CARE Act – Business – The Highlights at a Glance

“Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. We saw a need that needed to be filled, and we stepped in to help”. This well-known quote is attributed to Benet Wilson. If only getting our economy back on track was so simple. As I observed the negotiations in Congress, and considered the many tools available, I was curious as to what strategies would be implemented. They had a number of strategic options to consider.

Loans – with low interest rates, forgiveness provisions and advances
Extending Payment Schedules –
Tax Incentives – new deductions, credits, etc.

And, they used all of the above in their initial response. What’s missing? Maybe direct hiring as was done in the 30s with programs such as the WPA and Civilian Conservation Corps. Major infrastructure and climate change related projects could employ millions. Stay tuned as Congress is currently debating how to deal with the longer term economic fallout. In the meantime, let’s discuss what’s been done so far.


There are two types of loans, the Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) and the (7A) Paycheck Protection loans (PPL) available to small businesses. Following is a chart that explains the differences.

Click here to see a table that explains the difference between these two types of loans:

A $1,000 direct payment that does not need to be paid back. It was initially limited to $10,000, then to $15,000 and ultimately the cap was eliminated.

Extending Payment Schedules
California sales taxes – up to $50,000 of it can be deferred for six months
Federal and state income taxes – extended 90 days
Payroll taxes – but can’t defer if you received loan proceeds to cover this expense

Tax Incentives
Employee Reduction Credit – This credit is not allowed if you take the PPL loan.
This is a fully refundable credit against an employer’s payroll taxes for wages paid from March 12, 2020 through December 31, 2020. It’s 50% of the wages paid to employee, up to a maximum of $10,000 of wages per employee. You must have been fully or partially shut-down in any calendar quarter in 2020 due to Federal, state or local restrictions or experience a significant decline in revenue compared to the same quarter in a prior year.

Net Operations loss rules expanded.

If a business has a net operations loss, its deductions exceed its revenue. (It doesn’t mean that it spent more money than it received. Some deductions, such as depreciation, do not reflect cash payments. The ability to apply these losses against past and future earnings is typically limited to a restrictive schedule. Since that schedule became less restrictive, some people can amend their tax returns and get a tax refund.

And the Rest of the Story….

This change benefits the affluent. Prior to the CARE Act, if you had $500,000 of income you could not benefit from these taxable losses, just as you could not deduct business interest if you made more than $25 million in annual income. The change in the use of net operating losses for those individuals with $500,000 of income former will contribute to a $135 billion loss in federal tax revenue. And, you can imagine who will benefit.

This information is meant to be informative, but it is not comprehensive. Guidelines seem subject to change especially as it relates to industries that were excluded then included, i.e. agriculture. As I write this e-zine, strip clubs, payroll lenders, and lobbyists are lobbying to be eligible for these loans.

For more detailed information see the SBA website:

Did the money go where it was intended? Not all of the proceeds. According The Washington Post, 1.6% of the loans, or $95 million, was for loans of $2 million or more and were assumed to not have gone to small business. “For the most part, these PPP loans appeared to be actually reaching the small business as intended. Loans for less than $150,000 account for 75 percent of total loans – and 96 percent were for less than $1 million. The average loan was $206,000.”

Have a question? Please send an email or give me a call. If I can help you in a 15 -30 minute phone call or via email by providing general information, I will do so on my nickel. If I can’t, I will try to find a resource for you. And, if some analysis specific to your situation is necessary, I will let you know how we might work together.

CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act – Individuals

Catching a break – For many, in addition to the health and other challenges we face, this a financially difficult time. This ezine is offered in the spirit of providing information on options that may be available to help you as you weather the coming weeks and months. Please know that this document is meant to be brief and not comprehensive, i.e. especially related to the COVID 19 related criteria.

