Uncategorized

A Career in Banking…It’s Still a Good Choice

https://www.intracoastalbank.net/about-us/intracoastal-bank/blog-5.html

The banking sector is going digital at increasing rates, integrating banking business with continuously advancing technology. With this new age banking and finance comes strong, stable career opportunities. 

The banking industry offers several careers within a financial institution. A career in banking is open to most individuals, with some positions only requiring a high school diploma or equivalent. There are several career paths in banking that individuals can choose to pursue. Here are some of the most common:

Bank Teller – an entry-level position that involves providing customer and basic banking service to bank customers. Some of the duties of this position include taking cash, checks and other forms of payment from customers, depositing and dispensing money from customer accounts and answering basic banking questions and concerns.

Customer Service Representative/New Accounts Representative – a position responsible for helping customers set up new accounts (checking, savings and investment). These bank employees help individuals with their personal banking needs as well as assist business owners with their commercial banking demands.

Financial Clerk/Administrator – a position responsible for financial administrative tasks such as processing invoices, managing financial records, keeping track of transactions and reviewing financial information and documents.

Accountant/Auditor – a financial professional, typically a certified public accountant (CPA), who is responsible for ensuring financial statements and records are up-to-date and the bank is abiding regulations, compliance laws and generally accepted accounting principles. Some of these duties include analyzing and documenting the institution’s financial information, creating financial reports, performing audits, resolving any discrepancies and providing pertinent and timely financial information to help management make informed decisions regarding budgets and finances.

Investment Banker – a financial professional who is responsible for working with the institution’s clients to determine their financial goals and needs and providing solutions to meet them. The duties of this position include evaluating client financial data, creating investment portfolios and performing analyses of these portfolios, overseeing client investment transactions and maintaining relationships with the bank’s investment clients.

Loan Officer – a financial professional who oversees the approval of real estate, credit and business loans. The duties of this position include meeting with loan applicants to determine eligibility and needs, assisting with the loan process from application to closing and ensuring loans comply with regulations and laws.

These are only some of the career possibilities. Yet, no matter which path you may decide to take, a career in banking offers several attractive benefits. The most prominent include:

  • Competitive salaries
  • Benefits, including medical insurance, paid time off, sick leave and disability insurance
  • An array of positions to choose from
  • Job security
  • Advancement and career development opportunities
  • Good working conditions and reliable hours

Many banks will hire individuals with no banking experience, offering on-the-job training to those who are willing to learn and accept responsibility for the duties their specific position requires. Some banks will even offer tuition reimbursement and assistance programs for job-related classes or courses for those looking to increase their abilities and the opportunity for upward mobility within the workplace.

So, if you’ve ever considered a career in the banking, now is the time to explore the possibilities and opportunities this ever-advancing industry has to offer.

The Importance of Estate Planning

Paraphrasing a quote by Benjamin Franklin, nothing is certain but death and taxes. And it’s these certainties that provide a strong argument for a sound estate plan.

Many people devote more time planning a vacation, deciding which car to buy or choosing a dinner spot than they do to estate planning. Although acknowledging your own mortality and planning what happens to everything you’ve worked so hard for after you die isn’t as fun to think about as booking your next trip or checking out who has the best restaurant reviews, developing an estate plan is vitally important, especially for your loved ones.   

By definition, an estate plan is a collection of legal documents that protects your assets and personal property (your “estate”) and sets forth who will inherit your assets after you’re gone or how you want your health and financial decisions handled if you’re unable to do so for yourself during your lifetime.

Many people assume that estate planning is only for the rich. This is not the case. You don’t have to have a mansion and millions of dollars in the bank to warrant an estate plan. In fact, not having an estate plan can have a long-lasting, costly impact on your loved ones after you die. The following are reasons you should consider an estate plan:

An Estate Plan Protects Beneficiaries

Estate planning was once considered something only individuals with high net worth needed. Today, however, many middle-class families need to have a plan in place in case something happens to the family’s breadwinner or breadwinners.Whether it’s a second home or a stock portfolio, an estate plan designates who you want to receive what. Without this, the courts will often decide who gets your assets. This process can take years, rack up hefty legal fees and get ugly.

An Estate Plan Protects Young Children

Be prepared for the worst, but hope for the best. Nobody contemplates dying young, but if you have young children, you need to prepare for the unthinkable. In the event you and your spouse both die, you’ll want to ensure your children are cared for in the manner of which you both approve until they are 18. A will names these guardians and keeps the courts from stepping in to decide who will raise your minor children.

