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These are the steps that introduced me and my husband to what financial independence is and for that I am eternally grateful. But a lot of important considerations get looked over if you just find a list of the steps…
The post The Baby Steps Explained, And Why They Work! appeared first on Modern Frugality.
The post The Chilling Truth About Debt Settlement Programs appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.
Debt is a very touchy subject for most people. Feeling the stress of overwhelming monthly payments, many people just look for what seems to be the easiest way out. This is when the salesmen tend to strike. Â The reason is a good deal of your financial information can be considered public knowledge.
Every day, many in debt get phone calls from high energy salesmen talking about the miraculous debt settlement concept. So, I’m going to start by saying, one great lesson we all learn young in life is, âIf it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!â
I made this mistake myself. Â I was so far in debt that I was drowning. In an act of desperation, I used a debt settlement company. Â Turns out, they did nothing to help me. It only made the situation much worse.
Here are a few chilling facts that you should know about debt settlement programs. Â These may just prove that the concept is too good to be true!
Fact #1: You May Be Sued For Not Paying Debts Even As You Make Payments
Did you know the payments you make may not go to your lenders? Â Yep! Â When working with a debt settlement company, your payments are not sent in on a monthly basis. Â Instead, these companies hold the funds from your payments. In most cases, the money is held in special purpose savings accounts until it has reached enough to pay off a debt. Once one debt is paid off, the savings process is started for the next.
Therefore, the last lender or two may wait 3, 4 or even 5 years before they see the next payment. The truth is, if you look at it from their perspective, it’s cheaper to take you to court. They will get the money faster through a settlement because they can garnish your wages. Also, in many cases, you will have to pay the court costs as well!
Fact #2: Your Credit Will Be Destroyed
While talking to a debt settlement agent, you will find that their last interest is in your credit score. Also, if you bring up the topic, they may try to downplay the effects of debt settlement on consumer credit scores. With that said, I’m not going to downplay it at all for you! Here is the truth…Because lenders are not being paid for long periods of time, your debts will be charged off.
One collections agency will sell it to the next and each time, it will damage your credit score! This is why I generally advise against this option if the consumer has good or excellent credit scores. The effects of credit card debt settlement programs will not pass in 6 months either! They will last throughout the term of your settlement and at least a year and a half to 2 years afterwords.
Fact #3: Debt Settlement Costs Thousands Of Dollars In Most Cases
The truth is, if you are going to settle your debts, with a little bit of online research, you can do it on your own. However, when you higher a debt settlement company, chances are, you will pay a percentage of the total amount owed, somewhere around 15%. That means if you have the minimum amount of debt that most companies accept, $10,000.00, your fee will be $1,500.00 minimum in most cases.
This does not include the cost of a special purpose savings account which, usually runs about $25 per month. Add in the cost of paying an attorney when you get taken to curt and, you will now find yourself paying just as much as you did before you hired the debt settlement company in the first place!
Every Dark Cloud Has A Silver Lining
Although debt settlement may not be the option for most, always remember, there is an option for you. As a matter of fact, I recently wrote an article that included a few great options called DIY Alternatives To Debt Consolidation. Trust me, those alternatives only begin to touch the tip of the iceberg when it comes to great, legitimate ways to get out of debt!
This article was written by Joshua Rodriguez, proud owner and founder of CNA Finance and avid personal finance journalist. Join the discussion about this article on facebook and Google+!
The post The Chilling Truth About Debt Settlement Programs appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.
You’ve probably had a checking account for most of your life and never gave it much thought. It’s just there to store your everyday cash, right? Not necessarily.
If you’re considering questions about checking accounts as you take a closer look at your current setup and explore opening a new one, it’s important to note that checking accounts are designed with different and unique features. Some may even be more beneficial to you than you realize.
For starters, most checking accounts offer a host of conveniences, providing customers the ability to set up automatic payments for routine bills, schedule electronic transfers and make all deposits and transfers via a smartphone app. Some accounts even allow you to earn cash back on your debit card purchases.
âA checking account can have a long-term impact on your financial well-being, so it’s worth taking the time to figure everything out,” says Jeff Kreisler, money expert and author of the personal finance book “Dollars and Sense.”