Cash Payments

Recovery Rebates – They are available in the form of a refundable tax credit. You won’t need to apply, and the IRS will do the calculation to determine the eligible amount. The base amount is $1,200 per taxpayer and $500 for each dependent child who does NOT turn age 17 by the end of the year. If you have a son or daughter away at college, they may receive their own check as long as they are not your dependent and they have been required to file taxes. What about senior citizens who don’t make enough to need to file taxes? If they receive Social Security benefits then they will receive a check regardless of their taxable income.

Here’s a Recovery Rebate calculator:

Looking at it from the other side, who doesn’t get a check?
Dependents, for tax purposes, age 17 and over
Taxpayers who exceed income limits on a scale that starts at $75,000 for those who file as individuals and $150,000 for married filing jointly filers, etc.

Do you need to have filed 2019 tax returns? No, if you have not yet filed, then the calculation will be based on your 2018 tax return.

So, if it sounds like you qualify, then you might consider if the IRS has your banking information and whether you’ve moved since you last filed your taxes. If the IRS doesn’t have your banking information they will be mail a check to your last known address. If you have moved, then file IRS Form 8822 to provide your change of address. Taxpayers who haven’t provided direct deposit information on their 2018 or 2019 tax returns will be able to enter it in a portal the IRS is setting up to expedite receipt of their checks. Checks could arrive as early as April 15 or before if the IRS has you banking information and as late as September if they don’t.

Unemployment – There will be an additional $600 weekly payment for each recipient of unemployment insurance for four months. Think you don’t qualify for unemployment? You may want to investigate the COVID 19 specific exceptions that make it possible for some small business owners. In addition, you may qualify for short-time unemployment that allows you to work for less time and compensation, if the State of California decides to offer this coverage. In addition benefits have been extended by 13 weeks during the crisis. And, the benefits will start immediately, as compared to after the normal waiting period of one week.
For updated and more detailed information, check the IRS website at:

Debt Payments Made for You

Are you paying off federal student loans using the income-based repayment, Public Service Loan Forgiveness or have a defaulted loan enrolled in a rehabilitation program? If so, your payments will be suspended till September 30th and will be counted as a loan payment. In other words, the federal government will be making your loan payments during the suspensions.

Pell Grants – A student who received a Pell Grant will for the most recent semester or quarter will not to pay back or return the Pell Grant to the federal government if they stopped attending college prematurely due to a qualifying emergency. The amount will not be applied against your lifetime limits.

Deferred Responsibilities and Deadlines

Mortgage, Auto Payments – Depending on your lender you may be able to defer making payments for as long as long as 120 days.

Income tax filing and the resulting tax payments – Now due on July 15th instead of April 15th.

FICA payments – And, if you’re a sole-proprietor, you can defer the employer portion (6.2%) of your Social Security payments until 12/31/21 for 50% of the amount and 12/31/22 for the remaining 50%.

Taking Distributions from Your Retirement Accounts – The federal government has made it easier to for you to access money in your retirement accounts.

They have waived the early withdrawal (prior to age 59 ½) 10 per cent penalty for distributions up to $100,000.

They will allow you to recognize the income over three years rather than in one year, the year you took the distribution. And, if you recognize the income this year, you will be allowed to amend your return to spread this income recognition over the next three years.

The amount available as a loan was increased from $50,000 to $100,000. You pay yourself any interest owed.

You will be allowed to “return” a distribution to your retirement account for up to three years, despite contribution limits, for the next three years.

Possible Tax Savings There is a new above-the-line $300 tax deduction for charitable cash contributions. Above-the-line means that you receive the benefit even if you take the standard deduction. Be careful about the organization to which you contribute. It needs to be a Section 501(c)(3) organization. There are organizations that collect for other charities and they don’t quality. They are Section 409(a)(3) organizations.

If you are feeling really generous, you can now give up to 100% of your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI), as compared to 60% of your AGI in previous years.

You will be able to forego your Required Minimum Distributions (RMD’s). And if you did take them, you can put the distribution back, within 60 days of taking the distribution.

There are more provisions that relate to businesses that are not discussed here.

