PPP loans and taxed expenses

The IRS issued guidance in November clarifying the tax treatment of PPP loans that have not been forgiven by the end of the year the loan was received:

  • Businesses are not taxed on the proceeds of a forgiven PPP loan, so the expenses are not deductible.
    This means that the taxpayer sees neither harm nor benefit, since the taxpayer has paid nothing out of pocket.
    Here is how this looks on your tax return, according to bench.com:
    A C-corporation receives $100,000 in a PPP loan, uses the money entirely on payroll and qualifies for loan forgiveness.
    The $100,000 won’t be listed as taxable income on the tax return.
    BUT, the tax deduction the business would normally get (about $21,000) won’t be allowable. So, surprise — you have an extra $21,000 tax liability (assuming 21 percent corporate tax). You did receive a net $79,000 from the program, which you have already spent, but which you might not have had otherwise.
  • Businesses are encouraged to file for forgiveness as soon as possible. If a business believes a PPP loan will be forgiven in the future, expenses related to the loan are not deductible, whether the business has filed for forgiveness or not.
  • If a PPP loan is expected to be forgiven but it is not, the business WILL be able to deduct expenses.
    According to the CARES Act, a forgiven loan amount won’t be included in taxable income.

Use it or lose it: Spending down those leftover FSA dollars

In the 1985 film Brewster’s Millions, a minor league baseball pitcher stands to inherit a huge sum of money if he can spend $30M in 30 days but finds that offloading the cash is harder than he thought.
The millions of Americans looking to spend down their tax-free flex spending accounts (FSAs) might have an easier time than Monty Brewster, but there are still limitations. And when workers do not use the cash, they lose it. According to CNBC, workers may lose as much as $400M each year from unused flex dollars. Some companies may permit an extension until March 15 of the following year or allow up to $500 of rollover.
If you have funds leftover in your health care FSA, consider whether you need a flu shot, prescription sunglasses, sunscreen (SPF30 or higher), dental care or other items. You can also buy these items for a dependent, according to Further, an FSA account administrator.
One online vendor, the FSA Store, simplifies shopping for you–all items are FSA-eligible expenses. For vendors that don’t accept FSA debit cards, check with your plan about how to submit expenses for reimbursement.
Flex spending accounts have expanded over the years to allow workers to set aside up to $5,000, tax-free, to pay for dependent care expenses, such as daycare or summer camp. With pandemic-related daycare and summer camp closures in 2020, parents will be hard-pressed to spend those funds before the end of the year, and the money may be lost, according to Arizona Family.

Fantastic seller’s market offers best prices in years

The millennial generation has grown up and they want to buy homes.
Every year for the next 10 years, millions of millennials will hit home buying age. The average age of a millennial is 32. The average age for home buying is 31, according to ETF Trends.
No wonder there is a record boom in buyers and potential buyers.

Available housing down
While there are lots of buyers, there are fewer homes for sale. That adds up to a supply and demand formula that puts sellers comfortably seated in the parlor, taking offers.
Half of the buyers who purchased a home in the last three months were forced into a bidding war, according to internet real estate company Redfin, as the average home sale price spiked 6 percent. That equals 100 straight months of price gains, according to the National Association of Realtors.
It isn’t just millennials who are buying these days, either. A new wave of city dwellers from cities like New York are looking to the suburbs to escape violence and lockdowns. In July, there was a 44 percent increase in suburban home sales and in some cases, homes sold for prices that were as much as 21 percent over list, according to The New York Times.

Homebuilders busy
With this reality in mind, homebuilders are busy. New home starts jumped to their highest level since 2006. Housing starts increased 17 percent in June. Nearly six in 10 homebuilders have raised their prices, according to CNBC.

More houses built
Privately-owned housing starts in July zoomed up 22.6 percent above estimates and 9.4 percent above July 2019, according to the Census Bureau.
The number of completed homes was up 3.6 percent above estimates in July. That was 1.7 percent higher than the June 2019 rate.
COVID-19 lockdowns impacted housing starts in March, which were at their highest level since 2006. But starts have rebounded.
For home investors, the robust nature of the housing market should offer some safety for the next few years, according to Stephen McBride of ETF Trends.

