Category Archives: Insurance

Financial Friday Round-Up: May 3 – May 7, 2021

Welcome to the latest Financial Friday Round-Up, our weekly column filled with the best things for you to read, watch or listen to regarding finance around the web. Below you will find articles on retiring early, the economic recovery, a big year for big tech, and more.

You'll Probably Have to Retire Earlier Than Planned, Research Finds. Here's How to Prepare

A new study from the Employee Benefit Research Institute found that many people overestimate their ability to work as long as they want, impacting their plans for late retirement. Money took these new findings and offered a plan to help people face an earlier-than-intended retirement with enough savings to last, just in case.

Here’s Who’s Winning—And Who’s Still Hurting—In The Economic Recovery So Far

Forbes published an optimistic new report on the U.S. economic recovery, which has helped reduce unemployment to pre-pandemic levels in some states. Certain parts of the country are doing better than others, though — for a full picture of who still has some progress to make, check out this article.

A Pro Snowboarder and a Photographer Do What They Love. Now They Want to Buy a Home.

The Wall Street Journal features a column where a financial advisor weighs in on problems facing real people and offers solutions with sound financial advice. This week, a couple wrote in about affording a home with their low-paying (but fulfilling) professions as a snowboarder and a photographer. Check out this piece for an inspired bit of financial planning.

‘A Perfect Positive Storm’: Bonkers Dollars for Big Tech

There is no question that tech companies were big winners in the pandemic, with a large portion of the workforce switching to virtual and shopping online. In the Great Recession of the late-00s, big tech companies were hurting just as bad as everyone else; today, these companies increased revenue by more than 25% since the start of the pandemic. Check out this New York Times report for more information on what this could mean for the industry.

Check out our other Financial Friday Round-Up posts for more great reads!

Financial Friday Round-Up: April 26 - April 30, 2021
Financial Friday Round-Up: April 19 – April 23, 2021
Financial Friday Round-Up: April 12 – April 16, 2021

Taxes in the Time of COVID-19

Filing taxes in the time of COVID-19 means navigating new relief bills and tax code changes so you can get the right deductions for yourself and your family. To give Americans more time to adjust to policies like the American Rescue Plan Act and its $10,200 exemption for unemployment in 2020, the IRS has extended the deadline to file this year from April 15 to May 17.

If you still cannot file in time, getting an extension to October 15 is simple, but you have to request the extension by May 17 to qualify. Also, if you were a victim of the storms this year in Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, or Texas, you may qualify for a further extension, depending on your state.

"With new policies like the American Rescue Plan Act, the IRS has extended the deadline to file this year from April 15 to May 17."

May 17 is also the last day you can make IRA contributions to count for 2020. It is usually smart to maximize these contributions, as putting money in an IRA is often tax-deductible. The caps for contributions are $6,000 or $7,000 for those over 50 in 2020. As long as you can contribute by May 17, you can get the benefits on your 2020 return.

Finally, be sure to check the deadline of your state tax return. While most states sync their deadline with the federal due date, a few of them have different dates to file. Check with your state tax agency to find out your state’s deadline.

Taxes for the Self-Employed

Independent contractors pay a self-employment tax as well as income tax. These workers file as Self-Employed for IRS purposes, requiring them to pay quarterly taxes as well. This tax bill includes income tax as well as a Self-Employment (SE) tax, which covers the Social Security and Medicare taxes that would be automatically withheld by most employers.

Many of the business expenses for independent contractors are tax-deductible, including the costs of technology, phone calls, supplies, and travel, if they were related to work. You can deduct the cost of maintaining a home office if you used part of your house exclusively for your business on a regular basis in 2020. You can either deduct $5 for every square foot of your house that makes up your home office (up to $1,500) or add up portions of your rent, utilities, mortgage interest, property taxes, and homeowners insurance and take a standard deduction based on that amount.

"You can deduct the cost of maintaining a home office if you used part of your house exclusively for your business on a regular basis in 2020."

If all goes well, you could be getting a refund in as little as three weeks. In the past, over 90% of refunds come from the IRS in fewer than 21 days from the time of filing. If you want to speed up this timeline, choose a direct deposit refund, as paper returns and checks are slower to process. Taxes can be a headache even in normal years. Getting them done as soon as possible means they stop looming over your shoulder, and you can get on with your year with a little peace of mind.

