What Businesses Can Expect From the Phase 4 Stimulus Package

Congress is set to begin negotiations on the next round of stimulus. For business owners, new measures could bring more tax relief, renewed access to forgivable loans, and more.

With prior stimulus measures set to expire in the next few weeks and the economy continuing to falter as the pandemic resurges across the country, Congress will meet this week and next to hammer out a new relief measure. 

The House already passed its Phase 4 bill, known as the Heroes Act, in May. The $3.5 trillion coronavirus relief bill would provide assistance to state and local governments, extend enhanced unemployment benefits, and offer additional economic impact payments to taxpayers, among other things. The bill has been up for review since the end of May, though Senate Republicans, who prefer a measure with a far lower price tag, have been loath to consider it. They’re expected to introduce their own version of a relief bill this week that will have to be reviewed and negotiated between the two chambers before theyrecess in early August.

Several economic proposals that will affect small and midsize businesses have been building consensus among lawmakers for weeks, so the final version of the Senate bill could contain elements of all of them.

Here are six things you likely can expect from the Phase 4 bill.

1. The PPP will go on, but in a different form.

The Paycheck Protection Program, the $669 billion forgivable loan program aimed at beleaguered small businesses, will continue, predicts Neil Bradley, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s executive vice president and chief policy officer. At the very least, he says, there will be a continuation of the program, which was recently extended through August 8.

It’s also possible the PPP will become more targeted. Testifying at a House Small Business Committee hearing Friday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin expressed interest in “topping off” the approximately $130 billion in remaining funds and extending the program. But he noted that it would need to be focused on certain industries like hotels and restaurants that can demonstrate actual losses, resulting from the pandemic. “This time we need to do a revenue test,” he said. 

A proposal that has been gaining ground with lawmakers, dubbed the Prioritized Paycheck Protection Program Act, or P4, offers to extend the PPP and open it up to companies that already received PPP loans (excepting for publicly traded companies), as long as they can show financial losses as a result of the pandemic.

There’s been widening support for streamlining the PPP forgiveness process, too. While certain loans are now eligible for the EZ loan forgiveness application, there’s greater interest in easing things further for smaller businesses by automatically forgiving all PPP loans under $150,000 or $250,000. On that note, Mnuchin at Friday’s Small Business Committee meeting confirmed interest in blanket forgiveness. “Yes, that’s something we should consider,” he told lawmakers.

2. Local communities will get a boost.

The next iteration of relief funding likely also will focus on companies in low-income and rural areas, as well as minority-owned businesses, which experienced difficulty accessing the PPP. Bradley notes that the Recharge and Empower Local Innovation and Entrepreneurs Fund (RELIEF) for Main Street Actwould earmark $50 billion for cities, counties, and states to support small business local relief funds. One of the key flaws of the PPP is that it failed to reach the smallest businesses and minority-owned companies that often did not have traditional banking relationships prior to the pandemic. As this program would be run through local institutions–and not banks–the effort is seen as potentially better suited to reach these businesses. While the U.S. Treasury would operate the program, as written in the bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate in mid-May, banks would not be involved.

Funding for block grants, operated by states and local governments, could also get replenished. The Cares Act initially provided $150 billion in federal aid to state and local governments across the country, some of which went toward grant funding for local business. 

3. More tax relief is on the way.

Currently, PPP funds don’t count as taxable income, but an Internal Revenue Service ruling prevented businesses from being able to deduct traditional business expenses paid for by those funds if forgiven. That may change soon. A bill that would allow the deduction with some guardrails, called the Small Business Expense Protection Act, was introduced in the Senate in early May.

The Phase 4 bill also is expected to bolster and expand access the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC), says Bradley. Currently, companies that have tapped the PPP can’t access the ERTC, which was enacted as part of the Cares Act to incentivize businesses hurt by the Covid-19 pandemic to retain employees. As part of a proposal, dubbed the Jumpstarting Our Businesses’ Success Credit (or JOBS Credit) Act, which was introduced in May, the refundable tax credit–now equal to 50 percent of up to $10,000 in qualified quarterly wages–would increase to 80 percent of up to $15,000 in wages each quarter for up to three quarters. Bradley adds that there’s also potential for the ERTC to expand eligible expenses to include a limited amount of fixed costs.