Young retail investors win big with small stock buys

Many billionaire hedge fund managers did not see it coming.
When the stock market tanked in early 2020 as COVID-19 hit the U.S., hedge fund managers weren’t looking to buy. They thought stocks would go much lower.
Young retail investors were more optimistic. In March, stock in big companies was trading low and young people were buying.
Using retail stock apps like Robinhood, young investors saw bargains and invested stimulus money, savings or just their extra change into stocks.
But who would buy into Las Vegas casino and hotels when there was a global quarantine? Young people would. In March, if you had an extra $40, you could have bought one share of Wynn Resorts and more than doubled your money by now. You could have done even better on pharmaceutical stocks, especially the ones making vaccines. Those stock prices have tripled. One stock, Genius Brands, was selling at 33 cents in the first quarter. The stock reached over $10 per share recently.
According to Robinhood, three million new clients plunged their money into the market in 2020 during one of the worst first quarters on record. It created a ‘generational buying moment.’
Buying zero-commission stock by the share, or even a fraction of a share, is relatively new and millennials understood it immediately. The stock market has been democratized and everyone has access now.

Understanding opportunity costs

In the thousands of little decisions we make every day, the costs are probably minimal. The difference in cost between taking a bologna sandwich or a turkey sandwich to work for lunch is trivial.
But the difference between a bologna sandwich for lunch and a lunch at a pricey restaurant starts to get our attention.
This is what economists call an opportunity cost.
The bologna sandwich costs a little more than a buck. The lunch at Swells Restaurant costs $40. That choice – the opportunity cost — is $39.
We could even think of the opportunity cost as much higher.
If we buy a $40 lunch every day during a 260-day work year, we would spend $10,400. If we brought a $1 sandwich to work, we would spend about $260. The opportunity cost is $10,140.
You could say that we had the opportunity to do something else with that $10,140 but instead, we bought lunch at Swells.
For some, buying lunch at Swells would be a low opportunity cost if they were negotiating million-dollar contracts at lunch.
For others, this would be a wildly inappropriate way to spend their money. That $10K could be the difference between an emergency savings account or an investment in an IRA for retirement. But one thing is for sure: The money can’t be in two places at once.
Opportunity costs can be dramatic when you look at big ticket items like cars and mortgages, or in savings and investment.
Suppose we did take that bologna sandwich to work every day for a year and banked the $39 per day. We’ll round up our savings to $10,000 for this example.
Now we have a choice. We can keep our $10K in a regular savings account at an interest rate of .01 percent. We won’t make any money, but we have the advantage of having the money handy for emergencies. On the other hand, we could invest the money in an IRA and expect a return of 5 percent or 10,500. Over 30 years, that would accumulate a balance of close to $50,000.
So, we could say that lunch every day for a year at Swells cost $40,000.

Is it difficult to get a mortgage right now?

Lending standards have tightened and some types of loans may be difficult to get.
It is true that credit availability dramatically tightened since the coronavirus crisis hit hard in February 2020. Credit supply was down 30 percent. With millions out of work, some could no longer afford to pay their mortgages. That meant lenders had less money to lend at a time when they were also not receiving payments on existing loans.
Since February, the situation has somewhat improved. While credit supply for conventional loans dropped 6.9 percent in May, it rebounded in June to just a one percent drop.
With renewed talk of coronavirus increases, lenders of all types have tightened limits and availability in anticipation of possible job losses.
One good sign of an improving economy is that mortgage applications rose 2.2 percent for the week ending July 3 over the previous week. Forbearance rates (the number of mortgage holders who can’t pay and have to make an arrangement with the lender) dropped 8 basis points to 8.39 percent in the first week of July. That means more mortgage holders were able to make their payments.
The news for buyers with cash for down payments and high credit scores, is the incredible 3.26 percent mortgage interest rate on a 30-year fixed rate loan.
People with a credit score of at least 700, with a 20 percent down payment, should be able to get financing. Lenders have cut back on jumbo loans, which are generally loans of more than $510,400.

How people are responding to crisis financially

A new survey has found that 60% of adults are concerned about their finances over the next six months.
The study by Fidelity shows that people are taking steps to improve their financial goals.

  • 48% are cutting back on non-essential spending.
  • 44% are working to boost emergency savings.
  • 15% are investing more money in the stock market. Very low stock prices on solid companies have made cash investing attractive. However, according to Motley Fool, people should only invest money that they won’t need for at least seven years.

