortable and awkward to discuss. However, if you see a future with that special someone, it’s important to know what kind of financial baggage they might be bringing with them and to be aware of any potential financial red flags.

Red Flag #1: Having Different Approaches to Saving

If your partner is a spender and you are a saver, this could be your first major red flag. It is critical that you both discuss your savings plans and goals in detail. If you share accounts or credit cards, you don’t want one person spending more than their fair share since this would not only negatively affect your savings goals, but it can also create a power struggle over financial control. It’s important to discuss how much money you’re okay spending on certain items and creating a budget that will help you compromise to meet your financial goals. It may be best to keep your finances separate for now, however, if you’re still unable to reach an agreement.

Red Flag #2: Not Discussing Your Credit Scores

Disclosing your credit scores is a must. Depending on what your partner’s credit score is, it could diminish your chances of getting a house together or making any other big purchase in the future.

Red Flag #3: Neglecting To Address Debt 

It is essential that you know what debts your partner may have accumulated and how they plan on handling them. If you’re still getting to know one another, they may not be comfortable divulging the actual amount. You should, however, have a good understanding of whether or not they’re paying it off responsibly and spending wisely. 

Red Flag #4: Not Sharing the Same Financial Goals 

While the relationship is still fairly new, you should outline what your end goals are. It is important to ensure your financial goals are aligned early enough in the relationship to avoid any future disappointment. 

 

The excitement of any new relationship might cause you to overlook some major financial red flags. But when the time is right, it’s important to address these issues (preferably sooner rather than later) – especially if you’re both in it for the long haul.  If you encounter any of these red flags in your relationship and have any questions regarding your finances, please contact us – we are here to help!  

Recent Market Volatility

^SPX_^DJI_^IXIC_chart (1) resize

This past week marked another volatile one in the market.  After a significant rally, stocks suffered a large drop Thursday, with the S&P 500 down 5.9%, its worst day since March 16. The market had previously rallied 45% from its late March lows, and was flat for the year to date and trending lower overall. The Dow rose 400 points on Friday, but Wall Street recorded its biggest weekly loss since bottoming on March 23.


After a downturn in March, momentum turned positive in April and continued into May, as stocks registered healthy gains, and investors looked to future economic hopes rather than current woes.  As we look to June, many investors believe a sustained and complete economic recovery may rest on developing a vaccine for COVID-19.

  

In recent days, there have been growing concerns as coronavirus counts in a number of states are on the rise, including Texas and Arizona, which had been spared the worst of the first wave. The US has now seen over two million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 110,000 deaths.

 

There have also been concerns when it comes to policy response to the COVID-19 crisis. While the initial policy response was overwhelmingly supportive, the Fed released an outlook on Wednesday suggesting an extended recession while at the same time not increasing their monetary support. Many feel as though they should have stepped in further. Furthermore, Congress, which offered significant support for both Wall Street and Main Street in the early days of this crisis, is now torn about the next round of stimulus.

 

When you take a look around the country and the world, it is clear that we are in an awful recession as well as a humanitarian crisis. Policymakers will have to do more to get us through the challenges that lie ahead. There are valid reasons to be optimistic about possible treatments in the near future and about potential vaccines later on, but this pandemic will continue to grind on our economy and on our society.

 

As the market continues to assess the long-term value of these businesses, it will periodically become too optimistic, and periodically become too pessimistic. Due to the uncertainty surrounding our current circumstances, we should expect elevated volatility for a prolonged period, which is hard for many people (and the markets they form) to digest. This volatility will create opportunities—sometimes to buy undervalued assets and sometimes to sell overvalued ones. Days like Thursday are why we consistently recommend diversification—while stocks fell, bonds rose slightly. 

 

The key to successful, long-term investing is a well-diversified, customized portfolio that focuses on tax-efficiency, cost-effectiveness and risk management.  We create and manage investment models tailored to your goals, timeline and evolving life circumstances. This is a challenging time in the real world and in the financial markets. We are continuing to monitor the markets, re-assessing portfolios and assisting our clients in any way necessary during these uncertain times. Click here to find out if your investments match your risk tolerance. And, as always, please reach out with any questions you may have – we are here to help!

