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Finances During A Pandemic

Even if you have not yet been financially impacted by the current state of events, it is vital to either reassess your household budget or create one if you have not already. Involve your family in this as much as you can. Just letting your family know you are thinking about the crisis and how you will respond can be enough to help ease some of the anxiety around the unknown. When you are looking at your crisis budget, identify which expenses are absolutely necessary and which are not. It is best to make the hard decisions now, even if you have a savings account built up, rather than wait until you are forced to make those decisions.

Focus on your rent or mortgage first. You need to keep a roof over your head if at all possible. With a situation as fluid as this, it is important to realize that there are resources available to help if needed and that those resources could change. If you are ever in a situation in which you are unable to pay your rent or mortgage, contact your landlord or mortgage provider right away. Once you have the rent and mortgage covered, then move on to food, utilities, and down on to the more non-essential items.

In the event you are unable to make a debt payment, make sure you contact the creditor as soon as you know you will miss the payment. During this difficult time, many creditors are expanding the options available to those unable to make their monthly payments.

If you feel lost when it comes to making a budget, as many do, please reach out to a Certified Credit Counselor at Family Credit Management. Family Credit Management is a nonprofit credit counseling agency that has been helping consumers in difficult financial situations for more than 23 years. Reach out for a no-strings attached budget review from an objective professional by calling 1-800-994-3328 and selecting option 1.

For more in-depth tips and resources, please visit


Evaluating Your Debt

Money concerns can lead to many issues, including, but not limited to, relationship strain, health problems, and even depression. Some of the most common debts are credit cards, student loans, auto loans, mortgages, and medical debt. Assessing your financial situation is important, and while it may not always be pleasant, it can give you a good starting point for paying off your debt and improving your quality of life.

While it is ideal to be completely debt-free, it is important to be aware that there are good debts and bad debts.

Good debts are debts that can potentially increase your net worth and benefit you in the long run.

Mortgages are a great example. As you pay down your mortgage, there comes a time when your home is worth more than you owe. This allows you to sell your home for a profit or even refinance your home at a lower interest rate, which could potentially save you a great deal of money in the long run.

"Bad debt" is money owed that will not improve your net worth. Credit card debt, new car loans, debt for jewelry, or installment-based payment plans for goods are all examples of bad debt.

Many people struggle with bad debt. So what do you do if you are one of them?

The first step is to take a step back and breathe. There are legitimate solutions to your money problems. It may be difficult, but it will be worth it once your bad debt is gone forever.

Now that you know there are solutions out there, the next step is to assess your situation.

Family Credit Management is a non-profit credit counseling agency that has great, free, tools that you can use to help assess your situation.

The "How Serious is my Debt" quiz, at, can help you assess your situation from an objective point of view.

The certified credit counselors at Family Credit Management will be able to analyze the results of the quiz and help you come up with a plan of attack, even if the debt management program would not be the right fit for your situation.

You can find additional resources, such as a personal finance course, savings tips, a personal spending plan outline, and even a children's book created to help talk to your children about finances, at


Book Reveals How to Have 300 Percent More Retirement Income

SmartWealth is a coaching and training organization that teaches people how to retire safely by in- vesting wisely.

The key to financial security and success, according to Jeffrey D. Sokol, the founder of SmartWealth who predicted the current market collapse, is locking in stock market gains, without risking the client's money in the market, a proposition that many people find risky even at the best of times.

"Investing in the stock market directly with 401(k)s and mutual funds has proven to be a massive risk to the retirement accounts of millions. There is a simple way to lock in stock market gains, without having to suffer losses," says Sokol.

"Our methods are proven and efficient ... the wealthiest billionaires in the world have the same rule book you do, they just had a better coach."

Mr. Sokol is also the author of two books, "Get in the Game" and "Smart Wealth Secrets," that focus on investing.

Many financial advisors push clients to load up 401K accounts as a retirement strategy, but such accounts are more susceptible to the ups and downs of the stock market, Sokol says.

However, there are other options: SmartWealth offers a range of online training courses developed by industry experts that are designed to increase income and boost financial confidence. Courses include the SmartWealth series, which focuses on actions to keep and grow your retirement savings; and the Daily Passive Income Video series, which features sys- tematic strategies for asset creation.

