Guiding Your Company with Business Continuity Planning

Business continuity is a tool for handling the transfer of a business to a different owner when the original owner leaves, dies or becomes incapacitated.  A continuity plan protects short-term and long-term business interests and is one of the most important components to business exit planning. 

Ripple Effects

The death of an owner often sets off a ripple of events for a business if it is not prepared for continuity.  This loss of direction can lead to losses of financial resources and vendors, key talent and ultimately loyal customers.  Below are the key issues that can occur when owners do not create a plan, along with ways to mitigate them:

Loss of Financial Resources

Vendors may decide to discontinue their services to the business, especially if the business defaults on their contracts.  The banks, lessors, bonding and financial institutions you do business with may end their relationship with your company.  How to handle these situations depends on the type of ownership:

Sole owners: Your death can put enormous pressure on the business to continue its performance should third parties refuse to lend money or make guarantees based on the health of your company.  Continuity planning can help offset the loss of leadership.

Partnerships: The loss of financial resources can be mitigated by funding a buy-sell agreement, which places a significant amount of money in the company reserves should you die.

Loss of Key Talent

Another issue that can create problems with business continuity is the loss of your key talent.  If the remaining owners do not have your experience or skills, the business can suffer as if it had been a sole ownership.  Your experience, skills and relationships with customers, vendors and employees may be difficult to replace, especially in the short term.  To overcome this situation, begin grooming and training successive management capable of filling your shoes.  You should also begin preparing for the transition early, because training your replacement can take years.

Loss of Employees and Customers

Particularly with sole ownership, as vendors end their relationship with the business, employees will be unable to satisfy their obligations to customers.  This can hasten the employees’ departure, taking with them key skills and even client relationships. 

To mitigate the loss of key employees, you can incentivize them to continue their employment through a written Stay Bonus that provides bonuses over a period of time, generally 12-18 months.  This bonus is designed to substantially increase their compensation, usually by 50% to 100% for the duration specified.  Typically, this type of bonus is funded using life insurance in an amount that is sufficient to pay the bonuses over the desired timeframe.

Continuity Planning

For businesses with only one owner, it should be obvious that there will be no continuity of the business unless a sole owner takes the appropriate steps to create a future owner.  Whether it be grooming a successor or creating group ownership, this step is one that should be addressed early.  Even if your business is owned by your estate or a trust, you will need to provide for its continuity, if only for a brief period while it can be sold or transferred.  These steps should help business owners move through the process of creating a continuity plan:

  • Create a written Succession of Management plan that expresses your wishes regarding what should be done with your business over a period of time, until your eventual departure.
  • Name the person or persons who will take over the responsibility of operating your business.
  • Ensure your plan specifically states how the business transfer should be handled, whether continued, liquidated or sold.
  • Notify heirs of the resources available to handle the company’s sale, continuation or liquidation.
  • Meet with your banker to discuss the continuity plans you have made.  Showing them that the necessary funding is in place to implement your continuity plans will help the eventual transfer of ownership to proceed smoothly.
  • Work closely with a competent insurance professional to assure the amount of insurance purchased by the owner, the owner’s trust, or the business can cover the business continuity needs outlined in your plan.

Buy-Sell Agreement

For businesses with more than one owner, continuity planning can be achieved by creating a buy-sell agreement.  Such an agreement stipulates how the co-owner’s interest in the business is transferred and is often funded using life insurance or disability buyout insurance.  It can also be funded through an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) by creating a privately held corporation.  It is important that you keep the buy-sell agreement updated to avoid creating additional problems with continuity.  There are several types of buy-sell agreements to consider:

Cross purchase: Another business partner agrees to purchase the business from the owner or the owner’s family.  All business owners generally purchase, own and are the beneficiary of an insurance policy insuring each of the other business owners.

Entity purchase: The business entity agrees to purchase the business from the owner or the owner’s family.  In this case, the insurance policy is usually owned by the business.

Wait-and-see: The buyer of the business is allowed to remain unspecified, and a plan is put in place to decide on a buyer at the time of a triggering event (e.g., retirement, disability, death).  The policy ownership and beneficiary structures vary, depending on the type of the agreement.

Deciding when to begin business continuity planning is complicated and likely depends on your health, family circumstances and overall business financial wellness. We suggest you seek the advice of a business planning professional to help you sort through your options.

This material has been provided for general informational purposes only and does not constitute either tax or legal advice.  Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend you consult a tax preparer, professional tax adviser or lawyer.   

President and Founder, Global Wealth Advisors

Kris Maksimovich, AIF®, CRPC®, CRC®, is president of Global Wealth Advisors in Lewisville, Texas. Since it was formed in 2008, GWA continues to expand with offices around the country. Securities and advisory services offered through Commonwealth Financial Network®, Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser. Financial planning services offered through Global Wealth Advisors are separate and unrelated to Commonwealth.

Source: kiplinger.com

IRS Extends Tax Deadlines for Michigan Storm Victims

Residents of certain Michigan counties can wait until November 1, 2021, to file federal tax returns and make tax payments that would normally be due before that date. The IRS extended the deadlines because of the severe storms, flooding and tornadoes that began on June 25, 2021, in parts of the state that were declared a disaster area by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The tax relief applies to residents of Washtenaw and Wayne Counties.

Various federal tax filing and payment due dates for individuals and businesses from June 25 to October 31 will be shifted to November 1, 2021. Although this will not include tax payments related to 2020 returns that were due on May 17, 2021, it will include:

  • Quarterly estimated income tax payments normally due on September 15;
  • Quarterly payroll and excise tax returns ordinarily due on August 2;
  • Valid extension filings normally due on October 15; and
  • Filing of Form 2290, Heavy Highway Vehicle Use Tax Return, normally due on August 31.

Penalties on payroll and excise tax deposits due from June 25 to July 12 will also be waived if the deposits were made by July 12, 2021.

You don’t have to contact the IRS to get this relief. However, if you receive a late filing or late payment penalty notice from the IRS that has an original or extended filing, payment or deposit due date falling within the postponement period, you should call the number on the notice to have the penalty abated.

The IRS will also waive fees for obtaining copies of previously filed tax returns for taxpayers affected by the storm. When requesting copies of a tax return or a tax return transcript, write “Michigan Severe Storms, Flooding, and Tornadoes” in bold letters at the top of Form 4506 (copy of return) or Form 4506-T (transcript) and send it to the IRS.

In addition, the IRS will work with any taxpayer who lives outside Michigan, but whose records necessary to meet a deadline occurring during the postponement period are located in the state. Taxpayers qualifying for relief who live in another state need to contact the IRS at 866-562-5227. This also includes workers assisting the relief activities who are affiliated with a recognized government or philanthropic organization.

Individuals and businesses in a federally declared disaster area who suffered uninsured or unreimbursed disaster-related losses can choose to claim them on either the return for the year the loss occurred (in this instance, the 2021 return normally filed next year), or the return for the prior year. This means that taxpayers can, if they choose, claim these losses on their 2020 return. Be sure to write the FEMA declaration number (FEMA 4607-DR) on any return claiming a loss. It’s also a good idea for affected taxpayers claiming the disaster loss on a 2020 return to put the Disaster Designation (“Michigan Severe Storms, Flooding, and Tornadoes”) in bold letters at the top of the form. See IRS Publication 547 for details.

Source: kiplinger.com

American Express Claws Back $200 Fine Hotel & Resorts Credit When Rebooked (Booked Before Benefit Added)

American Express recently introduced a $200 hotel credit that can be used select prepaid bookings (Fine Hotels + Resorts® and The Hotel Collection) when using American Express Travel. Reddit user u/JimmyGodoppolo had an existing booking that was made before the benefit was added, there was no cancellation fee so they cancelled and rebooked. The $200 credit posted and then was clawed back, when contacting American Express they said this was done as the original booking was made before the benefit was added.