The six myths of financial planning

Many people may not realize that they could benefit from financial planning. The Institute of Certified Financial Planners says these are the most common misconceptions people may have:
Myth No. 1: Financial planning is for the wealthy. It’s not about “getting wealthy” either, but that could happen. It is about achieving short-term and long-term financial goals, about taking control of your financial life.
Myth No. 2: Financial planning is about investing. That’s part of it. Financial planning is considering all financial aspects of your life: Taxes, insurance, retirement, budgeting and life goals. It makes those aspects work together efficiently. You must have a balance of all these.
Myth No. 3: It’s not needed until you’re older. Wrong. The best time to start is when you are young. The older you are, the fewer opportunities you may have. For every 10 years you delay saving for retirement, you have to save three times as much a month in order to end up with the same size retirement nest egg.
Myth No. 4: Financial planning requires a lot of work and a big plan. Not necessarily. Any worthwhile plan should consider your overall needs and situation. If you need help, see a financial planner for advice. It’s valuable as you calculate retirement, education and other goals.
Myth No. 5: It is a one-time effort. Financial planning is a lifelong process. A plan must be periodically reviewed and updated as children are born, jobs are changed, or investment needs are changed.
Myth No. 6: You can get along without planning. Sure you can, but it is much better to take charge of your life than to just get along.

Three strategies if you are worried in the current crisis

Wild. That’s the ride of the stock market today. Up 500, down 1,000. Every day it is a new shock. You look at your holdings and a sign flashes in front of your eyes: DANGER. DANGER. DANGER.
But don’t panic.
Here are three ways to think about it:

  1. Don’t look.
    If you have 30 years to go before retirement, just don’t look at your 401(k) numbers. Just don’t. Keep contributing. You have years for the market to rise and it will. Don’t look. Don’t sell. Keep putting money in.
  2. Breathe deeply and peek.
    If you are a couple years from retirement, take it easy. Even in your 60s, you are still a long-term investor. However, you might want to rebalance your assets. As you near retirement, maybe fewer stocks are best along with other more secure investments. But, on the other hand, if you think the current crisis will pass quickly, just breathe.
    What you can do before retirement, is make sure you don’t have credit card debt, but do have a stash of emergency cash.
    Don’t make any hasty moves. Talk to a financial advisor.
  3. Breathe, peek, and maybe put off that vacation.
    If you are retired in the current crisis, you’ve seen that fat load of earnings of the last two years circle the drain. Everyone has. It is not just you. But, yeah, you’re retired.
    Don’t panic.
    Maybe don’t draw from the IRA to pay for that fancy vacation. Sorry. Should have done that last year.
    Have a little gratitude. You probably lived free on earnings for the last year or two.
    Talk to your investment advisor about risk and rebalancing. But it is not a good time to sell. You know what legendary investor Warren Buffet once said when asked if he lost money during the drop: No, he said, I didn’t sell.

Emergency fund: Did the Covid crisis convince you?

One day in March millions of people found themselves out of work with no paycheck coming in.
The Covid crisis hit everyone at the same time and it convinced many to start an emergency savings fund.
If you look up the subject, you see a daunting suggestion: Save 6 months of your expenses. Or a year. It sounds unlikely, if not impossible.
But even one month of expenses, or two, could have saved most people a lot of trouble. Thinking about it that way may seem more doable.
Money experts say to be successful you have to:

  • Make your savings automatic.
  • Put them in a high-interest savings account.
  • Put a manageable amount of money in and keep putting it in.
    Yet, to make savings stick in place, you have to define what is and what is not an emergency. Loss of paycheck, for whatever reason, is one emergency. On the other hand, suddenly remembering your car insurance is due is not an emergency.
    Before you start your emergency fund, look over your checking account and write down those many chunks of money you have to come up with quarterly or bi-annually: Insurance of all sorts, vacation money, school fees, and the like. Those are not emergencies. They are recurring expenses.
    Consider starting two funds. One fund in a savings account at your bank for recurring expenses. One fund in an online, high-interest savings account for long-term emergencies.
    At just $10 per week, you can save more than $500 in a year. That gets your fund started.
    With another $10 a week, you give your recurring expenses a boost, too.
    Any time you get an unexpected chunk of money, put 20 percent in savings. Resolve not to let wants interfere with what you need.