4. Stimulus checks will be back but they may be less generous.

The Heroes Act passed by the House supports another round of stimulus checks that the Cares Act authorized in March for millions of taxpayers: individuals earning under $75,000 would get $1,200, while married couples with less than $150,000 in adjusted gross income would get $2,400. The bill also would provide an additional $1,200 for up to three dependents, regardless of age. 

Senate Republicans are likely to take a more conservative approach to the payments. Last week, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said the next round of stimulus checks may be less than $1,200, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in early July stated the next round of stimulus checks may be limited to those with incomes of around $40,000.

5. Enhanced unemployment benefits will continue, but get a haircut.

The Cares Act’s enhanced unemployment insurance, which offered an additional $600 per week on top of existing state benefits, is set to expire at the end of July. Many employers found the measure complicated the task of rehiring employees, who were suddenly earning more on unemployment than at their former jobs.

To avoid that issue–but also ensure laid off or furloughed workers have support–Bradley says that lawmakers are considering more targeted subsidies that would vary the amount offered on a federal level to better coordinate with what’s available at the state level. So between the variable federal supplement and those provided by each respective state, unemployment benefits would replace 80 to 90 percent of a worker’s former wages, up to a maximum federal benefit of an additional $400 per week.

The enhanced benefits also may come with a hiring bonus. The Paycheck Recovery Act, proposed in mid-May, offers low-wage workers–those earning less than $40,100 annually–a $1,500 rehiring bonus upon returning to work.

6. Businesses will receive greater liability protections.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made no secret of his desire to see greater liability protections for employers. The details of his approach are still unclear, though Bradley says it’s likely that the Phase 4 bill will allow for some form of safe harbor for companies that make good-faith efforts to follow public-health guidelines.

This article was written by Diana Ransom for Inc.com

How To Avoid Knee Jerk Reactions to Financial Events

As part of our Life-Centered Planning process, we’ve talked about how market volatility is a normal part of investing. We’ve also discussed how we’ve structured your investments to “weather the storm” and maintain a comfortable level of income for you and your family during turbulent times so you can avoid knee jerk reactions.

But we also understand that even folks who are armed with this knowledge can get nervous during a market dip. What’s important is that you know how to prevent that initial wave of negativity from leading you to rash decisions that could damage your nest egg much worse than a market correction.

Dr. Martin Seay is a specialist in positive psychology, which focuses on strategies that people can use to improve their sense of well-being. Dr. Seay’s ABCDE method can help you work through your reactions to distressing financial news and arrive at a positive outcome.

Let’s walk through an example of how to use this method to avoid making a bad, emotion-based financial decision.

A. Activating Event


Sometimes stress and anxiety can feel all-encompassing. Dr. Seay believes it’s important that we pinpoint the event that triggered our negative feelings.

So, while you might feel general anxiety about your finances, drill down a little deeper. Is your job secure? OK. Are you saving and investing according to your financial plan? Good.

Did you just read on social media that today’s market correction was “THE BIGGEST ONE-DAY DROP IN HISTORY!”

Ahh, there it is. Let’s move on to the next step.

B. Belief

Market volatility can rouse some of our worst instincts about investing. We might fall back on long-buried Beliefs like, “This game is rigged!” We might feel like we’ve entrusted our financial future to powers beyond our control.

As you work through this step, it’s important to ask yourself where your Beliefs come from. Have you been unsettled by widespread media coverage of major financial problems, like the 2008-2009 housing crisis? Have you had negative interactions with the finance industry in the past? Perhaps one of your parents distrusted the markets or made a poor investment that had a negative impact on your family.

Figuring out why you believe what you believe about the markets can help alert you before you fall back into bad financial habits.

C. Consequences

Panicked investors who can’t shake negative Beliefs about the markets often make poor decisions during downturns. They think they need to “get out fast” to avoid more negative Consequences, like further losses.

Ironically, cashing out your investments during a market correction usually leads to far more serious Consequences in the long run.

So how can you stay focused on the big picture?

D. Disputation

Start by using what you know to push back a little against what you Believe.