 

We Stand In Support Of Racial Equality And All Those Who Search For It

The senseless killing of George Floyd at the hands of law enforcement has shaken this nation at its core. His death, along with countless others’ has once again brought these injustices to the forefront of our society. For far too long, Black Americans have suffered under systems of racism and oppression.

This time, there are no excuses – we have had enough.

We will no longer stand silent as these issues continue to plague our citizens, neighbors and friends. We stand in solidarity with the black community and equal rights for all. We stand in support of racial equality, and all those who search for it.

There are many ways you can help:

Sign a petition;

Donate to one of these causes (www.naacpldf.org; www.policingequity.org/donate; www.wallstreetbound.org; www.eji.org) or another organization of your choice;

Watch this with your children – www.cnn.com/2020/06/06/app-news-section/cnn-sesame-street-race-town-hall-app-june-6-2020-app/index.html.

Has Your Employer Suspended Its 401(k) Matching During COVID-19?

401k match

According to a recent survey, 16.1 percent of organizations have suspended matching employer contributions due to financial hardships caused by COVID-19. Worse yet, 1.3 percent of businesses have terminated their 401(k) plans altogether.1 401(k) plans and their matching employer contributions are relied on by millions of Americans to bolster their savings for retirement. If your employer has recently made an adjustment to its 401(k) offerings, you may want to consider how this could impact your future retirement and the next steps you should be taking.

Why Are Employers Changing Their 401(k) Plans?

COVID-19 has had a tremendous impact on businesses throughout the globe. With most states implementing stay-at-home orders, businesses have been forced to reduce hours or cease operation altogether. As Americans were encouraged to stay home throughout March, April and May, foot traffic all but vanished across America for months.

Even though some states have begun relaxing measures and stores are starting to open back up, America remains suspended in a fairly volatile market. People are worried about what the future will look like.  Many of them are strapped for cash and not willing to spend like they used to. In return, businesses are suffering and searching for ways to save. Unfortunately, one of the first things to go is often employer-sponsored benefits such as 401(k) plans or their matching contributions.

Is it Legal for an Employer to Suspend Matching Contributions?

In most cases, it is legal for an employer to suspend matching 401(k) contributions. While it may have been an enticing addition to your benefits package upon your hiring, employers do have the power to simply stop offering this benefit. The most important thing an employer can do in this instance is to effectively communicate with employees who will be affected by the change. For example, explaining that cutting these benefits is their solution to avoiding layoffs will likely make employees more understanding and receptive to the change.

If your employer doesn’t provide you with an explanation or any idea of if/when contributions will start up again, speak to your manager or HR department. If your employer offers contribution matches to a safe harbor 401(k) plan, they must offer notice to employees 30 to 90 days in advance of suspending contributions.  

What Should You Do if Your Matching Contributions Are Suspended?

In the case that your employer does suspend matching contributions, there are a few next steps you can take to help maintain and grow your retirement savings.

Having an employer suspend matching contributions, even if it’s only temporary, is a sign of the times. We’re facing a global pandemic, the stock market’s unpredictable and people are worried about money. If you have been personally impacted by the coronavirus, you can even withdraw up to $100,000 penalty-free as part of the recently passed CARES Act,3 although this should only be done if you are in dire need of financial assistance.  Withdrawing any amount from your 401(k) now will only rob your future retirement. 

If you have questions regarding your company 401(k), please reach out to your financial advisor.  Your advisor’s sole responsibility is to help you make unbiased, educated and objective decisions about your money. Use him or her as a sounding board to voice your concerns and discuss potential paths forward. How will you make up for the missing contributions? What financial impact will this change have on your future retirement? The market is volatile and economic confidence is low amongst investors. If you haven’t already, use this as an opportunity to reevaluate your current asset allocations and investment strategies. You likely have plenty of questions regarding any changes to your 401(k) and other investments and your advisor may be able to help you identify potential areas for improvement based on your current tolerance for risk.

