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MoneyWise Matters is a weekly blog published each Wednesday by the Office of the Indiana Secretary of State. Here we discuss money related topics including; debt reduction, budgeting, saving strategies, scam alerts, investment fraud prevention and investor insights. You don’t want to miss out on this helpful information, hit subscribe for email updates (above) so you’ll be notified when we publish a new post.

Please note that the statements made in the posts are solely the opinions of the writer and do not represent the opinion and/or position of the Indiana Securities Division. The Division assumes no responsibility for the content presented by the authors.  


5 Summer Camp Alternatives for All Budgets

5 Summer Camp Alternatives for All Budgets

 

By Kylee Hale

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

As communities do their best to progress through this pandemic, parents and children are finding out summer camps are canceled along with family activities like parades, festivals, and sporting events. If parents previously relied on summer camp as a form of child care they are now faced with a dilemma. It’s still up in the air as to which camps will open when camps can open, and how many kids will be allowed to attend if the camps decide to open. Aside from coming up with a Plan B, many families are looking for activities even after work hours. Here are 5 budget-friendly alternative ideas for summer fun. 

Day Camp – Online 

Some summer camps around the state of Indiana, like YMCA camps, seem to plan on opening and welcoming children while adhering to additional safety precautions. While camps that do open will enforce smaller group sizes and possibly not allow as many kids to attend, some parents will not be comfortable sending their child to an in-person camp. There are many summer camps nationwide that will not be hosting kids in person this summer but are now offering virtual camps. For a local Indiana example, Butler University offers virtual weeklong online structured STEM camps for kids to learn coding, robotics, film, and game design. Another more affordable example is Outschool, a virtual school with more than 15,000 live lessons for all students. Outschool classes are taught by independent teachers across the country in small groups and integrate fun learning to keep kids engaged. Courses can be taken weekly, for example; Space Camp is 50 minutes a session 5x a week and costs $50/student. Some lessons are as low as $5 a class, and there are many options including Baton Twirling, Stand-Up Comedy, and Forensic Science.

A Fairy Tale Greeting

Fairy Tale Sing A Long Facebook Event For younger children that may not have the attention span for virtual lessons, here is an idea that is sure to uplift quarantine woes. What started as two ladies from California, dressing whimsically as princesses and fairytale characters, to bring love and hope to local children, has boomed into magical Zoom meetings. Loni Ward, mother of a 3 year old, has scheduled multiple calls for her daughter and says "Each chat brings a little normal back to her life and lifts her mood when she is bored with the monotonous days. It's different from watching a show or movie or playing a game [because] the characters are able to make real connections.". This type of quick check-in can save the day and provide some inspiration to little ones and enlighten the mood for an entire family. You can schedule a meeting with a Princess or fairytale character by emailing hopeloveandmagic@gmail.com. As of May 2020, virtual meetings run $35 for fifteen minutes, $60 for thirty minutes, and $10 to register for one of the sixty-minute virtual group events. A private Zoom call can include conversation, singing, and storytime. The virtual group events include Wednesday Magic Hour, Sing-Along, and Story Time for viewers to register and tune in with a special character. 

Create Camp on Demand

Some of the virtual camps with scheduled daily activities can be pricey. There is a budget-friendly alternative, but this will require a savvy planner. There are lots of resources allowing parents to string together activities to make an at-home camp planner. But this doesn’t mean you hKids doing artwork at kitchen table ave to stay at home the whole time. Scheduling an hour for a nature walk, bike ride, learning to fish, and other outdoor activities into the agenda are a good change of pace. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis has created tons of free content bringing the museum to you at home. Dinosaur Drawing, Digging for Fossils Cookie Dissection, Glitter Germs, Story Time with Andrew Luck, there is no shortage of entertainment. The National Children’s Museum is also launching one-day camps this summer. Tuesdays will cover science and on Thursdays, virtual campers will create child-size structures. Newfields, formally known as Indiana Museum of Art, added a Newfields at Home section to their website This includes Horticulture and how-to videos for making your own bath soak, making playdough, and drawing a cartoon. They’ve even created a staff’s favorite list of children’s movies and where you can find them on streaming services. For adults, Newfields has added a how-to pour a Belgian beer video with Lindsay Jo Whirley, Newfields resident Certified Cicerone® and Culinary Arts Operations Manager and adult movie marathon suggestions. This isn’t an all-inclusive list, just check out the Newfields website for more ideas.

