The Economic Impact of COVID-19: Next Steps For Those Struggling Financially

struggling financially

The coronavirus has affected us all in many ways.  This pandemic has had an immense impact on our physical well-being and our mental health, as well as our finances. This virus has spread throughout the globe and as many businesses are forced to cease operation, people worldwide are losing jobs at record rates.

Roughly 22 million Americans filed unemployment claims over a four-week period starting March 14 – marking a record-breaking high for the U.S. Department of Labor.1 These numbers are unprecedented as everyone everywhere struggles to make ends meet amidst this widespread pandemic.    

For those struggling financially, how do we begin recovering from this? Here are some critical next steps for those impacted by the first-hand economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Step #1: Reevaluate Your Spending 

Whether you suddenly have a stop in income, a decrease in your paycheck or you’re now reliant on financial assistance from the government, any change in your normal cash flow is a reason to look at your spending.

Even though it may seem obvious, it should be done immediately and with care. You should look over your weekly or monthly budget to determine any non-essential costs that can be eliminated. Since many businesses you may have frequented are likely not open anyway, you should consider reallocating any money normally budgeted for this to cover other necessary expenses.  Any money that may have been budgeted for a night out at a restaurant or a movie ticket could be used to start or contribute to an emergency fund instead.

Step #2: Acknowledge the Change

These times are unprecedented and are affecting the lives of nearly everyone across the globe. We are all fighting the spread of a deadly virus while people in a wide variety of industries – hospitality, retail, food, travel and more – have been left jobless for the foreseeable future.

Our current circumstances are likely to have made many stressed, angry, sad and devastated emotionally. When it comes to standing tall and moving forward financially, the sooner you can recognize the emotional toll these global events have had and come to terms with the “new normal,” the sooner you can begin planning ahead. 

Part of this acceptance is recognizing any bad habits you might have, specifically financial spending habits triggered by stress. If you like to “take the edge off” with online shopping or use eating out as a way to cheer yourself up, now is a good time to practice restraint.  When you become aware that these are emotional responses, you can try to come up with other ways this money may be better spent, such as paying off debt, putting it into savings or creating an emergency fund.  

Step #3: Be Aware of Changing Policies

Both federal and state governments have been working hard to accommodate out-of-work citizens. Legislation has been passed in an effort to amp up benefits for unemployed individuals.  Some local governments have made it illegal for power and utilities to be shut off due to a missed payment during the pandemic and others have urged landlords to halt rent payments temporarily.

Even some insurance agencies and gyms have paused memberships or reduced rates in an effort to accommodate out-of-work individuals. Given the current situation with so many struggling, many companies have created more lenient payment policies. If you are unable to pay certain monthly bills, you should begin contacting those companies or agencies immediately since they may be willing to assist you.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a great feeling of uncertainty about the future for most of us.  If you are struggling financially, you are certainly not alone. There are resources available to you now, such as stimulus checks and unemployment insurance, to help make this time a little easier. However, if you still have concerns about how to move forward financially during these trying times, please contact us. We are here to help and we are all in this together!

  1. https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/OPA/newsreleases/ui-claims/20200632.pdf

The CARES Act Has Waived RMD Distributions for 2020 – What You Should Know

rmd image

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, was created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and was signed into law on March 27, 2020. COVID-19 has had a tremendous impact on the financial and physical health of Americans and businesses across the country. There are many features of this new law, but one specific change to required minimum distributions (RMDs) has presented an interesting opportunity for retirees. 

The CARES Act – RMDs 

In Section 2203 titled, “Temporary Waiver of Required Minimum Distribution Rules for Certain Retirement Plans and Accounts,” those who are typically required to take minimum distributions from their retirement savings accounts will not be required to do so for the remainder of 2020.1  This will affect anyone who would normally have to take an RMD in 2020, whether it’s coming from a company 401(k), 403(b) or an IRA. 

