By Julia Anderson
Women interested in money management, long-term investing and building a retirement portfolio should see 2020’s pandemic stock market ups and downs as a great lesson. As one analyst put it recently in the Wall Street Journal, “it felt like something different, but it wasn’t.”
He meant that when Covid-19 infections swept the world, shutting down the global economy, killing the travel industry, closing restaurants, and most everything else, it felt like something new, something awful. Panic set in, investors felt the fear and stocks sold off in March 2020 by 34 percent. That’s a bear market.
But 2020 taught us that what feels new is mostly not.
Here are the lessons we RELEARNED!
Lesson No. 1 Seasoned Investors Stay the Course
Those who sold off stock investments in the 2020 panic were then faced with a tough decision – when to buy back in? Many didn’t. Several friends told me that they were bailing out of stocks. They were scared by what might happen next. As one said, “I want to be able to sleep at night.” Fear was in the air as we hunkered down, buttoned up and began hoarding toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
But what happened? This bear market sell-off was short-lived. Like other market selloffs. It ended sooner than later as the federal government cranked up the money printing press and began rescuing the economy.
While “all bear markets are inherently different, the common thread is that they always end,” said Peter Lazaroff in a WSJ report. “Investors must be willing to lose money on occasion – sometimes a lot of money – to earn the average long-term return that attracts most people to stocks in the first place…. if you can be a buyer in times of fear, your chances of earning above average returns improve,” he said.
Starting in late March 2020, the S&P 500 began a recovery that continued into 2021. By the end of the year, stocks were up 16.26 percent over 2019. That’s well above the annual average return of around 7 percent.
Hanging in there was among several lessons learned again by investors in 2020. In fact, buying when others are selling is almost guaranteed to reward the long-term investor.
Lesson No. 2 An Emergency Fund is a Great Idea
A survey of investment managers by the Wall Street Journal ranked putting cash into an emergency fund as a top priority money tip. An emergency fund means that the blow of an unexpected layoff can be modified.
Emergency money will save you from expensive credit card debt until unemployment checks kick in and you can figure out what to do next. At least six months of cash. Everyone tells us this.
Lesson No. 3 You Need a Will
At sixtyandsingle.com we have preached this forever. Since covid-19 began taking lives, it is even more clear that people need a will no matter what age they might be. A will spells out how you want your assets distributed. It makes sure your beneficiary designations are up to date on a 401(k)-retirement savings plan. A will can tell your heirs how you want your belongings distributed. This is a long-term but urgent item on your to-do list. Make a will!
Lesson No. 4 Stay Loose with a Retirement Plan
According to Maddy Dychtwald, co-founder of Age Wave in San Francisco, an estimated 81 million Americans will see their retirement timing affected by the pandemic. In other words, they won’t retire when they originally planned. People are putting off retirement for an average of about three years, an Age Wave survey said.
Working longer into your 60s is not a bad thing…more time to recover, save and invest, more time to put off taking Social Security and more time to enjoy the job. Many women I know are working because they love the action and see no reason to stop.
Lesson No. 5 Markets go up, and down. That's Okay
Surveys show that women can be more easily scared out of stock markets and are generally more conservative investors. They hate seeing the value of their investments decline when markets sell off. They tend to put more of their savings in low-earning money market funds at a time when they should be in equities. “A diversified portfolio that you can stick with regardless of the market environment should be the cornerstone of everyone’s investment strategy,” Jeff Mills, chief investment officer of Bryn Mawr Trust, told the WSJ.
The year 2020 taught us AGAIN that nothing stays bad forever, that what might feel new and scary is really a variation on what we’ve seen before. Disciplined investors hang in there for the long haul by riding out the drops and benefitting from recoveries..
15 Personal-Finance Lessons We can All Learn from in the Year of Covid-19. Click here
Wills and Trusts: Needed Now More than Ever Click here.
Life and Money Lessons from the Pandemic Click here
BY JULIA ANDERSON
Grandparents, especially these days, are looking for ways to help their kids and grandkids get ahead financially.
A simple way to give them a long-term financial boost is with a Roth Individual Retirement Account -- grandchildren especially. You can do this before they turn 18.
As we know, time is money. Money going into a Roth IRA for a kid, grows federally TAX-FREE until their retirement. For my 16-year-old grandson that will be 2069. A Roth IRA (for a child under age 18) can be opened and managed by an adult…parents, grandparents, even a friend of the family with a maximum $6,000-a-year contribution.