At this point, you might be thinking, “What questions should I ask before opening a checking account?” To help you decide which account is right for you, here are four key questions to ask yourself:
1. What types of checking accounts should I consider?
Before you open a new checking account, do a little homework to learn about the different types of checking accounts offered by banks, Kreisler says. There’s the standard personal checking account that allows you to write checks and make payments with your debit card or electronically. But when thinking about questions to ask when opening a checking account, go beyond the basic features to find an account that best fits your lifestyle and financial goals. Here are some examples:
- Online checking account: Ready to bypass the teller lines with the benefits of an online bank? Then this is the checking account for you. Doing your banking from any computer or mobile device is sweetâand since online banks don’t have brick-and-mortar locations, they can often pass their savings from overhead down to you. Just verify that the online bank or credit union supplying the checking account is backed by the FDIC or the National Credit Union Administration.
- Rewards checking account: One question to ask before choosing a checking account is if you can earn rewards or incentives for certain activity. Discover Cashback Debit, for example, lets you earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month.1 That means your monthly cashback earnings could yield $360 in total rewards each year (finally, dinner and drinks at that new French bistro in town!). Some banks may also offer a checking account bonus just for opening a new account, while others have a variety of reward options based on certain qualifying purchases. A rewards checking account works for almost anyone looking to maximize their debit spend or a balance they regularly hold in their checking account.
Say hello to
cash back on debit
No monthly fees.
No balance requirements.
Discover Bank, Member FDIC
- Joint checking account: Most checking accounts can be opened as a joint checking account, which is an account held by two or more people. This can be a convenient solution for couples, minors and their parents and even seniors and their caregivers who are trying to manage a household budget. It does require good record keeping and communication, so make sure you understand the ins and outs of joint accounts before choosing this option.
The above checking accounts are the most standard and usually have appealing benefits. But if you have more questions about checking accounts, there are options that can cater to more specific needs. However, they often have less flexibility. For instance:
- Interest-bearing checking accounts are available for those who want to earn some money while their cash is parked in the account. The rate of return is usually low and minimum balance requirements high.
- Student checking accounts are often low-cost, but they could come with limitations. Whether or not a student account is available may be a good question to ask before choosing a checking account if you’re looking for a starter account for yourself or your child.
- Second-chance checking accounts could be a fit for those who may not be able to get a standard checking account due to their banking or credit history; however, they often have higher fees.
“A checking account can have a long-term impact on your financial well-being, so it’s worth taking the time to figure everything out.”
2. Are there fees associated with the checking account?
This is one of the most commonly asked questions about checking accounts. Before choosing a checking account, be sure to research its fees, says Marc Bernstein, financial planner and strategist for MWealth Advisors. Types of fees and fee amounts can vary greatly from bank to bank, and even among accounts at the same bank.
A question to ask when opening a checking account is if the account charges fees for ATM use, automatic bill pay, monthly maintenance, ordering checks, replacing a debit card or ordering official bank checks. Banks may charge any combination of these feesâor none. Discover Cashback Debit comes with no fees. Period.2 That means you won’t be charged a fee for any of these services.
Along with including the fee topic on your list of questions to ask before choosing a checking account, you should also consider obtaining “a document outlining the fees you’ll be paying, in case you have any questions, and check the fine print,” Bernstein says. You can also typically find a list of fees (if any) on the bank’s website or in the account agreement.
3. Is there a minimum balance requirement?
According to Bernstein, among the questions to ask when opening a checking account is if it requires an initial minimum balance to open. You’ll also want to know if a minimum balance needs to be maintained to avoid a fee.
Bernstein suggests looking for an account with no minimum balance requirement if you tend to keep less than $1,000 in your account or like to have flexibility when making large withdrawals.
If you’ve asked this question about checking accounts and are still comparing accounts that have a minimum balance requirement, realistically determine how much you can keep in your account per month and what you will be charged if you can’t keep that balance.
Even if your account falls below a minimum requirement, there could be a way to save on fees. If you have multiple accounts at one bank, the bank may allow you to combine the balances to waive checking fees.
The total average cost of withdrawing cash from an out-of-network ATM is $4.68. That’s 36 percent higher than it was 10 years prior, with no signs of decreasing.