An Estate Plan Protects Heirs from a Hefty Tax Burden

Creating the smallest tax burden when assets are transferred to heirs is an essential part of estate planning. Estate planning can enable couples to reduce much or even all of their federal and state estate taxes and state inheritance taxes. Without a plan, your beneficiaries could end up owing Uncle Sam a lot of money.

An Estate Plan Eliminates Family Messes

We’ve all heard the saying, “Money brings out the worst in people.” Unfortunately, when someone with money/assets dies, it can bring out traits and behaviors in family members never expected. Squabbling over who deserves what or who should be in charge can get ugly and end up in court with family members pitted against each other. An estate plan will stop these fights before they start. You will choose who controls your finances and assets if you become mentally incapacitated or after you die in the manner you’ve intended. It can also help you make individual plans, if necessary, if, for example, you need to make arrangements for a child with health problems.

Thoughtful planning now can help minimize taxes and probate fees, and ensure your loved ones will be taken care of and the legacy you leave behind is the one you want.

Talk to a financial professional to learn more about the importance of estate planning and partner with other professionals to help you develop a plan. Once your estate plan is in place, remember to periodically review and update your existing plan to account for law changes and life changes such as marriage, divorce or the birth or death of a family member.

Is Cash Still King?

Is cash soon to suffer the fate of the dinosaurs? There is no denying that an increasingly large number of goods and services are moving onto digital platforms that do not accept cash. This past year, due to the pandemic, and subsequently, the inundation of new online and mobile payment apps, has put a spotlight on the notion of an eventual cashless economy. In fact, the U.S. House Financial Services Committee Task Force on Financial Technology held a hearing this past January reviewing the rise of mobile payments and posing the question, “Is cash still king?”

As COVID-19 continues to impact businesses across the country, many business owners are looking for cashless options for monetary transactions like electronic and credit card payments. There has been a huge shift to online and even phone e-commerce transactions during the pandemic. A recent Federal Reserve survey revealed that cash, especially over the past two years, has had a major decrease, with cash as a percentage of the average consumer’s total payments declining from 40 percent in 2009 to 30 percent in 2019.

Interestingly, however, according to the Fed, consumers were holding more cash post pandemic. In October 2019, 43 percent of consumers has less than $25 in their wallets, compared to over 50 percent holding more than $100 in April/May 2020. This increase was most likely due to the round of stimulus payments and because there were fewer places to spend cash during the pandemic.

Cashless payments have definitely seen a surge during the pandemic, according to a new report from financial technology company Square, and it seems doubtful there will be a reversal of this trend. Square’s small business owners cited a 23 percent increase over the past year, with online spending mostly on entertainment, retail, charities, education and beauty care. According to a report from Statistica, released this past February, $130 billion is expected to be digitally spent between now and 2023, with a significant increase in mobile payments.

Anticipating sweeping technological disruption in the decade ahead, as we increasingly digitize every aspect of our day-to-day lives, from grocery shopping to taxi fares, Global Data, a leading data and analytics company, forecasts the following countries as the most likely be the leaders in moving towards a truly cashless society in the near future:

Finland

Finland ranks second to Ireland in terms of frequency of use of cards, fifth in e-commerce spending as a percentage of their gross domestic product (GDP), third in internet penetration and second in smartphone penetration.

With a population of only 5.5 million, cash in Finland, in both rural and urban areas, is increasingly irrelevant.

Sweden

Sweden’s government has very aggressive policies to rid the nation of cash. Due to these policies and increasingly higher internet banking penetration and the frequency of use of credit /debit cards, the nation is poised to be the first truly cashless society by 2023.

China

Over the last decade, China has become a serious contender to be the next dominant superpower. One area of extreme development is the rapid adoption of mobile payments. One of the most popular phone payment methods is QR code scanning. This method has been successfully adopted by both urban and rural areas. China has a leading position in e-commerce, with spending to account for 11.6 percent of its GDP by 2022.

South Korea

South Korea is considered the cashless champion of Asia, with most of the cashless infrastructure in place nationwide. With approximately 6 percent of the country’s GDP being e-commerce spending and more than 100 transactions on average per card every year, South Korea is well on its way to becoming a cashless country in the next couple of years.

United Kingdom

The UK, and specifically London, has geared up its finance technology, especially the digitization of money. The UK ranks second globally for e-commerce as a percentage of GDP. The British have become very comfortable using their phones or debit/credit cards to pay for just about everything. At this rate, the UK is expected to be predominantly a cashless society by the mid-2020s.

