What’s Next for a Stimulus Bill?

Plan for Business Continuity if Second Wave of COVID Hits

A ‘Between Waves’ COVID-19 Planner for Small Businesses

https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/operations/our-insights/coronavirus-and-technology-supply-chains-how-to-restart-and-rebuild

https://www.epa.gov/coronavirus/recycling-and-sustainable-management-food-during-coronavirus-covid-19-public-health

Examining Fed’s New Targeted Inflation Policy

Long-Term Financial Impact of COVID-19

Long-Term Financial Impact of COVID-19As bad as the economy is right now due to the COVID outbreak in the United States, many economists are predicting that the long-term outlook is much bleaker. Alas, Congress and the Federal Reserve’s efforts at stimulus and interest rate management have done much to keep the economy and stock market afloat. However, small businesses – the backbone of America’s employment growth – are closing every day. As consumer spending reduces further, the impact will likely affect Wall Street. Consequently, share prices may soon begin correcting to reflect the future more so than the present.

It should come as no surprise, then, that 88 percent of respondents admit they are worried about their finances, according to a recent survey conducted by the National Endowment for Financial Education.

This economic decline has presented an interesting mix of demographics who have or will be affected the most over the long term. For instance, many low-income workers have remained employed throughout the pandemic because their jobs are considered “essential services.” This includes check-out clerks at grocery stores; laborers who work outdoor jobs; nurses, orderlies, and nursing home attendants.

By contrast, many white-collar business owners – such as physicians and dentists– closed shop for a few months and/or have reduced the number of patients they see. Alas, 79 percent of those surveyed with a household income of more than $100,000 a year said they were at least somewhat concerned about their financial situation.

Millennials are the generation most likely to change the way they manage their finances in the future. Although many have remained employed in white-collar jobs – primarily due to their technology-enhanced skills and knowledge – they have reason to be concerned. After all, this generation has already lived through the market downturn following 9/11, the Great Recession, and now a historic economic decline caused by the coronavirus. In fact, once they finally got a foothold in their careers, this recent downturn obliterated the last five years’ worth of economic growth. Going forward, finance experts predict that these young adults will be more focused on stock-piling savings, buying modest homes when the real estate market corrects, and generally working on a long-term plan for financial stability.

While those strategies are mostly good, it’s a shame this generation had to learn the hard way – all while encumbered with historically unprecedented student loan debt. However, as these lessons are passed down through generations – much the way the Great Depression had a lasting impact on the Silent Generation – U.S. populations may see higher savings rates at the expense of lower GDP growth.

For households recovering from financial stress or looking to create a plan for stronger financial resiliency no matter what the future holds, consider the following strategies.

  • First priority: Save from three to six months’ worth of liquid, emergency funds should you encounter a large expense, such as an auto repair or a temporary loss of income.
  • Learn how to budget effectively, which includes examining if you overpay for basic household needs or do not know how much of your income is spent superfluously every month.
  • Take stock of the full scope of your financial resources, including:
    • Savings accounts
    • Investment accounts
    • Retirement accounts
    • Health savings accounts
    • College savings accounts
    • Whole life insurance
    • Real property
    • Structured settlements
    • Vehicles (auto, boat, motorcycle, recreational)
    • Art, jewelry, wine, or other high-value collectibles
    • Expensive furnishings and household items
  • Develop a Plan B to help supplement any income loss right now; a Plan C to help bolster your savings rate once you’re back to full income; and a Plan D strategy for income replacement in case you’re ever in a situation like this again.

Financial setbacks will come and go; it’s the lessons we learn from them that should have the most staying power.

Affordable Lunches for Kids Learning at Home

Affordable Lunches for Kids Learning at HomeDue to the uncertainty of COVID-19, many schools across America have transitioned to at-home learning. This alone presents a whole new set of challenges for parents, not the least of which is figuring out what to feed your kids for lunch – every single day of the week. While peanut butter and jelly is a reliable standby, here are some cheap, easy alternatives you can whip up in no time.

