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Cinco de Mayo: Marketing and Meaning

Photo by Heather Ford on Unsplash

Today is Cinco de Mayo and this holiday is an opportunity to look at marketing versus meaning.  Before the COVID-19 crisis people were especially looking forward to this year’s Cinco de Mayo because it also fell on the day of the week people like to call Taco Tuesday. Even with the need for social distancing, some people may still celebrate the day with tacos and other southwestern food and drink.

Yahoo! Finance observes, “ The 5th of May is a commemoration of the Mexican’s army improbable victory over the French army at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. The win was an unlikely one due to the fact that the French army was considered to be the strongest army in the world at the time…”

Contrary to what some people believe, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s independence day and the holiday has significance for all of the Americas since it was the last time a European army invaded this continent.

Americans are happy to spend money and celebrate whether they know the history behind a holiday or not. Many marketing campaigns use your feelings to convince you to spend money.  Forbes recently published, “Every COVID-19 Commercial is Exactly The Same,” not to be overly critical of the creative teams behind these ads but to get them to avoid repetition.

We hope that you will think more critically about the products and services you buy, particularly if you are facing financial uncertainty. Do your research to find the meaning behind the marketing: some companies are more interested in your financial independence than others.

Members of the financial services sector are also getting the word out about how they can help you weather the current economic storm. A Fee-Only financial planner can offer unbiased advice without commission-related conflicts of interest.

Tips to Protect Your Retirement Savings Amid the COVID-19 Crisis

In “5 Strategies for Retirement Immunity  Despite the Coronavirus Crisis,” on Kiplinger.com, Evan T. Beach, CFP, AWMA offers tips for keep yourself on track.

Save Cash—If you are still working you can work on growing your rainy-day fund. While many people have already lost their jobs, many more may still find they are without employment  in the months to come as companies look for ways to cut costs even further. If you are fortunate enough to remain employed don’t rest on your laurels: increase your savings.

Consider a Roth Conversion—The article asks and answers. “Why would a global pandemic and the ensuing bear market make Roth conversions any more attractive? Because you pay taxes on the converted amount.” If your IRA has lost value with the current global financial upheaval, you will be pay less in taxes on the conversion. Then you can have time to recover the amount lost.

Sell Profitable Investments—It you are looking to your investments to cover expenses, the article suggests, “You should be selling the things that are doing well and allowing the things that aren’t some time to rebound.”

Early in the Kiplinger article, Beach writes that anyone who is within five years of retirement needs “…a written (even if digital) plan that shows how much you’ll have and where it will come from. The plan also must account for taxes and inflation.”

However, while some people can write a plan, they are finding themselves in a very tough spot right now and Beach also suggests they-

Think about Refinancing—If you are still employed but worried how long that will last, you can refinance while you still get a paycheck to lower your monthly expenses.

Meanwhile in “Should you with draw money from your retirement plan?,” Washington Post columnist Michelle Singletary tells people they should only withdraw retirement money as a last resort.

The Coronavirus Pandemic Has Made Some Women Even More Economically Vulnerable

We’ve discussed the gender pay gap and women’s overall economic vulnerability and all that was before we all had to meet the challenges of a worldwide pandemic. Many people have lost work due to the shuttering of the economy and according to CNBC, “Women May Take an Extra Hit from the Coronavirus Pandemic” because women “…are less able to weather that job loss without real harm because they are typically paid less than men in the same occupation.” And women who do find ways to get hired (either now or after orders to shelter in place are lifted) may find that they are going to be asked to work for less compensation than before.

What might this mean? Some women may be able to do the same kinds of work they’ve done in the past, even if they are paid less. Others may need to pivot in to other kinds of work.

It means our spending habits may need to change. Some people, in anticipation of a swift return to the way things were, may have spent money in ways they would not have otherwise. If this is you, consider how to reap the most benefit from what you have already purchased and adjust your budget for economic uncertainty.

You may be worried about having enough money to keep your household going right now. Someone else may be concerned that they won’t have enough money for retirement. We all have different concerns but the way forward is to do the best you can right now. If you need to call creditors and ask for grace, do that. If you need to spend some of your savings to cover current expenses, do that.

Although women are more economically vulnerable, women are also capable of finding ways to keep things going. And you can consult with a Fee-Only financial planner to form a plan for how you will stay afloat.

Estate Planning in the Time of Corona

The extra time being spent at home and an increased awareness of our vulnerability has led some people to think about estate planning as they are either sheltering in place or needing to keep their distance from people when going out. Others may be working in places where they have an increased risk to illness and realize that they have put their finances in order.

In “How to Get Your Estate Plane Done While Under Coronavirus Quarantine,”  Kiplinger.com observes:

“We have never had to deal with these unique estate planning, legal and health care planning issues before. At the same time, we have an unprecedented emergency creating the need for many to act in a quick manner.”

Even if your Fee-Only financial planner is available via phone and internet to advise you on estate planning documents, there are legal stipulations that you need to follow so your estate planning documents are considered valid.

For example, a revocable (or living) trust needs to be notarized but if you cannot find or meet with a notary (some notaries are mobile), you may be able to have your lawyer draw up specific affidavits that include language about the situation at the time of signing. Legislation to allow for documents to be notarized online is in the works but has not been completed or signed into law yet.

Depending on the laws in your state, you may be able to use a similar process of signing affidavits that mention the pandemic to get your will in order.

Overall, we don’t want you to get discouraged by new steps in the estate planning process. If you feel the nudge to do estate planning during this time, please look into how you can get it done. This is as good a time as any to figure out how to distribute your resources and put directives in place regarding your health care.