Seems ridiculous, shouldn’t matter when the original booking was made as the rebooking still met the terms of the $200 credit. Counter datapoint here.

Source: doctorofcredit.com

Does homeowners insurance cover water damage? It Depends

This is one of the first questions homeowners ask — or should ask — when they are shopping for insurance for their home:

“Does homeowners insurance cover water damage?”

The answer they are given is “it depends,” and such is the way with understanding what homeowners insurance covers and what it does not. Read this story to learn what insurance protects in general.

You pay for homeowners insurance because you must in order to get a mortgage, and you hope you never need to use it. But a variety of ills — natural or human made — can put you in a position to make a claim of loss or damage to property. You hope the coverage you have paid for all of these years will extend to the situation you are dealing with, but you just never know.

Again, It depends.

Below, you can find what to do when you need to contact your insurance company because you have suffered property loss or your home is damaged. Then you will find out what to do when your claim is denied.

But, first, let’s look at all the ways your home can be damaged by water, and the chances that your homeowners insurance will cover your loss in that event.

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Water Damage?

The answer to the question “does homeowners insurance cover water damage?” is multileveled, just as the water damage might be.

In general, water damage caused by accident or mechanical failure of an appliance (washing machine, dishwasher, water heater, etc.) is going to be covered by standard policies. The same is true of a toilet that suffers a sudden leak.

But, if the water damage is a result of poor maintenance, such as broken pipes, mold or rotting pipes or water lines, the claim is likely to be denied.

Coverage for water damage is separated into dwelling damage and personal property damage, What is not covered is replacement of the appliance or machinery that caused the water damage. If your dishwasher develops a sudden leak which causes damage to your home, the structural damage and personal property damage likely will be covered but the cost of replacing the dishwasher will not.

If your home suffers water damage from a backed-up sewer or drain, traditional homeowners insurance doesn’t cover such occurrences. Many companies offer water backup coverage, however.

Flood damage is rarely covered by a standard homeowners insurance policy. Flood insurance policies are available thanks to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) , but it is pricey.

According to the National Flood Insurance Program, the average cost of flood insurance for 2021 is $958 annually. That comes out to about $80 a month. 

If you wonder “does homeowners insurance cover water damage?” check with your agent to determine just what is covered and what is not, and whether you need to consider extended water damage coverage due to current climate conditions or the age of your home.

Making a Claim with Insurance Company

If you have not yet been in a position to make a claim against your homeowner’s policy but know someone who has been denied and you worry about your own policy’s virtues, take time to consider your choices in company and coverage.

What follows is a simplified representation of what is involved in making a homeowners insurance claim for water damage, including the possibility of having your claim denied and what to do in that event.

Step One: Your Home or Property Suffers Water Damage

When your home suffers water damage, you need to determine the actual extent of damage, and if you can, how the damage was caused.

Then contact your insurance company to determine if the damage is covered by your policy. This response to this question is not cut and dried, but it is the starting point for recovering some of your losses.

Step Two: Take an Inventory of What Was Damaged

Take photos or video of water-damaged possessions, structure or property (actually, it would be wise to take a video of your pre-disastered home right now, so you can refer to post-disaster).

Attempt to determine the value of individual items that need to be replaced, and find receipts if you have them (which is actually easier these days since most purchases occur with some form of electronic transaction). If the damage is structural, that will create a need for damage assessment and estimates, but that will occur after the insurance company has agreed to pay up.

Step Three:  Meet with the Adjuster

The insurance company will assign you an adjuster, who will eventually come to your home and assess the damage.

Do not assume this person is out to prevent you from covering your damages, but remember that the adjuster is protecting the interests of the insurance company to prevent fraudulent claims.

The adjuster will require a list of lost or damaged items with an estimated value of those items, and will assess structural or property damage that will require estimates to determine repair costs. Putting together a list of the valuable contents of your home is another thing to do before disaster strikes.

How much homeowners insurance do you need? Our insurance checklist will guide you to make the right decision. 

Step Four: Get the Verdict

The adjuster will eventually call you with a detailed list of what the company is going to cover, the amount it will give you for your lost or damaged items, and what structural damage the company will pay to be repaired. You may or may not like the dollar figures the adjuster offers.

You may also be surprised to hear that the insurance company can deny your claim, in part or in whole. This is where the insurance company is covering its assets: it will present in written form why it is denying your coverage claim. This letter should provide a complete and specific explanation why your policy does not cover the losses you claim.

If your policy explicitly states certain items or losses are exempt from your coverage, that is the end of the conversation. However, if you believe your policy should cover the damage you suffered, speak to the agent who sold you the policy, if possible, or ask to have an in-person conversation with the adjuster to discuss the situation.

Proving that your policy should cover your losses will not be easy. However, if you have a different interpretation of the language in your policy than what the adjuster suggests, or you have notes from your original conversation with your agent at the time you bought the policy, you can go on to the next step.

What’s God Got to Do With It?

Most standard homeowners insurance policies include an Act of God provision. From an insurance standpoint, an Act of God is damage that occurs as a result of natural causes with no human component, something that could not have been prevented by proper care or maintenance.

Earthquakes or floods are often considered an Act of God. Wildfires may also be considered an Act of God if started by lightning rather than humans (campfire gone bad, tossed cigarette and more).

Homeowner’s insurance policies spell out which Acts of God are covered. For instance, floods are Acts of God, although homeowners in flood plains or near coasts or lakefronts can purchase flood insurance at an additional cost.

Often, standard homeowners insurance policies do cover damage from high winds from natural events like hurricanes and tornadoes. If this is a possible factor in your claim, determine what your policy covers before going onto the next extensive and expensive step.

The increased occurrence of wildfires in the Pacific Northwest has made fire protection a must for homeowners in that area. But different companies provide different levels of coverage and full coverage can be expensive.

How to Fight a Denied Claim

You feel your insurance company is not fulfilling its legal promise to cover the cost of water damage to your home. You have documentation of your losses, a detailed description of the event that caused your damage (malfunctioning appliances or plumbing mishap), and you are in a position where it will behoove you financially to argue your case.

Pro Tip

In most cases, there is a limited time frame in which a denied insurance claim can be appealed, and the time frame begins from the moment you are notified of the denied claim.

Your homeowner’s insurance policy includes language stating how to appeal a denied claim. Getting involved in a battle with your insurance company may seem like a lost cause, but often, insurance companies can be convinced to adjust their decision to your benefit.

You might want to consider improving your chances by consulting a property insurance claims professional. These are licensed public insurance adjusters who can assess your claim from an objective viewpoint and will negotiate with our insurance company for you. Deciding on whether to hire a professional outside adjuster will be based on the cost of his or her service versus the amount of money you hope to recover.

The last step to recover funds would be to sue your insurance carrier, which would require hiring an attorney who specializes in property insurance claims. Get references and verifiable information on previous claims regarding water damage that were settled to the homeowner’s benefit.

Here’s hoping this helps and that you never need it.

Kent McDill is a veteran journalist who has specialized in personal finance topics since 2013. He is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

<!–

–>



Source: thepennyhoarder.com

12 Ways Retirees Can Earn Passive Income

A senior black man uses a smartphone
wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock.com

These days, “retired” doesn’t always mean “not working.”

According to a study of U.S. retirees from the nonprofit Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies (TCRS), “nine percent … are currently working for pay, including five percent who are employed part-time, two percent who are employed full-time, and two percent who are self-employed.”

More than half — 56% — of those surveyed said their top reason to keep working was “wanting the income.” The good news: You might be able to make some extra dollars via passive income — money that comes in without you doing much work, or any work at all.

Passive income is often synonymous with a large upfront investment, such as buying rental properties or dividend-producing stocks. But the following passive-income strategies can bring in extra bucks without investing a bunch of money or time.