FFS Agents – share this post with your networks using our resources in the ABO.


Financial Friday Round-Up: April 26 – April 30, 2021

Welcome to the latest Financial Friday Round-Up, our weekly column filled with the best things for you to read, watch or listen to regarding finance around the web. Below you will find articles on entrepreneurs starting airlines, who will receive a tax extension this year, housing market prices, and more.

More Than 90 New Airlines Are Launching in 2021. They Say It’s the Perfect Time.

Entrepreneurs try to anticipate market needs and race to fill that space in time to make an impact. Most recently, some thrifty upstarts are taking advantage of the post-vaccination urge to travel again by starting an airline. For more on how they plan to do it, read this piece from Wall Street Journal.

These People Will Get An Automatic Extension On Their Taxes 

If you or a loved one were a victim of the winter storms that affected Texas, Louisiana, or Oklahoma this February, this article points to a new rule that could extend your tax deadline. Check out this guide from Forbes to find out if you qualify for the new tax extension deadline put forth by the IRS this week.

The Red-hot Housing Market isn't Likely to Crash Soon. Experts Warn Prices will Only Climb Higher from Here.

Business Insider talked to housing experts about growing worries of a housing bubble, but there seems to be little risk that this recent boom in the market will bust. Still, prices look like they will continue to rise. For more data and analysis on the subject, check out this insightful article.

The Perfect Storm for Retirees

As medical innovation helps us live longer, more people are spending time in retirement at the same time that pension plans are disappearing. Some retirees find they have to change their financial strategies to accommodate factors they could not anticipate when they made their initial retirement plan. For a potential solution, check out this new piece from Kiplinger.

Check out our other Financial Friday Round-Up posts for more great reads!

Financial Friday Round-Up: April 19 – April 23, 2021
Financial Friday Round-Up: April 12 – April 16, 2021
Financial Friday Round-Up: April 4 - April 8, 2021

Bridging the Racial Gap in Financial Literacy

Many factors contribute to the racial wealth gap, including lack of access to a financial education that can help families make ends meet. The racial wealth gap is structural, but financial education is still needed — Experian reports 76% of Gen Z students wish they had personal finance classes in school. While structural and political solutions are necessary to solve the full problem, bridging the racial gap in financial literacy can start by broadly offering personal finance courses in schools and providing more access to free online resources.

The racial wealth gap is structural, but financial education is still needed — Experian reports 76% of Gen Z students wish they had personal finance classes in school.

A study from FINRA found that financial literacy rates were lopsided when split by racial data. The study found White and Asian-American test-takers scored higher on a basic assessment than Black and Latinx test-takers — a pattern which held when applied across age groups.

Similar factors that cause the gender gap in financial literacy may also be at play in the racial wealth gap. Many point to men’s tendencies to be more financially educated than women when trying to explain the gender gap. Socioeconomic factors also bar minority groups from proper financial education, such as higher rates of unemployment and less access to wealth-building resources.

Financial Education in Schools Can Help

Traditionally, lack of financial education was synonymous with lack of personal responsibility and parental guidance, but recent data suggests that of the five primary sources for financial education — high school, college, family, employer, and the military — there are structural hurdles that hurt non-White families’ abilities to teach at home. The racial gap holds even when parents provide financial education, suggesting that at-home teaching is less effective for minority groups than for White families. Meanwhile, financial education from high schools and employers offered the same benefits across the racial divide.

Experts suggest closing the racial wealth gap by teaching financial literacy in schools and providing access to financial counselors. The U.S. Financial Literacy and Education Commission proposed tailoring financial education to communities in need, citing that this focus helps motivate people to learn financial strategies. One-on-one counseling has also been proven effective, particularly as part of the economic recovery from COVID-19. As the country’s economy heals, there needs to be financial education in schools to protect our most vulnerable communities.

Experts suggest closing the racial wealth gap by teaching financial literacy in schools and providing access to financial counselors.

Financial Education is Out There

For access to free digital tools, check out our Financial Literacy Month blog posts on financial education resources and apps. With the right resources, minority communities can approach long-term goals like increasing financial literacy and building personal wealth while the country works toward the structural results that promote equal access to financial health.