There’s one BIG CATCH: The money going into a Roth IRA for a kid under age 18 MUST BE EARNED INCOME. In other words, the kid must have a part-time job or be self-employed doing something like babysitting, dog-walking, yardwork, snow-shoveling or window washing. Income from these activities is “earned income” and can be verifiable.
As the grandparent, you can match this amount of earned income with a Roth IRA contribution. For example, if she/he generates earned income from a summer job totaling $800, you can put $800 in her/his Roth IRA custodial account. IRA contributions can not exceed a minor’s earnings. So, the earnings come first, then the IRA contribution. There is no minimum investment.
Why bother with what will likely be small contributions? Maximum contribution: $6,000 a year. But like I said, time is money. For example:
A $1,000 one-time contribution with reinvested earnings that grow an estimated 7 percent a year for 20 years will result in $3,870 in savings.
A $1,000 contribution every year for 20 years with reinvested earnings of 7 percent a year will grow to nearly $50,000.
A $2,000-a year-contribution over 20 years with 7 percent earnings results in about $95,000 in the Roth account.
Now, let’s double the timeline to 40 years.
$2,000 a year contribution over 40 years at 7 percent will generate a future balance of nearly $450,000.
The lesson here is that the more money you invest and the earlier you invest it adds up to a whopping increase in the end result after 40 years of saving and investing. The more money that goes in early, the better.
And when the grandchild starts withdrawing money at retirement, it will be TAX-FREE. They will have you to thank.
FYI: The current federal Roth IRA contribution limit per year is $6,000. Also, there are fewer penalties for withdrawing the money early, if needed for a down-payment on a house.
Where to invest the money?
At this young age and on into their early 40s, the money should be invested in aggressive dividend-producing stock funds because there will be time to make up for any market downturns as they age into their 50s and 60s. More time means more reinvested growth of the investment inside the account.
Investing is better than saving since reinvested dividends in stock accounts outperform any savings account by 10 times over in today's low-interest rate environment.
Best Reasons for a Roth IRA for your Grandkid
A tax-free or tax-deferred investment demonstrates the miracle of compound interest over time. A Roth IRA can be set up online with no commissions or account fees.There’s no age restriction but the child must have earned income.
A Roth IRA is more flexible than any other retirement account because contributions can be withdrawn at any time with no penalty and can be used for more than retirement. But the ultimate goal should be retirement.
At age 18, in some states 21, the child becomes the owner of the Roth IRA account. You can still help them make contributions.
Nerdwallet, "Why your kid needs a Roth IRA," click here.
Fidelity, "Roth IRAs for Kids," click here.
U.S. News, “How to Set up a Roth IRA for Your Child.” Click here.
Motley Fool, “Can You Open a Roth IRA for Your kids?” Click here.
Dave Ramsey. "How Teens Can Become Millionaires." click here.
5 Tips for selling your (grandmother's) silver
1. Determine what you’ve got – sterling or plated. Sterling silver usually has STER or .925 (925 parts per 1000) stamped on the bottom. Plate may not have a mark, or you might find EPNS or EP (Electroplated).
2. Decide how much effort you will put into selling your silver. Two options: Selling it for its antique/collectible value online or with a consignment dealer or selling it by the ounce (or gram) for the metal. Spend time online reading up on your options and prices. Don’t polish anything. Watch out for online scams or shady coin shops.
3. Get an appraisal in person for antique/collectible value but find a separate buyer. Consider selling online through eBay or another web site. Call around for the going local price for sterling and for silver plate if you want a quick sale. Know from the start that silver plate is near worthless. Giving it away is an option.
4. Check the current price of silver in ounces and in grams on the global spot market. Expect to be paid by the gram at less than market price for sterling silver --- likely 30 percent less.
5. Understand the offer. Get an invoice in writing. Your cash deal will be final.
Goodbye after 50 years
BY JULIA ANDERSON
When I married in the late 1960s, my mother’s friends gave me silver---serving trays, a fruit compote, and a set of silver plate goblets. Eventually, my grandmother’s silver tea and coffee service came my way
In my mother’s mid-20th Century life, silver was a middle-class status symbol. Women were not working outside the home but instead managed the house, took care of children, cooked, and attended women’s club meetings. Hostesses provided tea, coffee, and maybe a light lunch. Silver serving trays, silver candleholders and silver luncheon forks and spoons were de rigor.
Why it struck me 50 years on that I should sell most of this inherited silver is not clear. I just decided the trays, the candy dishes and pitchers had to go. Maybe the burden of associated memories of my mother, my grandmother were no longer tolerable. They were proud of what they and their spouses had accomplished and their possessions.