Federal Income Tax Filing Deadline Extended; Check Your State Deadline

In the wake of all that has happened because of the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic the federal government has extended the filing deadline for federal income taxes to July 15. If you have not already filed your federal income tax return, you have until that date to file. However, each state did not automatically do the same (in fact, there are a few states that do not collect state income tax at all.) You will need to verify what the deadline is for your state. USA Today is one source that provided a list of what is expected for residents of each state (and the District of Columbia) with regards to state income taxes.

The Motley Fool offered “3 Reasons to File Your Tax Return Now — and 1 Big Reason to Wait.” For the most part it is better to file your taxes as soon as possible so you do not have the stress of it hanging over your head for the entire tax season. If you know that you need your refund, you shouldn’t wait. You may also need to have your taxes filed to do things like apply for a home loan or apply for college financial aid. 

The one reason NOT to file your taxes sooner rather than later is “ If … you made much more in 2019 than you did in 2018 — then filing your 2019 return could actually prevent you from getting a coronavirus stimulus check.” And if you know that you could use a stimulus check, then you can wait until after the government has sent out a check based on your 2018 income. The Motley Fool notes that , “the federal government has explicitly said it expects taxpayers to be tricky in doing whatever they can to make sure they get their coronavirus money — and apparently, it’s fine with that.”

Financial Planning in Times of Crisis

We recently saw a social media post warning people not to look at their 401(k) accounts as we are in the midst of a global pandemic related to the spread of COVID-19. And as many have noted, it is possible that if the illness itself doesn’t get you, then anxiety and worry could wear you down instead. You may or may not choose to look at your retirement accounts but you cannot ignore the need for financial planning at this time. Certain industries, companies, and individuals will see a loss of income and it is how they manage to recover that will make a difference in the long term.

Global Trade magazine examined the current global pandemic and its effect on the stock market, referencing what happened during the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919, concluding:

“It is comforting to see that when the final wave of the Spanish flu subsided in February 1919, the market began an increase of 50% which lasted until November of 1919.  Whether this increase occurred because of the end of World War I or the end of the flu or both is impossible to say, but it does provide encouragement that once the coronavirus begins to subside, the market will bounce back once again.”

According to some historians there were several waves of the illness at that time and it actually extended into 1920. People who didn’t panic but instead implemented a strategy to maintain financial stability may have fared better in the Roaring Twenties that followed.

You can reach out to your Fee-Only financial planner if you have questions about how  economic changes related to the Coronavirus will affect your financial planning and retirement planning.

If you have yet to consult with a financial planner, this may be the time to get the guidance of financial expert. Rather than worry, you can get the help you need to emerge from this crisis on solid financial footing.

Women Face Challenges in Saving for Retirement

You may have heard the advice about the importance of saving for retirement and you may know just how important it is  to save and still not be able to really put aside money for retirement as you would like. MarketWatch published an opinion piece that asks: “Why is it still so hard for women to save for retirement?

The article discussed that Millennials have not been observed to be great savers, didn’t mention Generation X, and had this to say about Baby Boomers:

“The largest inequality with income and savings is among working baby boomers who are on the tip of retirement. For working baby boomers, the median deferral rate to contribute to an employer’s 401(k) plan was 7% for boomer women vs. 10% for boomer men, according to the [T. Rowe Price] survey.”

You may have heard three of the main reasons mentioned with regards to why women have a difficult time putting away money for retirement: women take breaks from work to be caregivers, women live longer than men, and  women earn less because of the pay gap. An additional reason offered is that women have difficulty bulking up their retirement funds because of the kinds of work women choose. Many women are self-employed, do contract work, work part-time, or work for organizations that do not have retirement plans. You could also argue that certain fields do not receive adequate pay, no matter who chooses to work in those fields.

One of the most important pieces of advice the article offers tells women to start investing sooner rather than later. Instead of waiting until they completely understand finance and investing, women should invest early and often. You have time to educate yourself but don’t wait to contribute if your employer offers matching funds. Whether your employer offers a retirement plan or not you can invest. The writer suggests a target-date mutual fund designed to provide you with funds by investing with your retirement target date as a guiding principle.

If you’re not sure where to begin, contact a Fee-Only financial planner for help.

The Inspiring Story of Self-Made Millionaire Madam C.J. Walker Comes to Netflix

Madam C.J. Walker, one of many women who blazed a trail in business and finance, is getting her own Netflix limited series that will be released on March 20, 2020. This woman, the child of enslaved parents, was an unlikely entrepreneur who faced a number of hardships before she found success selling a hair growth formula she perfected after suffering from hair loss herself. 

Her story was summarized this way on rogerebert.com:

“The first to be born free of her six siblings, Walker, born Sarah Breedlove, withstood the blows of familial betrayal and rancor competition to revolutionize Black haircare. Walker’s story is one of devotion, shifty ingenuity and absolute mettle against the backdrop of post-slavery racial and gender oppression.”

During her lifetime, Madam C.J. Walker made it possible for other women to follow in her path by opening businesses, employing other African Americans, and through philanthropic gifts to her community. And beyond her lifetime she both inspired and provided the means and the template for increasing wealth to her descendants. Walker is a true example of generational wealth. Her daughter A’Lelia Walker also owned businesses and engaged in philanthropy. The limited series on Netflix is based on a book written by her great-great-granddaughter A’Lelia Bundles. 

If you are wondering about generational wealth, clevergirlfinance.com notes:

“If you are able to leave something behind for your children or grandchildren, then you are contributing to the growth of generational wealth in your family.”

Generational wealth comes in many forms: it can be assets such as real estate or investments and can also come in the form of teaching valuable skillsets and investing in a child’s education.

Madam C.J. Walker’s tenacity made her a millionaire and changed the trajectory of her family and her community as a whole by providing a financial foundation that aids her descendants today.

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