Back in December 2019, the SECURE Act was passed which changed the age at which an individual is required to begin taking minimum distributions. According to the IRS: “If you reached the age of 70½ in 2019 the prior rule applies, and you must take your first RMD by April 1, 2020. If you reach age 70 ½ in 2020 or later you must take your first RMD by April 1 of the year after you reach 72.”2

However, the CARES Act has put a pause on RMDs – even for those who turned 70 ½ in 2019. 

The CARES Act – Inherited IRAs

Even though the language of the CARES Act does not mention Inherited IRAs specifically, it does say RMDs have been put on pause for all retirement accounts. Unless further clarification is presented, it is implied that those who have inherited an IRA are not required to take RMDs in 2020.

I’ve Already Withdrawn Money – Can I Return It?

This change to RMDs is valid for the entire year of 2020, starting January 1, but the CARES Act did not go into effect until the end of March. If you had already taken your RMD for the year, you can not return it. However, if you have taken an RMD within the last 60 days, you do have the option to roll this amount over into an IRA. This option can only be done once in a 12-month period, but it may be beneficial for those who took their RMD just before the law was passed. It should be noted that this 60-day rollover option is not available to those withdrawing from an inherited account.

Should I Skip My RMD In 2020?

The biggest advantage of skipping your RMDs for 2020 is a reduced tax bill. If you choose to take your RMD as usual, this money taken out would count as income, so you would have a higher tax bill next year. In a time where many are facing critical financial struggles, the government is looking to ease financial stress for retirees by allowing them to skip RMDs this year. 

It is also important to note that RMDs are based on “the account balance as of the end of the immediately preceding calendar year divided by a distribution period from the IRS’s ‘Uniform Lifetime Table,’” according to the IRS.3  In other words, your RMD would be determined based, in part, on the account balance as of December 31, 2019 – a time in which markets were strong and nearing a peak. Since then, the market has experienced general economic volatility and waiting to take RMDs until 2021 will hopefully give retirees a chance to see their accounts regain some of those lost values. Taking the money out now means retirees would be left paying taxes on value that no longer exists in their accounts.

One of the aspects of The CARES Act has presented retirees with a potentially advantageous opportunity. While those that need are still able to withdraw from their retirement accounts, those who typically have RMDs are not required to take them until 2021. If you have any questions about whether or not to take your RMDs this year, please contact us – we are here to help!  

  1. https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/748/text
  2. https://www.irs.gov/retirement-plans/retirement-plans-faqs-regarding-required-minimum-distributions
  3. https://www.irs.gov/retirement-plans/plan-participant-employee/retirement-topics-required-minimum-distributions-rmds

An Overview of the Newly Passed $484 Billion COVID-19 Relief Package

new stimulus bill photo

Earlier today (Friday, April 24, 2020), President Donald Trump signed the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act. This additional $484 billion relief package comes less than a month after the historic $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, which offered relief funds for businesses, families, unemployed individuals and others affected by the current pandemic. This new legislation is more restricted in scope, focusing primarily on replenishing funds for the Paycheck Protection Program and offering more financial relief for hospitals and healthcare workers across the country. The specifics of this relief package and how it may pertain to you, your business and your local healthcare facilities are detailed here.

Hospitals, Health Systems & Care Providers

This bill is allocating an additional $75 billion to go toward hospitals, health care providers and systems across the United States. As a part of the “Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund,” this money is meant to reimburse providers for related expenses or revenue lost as a direct result of COVID-19.1 This money can not be used in cases where reimbursements have already been received through other means.  Providers who provide diagnoses, treatment or care for individuals with possible or actual cases of COVID-19 are eligible to access these funds. 

Such healthcare providers include:

  • Public hospitals
  • Medicare and Medicaid enrolled suppliers or providers
  • For-profit hospitals and healthcare providers
  • Not-for-profit hospitals and healthcare providers1
Research and Testing For COVID-19

In addition to the above, the “Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund,” will receive $25 billion “to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus” in the form of research, development, manufacturing, purchasing, administering and testing individuals who may be currently infected or previously exposed to the virus.1 This fund is also meant to help healthcare providers procure additional protective equipment necessary to administer tests safely. 

