The IRS Launches its COVID-19 Stimulus Portal

It’s April 15th! Today used to be tax day, in a pre-COVID-19 world, but hopefully you know filers have until July 15th, 2020 to file their 2019 returns. I wanted to get the word out that the IRS has launched a new portal that you can use to check on your stimulus payment and see if the agency has your direct deposit information. Be aware that the system may be slow or bogged down at times, so trying multiple times is advisable. Try not to get frustrated.

Screen shot from irs.gov – Get your stimulus payment

First, you will want to navigate to THIS PAGE and look for the blue, “Get My Payment” button, a picture shown to the right.

You will need your 2019 tax return info, such as your adjusted gross income and refund or tax due amount. If you didn’t file a return in 2019, then you will need your 2018 information. If you didn’t file at all, you can also find a link to sign up for an economic impact payment at this same page. Look for the button to the right of the first one, shown below.

From irs.gov – Information for those that do not have to file tax returns

Once you get through these pages you will be prompted with a warning page telling you that this site is for official use only and that you shouldn’t be using other people’s information. Understand this information and click on the button. This will bring you to the “Get My Payment” page, which is where you will enter your social security number, date of birth, street address (no city, state) and ZIP code. NOTE: Use dashes in your social security number (e.g 123-45-6789) or else it will fail. I tried without the first time and with the second and it worked the second time. It may prompt you for more information on the next screen. This is where I had to enter my 2019 AGI and refund amount. Once I got this far, the page said they didn’t have my direct deposit information and prompted for bank routing and account information. I’m not sure why this information wasn’t in the system, as I received my recent tax refund via direct deposit, but whatever helps my payment reach me sooner, the better!

If your information is all set, the website will show the message below, which means your payment is in process.

Confirmation page from irs.gov

Some other COVID-19 facts on IRS operations:

-The IRS is not processing paper returns due to the service centers being shut down.

-No paper forms requests are being filled. Try to print them off online.

-Mail correspondence is not being opened either.

-If you need to do something, try to do it electronically, or wait. This is why the deadline is not July 15th, 2020.

I hope this was informational for those waiting for for thier COVID-19 windfall.

What do you plan to do with your payment? Leave a comment and let me know. I’m interested!

Looking on the bright side of things: Unintentional savings during the COVID-19 lockdown

Another day of social distancing, self-quarantine, and isolation is in the books in hopes of curbing the spread of COVID-19.  The debate continues in Washington, D.C. on how the economy should be propped up, and the stock markets took a little more of a stumble today, which is seeming the new normal.  This prompted me to think about controlling my outgo as opposed to hoping for a government bailout.  This lockdown of society is helping me to spend less.  I thought about how my inability to go out to dinner with friends, shopping malls, or the movies has cut my spending in recent days.  My gasoline usage is down about 90% from normal.  Not to mention the fall of oil futures has impacted the price we are seeing at the pump, which is compounding the savings. 

I did go out on Saturday, sanitary wipes in-hand, so that one of my Great Danes could get her scheduled vaccinations, and happened to be near the Home Depot.  I stopped in for a few items needed to get some things done around the house.  Besides reading, homework, and intensive home sanitizing, I have been able to get outside and start some spring projects such as pruning and recovering the backyard from the dog-pee fest that gets left unchecked because of the cold weather.  One of the Items I picked-up at Home Depot was a Simple Green Outdoor Pet Oder Eliminator.  This was my cheap Saturday entertainment! 

Normally, I would be going out the get lunch and hit up multiple grocery stores for sale items and impulse my way over budget.  However, to reduce exposure to the outside world, I made a list and sent my roommate and friend out to execute my list, which saved me money because he is great at not adding extra items to my list.  I also didn’t get to go to other stores like Marshall’s, Target, or Kohl’s for the same reasons, or the fact they are closed.  To boot, I have been eating at home since I’m working from home, which is saving me at least $10 per day over going into the office.

