Top 5 Tips on “Finding” Money During the Pandemic
Since the COVID-19 pandemic has begun, millions of Americans have lost their jobs and have been forced onto unemployment, some for the first time in their lives. While your world may seem upside-down, I reached out to Megan Muccio, CPA for her top five tips on where you can “find” some excess funds during the pandemic:
1) Get help with your mortgage
The CARES Act of 2020 provided some much-needed relief from two of the largest bills that people have: mortgages and student Loans. The CARES Act disallowed most mortgage providers from foreclosing on homes until December 31, 2020, which has now been extended until at least January 31, 2021. Speak to your loan provider and let them know that you are unable to pay your mortgage and find out what pause plan they offer. Most lenders will grant you forbearance for a period of time in which you won’t make any payments and there will be no fees or penalties. The loan companies are also providing various options for how to repay the mortgage after the forbearance period ends, all of which are helpful ways to free up some extra cash immediately.
2) Get help with your student loans
As a part of the CARES Act, all principal and interest on federally held loan payments have been suspended through January 31, 2021. No payments are due on federal student loans through the end of January 2021, and interest will not continue to accrue during this time. Additionally, loan holders who are in a loan forgiveness program will still receive credit towards the program for all months that payments are not made this year.
3) Review your budget
So many people have expenses on repeat – gym memberships, music services, extra TV channels, etc. Now is a great time to review these subscriptions and make sure that they are still needed. If not, cancel them. Even small cost-cutting measures can add up.
Additionally, take the time to review any outstanding bills and negotiate! Credit companies may be willing to work with you. Look to see if you can lower interest rates, avoid penalties on late payments, or even renegotiate some outstanding bills to save money each month.
4) Withdraw funds from your retirement accounts before year’s end
The CARES Act permitted individuals to withdraw up to $100,000 from their retirement plans in 2020 without paying the normal 10% penalty on early withdrawal, even if you are under the age of 59 ½. The taxes can be paid over a 3-year period. If the loan is paid back within 3 years, any taxes paid will be reimbursed to you.
Additionally, if you have assets in a Roth IRA, they can be used as an Emergency Fund in certain circumstances. Roth IRA withdrawals are not taxed or penalized if they are withdrawn for situations such as a first-time home purchase, college expenses, or for birth / adoption expenses. The total amount that you have contributed can be withdrawn, if needed. These withdrawals can also be returned within 60 days if they are no longer needed, or by April of the following year if the amount withdrawn is less than the annual contribution limits.
Note that if you are in the middle of a divorce action, speak with your divorce attorney regarding removing funds from a retirement account in order not to be in violation of any court’s temporary restraining order. Your attorney may need to have a short stipulation signed by both parties before you can remove the funds.
5) Plan for next year’s taxes
If you were on unemployment this year or decided to take a distribution from a retirement account, these actions could cause a large tax balance to be due on April 15, 2021, especially if you decided not to take withholdings from your unemployment or distribution. If you are currently short on income each month, the last thing you need is a large tax bill for next year.
Take some time to review your taxes in preparation of the 2021 tax season. Planning for taxes ahead of time can help you alleviate stress and be prepared for what your taxes will look like prior to filing.
Megan D. Muccio, CPA is the owner of Megan D. Muccio, CPA, PLLC and a licensed investment professional. Her CPA business offers individual and business tax preparation and planning. As an investment professional, she specializes in making sure her clients make sound decisions about their financial future. She can be viewed at www.MuccioCPA.com, and reached at (631) 393-2888 and firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance in navigating these challenging times.