4. What ATM fees could I incur?
If you frequent the ATM to take out cash, a good question to ask before choosing a checking account is: Where are the bank’s ATMs located in relation to your home and work?
Availability of ATMs is an important question to ask when opening a checking account that can really affect your wallet. For instance, if you decide to withdraw money from an ATM that’s not in your bank’s network, you can get hit with two separate charges: a surcharge from the ATM owner (since you’re not a customer) and a fee from your own bank.
And those fees can really add up. According to Bankrate’s 2018 checking account and ATM fee study, the total average cost of withdrawing cash from an out-of-network ATM is $4.68. That’s 36 percent higher than it was 10 years prior, with no signs of decreasing.
One way to get cash without paying an ATM fee is to use your own bank’s ATMs. The more ATM locations that your bank offers that are conveniently located, the less likely you are to use one that’s out-of-network and rack up unnecessary charges. If you can’t always use your own bank’s ATM, one of the questions to ask when opening a checking account is whether your bank allows you to use a broader ATM network for no-fee transactions.
Find the best checking account for you
Opening a new checking account is an important step toward establishing, or rebuilding, your financial foundation.
Now that you can ask the right questions about checking accounts, you’re one step closer to choosing an account that fits your individual needs. And that feels like money in the bank.
1 ATM transactions, the purchase of money orders or other cash equivalents, cash over portions of point-of-sale transactions, Peer-to-Peer (P2P) payments (such as Apple Pay Cash), and loan payments or account funding made with your debit card are not eligible for cash back rewards. In addition, purchases made using third-party payment accounts (services such as VenmoÂ® and PayPal, which also provide P2P payments) may not be eligible for cash back rewards. Apple, the Apple logo and Apple Pay are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.
2 Outgoing wire transfers are subject to a service charge. You may be charged a fee by a non-Discover ATM if it is not part of the 60,000+ ATMs in our no-fee network.
The post 4 Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Checking Account appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.
The following is a guest post by Lisa Bigelow, a content writer for Bold.
When it comes to paying for college, the anxiety about how to leave college debt-free starts early. And for thousands of grads who are buckling under the weight of monthly student loan payments that can cost as much as a mortgage, that worry can last for as long as 25 years.
According to EducationData.org and The College Board, the cost of a private school undergraduate education can exceed $200,000 over four years. Think you can avoid a $100k+ price tag by staying in-state? Think againâmany public flagships can cost over $100,000 for residents seeking an undergraduate degree, including room and board. And with financial aid calculators returning eye-poppingly low awards, youâd better not get a second topping on your pizza.
In fact, youâd better hope that you can graduate on time.
The good news is that you can maintain financial health and get a great education at the same time. You wonât have to enroll as a full-time student and work 40 hours a week, eitherâeach of the methods suggested are attainable for anyone who makes it a priority to leave college debt-free.
Here are four practical ways you can leave college debt-free (and still get that second pizza topping).
1. Cut the upfront sticker price
Donât visit schools until you are certain you can afford them. Instead, prioritize the cost of attendance and how much you can afford to pay. Staying in-state is one easy way to do this. But if you have wanderlust and want to explore colleges outside state lines, an often-overlooked method of cutting the upfront cost is the regional tuition discount. Many US states participate in some form of tuition reciprocity or exchange programs. You can explore the full list of options at the National Association for Student Financial Aid Administrators website.
Letâs explore how this works. As a resident of a New England state, for example, you can study at another New England stateâs public university at a greatly reduced cost if your home stateâs public schools donât offer the degree you want. So, for example, if you live in Maine but want to go to film school, you can attend the University of Rhode Island and major in film using the regional tuition discount.
Some universities offer different types of regional discounts and scholarships that appear somewhat arbitrary. The University of Louisville (in Kentucky) includes Connecticut in its regional scholars program. And at the University of Nebraska, out-of-state admitted applicants are eligible for several thousand dollars in renewable scholarship money if they meet modest academic standards.
If you already have your heart set on an expensive school and youâre not likely to qualify for reciprocity, financial help, or merit aid, live at home and complete your first two years at your local community college.
