A Financial Planer Is Important Now

After a pandemic rattles the economy, professional advice can be crucial for investors.
Female accountant or banker making calculations on her laptop

Investors must navigate a global pandemic that resulted in unemployment, market volatility and crushing economic losses.(GETTY IMAGES)

ON A COLD DAY IN Chicago in December 1969, 13 people met to discuss a better way to provide financial advice. They recognized that Americans would benefit from the counsel of a financial planning professional who integrates the knowledge and best practices of an often fragmented financial services industry.

Financial planning has evolved since then and will continue to change, but one constant remains – the need for competent and ethical financial planning advice.

Fifty years after that fateful night, those 13 individuals never could have imagined that the country would face a global pandemic that resulted in unemployment, market volatility and crushing economic losses.[ 

SEE: Is Your Portfolio Too Complex? ]

No matter your net worth, seeking the advice of a financial planning professional will help you navigate COVID-19 fallout and today's mercurial markets, taking into account the dynamic financial planning process.

Financial planning services are more accessible than ever before. A financial planner will take a holistic view and help you feel confident in your financial future, even during times of uncertainty and evolving goals, from paying down student loans, to raising children to funding retirement.

Working with a financial planner is very personal. Knowing how to identify the right person who will be the best fit for you and your financial needs can feel overwhelming. But don't let your search for professional advice intimidate you. As you talk to advisors in your area virtually, here are five areas to focus on to guide your pursuit of a prospective financial planner:

  • Personal financial goals.
  • Financial planner experience and credentials.
  • Commitment to a fiduciary standard.
  • Establishing a relationship.
  • Long-term success.

Personal Financial Goals

Before connecting with prospective financial planners, you need to identify your own personal goals and financial milestones.

Speak with the Right Financial Advisor For You

Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with top fiduciary financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. Each advisor has been vetted by SmartAsset and is legally bound to act in your best interests. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

While a focus on holistic financial planning is key, financial planners often have specialties. Identifying your own goals will help you narrow your search and work with someone that can help turn your goals into a reality. It will also strengthen your relationship early on as one of your first conversations will focus on your top short- and long-term goals.

Financial Planner Experience and Credentials

There are many credentials that financial professionals can hold, and it often seems like an alphabet soup of designations.

It's important to confirm that the professional you're considering has the verifiable expertise you need and is operating in your best interest. A certified financial planner professional is an individual who has been rigorously trained, has accrued significant experience and is committed to putting clients' interests first under a fiduciary standard.[ 

SEE: 5 Economic Factors That Influence Stocks. ]

You can confirm someone's CFP certification through the CFP Board website's "Verify a CFP Professional" tool. You can also learn more and verify other designations through the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority BrokerCheck website or the Securities and Exchange Commission Investment Advisor search feature on its website.

Commitment to a Fiduciary Standard

fiduciary is someone that works in the best interest of their client. When searching for financial planners, working with someone who is a fiduciary is critical, as nonfiduciaries only need to offer advice that is suitable even if it is not the best option for you.

CFP professionals are held to the CFP Board's Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct, a higher standard of competency and ethics. They are required to act in a client's best interest to benefit and protect the public. They are subject to discipline if they do not uphold the Code and Standards.

Establishing a Relationship

The relationship you have with your financial planner is one of the most important relationships in your life. Because their guidance impacts your money, you need to understand what that might look like in practice.https://fe216110efed31ec72551108d888335e.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

For example, how often will they communicate with you? Will they communicate mostly through email or phone calls? Or will you work directly with that individual or other members of their team?

Ask for client testimonials or examples of a similar client relationship during your vetting process. Understanding how the financial planner works with other clients will help you better understand what a potential relationship will entail.

Long-Term Success

While it is important to look for a financial planner that will help you navigate COVID-19, also look for financial planners that are focused on holistic financial plans. The creation of a holistic financial plan will take your financial goals and milestones into consideration, creating a long-term road map that looks beyond the coronavirus.

Measuring success through the achievement of your long-term goals will be a stronger indicator of accomplishment than other investment benchmarks.[ 

SEE: 6 Things to Consider Before Investing in IPOs. ]

Financial planning is a relatively new practice. In fact, the first video game "Tennis for Two" is older than the financial planning profession. In your search for financial advice, focus on the above areas to help you narrow your search for a financial planner that exhibits key traits of a good advisor and is also the right match for you.

Kevin Keller, Contributor

COVID-19 Stimulus Payments Round 2: What You Need to Know

Congress has finally reached a bipartisan deal on a $900 billion Coronavirus Relief stimulus package, and the President has signed it into law. This one also includes a stimulus payment, but there are big differences between this one and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed in March.

focus on money

Who qualifies for this round of stimulus payments?

The requirements are similar to the last round of payments with the upper income limits reduced.

To qualify for the economic impact payments you’ll need to meet each of the following requirements:

  • Have a social security number
  • You are a U.S. Citizen or U.S. Resident Alien
  • Make less than $87,000 filing single or $174,000 as a couple on your most recent tax return
  • You weren’t claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return

How much is the stimulus payment?