Here’s how the $25 billion will be split amongst healthcare facilities and researchers:

  • $11 billion for states, localities, territories, tribes, tribal organizations, urban Indian health organizations or health service providers to tribes.
  • $4.25 billion for states, localities and territories to be divided formulaically based on the relative number of COVID-19 cases.
  • $2 billion to states, localities and territories in accordance with the Public Health Emergency Preparedness agreement. 
  • $1.8 billion for the National Institutes of Health – Office of the Director.
  • $1 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • $1 billion to assist healthcare providers testing uninsured patients.
  • $1 billion for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.
  • $750 million for tribes, tribal organizations, urban Indian health organizations or health service providers to tribes, in accordance with the Director of the Indian Health Service.
  • $600 million in grants through the Health Resources and Services Administration – Primary Health Care.
  • $500 million for the National Institutes of Health – National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering.
  • $306 million for the National Institutes of Health – National Cancer Institute.
  • $225 million for rural healthcare clinics looking to expand their COVID-19 testing capabilities.
  • $22 million for the “Department of Health and Human Services – Food and Drug Administration – Salaries and Expenses.”1

The Department of Health and Human Services Secretary will also be required to issue a report every 30 days that includes the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths as a result of COVID-19. In these mandatory reports, the Secretary will be required to provide distinguishing demographic characteristics such as race, sex, age, ethnicity, etc. until the health emergency has ended.1  

The Paycheck Protection Program

This new legislation will make an additional $320 billion available to businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a reminder, the Paycheck Protection Program is designed to assist small businesses with 500 or fewer employees. Qualifying businesses may receive up to $10 million in loans administered by banks or other lenders, and the interest rate would not exceed one percent.2 

The Paycheck Protection Program offers qualified employers the potential to receive loan forgiveness if at least 75 percent of the money received is used to maintain payroll through June of 2020. They may also use the loan to pay interest on mortgages and rent and utilities.2 In order to be eligible for loan forgiveness, the business must maintain the same number of employees (equivalents) in the eight weeks following the date of origination of the loan as it did from either February 15, 2019 through June 30, 2019, or from January 1, 2020 through February 29, 2020.

Small Business Administration

$62.1 billion will be granted to the Small Business Administration to assist small businesses who have been hit hard by the current pandemic.

This amount will be broken down by:

  • $2.1 billion in salaries and expenses
  • $50 billion for the “Disaster Loans Program Account” to cover the cost of direct loans authorized by the SBA
  • $10 billion for emergency EIDL grants1   

The newly passed Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act is designed to assist those who have been hit hard by this global pandemic – small businesses forced to cease or reduce operations and healthcare providers on the frontlines. If you’re a small business owner hoping to take advantage of these available funds, refer to official government sites, such as the SBA’s Guidance & Loan Resources for further assistance.

As always, if you have any questions for us during this unprecedented time, please contact us – we are here to help and are all in this together!

  1. https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/266/text
  2. https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options/paycheck-protection-program#section-header-4
  3. https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/748/text

Estate Planning in Uncertain Times

estate planning 2

Although planning for your future is always a necessity, many people tend to wait until they are older to put their legal documents in order in the event something should happen to them. However, the rapid spread of the coronavirus has led to a skyrocketing demand for wills, even for those who aren’t middle aged or older. What once appeared to be a scourge that was primarily affecting the elderly and those with underlying health issues has now been revealed to hospitalize and kill those who are younger, seemingly at an alarming rate. The search term “getting a will” has risen sharply since March 8 and there have been tweets from doctors and nurses in recent days about wanting to get advanced health-care directives—living wills, power of attorney for health-care decisions and do-not-resuscitate orders—because they know their work might expose them to the virus.  Whether or not you are on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19, it is a good idea to make sure you have the following information completed and updated for you and your family should the need arise.

Wills & Beneficiaries

Now is a good time to check your existing beneficiary designations for each of your retirement accounts, annuities, and life insurance policies to make sure they are current and you do not have any lapses. In cases where family situations have changed, possibly because of divorce or birth of children or grandchildren, these designations aren’t often up to date. In the event you do not have a named beneficiary who survives you, your estate will be the beneficiary, which is rarely a good result. With a Will, you can generally leave any type of property to whomever you wish, with some exceptions. Wills can be contested in probate court, but beneficiary designations are legally binding.