1. Rent out a room in your home

Got an empty nest? Someone may be willing to pay to roost there.

You can advertise your spare space on your own or list it on a vacation rental website such as:

Yes, it takes some work: You might have to keep the room tidy and wash a load of sheets and towels once the guests depart. But in some parts of the country, you can earn enough money in just a few days to cover a mortgage payment, as we detail in “Do This a Few Days Each Month and Watch Your Mortgage Disappear.”

If you’re the gregarious type, you can have fun talking up your town or even showing visitors around. If not, advertise it as a “Here’s your key, we won’t bother you” arrangement. Some people simply want an inexpensive place to sleep and don’t care about sitting around chatting with the host.

2. Rent out your vehicle or gear

Your spare bedroom is just one of many things you could rent to others to bring in extra money.

Use your imagination. Maybe you have a ladder, stroller, surfboard, bicycle, boat, camera equipment or a great selection of power tools.

Peer-to-peer rental sites like the following will help you find folks who occasionally need such things but don’t want to own them:

Whatever you’re renting, keep in mind that ordinary insurance might not cover the commercial use of your property. An insurance rider may cover some items, but you may need a separate policy, so consult your insurance agent.

3. Become a peer-to-peer lender

What is peer-to-peer lending? In short, P2P lending sites such as Prosper accept loan applications from borrowers. Investors like you can put some of your money toward loans to those borrowers. When loans get paid back, so do you — with interest.

Overall, P2P investments “can provide solid returns that are really hard to beat,” according to Clark.com, the website of financial guru Clark Howard.

As with any loan, however, there’s the possibility of default. You may not earn anything or may even lose money.

Sound too complicated? Maybe this simpler form of P2P is for you: Worthy sells 36-month bonds for $10 each. The money that comes in is loaned to U.S. businesses, with lenders who have purchased these bonds getting a 5% annual rate of interest on their investment.

To learn more about Worthy bonds, check out “How to Earn 80 Times More on Your Savings.”

4. Get rewards for credit card spending

If you’re going to shop with plastic, make sure you’re rewarded.

The form that the reward takes is up to you. Some people covet airline miles. Others take their rewards as cash or a credit against their monthly statement.

The number of rewards credit cards — and their pros and cons — can be a little dizzying. For an easy way to compare your options, stop by our Solutions Center and check out travel rewards cards or cash-back cards in the Money Talks News credit card search tool.

5. Use cash-back apps

An app called Ibotta lets you earn cash rebates on purchases from retailers, restaurants or movie theaters.

Or you can do your online shopping through cash-back portals like:

These websites enable you to earn cash back on purchases from thousands of online retailers. To learn more about them, check out “3 Websites That Pay You for Shopping.”

6. Sell your photos

Smartphones have made decent photography possible for just about anyone. The next time you capture a killer sunset or an adorable kid-and-dog situation, don’t keep the image to yourself. Apps like Foap — which is available for Android and Apple devices — will help you sell it.

You can do even better if you have a good digital SLR camera, a tripod and other equipment. Stock photo companies like Shutterstock and iStockphoto, which favor high-definition, high-quality images, are venues for selling photos on just about any subject you can find.

7. Write an e-book

It’s possible to bring in cash without a high-powered book contract, thanks to self-publishing platforms.

Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, for example, allows you to write, upload and sell your words fairly easily. My two personal finance books are for sale on Kindle, and they provide a steady stream of passive income.

I also sell PDFs of the books through my personal website. I use a payment platform called E-junkie to handle payments and deliver the book downloads — and this brings me more money per book than Amazon does, even when I offer readers a discount.

If you’re fond of a particular fiction genre, write the kind of stuff you’d like to read. Nonfiction sells, too: cookbooks, travel guides, history, memoirs and how-tos are a few examples. Or maybe you have a specific skill to teach — job-hunting or food preservation or raising chinchillas.

Pro tip: Fiverr.com is a good marketplace through which to find freelancers to hire for help with formatting, design and cover art.

8. Create an online course

If you’ve got useful knowledge, why not monetize it? Sites like Teachable and Thinkific will help you build a course that could change someone’s life, either professionally or personally.

Note that online courses are not limited to computer-based topics. A quick search turns up classes on:

  • Cake-making
  • Watercolors
  • Digital scrapbooking
  • Drone cinematography
  • Free-diving
  • Blacksmithing
  • Yoga
  • Parenting
  • Novel writing
  • Job hunting
  • Building a pet-care business

And that’s just for starters. Like writing an e-book, creating a course will take some work. But again: Once it’s up, the work is done.

9. Join rewards programs

Rewards sites like Swagbucks reward you with points for activities such as searching the internet, watching short videos and taking surveys. You can cash in your points for gift cards or PayPal cash.

Maybe you didn’t retire to spend hours taking surveys. But if you’re going to search the internet anyway, why not use Swagbucks’ search engine and earn some points?

To learn more about Swagbucks, check out “6 Ways to Score Free Gift Cards and Cash in 1 Place.”

10. Wrap your car with advertising

Turn your vehicle into a rolling billboard with companies like Carvertise. They’ll pay you for the privilege of putting removable advertising decals for a business on your automobile.

Writer Kat Tretina describes the process at Student Loan Hero. You can expect to earn $100 to $400 a month, depending on how much and where you drive, she says. Requirements include having a good driving record and a vehicle that has its factory paint job.

Pro tip: Car-advertising scams make the rounds regularly. Tretina offers these tips to avoid being victimized:

  • Legitimate companies don’t charge an application fee, and they’ll have a customer service phone line that lets you talk with a real person.
  • The car-wrapping cost should be covered by the company.
  • Take a hard pass on any company that doesn’t ask questions about your driving record, auto insurance, driving routes and type of vehicle.

11. Create an app

Maybe yours is one of those minds that says, “There should be an easier way to do (whatever) — and I think I know what it is!” If so, creating an app could bring in extra income.

It could also bring in zero dollars. But nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

For example, personal finance writer Jackie Beck — who cleared $147,000 of debt — used her expertise to create an app called “Pay Off Debt.”

Not a coder? App-builder services exist. The WikiHow.com article “How to Create a Mobile App” tells how to get started. It’s a time-consuming process. But that’s one of the beauties of retirement: You set your own hours.

12. Become a package ‘receiver’

OK, this idea is unproven — so far. But it’s a solution whose time has come. The boom in online shopping has been a boon for thieves who find it easy to swipe packages left outside front doors before the intended recipients get home from work.

You might be able to do your part to thwart those lowdown thieves by marketing yourself as a “professional package receiver.”

Try this: Put the word out — through friends, social media, places of worship — that you are available to accept deliveries. If a package is for someone in your neighborhood, you could watch the shipping company’s tracking info and be at the home to take the package in. Or you could specify that packages be shipped to Original Recipient, c/o Professional Package Receiver — that’s you.

Before asking a fee of, for example, $1 per package, ask the person who wants to hire you what it’s worth to them. You might be surprised by a response like, “I’ll give you $5.” Decide, too, whether you’ll be charging per package or per order, and whether you’ll set a weight limit, such as no packages over 30 pounds.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

IRS Is Sending More Unemployment Tax Refund Checks This Summer

If you received unemployment benefits last year and filed your 2020 tax return relatively early, you may find a check in your mailbox soon (or a deposit in your bank account). The IRS started issuing automatic tax refunds in May to Americans who filed their 2020 return and reported unemployment compensation before tax law changes were made by the American Rescue Plan. The tax agency has already sent millions of refunds, but additional tax refund checks will be sent through the summer.

The American Rescue Plan Act, which was enacted in March, exempts up to $10,200 of unemployment benefits received in 2020 ($20,400 for married couples filing jointly) from federal income tax for households reporting an adjusted gross income (AGI) less than $150,000 on their 2020 tax return. If you received more than $10,200 in unemployment compensation last year, any amount over $10,200 is still taxable.