Australia

Australia is seriously gearing up to digitize most of its economy by 2022. It’s expected that by then most of the population will have at least one smartphone, and internet banking penetration will reach almost 70 percent of Australians.

While there is a global move towards a cashless society, most economists believe that the United States won’t follow suit anytime soon. Cash remains the most popular method of payment for Americans for transactions under $25. Cash will persist in the U.S. for the elderly, those in remote areas, and most significantly, the un-banked.

Although the growth in online and app-based goods and services significantly benefits consumers with lower costs and greater convenience, people cannot access those savings without access to low cost or free digital payment options. Currently, one in 15 households in the U.S. are un-banked, don’t have access to a bank account or debit or credit card. Without this access, these consumers often have no way to make digital payments.

Rather than a cashless society being around the corner for the U.S., the demand for cash remains strong, especially for low dollar notes. So, for now, cash is still king in the U.S.!

.

Intracoastal Bank Announces Management Changes

Bruce Page, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Intracoastal Bank, today announced changes to management.

Laura Salazar will now serve as Assistant Vice President/Assistant Manager, Flagler Banking Center.  Salazar has had a variety of roles for Intracoastal for the past nine years. In her new role, she will have responsibility for supporting all aspects of consumer banking in Flagler County including sales, service, and operations.  She will continue to be actively involved in development and servicing of business banking relationships.

Laura Salazar has a passion for business, community service and education.  She has been active in a variety of organizations including serving on the board of directors of Flagler County Education Foundation and Police Athletic League(PAL). She also volunteers for Santa Maria Del Mar Catholic Church.  

John Aguiar has been appointed to succeed Laura Salazar as Assistant Vice President/Assistant Manager, Volusia Banking Center.  Aguiar has held a variety of positions with Intracoastal for the past five years in Flagler County.  In his new role, he will have responsibility for supporting all aspects of consumer banking including sales, service, and operations.  He will continue to be active in supporting development and servicing of business banking relationships.

John Aguiar is fervent for business and community service.  He has been involved in many organizations including Habitat For Humanity, Portuguese American Cultural Club, Rotary and Young Professionals Group.

“We are thrilled John and Laura have committed to such important roles at Intracoastal Bank,” said Page. “They are incredibly talented professionals who are committed to assisting the bank with our goal of enhancing the economic vitality and success of the customers and communities we serve.”

Intracoastal Bank is a locally owned and operated community bank.  Intracoastal Bank’s Flagler County banking center is located at 1290 Palm Coast Parkway, NW, Palm Coast, Florida 32137. The Bank’s Volusia County Banking Center is located at 2140 LPGA Blvd., Daytona Beach, FL  32117. The community bank serves the Northeast and East Central Florida area. The bank offers a full range of deposit and loan products and services tailored to meet the needs of consumer and business customers. Intracoastal provides an unmatched client experience by offering a high-touch relationship based banking with high-tech delivery solutions.  The company offers state of the art convenience through digital solutions including online and mobile banking and a 24-hour ATM network. The bank is a state chartered commercial bank, member FDIC. Corporate information and e-banking are available at www.intracoastalbank.net. They can be reached at 386-447-1662, or Facebook at https:www.facebook.com/intracoastalbank.

Intracoastal Bancorp Announces Annual Meeting Results

Intracoastal Bancorp, Inc. held its annual meeting of shareholders on March 18, 2021 at 8:30 AM at the company’s Volusia Banking Center. 

At the meeting, the following individuals were elected to serve as directors for the coming year:  Dr. Pamela Carbiener, C. Scott Crews, Thomas L. Gibbs, Anand Jobalia, Albert B. Johnston, Jr., Gerald P. Keyes, Michael Machin, Bruce E. Page and Ryan T. Page.

Bank management provided a progress update highlighting the growth and success the Bank experienced in 2020.  The highlights included the following:

Total assets at December 31, 2020, were $483.6 million , up $139.3 million, or 40%, from $344.3 million at December 31, 2019.

Total deposits at December 31, 2020 were $415 million, up 105.1 million, or 34% from $309.9 million , at December 31, 2019.

Total loans at December 31, 2020 were $282.4 million, up 41.2 million, or 17% from $241.2  million, at December 31, 2019. 

Net income for the full year 2020 increased by 7% from the full year 2019. 