Many people haven’t had an opportunity to change or update their beneficiaries since the SECURE Act was implemented.  See (https://www.investopedia.com/what-is-secure-act-how-affect-retirement-4692743) to review how your retirement may be impacted by the SECURE Act).

Durable Power of Attorney

A durable power of attorney is a written document where you designate another person (agent) to act on your behalf. In the event you become physically or mentally incapacitated, it enables your agent to handle your affairs. A person’s ability to name a power of attorney normally terminates upon their incapacity. With an immediate durable power of attorney, you grant your agent the authority effective immediately.

Health Care Proxy

Also called a durable power of attorney for health care, this document appoints a representative to make medical decisions on your behalf. You decide what your representative will have control over  (i.e., selection of health care providers, approval of tests and procedures, etc.). It is important to have an active health care proxy in place in the event you become incapacitated.

If you have adult children, you might want to make sure they also have health care proxies in place. In addition to having a health care proxy, a living will allows you to approve or decline certain types of medical care, such as life support, even if you will die as a result.

Trusts

If you have previously established a living or irrevocable trust, now is a good time to confirm that your trustees and successor trustees are still alive, willing to serve, and that you still want them to serve should the need arise. You should also confirm that all the assets you want to pass through your trust are correctly titled.

While the above topics are often difficult to think about, this also might be a good time to take a look at your financial plan as well. Depending on your circumstances, it might be beneficial to gift highly appreciated assets out of your estate at deep discounts. If you are in a low tax bracket, converting part or all of your Individual Retirement Account (IRA) to a Roth IRA could be an asset to your long-term retirement plans.  

Should you need any referrals for an estate lawyer, we are happy to put you in touch with someone.  If you have any financial questions, please contact us anytime.  We hope you are staying safe and healthy – we are all in this together!

Managing Your Money During a Pandemic

managing money blog photo resized

As many of us continue to stay home to do our part to flatten the curve and limit the spread of COVID-19, we are still adjusting to our new “normal”. Virtually every part of our lives has been affected by the pandemic, including the economy. While we cannot control the fact that many stores, restaurants and other businesses are temporarily closed and the market is volatile, we can control our personal finances.  Whether by adjusting spending or being more mindful, there are some simple ways we can manage our money and help us maintain some control over our finances during these uncertain times.  

Remain Objective & Focus on Your Personal Economy

Since the market has been a bit of a roller coaster these past few months, it might be tempting to sell stocks or switch investments.  However, it is important to remember that investments are typically set up for long-term goals and not short-term gains.  If you are feeling very anxious about your current investments or portfolio, it’s important to talk to your financial advisor before making any drastic decisions. Instead of focusing on the overall market and other aspects of the economy we cannot control, it might be more beneficial to focus on your own personal budget and household finances. 

Review Your Emergency Savings Fund

An emergency fund is money set aside to help in the face of unexpected circumstances, such as an accident, loss of income, or a home repair. These savings can assist in both small and large unplanned expenses that come up and are not part of your usual bills and spending.1

Even when not dealing with a global pandemic, it’s a good idea to make sure you have adequate savings or an emergency fund if you don’t already have one. Since we are currently living through a situation that has the capacity to affect every individual’s health or job status, making sure you and your family have enough in case of an emergency is one way to stay proactive and prepared.

Be Aware of Scams

Unfortunately, during a crisis such as this, we also see an increase in scams that capitalize on the fears of the vulnerable. It is important to be aware of the various scams that are prevalent during this pandemic. 

  • Scam #1: Emails Offering Information About COVID-19 

Make sure to keep your eye out for emails that claim to have information about the coronavirus pandemic – especially if they’re offering this information in exchange for personal information. This is an easy way for scammers to lure someone in, since most people are isolated at home and worried about the pandemic. 