If you’re trying to cut down on screen time, check out some options for activity boxes. One example is Art camp in a Box. They will send you all the supplies needed for your child to create art projects at home. From the website, I’ve found that the price is $175 per box, and it includes enough supplies for 10 projects. Another option, KiwiCo, offers crate projects including Exploring Stars, Creating a Glow Lab, Unicorn Sewing, Geometric Laser project, and many more. The crates range in price from $15 - $45, but there are Groupon codes for specific boxes that are discount eligible.

For parents and caregivers who are a little more flexible with time, these ad-hoc options provide intermittent entertainment and are adaptable when structured activities are desired versus a care-free day by the pool. 

Travel a little

Currently, almost all travel is banned or discouraged. When travel bans are lifted, vacation rentals will likely be a more popular choice for late summer and fall vacations. Many people are not trusting of aircraft sanitation but more comfortable with road tripTravel a Little s in their vehicles. Most vacation rental locations are free of face-to-face interaction including online payment to keyless entry. Customer questions can be handled over Facetime, text, or phone and guests can avoid or limit interaction with the owner or other guests throughout their stay. Cleanliness will remain a concern, although those who need to travel for work rather than just leisure may still prefer a vacation rental and will likely pack their sanitation supplies.  Regardless most accommodations have stepped up their cleaning process for everyone’s safety. 

Even with the pandemic, travel is still exciting, and getting away from everyday life can be quite refreshing. Vacation rentals with a private pool can be relaxing with less worry of germs from other sunbathers. Most campgrounds are open this summer as well, which provides an opportunity to explore while maintaining social distancing. Check out the rental property policy and guidelines before booking in case there is another wave of the coronavirus in the location you are visiting or in case you get sick.

Neighbor Camp

As parents and kids are finding out Neighborhood Camptheir normal plans of attending the same camp they have returned to every summer isn’t going to happen this year, experts are suggesting that families utilize the community resources around them. While traditional summer camps are taught by teenagers, a new form of instruction could come from neighbors volunteering to share their knowledge and love of a hobby or subject with socially distanced neighborhood kids. Most communities have a mixture of individuals with a wide range of professional experiences. If your next-door neighbor is an architect this could be a great opportunity to teach kids about building, or maybe there is a guitarist across the street that could just play some music to dance to and enjoy. One of the biggest values of summer camp is role models and kids creating new relationships. New friends and learning can be fostered at home, in your community. When children play and have constructive conversations they are developing. Kids don’t have to go to summer camp for this to happen. Here some other fun neighborhood ideas, like a neighborhood scavenger hunt and front yard bingo

Summer is an exciting and favorite time of year for many. This summer will be different than any other we’ve seen before, but that’s not to say it’s ruined. If kids don’t go to camp, parents will get creative. We will think of new ways to have fun and be entertained. As long as the summer’s agenda challenges kids to socialize in new ways they will grow and continue to develop even at home and in our local communities.

Recent Posts


Recent Posts

5 Summer Camp Alternatives for All Budgets

5 Summer Camp Alternatives for All Budgets

 

By Kylee Hale

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

As communities do their best to progress through this pandemic, parents and children are finding out summer camps are canceled along with family activities like parades, festivals, and sporting events. If parents previously relied on summer camp as a form of child care they are now faced with a dilemma. It’s still up in the air as to which camps will open when camps can open, and how many kids will be allowed to attend if the camps decide to open. Aside from coming up with a Plan B, many families are looking for activities even after work hours. Here are 5 budget-friendly alternative ideas for summer fun. 

Day Camp – Online 

Some summer camps around the state of Indiana, like YMCA camps, seem to plan on opening and welcoming children while adhering to additional safety precautions. While camps that do open will enforce smaller group sizes and possibly not allow as many kids to attend, some parents will not be comfortable sending their child to an in-person camp. There are many summer camps nationwide that will not be hosting kids in person this summer but are now offering virtual camps. For a local Indiana example, Butler University offers virtual weeklong online structured STEM camps for kids to learn coding, robotics, film, and game design. Another more affordable example is Outschool, a virtual school with more than 15,000 live lessons for all students. Outschool classes are taught by independent teachers across the country in small groups and integrate fun learning to keep kids engaged. Courses can be taken weekly, for example; Space Camp is 50 minutes a session 5x a week and costs $50/student. Some lessons are as low as $5 a class, and there are many options including Baton Twirling, Stand-Up Comedy, and Forensic Science.