The Bank continues to be safe and sound with strong credit quality with no material delinquent loans and no foreclosed properties for 2020.  Management also reported the Bank has reinvested 682 million in loans in the community since opening its doors in 2008 in the form of personal and business lending. Intracoastal’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Bruce E. Page said, “Intracoastal‘s 2020 results significantly exceeded expectations. The Bank continues to perform far better than industry norms in most key areas and in overall performance.  Intracoastal’s proven track record of exceptional financial results has positioned the Bank to offer our community a high quality, safe and sound, local alternative.  This elite level of performance also gives Intracoastal Bank the ability to continue to grow and make loans for the betterment of the local economy and community.”

Intracoastal Bank is a wholly owned subsidiary Intracoastal Bancorp, Inc. Intracoastal Bank is a locally owned and operated financial institution. Intracoastal Bank’s Flagler County banking center is located at 1290 Palm Coast Parkway, NW, Palm Coast, Florida 32137. The Bank’s Volusia County Banking Center is located at 2140 LPGA Blvd., Daytona Beach, FL  32117. The community bank serves the Northeast and East Central Florida area. The bank offers a full range of deposit and loan products and services tailored to meet the needs of consumer and business customers. Intracoastal provides an unmatched client experience by offering a high-touch relationship based banking with high-tech delivery solutions.  The company offers state of the art convenience through digital solutions including online and mobile banking and a 24-hour ATM network. The bank is a state chartered commercial bank, member FDIC. Corporate information and e-banking are available at www.intracoastalbank.net. They can be reached at 386-447-1662, or Facebook at https:www.facebook.com/intracoastalbank

The Day Everyone Is A Wee Bit Irish

On March 17 people across the globe celebrate being a little Irish.

This annual celebration, St. Patrick’s Day, began in Ireland in 1631 when the Church established a Feast Day honoring St. Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland. So the story goes, St. Patrick, whose given name was Maewyn Succat, but later changed to Patricius (or Patrick), was born in Roman Britain in the late 4th century. He was kidnapped at the age of 16 and taken to Ireland as a slave, where he either escaped or was released. After becoming a priest, he returned to Ireland around 432 to convert the Irish to Christianity. At the time of his death, March 17, 461, he’d established several monasteries, churches and schools in Ireland. In addition, several legends grew up around the Patron Saint. Supposedly, St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland and used the shamrock to explain the Trinity. For these feats as well as his tireless efforts to spread Christianity, Ireland came to celebrate his day, March 17, with religious services and feasts.

However, it was emigrants, particularly to the United States, in the early 18th century, who kicked St. Patrick Day’s traditions into high gear. Since the holiday falls during Lent, this timely celebration provided Christians a day off from abstinence leading up to Easter.

St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and themes really took shape throughout the 1700s, especially in cities with large numbers of Irish immigrants. Boston held its first St. Patrick’s Day parade in 1737, with New York City following suit in 1762. Interestingly, it wasn’t until 1798, the year of the Irish Rebellion, that the color green became officially associated with the day. Prior to this, blue was the official color associated with St. Patrick.

Modern-day celebrations have the Irish and non-Irish alike donning their green and shamrock pins and honoring the day with traditional Irish meals and gargle (Irish slang for beer) or the classic corn beef and cabbage and green beer, an American practice that was eventually adopted by Ireland for the benefit of its tourists. The city of Chicago takes this day to a whole new level by dying its river green, an annual tradition since 1962.

Regardless of your actual heritage, March 17 marks the day of the year when everyone is a little Irish. And some a little more than others. These cities (and one island) are heralded as hosting the most elaborate St. Patrick’s Day celebrations across the globe:

  1. New York City – NYC hosts the world’s largest St. Patrick’s Day celebration, with more than two million people gathering for the city’s grand parade, featuring bands, bagpipes and dancers.
  2. Dublin – This city’s celebration is filled with five days of celebration, including boat races, music and street performances, a spectacular parade and the Irish Beer & Whiskey Festival.
  3. Sydney – This city hosts a large, themed parade the Sunday before St. Patrick’s Day, with pre- and post-parade entertainment along the streets of Sydney. For an added touch, the Sydney Opera House and the rest of the city turns green on March 17.
  4. Chicago – On the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day, more than 400,000 spectators gather along the Chicago River to watch 45 pounds of environmentally-safe vegetable dye turn the river a bright shade of green. After the morning’s dyeing ceremony, even more people gather to watch the city’s parade at noon.
  5. Montreal – The Montreal St. Patrick’s Day parade takes place the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day and includes floats, bands and a variety of costumes. The three-hour parade features a massive replica of St. Patrick, which marks the beginning of the parade.   
  6. London – The Sunday before St. Patrick’s Day is marked with the city’s annual parade, with floats and marching bands traveling the 1.5-mile route from Green Park to Trafalgar Square. This is followed up by an all-day festival at Trafalgar Square which includes musical performances, a food market, fashion show and film festivals.
  7. Montserrat – Often referred to as “the Emerald Isle,” this island in the British West Indies is the only place outside of Ireland where St. Patrick’s Day is considered a public holiday. The country marks the holiday with a 10-day festival, which includes a St. Patrick’s Day dinner, a Kite Festival and performance by the emerald Community Singers Irish Cabaret.
  8. Savannah – This city hosts one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the world, drawing more than 300,000 people each year. The annual celebration features a parade of horses and floats and a celebration on River Street, with vendors, crafts, storytellers and live musical performances.
  9. Munich – Although this city is a fairly recent elaborate St. Patrick’s Day celebration contender, it’s gaining momentum each year. With approximately 15,000 participants, the city shuts down Leopold Strasse to celebrate the holiday.
  10. Buenos Aires – Not only is this city home to the largest St. Patrick’s Day celebration in South America, but the city is also home to fifth largest Irish community in the world. The city’s St. Patrick’s Day street festival takes up 10 blocks along Reconquista Street with music and dancing, and their annual parade features Celtic music and a leprechaun costume contest.

For those of us who won’t be partaking in any of these extravagant St. Patrick’s Day festivities, here are a couple of traditional Irish recipes to brighten up – bring some luck of the Irish – to our St. Patrick’s Day celebration at home:

Beef and Guinness Pie

Ingredients

2 tbsp of rapeseed or canola oil

2 lbs. of boneless beef chuck, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

2 carrots, coarsely chopped

2 celery sticks, coarsely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced

1 cup of beef stock

1 cup of Guinness

Sea Salt and ground pepper to taste

1 bay leaf

2 tbsp of flour

2 sheets of ready to roll puff pastry

A little butter to grease the baking dish

1 egg to brush pastry

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat ½ of the oil in a large pot and brown the meat. Remove meat and set aside on a plate. Add remainder of oil and fry the onion, carrots and celery until tender.
  2. Add the meat back into the pot along with the garlic. Pour in stock and Guinness, add bay leaf and season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer gently for about 1 ½ hours until liquid has reduced. Note: If sauce isn’t thick enough, strain the juices into a bowl and then transfer to a small saucepan. Mix a little of the sauce with flour over medium heat until you have a smooth paste, then whisk through the rest of the liquid. Simmer gently until you have a thickened sauce and then add back to meat mixture.
  3. Grease a baking dish with butter and lay one sheet of puff pastry into dish. Press it into the sides and prick base all over with a fork. Fill with the beef and Guinness mix, and top with the second layer of puff pastry. Pinch the two sheets of puff pastry together so they are sealed.
  4. Cut one or two holes in the pastry top to allow steam to escape and then brush all over with beaten egg. Place the pie into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until pastry has risen and has a golden color.

Irish Soda Bread

Ingredients

1 ¾ cups buttermilk

1 large egg

4 ¼ cups of all-purpose flour, plus more for your hands and counter

3 tbsp granulated sugar

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

5 tbsp of unsalted butter, cold and cubed

1 cup of raisins (optional)

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. There are options for the baking pan. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, use a seasoned 10-12 cast iron pan or grease a 9–10-inch cake pan or pie dish. Set aside.
  2. Whisk the buttermilk and egg together. Set aside. Whisk the flour, granulated sugar, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. Cut in the butter using a pastry cutter, a fork, or your fingers. Work the dough until into coarse crumbs, then stir in the raisins. Pour in the buttermilk/egg mixture. Gently fold the dough together until dough it is too stiff to stir. Pour crumbly dough onto a lightly floured work surface. With floured hands, work the dough into a ball as best you can, then knead for about 30 seconds or until all the flour is moistened. If the dough is too sticky, add a little more flour.
  3. Transfer the dough to the prepared skillet/pan. Using a very sharp knife, score an X into the top. Bake until the bread is golden brown and center appears cooked through, about 45 minutes. Loosely cover the bread with aluminum foil if you notice heavy browning on top.
  4. Remove from the oven and allow bread to cool for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Serve warm, at room temperature, or toasted with desired toppings/spreads.
  5. Cover and store leftover bread at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Enjoy these traditional Irish recipes and St. Paddy’s Day!