This COVID relief bill includes only up to $600 for qualifying adults, which is half of the amount offered by the CARES Act in March. 

If you made under $75,000 on your most recent tax return, you will be eligible for the full $600. Couples that filed together and made under $150,000 on their last return will be eligible for $1,200 combined. 

If you made over the income limit but less than $87,000 filing single or $174,000 as a couple and meet the other requirements, you’re eligible for a reduced payment.

You are also eligible for a flat amount of $600 per child dependent 16 or under.

How will I get my payment?

You will receive your payment through either check or direct deposit using the same method you requested filing your 2019 tax return. 

When will I get my stimulus payment?

Last week, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told CNBC that the first payments will go out before the end of the year.

While it will be a bit longer before everybody receives payments, they will probably be available much faster than last time since the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) already issued similar payments earlier this year.

How can I get my stimulus payment with Varo?

If you requested your 2019 tax refund as a direct deposit to your Varo Money bank account, you’ll receive your payment as soon as it’s issued by the IRS.

What can I do with my stimulus payment?

There is no limitation on how you can spend the money. These stimulus payments were issued by the federal government to help working class and middle class Americans who’ve been impacted negatively by the pandemic. If you need to spend it to cover basic expenses, you should.

If you don’t have immediate expenses to cover, it’s a good idea to save it. Sign up for Varo’s high APY Bank Account here

Will I get another stimulus payment?

Currently, the bill the President signed only allows for the $600 payments, but there is a move in Congress to raise these payments to $2,000.    While this raise in the stimulus payment passed the House, it has not yet come to a vote in the Senate.   Joe Biden has also said he’ll push for another round of checks when he’s in office.  There is no guarantee that the stimulus payment will be raised to $2,000 or that there will be another round of payments.

This COVID relief bill did extend the enhanced $300 a week unemployment benefits for up to 11 weeks, so if you qualify for  unemployment you will likely keep this benefit. Restarting unemployment benefits under the new law may take states 3 weeks or more according to experts. Be patient as states get in gear to provide these benefits. 

Apply for a Varo Bank Account today. No monthly fees or minimum balances.
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By Editors at Varo

Opinions, advice, services, or other information or content expressed or contributed here by customers, users, or others, are those of the respective author(s) or contributor(s) and do not necessarily state or reflect those of Varo Bank, N.A. Member FDIC (“Bank”) or Comprehensive Benefits of America, LLC, (CBA). The bank and CBA are not responsible for the accuracy of any content provided by author(s) or contributor(s).

Links to external websites are not managed by Varo Bank, N.A. Member FDIC, or by Comprehensive Benefits of America, LLC.

Securities offered through Registered Representatives of Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., a Broker/Dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services through Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor. Cambridge and CBA are not affiliated.


It is 7:00 am on Monday. Your throat is hurting, and you have a bad cough with severe body ache. You are unable to leave the warmth of your bed. But you have kids who need to be dropped for school, and you have an important presentation at work that can’t be delayed— so you have no time to waste sitting in the waiting room of the urgent care center. Luckily you work for a company that acknowledges the employee’s health-worth and provides a health package including a telemedicine program. You make an appointment with a doctor, and in a few minutes, you are getting examined and diagnosed from the comfort of your home. You save your time and money and get relieved from your stress after speaking with the physician.

Research has proved that the patients who access healthcare through telemedicine show lower rates of stress and anxiety than those who go for in-person visits. These patients show 38% lesser hospital admissions.

Here are 7 great benefits of telemedicine.com for the employees:


Medical costs are rising with each passing year, making it even more difficult for employers to provide health benefits to their employees. Some employers implemented consumer-driven healthcare plans (CDHPs), which increased out-of-pocket medical expenses for the plan participants. This made both the employers and employees find ways to cut back on overhead costs. Finally, they found telemedicine as the best solution to fight back the increase in medical expenses. Telemedicine reduces the co-pays for employees and cuts down the claim costs of the employer’s healthcare plan. A research study carried on 17000 telemedicine participants concluded that the hospital admissions of those employees dropped by 30%, and their doctor visits reduced by 60%. They also saved 45% of their costs routinely wasted on the unnecessary doctor and emergency room visits.

Telemedicine has been reported to reduce healthcare costs by up to 27% on average. Telemedicine aids in saving transportation costs, expensive office visit fees, emergency room specialist charges, and other facility charges. Employees often lose revenue when they cannot show up to an office visit due to car problems, traffic jams, work obligations, the responsibility of caring for children or older adults, or some other reasons. Telemedicine has largely helped the employees curb missed appointments. It has helped rural workers save approximately 3,431$ in lost wages and 5,718$ in transportation costs each year.

The American Journal of Emergency Medicine researched telemedicine and concluded that the net cost savings per visit ranged from 19$-121$.

The employers align incentives for selecting the best telemedicine solution so that the benefit drives a positive return on investment. Telemedicine helps small businesses outgrow by saving crucial costs across the board, reducing outgoing costs, and preventing valuable resources. It offers the best price and best deal telemedicine and behavioral health benefits to employees by offering non-pareil services at extremely low rates.