A Fairy Tale Greeting

Fairy Tale Sing A Long Facebook Event For younger children that may not have the attention span for virtual lessons, here is an idea that is sure to uplift quarantine woes. What started as two ladies from California, dressing whimsically as princesses and fairytale characters, to bring love and hope to local children, has boomed into magical Zoom meetings. Loni Ward, mother of a 3 year old, has scheduled multiple calls for her daughter and says "Each chat brings a little normal back to her life and lifts her mood when she is bored with the monotonous days. It's different from watching a show or movie or playing a game [because] the characters are able to make real connections.". This type of quick check-in can save the day and provide some inspiration to little ones and enlighten the mood for an entire family. You can schedule a meeting with a Princess or fairytale character by emailing hopeloveandmagic@gmail.com. As of May 2020, virtual meetings run $35 for fifteen minutes, $60 for thirty minutes, and $10 to register for one of the sixty-minute virtual group events. A private Zoom call can include conversation, singing, and storytime. The virtual group events include Wednesday Magic Hour, Sing-Along, and Story Time for viewers to register and tune in with a special character. 

Create Camp on Demand

Some of the virtual camps with scheduled daily activities can be pricey. There is a budget-friendly alternative, but this will require a savvy planner. There are lots of resources allowing parents to string together activities to make an at-home camp planner. But this doesn’t mean you hKids doing artwork at kitchen table ave to stay at home the whole time. Scheduling an hour for a nature walk, bike ride, learning to fish, and other outdoor activities into the agenda are a good change of pace. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis has created tons of free content bringing the museum to you at home. Dinosaur Drawing, Digging for Fossils Cookie Dissection, Glitter Germs, Story Time with Andrew Luck, there is no shortage of entertainment. The National Children’s Museum is also launching one-day camps this summer. Tuesdays will cover science and on Thursdays, virtual campers will create child-size structures. Newfields, formally known as Indiana Museum of Art, added a Newfields at Home section to their website This includes Horticulture and how-to videos for making your own bath soak, making playdough, and drawing a cartoon. They’ve even created a staff’s favorite list of children’s movies and where you can find them on streaming services. For adults, Newfields has added a how-to pour a Belgian beer video with Lindsay Jo Whirley, Newfields resident Certified Cicerone® and Culinary Arts Operations Manager and adult movie marathon suggestions. This isn’t an all-inclusive list, just check out the Newfields website for more ideas.

If you’re trying to cut down on screen time, check out some options for activity boxes. One example is Art camp in a Box. They will send you all the supplies needed for your child to create art projects at home. From the website, I’ve found that the price is $175 per box, and it includes enough supplies for 10 projects. Another option, KiwiCo, offers crate projects including Exploring Stars, Creating a Glow Lab, Unicorn Sewing, Geometric Laser project, and many more. The crates range in price from $15 - $45, but there are Groupon codes for specific boxes that are discount eligible.

For parents and caregivers who are a little more flexible with time, these ad-hoc options provide intermittent entertainment and are adaptable when structured activities are desired versus a care-free day by the pool. 

Travel a little

Currently, almost all travel is banned or discouraged. When travel bans are lifted, vacation rentals will likely be a more popular choice for late summer and fall vacations. Many people are not trusting of aircraft sanitation but more comfortable with road tripTravel a Little s in their vehicles. Most vacation rental locations are free of face-to-face interaction including online payment to keyless entry. Customer questions can be handled over Facetime, text, or phone and guests can avoid or limit interaction with the owner or other guests throughout their stay. Cleanliness will remain a concern, although those who need to travel for work rather than just leisure may still prefer a vacation rental and will likely pack their sanitation supplies.  Regardless most accommodations have stepped up their cleaning process for everyone’s safety. 

Even with the pandemic, travel is still exciting, and getting away from everyday life can be quite refreshing. Vacation rentals with a private pool can be relaxing with less worry of germs from other sunbathers. Most campgrounds are open this summer as well, which provides an opportunity to explore while maintaining social distancing. Check out the rental property policy and guidelines before booking in case there is another wave of the coronavirus in the location you are visiting or in case you get sick.

