Category Archives: Money Management

May 2021 Money News

Woman's hands holding up a bouquet of flowers shaped like a heart, mostly matching the colors of the rainbow. Pink background. Ladybugs crawling up woman's right wrist and hand.

Happy May, friends!

Can you believe we’re here already?

I have a couple bits of super exciting news here for Femme Frugality, but I can’t share them just yet. Be sure to subscribe to the email list to stay up to date on the latest!

In the meantime, there’s plenty of money news outside this little corner of the universe. Let’s talk about some of it.

Taxes

We’ve talked about taxes for the past couple months. Things keep getting better!

The first think you should know is that the deadline to file your 2020 taxes is May 17, 2021. As in this coming Monday.

However, if you’re receiving a refund and you’re stressed TF out because life is just too much right now, you can breathe a little easier. You have up to three years to file your 2020 tax returns before you’re considered ineligible for your refund.

But I STRONGLY encourage you to file by Monday.

Because here’s the thing:

If the past year has been terrible for your personal economy, the government probably owes  you money that you could use TODAY. Potentially a lot of money. Potentially even if you didn’t have a job through this mess.

Finally get access to your stimulus payments.

Filing your taxes also makes it way easier to get access to stimulus payments. For example, let’s say you didn’t file in 2019. You might have missed out on multiple stimulus payments.

The first two will be accounted for in your 2020 tax return.

The IRS should be able to issue you the third payment after you file your 2020 taxes.

The easiest way to make this happen is to set your refund up for direct deposit into your personal bank account — one that you don’t plan on closing any time in the near future.

Get access to those monthly child tax credit payments come July.

The government has estimated that it will preemptively issue portions of the Child Tax Credit for the 2021 tax year via direct payments to families starting in July.

To get access to these direct payments, the IRS will need to have your information on hand. Filing by the tax deadline makes that more likely to happen.

Expanded Child Tax Credits and Huge Refund for the Self-Employed

Over the past couple months, we’ve talked about a lot of different tax credits that are unique to this pandemic we’re living through. These credits can end up adding up to tens upon tens of thousands of dollars owed to you by the IRS — even if you’re just an ordinary person.

In March, we covered a tax credit that can make a huge difference for the self-employed.

In April, we briefly discussed:

  • The first $10,200 you received in unemployment in 2020 no longer counts as taxable income.
  • There are changes to the Child Tax Credit and Additional Child Tax credit that both make it larger and make a larger portion of it refundable.
  • The Child and Dependent Care Credit has also become refundable, larger and claimable for an additional year.
  • There are BIG changes to premium credits for those who pay for an ACA health insurance plan. It is extremely likely that these changes work in your favor no matter how much or how little money you make, and can result in a larger tax refund or lower overall tax burden. Learn more here.

All that giving you did last year? It counts for once.

Last year, a lot of us found ourselves digging into our pockets to support anyone who was doing the hard work of making our chaotic world a better place.

Normally, if you don’t itemize, donations to 501(c)(3) orgnaizations don’t mean much. The standard deduction for a head of household is $18,800, and for those married filing jointly it’s $25,100.

Most American families simply don’t make enough money to justify itemizing. The standard deduction is more than all their itemized deductions — including charitable giving — so there’s no point in itemizing.

However, this year, if you gave to a 501(c)(3), you can deduct those charitable donations beyond the standard deduction. The most you can claim is $300 on top of the standard deduction, and you’ve got to have receipts to back up your claim.

You can file your taxes for free.

For real.

I don’t go into those expensive, inexperienced big-box places. Even in times of non-pandemic.

Most people can file their taxes for free online all by themselves. Here are a bunch of options.

If you have a complicated tax situation, invest in an accredited CPA.

Help for Pittsburgh

If you’re in Allegheny County, there is still an Emergency Rental Assistance Program where you can apply for help with back rent.

Just a couple days ago, the City of Pittsburgh specifically launched a program that offers free legal services to those facing housing challenges a la eviction for renters and foreclosure for homeowners.

A portion of the funding for this program is specifically set aside for residents who are undocumented or are otherwise ineligible for legal services through other programs.

The best way to get a handle on a potential eviction situation is to get legal assistance as early on as you can.

However, if you already found yourself on the other side of eviction, we talked about some steps you can take to improve your situation last month.

 

Four Reasons to Start Investing in the Stock Market

This post is brought to you and contributed by an outside writer.

A woman with a blurry face walking through a public transit station. Blue platform number is shown in the background: 4.

Investing in the stock market is a common way to grow one’s wealth. And the latest developments in fintech have made it easier for everyone to trade stocks or invest in index funds, bonds, ETFs, or retirement plans. Although financial markets can indeed be volatile, you cannot ignore the massive long-term earning potential.

Here are four reasons to start investing in the stock market now.

It’s Easy to Get Started.