Even if your employer has slashed matching contributions, that doesn’t mean you still can’t contribute to your 401(k). If you have the means to do so, consider upping your contributions, for now at least, to help offset the loss of any missing contribution matches. The contribution limit for a 401(k) increased in 2020 to $19,500. If you’re over 50, you’re allowed to contribute an additional $6,500 in catch-up contributions.4

In these challenging times, you are not alone if you find yourself working for a company that has suspended its 401(k) matching contributions.  Hopefully, these changes are just temporary, but it is necessary to plan accordingly for what is happening in the present.  Every penny counts when it comes to preparing for retirement and it is important to know how these 401(k) changes will affect your future savings.  If you have any questions about the impact this may have on your future retirement earnings and what you should be doing right now to make up for any lost funds, please contact us.  We are here to help!

  1. https://www.psca.org/sites/psca.org/files/uploads/Research/snapshot_surveys/CARES%20Act%20Snapshot%20Summary.pdf
  2. https://www.irs.gov/retirement-plans/mid-year-changes-to-safe-harbor-401k-plans-and-notices
  3. https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/748/
  4. https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/401k-contribution-limit-increases-to-19500-for-2020-catch-up-limit-rises-to-6500

National 529 College Savings Plan Day

529 day 2

Today is Friday, May 29 which means it’s “529 Day” or “National 529 College Savings Plan Day”. Each year, National 529 College Savings Plan Day draws awareness to the tax-advantaged way of putting money away for education costs. To help ease the burden of student loans, some parents put money aside each year for their children’s education. 529 plans have grown in popularity over the years, however many people still remain unaware that 529 plans are even an option for education savings.

So, what exactly is a 529 plan? 529 plans, also referred to as “qualified tuition plans,” are tax-advantaged savings plans sponsored by states, state agencies or educational institutions. Earnings are federally tax-exempt and most states exempt earnings from state income tax.

There are two types of 529 plans: Prepaid tuition plans and education savings plans. Both can be used as a way to save for a child or beneficiary’s education, but differ in their methods.

Prepaid tuition plans allow people to purchase units or credits at higher education institutions at current prices to be used in the future by the beneficiary. The credits are purchased for participating colleges or universities, which are usually public and in-state. However, it may be able to be used for an equal payment to private or out-of-state institutions.

The second type of plan is an education savings plan. It serves as an investment account that can be used for future qualified higher education expenses. Similar to a Roth401(k) or Roth IRA, plans offer several investment options and funds will rise and fall based on the investment’s performance. Generally, the accumulated funds can be used at any participating college or university, regardless of its location. You can also use up to $10,000 to pay tuition at elementary or secondary schools.

The ways you can spend this saved money differs based on the plan. Prepaid tuition plans can be used for tuition and mandatory fees, but not room and board. Education savings plans, however, can be used for tuition, fees, books, supplies, equipment, computers and sometimes room and board. Technically, a person can use the funds accumulated in an education savings plan for any expense they choose, but if the funds are used for a non-qualified distribution, they are subject to income tax, a 10 percent penalty and any additional state penalties. If a beneficiary doesn’t need the funds, they can be withdrawn with the payment of income tax and penalties, although there are exceptions to the penalty fees.

529 Day is a great time to review your college savings progress and if you haven’t started saving for college yet, it’s not too late!  Some states currently have different contests and incentives to try to boost interest and participation in their 529 savings programs. Click here to see what your state might have to offer.  If you have any questions about 529 plans or would like us to help set up a plan for your beneficiaries, please contact us – we’re here to help!

Ways To Build Wealth And Boost Your Savings While You’re Stuck At Home

finances during quarantine

We’re all spending more time at home these days and it’s likely that money and finances are a stress for many during this pandemic. As the markets continue to be extra volatile,  many people are feeling a lack of control when it comes to their money.  Even though there isn’t much we can do about the state of the overall economy, there are some small-scale things you can do right now, from the comfort of your own home, to help you feel more in control of your finances. If it is all you can do right now to keep up with your bills, that should continue to be your main priority.  However, if you’re in the fortunate position of having an income or some extra cash, the following tasks take 30 minutes or less and might just have you feeling a little better about the state of your finances.