For example, we’ve discussed in our meetings that the historical, long-term trajectory of the financial markets has been to rise over time. And now, market averages such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average are near all-time highs. Therefore, when the market does have a temporary drop, we might say, “The Dow was down x hundreds of points today.” It sounds like a big number, but as a percentage, it may just be normal volatility.

We’ve also discussed that “market timing” strategies usually just don’t work. That’s why your portfolio is diversified, balanced, and strategically rebalanced as necessary. Decades of market history have shown that sticking to this type of investment strategy may be more effective – and stable – than trying to jump in and out of the market based on what’s happening in the news right now.

Today’s losses are really just a kind of “tax” that you’re paying on the wealth we’re helping you build for tomorrow.

E. Energized

It’s amazing how just reminding ourselves of what we know to be true can make us feel better about a negative situation. Hopefully at the end of this process, you feel a renewed sense of positivity about this present moment and your financial future.

But we understand that market volatility can be complicated. And as you’re nearing retirement, a downturn can be downright nerve-wracking.

So if you need help walking through your ABCDEs the next time the market corrects, make an appointment to meet with us. We’ll run through the important facts you need to know and decide what moves, if any, we need to make to keep you on track with your financial plan and avoid those costly knee jerk reactions.

Putting the economy back together again: What the future holds for Americans

A stylist wearing a protective mask cuts a customer’s hair at a barbershop in Atlanta, Georgia, on Monday, April 27, 2020.
Dustin Chambers | Bloomberg via Getty Images

When the coronavirus crisis, or at least the worst of it, passes, the U.S. economy will still be big — the biggest in the world, with any threat to be overtaken likely put at bay for many years.

But in other ways, things will feel smaller, much smaller in fact. 

Growth rates will be lower. Big crowds will be few. Profit margins will be tighter.

Life will continue in many regards, but nothing will be the same, not for a long time. Much of what will become routine daily life will go against instinct. Society will reach for ways to continue churning forward. But that will come with a mind not to repeat the trauma wrought by seven weeks of social distancing that has separated this connected world in ways that few ever thought possible.

“There will be lower densities of people everywhere,” said Nick Colas, a Wall Street veteran and co-founder of DataTrek Research. “That affects restaurants and bars and sports and everything.”

The size of the world and the magnitude of the task will be important as policymakers try to piece together a broken economy. Layoffs have soared as thriving businesses have been shuttered indefinitely. Manufacturing is in a steep recession, retail and restaurants could take years to get back to normal, and governments will be hamstrung in trying to provide basic services.

As the world indeed is apt to feel smaller, it will require big ideas to get the U.S. moving again.

‘We’re social animals’

While formulating investment strategies and market analysis, Colas spends a lot of time studying sociological trends — how behavioral patterns impact what we do with our money and how we view our lives. One day he might be writing about thought exercises using game theory, the next examining, as he did in a recent daily note, how long specifically it takes people to develop new habits — 66 days, it seems, a number useful when considering the current lockdown.

Looking at the present social distancing situation, Colas figures on some key trends developing. 

He expects a faster return to domestic travel than might be apparent. Restaurants and retail will grapple with a host of challenges, like how to arrange seating and what happens in clothing stores when customers want to try on something. Sports will continue, but with fans mostly watching from home.

All of it will come against a backdrop that will force people to keep a safe space from each other, something profoundly counterintuitive to a culture ingrained with hugs, handshakes and kisses.

“It’s very hard, because it goes against the most fundamental human need of social contact. We’re social animals,” Colas said. “This current phase already has been hard on people, particularly in areas like New York where a lot of single people live alone. They’re going to want to have contact. That’s human nature, that’s the human spirit. It’s going to be hard to tamp that down without mental health disruptions.”

Baby steps

Regions of the country are taking the first steps, albeit gingerly, back to normalization.

New York is reopening parts of the state, while Mississippi also has loosened restrictions. Idaho is transitioning into the first phase of relaxing its stay-at-home order. Arizona and Nevada have extended their directives to May 15 but relaxed some rules. You can now play golf in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, but most of the Keystone State remains closed. Some resorts around the country are taking reservations for June.