"Our goal is to provide a safe haven for investors and have them retire with 300 percent more in- come than they would if they invested conventionally," Sokol explains.

For those looking to obtain funding to start or expand a busi- ness, the SmartWealth OPM (Oth- er People's Money) online acade- my, addresses topics of obtaining funds for a business, expanding your business, and even repairing a damaged credit score.

Finally, to help get your head into a new way of investing, check out SmartWealth's Get in the Game Mindset Mastery video course and book, which are geared to get people comfortable with generating passive cash flow?rather than being concerned over a single asset. In addition, SmartWealth offers personalized retirement planning services through its companion company, Beneshield Financial. In addition to retirement solutions, Beneshield Financial also provides consulting for life insurance, health care coverage, and small business startup funding.

Visit to find out more.

For more information about SmartWealth's fresh take on smart money management, as well as the latest financial wisdom from the SmartWealth podcast, visit

Surprisingly, Older Americans Are Coping Best During the Pandemic

The Edward Jones and Age Wave Study goes where few have ventured before in focusing exclusively on how different generations have held up emotionally and financially in the months since all the lockdowns began. And some of its findings are at least as startling as how quickly even 70-year-olds came to love Zoom.

"COVID-19's impact forever changed the reality of many Americans, yet we've observed a resilience among U.S. retirees in contrast to younger generations," said Ken Dychtwald, Ph.D., the founder and CEO of Age Wave, a leading research think tank on aging, retirement and longevity issues.

While acknowledging upfront that the virus itself disproportionally struck aging adults, the five-generational sampling of 9,000 people age 18 and over revealed more than a few surprises. Among them:

* While 37 percent of Gen Zers, 27 percent of Millennials, and 25 percent of Gen Xers said they'd suffered "mental health declines" since the virus hit, only 15 percent of Baby Boomers responded likewise.

* Faring the best were those 75 and over - the Silent Generation that followed the so-called "Greatest Generation" - with a mere 8 percent of those respondents reporting any mental health deterioration. That would seem to run counter, as does the results for Boomers (age 56 to 74), to early dire warnings that prolonged social isolation made older adults especially vulnerable to depression, anxiety and cognitive decline.

* Nearly 68 million Americans have altered the timing of their retirement due to the pandemic, and 20 million stopped making regular retirement savings contributions.

Dychtwald attributed the two older generations' resilience to their having "a greater perspective on life."

"They've seen wars and other major disruptions before," he said, "and they know that this, too, will pass. Younger generations feel like, 'What happened to my life? I mean, I was supposed to go to college or I was starting a new job, and now everything has changed.'"

Most retired Boomers and Silent Gens also had monthly Social Security checks to fall back on. Which explains why - though the pandemic has significantly reduced the financial security of a quarter of Americans - younger generations were slammed the hardest: Nearly one-third of Millennial and Gen Z respondents characterized the impact as "very or extremely negative," compared to 16 percent of Boomers and 6 percent of Silent Gens who admitted to similar hardship.

Looking for any silver lining that's come out of the COVID-19 crisis?

Well, 67 percent of respondents did say it's brought their families closer together.

"The pandemic has certainly thrown into sharp relief what matters most in our lives," said Ken Cella, Edward Jones's client services group principal. "And important discussions have taken place about planning earlier for retirement, saving more for emergencies, and even talking through end-of-life plans and long-term care costs."

And with the study also showing that an overwhelming percentage of retirees yearn for more ways to use their talents to benefit society, financial services firm Edward Jones believes it's time to redefine retirement more "holistically" to encompass what it calls "the four pillars" of health, family, purpose and finance.

Successfully addressing most of those pillars admittedly takes more financial savvy than many of us have, though, especially given ever-rising costs. But a financial advisor, like a local one at Edward Jones, has the perspective, experience and empathy to help.

COVID-19 Weighs on Those Saving for College

Some changes, though, apparently better not last forever. Thirty-six percent of parents surveyed for Fidelity Investments' new "2020 College Savings Indicator Study" were disenchanted with the thought of paying full freight for virtual classes in the future, and said they'd consider choosing a less expensive, in-person school, if need be, to avoid that fate once their kids are ready for college.