  • Scam #2: Suspicious Links

If you receive an email from a friend or business with a link or attachment that is unexpected or out of the norm, consider contacting the sender before opening the link. If the link is from a scammer, the link could download a virus or malware onto your computer or device. 

Key signs of a suspicious email may include:

  1. Poor grammar and misspellings
  2. Lack of specific information (your name, account info, etc.)
  3. The messaging has a sense of urgency
  4. Sender’s address is different than usual
  • Scam #3: Phone Calls & Texts

Even though you may be more inclined to answer all incoming texts or calls during these times, be cautious of what calls and texts you’re responding to. Do not respond to calls or texts from unknown numbers or those coming from suspicious country or area codes. If you do answer the phone and it’s a robocall, do not press any numbers or say anything into the receiver.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), scammers are using this opportunity to offer fake items over the phone including:

  1. Medicine to cure coronavirus
  2. Work-from-home opportunities
  3. At-home test kits
  4. Vaccinations2   

When it comes to scams relating to the current pandemic, you should treat every “quick fix” opportunity as something that’s too good to be true. As of early April, the FDA has not approved at-home test kits, and a vaccine, cure or preventative drug has not been put on the market.2 Scammers may also try to advertise that they’re selling in-demand items such as cleaning products, toilet paper or masks – be sure to take caution if it’s not from an authorized seller or place of business you’ve frequented prior to this time.

  • Scam #4: Stimulus Checks

With the recent passing of legislation in multiple countries, many people have become eligible to receive financial assistance in the form of checks or rebates and with . With some people eager for their money, they may be less likely to question potential texts, emails or phone calls about government assistance. Remember to use the same caution you would with any other email, phone call or text when it comes to receiving any type of communications regarding government money.  

During this time of heightened fear, anxiety and vulnerability, it’s important to remain wary of any potential scams. Your personal and financial information are always at risk of getting into the wrong hands, so it is extremely important to educate and inform yourself in order to prevent falling victim to any of these dangerous scams.

Review Your Budget

Whether you’re reassessing your current budget or starting fresh, begin by breaking down where your money goes when it comes to housing, food, transportation, health, personal/family, financial and miscellaneous.  Even if your job status has not changed and your income remains steady, you should still review your monthly budget, cutting unnecessary costs and taking advantage of any extra money. The lack of restaurants, bars and stores to visit may mean you now have greater disposable income. If you find yourself with any extra money, you might consider increasing your retirement fund or 529 plan contributions or adding to your emergency savings. You might also decide to donate to those in need, such as food banks or groups supporting hospitals and health facilities, which could all use extra funds during the crisis.

Stay Informed Regarding Available Resources

In response to COVID-19 in the United State, the CARES Act was passed to help families and businesses affected by the pandemic. This bill includes extended unemployment benefits, healthcare aid and one-time stimulus checks for individuals with adjusted gross incomes up to $75,000 (single), $150,000 (joint), or $112,500 (heads of household).3 The tax filing deadline has been extended to July 15. 

As we continue to confront this global emergency, there are many things we can do to stay both physically healthy and financially prepared. To better understand your options and benefits, you should reach out to your workplace or a qualified professional.  If you have any other questions relating to your personal finances or concerns about your financial situation during the COVID-19 crisis, please contact us.  We are here for you and we are all in this together!

  1. https://www.consumerfinance.gov/start-small-save-up/an-essential-guide-to-building-an-emergency-fund/#anchor_what-is-an-emergency-fund
  2. https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/coronavirus-scams-what-ftc-doing
  3. https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/748/text

A Recent Survey Finds Americans Less Concerned About Paying Bills Since The Approval Of The Coronavirus Stimulus Plan

bills image

The recent stimulus plan enacted by Congress to help Americans impacted by the coronavirus may be providing a sense of relief to families facing a financial burden during these times.  A recent survey revealed that U.S. adults are somewhat less concerned about their ability to make payments following the passage of the $2.2 trillion economic relief package

Currently, personal health and the health of loved ones are much bigger concerns for most Americans than their financial circumstances.  However, there is still some concern about paying everyday bills, especially amongst Gen Xers (age 40 to 55) and millennials (age 24 to 39).  Baby boomers (those aged 56 to 74) have expressed the most concern about the value of their investments. Read below for more detailed survey information regarding the financial and emotional concerns facing Americans during this time.  