Sharing Kindness…It’s a Win-Win

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not. – Dr. Seuss

If ever there was a time to show kindness to others, it’s now.

National Random Acts of Kindness week is celebrated February 14-20 this year, with February 17 designated as Random Acts of Kindness Day. For those of you who are wondering what’s happened to good, old-fashioned kindness in what seems to have become a world of nastiness and disinterest, this is your time to show it still exists.

The practice of random acts of kindness began in a restaurant in Sausalito, California in 1982 when patron Anne Herbert scrawled the words “practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty” on a placemat. From there it gained powerful momentum, and by February 1993 stories of random acts of kindness were appearing in nearly every newspaper in the U.S. and hundreds of radio stations were devoting airtime to the cause. The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation (RAK), a nonprofit organization, designated February 17 as National Random Acts of Kindness Day in 1995 and the second week of February as National Random Acts of Kindness Week in 2018.

Sharing kindness with others not only benefits them, but it also boosts our own health and wellbeing. Researchers found that when people do something good for others, they feel better themselves. A 2018 study conducted at the University of Sussex in Brighton, England, examining the brain scans of 1000 participants, found that acts of kindness measurably activated the reward centers of the brain. In addition, they discovered that the more altruistic the gesture the more the brain’s reward areas illuminated.

For those of you who’d like to be a part of this national celebration, leading by example by spreading kindness, here are few suggestions from RAK to get you started. (For more resources, visit randomactsofkindness.org.)

  • Pay if forward – pay for the coffee or meal for the person in front of you in line.
  • Leave a kind note for someone, without an explanation.
  • Share words of encouragement or compliment a stranger. You never know who really needs this, and how much it is appreciated, especially today.
  • Drop off a load of groceries at your local food pantry.
  • Put your skills to work for someone in need (e.g., offer to create a resume for someone looking for a new job).
  • Mail a “Thinking of You” card to someone you’ve not talked to in a while.
  • Send a meal to someone in need through a delivery service (DoorDash, Uber, Grubhub, etc.).
  • Run errands for a neighbor or friend in need – many people can’t get out and shop right now, so on your next trip to the supermarket offer to pick up needed groceries or medicine. You can still practice safe social distancing by leaving the goods on their doorstep/porch and giving them a quick call to let them know it’s there.
  • Phone a family member or friend – you may not be able to see your family and friends who may be struggling right now, due to the pandemic, but you can take the time to call them and really listen. Cheer them up by talking about topics they really enjoy and remind them that they are not alone.
  • Be kind to yourself – after you’ve done good for others, do something nice for yourself (e.g., take that long-overdue soak in tub scented with a relaxing essential oil). This and sharing kindness with others will make you feel good all over.

How the CARES Act May Affect Your 2020 Taxes

Now that you’ve ushered in the new year and closed and padlocked the door on 2020, it’s time to get a jumpstart on preparing your 2020 taxes. Because, like so many things over the past year, some of the tax guidelines changed as well.

Much of the attention of the $2.2 trillion, Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was signed by President Trump on March 27, 2020, in response to the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, has been focused on the small business loan program known as the Paycheck Protection Program. However, there are several provisions in the Act that could directly or indirectly impact your 2020 individual tax return.

Provisions of the CARES Act that could affect your individual tax return

Stimulus Payments: The economic impact payments taxpayers received in 2020, based on 2019 tax returns (or 2018 returns if 2019 weren’t filed yet), are technically an advance payment of a tax credit for 2020. Because of this, these payments are not considered income and therefore are not taxable nor are they used to determine eligibility for premium tax credits for Affordable Care Act marketplace coverage or Medicaid.

If you were entitled to stimulus payments in 2020, and didn’t receive them, or only received partial amounts, you can get these credits when you file your tax return. In addition, if you received stimulus payments that were more than you were actually allowed, based on your actual 2020 income, you will not have to pay the credit overage back.

Unemployment Benefits: One of the most popular benefits of the CARES Act was the $600-per-week federal boost to state unemployment benefits. But many taxpayers may have forgotten that unemployment benefits are subject to federal income tax. The extra $600-per-week you may have received is no exception. If you didn’t opt to have the taxes withheld, hopefully, you put aside some of the money you received in preparation for your 2020 tax return.