Have a question? Please send an email or give me a call. If I can help you in a 15-30 minutes phone call or via email by providing general information, I will do so on my nickel. If I can’t, I will try to find a resource for you. And, if some analysis specific to you is necessary, I will let you know how we might work together.

The Best Defenses Against a Stock Market Crash – Review, Rebalance, Reconsider and Relax

When I look at charts for the US stock market, it reminds me of some of the Mt. Tam trails that I hike. It seems as if the uphill will never end. And then, it does end, just as I turn a bend. The walking sticks come out of the daypacks of my hiking friends, and we catch our breath and become conscious of how much more treacherous the trail becomes as gravel scatters under our boots and rocks we use as stepping stones teeter. I wish all investors had their own investment walking stick equivalent. They don’t. They are, however, not without tools and a process to avoid market risk.

Review Your ENTIRE Portfolio – If you’re like my clients you have 401(k) accounts in multiple locations, possibly a brokerage account, and you may be working with more than one bank or credit union. My first step with new investment clients is to determine their current level of risk for volatility. I use advisor-based Morningstar software to aggregate all the individual mutual funds, stocks, bonds, cash (savings and money market accounts) to determine the asset allocation, including the mix of stocks and bonds. And, based on past performance, something that offers no guarantees, I identify the range a portfolio might fluctuate at the best of times and the worst of times. Then I review the results of my risk tolerance questionnaire, to see how closely the clients’ risk and the portfolio’s risk match. Does my clients’ stated willingness to ride out a market downturn match what a portfolio with a similar asset allocation has done in the past?

Rebalance the Existing Portfolio – Often my clients come to me with neglected portfolios that resemble their portfolio model about as well as some of my out of date trail maps match the local scenery. In that case, I design a portfolio model. And, if they are existing clients, I only have to determine how much of each holding to buy or sell to bring the portfolio in line with the existing model. This should be done once or twice a year, ideally.

If all is well in the stock market most of my clients are satisfied. I am only satisfied if we’ve identified how much cash they need each year from their portfolio, or for an emergency fund, and have at least enough cash to prevent them from having to sell mutual funds and exchange traded funds for six, twelve or 24 months. I want them to have the cash they need to comfortably wait out a market downturn. The added bonus is that if the market is turbulent, they sleep better. Sometimes taking the appropriate precautions is not enough to soothe their nerves.

Reconsider or Change the Existing Portfolio – That doesn’t mean we sell everything and put it in cash. It means we reduce the volatility of the portfolio by changing the asset allocation. And, since we have done a retirement projection I can show them the impact on their retirement savings by reducing the return on investment. And, by changing the asset allocation, I make the appropriate changes to the portfolio model.

And then, it’s time for my clients to relax knowing that while the road may get rocky, they’ve taken important steps to protect their savings and investments. If you would like help with this process, I recommend you talk to an hourly financial planner. No names of course.

Before, During and After a Disaster

I am not a disaster expert. However, as a financial planner I do know something about protecting your assets and what to look for in insurance coverage. So the focus of this ezine will be on how to prepare for and how to recover from a natural disaster. I’m also including some resource links and suggestions for those recovering from the recent fires.