I told myself that when I go, all of this will end up with Goodwill or be “rehomed” in a yard sale. “Why not let go, now, on my own terms,” I thought.
On a Thursday, I found myself headed to town with a cardboard box full of silver stuff -- trays, dishes, and a silver candelabra that my mother had with reverence given to me years ago.
There was not much research involved. That day I had checked the price of silver on the global spot market … $24.78 a troy ounce. I did not know that silver plate is nearly worthless.
Silver-plate vs sterling
The coin and currency store people were nice. They explained that each piece would be evaluated for its silver content by the gram. That threw me off since I didn’t know how many grams were in a troy ounce of silver. (I learned that each troy ounce contains 31.1 grams of silver. That is slightly higher than the standard ounce, which has 28 grams).
The guy at the counter examined each item using a watchmaker’s eye piece. I later realized he was looking for tiny markings on the underside to help him determine if the item was silver plate or sterling silver.
There’s a big difference. Silver plate has a micro-thin layer of silver laid on over base metal such as copper, brass, or nickel. Sterling silver by definition is made with 92.5 percent silver and about 7.5 percent alloy.
Of the pieces I brought to the store, all but two were silver plate. Weighing a total of 14.82 pounds, I was offered $1 a pound for the lot, which came to a whopping $14.82.
Two Items --both candy-dish size bowls -- one weighing 940 grams, the other 291 grams, were sterling. I was paid 47 cents a gram for them, which totaled $580. I walked out of the store happy. A small burden was lifted. The money goes into a travel fund for the post-Covid day when I again can get on an airplane.
What I learned from selling my silver
I was immediately confused at the store by the grams vs ounces payout issue. I was offered 47 cents a gram versus the expected $24-something an ounce. I could have cleared that up with a phone call in advance of my store visit. “How do you pay for silver, grams or ounces,” I should have asked.
Secondly, I could easily have figured out what pieces were sterling and what were silver-plate. Knowing that silver plate is worthless, I might have sold these items -- trays, a pitcher, and the candelabra – to an antique store or jeweler or on eBay or to another online antique silver buyer. But that would have required a bigger time commitment but worth it in dollars.
But don’t be fooled by prices you see online for silver collectibles – dinnerware, trays etc. -- but instead expect to be offered half those prices for your items.
Silver-plate looks good, but the veneer is micro-thin. The guy at the coin store told me, it is shipped by railcar-load to a smelter in New Jersey to be processed for the underlying metal – brass or nickel or whatever.
Maybe I should have given the silver plate away to unsuspecting children, stepchildren, or former stepchildren. Maybe some would have liked a small silver dish or tray? But I doubt it.
Appraisers Association of America
International Society of Appraisers
Kovels Antiques & Collectibles: Price guide and info.
6 Questions to ask your Tax Adviser before Dec. 31
1. Based on my age, work status and estimated taxable income in 2020 as well as my projected taxable income in 2021 what steps should I take before the end of this year to avoid a tax shock in 2021 or 2022?
2. Is it worth my time (and money) to itemize my tax 2020 deductions rather than just take a standard deduction? What can I deduct?
3. Are there work- or business-related expenses worth itemizing.
4. When it comes to estate planning, are there steps I should take now while interest rates are low, and estate (death) taxes are unchanged?
5. Should I make a deductible charitable contribution this year to lower my taxable income?
6. If I operate a business, should I file a tentative refund claim on my taxes before Dec. 31, 2020? Can I claim “disaster” losses attributable to a Covid-19 shutdown? How should I handle the deferred worker payroll taxes related to Social Security?
BY JULIA ANDERSON
If there ever was a year when consulting with a tax accountant is a good idea, this is the year!
With the Covid-19 crisis and resulting economic turmoil, taxpayers of all ages may need help in navigating 2020 tax strategies by Dec. 31. Seniors, especially, might benefit. The goal: Make sure you are paying just your fair share, no more, no less.
Remember, you will pay taxes in April 2021 on income you earned in 2020. While there are no major changes in tax law for 2020, there have been smaller adjustments. However, “emergency” provisions intended to stimulate the economy also may be a factor in your yearend planning.
Now is the time to figure out where you stand tax-wise and where you are going in 2021 and beyond with taxable income, deductions, retirement, and estate planning and (maybe) business losses.