Hereâs another fun fact: in some places, graduating from community college with a minimum GPA gives you automatic acceptance to the state flagship university.
2. Leverage dual enrollment and âtesting outâ
When you enroll in a four-year college itâs pretty likely that youâll spend the first two years completing general education requirements and taking electives. Why not further reduce the cost of your education by completing some of those credits at your local community college, or by testing out?
Community college per-credit tuition is usually much cheaper than at four-year colleges, so take advantage of the lower rate in high school and over the summer after youâre enrolled in your four-year college.
But beware: youâll probably need at least a C to transfer the credits, so read your institutionâs rules first. Also, plan to take general education and low-level elective classes, because youâll want to take courses in your major at your four-year school.
If youâve been given the opportunity to take Advanced Placement courses, study hard for your year-end exams. Many colleges will accept a score of 3 or higher for credit, although some require at least a 4 (and others none at all). Take four or five AP classes in high school, score well on the exams, and guess what? Youâve just saved yourself a semester of tuition.
3. Take advantage of financial aid opportunities
After taking steps one and two, you probably have a good idea of what the leftover expense will be if you want to leave college debt-free. Your next job is to figure out how to cut that total even more by using financial aid. There are four types to consider.
The first is called need-based aid. This is what youâll apply for when you complete your Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Known as the FAFSA, this is where youâll enter detailed financial information, and youâll need at least an hour the first time you complete this form. Hint: apply for aid as soon as the form opens in the fall. It is not a bottomless pot of money.
There is also medical-based financial aid. If you have a condition that could make employment difficult after graduating from college, you may be eligible, and qualifying is separate and apart from financial need and academic considerations.
The third type of aid relates to merit and is offered directly by colleges. Some schools automatically consider all accepted applicants for merit scholarships, which could relate to academics or community service or, in the case of recruited athletes, athletics. At other universities, youâll need to submit a separate scholarship application after youâve been admitted. Some merit awards are renewable for four years and others are only for one year.
If you didnât get need-based or merit-based aid then you still may qualify for a private scholarship. Some require essays, some donât, and some are offered by local community organizations such as rotary clubs, womenâs organizations, and the like. Donât turn your nose up at small-dollar awards, either, because they add up quickly and can cover budget-busting expenses such as travel and books.
4. Find easy money
Small-dollar awards really add up when you make finding easy money a priority. Consider using the following resources to help leave college debt-free:
- Returns from micro-investing apps like Acorns
- Tax return refunds
- Browser add-ons that give you cashback for shopping online
- Rewards credit cards (apply for a travel rewards credit card if youâre studying out of state)
- Asking for money at the holidays and on your birthday
- Working part-time by capitalizing on a special talent, such as tutoring, photography, or freelance writing
Leave College Debt-Free
Finally, if you have to take out a student loan, you may be able to have it forgiven if you agree to serve your community after graduation. The Peace Corps is one such way to serve, but if you have a specialized degree such as nursing, you can work in an underserved community and reap the rewards of loan forgiveness.
Lisa Bigelow writes for Bold and is an award-winning content creator, personal finance expert, and mom of three fantastic almost-adults. In addition to Credit.com, Lisa has contributed to The Tokenist, OnEntrepreneur, College Money Tips, Finovate, Finance Buzz, Life and Money by Citi, MagnifyMoney, Well + Good, Smarter With Gartner, and Popular Science. She lives with her family in Connecticut.
The post 4 Practical Ways to Leave College Debt-Free appeared first on Credit.com.
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, life and business certainly have changed. If you’re self-employed full-time or earn business income on the side of a day job, you may be wondering what economic relief applies to you.
Let's review what relief Congress passed to help self-employed Americans cope with financial challenges. I’ll review ten key stimulus benefits that apply to solopreneurs and small businesses.
If you're experiencing economic hardship due to the coronavirus, using some of these new regulations may be the ticket to managing your personal and business finances better.
10 ways the self-employed can get financial relief
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act became law on March 27 as the largest stimulus legislation in American history since the New Deal in the 1930s. Here are ten ways it provides relief for individual solopreneurs and small business owners.