The employee is charged for no consultation or deductible fee in the best price telemedicine offer and no co-pay. All he has to pay is one low fee of $13.50 to get registered fora monthly subscription.

Note: The employee might be charged for the prescription. Any pharmacy or RX card can be used to fill the prescription.


The employees get up to 7 additional family members covered for just $13.50 per month in the best deal telemedicine offer.

It can’t be much more affordable than that.


Telemedicine allows the employees to avail of the consultation of best doctors, who can not be accessed for months routinely. The employees can access remote physicians and specialists at their home, work, or on vacation and can get unsurpassed and immediate healthcare in no time. This helps in the employee’s early recovery, followed by lower incidents of re-hospitalization and emergency room visits.

For employees who travel a lot, such as sales professionals, or truckers, telemedicine allows access to treatment regardless of location. Also, the employees living in rural areas can get extraordinary care in their homes.

Telemedicine also allows for better management of chronic diseases. Employers or their family members who suffer from chronic conditions are often unable to visit their doctor regularly. Such patients are more likely to get infected by contagious diseases in hospitals. Telemedicine technology allows you to monitor weight, blood pressure, blood sugar levels at your home and transmits it to the doctor’s office.

24-7Telemedicine services offer 24/7/365 phone or video consultation service with specialist doctors, who can consult, diagnose, and prescribe medications for common and non-emergency illnesses. An employee can easily take time out of their day and make consultations on a mobile phone, tablet, landline, or computer, and get the required immediate care. They discuss their medical history with specialists, who inquire and hear their ailments by themselves rather than waiting for any information from the nurse or doctor. This helps the specialist make a better diagnosis and provide individualized treatment.

Telemedicine.com also allows access to both English and Spanish speaking doctors for their patients’ convenience and uncompromised care provision.


In this havoc-wreaking outbreak of coronavirus, many employees are juggling health concerns and mounting anxiety alongside their jobs and families, which has left them at grave risk for loneliness, stress, burnout, and depression. In this pandemic, more than half of Americans are getting their health benefits through their place of work.

Telemedicine has lent a helping hand in protecting the employees from both contracting and spreading the disease. The employees having symptoms of the disease, can stay at their homes, get an appropriate diagnosis, and medical care through telemedicine, and are expected to show earlier recovery than if admitted at the hospital as he/she gets the proper care and support of loved ones. Those who are asymptomatic can make a consultation via telemedicine and stay safe from contracting the disease or germs of any other contagious disease from other patients in the hospital.


When an employee is sick, all he wants is to take a leave from the workplace, rest for hours, or visit a doctor immediately. Long absentees from his workplace might result in loss of income, low productivity in the workplace, and missed deadlines that might cause the company a great loss.

Telemedicine offers virtual healthcare to employees. They can access the services from their homes, at work, or even on vacations. They don’t need to take off hours from their work for a visit to the doctor’s office; instead, they can make a convenient call to telemedicine.com and get prompt care, as required.

If an employer is providing health benefits to employees, he is actually boosting his company’s productivity. The healthier are the employees; the better is the workplace productivity. When an employer offers telemedicine benefits to employees, he must expect them to save 700 hours per year that otherwise might be wasted by visiting the doctor’s office, in ER visits, or waiting in the waiting rooms for appointments.

With access to telemedicine, employees and their families get the required care and support quickly and easily. The less time it takes for employees to find the remedy, the faster they can return to the workplace. Employees stay productive and engaged when having no health issues.


Telemedicine can provide physical care to employees and alleviate their anxiety, stress, and paranoia that they are already experiencing. Employers can show their employees how important their health is by providing telemedicine as a part of their health benefits. Employees don’t need to leave work for getting examined; backlogs are not created, timely diagnosis and treatment expedite recovery that makes the employee feel a sense of care from their employer. This also helps the employees in cutting down their out-of-pocket costs. Thus, the employees stay relieved from their stress related to health and increase their company’s productivity.

The best deal and best price telemedicine benefits of telemedicine.com have made the employees heave a sigh of relief by cutting down the extra costs on their medical expenses. Research has proved that healthier employees have increased job satisfaction that is a foremost factor for retaining employees. The happier the employees are with their benefits; the more likely are they to rate their company a great workplace.


It needs to be accepted that mental illness, like any other chronic illness, becomes debilitating if left unaddressed. If we ignore the symptoms, it might lead to self-destructive behavior, and ultimately a downturn in workplace productivity.

A report from Mind Share Partners stated that 80% of workers with behavioral health problems said they don’t seek treatment because of shame and stigma. Telemedicine allows the employees to contact behavioral health specialists from their own homes’ comfort with no privacy issues. WHO estimates that every 1$ invested in treating mental health will return $$ in productivity and improved health.

Telemedicine.com offers promising avenues for treating mental illness. It allows greater accessibility, regular follow-ups, and a multi-disciplinary approach while taking complete care of patients’ privacy.