REVIEW YOUR BUDGET

 

 

Every solid financial plan starts with a good budget, and now is a great time to go over yours. You should review your spending habits and try to determine which areas of your spending are relatively fixed — such as monthly rent and insurance coverage — and those that are discretionary, like your lattes, subscriptions and eating out. 

Since you’ll likely be spending a lot of time at home this month, most of your convenience purchases will probably trail off. Comparing last month’s expenditures to this month, you will see where you are spending your money and you will be better positioned to make changes to your spending habits in order to prioritize saving money and spending on what you deem essential for your household.

GET SPECIFIC ABOUT YOUR FUTURE

 

 

Write down all the things that you want to do in your future – you can do this by yourself or with a significant other. Break it down into five-year segments. What do you want to do, where do you want to go, and what do you want to accomplish during each five-year segment? If you have career goals that include starting a business, making more money, or changing your job, you might need to learn some new skills to start down that path. 

Being confined to our home offices gives us a great opportunity to focus on learning something new and developing plans for the next steps in life, whether it is signing up for an online class or doing some research on what it might take to take your career in another direction.

SET UP A 529 COLLEGE-SAVINGS PLAN FOR YOUR KID(S)

 

 

If you’ve been considering a college savings plan for your child, setting one up online is quick and easy. You should start by reviewing the 529 plan options where you live, since they often provide tax benefits while you save for your child’s college education. Just remember to keep your own future financial goals in mind, as well. Saving for your children’s education is very important, but should come second to saving for your own retirement.

REVIEW YOUR BENEFICIARY INFORMTION

 

 

You should make a list of your financial accounts that include beneficiary designations —  like your IRA, 401(k), or life insurance — and make any necessary beneficiary information adjustments. Since these designations determine who will receive your account upon your passing, if they are left blank or not updated, your wishes could be ignored and assets could go to an ex-spouse, or state law could become applicable and decide how to split your accounts.

 

SET UP A NEW SAVINGS ACCOUNT

 

Now is the perfect time to set up a separate online high-yield savings account for your specific goals, whether it be for a vacation, saving for the holidays or possibly a new car. To make things even easier, you can also set up a direct deposit so that you put a little bit away from each paycheck towards that objective. However, remember that these “extras” should take a backseat to your emergency fund.  Having three to six months of expenses set aside in a money market or high-yield savings account can provide peace of mind and can be a lifesaver in times of temporary job loss or medical costs.

DO SOME BOOKKEEPING

 

 

Now might be a good time to do some overall bookkeeping.  This can include reviewing your insurance policies to see if you still have sufficient coverage for your needs, or working on your estate plan (are your medical directives all updated?).  If your kids are old enough, this could even be a good opportunity to teach them how to balance a checkbook by showing them how you do yours.

 

EVALUATE YOUR INVESTMENT PORTFOLIOS

If you have money in the market that’s earmarked for retirement, you might be a little worried about how current events will impact your goals. Now is a good time to have a call with your financial planner to determine if your portfolio is still meeting your long-term goals, or if it needs to be adjusted based on current events. 

 

Even though we may not have expected to be spending this much time in our homes over the past few months, it’s important to take advantage of the time while we can.  These unprecedented times have given us the opportunity to slow down and focus on our families, as well as other important aspects of our lives like our finances.  Taking just a half hour each day or week to go over these tasks can help us to feel more in control and less stressed about our money as we deal with the uncertainty of the times.  As always, if you have any questions about any of the suggestions above or any other concerns about your finances, please contact us.  We are here to help and we are all in this together!

Should You Take Social Security Early in Light of a COVID-19 Related Layoff?