Immediate – While those affected by recent fires are now beyond the initial steps I will repeat them: getting to safety; communicating your safety to friends and family; securing lodging, transportation and cash. Some fire victims left without their wallets. Think about how you could access your bank accounts if you did not have identification or debit cards. Here are some precautions to consider:
Upload personal identification papers to a secure online service like ShareFile.
    Place some personal identification papers, i.e. birth certificate, marriage license, etc. in a safety deposit box. But if you leave in a hurry, would you have that key? Do you really want that key on your key ring?
    Consider giving the second key to your safety deposit box to someone you trust in a separate household.
    Consider keeping cash on hand and gas in the car.
Call your insurance company. Homeowners and renters policies that cover living expenses may offer an advance against the insurance claim. If you do not have an insurance policy, there may be some aid available from FEMA, other governmental agencies or non-profits. Depending upon the severity of the incident, loans and grants up to as much as $34,000 may be offered for expenses not covered by insurance. The Small Business Administration has a loan program with a rate of 1.75% for up $200,000.
Be careful to not settle the insurance claim immediately.
    Start retaining receipts immediately.
    Document all communication with the insurance company.
    Start a mileage log for the additional distances to work and school.
Call your creditors as well. Some creditors will allow you to defer payments for up to 90 days. That relief may be extended to 12 or 24 months. With property taxes due so soon, you will probably see counties allowing a deferral for property tax payments. (These deferrals require a claim with your county assessor’s office within 12 months from the date of damage. Sonoma County is already in process of revaluing properties and, in turn, lowering property tax liabilities.
     If you are a renter, consider cancelling your utilities.
    If you’re an employee who has lost your job, call your employer and leave your contact information. Many employers lost their employee records and do not know where to send the last paycheck. Then get online and file your unemployment claim. Hopefully the claims are deposited directly into your checking account. Otherwise, you’re probably going to need to file a forwarding address order with the Post Office.
    What if you own your own business? Most likely you have a business interruption policy that will reimburse for overhead while your business is closed. Consider whether you are eligible for a FEMA grant or loan.

Negotiating with the insurance company – You will need to decide if you want to hire a public adjustor to negotiate on your behalf. They can be, and most likely are, compensated as a percentage of your insurance claim. That means a smaller settlement to you unless they negotiate a larger claim than you would have on your own.

Replacing personal property – I have always been interested in how a value is determined for lost personal property. The amount of coverage always seemed to be high in comparison to the dwelling insurance amount. It’s very difficult to pin down the standards for providing proof of loss. One source said that you could be asked to provide the title of every book lost. That got my attention. I went to the Department of Insurance and they provide some helpful advice. It appears that the date of purchase and the purchase price is required.
    Consider scanning and saving in the cloud receipts for major assets.
Did you know that the amount of your claim depends upon whether or not you replace personal property? Chose not to replace the property and you only receive the actual cash value, which is the price you paid less the depreciation of the value due to use or obsolesce. Don’t worry. You should have several months to replace your personal property.

Rebuilding your home – Indemnity versus reimbursement coverage, what does that mean for the policyholder owner? It’s the difference in saying, “My house burned down. Please pay me the policy limits” and walking away after you pay off the mortgage, versus being required to rebuild and needing your mortgage company to endorse any insurance check you receive. In addition, benefits are paid out in relation to the completion of the rebuild project. If costs rise significantly due to excessive demand for building contractors, you may find that you have to incur additional debt to rebuild your home to collect the insurance.

Be especially cautious during this time when hiring people to help you. One specific caution given by one contractor is beware of a company that says it will clean up the property for free. In one case such a contractor asks you to subrogate your rights on your insurance policy for the cost of demolition. And, they use a questionable method that could jeopardize the foundation make the rebuilding more expensive and take longer to complete.

Many policies have a clause or rider that increases the dwelling coverage by a percentage, i.e. if you have dwelling coverage of $500,000 with a provision to increase the coverage by 20%, you would effectively have dwelling coverage of $600,000. This increase of coverage is generally not tied to any additional requirements to qualify. Rather, these provisions are meant to help the insured deal with construction costs driven up by a common disaster like the Northern California fires. Ideally, your agent did not include this coverage when he considered your base amount of coverage needed. This is not an uncommon practice when competing on premium for the insurance business. And, hopefully your policy limits meet the coinsurance requirements, or your benefits will be reduced by the percentage to which you’re underinsured. Let’s say it was reasonable to assume that you could rebuild for $1 million, but you only had $700,000 of dwelling coverage, and your policy requires that you have at least 80% protection. You would receive only 7/8ths of the claim.

Some bestpractices to consider adopting are as follows:
    Review your coverage annually considering the square footage of your home, the standard of building and the local cost to rebuild.
    Make sure your basic dwelling coverage includes coverage to bring the home up to current building codes.
    Include a rider that will increase the amount of dwelling coverage if available.
Need help with your comprehensive financial plan, then call an independent hourly Certified Finacial Planner (R). No names, of course.