Telemedicine improves the employees’ ability to achieve work-life balance. They can seek healthcare in their off-hours or while traveling. They are not bound to any specific time or region for accessing the telemedicine services. Thus they can achieve a great work-life balance by designing their own schedules as per their convenience.



by bkwatson; Access a Doctor, Blog, Family, MyTelemedicine, Nationwide access, Pediatrician, Prescription, Senior Living, TELEPHONIC COUNSELING

Everything You Need to Vote

Your Vote Counts!

November 3, 2020 is Election Day and it’s coming up on us quick.

We want to help you prepare. Here’s everything you need to do to make sure your vote counts this year.  

Make sure you’re registered

Don’t wait until late October to get ready to vote. In some states, the deadline to register to vote is 30 days before Election Day. 

Check your voter registration status today. 

To do that, you can head to the Can I Vote? webpage.

The National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) runs this page, which helps you because each state’s voter registration process is different.

Head to their Voter Registration Page and choose your state. That will redirect you to your state’s voter registration check.

You’ll need to put in some personal information to check your status. Sometimes this includes your driver’s license number or the last four digits of your social security number.

If you find out you’re not registered to vote, don’t panic. As long as you’re 30 days out from the November 3 date, you can still register in every state. 

Check Your State’s Registration Date on This Calendar from When We All Vote

Figure Out How to Cast Your Vote

Once you’re registered, figure out if you’re going to vote in person or via mail-in ballot.

In-person voting

To vote in-person, you show up to a polling place on November 3. 

Pick your state on the NASS Find Your Polling Place. Then you’ll be sent to your state’s website.

Most states have tools that help you find polling places near you. 

On Election Day, you will probably need to bring some form of ID. Check your state’s laws on the National Conference of State Legislatures Voter ID Requirements page. 

You can also usually call your polling place and ask what you need to bring.

Types of documentation vary so make sure you read your state’s specific requirements. 

On November 3, show up to your polling place with your documents. 

The poll worker will guide you through the steps. That’s it.

Mail-in ballots

Most states also offer mail-in (also called absentee) ballots for people who don’t want to vote in-person.

Every state offers absentee ballots, but some states require a reason for needing to vote in this way.

Because of COVID-19, though, many states have loosened restrictions. Some states are even sending absentee ballots to all voters. 

In other states, you’ll need to request an absentee ballot if you want to vote by mail. 

NASS has more tools you can use here. Visit their Absentee & Early Voting page and choose your state.  

That should send you to your state’s webpage where you can access the application for an absentee ballot.

In most states, you need to request your absentee ballot a week or two before Election Day. 

Then, you need to send it in before November 3 in many cases.

To find out your state’s deadlines, you can use this chart from Vote.org.

Once you get your absentee ballot, make sure you fill it out accurately. 

Usually, you’ll need to sign the ballot in a couple of places, including on the outside of the envelope you send it back in. 

Educate yourself before you vote

There’s one more thing you need to do before you vote: research.

Even if you already know how you’re going to vote in the presidential election, remember there are many state and local issues on your ballot.

Ballotpedia has a helpful tool here. Use their Sample Ballot Lookup tool. 

Input your address to pull up your sample ballot.

Your sample ballot will show you what ballot measures you can vote on. 

Plus, you’ll see federal, state, and local government seats that are up for election so you can make your picks. 

Research the measures and people you’ll be voting on so you can make educated decisions on your ballot. 

Your vote counts.

by Kacie Goff Varo Bank


Is Taking a Gap Year This Fall a Good Idea?

The reality of COVID-19 has college students across the country planning to skip the upcoming school year, with some citing worry over personal finances and concern over online classes. Many students and their families lost income amid the pandemic, making it tougher to pay tuition and other educational expenses. And while college administrators are planning reboots that reduce the potential health risks of starting school this fall, students aren’t excited about the proposed instructional delivery options. Taking hybrid and online classes are unappealing to those who signed up for a traditional college experience.

But financial roadblocks and less-than-desirable learning environments may not justify putting your education on pause this fall, especially when considering some of the drawbacks. Let’s look at a few problems you might encounter if you take a gap year and skip college enrollment this coming semester.

Problem #1: No One Knows When or If We’ll Get Back to “Normal”

Lively student unions, packed dorm rooms, and full lecture halls are a thing of the past, at least for now. Whether we’ll return to a typical college experience anytime soon is seeming more unlikely. Even the possibility of having millions of students crisscrossing the U.S. to return to campus by spring isn’t guaranteed. Some would describe that scenario as an epidemiological nightmare in the making. But, waiting it out could mean unnecessarily delaying your education, especially when colleges and universities are bolstering their online instruction offerings for new and returning students.

Problem #2: The Typical Gap Year Benefits are Fewer

When students think of a typical gap year experience, it usually includes working a full-time job, traveling abroad, or exploring potential career interests. This year, those options might be off the table. Even though the unemployment rate declined to 11.1% in June 2020, finding full-time work may still be challenging. This is still nearly three times as high as it was in March 2020. Even then, unemployment rates were already creeping higher when compared to the prior year. Don’t forget that COVID-19 travel restrictions are still in place in many parts of the globe, and many in-person internships are being converted into virtual ones.

