Financial literacy is important for your financial health. The more you are aware of resources, connections to your community, and products available for you to take advantage of, the closer you are to achieving financial capability.
This resource page is designed to provide you current events, as well as helpful resources and guides for your financial journey.
Click on the topics below to expand the resource.
Avoiding and Reporting Financial Scams
COVID-19 Resources: 2021
As the pandemic drags on, it is hard to keep up with what benefits have expired, and what hasn’t. I wanted to link this nifty article here that outlines all of the benefits of President Trump’s December 2020 stimulus bill.
- Second stimulus check
- Unemployment compensation extended
- Paycheck Protection Program extended
- Renewed eviction ban
- Funding for COVID-19 vaccines
Late December, President Trump announced a second round of stimulus checks will be heading to American’s bank accounts as soon as January 4, 2021. This round will provide $600 for individuals/$1200 for couples and an additional $600 per dependent.
IMPORTANT: As the second round of stimulus is coming just before tax season, the government has a deadline to get the stimulus funds out to Americans so the IRS can gear up for tax season.
If you do not receive the second stimulus check funds (or the first payment, or any other missing amounts) by January 15th, you will need to claim the funds on your 2020 taxes. Just claim the “Recovery Rebate Credit.” Read more here.
There are talks of a third round of stimulus checks coming early in President Biden’s first 100 days. We will update here as get updates. For now, check out these “Stimulus Checks ABC’s”
In addition to his 1.9 trillion dollar stimulus package, President Biden extended the student loan payment deferment until September 30th, 2021. This deferment is the same as the previous two. No payments are due and no interest is accruing for federal student loans. Read the announcement here.
TIP: If you can afford to still pay your student loans, DO IT. Take advantage of the zero percent interest period and pay down your loans. Your future debt-free self will thank you.
DID YOU HEAR?
The IRS has moved the Federal Tax return filing date to May 17th, instead of the usual April 15th deadline.
They site the recent legislature that included increased child tax credits, stimulus payments, and tax breaks for unemployment compensation as the reason for the month delay.
CAUTION: So far, this is for FEDERAL returns only. Check your state to see if they are mirroring the IRS or sticking with the April deadline. (When the IRS bumped the due date last year, most states did mirror it, however, it is important to double check!)
Check out this nifty article to learn more.
The American Rescue Plan is the third COVID related legislation passed during the pandemic. (The previous two were the CARES and SECURE acts) We’ve provided a summary below, but here is the full White House website that has nifty breakdowns of each part of the bill. NPR also does a great job of explaining it here. If you are a visual learner, check out the breakdown in graphics here.
Big Three Takeaways:
- $1,400 direct stimulus payments to qualifying individuals AND dependents.
- This payment comes to a narrower population: Individuals making up to $75,000 and couples making up to $150,000 will receive the full amount and those above the income guidelines will be phased out.
- Unlike the previous two bills, dependents can be of any age, and will receive the full $1,400. This includes adult dependents like disabled individuals and college students. Additionally, the stimulus is available for mixed-status families. Non-citizen parents with American citizen children means that the children would be eligible to receive the the stimulus.
- Read more of the ins-and outs of who gets a stimulus check here.
- Increased Child Tax Credit
- Typically, the Child Tax Credit is a partially refundable tax credit (meaning, part of the credit can reduce your tax liability to below zero resulting in a refund) $2000 per child under the age of 17. Under the new legislation, the Child Tax Credit is temporarily expanded to a fully refundable credit of $3,600 for kids under 6 and $3000 for kids aged 6-17. (This includes 17 year olds now!) This has the same income phase out as the stimulus checks ($75,000/$150,000) If you are over the income limits you can still claim the normal $2000 credit.
- Here’s where we get something entirely new. Instead of waiting for 2021 Tax season to get your full increased Child Tax Credit, the IRS is going to start paying out this credit in advanced monthly payments. (Think tiny stimulus checks each month.) Parents with kids under 6 will receive $300 per month and parents with children aged 6-17 will get $250 per month. These payments will last for 6 months (July-December 2021) and pay out approx. half of the credit. You would then claim the remaining of the credit on your 2021 tax return.
- For all of the tax return related changes from the American Rescue Plan, read here.
- Unemployment Compensation Tax Break
- Unemployment compensation IS taxable, and if you received a lot of unemployment last year and did not elect to have taxes withheld from your weekly payments, you could be looking at a large tax bill for your 2020 tax return.
- The new tax break allows for $10,200 of unemployment income to be waived from federal taxes. Married couples filing jointly who were both on unemployment can exclude $20,400 of taxes. This only applies to FEDERAL taxes so far, so unless your state decides to follow suit, you will still owe state taxes.
- People who earned less than $150,000 last year are able to receive this tax break.
- There are a few more rules and considerations to note, so visit this article for complete instructions on how this tax exclusion will work on your tax return.
Our Favorite Toolkits and Resource Pages
The Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education has created a resource page for various links to state directories, mental health agencies, and government updates. The AFCPE is also offering free 1:1 financial counseling to assist individuals in navigating financial uncertainty and hardship. Click here to access the resource page.
Quite possibly my favorite website on the web, The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has easy to follow guides and worksheets to transform your finances. Their COVID-19 page is the number one page to visit if you have a financial question and are asking yourself “What do I do about ____?” during this global pandemic.
The pandemic is taking a toll on more than just finances. Stay Home Take Care is a website that is calling itself a “social distancing care package” to weather the pandemic. You can find activities for the family, mental health resources, and more to promote self care! Give it a look, it’s pretty fun!!
Protecting Financial Data
Financial technology—FinTech—makes it possible to accomplish all sorts of useful financial tasks quickly and easily from a computer, smartphone, or tablet. But it pays to know what you’re doing! (Consumer Action)
Did you know that using your bank, Venmo, Cash App, budget app, etc can actually be a big blind spot for your financial security?
Scary fact: Your apps are actually reading your logins and financial data even when you are not using the app. Plus, just like social media, they sell your information to third parties. AND THAT’S NOT ALL. There are many more blind spots to using this technology.
As financial technology (Fin-Tech) continues to grow in our daily lives, it is important we are taking the correct steps to secure our financial data.
Consumer Action has a great resource center that details how you can protect your financial data. Check out the fact sheets below and all of the news, videos, and related resources at Consumer Action here.
Where to Get 1:1 Help
The Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education is teaming up with Wells Fargo and Yellow Ribbon Network to provide virtual one-on-one financial counseling for those affected by COVID-19. And it’s FREE!
When you work with an AFCPE® certified professional you receive financial education and guidance specific to your unique situation and needs.
Go to Yellow Ribbon Network to connect with an AFCPE certified financial professional for free.
(Author’s note: I am partial to this organization as I am currently studying to become an Accredited Financial Counselor through the AFCPE. You can be confident that the counselors you are paired with are held to the highest professional standards for financial counseling and very knowledgeable!)
The National Foundation for Credit Counseling and its member agencies are providing help during the COVID-19 crisis. Counselors are available by phone around the clock to assist if you are experiencing job loss, temporary loss of income or financial hardship during this time.
Click this link to find an agency near you and connect with a financial counselor. Counseling fees may apply.