Reopened areas will serve as fishbowls for others looking to relax restrictions. More than that, they will provide a window into how quickly the $21.5 trillion U.S. economy can get back on its feet.

Gross domestic product contracted 4.8% in the first quarter of 2020, the worst decline since the Great Recession, and more than 30 million people have filed unemployment claims, making the progress toward normalization all the more important — and urgent.

“The issue’s going to be, can you get people feeling like the new normal feels like the old normal?” Colas said. “It should end up feeling a whole lot better, because some of your normal life is back. You can at least hang out with your friends in the backyard while maintaining social distance. But at least people are coming over again.”

How that translates into economic activity, though, remains uncertain.

The shape of the future

Economists have been pondering the shape of the recovery: Will it be a U? V? W? Check mark? Square root? Nike swoosh?

No one seems to know, though the immediate expectations are that after the first-quarter slip the second quarter will post a number worse than anything the U.S. has seen before. In fact, the GDP number may be so bad — something on the order of a 20% collapse or even worse — and the unemployment rate peak — anything from 15% to 30% seems perfectly likely — as to become meaningless. 

What will matter more is the path forward.

Most economists expect a considerable rebound after the second quarter. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said he sees “a fairly large increase given the size of the fall,” thought “it’s unlikely it would be bring us quickly back to pre-crisis level. ”

That’s all theory, though. As a practical matter, the country just has to get moving again.

“The point estimate of GDP right now is not really that valuable,” said Marin Gjaja, a partner with Boston Consulting Group, which is helping businesses come up with strategies for reopening and how to conduct business in an altered landscape.

“The variation by sector is enormous,” he added. “You’ve already seen what this has done to airlines, cruise ships, amusement parks, concert venues, amusement parks, any place where there are large amounts of people involved. They’re trying to figure out how they can come back, what they can do to change their business in order to survive.”

Gjaja also sees a landscape dominated by smaller social gatherings. 

At a business level, that means shopping and eating closer to home. That benefits small retailers and locally focused restaurants but still leaves into question community-based businesses like barber shops and movie theaters. 

“We’ve never seen a recession impact that looked like this with this degree of volatility in terms of impact by sector and geography,” Gjaja said. “The degree of variability is really unique. We’re going to have to figure out a way to navigate through that.”

Boston Consulting released a report called “COVID-19: Win the Fight, Win the Future” that outlines what businesses need to do. 

Gjaja stressed that different locales will have different needs. New York won’t be the same as Montana which won’t be the same as Michigan. Certain general rules, though, will apply.

Among the contingencies businesses need to take into account before opening are safety for employees and customers, preparation for additional shutdowns, and health monitoring for workers once they do return, he said.

Traveling forward

For the travel industry, such questions are paramount.

The World Travel and Tourism Council, which represents the industry perhaps most impacted by the coronavirus lockdown, is advocating for a global set of rules to follow in airports, hotels and on planes.

“These must provide the reassurance travelers and authorities need, using new technology, to offer hassle-free, pre-vaccine ‘new normal’ travel in the short term,” said Gloria Guevara, the council’s president and CEO.

Guevara sees the liftoff in travel starting with something approaching “staycations” with trips near home, but then being led by younger people who can take advantage of lower fares to move about the country. 

According to the WTTC, some of the changes travelers are likely to see at hotels will include digital check-ins, hand sanitizers in plentiful supply and contactless payments rather than cash. Cruise line workers will wear gloves and the ships themselves will be cleaned more frequently. At airports, flyers will be tested when boarding and exiting, and likely will have to wear masks while on board.

Companies that fail to follow safety guidelines may have to pay a steep price just in terms of business lost.

A survey from Vital Vio, a New York-based biotech company, found that 51% of people won’t do business with companies that don’t show a commitment to being sanitary, while 76% said they will “hold brands accountable” that don’t invest in cleaning up their spaces.

Respondents also said they are willing to pay more for cleaner and safer travel as well as activities like dining out and going to the gym.

All of the measures will combine to tell what kind of a recovery the U.S. has after what could well be the worst downturn in its history.

Who will be first?

