How To Face The Fear of COVID-19
Written By: Kaitlyn Duchien
We know what you’re probably thinking. “Great. ANOTHER PSA about COVID-19. Just what I wanted to see.” We get it. At Face The Fear, we battled whether or not we should add another voice to the already overwhelming media noise bombarding you from every angle. But, we also felt it would be insensitive to go silent on an issue that is seriously impacting the lives of our audience on a physical, mental, emotional, and financial scale. So – if you’re sick of hearing more about COVID-19 – you have permission to close out of this article and move on with the rest of your day (no hard feelings). But – if you’re feeling anxious, overwhelmed, frustrated, or scared about everything happening in the world – stay here, friend. Let’s talk about it openly and share some ideas for how to take care of your body, mind, and wallet.
Unless you’ve been living in complete isolation (oh wait – that’s what you’re supposed to be doing), you already know about what COVID-19 is, how to detect the symptoms, and what preventative measures you can take to keep yourself (and others) safe. In case you need a refresher, you can find all of the most current and factual information from the CDC here. Also, just a friendly reminder, we are all humans and must work as a collective unit to overcome an issue like this on a global scale. That means thinking about the wellbeing of others before yourself. If you have a strong, healthy immune system, take a moment to be grateful for that blessing! But, also acknowledge that this blessing comes with responsibility. While your body might have a supercharged defense system capable of attacking and defeating the virus, others are not so lucky and depend on you to help them stay healthy. Don’t take your health for granted. Show some love for others by washing your hands, cleaning your space, and maybe leaving behind a package of toilet paper for your neighbor?
If today’s news is making you feel like you’ve somehow landed on set of the next zombie apocalypse movie, you’re not alone. Words like “pandemic” and “quarantine” are scary, especially when the last time you heard them was while binge-watching The Walking Dead (no judgement – we’ve been there). Everyone processes information differently, and some may experience higher levels of mental and emotional stress than others. There is no right or wrong way to feel in response to the media messages you are receiving. However, chances are, you’ve experienced a negative impact on your lifestyle to some degree as a result of recent world events. With that said, it is just as important to take care of your emotional health as your physical health. Case in point: research has emerged revealing a correlation between negative emotional responses and lowered immunity. So, let’s take care of our mind and emotions so our body can take care of itself. Here are a few ways to give your mind and soul some TLC (all in the comfort of your own home):
- Find a few new healthy recipes you’d like to try and get cooking! If you’re wanting to avoid the grocery store, try out a meal kit or grocery delivery service. I just received my first box from Imperfect Foods, a company that delivers high quality food deemed “not pretty enough” to be sold in most grocery stores. We received a week’s worth of groceries (including fresh fruits, veggies, meats, and fancy cheeses) all for $52. (P.S. Face The Fear is not sponsored by any food delivery service. We just genuinely like the companies linked above).
- Plan a Facetime date with friends or family! Is there a friend or relative you haven’t chatted with in a while? Now is the perfect opportunity to catch up. Check in on loved ones, share your thoughts and feelings about current world events, and strengthen your support system. You can even get creative by watching a movie, playing a board game you both have at home, or sharing a meal “together” – all over video chat. Technology is a beautiful thing.
- Have you been avoiding the gym because of all the people who never wipe down their machines after use? (You know who you are). Or maybe you’ve been wanting to save some money on a gym membership by starting an at-home workout routine? Here’s your motivation! Physical exercise will not only keep your immune system at the top of it’s game, but it will also provide your brain the endorphins it needs to combat stress. YouTube has millions of free at-home workout videos – from yoga, to strength training, to dance, to Jazzercize. Time to get your Jane Fonda on.
- Unplug. Seriously. Turn off your phone, computer, and TV for an hour. Give your brain a break from the information overload that can so easily lead to emotional exhaustion. While it is important to stay informed about world events, too much information (especially inaccurate information) can be harmful to your overall wellbeing. Instead, use that hour to read a book, watch a movie, start a new project – anything that will completely remove you from the current media madness.
- If stress is severely impacting your ability to perform normal daily activities (such as eating, sleeping, and working), please reach out to a health care professional or contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services administration at 800-985-5990.
- We’d love to hear your creative ideas for how to take care of your emotional health at home. Share them in the comments below.