Already, many schools are feeling some heat from parents and students for not lowering tuition this semester despite going all or partially remote. And while no one knows when the COVID-19 threat will end, clearly the pandemic college experience is getting a gentleman's C at best.

"The current college experience isn't exactly what parents envisioned when they began saving," said Melissa Ridolfi, Fidelity's vice president of retirement and college leadership. "That has many reconsidering where and how they use their college savings, although parents continue to recognize the value of a college education."

In fact, the national survey of 1,790 families with children aged 18 and younger who are expected to attend college showed that the overwhelming majority of respondents continue to believe that higher education is "worth its cost."

How they'll pay for it, though, is where the real angst - exacerbated by months of lockdowns -comes in:

* 71 percent of parents admit to worrying that coronavirus-related issues could threaten their ability to save.

* 9 percent plan to decrease their contributions this year for reasons that include being unemployed.

The study's most actionable finding for those feeling even a little angsty themselves?

Three words: 529 savings plans.

These are the tax-advantaged accounts that allow you to sock away money to cover tuition, books, and other expenses at most accredited two- and four-year colleges, universities and vocational-technical schools. And by "tax-advantaged," we mean the earnings accumulate tax-free and qualified withdrawals are exempt from federal income taxes.

Survey respondents who'd already established a 529 were 22 percentage points closer to achieving their savings goal than those who hadn't.

"Particularly in light of the financial stress facing families today, it's important for parents to know that these plans continue to become more flexible as it relates to what's included in the definition of 'qualified education expenses,'" Ridolfi said. "Apprenticeship costs, K-12 education, and student loan repayment up to $10,000 were all recently added."

Yes, everyone still has a way to go if they're to meet their target of self-funding 65 percent of their child's ever-more expensive future college education. Including tuition, room and board, and other assorted fees and expenses, according to the College Board, today you'd be talking annual averages of $53,980 for a private four-year college, $42,970 for an out-of-state public four-year college, and $26,590 for an in-state four-year college.

Multiply those numbers by four, and you can see why parents are currently only on track to fund 33 percent of their goal.

A free online tool from Fidelity can help in planning ahead by not only estimating how much it will run you based on whether you're contemplating a four-year college in the Midwest, say, but also showing how various tweaks can boost your savings. And if you are one of the 45 million Americans with student loan debt, its likewise free Student Loan Calculator can help you figure out whether there's a better way to pay it off.


World Financial Planning Day Program Offers Practical Advice

To raise awareness and promote the value of financial planning for everyone, the Financial Planning Standards Board (FPSB) is hosting the fourth annual World Financial Planning Day on October 7.

The FPSB Network represents nearly 190,000 certified financial planning professionals across 27 territories worldwide, and the World Financial Planning Day activities include a range of programs and events to educate consumers about improving their financial status and developing a plan to stay on track.

"As we continue to deal with a global pandemic, more people are feeling life and financial stress, looking to an uncertain future while dealing with a volatile present," according to Noel Maye, CEO of FPSB.

"Recognizing that the pandemic requires near-term adjustments which might overshadow long-term plans, our global campaign theme - Live Your Today. Plan Your Tomorrow - demonstrates how financial planning can help us make financial decisions that keep us on track for the future we envision," he emphasizes.

A key goal of World Financial Planning Day is to improve financial literacy across all populations, according to the FPSB.

Data from S&P Global suggest that only about one third of adults worldwide are financially literate, particularly women and young adults. Programs and events include topics for a range of life stages such as strategies for saving, debt management, home ownership, and retirement planning.

World Financial Planning Day also includes a video contest to encourage consumers to explore financial planning. To enter, participants submit a video of 30 seconds or less on the World Financial Planning Day website,, with an answer to the question, "How could meeting with a CFP® professional help you plan your tomorrow?" Five entrants will win a session with a local CFP, plus $1,000 to be used to pay off debt, save for education, prepare for retirement, or put towards other financial goals. Entrants must be 18 years of age or older, and reside in an FPSB affiliate territory.