Analyzing companies on how safe they are to reopen based on potential to spread the disease, Goldman Sachs said the first sectors will be manufacturing, professional services and agriculture. The riskiest industries, and thus the last ones likely to come back online, are health care, education, retail, arts and entertainment and the accommodation and food service industries.

The firm’s economists compared the U.S. open to what’s happening in Sweden, where social distancing practices were widely used through the country did not shut down at a level comparable to the U.S., and China, because it is well ahead of the U.S. on the recovery timeline. 

“We believe that the level of economic activity in the US will get better rather than worse over the remainder of the year for several reasons,” Goldman’s economists wrote. “Partial relaxation of shutdown orders will allow some businesses to reopen, people will learn to adapt in ways that minimize the economic costs of social distancing, wider antibody testing should allow those who are hopefully immune to resume normal activity, and improvements in treatment should reduce fear and raise willingness to be around others. In addition, fiscal stimulus should largely short-circuit the usual second-round effects of income losses.”

They found, however, that China’s pace is “too optimistic” for the U.S. while Sweden offers some hope though the country is still using fairly strict social distancing measures. In China, commerce has largely come back, but traffic studies show that consumers are driving to work during the week but not going out on the weekends, indicating that a significant level of fear remains.

How well the U.S. comes back ultimately will come down to a lot of factors, but feeling safe is likely to be paramount.

“It’s not just what the numbers say. A lot is going to come down to how it feels, how much of people’s normal lives they can reclaim,” DataTrek’s Colas said. “As we restore some normalcy, it will feel a lot better.”

This article was written by Jeff Cox for CNBC.com.

What is a Stock Market Correction? And a few other facts you need to know.

stock market correction is coming, will you be prepared?

What is a stock market correction? And a few other facts you need to know

It’s been a crazy few days on Wall Street.

 

On Tuesday, the Dow plunged 567 points at the opening bell and briefly sank into correction territory before roaring back. On Monday, the Dow took its biggest single day point plunge in history.

Here’s what you need to know about what’s going on in the stock market.

What is a stock market correction?

A correction is a 10% decline in stocks from a recent high. In this case, that was less than two weeks ago, when the Dow closed at a record high of 26,616. A correction is less severe than a bear market, when stocks decline 20% from their recent highs. The stock market’s last correction began in the summer of 2015 and ended in February 2016.

Why is this happening?

The most immediate reason is a fear of inflation.

 

Last Friday’s jobs report was strong. Wages are rising, and unemployment is historically low. That’s great news for Main Street. But on Wall Street, it raises fears that inflation will finally pick up, and that the Federal Reserve will have to raise interest rates faster to fight it.

How are global markets reacting?

Overnight, world markets followed the United States’ lead and dropped. The Nikkei in Japan closed down 4.7%, China’s main stock index closed down 3.3%, and Australia’s closed down 3.2%. European markets were lower, but not as much as Asia. Stocks were down about 2% in Britain, Germany and France.

What does this mean for the rally?

From Election Day to the record high on January 26, the Dow climbed more than 8,000 points — a remarkable 45%. Many factors were behind the rapid rise: The ever-improving economy and job market, business optimism, record corporate profits, and the big business tax cut, which Republicans made law. The losses in the market since the beginning of last week wiped out about a quarter of that gain. The Dow began Tuesday up about 6,000 points since the election.

Is this the worst decline ever?

No.

Monday’s decline of 1,175 points on the Dow was, by far, the biggest point decline in history. The Dow had never lost more than 777 points in a single day. But in percentage terms, the declines of Friday and Monday are nowhere near the worst. On Black Monday in 1987, the Dow dropped an incredible 22%. That’s the equivalent of a 5,300-point decline today. And on several days during the financial crisis in 2008, the Dow dropped 6% or 7%. Monday’s decline was 4.6%. That was the worst for the Dow since August 2011.

 

Does all of this mean we’re entering a recession?

Stock market declines don’t cause recessions, and they do a pretty poor job of predicting whether one is coming. So while the market plunge might rattle investors and ding consumer confidence, it is not a sign that the economy is in trouble. Unemployment is at a 17-year low. Average hourly wages went up last month the most in eight years. Consumer and business confidence are near record levels. Economists say it would take a much bigger stock market move than Monday’s plunge to change that.