3. Facing The Fear of Our Financial Future
Along with all of the media coverage about COVID-19, you’ve probably heard that the stock market had a rough week last week. The S&P 500 dropped 20% from its recent peak, an official signal of a bear market. This is due to the uncertainty that comes with how COVID-19 will affect labor, supply chain, travel, safety, and multiple industries at large (think: cruise lines and hospitality). With the market on a roller-coaster ride, it can be easy to panic and want to pull any invested funds out of the market (such as money in your 401k or IRA). However, a correction is a natural part of the market cycle and actually provides a lot of potential benefits for long-term investors. If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re a Millennial (or Gen Z) who’s got 40-50+ years until retirement. This means you have 40-50+ years to ride the market roller coaster and eventually retire with a significant return on your initial investment (averaging around a 10% annual return, looking back over the last 30 years. P.S. Past performance does not guarantee future results).
Side note: you might also be hearing that, currently, the stock market is “cheap,” meaning you can buy more stocks with less money. So, as a Millennial, this may be an excellent opportunity to think of increasing the percentage of your 401k or IRA contribution, or opening an investment account for the first time. Ultimately, if you buy into the market when prices are low, you’ll get more bang for your buck (one facet of dollar-cost averaging). Think about it this way: you have $100 to spend on toilet paper. Each roll costs $10, so you can buy 10 rolls. What happens when Walmart has a 50% off sale on toilet paper? Now, each roll only costs $5 and you can buy 20 rolls! (PSA: just because you can buy 20 rolls does not necessarily mean you should). Stocks function in a similar way. When the price of a stock decreases, you can buy more of them with the same amount of money and increase your potential for earnings if you’re willing to hold those stocks over a long period of time. (As always, when it comes to investing, make sure you work with a financial professional to help you achieve your specific financial goals).
For current information about COVID-19: please visit the CDC’s website here.
Got questions? Email us at email@example.com.
Don’t forget to leave a comment sharing how you’ve been taking care of yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally!
And remember: WASH YOUR HANDS (not just during a pandemic). Society (and your mother) thanks you.
In the article that Heidi wrote, we learned about what a 401(k) plan is and how it works. So, what is a 403(b) plan and who is eligible for one?
A 403(b) plan is a type of retirement plan for tax exempt organizations, specific employees of public schools (teachers, school administrator, professors), certain ministers, nurses, doctors, or librarians. A 403(b)-retirement plan is like a 401(k) in how it is funded through employee contributions. There are three types of accounts for 403(b) plans: annuity contracts with insurance companies, custodial accounts made of mutual funds – called a 403(b)(7), and retirement income accounts for church employees, typically invested in mutual funds and annuities – called a 403(b)(9). An employee usually can choose among several investments to build his or her portfolio, and design the account based on risk tolerance, such as conservative, balanced or aggressive. (As discussed in the podcast with Erin Martin, make sure to check the fees when choosing where to direct your funds.)
Like a 401(k) plan, your employer may choose to do a matching program. For instance, this means that if you put in 3 percent of your salary into a 403(b), your company could put in the same amount if they do 100% matching. Other companies may do a 50% matching rate. This means that if you put in 6%, they will match up to 3%. (Free money!!) Make sure to check with your HR department on if and how your company matching program works when setting up your 403(b) so that you can take full advantage of the program
Like a 401(k), a 403(b) has a contribution threshold. For the year of 2019 the contribution amount is: $19,000. If you are age 50 and older, you can contribute an additional $6,000 a year. Also, if permitted by the employer, a 403(b) plan may allow for an additional catch-up if an employee has worked for fifteen years or more. You may be able to stack these additional contributions, although there are limits and it is a bit confusing, which is why it is important to seek the advice of a financial advisor to navigate these additional contributions.
Another way that a 403(b) plan is like a 401(k) is that you will be penalized if you withdraw funds before the age of 59 ½ at a rate of 10 percent. (Yikes!)
One caveat is that there are certain circumstances that funds can be withdrawn without penalty such as separating from an employer when a person reaches age 55, a qualified medical expense, death of the employee or disability.
So, what happens if you change employers? Well, potentially there are four possibilities: roll the funds into an IRA, keep in the current plan, transfer to a new employer plan or cash out the account. Not all of these options may be available to you, so this is where speaking with your financial advisor and human resources department before leaving your current employer is very important.
As a reminder: I am not a financial professional and urge you to seek the advice of a financial advisor when making your own financial decisions.