The unemployment amounts available under the Act could have a significant impact on family income and could also affect eligibility for premium tax credits for the Affordable Care Act marketplace coverage and Medicaid. Generally, unemployment benefits are considered family income in determining eligibility for these programs. Consequently, the $600-per-week CARES Act supplement will also be considered as income for determining eligibility for premium tax credits for the marketplace coverage. However, it will not be considered as income in determining Medicaid eligibility.

Early Distribution Penalty Waiver: Generally, if you withdraw money from your retirement plan before 59 ½, there is a 10% tax penalty. However, the CARES Act waived this penalty for 2020 if an individual, or their spouse or dependent was diagnosed with Coronavirus through a CDC-approved test, or were economically harmed by it as the result of a quarantine, business closure, layoff or a reduction in work hours. Under the CARES Act, an affected individual can withdraw up to $100,000 from their qualified IRA, pension plan, or 401(k) plan in 2020, without incurring the early distribution penalty. However, regular income tax will still be assessed on the distribution. Under the CARES Act, this tax payment can be spread evenly over three years.

However, any withdrawals can be recontributed to a qualified retirement plan at any time over the three-year period to eliminate the otherwise reportable taxable income. The recontributed funds do not count toward annual contribution levels.

In addition, the CARES Act allowed you to borrow up to 100% of the vested balance or $100,000, whichever is less, from a qualified retirement plan. This option was only available for loans taken out during the six-month period from March 27, 2020 to September 23, 2020. These loans must be paid back within 5 years. However, the CARES Act allowed borrowers to forgo repayment in 2020 and begin the 5-year repayment plan in 2021. The loan, however, still accrued interest in 2020.

Required Minimum Contributions: The CARES Act waived minimum distributions that were required to be paid in 2020, including those that would have been required by April 1, if an individual turned 70 ½ in 2019. If the required minimum distribution (RMD) for 2020 was already paid, you can recontribute, within 60 days of the receipt of the original distribution, to a qualified plan.

If you opted not to take your 2020 RMDs, you’ve positively impacted your 2020 taxes in three ways. You don’t pay taxes on your RMD, you’ve reduced the risk of the RMD pushing you into a higher tax bracket, and you have the opportunity to ride out the market volatility that may have affected your retirement portfolio during the COVID pandemic.

Charitable Deduction Rules: In an effort to help 501(c)(3) qualified organizations affected by decreased contributions, due to the pandemic, the CARES Act removed the income-related cap on charitable contributions for 2020.

The CARES Act gave a new above-the-line charitable contribution deduction of up to $300 to taxpayers who do not itemize their deductions. For individual taxpayers who itemize deductions, the CARES Act temporarily removes the 60% cap and allows you to deduct up to 100% of your AGI in 2020 after taking into account other contributions subject to charitable contributions limits.

With the many changes to the tax guidelines in 2020, due to several of the CARES Act provisions, your 2020 tax return will most likely be more complicated than in the past. So, if you don’t normally use a professional tax preparer for your returns, this may be a good time to start.

Protecting Yourself From Fraud This Holiday Season

The 2020 holiday season will most certainly look very different as we try to balance celebrating and keeping our loved ones and ourselves “COVID” safe. Sadly, this unprecedented change will not deter the exploitation of our holiday habits by cybercrooks. In fact, the tremendous increase in Internet shopping this holiday season, due to the pandemic, is expected to ramp up online schemes and scams.

According to CreditCards.com, 71 percent of consumers plan to do a majority of their shopping online this holiday season, greatly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Consequently, as the retailers roll out all their seasonal deals, it sets a fertile ground for scammers to lure in bargain hunters with fake websites and social media campaigns impersonating major brands and online outlets. These bogus sites will entice consumers to spend money for goods or services they will never receive. Some of the more recent enticements include charity scams, delivery scams, travel scams and letter from Santa Claus scams.

This season’s increased distractions and transactions, unfortunately, also increase the likelihood that your personal information will be hacked, often resulting in account takeovers, fraudulent activity and wide-ranging identity theft. Although we can’t eliminate this threat, here are several tips to help reduce your chance of becoming another holiday season, cybercrime statistic.

  • Use Apple Pay (used with an Apple device) or Google Pay (used with an Android device) or another digital wallet instead of your debit or credit card for contactless purchases in stores, apps, and on the web. Digital wallets use an encryption system, replacing your card information with a one-time digital “token” for your transaction.

  • Use a credit card for your holiday purchases. Disputing charges with a credit card is less of a hassle than with a debit card.