The IRS has identified over 10 million people who filed their tax returns before the plan became law and is reviewing those returns to determine the correct amount of tax on their unemployment compensation. For those affected, this could result in a refund, a reduced tax bill, or no change at all. (You can use the IRS’s Interactive Tax Assistant tool to see if payments you received for being unemployed are taxable.)

The IRS is recalculating impacted tax returns in two phases. It started with tax returns from single taxpayers who had relatively simple returns, such as those filed by people who didn’t claim children as dependents or any refundable tax credits. Joint returns filed by married couples who are eligible for an exemption up to $20,400 and others with more complex returns were shifted to phase two.

Remember, though, that the tax exemption only applies to unemployment benefits received in 2020. So, if you receive unemployment compensation in 2021 or beyond, expect to pay federal tax on the amount you get.

Refunds for Unemployment Compensation

If you’re entitled to a refund, the IRS will directly deposit it into your bank account if you provided the necessary bank account information on your 2020 tax return. If valid bank account information is not available, the IRS will mail a paper check to your address of record. (If your account is no longer valid or is closed, the bank will return your refund to the IRS and a check will be mailed to the address the tax agency has on file for you.) The IRS says it will continue to send refunds until all identified tax returns have been reviewed and adjusted.

The IRS will send you a notice explaining any corrections. Expect the notice within 30 days of when the correction is made. Keep any notices you receive for your records, and make sure you review your return after receiving an IRS notice.

The refunds are also subject to normal offset rules. So, the amount you get could be reduced (potentially to zero) if you owe federal tax, state income tax, state unemployment compensation debt, child support, spousal support, or certain federal non-tax debt (i.e., student loans). The IRS will send a separate notice to you if your refund is offset to pay any unpaid debts.

Should I File an Amended Return?

Although the IRS says there’s no need to file an amended return, some early filers may still need to, especially if their recalculated AGI makes them eligible for additional federal credits and deductions not already included on their original tax return.

The IRS, for example, can adjust returns for those taxpayers who claimed the earned income tax credit and, because the exemption changed their income level, may now be eligible for an increase in the tax credit amount which may result in a larger refund. That said, taxpayers will need to file an amended return if they didn’t originally claim the tax credit, or other credits like the additional child tax credit, but now are eligible because the exclusion changed their income, according to the IRS. These taxpayers may want to review their state tax returns as well.

E-Filing Your 2021 Tax Return

Next year, when you try to e-file your 2021 tax return, you will have to sign and validate your electronic return by entering your prior-year AGI or your prior-year Self-Select PIN. If you use your AGI, make sure to use the AGI as originally reported on Line 11 of your 2020 Form 1040 or 1040-SR. Don’t use the corrected AGI if the IRS adjusts your 2020 return to account for the unemployment exclusion.

Withholding from Unemployment Compensation

Again, the $10,200 exemption only applies to unemployment compensation received in 2020. So, to avoid a big tax bill when you file your 2021 return next year, consider having taxes withheld from any unemployment payments you receive this year.

Contact your state unemployment office to have federal income taxes withheld from your unemployment benefits. You may be able to use Form W-4V to voluntarily have federal income taxes withheld from your payments. However, check with your state to see if it has its own form. If so, use the state form instead.

Victims of Unemployment Fraud

Whenever the government starts sending checks, criminals will try to get their hands on some of that money. That’s certainly the case with the unemployment compensation tax refunds. The good news is that you won’t be punished if a crook uses your name and personal information to steal a tax refund from Uncle Sam.

So, for example, if you received an incorrect Form 1099-G for unemployment benefits that you didn’t receive, the IRS won’t adjust your tax return to add the unemployment compensation to your taxable income. You should still report the fraud to the state workforce agency that issued the incorrect form, though.

What About State Taxes?

Just because the federal government is waiving taxes on the first $10,200 of your 2020 unemployment benefits, that doesn’t mean your state will too. To see if your state has adopted the federal exemption for 2020 state tax returns, see Taxes on Unemployment Benefits: A State-by-State Guide.

Source: kiplinger.com

5 Strategies for Paying Off Car Loan Early

Is your monthly car payment a burden to your budget? Paying off your car loan early can earn you much-needed financial freedom and save you potentially hundreds (or thousands) of dollars in would-be interest. 

You can pay off your car loan early using several effective strategies, but before you do, consider any potential penalties and effects to your credit score.

The True Cost of a Car Loan

It’s no secret that cars are our worst big-ticket investment. Unlike houses, which typically increase in value over time, and education, which theoretically opens the door to higher earning potential, cars lose their value over time. In fact, a new car depreciates in value as soon as you drive it off the lot and will lose 20% to 30% of its value in the first year.

That’s a big deal, especially given the average cost Americans are spending on new cars in 2021. According to KBB, that hard-to-swallow number is over $40,000, up more than 4% over 2020.

That means Americans are shelling out $40,000 for a car that, in a year, will be worth anywhere from $28,000 to $32,000, representing an $8,000 to $12,000 loss.

But there’s more than just the sticker price to consider. In addition to sales tax (average of 10.12% in 2020, though it varies by state), be prepared to pay interest on your car loan. Right now, the average car loan interest rate (also referred to as APR, the annual percentage rate, though there’s a difference) is over 4%.

APR includes the interest rate, in addition to other fees, like loan origination fees or mortgage insurance. You should use the APR, not the flat interest rate, when calculating what you’re paying.

Your APR will depend on the current market and your credit score. The better your credit score, the lower your APR. If you have a weak credit score and can put off buying a car, it is advisable to build up your credit score before applying for a loan.

For 2021, rates are expected to hover between 4% and 5% for 48-month (four-year) and 60-month (five-year) loans. 

Car Loan Calculator: An Example

Interest on a car loan adds up. Let’s take the $40,000 new car as an example, with a $995 dealer fee. Assume you put $2,000 down and have a tax rate of a clean 10% and an APR of 5%. You’ve agreed to pay off the loan over 60 months, or five years. (The typical car loan is anywhere from three to seven years; the shorter the loan period, the higher the monthly payment.)

In this scenario, the total cost of the vehicle after tax and dealer fees is $44,995, minus your $2,000 down payment. That leaves $42,995 to be financed. Given the 5% interest rate over 60 months, your monthly payment would be $811.37.

Over 60 months, you will end up having paid $50,682.20 (including down payment) for a car that, with taxes and dealer fees, cost just $44,995. That means, over five years, you’ve paid $5,687.20 in interest. 

And let’s just ignore the fact that, due to depreciation, that car that you’ve just paid $50,000+ on is now worth just $18,752.41 (average value of 37% of original cost after five years).

Use The Penny Hoarder’s car loan calculator to figure out how much you’ll pay with real-life numbers that match your scenario.

How Car Loan Interest Rates Work

Paying off your car loan early, if you can afford it, seems like a no-brainer then. However, before you start strategizing about how to pay off your car loan ahead of schedule, do some digging to determine what kind of car loan you have.

In an ideal world, your loan will be a simple interest loan. If you have not yet purchased your car, only consider lenders that will offer you a simple interest loan. This means the interest is calculated entirely on the principal balance of the loan.

But if your lender charges precomputed interest, that means they will calculate how much you will pay in interest over the life of the loan and include that in your total balance. That means, even if you pay off your car early, the payoff quote will include all the interest you would have paid had you kept the loan open. In this case, there are absolutely no financial savings in paying your car loan off early.

One other element of your loan to research is payoff penalties. Payoff penalties are legal in 36 states and allow lenders to charge you a penalty (usually a fixed percentage of the remaining balance) for paying off your car loan early. In this case, it may be more expensive than what you would have paid in interest over the life of the car loan.

