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  • Unemployment Has Changed Forever

    The latest stimulus package, known as the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA), injected $1.9 trillion into the US economy. This relief spending has been divided into various categories, including $410 billion for stimulus checks, $360 billion for state and local governments, $130 billion to help schools safely reopen, and $122 billion for COVID-19 testing, tracing, and vaccine distribution.

    Another big chunk of the $1.9 trillion stimulus package—$250 billion, to be exact—is allocated for unemployment benefits. The CARES Act, which passed in March 2020, expanded unemployment benefits through December 31, 2020. Now, those expanded benefits extend through September 6, 2021. Here’s what you need to know.

    Supplemental Unemployment Benefits

    The ARPA adds an extra $300 per week to the baseline employment benefits received from the state for 53 weeks, up from 24 weeks. In Florida, unemployment pays just under $300 per week. With the federal supplement, unemployed Floridians can earn nearly $600 per week. The biggest problem with this is that it incentivizes workers who make roughly $12 to $15 per hour to accept unemployment instead of looking for a job.

    Tax-Exempt Unemployment Benefits

    The first $10,200 per person of unemployment benefits received in 2020 is exempt from income taxes—assuming your income is less than  $150,000. This gives low- to moderate-wage workers yet another reason to remain unemployed, which could really hamper our country’s economic recovery.

    The real kicker is that the government added this significant taxation provision in the middle of tax season! It affects a source of income that millions of Americans received last year, many for the first time ever. A significant portion of these people have already filed their income tax returns and paid taxes on the unemployment benefits they received in 2020.

    Now, the only option is to wait, but the IRS has not provided instructions on how to proceed. In fact, the only guidance taxpayers have received so far is not to amend their returns just yet.

    Other Tax Changes

    In addition to newly tax-exempt unemployment benefits, the ARPA has allocated $143 billion toward three expanded tax credits for 2020:

    The child tax credit has increased to $3,000 for children age 6 and older, and $3,600 for younger children, regardless of earned income.

    The child and dependent care tax credit increased to $8,000 for one child and $16,000 for multiple kids.

    The earned income tax credit was expanded for low- to moderate-income workers with qualifying children.

    These tax credits are fully refundable, meaning that even qualified individuals who don’t owe taxes get money back when they file their return.

    For answers to your remaining questions about tax-exempt unemployment benefits and other tax implications for 2020, please reach out to Nelson Financial Planning. Our team can fill you in on all the rules so you know what benefits apply to you. Contact us today at 407-629-6477 to schedule your free initial consultation.

  • The Biggest Lessons to Learn from 2020

    It’s good to see 2020 in the rearview mirror, but investors can learn a lot from this tumultuous year. Here are some of the biggest takeaways. 

    Fearless Forecast from 2020 

    For the past three decades, Nelson Financial Planning has offered an annual “Fearless Forecast. This tongue-in-cheek exercise goes out on the proverbial limb to predict the market’s future. 

    As we started 2020: 

    • Unemployment was at 3.5 percent. 
    • Economic growth was humming along at 2 to 3 percent. 
    • The Dow closed out 2019 at 28,538 points. (Our Fearless Forecast for 2019 predicted closing at 28,400 points.) 

    Here’s how things unfolded: 

    • Unemployment rose to 7.9 percent. 
    • The economy shrank by 3.6 percent. 
    • The Dow closed out 2020 at just over 30,600. (Our Fearless Forecast for 2020 predicted closing at 31,600 points.) 

    Key Takeaways from 2020 

    Investors can apply four big things from 2020 going forward: 

    • Markets don’t perfectly reflect the economy. Fear over the pandemic caused the market to plummet about 35 percent in March 2020. The lockdowns obviously had a dramatic economic impact, and the market reflected that in this instance. However, remember that the market indicates what the future may hold rather than serving as a template for what’s happening today. 
    • It pays not to time the market. If you pulled out at the beginning of the pandemic, you missed a tremendous opportunity. After all, the market rose 15 or 16 percent from its low point in March until closing in December. 
    • Forecasts are just forecasts. No one can predict the future. That’s why forecasters constantly change their predictions. Ignore them as best you can. 
    • Embrace new trends, but balance your portfolio. Big tech companies drove around 30 percent of the market performance in 2020. Moreover, technology dominated our personal lives. Remember how Zoom became a household name when everyone shifted to remote work environments and videoconferencing? Big drivers are important, but don’t neglect the opportunity to diversify your investments. Even consider those from overseas as international markets recover faster than the US. 

    Fearless Forecast for 2021 

    Here are our predictions for this year: 

    • We estimate economic growth of 3 percent, maybe a little higherWe expect 2021 to be a comeback year, but we believe the money injected into the market may have stolen some of the recovery we might have otherwise seen in 2021. 
    • Low interest rates are here to stay. The Federal Reserve is doing everything it can to hold interest rates near 0 percent until 2023. 
    • We predict the Dow will close out 2021 at 32,250, or 5 to 6 percent higher than it closed in 2020. 

    If you’re ready to accumulate more wealth in 2021 and beyond, turn to Nelson Financial Planning for help. We have over 35 years of financial planning experience to provide superior investment results and peace of mind for the future through a successful and cost-effective financial plan. Call 407-629-6477 or schedule a free initial consultation online.