A key reason to consider investing in the stock market is that it’s much easier than you think. You don’t have to become a day trader to see the benefits of investing. You can participate in the stock market with safe investments in index funds or a tax-advantaged retirement account such as 401(k) or IRA.  And if you use free stock trading apps, to open a tax-advantaged retirement account outside of your employer, you won’t have to worry about fees and commissions.

You Can Have More Control Than in the Past.

In the past, most people interested in investing in the stock market worked with brokers who managed their investment portfolios and made decisions on their behalf.

But things have changed.

If you use an online stock trading app or platform, you can enjoy full control of your investment portfolio. This flexibility can be key for someone who is just starting to consider long-term investments.

Information is Widely Available

Successful investors formed a rather exclusivist network in the past, but now all the information you need to make profitable investments is widely available.

There is a lot of educational content that can help you get started, be it books, blog articles or videos. When it comes to finding success in the stock market, staying informed and following a long-term plan for stability like index fund investing is crucial because it gives you a bigger perspective on your investments.

It’s an Excellent Way to Diversify Your Income Streams .

Unfortunately, nothing can provide 100% financial stability in life. It’s terrifying to think about, but you can lose your job or suffer an injury that stops you from working.

Loss of income is a real danger. And life-changing events that disrupt people’s lives happen all the time. To protect yourself and your family, you have to diversify your income streams as much as possible. That way, when one source of income disappears, you have something to fall back on. Investing in the stock market when done in a safe and tax-efficient way is one of the best ways to multiply your income streams and safeguard your future.

 

If you care about financial security,  getting informed about and involved in the stock market is an excellent decision. You can earn passive income, save for your retirement, and protect your wealth against inflation. Thus, you can keep yourself and your family financially secure for decades to come.

April 2021 Money News

Time for another monthly money news update!

Women & Money Management Today at Vanderbilt’s Women’s Center

I have some news for the students and faculty at Vanderbilt!

My colleague Joyce and I will be speaking at an event today at The Women’s Center. This will be a live, online event  at 4p Central today, April 5, 2021. We’ll be reviewing real-life money management tricks, while actually addressing the significant financial obstacles women face at nearly every turn within our society.

We hope to see you there! Here’s where you can join us.

Joyce and I may have more exciting news coming up around the corner, too. Stay tuned!

Taxes in the Pandemic.

There are so many changes to taxes this year. And next year. These changes are highly likely to work in your favor in a big way.

Last month we talked about an important large, refundable credit available to the self-employed.

Here are some other big, important changes you should be aware of since the last time we spoke:

  • Filings for the 2020 tax year are no longer due on April 15, 2021. Instead, they’re due May 17, 2021. Here are some ways to file your taxes for free.
  • The first $10,200 you received in unemployment in 2020 no longer counts as taxable income.
  • There are changes to the Child Tax Credit and Additional Child Tax credit that both make it larger and make a larger portion of it refundable. You may expect to see some of these refunds for the 2021 tax year come early — as early as this summer.
  • The Child and Dependent Care Credit has also become refundable, larger and claimable for an additional year.
  • There are BIG changes to premium credits for those who pay for an ACA health insurance plan. It is extremely likely that these changes work in your favor no matter how much or how little money you make, and can result in a larger tax refund or lower overall tax burden. Learn more here.

You got evicted. Now what?

The best way to avoid an eviction is to stop it before it goes to court.

However, that’s not always possible. The eviction crisis has only gotten worse in the pandemic, and it’s something no one should ever have to go through. If you have, I sat down with an expert to help you figure out how, exactly, you can recover with an eviction on your record.

Side Hustle

Looking for a potentially lucrative side hustle? That you can do remotely?

I talked with Bryson Honjo to learn more about the sneaker reselling industry. You can catch the full interview here.

Send your questions!

Confused by all the big financial changes we’ve seen from our government over the past year? Have a specific question you’d like answered? Shoot me an email and I’ll try to get it answered for you in the next round up!

Until next time, friends.

3 Reasons Money Transfer Apps are Helpful

There have been many moments in my life when I wish I had a better money transfer app, most notably during my travels in Japan. This post, brought to you and contributed by Allen Brown, covers some of the reasons you might want to look at these apps as you handle finances across borders and currencies.

Small globe sitting on a wooden table with American cash, a phone, pen and paper and earphones.

Have you ever had to transfer money to another country? Into another currency? You may sending money to a family member in a different country, or you may be paying bills or debts abroad. Maybe you just have a friend in another country who has a birthday coming up, and you’d like to send them cash as a gift.

Regardless of the reasons why you make transfers, you would do well to find simple solutions to your money exchange needs.

Why Money Transfer Apps Are Helpful

Within the last decade, money transfer apps have become very popular. For a time, PayPal was one of the only methods that a person could use to transfer money. But now, a wide range of money transfer apps have come into full swing.