Will Paying Off Your Car Loan Early Hurt Your Credit Score

It is not likely that paying off a car loan early will hurt your credit score, but it could be keeping you from growing your credit score. Regular, on-time payments account for roughly 35% of your FICO credit score, making it the most important factor. Making monthly payments on a car loan is a great way to show lenders you are responsible with repaying your debts.

In addition, lenders like to see a nice mix of credit (mortgage, car loan and credit cards are the big three). Keeping your car loan open also helps extend the length of your credit history. If you have no other open credit (like a credit card), keeping your car loan open may be advantageous in building up your score if you eventually intend to buy a house.

5 Strategies for Paying Off Your Car Loan Early

If you have a simple interest car loan, your credit is in good standing and your loan doesn’t have any payoff penalties, it may be wise to pay off your car loan ahead of schedule. Not only will you avoid spending heaps of money on interest, but it will also give you the financial freedom of hundreds of dollars back in your monthly budget.

The best advice for paying off a car loan early: treat it like a mortgage. If you are a homeowner, you have likely heard that making an extra (13th) payment toward your mortgage principal every year can shave years off your loan. If you pay even more toward the principal each year, you can easily get your 30-year mortgage down to 15 years—and you’ll be able to drop PMI (private mortgage insurance) costs much earlier.

Of course, home loans tend to be much bigger than vehicle loans, so the potential to save is much larger, but the logic works the same with your car loan.

These strategies for early payoff are all effective, if done right:

1. Make One Large Extra Payment Every Year

If you can count on your grandma slipping a fat check into your Christmas card every year without fail, don’t use that money to splurge on alcoholic eggnog (OK, maybe one bottle). Instead, apply it directly to your car loan as a lump sum.

If you have autopay scheduled online, you can log into your account and simply arrange to make a one-time payment. If you’re old-fashioned and pay by phone or mail, simply call your lender and let them know you’d like to make an extra, one-time payment toward the principal.

Apply this logic to any unbudgeted (aka, not-planned-for) funds, like a bonus at work or a tax refund.

2. Make a Half Payment Every Two Weeks

Talk with your lender to see if you can switch to biweekly payments, instead of monthly. If your lender allows you to pay half of your monthly loan amount every two weeks, you will wind up making 26 half payments. Divide 26 by 2, and you get 13 full months of payments, paid over 12 months. That means, by the end of the year, you will have essentially made an extra car payment.

Just check your budget first to ensure that kind of payment plan is feasible.

3. Round Up

Rounding up to the nearest $50 or even $100, if you can swing it, is a great way to add extra money every month to the principal. For example, if your monthly payment is $337, you could round up to $350 or even $400 to essentially pay an extra $13 or $63 a month. This will wind up knocking a few months off the life of your loan.

If you have autopay scheduled, log onto your loan platform and see if you can add the additional funds toward the principal each month so you don’t even have to think about it.

4. Resist the Urge to Skip a Payment

Some lenders may let you skip one or two payments a year. So kind of them, right? Wrong. They do this knowing it will extend the life of your loan, meaning they will rake in even more of your hard-earned cash in interest fees.

Unless you fall on very hard times, fight the urge to skip a payment. You will wind up paying more in the end if you do.

5. Refinance, but Exercise Caution

If you had a poor credit score when you bought your car and opted for a seven-year loan to keep payments low, it might make sense to refinance. Perhaps you’re two years into the loan, you’ve got a higher-paying job, and your credit score is in great shape. You could potentially refinance at a lower APR and build the loan out over 36 months, saving you two years and lots of money in interest.

But borrower beware: Don’t refinance to get a lower monthly payment by extending a loan, as you will end up just paying more in interest. 

When You Shouldn’t Pay Off Your Car Loan Early

As we’ve seen, it doesn’t always make sense to pay off your car loan early. But there are more reasons to hold your horses than just payoff penalties and precomputed interest.

Here are some other reasons not to pay off your car loan early:

  • Lack of emergency savings. Bankrate reported early in 2021 that most Americans could not afford a $1,000 emergency. Just 39% have enough to cover such an unexpected expense. If you are a part of that 61% without a well-padded emergency fund, prioritize adding funds to a high-yield savings account to protect yourself and your family should the unthinkable happen. And it’s not just your family’s medical emergencies; you may need to cover a deductible on your renter’s insurance in the case of a break-in, the cost of an unexpected car repair or even a terrifying trip to the vet when your dog eats something he shouldn’t.
  • Higher-interest loans. If you have a reasonable interest rate on your car loan but are drowning in credit card debt, focus on the debt that has the highest interest rate. Credit cards historically have interest rates in the high teens, so they make the most sense to pay off first. If you are free of credit card debt but have a mortgage or student loans, compare those interest rates to that of your car loan to figure out which makes the most sense to pay down with extra funds.
  • Lack of credit history. If you refuse to get a credit card and don’t yet have a house, a car loan is your best bet for building your credit score. Keeping your car loan open could positively affect your credit score.
  • Investments. For most drivers, car loan APRs are not terrible. If you have some extra funds and are thinking about paying off your low-interest car loan, consider instead investing in your retirement fund or even buying a few stocks on your own. The average stock market return is about 10%. Obviously, you could wind up losing money, but in general, if you invest and hold, over time, you should expect your money to grow.

Timothy Moore is a managing editor for WDW Magazine, and a freelance writer and editor covering topics on personal finance, travel, careers, education, pet care and automotive. He has worked in the field since 2012 with publications like The Penny Hoarder, Debt.com, Ladders, Glassdoor, Aol and The News Wheel. 

<!–

–>



Source: thepennyhoarder.com

[Update] Citi Virtual Account Number (VAN) Changes

Update 7/20/21: Some additional information regarding the VAN changes. Hat tip to reader Daniel P

Update: In the FAQ they indicate that there’ll be a new, improved system rolling out in early summer 2021. Hat tip to reader diggs

Original Post:

In recent times Citi has made a number of changes to creating a Virtual Account Number (VAN), Citi update the card generation page to no longer use flash and also removed and then readded the feature for American Airline cardholders. Currently at the moment it’s only possible to generate a VAN with an end date of 7/21 or 8/21. At first it seemed like this was just part of the service as it was some period in advance, but as we continue to approach this date it’s unclear if Citi plans to discontinued the service at the end of August or make significant changes to VANs. We’ve reached out to Citi for comment but are yet to hear back.

Hat tip to reader Matt I

Source: doctorofcredit.com

25 Best Kirkland Products You Should Buy at Costco

Costco has aggressively turned on its head the notion that a store brand is a notch below a national brand. How? By using its coast-to-coast strength to strong-arm suppliers to put quality as well as value into its Kirkland Signature offerings. A quarter of Costco’s annual sales now reportedly come from its Kirkland product lines, which first hit store shelves in 1995.

It’s no surprise. Costco continually upped its array of Kirkland Signature products, currently numbering 364 individual items, according to Costco’s website. Wary of store-branded items? Don’t be with Kirkland Signature. Many, if not all, are manufactured by top national and regional companies, including Duracell, which makes Kirkland Signature batteries, one of our recommendations.

On some Kirkland Signature products, don’t be surprised to see the name-brand manufacturer’s name co-branded with the Kirkland Signature, including the renowned Stearns & Foster on a Kirkland Signature by Stearns and Foster mattress (starting at $1,049.99), and nationally known Ocean Spray on the Kirkland Signature Cranberry Premium juice.

You’ll find the Kirkland Signature logo on everything from coffee to chicken stock, and golf balls to cheese wheels. We took a closer look at several Kirkland products getting accolades from customers and critics. You should check them out, too.