FFS Agents – share this post with your networks using our resources in the ABO.

Financial Friday Round-Up: April 19 – April 23, 2021

Welcome to the latest Financial Friday Round-Up, our weekly column filled with the best things for you to read, watch or listen to regarding finance around the web. Below there are articles on leadership advice for engaging your team, how the cryptocurrency Ethereum works, a podcast on a rise in real estate agents, and more.

'Just Paint the Bathrooms': The Leadership Lesson a Fortune 500 Exec Swears by to Keep her Team Engaged

The best thing to do as a leader is to care about your team’s wellbeing by listening to employees and improving operational efficiency, according to Joyce Mullen of Insight Enterprises. For more tips on how to put this advice into action, read this piece from Business Insider this week.

Too Many Real Estate Agents

In the U.S. today, there are more real estate agents than there are houses for sale. This means real estate agents are not only dealing with more competition, but downturns in the housing market might be worse because of it. Listen to this new episode of the Planet Money podcast to find out why.

Still Paying for College at 65: A Growing Number of Americans Are Retiring With Student Debt

As more and more Americans take on student debt, some of the oldest are now entering retirement age while still owing money for their college education. Read more from this Money article about how the 8.5 million student debt holders who are 50 years or older plan to leave the working world.

How Ethereum Works: It Seems Like We’re Living in a Futuristic Alternate Universe

For better or worse, cryptocurrencies have been making a substantial impact on finance over the past ten years. Whether you plan to invest or not, it is worth it to learn about market factors like blockchain and cryptocurrencies such as Ethereum. For a beginner’s guide on how this technology works, check out this article from Worth.

Check out our other Financial Friday Round-Up posts for more great reads!

Financial Friday Round-Up: April 12 – April 16, 2021
Financial Friday Round-Up: April 4 - April 8, 2021
Financial Friday Round-Up: March 29 – April 2, 2021

Fixing the Gender Gap in Financial Education

Financial vulnerability is a widespread issue, one that too often stems from a persistent gender gap in financial education. Women face unique financial challenges: they tend to live longer than men, spend less time in the workforce and earn lower wages. Along with the financial complications of divorce and widowhood, these factors add up to a world where women are more likely to be financially vulnerable than men.

In an attempt to explain this gap, the RAND American Life Panel found evidence that this gap was not because of gender itself — in other words, it is not caused by inherent differences between how men and women handle money. Instead, the study found that the spouse with a higher level of financial education was most likely to make financial decisions in marriage. This underlines the importance of equal levels of financial education across both genders.

Financial vulnerability is a widespread issue, one that too often stems from a persistent gender gap in financial education.

The first steps to financial education are essential — everyone should know how to do these things, regardless of gender:

How to Build a Financial Foundation

• Know your credit score.

• Keep track of your debt.

• Budget.

• Use a savings account.

• Pay outstanding bills.

• Save for retirement.

For more information and further steps, check out the resources available at The Women’s Institute for Financial Education, The Financial Literacy Organization for Women and Girls, or the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement.

People and foundations are working to shrink this gap. For example, 46% of students enrolled in master’s degrees for business in 2019 were women, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Then there are the groups like the National Girls Collaborative Project that work with schools to help young girls get interested in math as early as possible.

At First Financial Security, Inc®, the LiSA Initiative helps women gain a solid financial education so they can build wealth with confidence. Through LiSA, women are certified by the National Financial Educators Council. From there, they can spread financial knowledge to their communities with engaging material on everything from budgeting to joint bank accounts to the financial complications of divorce.

When FFS sat down with Pahoua Xiong for the Share Your Umbrella podcast, she touched on how powerful it can be to watch women achieve financial independence and security:

“Personally, [the best part is] seeing agents on my team say 'I can' more than 'I can’t now.' They start to believe in themselves. A lot of my team members have been able to create financial opportunities for themselves and their families. This opportunity can help people become someone that they'd never thought or dreamed they could become — to me, that is so rewarding and fulfilling.”

Women face unique financial challenges: they tend to live longer than men, spend less time in the workforce, and earn lower wages.