Link to my website

Resources: or call (800)621-3362

Equifax Did a Bad, Bad Thing and What Will You Do About It?

By now, most Americans know that a data breach at Equifax exposed personal security information for some 143 million individuals. What is much harder to learn is whether your personal information was involved.

While the breach itself is bad news, what is particularly upsetting is that there was a significant delay in making the breach public knowledge. Further, Equifax could likely have prevented the breach by installing a patch when it was made available. This was not the first cyber security attack on antiquated software, or software based on open source code, nor the first time a major corporation and government agency failed to take action promptly.

What’s a consumer to do? I suggest to my clients that they accept the things they can’t control and that they do the things they can to protect their personal information., Here are a few options:

Fraud Alert – When notified that your credit information has been leaked, you can call one of three credit agencies and request that a “Fraud Alert” be put on your credit account. What this means is that a business must verify your identity before it issues credit. In other words, you may be contacted by the business establishing the credit. The downside of a fraud alert is that this alert expires after 90 days, but it may be renewed.

Security Freeze – When you place a freeze on your credit accounts, you will be unable to obtain any new credit until you unlock the account. This may take days. You need to protect and remember the pin number you set up in order to unlock the account. It does not expire. If you lose the PIN that was issued to you when you added the Security Freeze to your credit file, you may request a new one in writing. You will need to provide proof of identification, such as a copy of your driver’s license, passport, birth certificate or other proper identification. A fee may be required for residents of some states for a replacement PIN. This is the most common recommendation among my financial planning associates.

Credit Card Monitoring Services – For a price, companies like Life Lock® will monitor your credit and notify you of any suspicious activity. You can choose whether you want a text, phone call or email. Their price range is $9.99 to $29.99 monthly depending on the type of accounts they monitor, e.g. credit cards, checking and saving accounts, and investments accounts, and the amount they will reimburse for losses related to identity theft. The limits are $25,000 – $1,000,000. I’ve read mixed reviews about the effectiveness of these services.

For free, if you will endure advertising, there are organizations such as Credit Karma that will monitor your credit and notify you of changes to your credit rating. While it may sometimes come after the problem has occurred, I do like the information that it provides, such as the number of hard inquiries about your credit rating. It also provides useful education about topics such as what influences your credit rating most.

Early in the Equifax incident, Equifax made an offer of a free credit reporting service to the 143 million consumers. Hidden in the fine print was a provision, effective with consumer acceptance of the offer that precluded participation in any class action lawsuit. After blowback the limitation was removed.

DIY Credit Card Monitoring – Every consumer is allowed one free credit report a year from each of the three credit agencies. This means you could request a credit report every four months to monitor your own credit rating at no cost and without advertising.

In addition to taking one or more of the above steps, I suggest the following:

  • Encrypt your computer so that if your laptop or desktop is stolen, a second password on steroids must be hacked:
  • Consider using a password vault like Last Pass, and/or use two method verification for banking and investment accounts.

Here is a link that provides the addresses of the three credit agencies and the Federal Trade Commission’s recommendations:  And when considering whom to consult to secure your financial future, I suggest you seek the advice of an independent, hourly financial planner. No names, of course.

Financial Abuse and Charities– It’s Not Just Your Elderly Mother Who is a Target

You want your money to work hard for you when you invest it.  Helping my clients make the best decisions about investments is part of what I do in my financial planning practice. Shouldn’t you also want the money you donate to charities to work hard doing good things for your chosen cause?  Unfortunately, too many people are drawn to give to a charity by a guilt-tripping phone solicitation and sympathetic sounding name. The Center for Investigative Reporting found in a recent in depth investigation that:

“The 50 worst charities in America devote less than 4 percent of donations raised to direct cash aid. Some charities give even less. Over a decade, one diabetes charity raised nearly $14 million and gave about $10,000 to patients. Six spent nothing at all on direct cash aid.” READ MORE