1. Getting lower interest rates
On March 3, the central U.S. bank, also known as the Federal Reserve or Fed, made a surprising emergency interest rate cut of half a percentage point. That’s the largest single rate cut since the financial crisis of 2008. While this move wasn’t part of a coronavirus stimulus package, it was an aggressive cut meant to prepare the economy for problems the pandemic was expected to cause.
An economic recovery could take a few years, which likely means the Fed rate will stay near zero through 2023.
In mid-September, the Fed reiterated its promise to keep interest rates near zero until the economy improves and the unemployment rate declines. They indicated that a recovery could take a few years, which likely means the Fed rate stays near zero through 2023.
While savers never celebrate low interest rates, they're beneficial to borrowers. In general, the financing charge on variable-rate credit cards and lines of credit goes down in lockstep with interest rates. Carrying a balance on your personal and business credit cards may be slightly less expensive, depending on your card issuer and type. For instance, if your card’s annual percentage rate or APR is 20%, your adjusted rate could go down to 19.5%.
If you have a fixed-rate credit card, the APR doesn’t change no matter what happens in the economy or with federal interest rates. Also, note that if you pay off your balance in full each month, a credit card’s APR is irrelevant because you don’t pay interest on purchases.
2. Having more time to file taxes
Earlier this year, the due date for filing and paying 2019 federal taxes was postponed from April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020. You didn't have to be sick or negatively impacted by COVID-19 to qualify for this federal tax delay. It applied to any person or business entity with taxes due on April 15, 2020.
If you missed the tax filing deadline, be sure to request an extension.
Most businesses make estimated tax payments each quarter. Those payment dates have shifted, too. The 2020 schedule gives you more time as follows:
- The first quarter was due on July 15, 2020, which changed from April 15, 2020
- The second quarter was due on July 15, 2020, which changed from April 15, 2020
- The third quarter was due on September 15, 2020
- The fourth quarter is due on January 15, 2021
Individuals and businesses can request an automatic extension to delay filing federal taxes. But it doesn’t give you more time to pay what you owe for 2019, only more time to submit your tax form—until October 15, 2020.
If you missed the tax filing deadline, be sure to request an extension. Individuals must file IRS Form 4868, and most incorporated businesses use IRS Form 7004.
However, depending on where you live, you may have to pay state income taxes, which have not been postponed. If you need a state tax filing extension, check with your state’s tax agency to determine what’s possible.
Taxes due on any date other than April 15, 2020—such as sales tax, payroll tax, or estate tax—don’t qualify for relief.
3. Getting more time to contribute to retirement accounts
You typically have until April 15 or the date of a tax extension to make traditional IRA or Roth IRA contributions for the prior year. But since the CARES Act postponed the federal tax filing deadline, you also have until July 15 or October 15, 2020 (if you requested an extension) to make IRA contributions for 2019.
However, this deadline doesn't apply to retirement accounts you may have with an employer, such as a 401(k). Nor does it apply to self-employed accounts, such as a solo 401(k) or SEP-IRA, which correspond to the calendar year.
4. Getting more time to contribute to an HSA
Like with an IRA, you typically have until April 15 or the date of a tax extension to make HSA contributions for the prior year. Under the CARES Act, you now have until July 15 or October 15, 2020, to make HSA contributions for 2019.
To qualify for an HSA, you must be covered by a qualifying high-deductible health plan. In early March, the IRS issued a notice that a high-deductible health plan may cover COVID-19 testing and treatment and telehealth services before meeting your deductible. And just as before the coronavirus, you can pay for medical testing and treatment using funds in your HSA.
5. Delaying tax on retirement withdrawals
While you typically must pay income tax on retirement account withdrawals that weren’t previously taxed, the good news is that for a period, you can delay or avoid tax altogether. The CARES Act gives you two options for withdrawals made in 2020:
- Repay a hardship distribution within three years to your retirement account. You can replace the funds slowly or all at once, with no change to your annual contribution limit. If you take money out but return it within three years, it’s like you never took a distribution.
- Pay taxes on a hardship distribution from your retirement account evenly over three years. If you can’t pay back your distribution, you can ease your tax burden by paying one-third of your liability for three years.
Since withdrawing contributions from a Roth retirement account doesn’t trigger income taxes, it’s a good idea to tap a Roth before a traditional retirement account when you have the option.