Until next time, face your financial fear! 😉
Written By: Nicole Ellsworth (@lacelemonslove)
Contact Us: firstname.lastname@example.org
New Year, New You: 5 Ways You Can Take Control of Your Finances in 2019
New Year, New You — am I right? As you start to prepare for 2019 to be your best year yet (and vow to actually USE your gym membership for more than a month), don’t forget about getting your financial sh*t together, too. Even if you don’t feel like you’re in a good place with your cash money, now is the perfect time to assess what money mistakes you’ve made in the past, what financial goals you have for the future, and how you’ll start taking baby steps to get there.
For those procrastinators out there who wish they’d started investing/saving/budgeting earlier in life (myself included), it’s not too late! Hear me out: starting today is WAY better than never starting at all — or even waiting a year from now and having the same conversation with yourself all over again (not a cute #ThrowbackThursday moment).
So as we gaze longingly to the year ahead (or at least longingly at that last remaining Christmas cookie calling your name), let’s look at 5 ways you can get your finances in check during 2019:
- Open a Retirement Account (and start contributing to it)
This is important. You know this is important. But, it doesn’t seem like a top priority when you’ve got student loans, credit card debt, and bills knocking at your door today, and retirement is still decades away. You’ve still got plenty of time to save up, right? Wrong.
Let’s use a little analogy. Every year before Christmas, you have a mental conversation with yourself that goes something like this: “I really should get my Christmas shopping done early this year. That way I don’t have to stress about it later….Eh, I’ve got plenty of time, I’ll get around to it.”
Suddenly, you wake up and it’s December 24th (how did that happen??). You now have to enter beast mode to somehow find, buy, and wrap presents for all 287 members of your family in 24 hours — putting Santa himself to shame.
While pulling off this Christmas magic may be possible (think: STRESSFUL), it’s not the end of the world. Your retirement savings, on the other hand, is a different story. You really only have one shot to make sure you’ve got enough buckaroos saved up, so when you’re ready to leave the office and spend the rest of your life on a beach, you don’t have to worry about running out of money. Right now, time is on your side, so START NOW. (You’ll thank me later.)
If you’re wondering where to go to open a retirement account (and what to do with it once it’s started), listen to our latest podcast episode with Retirement Investment Advisor, Erin Martin!
2. Boost Your Retirement Account (if you’ve already got one)
You may have breezed past #1 thinking, “Well, that’s easy! I already have a retirement account that I’m contributing to like a real adult.” First of all, CONGRATS! You’re #winning.
Second of all, it’s time to supercharge that bad boy (like Vin Diesel hitting the NOS in Fast and Furious).
One way to do this is by upping the percentage of your paycheck that you’re putting away for retirement savings. Simply increasing your contributions 1% per year (hardly a noticeable difference to your take-home pay), you might be AMAZED by how quickly your retirement savings compounds over time. To make things even easier, many plans allow you to select an automatic escalation feature, which will bump up your percentage each year without any effort on your part. Nice.
3. Make a Budget You Can Actually Stick To
Remember that one time you made a detailed budget that lasted for a solid two days before you blacked out during an Amazon shopping spree? Same.
The problem with a lot of budgets (and New Year’s resolutions for that matter) is that they are very optimistic, but not always realistic. I’m not saying you need to lower your financial goals. But, instead of trying to pay off all debt overnight while also saving 50% of every paycheck, simply develop practical mini-goals that can be maintained long-term. For example, try implementing one new budgeting strategy each month in 2019. January, put $10 per week in savings. February, continue setting aside the $10, but also aim to eat out only once per week. In March, keep the first two month’s strategies going, while adding another practical goal that bumps you even further in the right direction. By the end of the year, your budgeting baby steps will snowball into a realistic, maintainable financial lifestyle.
P.S. If you’re not already using a budgeting app like Mint, what are you doing? Seriously. Go download it right now. It’s a free app that allows you to manage your checking and savings accounts, investments, credit cards, retirement plan, and bills all in one place. Say goodbye to budgeting on boring Excel spreadsheets forever (unless that’s your thing — you do you, boo boo).
4. Give Gifts that Make Cents
Christmas is officially over, which means your finances are probably in recovery mode after a month of generous gift giving. While there’s nothing quite like the feeling of finding the PERFECT gift for your loved ones, the feeling might be quickly overshadowed by the feeling of doom when you check your bank account. Yikes.
Since you can’t avoid the gazzillion birthdays, weddings, and special occasions happening throughout the year (as much as you may want to), it’s time to get creative with giving gifts that won’t break your bank.