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Whether you are just entering the workforce or winding down toward retirement, COVID-19 has likely affected both your professional and financial life. For those between the ages of 62 and 70, you have the opportunity to begin claiming your Social Security benefits, whether you were planning to or not. While this “safety net” of sorts could be an appealing opportunity to replace the income you may have lost due to the current pandemic, it is a decision that requires much thought and analysis. Here are a few things to consider before deciding whether or not taking your Social Security benefits earlier than expected is right for you during these uncertain times.

Considerations to Make Before Taking Social Security During COVID-19

If you weren’t already planning on claiming your Social Security benefits soon, then take the time to review your other options first. Even though you are eligible to begin receiving benefits at age 62, your benefits will increase with every year you wait until age 70. While it’s tempting to take the money now, you could be missing out on thousands of dollars in future Social Security benefits.

Is There Other Income I Can Use?

If you’ve been saving diligently for retirement, you may already have the funds tucked away to get you through the foreseeable future. Review your 401(k) and IRA accounts, and remember to account for income through any pension plans you may have through work. After taking stock of these accounts and any emergency funds you have saved away, you may determine that claiming Social Security benefits early is not necessary. Even putting off claiming your benefits by six months or a year could make a considerable difference in your future benefits.

It’s also important to consider that if you’re earning less now than you were in previous years, you’ll likely be in a lower tax bracket come tax season 2020. This would make now an advantageous time to tap into your retirement savings accounts, as your tax obligation on this income may be lower than if you had worked full-time in a normal year otherwise.

Have I Applied for Unemployment?

The CARES Act was passed at the end of March in response to the detrimental financial impact COVID-19 has had on Americans. As a part of this legislation, the government boosted unemployment benefits, offering eligible unemployed individuals an additional $600 per week for four months on top of their normal benefit amounts. In addition, this bill allows unemployed individuals to receive benefits for an extended period of 13 weeks.

If you were laid off or furloughed as a result of COVID-19 and have yet to look into receiving unemployment benefits, you may want to do so immediately. This income may be sufficient in covering your expenses until you’re able to work again.

What if My Other Options Are Limited?

It may be necessary to begin claiming Social Security benefits early if you’ve exhausted other resources, or you don’t have much savings to begin with. For example, your primary alternative may be to remove funds from your portfolio. But with the onset of COVID-19, markets are volatile and values have dropped significantly. If at all possible, it may be better to leave your assets where they are as long as possible in an effort to recoup recent losses. Either way, this is a decision you’ll want to make with your financial advisor first.

However, if your only other alternative is to rack up high-interest debt, taking the Social Security benefits early is almost always going to be the preferred choice. Falling into a deep hole of debt is not an easy position to overcome, and certainly not an ideal way to start your retirement.

Important Notes About Taking Social Security Early

If you do choose to take Social Security early to help ease the financial burden of losing your job, there are a few important things to remember.

The Impact of Working While Receiving Social Security

What happens if you begin claiming Social Security, but you get your job back? If you begin working again or find a new job, you may be subject to having a portion of your benefits withheld. This would be based on how much you are making above the SSA’s exempt limit. The SSA uses a retirement earnings test to help determine this amount.2

Withdrawing Your Application to Receive Social Security Benefits

You could choose to withdraw your application for benefits within 12 months of becoming entitled to retirement benefits. For example, say you’ve chosen to take benefits now in the midst of COVID-19 because you were furloughed or laid off. In a few months from now, if your financial situation has turned around and you’re earning again, you might choose to withdraw your application.

This would mean you’d stop receiving Social Security payments, and would essentially “reset” them. When you choose to receive them again later, that future date would be the date that determines how much you receive. If you choose this route, however, it’s important to note that you would be required to pay back any benefits you had already received.3

Even though claiming Social Security benefits now to address your sudden loss of income may be tempting, it’s important to take some time and consider all of your options. It may be the best move for some, but others could be robbing their future retirement unnecessarily. If you find yourself in this position or have any questions about taking your Social Security benefits earlier than expected, please contact us.  We are here to help!