For more information visit us at Heritage Financial Advisory Group and check out the latest episode of The #AskTheAdvisor Show.

Stock Market Sell-Off: Heartburn, Not A Heart Attack

The 2018 Personal Finance Roadmap

a map depicting a personal financial roadmap to lead an investor to success

The 2018 Personal Finance Roadmap

By Mike Desepoli, Heritage

Ah Spring time. Warm weather and longer days.

People also tend to be more motivated in the Spring to organize, clean, and go through their stuff.

While it’s always good to get rid of old stuff and clean your house or apartment, I think it’s also a perfect time to leverage your motivation to give your personal finances a good deep cleaning as well.

Regularly checking up on your finances is important. There are many things you can do to improve your personal finances. However, a majority of them are really easy to put on the back-burner. Trust me – “buy life insurance” was on my to do list for two years before I finally got around to it.

Carve out some time this Spring to go through this spring cleaning personal finance checklist. It will help you start doing some things you’ve been meaning to do, as well as give you a check-up on certain things you are already doing to ensure you are still in a good spot.

Check your Net Worth

Checking your net worth can be a painful experience, especially for those who are in student loan or other debt. Even if you fall in this group, though, it’s still better to know where you stand than to be ignorant of your situation.

I have said in the past that for a large majority of people, especially millennials, it’s more important to focus on income than net worth. That’s exactly why it took me so long to get around to utilizing online platforms to track my finances. But once I did it felt good to know exactly where I stand at any point in time.

Review your Budget or Start Budgeting

One of the things I stress in personal finance lunch and learns or coaching sessions is to not only budget, but to regularly review your budget.
If you haven’t started a budget yet, that’s the first thing you should do. Budgeting can be as hands-on or hands-off as you want. Some people hold themselves to a specific spending threshold while others (myself included) just track the monthly trend and make sure they aren’t spending too much on things they don’t care about.

If you already budget, take some time to review your monthly spending. Ask yourself these questions:

• Is my spending in alignment with my values?
• Are there areas I can cut back spending on (i.e. restaurants, cable, cell phone, entertainment)?
• Is my current spending habits allowing me to pay down debt or prohibiting me from paying down or incurring more debt?
• What changes can I make to create more cash flow?

Review your Debt

While Personal Capital does a good job of pulling in your debt, I think it can be valuable to lay out all your debt in a spreadsheet as well.
When I’m looking at my debt I focus on a couple things: what type of debt it is and what the interest rate is?

There are different strategies you can use depending on the type of debt, but the first goal should always be to get a lower interest rate. If you have high interest credit card debt it can make a lot of sense to refinance it through a personal loan. It it’s student loan debt there is also opportunities to refinance at a lower rate.

Debt can be overwhelming, and I always encourage people to be action-oriented with their debt. Sometimes no action is needed, for example if you have it on auto-payment and it will be done at a specific date in the future (assuming you are happy with the interest rate). Others may want to be more proactive, such as refinancing, increasing their income through their 9-5 or a side hustle, or cutting expenses to pay it off faster.
Analyze your Income

It’s easy to get comfortable in a job and lose a pulse on whether or not you are getting paid fairly. Take some time to review your 9-5 income and give your resume a refresh. Some specific things you can do include:

• Review and compare salary data on sites like glassdoor
• Review job listings on an app like indeed to see what sort of skills employers are looking for
• Update your LinkedIn Profile
• Update Your Resume

Perhaps you are happy with where you are at with your 9-5 and the prospect of switching employers – even if it meant a higher pay – isn’t attractive. Or perhaps you are already maxed out at your 9-5 but still want to increase your income.

Check your Emergency Fund

Now you probably don’t need to check your emergency fund. If you have one, you likely know how much it is. If you don’t have one, you also know how much you have.

But when I say check your emergency fund I want you to actually think about whether or not your emergency fund is sufficient. How many months could you live off of it? If your answer was less than three months, it’s time to make building your emergency fund a priority. If you really want to challenge yourself make a plan of hitting somewhere in the six to twelve month range.

Now, if you don’t have an emergency fund then it’s time to get one. I will be the first to admit that building an emergency fund is not easy, especially when you have debt and other things that you want to put your income towards. But I can also tell you that it’s one of the best things you can do for your peace of mind.