Here’s a few ideas:
- For the person who doesn’t need anything:
- Consider donating to a local charity or Kiva (an international nonprofit microloan organization) on their behalf. You’re not giving them anyTHING, but you are providing meaning in their honor and bettering the world in the process. Win-win.
- For the person who loves experiences:
- Score discounted tickets to local events on platforms like Groupon. Take a historic tour of your city, attend a concert or comedy show, or try a ballroom dancing class — all experiences that you can enjoy together.
- For the person who likes to pick out their own gifts:
- Sell or exchange your unwanted gift cards on platforms such as Cardpool or Amazon’s Card Cash. You can either swap out that gift card your grandma gave you to the iTunes store back in 2008, sell it and use the cash to buy something better, or buy discounted gift cards to help your funds go farther.
5. Subscribe to Face the Fear (Shameless Self-Promo)
You know you want to.
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5 (MORE) ideas of how to take control of your finances in 2019 coming soon! Stay tuned!
Written By: Kaitlyn Duchien (@ktaylor1395)
Contact Us: email@example.com
If you’re like me, you’ve probably sat through a 20-minute session or two on setting up your 401(k) account. And if you’re like me, you walked out nodding like you heard some really great advice, but it sounded more like a foreign language. You might have checked the boxes for the “most recommended” allocations for your age group and called that “good enough.” You may not even know how much is going toward your 401(k) each paycheck, or what the balance is currently, or if that’s “good” or “bad” … or…. OK, how much does it matter? HALP!
While it’s sometimes difficult to imagine retirement or know how to plan for it so early, I couldn’t help but wonder about my own future.
For most of us, our employer offers us a 401(k) account – but we’re in charge of contributing. So, let’s consider how those contributions actually impact the outcome (account balance) and, more importantly, the value on the day we are ready to cash out.
A 401(k) account is a tool employers offer as an incentive for their employees to save and plan for their retirement. It’s a type of savings/investment account that allows your money to grow tax deferred.
Part of the incentive could be your employer’s match. Not all employers provide a match. (*cough, cough* This is something you should look into if you don’t know.) Anyway, for every “X amount” you contribute, your employer will also contribute or match “Y amount.” As a rule of thumb, you’ll want to take advantage of this match, so you’re not walking away from the money they’re willing to offer you. (It’s basically free money, people!) Beyond that, you can save as much as you’d like each year, up to the contribution limit, which is determined by the government annually. (P.S. The pretax contribution limit for 2019 is $19,000. You’re welcome).
One major difference between a 401(k) and a traditional savings account is that you really shouldn’t withdraw your 401(k) money until you reach retirement age (which the government has decided is 59 ½ years old). If you do withdraw funds before then, you will pay a hefty 10% penalty. Yikes. While that 10% penalty may seem unfair, think of this as part of a sweet deal that you and the government have shaken hands on. You need to save money as quickly as possible for retirement, right? And you’d rather not pay taxes on that money now, so it will reap the full advantage of compound interest (aka grow faster). The government says, “OK, I won’t take taxes on that money now, because I would like you to have money to retire eventually. BUT, the one condition is that you can’t use that money to buy a new Ferrari prior to 59 ½ (unless you wanna pay a 10% penalty).” Remember, the government wasn’t born yesterday.
OK, so you’re putting this money in regularly – what happens to it after it hits your account? Remember that “most recommended” option you checked after you glanced over the pie chart? That allocation option determines a mixture of stock and bond mutual funds where your money goes to grow. The company holding your account (such as Fidelity, MassMutual,etc.), will keep track of all this for you (*takes deep sigh of relief*).
While there may be predetermined blends of “conservative” or “aggressive” allocations, you can customize your selections — if you so choose — and those selections can be changed at any time. For some people, taking advantage of aggressive models might seem scary – to diversify, and put large amounts of valuable (vulnerable) money out there. But it’s good to keep in mind that time is on our side here.
So, if you start to watch your account, you might see the balance fluctuate day to day; but just because the market may take a dip or seem “low” does not necessarily mean that you’ve lost a lot. It could actually be a good time to buy in, as the more time you have ahead, the more time the market has to correct itself and grow – to your benefit.
And lastly, a little disclaimer (because we like those). I am not a financial advisor, so please make sure to consult with one of those amazing, qualified professionals to determine your own unique retirement plan.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this article coming Thursday!
Article Contributed By: Heidi Lengacher
Contact Us: firstname.lastname@example.org