Tax regulations worth mentioning:
In 2020, The federal CARES Act allows eligible individuals to withdraw up to $100,000 from qualified retirement plans during 2020 without incurring the 10 percent early distribution penalty. Income taxes on the distribution can be spread over three years.
Those who received stimulus checks do NOT have to pay income tax on the money.
Seniors, over 72 are NOT required to take taxable withdrawals (RMDs) from their Individual Retirement Accounts this year.
Seniors can sell their primary residence and avoid capital gains taxes on the net gain up to $500,000 for a married couple. (Check the details)
Income tax brackets changed this year with a higher standard deduction: $12,200 for singles, $24,400 for married couples filing jointly.
After age 50, people can contribute up to $26,000 a year to a qualified retirement account to catch-up on retirement savings. If you have a job and can make the contributions, do it.
What about tax credits (and refunds)? You may qualify for a child tax credit or credit for other dependents. You may qualify for an earned income tax credit or a retirement contribution savings credit, or a lifetime learning tax credit. Ask a tax expert about these options.
Should you itemize? This may be the year to itemize your tax deductions. That means NOT taking the standard deduction but instead adding up various deductibles and then subtracting them from your gross income. For instance:
Those working from a home office can deduct the related costs.
You can deduct the mortgage interest you have paid a lender.
You can deduct charitable donations made to qualified charities, just make sure you have the documentation.
If you own stock, dividends that certain stocks pay qualify for a lower tax rate. You also can deduct a loss on a stock sold at less than what you paid for it if you have owned it more than a year.
You can deduct your estimated state and local sales taxes you paid this year as well as property taxes.
Seniors can gift up to $15,000 without reporting or paying tax.
Do you have a will? Is this the year you write a will spelling out how you want your assets distributed at your death. With the threat of Covid-19 hanging over us, having a will seems essential.
Many of us don’t think about federal income taxes until about April 15 when we have to pay them, but now (before the end of December) is the best time to develop a “tax strategy” that could save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in taxes, over the next several years. There is plenty of tax information on the internet. Study up on tax basics, then get outside help. One hour with a tax consultant likely will pay for itself in the tax savings you will earn.
Famous Quote: "Congress can raise taxes because it can persuade a sizable fraction of the populace that somebody else will pay." - Milton Friedman (1912-2006) American Nobel Prize-winning economist.
BY JULIA ANDERSON
It’s raining outside.
That’s a good thing after going through a week of wild fire threat, fire anxiety (even a bit of panic) and a rapid learning curve when it comes to fire preparation. Lots of questions, few answers.
What fire insurance coverages did we have? What should we pack in a getaway bag? How much might we save out of our house if we had time to save it?
These questions could have been asked and answered 20 years ago when I built and moved to my house in the woods. Like many long-term to-dos, I did nothing until the Big Hollow Fire was burning in heavy timber 16 miles east of my house and growing by the hour.
The fire had roared to life in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest National Forest a few days earlier, fueled by dry timber and a weird East wind. Typically, winds in the Pacific Northwest come from the West bringing rain with them off the Pacific Ocean. But August was a strange weather month with days of record high temperatures over 100 F. combined with weeks of drought that began in mid-July.
The stage was set.
Fires in Oregon (and California) already had fouled the air with smoke – choking smoke. As we returned from a trip out of town, we began checking for Big Hollow fire updates. We called neighbors along our road and researched online Fire Preparation Guides. Our area was at Level 1 evacuation status – be on alert for fire updates.
Once home, we assembled Emergency Supply Kits (suitcases) so that if we had to leave in minutes and be away for an extended period we would have the basics – toothbrush, underwear, extra pair of shoes, tops and a jacket. We put our bags by the front door. It felt ominous.
Watching television coverage of towns in Oregon already destroyed by fire with images of homes in ashes and people in shock contributed to our anxiety. We were on edge after a summer of being on edge from the pandemic, street riots and political turmoil.
After packing our to-go bags, we called our insurance agent and had him make some changes.
We made a list of what we would (or could) save from the house, if we went to a Level 2 evacuation notice, which means be prepared to leave on a moment’s notice. What could we load in our pickup, garden trailer and 4Runner? What was the most important, the necessary?
Let me pause here. Be prepared for your husband to see things differently about what to save. My list was twice the length of his. Mine included original watercolors painted by my grandmother, several antique family quilts, my computer hard-drive, genealogy material and family photos, my dad’s branding iron, art pottery pieces and my collection of tin toy motorcycles. His list was about the contents of our safe – important papers, a jewelry box. His raft and real motorcycle went to a metal shed surrounded by pasture. The rest, he said, was “just stuff.”