Neighbor Camp

As parents and kids are finding out Neighborhood Camptheir normal plans of attending the same camp they have returned to every summer isn’t going to happen this year, experts are suggesting that families utilize the community resources around them. While traditional summer camps are taught by teenagers, a new form of instruction could come from neighbors volunteering to share their knowledge and love of a hobby or subject with socially distanced neighborhood kids. Most communities have a mixture of individuals with a wide range of professional experiences. If your next-door neighbor is an architect this could be a great opportunity to teach kids about building, or maybe there is a guitarist across the street that could just play some music to dance to and enjoy. One of the biggest values of summer camp is role models and kids creating new relationships. New friends and learning can be fostered at home, in your community. When children play and have constructive conversations they are developing. Kids don’t have to go to summer camp for this to happen. Here some other fun neighborhood ideas, like a neighborhood scavenger hunt and front yard bingo

Summer is an exciting and favorite time of year for many. This summer will be different than any other we’ve seen before, but that’s not to say it’s ruined. If kids don’t go to camp, parents will get creative. We will think of new ways to have fun and be entertained. As long as the summer’s agenda challenges kids to socialize in new ways they will grow and continue to develop even at home and in our local communities.

Credit Reports: What You Need to Know

Credit Reports: What You Need to Know

 

By Kelly Griese

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

It’s one of my top fraud prevention tips: check your credit reports! I include it in every presentation I give. Checking your credit report regularly not only helps you monitor for identity theft and reporting errors, but it can be a sobering reminder of how you’re managing your finances. Some people confuse the terms credit score and credit report, so let’s start by understanding the difference. 


You can think of your credit SCORE as a measure of your financial trustworthiness, because that’s how it’s used. Banks, landlords, insurance companies, and an increasing number of employers all use credit scores to decide if you can be trusted with money. (For more information about credit scores, we have a PDF you can print linked here.)

A credit REPORT is a detailed listing of your debt, both past and present. It shows all the credit cards and loans in your name. It also shows how much you owe to each creditor and how good you are at paying back what you owe. 


Credit reports have a LOT of information on them, and if you’ve never read one before, you may feel intimidated.  Fortunately, they’re not as scary as you might think.  There are several good websites that breakdown credit reports line-by-line to teach you how to read one. I like the sample credit report on CreditCards.com

Federal law entitles you to one free credit report per year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Requesting your credit report is easy and free. You can do so online, by phone, or by mail. 

Website:  www.AnnualCreditReport.com
Phone: 1-877-322-8228
Address: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA  30348-5281

And now… you can request it WEEKLY! This is a huge change prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion now offer Americans weekly access to monitor their credit report – for free. You use the same website listed above, www.AnnualCreditReport.com. The credit reporting agencies are making these weekly reports free for the next year. (For a printable worksheet about checking your credit report, click here.)


If you’re one of the many Americans struggling to pay your bills right now because of the Coronavirus crisis, the Federal Trade Commission offers this advice: 

  • Contact the companies you owe money to. Ask if they can postpone your payment, put you on a payment plan, or give you a temporary forbearance.
  • Check your credit report regularly to make sure it’s correct — especially any new payment arrangements or temporary forbearance. The recently passed CARES Act generally requires your creditors to report these accounts as current.
  • Fix any errors or mistakes that you spot on your credit report. Notify the credit reporting agencies directly. You can find out more by reading Disputing Errors on Credit Reports.

We have more tips for handling the financial impact of the Coronavirus in previous MoneyWise Matters blog posts. You can look through the complete archive here. Make sure you subscribe to receive email alerts every Wednesday morning when we publish new content. 

Blog topics: 
Budgeting, Fraud Prevention 

The Legacy of the Pandemic: 5 Lasting Financial Habits

The Legacy of the Pandemic: 5 Lasting Financial Habits

 

By Kylee Hale

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

There are very few aspects of our lives that remain untouched by the pandemic. Times are strange, where FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) has been replaced with FOGO (Fear of Going Out) and when wearing a mask to the grocery may seem less strange than wearing a speedo at the beach. Along with the global shutdown, most of us have found a new way of living, some differences welcomed and some we hope will soon be a memory. As we emerge from a quarantine state of mind many of us will continue to embrace our new era of frugality and continue with newly developed habits. From how we do our grocery shopping, to affordable entertainment here are five financial habits we should continue to carry out even after the lockdowns are lifted. 

1. Curbside Pick-up and Ordering Online 

Before the stay at home orders, 13% of U.S. consumers used online ordering and curbside pick-up or delivery to get their weekly grocery list. This percentage jumped up 19% since the survey was completed in the fall of 2019, this spike is attributed to the current circumstances. A lot of grocery stores are offering curbside pickup/delivery and consumers seem to be enjoying the convenience. When consumers were asked about continuing the use of online grocery services after the coronavirus, 43% said they were extremely or very likely to continue use. I think as a consumer the biggest concern with using online grocery services is trusting someone else to select your fresh produce. However, aside from being a time-saver, online grocery shopping can be a money saver. Consumers tend to cut back on impulse buys and stick to the grocery list, and their budget. Not only does online shopping allow you to check your pantry as you shop so you’re not buying cereal just in case you’re out at home, but the online cart keeps a running total. And all the prices in the cart are accurate, no more getting to the register to find out your pop-tarts aren’t on sale after all. Continuing to save money at the grocery store can free up funds for other expenses. 