Regardless of the cause, we do know that access to financial education has clear results: women are more likely to borrow at lower costs, avoid unnecessary fees in transactions, and build better retirement plans when they have access to financial literacy programs. They can build their own emergency funds and manage their debts. Eliminating the gender gap will help all women protect against loss of income and savings.

A large part of independence comes from a simple control over one’s finances, and all it takes are the right resources to reach the peace of mind that comes with financial security.

FFS Agents – share this post with your networks using our resources in the ABO.

Share Your Umbrella Podcast: A Conversation with Pahoua Xiong

Yesterday, we posted the second episode of Share Your Umbrella, a First Financial Security® podcast where entrepreneurs share stories of helping families in need with financial solutions and opportunities. We plan to take interesting excerpts from each podcast episode and feature them here on our blog.

Our guest this week was Pahoua Xiong, an FFS agent who reached her first diamond at the end of 2019 and spent the pandemic learning creative online strategies to keep her business growing. We spoke to her about the challenges and benefits of working for herself as a woman in this industry and what her goals for success in 2021 look like.

See below for an excerpt of our conversation — you can listen to the full episode here.

Pahoua, what made you decide to join FFS, and what did your life look like before you were part of our team?

I was actually a recruiter. I was recruiting at a local university, bringing in students for the school. I would come home and tell my husband the number of students I recruited that day, and he’d say, “Well, if you did that, you would do great at FFS.”

Then my husband got diagnosed with kidney disease. I was really devastated. At that point, I was also registered to go back to school to become a doctor. I was gung-ho, nothing was going to change my mind—until he got diagnosed. It was really that breaking point in my life where I had to make a decision. I had to ask myself “What if you became sick? What happens financially?”

If I did become a doctor, the next 10 to 13 years of my life were going to be dedicated to school, with no income potential. It’s such a long process of sacrificing so much of your life. You have to be so committed to it. And so many people come to this field with that same desire to help people. It's giving people financial security and peace of mind that keeps them going. That’s what sold me on FFS.

What were some challenges you faced early on at FFS? How did you overcome them?

I think the biggest challenge was actually personal fear. No one in my family had ever been in a type of business that’s only commissions, where you’re not getting paid for the hours you put in. So there was a fear of how I would schedule my day for my FFS business. I had to be responsible for my success here, and I had to start making personal decisions to prioritize my business. It took a while for me to get over that — but now, it’s just everyday work.

The transition is hard because now you’re doing it for yourself. You're no longer working for someone; you're building your own business. It takes a mindset shift. I kept telling myself: “This is for my kids, for my future, for our community — so we can grow more and be more.” It was something I had to tell myself every day.

Now that we’ve talked about how you started, what is it that keeps you going? How long have you been with us?

I’ve been with FFS for eight years. I stay because I really want to continue to be a part of a bigger cause. I think a lot of people forget the opportunity that we have to create a better future for our families. I want to continue to be a part of bringing people to a better financial situation.

I chose FFS because I’ve always wanted to be surrounded by great people. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have leaders who saw my potential, the system that’s been set up here, or the overwhelming tools and resources that we have. I tell my team all the time, “There's no way you cannot be successful in here.”

FFS makes the initial, basic parts of doing business so much easier: everything from payroll to all the advertising to all the different apps. There’s so much support from people who just want us to be successful. So I continue to stay because of the leadership and the business system.

We named the podcast Share Your Umbrella because umbrellas are an insurance symbol — they cover, shelter, and help people. For us, the umbrella represents not only the products that shelter our clients from risk but also the opportunity to build a business in the financial services industry.  

With that in mind, do you have any stories of sharing that umbrella with others? What does that concept mean for you? 

Personally, it’s seeing agents on my team say “I can” more than “I can’t” now. They start to believe in themselves. A lot of my team members have been able to create financial opportunities for themselves and their families. This opportunity can help people become someone that they'd never thought or dreamed they could become — to me, that is so rewarding and fulfilling.

2020 was a big challenge for everyone. What did you do to keep yourself and your team motivated? What did and did not work for you?

The business really ran itself — I got a lot of referrals because people were experiencing the urgency of needing coverage. I think the most challenging thing was just juggling everything: the kids, the business, and the marketing. Still, last