  • Use a virtual private network (VPN). This allows you to create a secure connection to another network over the Internet, providing online privacy and anonymity when using a public Wi-Fi connection.

  • Don’t shop or conduct any financial transactions or activities on a public Wi-Fi. Even with a VPN, it’s a good year-round practice to avoid public online transactions that could pose a threat to the security of your personal information.

  • Don’t store your debit or credit card information online. Cybercriminals will have less access to your key information in the event of a data breach.

  • Be cautious at points of sale. Skimming devices can be attached to card readers to capture your credit or debit card information.

  • Be cautious of social media ads. If the offer seems too good to be true, most likely it is. Before making a purchase, do some research on the company, including their return and refund policies, and look at the Google reviews. Drag your cursor over social media ads to display the true URL destination.

  • Beware of email phishing and social engineering scams. If an email looks suspicious or is sent from an unfamiliar address, or someone calls you seeking personal information because one of your accounts has supposedly been hacked, always go directly to the company’s website and call the support number listed.

  • Activate card security features. Set up text alerts and notifications for your card transactions. Turn your cards off when they are not in use. Use virtual cards (temporary virtual credit card numbers that stand in for your regular credit card credentials) for secure online shopping.

  • Monitor your credit and identity. Experian’s free, credit monitoring gives you access to your regularly updated credit score and report, and will alert you if there are any changes to your credit.

Although the holiday season offers more scheming opportunities for cybercrooks, being mindful of your online security is a good habit all year long. Following these safe holiday shopping tips throughout the year will go a long way toward preventing identity theft.

June: A Celebration of the Men in Your Life

The month of June celebrates the men in your life. Not only is the third Sunday set aside to honor dads, but the entire month of June is dedicated to taking stock of the health of the men in your life as well.

Men’s Health Month, a national observance anchored by a Congressional health education program and recognized by the White House and the official symbol, a blue ribbon, is an annual observance to raise awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of diseases including cancer, heart disease and depression. Health fairs and other health education and outreached activities will be held across the country to encourage men to take care of their bodies by eating healthy, exercising and working to prevent disease.

According to menshealth.org, men, on average, die almost five years earlier than women. This is due, in part, to the fact that men are more reluctant to go to the doctor. Studies indicate that women tend to go to the doctor twice as much as men. Consequently, Men’s Health Month provides the perfect opportunity to motivate, promote and support healthy habits in the men in your life.  Here are a few ways you can do this:

Encourage him to get a physical – Most of the contributors to men, on average, having a shorter lifespan than women are preventable. This prevention begins with a physical with a primary care provider. This establishes baselines for factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol, weight and PSA (a screening test for prostate cancer risk). These visits should continue annually to monitor how these factors change over time, consequently, catching potentially dangerous conditions early, while they’re still treatable.

Encourage him to exercise – The benefits to physical activity on our health, especially as we age, are extensive. However, most of us are not motivated to exercise on our own. So, make it a partnership…find fun ways to get fit together. Join a gym, sign up for personal training or make walks part of your regular routine. Adults need about 2.5 hours of physical activity each week.

Encourage him to eat healthy – Help him make healthy eating choices by including a variety of fruits, vegetables and lean meats in your diet. Limit foods and drinks that are high in calories, fat, sugar, salt and alcohol.

Encourage him (if he does) to quit smoking – Set the example for him by choosing not to smoke and encourage him to quit. Quitting smoking has immediate and long-term benefits such as lowering the risk for different types of cancer as well as other cardiovascular and lung diseases.

Encourage him to recognize and reduce stress in his life – Physical and emotional illness are often a byproduct of long-term stress. Encourage him to learn how to manage stress in his life through finding support, eating healthy, exercising regularly and avoiding alcohol and drugs.

Encourage him to seek help for depression – Depression is one of the leading causes of disease or injury for both men and women worldwide. Learn to recognize the signs, which include persistent sadness, grumpiness, feelings of hopelessness, fatigue and decreased energy, and thoughts of suicide, and how you can help the men in your life. If someone in your life is in crisis, seek help immediately by:

  • Calling 911
  • Visiting your local ER or healthcare provider
  • Calling the toll-free, 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255); TTY: 1-800-799-4TTY (4889) to talk to a trained counselor.

And lastly,

Let him know you care – Men often disregard their own health because they’re too preoccupied with taking care of everyone else. So, remind him how much he’s loved and how important he is to you and other family members, and that you want and need him to stay alive and healthy as long as possible.

Recent Comments