Problem #3: Re-Admission May Be an Issue

Whether you’re considering taking a semester off or the entire academic year, understand that each college has its policy for approving leaves of absence and re-admission. Some may be more lenient than others due to the coronavirus crisis, but that doesn’t mean returning to school will be easy. With an approved leave of absence, you can stop attending school for a maximum of 180 days within a 12-month time frame. But withdrawing from school or failing to return from your leave could have unwelcome consequences.

Colleges and universities are not required to re-admit students, even if they meet the requirements for re-admission. Each school and program is different, but know that some colleges may require you to:

  • Apply for re-admission and pay a fee
  • Meet updated re-admission requirements
  • Comply with revised graduation requirements due to changes within the program of study
  • Complete additional coursework based on changes to a program’s graduation requirements, thereby increasing the total cost of your education.

Contact your school for details on their specific re-admission requirements.

Problem #4: You Could Be Forced to Start Student Loan Repayments

Most student loan programs allow students a six month grace period before borrowers must make their first principal and interest payment. However, federal and private student loan grace periods differ by loan type and lender. Some student loans have shorter or no grace periods before you must begin repayment. Speak with your loan servicer or school’s financial aid office to confirm how this would apply to your specific situation. The length of time you stay withdrawn or are enrolled less than half-time will influence which loans you must start repaying and when.

Did You Know?

The cost of borrowing money for college is at an all-time low. Federal student loan interest rates for the 2020-21 academic year have dropped to 2.75% for undergraduate borrowers. This historically low-interest rate applies to Federal Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized student loans. Graduate student borrowers can secure Direct Unsubsidized Loans at 4.3%. Parents of undergraduates and graduate students can obtain Direct PLUS Loans at 5.3%.

Add the automatic administrative forbearance that has put student loans at 0% interest and pauses payments thru September 30, 2020, and it seems like taking a gap year right now would be less than ideal from a financial perspective. Even private student loans are setting record lows of 2.99% variable APR or 4.99% fixed APR.

Pausing your education because you feel COVID-19 is undermining your college experience can create more problems than it might solve. However, the emotional and mental health benefits of taking a break from everything might be the best choice for some individuals. Carefully weigh your options and potential consequences before making a final decision. Only you know if taking a gap year is the right thing to do in your particular situation.

Please note that the information provided on this website is provided on a general basis and may not apply to your own specific individual needs, goals, financial position, experience, etc. LendKey does not guarantee that the information provided on any third-party website that LendKey offers a hyperlink to is up-to-date and accurate at the time you access it, and LendKey does not guarantee that information provided on such external websites (and this website) is best-suited for your particular circumstances. Therefore, you may want to consult with an expert (financial adviser, school financial aid office, etc.) before making financial decisions that may be discussed on this website.

How Your Pet Can Help Your Mental Health

My young daughter struggles with anxiety. During a recent episode of panic I was struggling to help her calm her racing mind when my sixty-five-pound Pit Bull mix came to check on her, and it brought me a moment of clarity.

“You know,” I said to her, “scientists found that petting your dog can help you calm down when you’re upset.” She didn’t hesitate to put her hand on his neck and stroke him. In a few moments, the tears slowed and her breathing improved. She sat there petting him slowly, and in a matter of minutes it was almost as if nothing had happened. Since her worries tend to pop back up at bedtime, I asked if we could move the dog’s bed into her room. He’s slept by her side every night, and we’ve had no bedtime struggles since.

Our pets provide us with so many avenues to improve our mental health beyond just a comforting presence. Yes, it’s true that petting a dog can release oxytocin and lower your blood pressure (even more than talking to another human according to this study). You might be surprised at some of the other science-supported ways your pet helps your well being.

Walking Your Dog

Multiple studies have shown that dog owners are less depressed than those without dogs. Most dog parents, a whopping 87%, exercise the recommended 150 minutes per week. Mental health benefits, including reduced anxiety and depression, as well as physical health benefits follow with each step.

You don’t need to make dog walking an epic journey. Just a quick 10 minutes around the block, stopping at a few trees or fire hydrants along the way, can make huge improvements and get the ball rolling for increased endurance later on.

If walking a dog isn’t an option, just playing with a pet in the home releases serotonin and dopamine to help your mood. If pet ownership isn’t a reality for you right now, consider volunteering to groom cats or walk dogs at your local shelter where you’ll get these benefits, help adoptable animals, and even build a routine for yourself.

Building Routine & Building Relationships

Routine is important. Some pet parents report that their walking routine helped their overall well being, while others said the walk helped them feel more connected to their neighbors. The sense of purpose that comes with routinely feeding, grooming, and attending to your pet can help you find meaning and joy in life when it can otherwise be a struggle.

If you aren’t up to taking care of yourself, now might not be the right time for pet ownership. But if you think you might have an easier time getting out of bed in the morning if a pet needed cared for regularly, a pet might help you. Fostering could be a good short-term stepping stone into pet ownership. The companionship that comes with a pet has been well-documented to decrease the symptoms of depression and loneliness and increase the quality and length of life.