2. Saving for a Rainy Day

At least 30% of Americans have tapped into their emergency funds during this pandemic, but 1 in 5 Americans didn’t have an emergency fund, to begin with. Emergency funds are supposed to carry us through when we experience a job loss or unexpected change like COVID-19 just showing up. If you have the savings, don’t be afraid to use this set-aside money to help you get through this time. Dipping into savings is a far better choice than taking on debt through a credit card or a similar source. The government implemented lockdowns will help you reduce spending on entertainment and reducing your necessary spending can help conserve your available funds. For necessities like over-the-counter medicine and feminine products, the CARES Act has implemented a change allowing these essentials to be purchased using funds from an HSA (Health Savings Account).  If you are still able to save during this pandemic, you’ll want to continue doing so. For some folks, it may be worthwhile to pick up extra hours, if still working, or look for companies that are hiring during this time. Regardless of your current situation, you should prepare to safeguard your finances as the financial implications connected to COVID-19 will continue for months to come.

3. Eating at Home

It’s expected that 75% of independent restaurants nationwide won’t survive the pandemic shutdown.  Some food industry business owners are afraid the CARES Act Paycheck Protection Plan won’t reach them, or the owners will experience difficulty applying due to language barriers and lack of ability to navigate the application. Some restaurants are holding on by relying on take-out orders and preselling holiday meals or gift cards. Consumers can safely order take-out and food delivery during the pandemic, and soon, while following social distancing guidelines, some folks will be able to go inside and sit down. On average, restaurants charge about a 300 percent markup on the items they serve, but that doesn’t keep us from occasionally splurging to combat the onset of cabin fever. There are many ways to support your favorite restaurant and still save while ordering take out. Most restaurants have reduced their menu for optimized take-out, but still, continue to offer daily specials. You can find deals and gift cards on to-go and carry-out orders on Groupon. Getting take-out may cost more than cooking at home, but you can still save money by getting your drink at home and you’ll save on the dining tax by not eating inside at the restaurant. Also, it seems that tipping on take-out orders is optional, 51% of Twitter users responded “No” to tipping for take-out. If you have a simple order and aren’t asking for over and beyond effort, you may not feel inclined to tip or tip a lesser amount like 10% compared to dine-in, 18-20% is the standard. Although take-out is more expensive, there are times when the convenience is worth it and if you plan for your weekly pizza night you won’t lose out on grocery food going uneaten. 

4. Retail Shopping

E-commerce spending is up 30% as of mid-April and due to mandatory store closures, retail is suffering a record decline in sales. At first, people were stockpiling household and grocery items and home office supplies. More recently sales have drifted towards books, entertainment games and outdoor sporting equipment, including fitness supplies. It seems like the coronavirus has accelerated a structural change that’s been occurring in retail over the last decade. Just like social distancing has created new office atmospheres and remote work, online shopping habits formed during this period may persist far beyond the crisis. The average retail store can last about 30 days without money coming in the door, about 65% of the businesses that weAt CitySpire, a condominium on West 56th Street, coronavirus protocol includes spraying packages with a disinfectant before bringing them inside.Credit...re forced to close during the pandemic, will not reopen. Fewer entrepreneurs will start businesses and the most important step any business can take will be to ensure their ability to make sales online. For consumers, we may experience unexpected consequences from all our online consumerism. If you’ve tried to return or exchange a purchase during this pandemic you may experience a little more difficulty or longer process. Some stores are not processing exchanges, asking consumers to place a new order, and separately request a return. Roughly one in five clothing items purchased online is returned. If sanitation and spread continue to be a concern stores may restrict their return policy or implement restocking fees as retailers increase measures to sanitize taken back items more thoroughly before reselling. Through this pandemic experience, consumers are purchasing more consciously, showing loyalty to brands that give them confidence and patronizing local stores. 68% of consumers who have shopped locally have tipped more than their usual, and research shows that the pandemic is likely to produce a more sustainable, healthier era of consumption over the next 10 years