In addition, World Financial Planning Day includes a live global event for financial professionals on the topic of The Future of Financial Planning in the New Normal.

Visit for more information and resources, and to find a certified financial planner near you.

You can participate in World Financial Planning Day on social media using by using the hashtag #WFPD2020 on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.


Diverse Financial Planners Expand Financial Empowerment, Access

The financial planning profession provides one example. The demographic makeup of the United States is changing, with Hispanic, Black and Asian populations continuing to grow. Despite persisting wealth gaps that affect many minority communities, median earnings and purchasing power among these populations are also growing.

Although these groups are accumulating wealth, they are less likely than white families to work with a financial planner. About 28% of Black households and 17% of Hispanic households use a financial planner to help them reach their financial goals, compared to 31% of white households. According to the RAND Corporation, Hispanics and Blacks are also less confident in their ability to meet unexpected short-term expenses or long-term financial goals.

The RAND research suggests a large population of these individuals could benefit from financial planning advice. One challenge is that the current financial planner demographic makeup of the financial planning profession does not reflect the demographic makeup of the U.S. population: At the end of 2019, only about 4% of more than 87,000 CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM professionals are Black or Hispanic.

Additional studies and interviews with current and aspiring financial advisors indicate that a more diverse workforce could better reach and assist diverse communities. In research conducted by the CFP Board Center for Financial Planning, CFP® professionals cite the opportunity to expand access to financial services in underserved communities and to help improve their understanding of personal finances as key benefits of being a financial planner. Nearly 60% of those surveyed agree that Black financial planners and Hispanic financial planners, respectively, would have an advantage in attracting new clients of similar racial or ethnic backgrounds to their advisory firms.

"Diversifying the talent pipeline is an opportunity and a prudent approach for financial planning businesses," said Center Managing Director D.A. Abrams, CAE. "We are successfully working with many firms who want the industry to reflect our nation's shifting demographics and respond to the increasing purchasing power of people of color."

Abrams sees potential value of like-to-like messages in reaching people in diverse communities. Different groups have different ways of thinking and communicating about money. Some prospective financial planners of color interviewed by the Center explained their families emphasized just getting by versus saving or investing, while in other families, talking about money was taboo. Shared backgrounds and mutual understanding can help financial advisors overcome these cultural challenges and encourage potential clients to shift their thinking.

Diverse financial planners also help raise awareness of financial planning -- both as a service and a career opportunity -- within their own communities. Many play an active role in promoting the financial planning profession by participating in community events, visiting parent meetings at local schools, or leading workshops or other educational programming at community centers. They also serve as mentors and role models to younger students who may wish to study and join the financial planning profession.

Recognizing these challenges and opportunities, the Center hosts an annual Diversity Summit to provide a platform for discussing initiatives that can advance diversity in the financial planning profession. The Center's third Diversity Summit will take place virtually November 18-20, 2020 and will focus on sustainable diversity and inclusion initiatives within the profession. Visit to learn more and register.

A focus on hiring financial advisors from and working with diverse communities has the potential to positively impact their financial wellness and social mobility.


Protect Unexpected Income with Smart Money Strategies

"If you make quick decisions without financial planning, the money could disappear quickly. Planning for sudden wealth includes tax planning, investing and taking a step back to consider how the money can help you reach your financial goals," according to the website of the CFP Board, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting professional standards in personal financial planning.

If you inherit money, consider these guidelines from the CFP Board to make sure you take full advantage of your good fortune:

- Keep quiet. Some people may know as soon as you do that you have inherited wealth, but don't be pressured by others offering investment advice or seeking loans or support. Don't broadcast an inheritance until you have a plan for its use.

- Don't rush. Consider enlisting the help of a professional financial planner; at the very least, step back and take some time to consider how you might spend or invest to use your resources wisely. Educate yourself about the options for saving and investing for smart wealth management.

- Make a plan. If you don't have an overall financial plan, unexpected wealth is a reason to make one. If you already have a financial plan in place, you can update your goals and advance on some of them sooner than expected, such as paying off debt, saving for retirement, or establishing an emergency fund. Sharing the wealth can be part of your plan, too. If there is a cause you feel strongly about, plan to allocate some of your resources to that cause, and consider getting involved in the organization to determine how your contribution will be spent.