1 of 25

Kirkland Signature Organic Animal Crackers

Animal crackers lined up on a table in front of a young boy's mouth Animal crackers lined up on a table in front of a young boy's mouth

Whether you’re feeding your children or your own inner child, Kirkland Signature Organic Animal Crackers are off the leash. The sweet snacks, in case you forgot, are in the shape of bite-size animals. Kirkland organic animal crackers come in a 64-ounce barrel, priced at $9.99, or about 16 cents per ounce. Walmart was selling a 24-ounce barrel of Stauffer Biscuit Co. (non-organic) animal crackers for $3.98, or about 17 cents per ounce. 

If you’re not a Costco member, you can order the same barrel of animal crackers on Amazon.com, but you’ll pay nearly double: $15.98, or about 25 cents per ounce. Shipping is free for Prime members.

2 of 25

Kirkland Signature Bacon

Close-Up Of Bacon Slices In Barbecue GrillClose-Up Of Bacon Slices In Barbecue Grill

If everything is better with bacon, as the saying goes, then everything is super better with Kirkland Signature Bacon. The product-testing pros at Consumer Reports put bacon to the test and deemed Costco’s store-brand regular sliced bacon the top dog – make that the top pig. Testers raved about the taste, “noting its crispiness and balance of fat and meat flavors.”

They also raved about its price: Kirkland bacon typically sells for $1.50 less per pound than name-brand competitors. The Kirkland Signature sliced bacon comes in a pack of four one-pound individually wrapped packages for $18.99.

3 of 25

Kirkland Signature Batteries

The tops of a collection of AA batteriesThe tops of a collection of AA batteries

With back-to-school shopping revving up and, ahem, the holiday shopping season not that far away, you’re going to need more power for all those energy-sucking gadgets. Kirkland Signature batteries can keep all those electronic toys and devices charged up at bargain prices. A 48-pack of Kirkland Signature AA batteries — made by Duracell — is $13.99 (down from $15.99 in November 2020), or about 29 cents per battery. BONUS: The day I was there, Kirkland batteries were on sale for $4 off, making this packet of AA batteries $9.99, or 20 cents per battery.

Stepping into name-brand batteries will cost you more at Costco (and much, more at other places). A 40-pack of Duracell CopperTop AA batteries is $17.99, for example, or more than 44 cents per battery. (Costco often puts Duracell batteries on sale, however, so check the flyer or shelf tag if you must have a name brand.)

Meanwhile, Walmart was selling 24-packs of Energizer AA batteries for $16.24, or 68 cents per battery.

4 of 25

Kirkland Signature Cashews

Roasted cashews in a small bowl and on a tabletopRoasted cashews in a small bowl and on a tabletop

Costco knows nuts, and its Kirkland Signature Whole Cashews are a prime example. That’s not just this nut speaking.

“Costco’s nuts are always super-fresh and high-quality,” raves food and cooking website TheKitchn.com. “Unless you’re a big-time baker, 2- and 3-pound packages of nuts might seem like a daunting purchase, but don’t forget that they freeze beautifully.”

A 2.5-pound container of Kirkland Signature whole fancy cashews goes for $14.99, or $5.99 per pound, a good savings over the going rate for 2-pound, 1-ounce containers of Planters whole cashews at Walmart. They were selling for $18.98 per container, or about $9.49 per pound.

5 of 25

Kirkland Signature Cheese Wheel

Grocer with cheese wheel, partial viewGrocer with cheese wheel, partial view

Excessive, yes, but there’s an odd appeal to having your own 72-pound wheel o’ cheese. Costco knows this and complies. The Kirkland Signature Whole Wheel Parmigiano Reggiano can be yours for $949.99  or $13.99 per pound (up fifty bucks from 2019, when it was $899.99, or $12.50 a pound). I’ve had a piece of said wheel and it’s exceptional.

That per-pound price is a bargain, by the way, compared to Wegmans Italian Classics Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese sold at the regional Wegmans supermarkets, where chunks were going for $20.99 a pound (in various size chunks). But alas, the question inevitably arises: What do you do with a whole wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano? One answer: Pasta – lots and lots of pasta. And some foodie sites note if properly stored, the aged cheese can last for many months, and some say it can be frozen.

6 of 25

Kirkland Signature Chicken Stock

chicken soup with noodles in a white bowl on wood background in rustic style chicken soup with noodles in a white bowl on wood background in rustic style

For home chefs who do a lot of cooking, Kirkland Signature Organic Chicken Stock is a winner in taste and price. But be warned: You’re bulk-buying an entire case of chicken stock.

Still, it’s a good investment. Stock has a long shelf life, and the six quart-size boxes of organic chicken stock you’ll get at Costco cost just $10.99, or about $1.83 per quart. At Walmart, a single quart-size box of Swanson  chicken stock was selling for $2.72; however, it is not organic.

7 of 25

Kirkland Signature Coffee Pods

Opened and unopened coffee podsOpened and unopened coffee pods

If K-cups for the Keurig brand of coffeemakers help power you through your day, Costco has something for you to brew. Its lineup of boxes of Kirkland Signature K-cups include boxes of 120 medium roast pods for $34.99, or about 29 cents a pod.

You don’t have to go far to price-compare. Costco sells other brands, including a box of 72 Dunkin Donuts original blend medium roast coffee pods for $36.99. That comes out to 51 cents a pod.

Not a podster? Costco features a whole lineup of Kirkland Signature ground and whole-bean coffee, plus those of competitors. 

8 of 25

Kirkland Signature Diced Tomatoes

Top view of an opened can of diced tomatoes on a tableTop view of an opened can of diced tomatoes on a table

There’s a lot of cooking going on in our house, even by me. We go through a lot of tomatoes, and turn to Costco for help. In my opinion, Costco’s Kirkland Signature organic diced tomatoes — in boxes of eight 14.5-ounce cans — are the best. Each can is packed densely with tomatoes, whereas other, national brands are more watery. Each box sells for $5.99, or about 75 cents per can (and the price hasn’t changed in years). At Walmart, similar-size cans of its store brand Great Value organic petite diced tomatoes sell for $1.08.

9 of 25

Kirkland Signature Dishwasher Pods

Two dishwasher podsTwo dishwasher pods

If you run the dishwasher a lot, costs mount for those convenient dishwasher soap pods, especially if you’re buying name-brand detergent. You don’t have to.

Kirkland Signature Premium Dishwasher Pacs get the job done at a fraction of the price of national brands. You’ll pay $9.99 for 115 pods, or less than 9 cents per load. Costco also stocks packages of Cascade Complete Action pods for $15.99 for 90 pods, or more than 18 cents per load, twice the cost of the Kirkland brand. In recent testing by Consumer Reports, Kirkland’s pods bested all competitors including name-brand pods from Cascade and Finish.

10 of 25

Kirkland Signature Organic Brown Eggs

Brown eggs in an egg cartonBrown eggs in an egg carton

We go through a lot of eggs in our home, and the 24-pack of Kirkland Signature Organic Brown Eggs are always on the shopping list. They’ve been consistently good, and they come in at the right price: $6.29 for the 24-pack. That’s 29 cents per egg.

By comparison, a carton of 18 Walmart Marketside large organic  was $5.74, or 32 cents per egg.

11 of 25

Kirkland Signature Energy Shots

A man drinks an energy shotA man drinks an energy shot

Sometimes you need a little liquid encouragement to get through your busy days. Not that. This: Costco sells 48-count packages of 2-ounce Kirkland Signature Energy Shots for $34.99, or about 73 cents per shot. The day I was there an $8-off coupon discounted that price to $26.99, or 56 cents per shot.

By contrast, a single 1.93 ounce shot of 5-Hour Energy was selling for $2.78 at Walmart.

12 of 25

Kirkland Signature Food Wrap

Plastic food wrap wrapped around a dish with foodPlastic food wrap wrapped around a dish with food

Popularly known as “Saran wrap,” Costco can’t call its food wrap by that name because SC Johnson owns the trademarked Saran brand. By any name, however, the Kirkland Signature version is a winner on quality and price.