Start by setting a realistic goal like saving $100. Then challenge yourself to increase that to $500, and so on. Eventually you will want to have the equivalent of three or more months of monthly expenses set aside. The important thing is to get started.

Review your Retirement & Health Savings Account

Another thing you should review is your retirement and Health Savings Account. A few things to check are:

• Are you contributing up to your company match for your 401k?
• Whether you have a company match or not, how much money are you actually putting into your 401k and/or IRA?
Are you able to contribute more?
• What investments do you haven in your 401k and/or IRA? Do you need to re-balance it?

I’m all about the “set it and forget it” approach to investing, especially when it comes to retirement accounts, but it is important to check up on them every once in a while, even if it’s just once a year.

Review your Insurance

The last thing on the Spring Cleaning Personal Finance Checklist is review your insurance. Insurance isn’t the most exciting thing in the world, but it serves an important function and can protect you from expensive, unexpected bills – or even bankruptcy.

Take an inventory of your current insurance coverage. How much do you pay in premiums? What are you actually getting in return? Is your coverage adequate?

Many times people don’t realize how much they are paying for insurance because it’s baked into their paycheck, mortgage payment, or is on auto-pay. Understanding the true cost of your insurance is important, if not just to have it as a reference point.

Insurance isn’t all about cost. You can oftentimes get cheaper insurance, but if the coverage is bare-bones you are going to regret it if something big happens. One of my former manager’s house burnt down right after he switched to a cheaper home insurance company. They ended up being very difficult to deal with and caused much more hassle than a different company likely would have. That’s not always the case, but I think it’s important to balance cost with quality of coverage.

Besides reviewing your current coverage it might make sense to add some additional coverage as well. Up until a little over a year ago I did not have any life insurance, but I decided to open a million dollar policy at age 27. There’s are many reasons to consider life insurance. In general, if others depend on your income and would be impacted if it were to go away, you should look into getting life insurance.

For more info on this topic checkout: (VIDEO) #AskTheAdvisor 55: The 2018 Personal Finance Roadmap

Did Someone Say Tax Cuts?

the word tax on a cutting board being chopped in half by a big knife to depict a tax cut

Another day in the markets and this week all eyes are focused on the President’s renewed push for tax reform and a reduction of tax rates. Trump kicked off his tax plan push in the heartland, speaking at a scheduled event in Missouri. Tax reform has been one of the major campaign promises for the Trump administration, and the need to pass it is even more important now with the failure of healthcare reform still in the rearview. The concept of cutting taxes is very much welcomed across the board, and should receive bi partisan support in congress. There is no argument against putting more money in the pockets of the American people, as this additional disposable income will surely create economic growth through spending, investment, and business creation. Additionally, a corporate tax cut will bring America more in line with our global counterparts and finally level the playing field that has been so slanted against our favor for almost 30 years. This won’t be easy, there is no doubt about that. Democrats will bemoan this plan as a hand out to the rich, but anyone that’s ever taken a basic economics course understands that to stimulate growth you need to cut taxes for ALL Americans, not just some. Some assets classes will benefit more than others from tax reform….which ones you ask? You will have to keep following along in our blog to find out!

-MD

The Stock Market Doesn’t Care About Political Gridlock

a cartoon depiction of the GOP party and democratic party facing off in a boxing match

With partisan politics taking over Washington DC and political gridlock at an all time high, many market pundits wonder what effect all this will have on the financial markets. In my humble opinion, the stock market couldn’t care less at this point. Political gridlock is nothing new to the nations capital. In fact, politicians actually getting something done is way more rare that partisan bickering. My position is simple, the markets are used to nothing getting done and will continue to march forward as the single greatest wealth generator in the world. Political bickering likely means no significant changes will come about, which spells a continuation of easy money policies are low interest rates…..all of which the stock market loves. Don’t get me wrong, the market is pricing in a favorable chance of tax cuts….so things could get choppy if those dreams are dashed…..but after a brief sell off the market would get itself back on track……like it always does.

Moral of the story……turn off the news, the fear they are driving about politics is costing you money.

-MD