If you are looking for a good international money transfer app, a good place to start is Western Union or Paypal. By using these international money transfer apps, you are able to easily and seamlessly move money to the person or persons you’d like to send funds.

There are several reasons why these apps are more beneficial than transferring money through your bank or handing money to a person. One of the main reasons is because the apps have lower fees or in some cases are even free, so there is no extra money that has to be involved.

Apart from that, the apps are simple. With a simple click of a button, you are able to transfer money within seconds. The last reason is that the applications are extremely safe. People from all around the world use these applications, and they have been able to transfer and obtain funds safely through them.

Make sure to thoroughly research any money transfer service before use. While the big names are reputable, you’ll want to examine the reputation of each app on your own.

Get Funds When You Are In An Emergency

There is no way to know when you may have a personal emergency. This can be extremely stressful if you are traveling out of your home country. It can be almost impossible to send money to a friend or family member who is traveling in another country without using a money transfer app.

Since that is the case, savvy individuals choose to download at least one or several different money transfer apps in order to be able to benefit from their use if it is needed.

The Way Your Money Moves

You have more control of your money now than ever have before. If you are living in a Western country, then you are largely at an advantage financially as many of these currencies go further in some other parts of the world.

You are also in control of the ways that you move your money. You’d do well to in many cases to use the apps over using the banks when it comes to transferring money. It will simplify your financial life.

 

Cheap and Free Tax Preparation Options

Totally surprised! I qualify for the third option on here and I think most of my friends do, too! So many free tax preparation options...

This year, taxes are due on April 15, 2021. That seems like it’s far away, but it definitely sneaks up on you quicker than you’d think!

Beside avoiding procrastination, filing your taxes earlier helps you reduce the odds that you’ll be a victim of tax identity theft. That’s because the IRS only accepts one return for each social security number, so if an identity thief files a fake return before you get to your real one, you’ll have more than a headache on your hands.

If you’re looking to file and don’t want to do it yourself, but also don’t want to drop a ton of cash, check out these four cheap and/or free tax preparation options.

VITA

VITA is a free tax preparation service for low- and middle-income Americans.

Trained volunteers help you get your information sorted out in person, and then run it by the supervising volunteer, who has even more training. Once you’ve made it through all of your interviews, which can take about one to three hours depending, they e-File your return for you, and you’re good to go.

Anticipate a different experience of operations on the ground during the pandemic, likely to include fewer available time slots, masking and social distancing measures.

You do have to make less than $57,000 to qualify for this program for the 2020 tax year.

Those income limits change based on your geographic location, and specific life circumstances. You’ll have to run all of your family’s specifics by the organization that runs VITA in your area before being granted an appointment.

VITA closures during the pandemic

During the pandemic, many VITA locations have been shut down. You can check to see if yours is operational here. If it’s not, there may be other community organizations filling in the gaps.

In many communities, the United Way facilitates these programs or can direct you on where to find them. They are often the organization on the other end of the line when you dial 2-1-1, depending on which part of the country you live in.

Because of the virus, if it’s at all possible for you to file online, you are encouraged to do so. The United Way offers a free online program, in addition to the Free File program from the federal government.

Free File

Free File is another IRS-sponsored way to get free tax preparation.

The Internal Revenue Service has partnered up with some tax preparation software companies. This partnership allows households with income under $72,000 to use the tax prep software for free.

In many states, you can even file your state return for free using this method. Be sure to check out this wizard tool that will show you which software is best for your specific situation.

Transparent Software Options

If you don’t meet those income requirements, you can still file your taxes affordably with guidance from tax software. There are really expensive options that come with a big price tag and hidden fees, and then there are affordable, transparent options like FreeTaxUSA.

The Federal returns you file with FreeTaxUSA are always free. Even if you’re self-employed or own a small business. Even if you’re a homeowner. State returns are currently marked down to $12.95. Learn more here.

Big Box Tax Preparation

This is my least favorite option. The biggest reason is that in my experience, I haven’t found it to be affordable at all.

One year, I took my taxes into a big box store. I had multiple state returns because of frequent moves. Income tax for one state was supposed to be waived because of military status and state law. But this guy refused to listen, demanding I pay additional taxes erroneously. And then pay him $300+ for doing a bad job.

I walked out the door. That guy in the big box store wasn’t a CPA. He was a seasonal worker who received some seasonal training. I called up my state to make sure I wasn’t totally screwing up, and they confirmed that he was indeed wrong.

In my opinion, this solution can be especially expensive if you’re a contractor and have lot of schedules and forms to attach to your 1040.

Cheap and Free Tax Preparation Exists

If you’ve been putting off filing your taxes because of cost, worry no more. For most people, there are ways to get your return filed at a reasonable rate, or even free.

Oh, and if you think you don’t owe any taxes because you didn’t make enough money, you just might want to file anyways. It’s highly likely that the government owes you a refund.