And here’s one where Costco’s Kirkland Signature co-brands with a national brand, Stretch-Tite. A single 3,000 square foot roll of Kirkland Signature Stretch-Tite Plastic Food Wrap sells for just $13.49, or about a half a cent per square foot. That’s 3,000 square feet of plastic wrap. At Walmart, a 225-square-foot roll of Reynolds Kitchens plastic food wrap was selling for $2.98, or about 1 cent per square foot.

13 of 25

Kirkland Signature Gasoline

Cars being fueled at a Costco Gas Station in OregonCars being fueled at a Costco Gas Station in Oregon

Not every Costco has a gas station adjacent to it, but the club locations that do have them see steady, and strong, business. What gives? The savings. A Costco in central Virginia was selling regular Kirkland Signature Gasoline for roughly 9% less than nearby national brand stations. Sure, the difference is a few pennies per gallon, but on a fill-up you might save $3 or more – not bad if you’re heading to Costco anyway.

Factor in how valuable your time is, though. Even on a weekday afternoon, at least 7 vehicles were waiting in line, sometimes for 20 minutes or longer, to get to Costco’s gas pumps. That’s a lot of idling.

And one pro tip, fellow Costco gas guzzlers: Costco’s hoses are extra long, meaning you don’t have to drive up to the pumps on the side of the car where your gas tank door is located. If you’re close enough to the pump, the hose will reach either side. Many people waste precious minutes waiting to pull up to the “right” side of the pump.

14 of 25

Kirkland Signature Golf Gear

Gloved hand removing a golf club from a golf bagGloved hand removing a golf club from a golf bag

When Costo released its Kirkland Signature golf balls in 2016, they were an immediate sensation, highly lauded by pros and amateurs alike. They also quickly sold out, as they were compared to the highly lauded Titleist Pro V1. 

They’re back. You can pick up a 24-pack of Kirkland Signature V2.0 Performance three-piece golf balls for $24.99. Costco-branded golf balls typically retail for 60% less than a Titleist.

But wait. There’s more: The equally lauded Kirkland Signature KS1 Putter is on Costco shelves for $139.99. Need a bit more in your bag? A Kirkland Signature 3-piece golf wedge set is $159.99.

While you’re at it, pick up a four-pack of Kirkland Signature golf gloves — sizes vary — for $19.99.

We can’t guarantee this Kirkland Signature will improve your game, but we can guarantee you’ll save a few bucks.

15 of 25

Kirkland Signature Honey

Image of honey dripping from a spoonImage of honey dripping from a spoon

Costco is sweet on its Kirkland Signature brand of 100% U.S. raw, unfiltered honey in 3 pound jars. The price goes down easy: $8.99, or about 19 cents per ounce.  A 12-ounce jar of Walmart’s Great Value raw, unfiltered honey was $3.38, or 28.2 cents per ounce. 

 

16 of 25

Kirkland Signature Italian Sparkling Water

Sparkling water and lemon on office wooden desk table.Sparkling water and lemon on office wooden desk table.

If you like your Italian mineral water sparkling, you might often turn to the classic San Pellegrino. Costco knows that. It stacks cases of its Kirkland Signature Italian Sparkling Mineral Water near cases of Pellegrino. I detected no taste difference, but there certainly was a price difference.

A case of 24 16.9-ounce bottles of Kirkland Signature Italian sparkling water was selling for $12.99 (same price as 2019), while a similar size case of Pellegrino sparkling water was $17.99 ($1 more a case at Costco than 2019).

17 of 25

Kirkland Signature Laundry Detergent

Close-up Of A Person's Hand Pouring Detergent In LidClose-up Of A Person's Hand Pouring Detergent In Lid

So … it does all come out in the wash.

Costco tapped its Kirkland Signature brand to help do the laundry, and less expensively than national brands, some stacked and stocked near the KS brand.

For comparison’s sake, we spotted the Kirkland Signature UltraClean Premium liquid laundry detergent in 194-ounce jugs selling for $15.99 and yes, the packaging does look strikingly like Tide’s signature colors. UltraClean comes in at 8 cents per ounce.

Nearby, stacks and stacks of 150-ounce jugs of Tide Advance Power laundry detergent challenged UltraClean. But Tide Advance was selling for $19.99, or 13 cents per ounce. 

18 of 25

Kirkland Signature Olive Oil

Feta salad with red bell peppers, tomatoes and olive oil Feta salad with red bell peppers, tomatoes and olive oil

Costco’s olive oil rises to the top, notes the University of California, Davis, which conducted a chemical and sensory study of olive oils. Kirkland Signature Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil was one of only a few imported oils that met international and U.S. standards for extra virgin olive oil. The many brands that fell short in the testing were diluted with cheaper oils and exhibited problems with quality and flavor.

What’s also nice is the price. A 2-liter bottle of Kirkland Signature EVOO was $11.99, or about 17 cents per ounce. News flash: You can skip the Costco membership and get this same 2-liter bottle of Kirkland Signature EVOO on… wait for it: Walmart.com Um-hmmm. But it will set you back $34.24, nearly three times the cost at Costco.

Walmart does have its own branded EVOO. Its Great Value organic extra virgin olive oil is $9.86 for a 51-ounce jar, or about 19 cents per fluid ounce, and we’re not sure if it’s received accolades.

Note, too, the Kirkland Signature name is on a wide lineup of other cooking oils, including coconut, canola and corn.

19 of 25

Kirkland Signature Organic Peanut Butter

Child eating peanut butter from the jar using a spoonChild eating peanut butter from the jar using a spoon

When my wife finally weaned me off creamy (and delicious) Jif peanut butter and into the world of peanut butter made without sugar (just peanuts; maybe some salt), my snacking world changed.

Our go-to brand had been Smucker’s organic creamy peanut butter, but after diving into Kirkland Signature Organic Peanut Butter, that, too, has changed. It’s just as good as Smucker’s, maybe even better, and there’s no arguing with the price. You can get two 28-ounce jars of Kirkland peanut butter for around $10, or 18 cents per ounce, while just one 16-ounce jar of Smucker’s costs $4.48 at Walmart, or 28 cents per ounce.

20 of 25

Kirkland Signature Rotisserie Chicken

Dozens of whole chickens being roasted in an industrial broilerDozens of whole chickens being roasted in an industrial broiler

The Costco I go to in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley must roast hundreds of chickens a day in its giant rotisserie oven, which is constantly getting loaded and off-loaded by the white-coated chicken changers. These Kirkland Signature Rotisserie Chickens are always tasty, and what’s not sold is repurposed in other Costco fresh foods made onsite. You can find some of that leftover poultry in Costco’s Kirkland Signature chicken noodle soup and packages of shredded chicken, great for creating a variety of your own dishes at home (and it freezes well).

The best part: Costco has consistently kept the price of each roasted chicken at $4.99, likely looked at as a loss leader. At a nearby Walmart, a lone rotisserie chicken was selling for $7.67 with nary a rotisserie in sight.

21 of 25

Kirkland Signature Toilet Paper

A package of Kirkland toilet paperA package of Kirkland toilet paper

No one longs for the darker days of the pandemic, hunting down toilet paper anywhere you could. Some retailers, Costco included, limited how many packets you could buy. And most of what Costco sells in that department are 30-packs.

TP shortages seem to be a thing of the past. And not that it’s anybody’s business, but our house is Team Costco when it comes to TP. Kirkland Signature 2-ply bath tissue is a steal. Thirty high-quality rolls sell for just $16.99, a price Costco didn’t up during the pandemic. That price has been steady for years.

Facial tissue is another story. One shopping expert we consulted knocked the quality of Costco’s Kirkland Signature facial tissue, earning it a spot on our list of the worst things to buy at warehouse clubs.