I explained that I had huge emotional ties to the things on my list. Losing my grandmother’s watercolors would break my heart and photos of my children, great-grandparents would be devastating. We agreed that we could replace beds and refrigerators, TVs and kitchenware. How would it feel to lose EVERYTHING? I tried to answer that question all week.
We parked our garden trailer by the front door so we could load it quickly. The smoke from all the fires continued to choke us. Dismal, anxious. I could not image what people who had lost everything were feeling.
We took photos every space our house, room by room, top to bottom. We opened closets and drawers, kitchen cabinets. We photographed the downstairs shop, my desk, Ken’s desk, safe contents.
By the end of the week, winds had shifted. Big Hollow was no longer pushing West toward us. Live updates on Facebook from Gifford Pinchot fire people let us know about weather forecasts and that crews were working to contain the 22,000-acre blaze. We began to calm down.
Last night it rained. The forecast calls for more rain. The Level 1 evac notice was lifted.
Only now can I tell myself, RELAX!!! But I sure know a lot more about fire, fire preparation and fire prevention than I did just a few days ago.
INSURANCE: Take photos of everything inside your house. Open all the drawers, photograph the contents. Then take pictures outside – garage, garden shed, whatever. Insurance coverage typically has two parts: Coverage for your house/garage structure and separate coverage for the contents, capped at a certain amount.
Don’t assume the insurance company will write you a check for the dollar amount listed for contents. YOU HAVE TO PROVE what the contents were. A photo record is essential. We now have those photos stored on 2 memory sticks stored in safe places.
Talk to your insurance agent. Ask questions. Make sure you know how the “cap” on contents coverage works. We learned that our coverages for our rafts and camping equipment were too low. There may be something like that that could be scheduled separately by your insurer.
ESCAPE PLAN: Sign up for emergency (text, email or phone) notifications from your 911 agency. Fill out a one-page FIRE ACTION PLAN: If you had to leave in minutes how would you leave and where would you meet up in case you were separated? Name an out-of-area contact person. List numbers for Sheriff, State Patrol and Fire District. Put a copy of this sheet in your kitchen and in your Emergency Supply Kit.
List what you would have at your front door if you had to leave in minutes: Important papers (birth certificates, marriage licenses, insurance documents) for sure. Credit cards, money. Your Emergency GO BAGS. We will keep ours packed and stored in a handy place.
MAKE A LEVEL 2 LIST: Get the arguing out of the way about what would go in the back of a pickup If you receive a Level 2 (prepare to evacuate) notice. There won’t be time to thresh over what to take with you. So have the discussion now. Make a list now.
DEFENDING YOUR HOUSE (in advance): Is the outside of your house fire defensible? Ours isn’t.
My fourth-generation logger neighbors up the road live in a house surrounded by several acres of green pasture and not much else. Their barn and machine shed are a good distance away. Even if a wildfire reached the pasture perimeter their house would be safe. Our house would likely burn in minutes even though we logged our big trees out a few years ago. That’s because we still have too many trees and shrubs and too much dry grass close to the front door. It all easily could ignite our cedar siding and shingle roof.
WHAT’s NEXT on MY TO DO LIST:
Complete our Level 2 Fire Action Plan with a “save what we can” list. Post it on the kitchen bulletin board.
Contact our local fire district and request a Defending Against Fire evaluation of the area around our house – 30 feet out and 100 feet out.
Consider replacing our 20-year-old shingle roof with a metal roof and maybe re-side the house with fire-resistant material. Redesign our nearby landscaping with fire prevention in mind. Trees are nice but not too close to the front door.
Readyforwildfire.org recommends that any flammable material be at least 30-foot away. You can read all about it at the web site under its Defensible Space heading.
I won’t repeat all the useful fire advice we found at CalFire’s ReadyForWildfire.org. But found it to have great information.
After our fire scare this week and after watching the fire destruction in Oregon and California, I have a much greater awareness of how a fast-moving wildfire might destroy my house and my life. I wouldn’t have time to think about saving stuff. Getting out alive would be all that counts. It would be difficult to recover a loss.
The wildfire scare kicked my butt this week. Now, we have a Fire Action Plan, a Get Out Now bag. There is more to do.
FOR MORE: readyforwildifre.org
I meet women all the time who face job and money transitions and who want to do them right. It’s about building confidence and taking charge of the future. This is your money. No one cares more than you do!
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