English Muffin Pizza

Grab some English muffins and top them with pizza sauce or marinara. Either one will work. (Hint: use the store brand because it’s comparable and usually costs less.) If you like, you can even add shredded cheese. Put them in a toaster oven and bake. Now comes the fun part: create a face. Use olives for the nose and eyes. Cut up yellow, red, and green peppers into thin slices to form a mouth and eyebrows. For the extra peppers, use ranch dressing for dipping. This one is fun and healthy!

Lunchables Knockoff

Pre-packaged meals generally cost more. So why not create your own version of this lunch-time favorite and save some money? Buy round, butter crackers with ridges on the edge (like Ritz, but buy the store brand); round, sliced lunch meat; and small, sliced squares of cheese. Place each in the spaces in a plastic divided container. Cut up some fruit (apples, pears, anything you like) and serve. If natural sugar isn’t enough for your little ones, throw in a cookie.

Pita Pockets

You can stuff these full of anything you like. Making tuna salad for a filler is always delish but takes a bit of prep, so for time’s sake, add lunch meat. After that, add lettuce and anything else your child likes. Maybe some tomatoes or cucumbers, then add a condiment, mustard, or mayo. For a side, choose local, seasonal produce. It’s always cheaper than out-of-season choices.

Meat-Free Lunch

Purchasing meat can get expensive, so why not go veggie for a few days? Your DIY lunch kit might include cheese cubes, crackers, cherry (or grape) tomatoes, and green or purple grapes. If you get inspired, cut up apples and bananas into bite-sized portions. Throwing in some nuts for a little extra crunch is always a good idea, too. If you want to make these meals a regular thing, buy reusable, compartmentalized containers like EasyLunchBoxes, affordably priced at $14 for four. You can also buy them on Amazon. Carve out some time on a Saturday afternoon and make these in bulk to save time during your busy week. You might even ask the kids to help!

Ants on a Log

Cut up some celery (the logs). Fill with peanut butter, then sprinkle raisins on top (the ants). Serve with cheese cubes, graham crackers, yogurt, and/or fresh fruit. Kids love this one, especially because of the funny name.

Pancake Lunch

Everyone loves Saturday morning pancakes, so why not serve them for lunch, too? Here’s a thought: prepare a double batch of pancakes, plus bacon and fresh fruit on the weekend; then save half for Monday and pop them in the microwave. This way, you won’t have to prepare them twice. Don’t forget the syrup!

Cottage Cheese and Fruit

This lunch might well be the quickest of all to make. Place two scoops of cottage cheese in a leak-proof container, then add some canned fruit such as peaches, pineapple or mandarin oranges. Crackers (graham or saltines) with a little vat of peanut butter for dipping completes this easy, peasy meal.

We hope that these cost-saving lunches help save time and worry. With all that’s going on, you’ve got enough on your plate!

Sources

https://blog.cheapism.com/easy-school-lunches-14435/#slide=8

Avoid Wasting Money on Digital Marketing with These Tips

Avoid Wasting Money on Digital Marketing

In last month’s article titled “How to Make the Most of Digital Marketing,” we examined how digital marketing can help your business grow. Unfortunately, this involves more than waving a magic wand. You can either choose to do it yourself or hire an agency to do it for you. Either way, if it’s not well done, you could end up wasting a lot of money with no return on your investment. 

Indeed, any business will want to implement a system that promises to grow revenue. But the biggest mistake is to dive into a scheme that you don’t understand well. Understanding the potential of digital marketing and how you can deploy it effectively will significantly help meet your revenue goals.

Tips to Avoid Losing Money in Digital Marketing 

Here are some tips to help you effectively target your audience and eliminate wasteful spending in your digital marketing efforts:

  1. Create a Strategy
    A digital marketing strategy serves as a guide to what you should and shouldn’t do. Invest in marketing that is in line with your mission and goals. And then be ready to make improvements and adjustments because the digital market is always changing.
  2. Understand Different Platforms
    Each platform has its strengths and weaknesses, whether you’re looking at LinkedIn, Facebook, Google ads, etc.
  3. Use Good Content
    People will easily trust the content that is engaging and adds value in some way. No matter the quality of your product or service, terrible content will cause you to lose potential customers. Always remember your content is a direct reflection of your brand. 
  4. Ads 
    When you run ads, they will be displayed when there are searches on the internet relating to what you have advertised. This costs money. To avoid paying on unnecessary clicks or views that don’t convert to leads, run targeted ads. You can also use negative keywords, geo-targeting, or influencers. Keep in mind that any platform offering paid promotion options has as its default to spend your budget as fast as possible (they are in business, too).
  5. Track Your Results 
    Track your results on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. This is the best way to know if you are wasting money. Measure and track your campaigns to understand how much you are making off any campaign. For every single $1 spent, if you are not making any returns you need to rethink your strategies. Note that it could take 60 to 90 days to get enough data for proper analysis.
  6. Avoid Buying Fake Followers
    This is simply a bad idea because you will get little or no return on your investment. The fake accounts will be inactive, and hence no engagement or sales.
  7. Test 
    Carry out A/B testing for anything you want to put out there to your target audience. Be it content, emails, newsletters, social media posts, campaigns or ads, testing will save you from marketing with low or no returns.
  8. Add a Call to Action 
    What do you want an interested reader or viewer to do: make a call; fill out a form; subscribe; make a purchase; or visit a website?
  9. Don’t Ignore Existing Customers
    Approximately 40 percent of business revenue is from returning customers. Specifically target this group with offers, new products or services, or just wishing them well on holidays. 
  10. Don’t Hire Bad Marketing Consultants
    Finally, you might decide to outsource the marketing if your business doesn’t have employees with the necessary skills, or if it’s overwhelming for your staff. Whatever the reason, don’t make the mistake of hiring bad consultants.

The Importance of an SSL Certificate and Best Practices

SSL Certificate, SSL Best PracticesWhat is an SSL Certificate?

An SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate used is to encrypt traffic between systems, such as client and server. This is done to protect data that might include confidential information, Social Security numbers, and personal information.

SSL involves the use of a pair of the public (available to anyone) and private (exclusive to destination server) keys to handle the encryption and decryption process. 

You might have come across the term TLS (Transport Layer Security) – a protocol that is an improved version of the SSL. The two terms are used interchangeably, but this article will use SSL, as it’s the more popular term. 

Why Is SSL Important 

Threats to data security and privacy keep increasing as more functions move online. If you own a business website, it’s no longer optional to have an SSL certificate. The main reason for this is to protect users from the man in the middle attacks. And it comes with SEO benefits, too. Search engines such as Google check site security as one of the essential factors in SEO ranking. Some web browsers like Chrome also alert users if a site is not secure – and this could keep some people away from your site. 

Other benefits of an SSL certificate are that it serves as a proof of identity (authentication); it is an assurance of information privacy, and it also assures users of information integrity. This is especially crucial if your web application deals with financial or electronic commerce transactions.

SSL Best Practice 

Although SSL is secure, attackers take advantage of installation and configuration loopholes to steal data. Because of such vulnerabilities, it’s not enough to install the SSL certificate. 

Below are basic SSL best practices that will help ensure the security of data in transit.

  1. Understand the importance of SSL certificates. Previously, SSLs were common in large organizations and financial institutions. Today, even small businesses have moved most if not all of their transactions online. Suppose a certificate expires or is compromised – your business risks loss of revenue as well as a damaged reputation. 
  2. Know the SSL certificate your site requires, and get the one that is appropriate for your site. There are three types of SSL certificates:
    • Domain Validated SSL certificate – to approve an organization domain name;
    • Organization Validation SSL certificate – guarantees the legitimacy of an association;
    • Extended Validation SSL certificate – Similar to OV SSL, but this requires more documentation regarding the ownership of the certificate. 
  3. Purchase the certificate from a reputable certification authority. When selecting a certificate authority entity, check its reputation, popularity, response to security and compliance problems, support, reviews, and if it offers the certificate your business needs. 
  4. Proper server configuration will ensure you are using the latest security protocols, secure cipher suites, complete certificate chains, and a Diffie-Hellman Key (DHE) with at least 2048-bit security (lower bits can be vulnerable). 
  5. Protect your private keys. Keep the private key as secure as possible. Do this by generating the key in a safe and trusted environment; revoke keys if an employee with access leaves your company; renew the certificate at least yearly; and if you think the private key has been compromised, always generate a new key. 
  6. Apply website application best practices. Even with best SSL practices, ensure your web application follows best practices, such as using secure cookies, eliminating mixed content, and evaluating third-party code. 