Paying everyday bills

Current level: 5.16/10 (Before the crisis: 5.14)

Average concern about paying everyday bills has almost declined to pre-pandemic levels compared to where it was two weeks prior. Now that a stimulus deal has been reached, anxiety centered on bill payments has dipped among all generations. However, Generation X was the only group of Americans whose concern to pay bills increased significantly since the outbreak began.  For those in lower income brackets that had been concerned about their ability to pay bills before the pandemic, those concerns actually lessened after the passage of the stimulus bill since they will now be receiving extra money to help pay those bills.

The value of investments

Current level: 5.97/10 (Before the crisis: 4.84)

The average level of concern about the value of investments like CDs, stock and retirement accounts has increased from before the start of the outbreak. Baby boomers have the highest concern about the value of their investments since they are the ones either close to retirement or already in retirement and relying on their investments to live. About 1 in 5 (20 percent) of the highest earners are also extremely concerned about what their investments are worth. The positive is that few investors with stock-related holdings have made adjustments in response to their fears. In order to avoid hurting your long-term goal to attain wealth, please make sure you check with your financial advisor before making any changes to your portfolio.

Job and income stability

Current level: 5.88/10 (Before the crisis: 5.35)

Concerns about job and income stability have increased slightly since before the outbreak started. Prior to the pandemic, the least-educated adults were most likely to express being extremely concerned about their job and income situation. However, now a higher amount of post-graduates (mainly millennials and Gen Xers) feel extremely concerned about their job security and income stability compared to the least-educated survey respondents. Members of Generation Z, who were actually most worried about their income and job situation before the coronavirus spread, are now among the least likely to express extreme concern.

Personal health

Current level: 6.51/10 (Before the crisis: 5.93)

For obvious reasons, Americans’ personal health has become a greater concern since the coronavirus outbreak.  However, there are fewer worried about their well-being now that the huge government stimulus package has been approved. Overall, concerns about personal well-being are consistently a bit higher for women than men. 

The health of loved ones

Current level: 7.59/10 (Before the crisis: 6.61)

Across the board, concerns about the health of loved ones trumps concerns about personal health and finances. There seems to be a higher concern for loved ones’ health among minorities, though that gap has narrowed some.  In addition, concern for the health of loved ones is slightly greater for low income families.

Control what you can about your finances

During the current crisis, those with major concerns about health and finance may feel as though little is in their control. But there are still plenty of ways to be proactive about managing money. Try to start by setting a budget and tracking how much money is coming in and what’s going out.  This is especially important if your financial situation has recently changed to some extent. You should be looking for ways to increase your emergency fund, trim expenses and pay off some debt if you are able to. Since most of us aren’t spending money on movies, events and dining out, it might be a good idea to put some of that “discretionary spending” into savings instead. 

It is also extremely important to protect yourself against other potential issues. Make sure you are properly insured (life, health and disability) and comparison shop if you’re spending more than you can afford on premiums. And if you haven’t added beneficiaries to your accounts, now is a good time to consider doing so.  You should also make sure your will and other estate documents have been updated should the need arise.  

At any point, if you are looking for guidance or advice on how to better your financial situation, please contact us.  We are here to help and we are all in this together!

How To Manage Your Mental Health During A Quarantine

Living through a pandemic has created some very trying times for all of us – not just financially, but also physically, mentally and emotionally. Even if you aren’t a healthcare professional or other essential worker on the front lines, it’s still difficult to cope with the dramatic change in lifestyle and stress we’re all experiencing. 

Remaining in quarantine for an extended amount of time is difficult. We all react differently to stressful situations, but there are things we can all do to remain mentally strong. Here are some helpful tips to better manage your mental health while social distancing at home.  