6. Skipping early withdrawal penalties
Most retirement accounts impose a 10% early withdrawal penalty if you take make withdrawals before age 59.5. Under the CARES Act, if you have a coronavirus-related hardship, the penalty is waived.
Under the CARES Act, if you have a coronavirus-related hardship, the penalty is waived.
For instance, if you, your spouse, or a child gets diagnosed with COVID-19 or have financial challenges due to being laid off, quarantined, or closing a business, you qualify for this penalty exemption. You can withdraw up to $100,000 of your retirement account balance during 2020 without penalty. However, income taxes would still be due in most cases.
The no-penalty rule applies to workplace retirement plans, such as 401(k)s and 403(b)s. It also applies to IRAs, such as traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs, and SEP-IRAs.
Since you make after-tax contributions to Roth accounts, you can withdraw them at any time (which was also the case before the CARES Act). However, the earnings portion of a Roth is subject to income tax if you withdraw it before age 59.5.
7. Getting larger retirement plan loans
Some workplace retirement plans, such as 401(k)s and 403(b)s, permit loans. Typically, you can borrow 50% of your vested account balance up to $50,000 and repay it with interest over five years.
You can delay the repayment period for a retirement plan loan for up to one year.
For retirement plans that allow loans, the CARES Act doubles the limit to 100% of your vested balance in the plan up to $100,000. It applies to loans you take from your account until late September 2020, for coronavirus-related financial needs.
You can delay the repayment period for a retirement plan loan for up to one year. For example, if you have $20,000 vested in your 401(k), you could take a $20,000 loan on September 30, 2020, and delay the repayment term until September 30, 2021. You’d have payments stretched over five years, ending on September 30, 2026. Any amount not repaid by the deadline would be subject to tax and a 10 percent early withdrawal penalty.
Note that individual retirement accounts—such as traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs, and SEP-IRAs—don’t allow participants to take loans, only hardship distributions.
8. Suspending student loan payments.
Starting on March 13, 2020, most federal student loans went into automatic forbearance until September 30, 2020, due to the CARES Act. On August 8, the suspension of student loan payments was extended through December 31, 2020.
On August 8, the suspension of student loan payments was extended through December 31, 2020.
The suspension covers the following types of loans:
- Direct Loans that are unsubsidized or subsidized
- Direct PLUS Loans
- Direct Consolidation Loans
- Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL)
- Federal Perkins Loans
Note that FFEL loans owned by a private lender or Perkins loans held by your education institution don’t qualify for automatic forbearance. However, you may have the option to consolidate them into a Direct Loan, which would be eligible for forbearance. Just make sure that once the suspension ends, your new consolidated interest rate wouldn’t rise significantly.
During forbearance, qualifying loans don’t accrue additional interest. Even if you have federal student loans in default because you haven’t made payments, zero percent interest applies during the suspension period.
Additionally, missed payments during the suspension don’t get reported to the credit bureaus and can’t hurt your credit. Qualifying payments you skip also count toward any federal loan repayment or forgiveness plan you’re enrolled in.
However, if you want to continue making student loan payments during the suspension period, you can. With zero percent interest, the amount you pay gets applied to your principal student loan balance, enabling you to get out of debt faster.
With zero percent interest, the amount you pay gets applied to your principal student loan balance, enabling you to get out of debt faster.
If you’re not sure what type of student loan you have or the pros and cons of consolidation, contact your loan servicer. Even if your student loans are with private lenders or schools, they may offer relief if you request it.
9. Having Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans forgiven
The PPP is part of the CARES Act, and it supports small businesses, organizations, and solopreneurs facing economic hardship created by the pandemic. The program began providing relief in early April 2020, and the application window ended in early August 2020.
Participating PPP lenders coordinated with the Small Business Administration (SBA) to offer loans to businesses in operation by February 15, 2020, with fewer than 500 employees. Loan amounts could be up to 2.5 times the average monthly payroll up to $10 million; however, annual salaries were capped at $100,000.
For a solopreneur, the maximum PPP loan was $20,833 if your 2019 net profit was at least $100,000. The calculation is: $100,000 / 12 months x 2.5 = $20,833.