5. Just Plain Frugality - Save More

 From virtual game nights to outdoor hikes, Americans have found new ways to have fun and curb boredom. Many Americans expect that we will have to wait several months or longer before routines will normalize and many expect their income to be negatively impacted for a long time. During the Great Depression, families relied on kitchen gardens and community thrift gardens for food sources, it’s not far off that Americans will return to growing their own food, space permitting, or consider moving somewhere that it is possible. As we begin to socialize again, it will be common for friends to gather at a potluck, play board games, or share a drink on the patio instead of going out to the movies and restaurants. Consumers have said they will continue to allocate money to emergency funds and paying off debt before rebooking travel and planning excursions. During the pandemic, Americans have cut spending to save money by buying only the essentials and revising their budget. Consumer’s confidence has dropped 30% since February, and many Americans have run out of what they did have in their savings. Coming out of this pandemic, Millennials especially, are saying they will be saving more. This may create a very risk-averse generation of super savers. For almost everyone, not just millennials, this is a first in a lifetime experience to learn from.

As we continue to wade through the uncertainty it can be jarring to think our current situation could be closer to the new definition of normal that we expect. We are all looking for insight as to when businesses can safely invite all their customers back and when gathering in large groups will be fully approved. We must remember how resilient we can be and know that perseverance is universal. We all should have hope, as this too shall pass

Deadlines & Delays

Deadlines & Delays

 

By Kelly Griese

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

The Coronavirus pandemic has caused major disruptions in all our lives. It’s also led to a lot of changes to common deadlines and delayed events. This week, we want to take a look at some of those deadlines and delays. This is by no means a complete list, and if you know of other significant deadlines or delays that you think we should include, feel free to email me, Kelly Griese, at kgriese@sos.in.gov


Courts

A few weeks ago, Indiana Chief Justice Loretta Rush said, “We’re hearing from lawyers, judges, litigants, and law students that the legal system must be more flexible at this time. The Supreme Court is ordering rule changes to ensure certain legal services can be provided with remote capabilities and extending the bar exam application deadline.” You can read the full list of orders on the Judiciary’s website. The orders impact everything from administering oaths and signing legal documents to child custody and bar exams. 


Licenses and Registrations

Earlier this week, select BMV branches resumed serving customers in-person by appointment. It’s important to know that the most common BMV transactions, including license and registration renewals, can be completed online at myBMV.com. If renewing online isn’t possible, you should know that some late fees have been waived. Credit card fees for online transactions have also been waived. If you need to make an in-person appointment, you can learn more about that process by clicking here. Driving skills exams are not currently available.


REAL ID

The deadline for enforcing REAL ID has also been extended. You now have until October 1, 2021. That’s when every air traveler 18 years of age and older will need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license, state-issued enhanced driver’s license, or another acceptable form of ID to fly within the United States. You can learn more about REAL ID by visiting the Transportation Security Administration’s website


Taxes 

The Indiana Department of Revenue (DOR) has extended certain filing and payment deadlines. Individual tax returns and payments, along with estimated payments that were originally due by April 15, 2020 are now due on July 15, 2020. Corporate tax returns and payments, along with estimated payments that were originally due by April 15 or April 20 are now due on July 15, 2020. Corporate estimated payments originally due on May 15, 2020, are now due on August 17, 2020. You can find a list of all returns affected by visiting DOR’s website

Additionally, extensions for payment plans, registered retail merchant certificates and more can be found in the “Helping Hoosiers” COVID-19 relief services agency announcement or on their Coronavirus web page


Housing Payments

If you’re having trouble making rent or mortgage payments due to the Coronavirus pandemic, you have some options. On March 19, Governor Holcomb issued an order that paused eviction cases, and that pause has been extended through June 4. It doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay your rent! As our friends at Indiana Legal Services explain, “failure to pay rent and other lease violations may result in eviction actions being filed or heard in court after the state of emergency ends. Landlords may not forcibly remove tenants from their rental property, nor can they lock out tenants or discontinue utility services. If a landlord does so, tenants should call local law enforcement. If your landlord attempts to evict you while the pause is in place, you may also file a complaints with the Indiana Attorney General’s office.” Indiana Legal Services may be able to help you if your landlord tries to evict you inappropriately. You can contact their office for an application for legal assistance. 

As for mortgages, you may qualify for delayed mortgage payments without late fees and protection from foreclosure/eviction. The Federal Housing Finance Agency provides more information on who qualifies and how to apply. 