Pets Provide Reassurance

I feel safer and calmer when my dog is around. On those rare days when I’m home alone without him, I’m more aware of every noise I hear. When our pets are home and sleeping quietly, we can’t help but feel more secure and at ease. This sense of reassurance is not limited to watchdogs. Experiencing the love of a pet helps children and adults build their self-confidence. Whether a child is reading to a dog, snuggling with them, or teaching them tricks, the dog-human bond is free of any judgement, criticism, or negativity, and can even lead to increased social skills with other people.

One last bit of uplifting news: Most studies on the mental health benefits of companion animals find that animals also benefit from the same increased levels of oxytocin and dopamine that we do when we spend time with them. Your dog doesn’t just look at you like they love you. They really do love you. Knowing that the mental health benefits of pet ownership are reciprocal makes me happier just thinking about it.

The Latest Twitter Hack Shows that No One is Immune

Twitter Hack – Account Takeovers that IDShield Will Warn You About

The latest Twitter hack is being called one of the most audacious cybersecurity hacks of all time. If you don’t know what happened, here’s the high-level: On or about July 15, 2020, hackers hijacked the Twitter accounts of some of the world’s most famous people, including Joseph R. Biden Jr., Barack Obama, Kanye West, Bill Gates, Elon Musk and more. The incident also impacted some of the world’s biggest companies including Apple and Uber.

Star-studded issues aside, we at IDShield want to remind everyone, even if they are not publicly recognizable, of the importance of social media protection. 

What happened?

In the worst cyber incident in the company’s 14-year history, hackers infiltrated 130 high-profile, verified accounts and tweeted messages with a false promise: Send Bitcoin cash, and these prominent figures would send you back double the amount. The accounts were confirmed to have been compromised in what Twitter believes to be a social engineering attack.  

What’s a verified account? 

The blue verified badge on Twitter lets people know that an account of public interest is authentic.

The badge appears next to the name on an account’s profile and next to the account name in search results. It is always the same color and placed in the same location, regardless of profile or theme color customizations. 

What is a social-engineering attack?

 Social-engineering is when a cybercriminal manipulates and tricks users into making security mistakes or giving away sensitive information. Such a plot often involves tactics of phishing, pretexting, baiting, quid pro quo and tailgating. This is one of the most common cyber schemes, and what makes it so dangerous is that it relies 100% on human error. Content from a verified account from your favorite politician or tech giant has got to be real, right? Spoiler alert: It may not be.

It has been reported that the scammers received hundreds of payments, totaling thousands of dollars. It was an unprecedented attack on privacy, trust and security, but what’s even scarier: some experts say the hackers could have caused far more damage.

Another learning experience for the books

Unnerving, right? How many more attacks will it take for everyone to realize that online privacy and reputation management is not a light-hearted recommendation? In the age of digital warfare, everyone must understand how scammers operate, and how to utilize defense tools and resources.

How would someone with IDShield have been alerted?

The statement “…payments sent to my BTC address!” and the link/web/email address ‘bc1qxy2kgdygjrsqtzq2n0yrf2493p8…” would have triggered these reports:  

  • Account Takeover
  • Malware / Phishing / Scam

Upon receiving the reports, the messages could have been caught and deleted faster, saving thousands of people a boatload of money and regret.

Here are more details on what IDShield scans and reports on specifically within Twitter: 

  • Potentially inappropriate self-tweets, self-re-tweets
  • Potentially inappropriate mentions or direct messages from other users
  • Any username or profile changes (potential account takeover)

Protecting yourself is more critical than ever before 

We cannot stress this enough: help yourself, your family and your company. If you see suspicious messages, trust your gut and know it’s most likely a scam. Be proactive and use your resources.

IDShield is a product of Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. d/b/a LegalShield (“LegalShield”). LegalShield provides access to identity theft protection and restoration services. For complete terms, coverage and conditions, please see an identity theft plan.  All Licensed Private Investigators are licensed in the state of Oklahoma. This is meant to provide general information and is not intended to provide legal advice, render an opinion, or provide any specific recommendations.

Get the latest information on the coronavirus tax impact from your trusted partners at Block. Tax Time Is Almost Here and this Year is Challenging!

The coronavirus (COVID-19) has presented us all with some very unique challenges. We understand you may have questions regarding how the coronavirus impacts your taxes. H&R Block is here for you with up-to-date news and facts regarding any changes to tax filing deadlines and coronavirus tax extensions. And, as always, our tax experts are here to answer questions and provide guidance when you need it.
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March 25, 2020 : H&R Block

You might have heard about the 90-day tax payment extension due to the coronavirus pandemic but aren’t certain about what it covers. What does the extension mean for most Americans? Do taxes still need to be filed and paid by April 15, 2020?

Tax Day is now July 15, 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic. This change includes the filing and payment deadline. The IRS is still accepting returns and processing refunds, and we are ready to help you get your important refunds now (see options at the bottom of this article).
Want to find out more? Read on as H&R Block’s experts at The Tax Institute are here to help you understand the changes to the tax deadline due to the coronavirus.