When you spend at least 60% on payroll and 40% on rent, mortgage interest, and utilities, you can have those amounts forgiven from repayment. Payroll includes payments to yourself, but you can’t cover benefit costs, such as retirement contributions, or payments to independent contractors.
In other words, a solopreneur could have received a PPP loan for up to $20,833, paid the entire amount to themselves, and not repaid it by having the load forgiven. Using a PPP loan for qualifying expenses turns it into a grant.
The best part about PPP loan forgiveness is that it won’t qualify as federal taxable income. Some states that charge income tax have indicated that they won’t tax forgiven amounts.
However, if you have employees, the PPP forgiveness calculations and requirements are more complex. For example, you must maintain reasonable salaries and wages. If you decrease them by more than 25% for any employee (including yourself) who made less than $100,000 in 2019, your forgiveness amount will be reduced.
PPP loan forgiveness also depends on keeping any full-time employees on your payroll. But if you had employees who left your company voluntarily, requested a cut in hours, or got fired for cause during the pandemic, your loan forgiveness amount won’t be reduced for those situations.
The best part about PPP loan forgiveness is that it won’t qualify as federal taxable income. Some states that charge income tax have indicated that they won’t tax forgiven amounts.
However, not all states have issued their rules on taxing PPP forgiveness. So be sure to get guidance if you live in a state with income tax.
You must complete a PPP Loan Forgiveness Application and get approved by your lender to qualify for forgiveness. The paperwork should come from your lender, or you can download it from the SBA website at SBA.gov. Most PPP borrowers have from six months after loan disbursement or until the end of 2020 to spend the funds.
The forgiveness application explains what documents you must include, and they vary depending on whether you have employees. Once you submit your paperwork, your lender has 60 days to decide how much of your PPP loan can be forgiven.
If some or all of a PPP loan isn't forgiven, you typically must repay it within five years at a 1 percent fixed interest rate. You don't have to start making payments for ten months after loan disbursement, but interest will accrue during a deferral period.
10. Getting SBA loans
In addition to PPP loans, the Small Business Administration (SBA) offers several loans for businesses and solopreneurs facing economic hardship caused by a disaster, including the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) can be up to $2 million and repaid over 30 years at an interest rate of 3.75 percent. You can use these funds for payroll and other operating expenses.
- SBA Express Bridge Loans gives borrowers up to $25,000 for help overcoming a temporary loss of revenue. However, you must have an existing relationship with an SBA Express lender.
- SBA Debt Relief is a program that helps you make payments on existing SBA loans for up to six months.
Depending on your state, you may qualify for unemployment assistance, which allows self-employed people, who typically are ineligible for unemployment benefits to get them for a period.
This isn’t a complete list of all the economic relief available for small businesses and solopreneurs. There are federal tax initiatives, funds from local and state governments, and help from private organizations that you may find by doing a search online.
How to manage money in uncertain times
When it comes to surviving uncertainty, such as how COVID-19 will affect the economy, those who have emergency savings will feel much less financial stress than those who don’t. That’s why it’s essential to maintain a cash reserve of at least three to six months’ worth of living expenses in an FDIC-insured bank savings account.
If you don’t need to dip into your emergency fund, continue shoring it up when possible. If you don’t have a cash reserve, accumulate savings by cutting non-essential expenses, and even temporarily pausing contributions to retirement accounts. That’s a better option than succumbing to panic and tapping your retirement funds early.
If you don’t need to dip into your emergency fund, continue shoring it up when possible.
If you find yourself in a cash crunch, contact your creditors before dipping into any retirement accounts you have. Many lenders will be willing to work with you to suspend payments or modify existing loan terms temporarily.
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My new book, Money-Smart Solopreneur: A Personal Finance System for Freelancers, Entrepreneurs, and Side-Hustlers, covers many strategies to earn more, manage variable income, and create an automatic money system so you can strengthen your financial future. It’s a great resource if you’re thinking about earning side income or have already started a business.
Many economic factors that affect your personal and business finances aren’t under your control. Instead of worrying, look around, and figure out how you can create more income or cut unnecessary expenses. Working on tasks that you can control gives you more clarity and helps manage stress in uncertain times.