Your savings could be growing! Image courtesy https://www.myfinance.com/how-to-save-money/

I also have been making due with what I have because it is more difficult to just pop out to the store.  Instead of shopping for a new rug for my office that was recently re-arranged to make it more work-from-home friendly, I remembered I had a rug shoved under my roommate’s bed.  Albeit, it is eventually going back to the living room when my roommate moves his stuff out, it’s better than nothing under my office chair, which has a tendency to mar the floor if not on a rug.  Quite often our propensity to easily go out and buy something new makes us forget about old things stored away in closets or the garage.  I am planning to use more of this time to go through and really assess what is needed and what can be donated when this all passes.  You may be surprised at how those clothes fit that you put away two years ago?  Maybe you’ll fall in love again with that pair of jeans or a shirt that you had forgotten about?

In this time of uncertainty, get your mind off the news and think about the bright side of things.  Maybe you are like me and working from home and saving all that commute time?  If so, make sure you are using that time productively.  Make more food at home, try to resist ordering out unless you are financially secure and just have those funds in your budget.  We will make it through COVID-19 and eventually, things will return to normal. 

Have you been able to save money on day-to-day expenses like food, gas, or groceries?  Have you been able to cut childcare expenses if you are working from home?  Reply to this blog post and let me know! 

What chould you be doing with your money in these unprecedented times?

As I write, our economy is coming to a screeching halt.  Life is going from freedom to confinement at home.  It almost feels like you are taking your life in your hands to leave to go to the grocery store, where controls have been set up to stop overcrowding and hoarding of commodities.  Large, multi-national companies such as GUESS, Bath & Body Works, and The Cheesecake Factory are either closing their doors for at least ten days or highly modifying operations to combat the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus). 

Hopefully you aren’t on the receiving end of any financial impacts from these closures through layoffs or furloughs.  If you are, I send my best hopes that you have a plan in place and an emergency fund.  Our leaders in Washington are trying to minimize the impact of this outbreak on our economy.  Today there is talk of potential cash stimulus being sent out in the form of $1,000 or more checks to individuals.  Such drastic measures seem to be gaining bi-partisan support and if leaders really do act swiftly, we could see money in the next two weeks.  So, what should you do if you get some extra money from the government?

First, remember why this money is being sent out:  to help people cope with unexpected expenses or loss of income due to COVID-19 impacts.  Perhaps you end up getting laid off from your restaurant or retail job, without pay?  You need to save this money or keep the lights and food going in your home.  If you do lose your job, try applying for unemployment insurance through your state.  Don’t be too proud.  It is meant for us in times of need! Even if you are currently secure, the most prudent thing to do would be to add this to your savings for now.  Perhaps in a few months this will all be over and will be remembered like an apocalyptic movie.  If that scenario pans out, then go spend your windfall this summer.  The worst-case scenario would be you losing your job due to a continued downturn in the economy.  In this case, you again need that extra money.

Image credit: https://tenor.com/view/trump-stock-market-explosion-down-gif-16459871

For those of you with investments that are tanking due to the markets almost literally going off a cliff the last two weeks, just hang tight.  Hopefully you weren’t planning on retiring in the next week or two since you hadn’t reallocated your funds, so you’re in it for the long run.  Just keep working as long as you are gainfully employed and contribute like you have been.  If you can, it is a good time to ratchet up your contributions because stocks are on sale and your contributions to retirement plans buy more shares! 

If you have cash well beyond your emergency fund of three to six months, it may be a good time to buy up some cheap stocks now, or in the near term, of companies that have been dragged down but have great long-term prospects.  I can’t believe how discounted UPS and FedEx shares are since people are now stranded at home in many areas with only e-commerce to scratch that retail therapy itch.  Also, some strong retailers such a GUESS and American Eagle Outfitters have seen their stock dump by as much as 75% since last month.  Although they will be closed for ten days, it is highly unlikely solid companies will go under and within a year, it is likely share prices will return to where they have been in the past year.  If stock picking isn’t your game, then buy an index fund that follows the DOW or S&P 500.  If you have cash to invest now, it is likely you will see the biggest rewards for buying when everyone else is running for the exits.

These are just a few suggestions on how to manage your money in these uncertain, yet opportunistic times.  I would love to hear how you are managing your finances today.  Are you doing the same thing as before, are you saving more, investing, or doing something completely different?  Leave a quick comment below!

It’s also a great time to give money or time to those in need!  If you can spare it, see if you can support those in need in your local community.