  1.        https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/3548/text
  2.        https://www.ssa.gov/OACT/COLA/rtea.html
  3.        https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/withdrawal.html

What To Do With Your Stimulus Check Once You Receive It

stimulus check

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act was recently enacted to assist families, individuals, small business owners and medical facilities across America amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.1 As part of this legislation, many individuals and families became eligible to receive stimulus checks of up to $1,200 per person.1 Many Americans have received their checks already, while some are preparing to receive theirs shortly. If you or your household received a check, here are some things you may want to consider doing with it.

#1: Cover the Essentials

The stimulus checks are designed to help Americans who may be financially struggling due to COVID-19. Whether you’ve been furloughed, forced to reduce hours or dragging financially, you should use this money to cover any immediate, essential expenses like rent, utilities, groceries or internet.  

This check should be looked at as a mini emergency fund. Look at your bills over the coming weeks and determine how you can best utilize these funds. If you’re currently receiving unemployment payments from the government, remember to account for this income when making your financial strategy as well. If you are still coming up short after the stimulus check has been used up, remember to check with companies (power companies, insurers, gyms, cable companies, etc.) regarding any relief efforts or forgiveness policies they may have enacted amidst the global pandemic.

#2: Fill Your Emergency Fund

Many adults say they don’t have enough saved to cover a $400 emergency.2  With so many people living paycheck to paycheck, this extra bump in funds could be the cushion needed to prepare for any potential financial surprises.  

Even if your income remains unaffected by the pandemic or you find yourself with some additional dollars leftover, it’s never a bad idea to tuck some away for a rainy day. If you don’t have an emergency fund, saving any surplus from your stimulus check is a good way to start one. An ideal emergency fund should have three to six months’ salary to help cover unexpected expenses such as job loss, medical bills, home damage, car repairs, etc. 

#3: Address High-Interest Debt

Total household debt in America was already quite high before the pandemic hit.  Now, overall American debt is soaring. While some of these debts include lower-interest debts like auto loans or student loans, an extremely large portion of the overall amount is attributed to credit card debt.3

If you’re currently facing any amount of high-interest debt, such as credit cards or personal loans, paying this down should be a top financial priority. If your current financial situation allows it, use your stimulus check to make a dent in (or pay off completely) any high-interest debt your family may have.

#4: Support Local Businesses

It is extremely important to patronize local shops in your community if you are able to. Whether you order food from a local restaurant, purchase gift cards from your favorite boutique or frequent your local coffee shop or bakery for take-out, small business owners have been some of the hardest hit during these times. Many of these small businesses don’t have the backing of a larger corporation or franchise and are experiencing a severe drop in revenue that could jeopardize their ability to stay open after the pandemic.  Your patronage could make a big difference in their ability to continue operation.

#5: Donate It

If you are fortunate enough to be financially comfortable during the COVID-19 pandemic, you may want to consider giving to those most affected – medical facilities, food banks, shelters, etc. The devastating impact of COVID-19 means assistance is needed now more than ever before.

While the ability to make physical donations (such as clothing, toys, pantry items, etc.) may be limited right now, you can still use your stimulus check to provide crucial monetary relief.   You can search for charity organizations using tools such as Charity Navigator or The Better Business Bureau’s Giving Alliance or you may hear about local nonprofits that are in need through social media or word of mouth.  

#6: Fund Your Future Retirement

Even if you are far off from retirement, putting any excess income into a retirement savings account can be a rewarding move. You may consider using your stimulus check to pad your IRA or 401(k) if you are able. The power of compounding interest means that $1,200 could turn into a couple thousand or more by the time retirement rolls around.

In these unprecedented times, many of us are left wondering what the best next move is when it comes to our stimulus checks. No matter what you choose to do, remember to be intentional with these additional dollars. If you have any questions regarding how to move forward when you receive your stimulus check, please contact us.  We are here to help and we are all in this together!

  1. https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/3548/text
  2. https://www.federalreserve.gov/publications/2019-economic-well-being-of-us-households-in-2018-dealing-with-unexpected-expenses.htm
  3. https://www.newyorkfed.org/microeconomics/hhdc.html