- Have some fun. It's okay to splurge on a few special items if you are confident in your finances overall. A new car or a special trip can be a worthwhile use of some of your newfound funds; set aside some money for indulgent purchases, but take your time to identify something you will truly enjoy.

Visit for more financial planning tips and guidance and to locate a certified financial planner in your area.

Financial Planning Organization Promotes Diversity at Annual Summit

The goal of the Diversity Summit is to explore "actionable solutions to advance diversity in financial planning," according to the website. This year's theme of Sustainability reflects the importance of long-term diversity and inclusion programs in financial planning education and in the workplace.

"The Diversity Summit and Career Fair comes at a critical time in our history as we drive change, awareness, access and results in our profession," said CFP Board CEO Kevin R. Keller, CAE. "CFP Board is strongly committed to expanding and sustaining diversity in the financial planning profession and those it serves to better align with the U.S. population."

The Summit agenda includes the release of a new report on case studies of successful diversity and inclusion initiatives in the financial planning profession. Attendees will have the opportunity to discuss these studies and explore the successes and challenges, as well as examine how lessons learned can be applied to future strategies.

Other key events include "CFP® Pro Talks," with personal reflections from CFP® professionals of color, executive roundtable of leaders in financial planning firms who are committed to improving diversity and inclusion, and discussions of specific recommendations that firms can apply immediately to improve their diversity and inclusion initiatives.

A highlight of the summit is the Virtual Career Fair. Although not the same as in-person networking, the Summit organizers have adapted to the Covid-19 pandemic situation and designed a forum in which certified financial planner candidates who are women and people of color have opportunities to connect with employers, experienced CFP® professionals, fellow students, and potential mentors. The Career Fair occurs on November 20 and requires a separate online registration from the Diversity Summit, but with no charge to attend.

The target audience for the CFP Board Diversity Summit is financial planning professionals and students who are working to become certified financial planners, as well as individuals who are considering careers in financial planning. The audience also includes executives, diversity and inclusion professionals, and recruiters from financial services firms. Program directors from colleges and universities with financial planning programs can benefit from the summit topics to help support their goals for greater diversity and inclusion in academic programs

For more information, visit


Don’t Underestimate the Power of a Good Financial Planner

CFP Board, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting professional standards in personal financial planning, emphasizes how the guidance a financial planner can provide goes beyond the surface of stocks and investment advice. Instead it emphasizes the benefits of a long-term plan to help people meet their financial goals. Only individuals who have fulfilled CFP Board's rigorous requirements can call themselves a CFP® certificant, so be sure your planner is a certified CFP® professional.

It's important to note that not all financial advisors have made a commitment to act in their clients' best interests. As part of their certification, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM professionals commit to CFP Board to act as a fiduciary -- at all times -- when providing financial advice to a client.

"As you begin to consider how best to manage your financial future, you should feel confident knowing that with a CFP® professional, you're working with someone committed to providing the high standard of financial planning," according to the website.

Some of the key benefits of an ongoing relationship with a financial planner include:

  • Making a plan. Especially during times of uncertainty, making goals and establishing financial plans can contribute to your peace of mind.
  • Understanding the laws. Financial planners can explain the implications of the latest legislation on personal finance, such as the SECURE Act, which brought changes to retirement investments, and the post-COVID CARES Act, which brought new financial planning opportunities for individuals and small businesses.
  • Optimizing technology. CFP® professionals are up on the latest tools for managing your money. Technology allows for quicker and easier discussions of personal finance issues including not only stock trades, but also rebalancing portfolios, tax-loss harvesting, making income tax projections, and planning for long-term financial goals such as education or retirement.
  • Seeing the big picture. A financial planner can help you take a step back and examine how your financial data fit into a plan that incorporates cash flow, expenses, taxes, and estate planning. A qualified planner knows how to keep this big picture in focus, but also how to adapt it as life circumstances change.

Visit for more financial planning tips and guidance and to locate a certified financial planner in your area.


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