Tip #1: Take Breaks from the News and Social Media

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it’s important to take breaks from social media and the news.1

Even for those who want to stay informed, taking in too much information these days can be upsetting and stressful. Whether you are on social media, listening to the radio or watching the news, it’s hard to break your attention away from the current global crisis. It’s important to find a balance that allows you to stay informed without overwhelming yourself. Even if you typically check your social media accounts each morning, you may find yourself not wanting to be inundated with so much Covid-19 information first thing and might want to change up your daily routine a bit for the foreseeable future..

Tip #2: Remember to Exercise

As important as it is to stay on top of our physical health during this time, exercise can be just as important for our mental health. Whether it’s yoga, jogging or walking, riding your bike or hiking, participating in these physical activities allows you to take time for yourself and away from others and the news. Now that the weather is getting warmer, you may even be able to take your physical activity outdoors – just remember the social distancing rules while engaging in outdoor activities.

Tip #3: Practice Meditation

Even if you’ve never done it before, mediation is great way to practice self-care. Regular meditation can help anyone become more mindful and at ease. It can give you a sense of calm and physical relaxation, as well as improve your psychological balance and enhance your overall health and mental stability.2  

Tip #4: Make Sure You Are Connecting with Others

Even though we’re unable to physically be present with friends and family at the current time, it’s still possible to keep in touch with others virtually. You can set up a Skype, Zoom or Facetime meeting with your friends or catch up over the phone. You can also send good old-fashioned snail mail notes or cards to others. There are many ways you can connect and brighten someone’s day, because chances are your loved ones are feeling anxious as well. 

Tip #5: Try a New Hobby

With more time on your hands than ever, now is a great time to try something new. Whether it’s painting, knitting, photography or whatever else you’ve always had an interest in trying, it’s a great way to do something fun while clearing your head. If you are at home with children, you could also do age-appropriate crafts and activities as a whole family.  It’s also a perfect time to start a weekly family game night or start some 1000 piece family puzzles. 

Tip #6: Help Others

There are many ways to stay compliant with social distancing regulations and help others at the same time. Some ideas include: 

  • Offer to get groceries for at-risk neighbors and family members
  • Donate to local food banks 
  • Provide meals to local hospital workers
  • Make a monetary donation online

Helping others in this time of crisis not only helps the community around you, it also makes you feel good as well!

Tip #7: Get Plenty of Sleep

Sleep is a time to recharge your batteries, unwind from the day and prepare for tomorrow. Even if anxiety is keeping you up a night, getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep will help you to work better, feel better and stay healthy.

Tip #8: Eat a Balanced and Healthy Diet

Even though we are stuck inside more than usual, it isn’t an excuse to forego healthy eating habits. While it’s perfectly fine to enjoy some treats in moderation, make sure that you are still eating meals packed with protein, fruits and vegetables. Eating a healthy, balanced diet will help everyone in your household feel better both mentally and physically over the coming weeks. 

We hope that everyone stays healthy and safe while we are all doing our part to “flatten the curve” and ride out this pandemic. As we all endure the emotional and mental stress of the coming weeks, it’s comforting to know there are things we can do to support ourselves, our families and our communities during this time.  As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to email us or set up a time to talk.

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fprepare%2Fmanaging-stress-anxiety.html
  2. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation-in-depth
  3. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/sleep/sleep-needs-get-the-sleep-you-need.htm

 

What To Do If You Can’t Pay For College Next Year

student loans

For many families, the coronavirus pandemic has dramatically changed their financial circumstances. For those with children going to college in the fall, it has created even more of a financial burden and has left many wondering how they are going to pay for it.  Even those that will receive financial aid from the school may still owe more than they can now afford.  

More than 69% of parents and 55% of students entering college in the fall said the coronavirus has impacted their ability to pay for school.  With many non-essential businesses forced to close, not only are parents across the country suddenly facing extended furloughs or lay-offs, but many students have also lost the ability to work to help pay for school. 

If you find yourself in this situation and are unsure of how you will come up with the money to pay for college this coming fall, there are a few things you can do to potentially help with the financial burden.