Student Loans

The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau did a great job of explaining current changes to student loan repayment, so we’re going to quote them and suggest you read their full blog post on the subject. “Student loan borrowers now have more benefits to consider when planning for the potential financial impact from coronavirus. A new federal law, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, provides automatic suspension of principal and interest payments on federally-held student loans through September 30, 2020. These suspended payments will count towards any student loan forgiveness program, as long as all other requirements of the loan forgiveness program are met.” It’s important to note that PRIVATE student loans are not included in the CARES Act. For more information about private loans and forbearance, check the Experian blog


Car Insurance

It’s possible you’ve already received an email or letter from your car insurance provider discussing their COVID-19 plans. It makes sense, given we’re driving a lot less these days. According to the Consumer Federation of America, more than 82% of car insurance companies are offering refunds and credits, totaling more than $6.5 billion. To see if your car insurance company is providing relief, check this article from USA Today

Wills, Trusts, and Estate Planning Basics

Wills, Trusts, and Estate Planning Basics

 

By Kylee Hale

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

 

Death is something we all have in common. It is a fact of life, although it’s not something many of us want to think about. Only 21 percent of Americans have discussed their last wishes with their loved ones and just one in three adults have arranged advanced directive documents such as a living will with medical instructions or power of attorney naming a person responsible for final affairs. Planning for death is not a popular topic, however the thought and discussion should not be avoided. If you have a spouse, children, relatives or close friends it is important to plan for your sake as well as theirs. Having a plan not only makes things easier for your survivors, but it also helps to ensure that the money you worked hard for is distributed properly. 

Wills versus Trust:

Wills and trusts are common words that most are familiar with but the differences are not as commonly known. There are a lot of similarities between wills and trusts. The main reason anyone would elect to set up either, is to have a say in what happens after they are gone. Establishing a will or a trust helps ensure that “last wishes” are fulfilled.

Wills

This document is used to name a beneficiary and state who should receive your property upon your death.  The document also allows you to appoint a legal representative to carry out these wishes. A will only goes into effect after death and passes through probate. Probate is a legal process that takes place in court after someone dies. The process takes time and often results in less money going to the beneficiaries due to attorney and court fees. In probate, the information is public which can result in people fighting over the assets and money. Two important things that can be done with a will but not with a trust, are to name a power of attorney and a guardian for children.  

Trusts

A trust serves as a legal agreement, where a “trustee” is named and holds the legal title to your property for a beneficiary. Trusts can have two types of beneficiaries, the first receives income during their life and the secondary receives the left over funds after the first named beneficiaries have passed away. A trust is effective upon creation and can serve as a mechanism for assets to be distributed before, at death and afterwards. It’s important that the personal property to be transferred is in the trust because the trust retitles the ownership of the property. In addition to estate planning, a trust can be used for planning for a disability and optimal tax results. Depending on the size of the estate and state tax laws, a trust can save a lot of money when the property is transferred to the beneficiary. Estate tax is complicated, however a trust can allow you to increase the estate tax benefit, which helps the beneficiary. As with everything discussed in today’s post, you should talk to a professional to get more information. It’s worth noting that a trust does not go through probate which avoids attorney and court fees and allows the assets to be divided in a shorter amount of time than with a will. 

Who should have one? 

Wills and Trust are for everyone. There are clear advantages to each and it is possible to establish a trust and then follow it with a will, where the will can contain anything that is left out of the trust. For example, any assets or property that are not included in a trust, will be treated as part of the estate and without a will, these assets will be transferred to the heirs per law. This is especially important if the intended beneficiaries differ from the heirs identified by law. A legal document, such as a will or trust, being in place, can confirm who should inherit your items. 

How to establish a Will or Trust?

Setting up a will or trust can be something people avoid just because they don’t know how to go about it. There are multiple options as you can reach out to an attorney or Certified Public Accountant (CPA), or use a self-serve document generating website. One factor that may help you decide which route you choose is the cost. An attorney or a CPA will likely charge anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to a couple thousand dollars, this depends on the complexity of your assets. When selecting a professional to help you draw up a legal document like a will or trust, you want to find an attorney that specializes in estate law. If you choose a self-service website like LegalZoom.com, the variable pricing starts at $89 for a will and $279 for a trust. This website does provide a sample and bundling options, but the actual costs depends on the complexity of your assets. 