22 of 25

Kirkland Signature Organic Tortilla Chips

Tortilla chips and salsa on a tableTortilla chips and salsa on a table

This one is fairly new on our Kirkland Signature amazing lineup of snacks: 40-ounce (2.5 pounds) bags of Kirkland Signature organic tortilla chips. At about $5 a bag, or 12 cents per ounce, the price is right and the chips are tasty and durable enough to stand up to my amazing salsa-with-a-burn  (made with Kirkland organic diced tomatoes, naturally). Compare that to a 7.5-ounce bag of Simply Doritos Organic White Cheddar Tortilla Chips at Walmart. They sell for $2.98, or 40 cents per ounce.

Or if you crave the Kirkland Signature chips and you’re not a Costco member, you can buy a 40-ounce bag on Walmart.com … for $22.20.

23 of 25

Kirkland Signature Vitamin Water

Bottles of vitamin waterBottles of vitamin water

Yes, bottles of the fruit-flavored, no-calorie and mineral-rich Kirkland Signature Vita Rain Zero are strikingly similar to Glaceau Vitaminwater Zero, but I dare you to find any difference in taste. There is a difference in price, which is significant to me; I drink a lot of this stuff.

Costco tabbed Kirkland’s 24-count variety pack of 20-ounce Vita Rain Zero bottles at $9.99, or about 42 cents per bottle. Walmart was selling Coca-Cola-owned Vitaminwater Zero Sugar Rise, electrolyte-enhanced water with vitamins for $4.98 for a six pack (these are 16.9-ounce bottles), or about 83 cents per bottle.

24 of 25

Kirkland Signature Vodka

A drink being make with vodkaA drink being make with vodka

Wine snobs are already familiar with Kirkland Signature wines (more on those later), but spirits snobs might still be in the dark about Costco’s store-brand booze. Costco isn’t allowed to sell liquor in all of its stores; many states limit the warehouse club to beer and wine. But some states do give the green light to Costco selling liquor, and its vodka is a hands-down winner, rave spirits experts including Bon Appetit.

I first stumbled upon Kirkland Signature Vodka while shopping at a Costco on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Not that I’m so into vodka, but I do know good from bad. Kirkland’s vodka ranks up there with my fav, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, and it costs less.

25 of 25

Kirkland Signature Wine

Two glasses of wine and a bottle on a table in sunlight.Two glasses of wine and a bottle on a table in sunlight.

Costco is the biggest seller of wine in the U.S., with estimated annual wine sales of $1.8 billion, and the warehouse club’s Kirkland Signature wines are a big reason behind the booming demand. As Annette Alvarez-Peters, who heads Costco’s wine-buying team, told Wine Spectator, “The Costco consumer is very loyal to the [Kirkland Signature] brand. They will always give the item a shot.” And why not? Wine rating websites typically give Kirkland Signature wines high scores in the mid-to-upper 80s out of 100.

One hint for picking especially good Kirkland Signature wines: When you see the Costco brand on the front label, turn the bottle around. You just might find the name of the source winery on the back label. That can tell you a lot about the experience of the wine maker and the quality of the grapes. Alternatively, read reviews online. This Costco-centric wine blog, for one, has taste-tested plenty of Kirkland Signature wines. In my own taste-testing of whites I found a nice Kirkland Signature Cabernet Sauvignon and a Kirkland Sonoma County Chardonnay for $7.99 each. These are big boys, too,1.5 liter bottles, not the typical 750 milliliters for mass retailers’ house wines, including Walmart, with its private label wines called Winemakers Selection, selling for about $5 to $12.99 per bottle, or Aldi, with its Winking Owl varieties, including chardonnay, pinot grigio, shiraz, zinfandel, merlot and cabernet sauvignon, selling for $2.95 a bottle.

Source: kiplinger.com

Other Uses for Life Insurance You May Not Know About

Did you purchase a life insurance policy years ago to protect your loved ones? Just over half of adult Americans have a life insurance policy, and more say they’re interested in purchasing one. However, needs can change later in life when the kids are grown up and a retirement nest egg seems big enough to absorb financial shocks. Those nearing and in retirement may see less reason for their life insurance policy than when they first purchased it and may see the premiums they pay as burdensome.

But for many, there are potential benefits to continuing a life insurance policy or purchasing certain types in retirement, when it comes to taxes, estate planning and long-term care. Here are some ways to use a life insurance policy that you may not know about.

What Are the Tax Benefits of Life Insurance?

The tax benefits of a life insurance policy are potentially even more valuable now that the “stretch IRA” is no more. In 2019, the SECURE Act  (Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement) eliminated the option for most non-spouse beneficiaries to stretch out RMDs (required minimum distributions) over the course of their lifetime. Now, most non-spouse beneficiaries must drain tax-deferred retirement accounts within 10 years of the original owner’s death. Depending on how much is in the account and the beneficiary’s tax situation, this could mean an increased tax burden and a faster end to the tax benefits of the inherited account.

In contrast, life insurance proceeds paid to beneficiaries are generally income tax-free. In fact, some individuals should consider using life insurance to help transfer wealth to the next generation. Life insurance policies can provide business owners additional opportunities, such as paying off business debt, funding buy-sell agreements related to someone’s business or estate, or funding retirement plans. 

What Are the Long-Term Care Benefits of Life Insurance?

It’s estimated that 70% of Americans age 65 today will need long-term care at some point, and the costs can be staggering: The median annual cost for an assisted living facility is $51,600 and the median

annual cost for a private room in a nursing home is over $105,850. Yet, many Americans nearing and in retirement do not have long-term care insurance. Many people who do want to plan for long-term care costs may not want to invest in traditional long-term care insurance, because premiums can rise significantly, and there are typically no benefits if the owner ends up never needing long-term care.

As a result, traditional long-term care insurance has become less popular in the last decade. An alternative option is to use a life insurance policy with long term care benefits. These policies combine the benefits of long-term care insurance with those of permanent life insurance through the purchase of an optional rider. They can still provide a death benefit if the owner passes away without having needed long-term care. If the owner does need long-term care, a certain amount of money or time is allotted to cover costs. If this amount isn’t used up, some policies can offer a “return of premium” guarantee upon death or termination of the policy. If a remaining amount is passed on, beneficiaries may be able to enjoy it tax-free, depending on the policy.

Unlike traditional long-term care insurance, this type of life insurance policy’s premiums don’t rise. However, some require lump-sum payments at the start, which can make purchasing a policy difficult for some.

The Bottom Line

While your financial planning needs may change as you near and enter retirement, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your life insurance policy is obsolete. There are many potential benefits to life insurance beyond its traditional use to look into when creating a retirement or estate plan. A professional can help you understand how your particular policy works, and if any of these strategies could apply to your financial plan.

Harlow Wealth Management is an independent financial services firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of investment and insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. Harlow Wealth Management Inc. is an SEC Registered Investment Adviser and an insurance agency registered with the state of Washington and other states. They do not provide tax or legal advice. Legal and tax advice should come from qualified professionals who can provide advice on these topics.
Insurance guarantees are backed by the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing company. Life insurance riders may be available for an additional annual premium; riders may not be available in all states. Life insurance policies are subject to medical underwriting, and in some cases, financial underwriting. Optional LTC benefits are NOT a replacement for long term care (LTC) insurance. Living benefits and LTC riders are not available on all index universal life products. Accelerated death benefits and LTC riders are subject to eligibility requirements.

CEO, Harlow Wealth Management

Chris Harlow is a Certified Public Accountant and CEO of Harlow Wealth Management, serving metropolitan Portland and southwest Washington to help clients craft their financial strategies for retirement. Chris’ past experiences have instilled in him a dedication to guiding clients through tax and retirement strategies. He has passed the FINRA Series 65 securities exam; holds life insurance licenses in Washington, Oregon and Arizona; and has his CPA license.

Source: kiplinger.com