Covid-19 tax deadline: What you need to know

As of March 20, 2020, the Treasury Department announced the following covid-19 tax deadline guidelines, giving certain taxpayers and businesses an additional 90 days to file and pay their 2019 tax liability. Here are the key dates.

Tax return deadline – July 15, 2020. Your tax filing is now due on this date. If you need more time, you can request an extension to October 15, 2020. Read the FAQs below for details.
Tax payment deadline – July 15, 2020. If you owe income taxes for 2019, you can delay your IRS payment until this time. You will not owe interest or penalties if you pay before this deadline.
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus tax deadline changes
Q. Who is eligible for the tax filing and payment deferral?
A. The following types of filers are eligible to use the special coronavirus tax extension.

  • Individual Form 1040 filers
  • Corporations filing Form 1120
  • Trusts and states filing Form 1041
  • Fiscal year partnerships, associations and companies with due dates on April 15, 2020 (uncommon)

Q. What do I need to do to delay my filing and tax payment?
A. You must file your tax return or extension by July 15 as you normally would. The 90-day tax payment deferral itself is automatic when you file, which means interest and penalties are automatically waived for 90 days and won’t accrue for qualifying taxpayers and businesses until after July 15.
Q. What if I need more time to prepare my return?
A. You must file Form 4868 to request an extension by July 15, 2020. This extension would give you until October 15 to file your return, but your payment would still be due by the extended payment deadline, July 15, 2020.
Q. What if I’m getting a refund? Does this news affect me at all?
A.  It should not affect you if you’re receiving a refund. The Treasury Department says you should still expect to receive your refund within the normal time period (9 out of 10 are received within 21 days of electronic filing).
Q. What types of payments does this deferral cover?
A. It covers income tax payments, as well as any normally associated interest and penalties, such as the failure-to-pay penalty. It also covers estimated tax payments (included payments of tax on self-employment income) due on April 15, 2020, for the 2020 tax year.
Q. How much can I defer?
A. There is no limit on the amount of tax payment you can defer.
Q. Does this deferral apply to 2020 estimated tax payments (including estimated self-employment taxes)?
A. It depends on the payment date.

  • First quarter 2020 estimated tax payment – The deferral includes this estimated tax payment otherwise due on April 15, 2020.
  • Second quarter 2020 estimated tax payment – The deferral does not apply to this tax payment due on June 15, 2020. In addition, the penalty for failure to make estimated tax payments for 2019 is not waived or deferred.

Q. Does this deferral apply to my state tax return also?
A. States are issuing their own guidance about deadlines. For more information, see State income tax returns impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Q. Does this announcement mean I don’t owe taxes for 2019?
A. No, the deferral only extends the due date of when your tax liability is due. Interest and penalties will again accrue on outstanding tax liabilities starting July 16, 2020. The deferral does not exclude or exempt taxpayers from filing if they are already required to file.
H&R Block is here to help during the coronavirus tax extension
During the extension period, H&R Block will be standing ready to help—no matter how you choose to file. We understand how important your refund is to your financial wellbeing. And now more than ever, we’re ready to get you the most money back.
Drop off your documents
You can bring your documents to any of our offices and we’ll do the work without you having to wait. Our tax pros will call you with any questions and can send your completed return electronically for you to review and approve.
Tax Pro Go
Use your mobile device to upload your tax documents and a tax pro will prepare your return virtually.
Online or desktop software
If you prefer to do your own taxes, you can prepare your taxes using H&R Block Online or H&R Block Software. If you have questions, there are options for unlimited help and even a final review of your tax filing.
At H&R Block, we’re committed to providing information you can trust that you can use to help navigate the changing tax landscape. If you’d like to stay informed about the tax impact of the coronavirus pandemic, visit our Coronavirus Tax Impact page for the latest information.

Visit your CBAPlan Benefits page to register for free tax return!

Coronovirus – COVID-19 Telemedicine is Here for You 24/7

Healthiest You is partnering with the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), state and local health officials, and our health system partners to provide our communities with the support, information, and the care they need.

Getting care and guidance from the comfort of your own home can put your mind at ease and help you avoid heavily public areas such as doctors’ offices and the ER, which can carry many germs. Our providers can evaluate your risk and advise you on next steps.

While there is no treatment for COVID-19, people who are mildly ill may be able to isolate and care for themselves at home.

For cases where in‐person care is needed, we will navigate patients to appropriate resources and encourage patients to “let them know before you go” so that the in-person care facility can direct them appropriately and minimize potential exposure for others.
As the COVID-19 outbreak unfolds, our commitment to providing high-quality care has never been more important. Virtual care is recommended by the CDC as the way to get care and advice and help avoid exposure and spread of potentially contagious viruses.

When should I use your services? What are wait times like?

The need for our care has never been greater and providing care in your moment of need is our highest priority. As a result, you may experience extended wait times.

If you have a fever or feel feverish, have cold-like symptoms or flu-like symptoms, or feel run-down, you should contact us. If you are experiencing shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, then you should call your local doctor’s office to request an in-person visit. Shortness of breath–having trouble breathing–is a more severe symptom that requires an in-person evaluation.

The fastest way to receive care is to request a visit on the mobile app or online. If you’re a new member, set up your account and complete a brief health history.