TRY TO GET MORE FINANCIAL AID

Anyone in financial need should be reaching out to their college or university as soon as possible – time is of the essence.  Since most students filed the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid form) in the fall, their circumstances were likely much different back then.  Now families can amend their FAFSA form or ask the college financial aid office for a “professional judgement review.” If there are need-based issues beyond what was noted in the financial aid paperwork, such as increased health-related expenses or the loss of a job, those should be explained to the school and documented, if possible.  Death, illness and income loss are always grounds for revisit the FAFSA. The best way to make a request is to write an appeal letter to the school’s financial aid office.  

APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIPS

More than 8 in 10 families tap scholarships and grants to help cover costs since money that does not have to be paid back is considered the most desirable kind of assistance — and some of this funding is still available.

Even though it is somewhat late in the game, try to go after private scholarships and grants.  Students should look for local scholarships, particularly from organizations in their community, where the odds of getting an award are better than national competitions. Typically, there are thousands of scholarships offered by schools, employers, individuals, private companies, nonprofits, communities, religious groups, and professional and social organizations.  There are many ways to search for scholarships – you can check with your school’s financial aid office, your high school counseling office, or the U.S. Department of Labor’s  FREE scholarship search tool to name a few.  

RECONSIDER YOUR COLLEGE CHOICES

Due to increased financial concerns, students and families may be more likely to choose local and less-expensive public schools rather than private universities away from home.  After spending the first two years at a community college, you can transfer to a four-year, in-state public university and save a lot of money. At least 30 states have policies that guarantee that students with an associate degree can then transfer to a four-year school as a junior.

These are uncertain times for all of us and the financial burden of paying for college is weighing on many minds during this pandemic.  Even though there is no guarantee you’ll be granted more financial aid or scholarships if you apply, they are two good options if you are trying to figure out how to afford tuition in the fall.  Many schools are also pushing back their decision deadline from May 1 to June 1 to give families a little breathing room to make their choice.

Remember, you are not alone in this and many families are going through the same struggles right now.  If you are a currently enrolled college student and are looking for more detailed information about the impact of Covid-19 on your student loans, the Federal Student Aid website is a great resource.  In addition, if you need any help at all trying to figure out how you are going to pay for college in the fall, or if you have other financial questions, please call us – we are happy to help!

Staying At Home Could Save You Money

no traffic

As the coronavirus pandemic has emptied out U.S. streets while Americans stay home, there are less drivers on the road.  Less driving means fewer car crashes and fewer car crashes means big savings for auto insurers. Two car insurers in the U.S., Allstate and American Family Mutual, have decided to pass those savings along to their customers.  

Allstate, the country’s fourth biggest car insurer, said it would give back $600 million in total to customers and American Family Mutual is planning to refund $200 million.  Both insurers have seen a huge drop in accidents as more and more people stay at home and off the roads. Compared with last year, claims were down 20% to 40% weekly from March 11 through April 3. In addition, the insurers estimate that policyholders drove 40% fewer miles in the last three weeks of March. With millions of households financially strapped during the lockdown, the refunds come at a good time for many.

Allstate will pay customers back in two ways – drivers in quarantine will receive refunds while most customers will be given a 15% discount on monthly premiums for April & May.  American Family is returning $50 per insured vehicle. Many insurers are extending payment plans and waiving late fees as ways to help customers through the tough times and Allstate said it also is providing its identity-theft product free for the rest of the year “to all Americans.”

The refunds of these two companies could put pressure on other insurers to also follow suit due to the decrease in driving.  Some other insurers, while not yet offering across-the-board pandemic rebates, can adjust premiums on a case-by-case basis for drivers who are suddenly not driving.  

With the amount of commuters now working from home, quieter roads lead to fewer accidents and therefore, fewer claims. Since the auto-insurance industry is a rare bright spot while many other industries flounder right now, it’s nice to see them passing some of their savings along to their customers.  For those stuck at home and struggling financially, these refunds are sure to help. However, if you have essential work that keeps you on the road, stay safe out there!