Life Insurance

When preparing a plan for “in case”, wills and trusts are useful documents to have in place. In addition to delegating who gets what, it may be important to think about how your survivors will continue on after your death. If you are a main provider for dependents or a spouse, life insurance could be something you want to purchase. Life insurance pays a lump sum to the beneficiaries in the case that you die. This is typically intended to cover burial expenses and replace the income of the person who died. There are various kinds of life insurance, but the two main categories are: term and whole life. Term life insurance allows you to buy coverage that expires and typically the costs are lower when you’re younger. Whole life insurance policies last your entire life and the premium is the same price for the duration of the policy. You can determine how much insurance you will need by thinking about your family and what expenses your family expects. The option to buy multiple term policies is available as well, for example you could buy a policy that you expect to expire after your children graduate from college. Increasing the amount of life insurance you have as your family and exposure grows is a good approach. As your net worth grows and your kids get older you might need less life insurance or you may want more as you near retirement. Plotting out what you might need over the long term of the next few decades will help you determine how much insurance you will need, and talking to a professional should give better insight for planning.

“Open In Case of Death”

While it is unpleasant to think about, it’s important to organize a master folder for all the information we’ve discussed. Sharing this folder and its location with a close friend or family member will make everything smoother for your survivors in an unexpected situation. Even if you do not die but become ill or incapacitated, having a designated place for all the special files that someone would need will reduce stress. In addition to legal documents, it’s beneficial to include financial account access for loans and credit cards, billing log-in credentials for utilities and subscription services, personal identification documents such as a passport or birth certificate and relevant medical information in this folder. In many households, one person takes care of paying the bills and if something happens to that person the others are left trying to put the puzzle together. Implementing a plan and selecting a certain person to handle your affairs when you no longer are able to, can prevent family disputes, and create the best case scenario for a worst case situation.

Thinking about end of life is not easy and if you’ve never thought about it, you’re human. “In case of death” planning doesn’t come to us as a natural thought. Taking the initiative to get things in order, set up legal documents and designate someone to take care of your affairs is the best way to prepare your family for the unfortunate. These steps can make it easier on your loved ones and ensure that they are cared for after you’re gone.

COVID-19 Financial Survival Guide

COVID-19 Financial Survival Guide

 

By Kelly Griese

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

If you've been laid off, furloughed, or had your hours at work reduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s likely you're worried about paying bills. 

For millions of Americans, debt is part of everyday life. We were already struggling with credit card and student loan debt before the Coronavirus. Here are some 2019 fourth quarter statistics. According to research by WalletHub, average credit card debt per household reached $9,070, and total credit card debt for the nation topped $1 trillion after increasing by $57.9 billion. But credit card debt is only part of the picture. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, student loan debt rose by $10 billion, and mortgage debt rose by $120 billion. Total U.S. household debt reached more than $14 trillion. Remember, all of these numbers were calculated BEFORE the pandemic. 

It paints a bleak picture. All that debt and now less money to pay it off, in addition to all the other bills we have to pay: food, healthcare, childcare, utilities, and more. We have a lot of expenses. 


If you haven’t already created a plan, you need to do so immediately. Start by making a list of all your monthly bills. It needs to include absolutely everything from your rent/mortgage to your Netflix subscription. Next, factor in how much you typically spend on food, medicine, and other necessities. What can you eliminate from this list? What can you trim? If you’d like to create a budget, you can download and/or print our budget worksheet

Now consider what help is available. Some companies have special programs right now that could help you endure this crisis. Contact any companies you owe money to and try to work out a new payment plan with lower payments, lower interest, or delayed due dates. Make sure you get any changes in writing. 


Here are some other changes and resources that might help.

Housing 

  • On March 19, Governor Holcomb issued an executive order, temporarily prohibiting residential evictions and foreclosures. Read the order here
  • The Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA) can help with mortgage and rent. Their Hardest Hit Fund provides assistance to families who are at risk of foreclosure. 
  • IHCDA also has a new resource guide that can help you continue paying your rent and mortgage. 
  • The Federal Trade Commission recently published a blog post with a lot of great information regarding mortgage payments. 

Utilities

  • On March 19, Governor Holcomb issued an executive order, prohibiting providers of essential utilities from discontinuing service. Read the order here

Food

  • The website FindHelp.org can connect you to service providers that offer free or low-cost support, as well as assistance with basic needs including food, housing, and bill assistance.  
  • You can also visit the Family and Social Services Administration’s website to see their Food Assistance Accessibility Map

Credit

Unemployment


Finally, make sure you read last week’s MoneyWise Matters blog post. Kylee Hale wrote about the stimulus checks. If you need to check with the IRS on the status of your federal economic impact payment, click this link

Remember, this is a universal crisis, and while each of us will experience different levels of hardship, there are a great many people eager to help those in need. If we work together, we will pull through. 

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