Teladoc does not write lab orders for COVID‐19 testing. When our doctors identify a COVID‐19 suspected case, we advise individuals to call their local doctor or their state’s public health hotline to verify test availability and to “let them know before you go” so that the in-person care facility can direct them appropriately and minimize potential exposure for others.

Testing availability varies by community and many health departments and health systems are prioritizing testing for patients with the greatest risk of COVID‐19 complications or greatest risk of spreading to others.

Individuals vulnerable to COVID-19 are patients older than 50 years or patients with chronic diseases such as heart, lung, kidney, and diabetes, or who are immunocompromised.

Children do experience the same symptoms as adults do with COVID-19. However, at this time, we are seeing that children’s symptoms seem to be milder. Children with chronic diseases such as heart, lung, kidney, diabetes, or who are immunocompromised, are at higher risk for complications due to COVID-19.

Teladoc works with many Medicare Advantage and Medicaid managed care plans but is not a provider for Medicare fee for service or Medicaid fee for service. Contact your health insurance provider to learn more about your benefits and to see if you have access to Teladoc.

We’re here to support you

If you think you have coronavirus:

  1. Contact us. We will advise you on what to do next. See our frequently asked questions below for how we handle COVID-19 evaluations.
  2. Call ahead before going in person to any doctor’s office.
  3. Don’t go to your local emergency room for COVID-19 testing. The ER is only for those who need the most critical care.

Register for HealthiestYou with CBA Plan today!

Stimulus Bill

In a continuing effort to alleviate taxpayer stress from the COVID-19 pandemic, another piece of federal legislation will provide relief in several categories. The Stimulus Bill, also called The Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act or H.R. 748, was passed by the House and signed on Friday, March 27, 2020. Below are some of the most pertinent sections for financial professionals and their clients (not intended as legal advice):

Temporary Waiver of Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) Rules
The CARES Act waives RMDs for calendar year 2020 for Defined Contribution (DC) plans, including 401(k), 403(b), 457(b) and IRA plans, allowing individuals to keep funds in their retirement plans. Under current law, individuals generally at age 72, or those that turned 70 ½ in 2019 or before, must take an RMD from their DC plans and IRAs. 

If a client has taken an RMD within the past 60 days, the RMD would be eligible to roll back into the plan. Typically, RMDs are not eligible to be rolled over in a year in which an RMD is required. However, since no 2020 RMD is required, a 60 day rollover is an option. We do not yet know what this means for individuals who took 2020 RMDs outside of the 60 day window, but expect to receive additional guidance from the IRS and will pass this along when we know more. In addition, as we hear more from our clearing firm partners on how this will affect Pershing and FCCS accounts, we will post that information on our COVID-19 Clearing Firm Updates Page.

Hardship Distributions
H.R. 748 also waives the 10% early withdrawal penalty tax under Internal Revenue Code Section 72(t) on early withdrawals up to $100,000 from a retirement plan or IRA for an individual:

  • who is diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • whose spouse or dependent is diagnosed with COVID-19; 
  • who experiences adverse financial consequences as a result of being quarantined, furloughed, laid off, having work hours reduced, being unable to work due to lack of child care due to COVID-19, closing or reducing hours of a business owned or operated by the individual due to COVID-19; or
  • other factors as determined by the Treasury Secretary.

Plan Loans
The Act doubles the current retirement plan loan limits to the lesser of $100,000 or 100% of the participant’s vested account balance in the plan. Individuals with an outstanding loan from their plan with a repayment due from the date of enactment of the CARES Act through Dec. 31, 2020, can delay their loan repayment(s) for up to one year. The legislation allows retirement plans to adopt these rules immediately, even if the plan does not currently allow for hardship distributions or loans. This provision requires that the plan be amended on or before the last day of the first plan year beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2020.

The American Retirement Association (ARA) has put together FAQs outlining the above changes, available here.

Other Provisions
The CARES Act provides the Department of Labor (DOL) with expanded authority to postpone certain deadlines under ERISA. This means that the DOL could delay such timelines as Form 5500 filing, plan restatement deadlines, etc. We will continue to update you as additional changes occur.

Small Business Relief
The Act also provides relief to your small business clients provided they meet certain requirements. The program, which is available to businesses with less than 500 employees that do not lay off employees during the crisis, is in the form of $350 billion in partially forgivable loans. Provisions of the program include a 50% refundable payroll tax credit on worker wages to retain workers, a delay in employer-side payroll taxes for Social Security until 2021 and 2022, looser net operating loss-reduction rules, and an expansion of rules that allows sole proprietors and other self-employed workers to be eligible for the expanded unemployment-insurance benefits the bill provides. Loans under the program will be up to $10 million per employer depending on payroll, and will carry an interest rate of up to 4%. If the business uses the loan funds for the approved purposes and maintains the average size of its full-time workforce based on when it received the loan, the principal of the loan will be forgiven, meaning the company will only need to pay back the interest accrued.

By: Ryan Nietert, CFP, ChFC, CLU. Oakcrest Capital March 30th, 2020


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