Takeaway Tips

There are two important points that you shouldn’t forget. One, SSLs are secure but also have vulnerabilities that can be exploited; therefore, ensure proper configurations and follow best practices. Two, lack of an SSL certificate affects your SERP ranking, which in turn affects your brand credibility and increases the site bounce rate.

Space Weather Forecasting, New Safety and Transparency Reporting Guidelines, Paying to Charge Federal Electric Vehicles, and a Plan to Celebrate Route 66

s881, s2193, s2299, HR6078, HR4894, s1014PROSWIFT Act (S 881) – This Act was sponsored by Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) on March 26, 2019. The legislation is designed to improve understanding and forecasting of weather events in space. The bill details provisions designed to improve the ability of the United States to both forecast and mitigate the effects of space weather. The bill designates the National Science and Technology Council’s Space Weather Operations, Research, and Mitigation Working Group as the authority to direct other agency initiatives. The bill establishes a pilot program to enable the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to enter into contracts with the commercial sector to provide space weather data, in adherence to certain standards. The bill passed in the Senate in July and in the House in September, and is currently waiting to be enacted by the President.

CHARGE Act (S 2193) – This bill requires the General Services Administration to issue a charge card to federal agencies in order to pay for charging up federal electric motor vehicles at commercial charging stations. The bill was introduced by Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) on July 19, 2019. It was passed in the Senate in November 2019 and in the House on Sept. 14, 2020. It is currently awaiting signature by the President.

PIPES Act of 2020 (S 2299) – This bill would amend title 49 of the United States Code to enhance the safety and reliability of pipeline transportation. It was introduced by Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE) on July 25, 2019, passed in the Senate on Aug. 6, 2020. It is currently in the House for consideration. This bill would fund appropriations through the fiscal year 2023 to address pipeline safety and infrastructure as authorized under the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002.

Microloan Transparency and Accountability Act of 2020 (HR 6078) – Introduced by Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN) on March 4, this legislation modifies disbursement and reporting protocols for certain financial assistance by the Small Business Administration (SBA). Specifically, the bill establishes a technical assistance grant of 5 percent for intermediaries who issue 25 percent of their loans to rural small businesses. The legislation also requires the SBA to report, among other metrics, the number, amount, and percentage of such loans that went into default in the previous year; the number of microloans issued to small businesses in rural areas; and the average size, rate of interest and amount of fees charged for each microloan. This bill passed in the House on Sept. 14 and is in the Senate for consideration.

Congressional Budget Justification Transparency Act of 2020 (HR 4894) – Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) introduced this legislation on Oct. 29, 2019. The bill would require the Office of Management and Budget to make many of the budget justification materials submitted to Congress also available to the public. The legislation passed in the House on Sept. 14 and is now in the Senate for consideration.

Route 66 Centennial Commission Act (S 1014) – This bill was introduced by Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) on April 3, 2019. It establishes a Route 66 Centennial Commission and specifies the duties of the commission, including membership, powers, reporting requirements, and a termination date of no later than June 30, 2027. The intent is to honor U.S. Route 66 on the occasion of its centennial anniversary in 2026. This bill passed in the Senate on Aug. 10 and goes to the House next for consideration. A similar bill (HR 66: Route 66 Centennial Commission Act) was introduced by Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL) and passed in the House in February 2019, giving the current Senate bill a high probability of making it into law.

The New Normal of Working from Home

Working from home Employee StatusWith COVID, there’s a good chance that you are working from home. For example, in May the Dallas Federal Reserve reported that approximately 35 percent of U.S. employees worked from home full-time, with almost 72 percent of those who were able to work from home choosing to do so.

Working from home is likely the new normal for many people, and accompanying these are rules and practices of which taxpayers need to be aware.

Employee Status

The line between an employee versus an independent contractor continues to blur, especially with work from home increasing. Now, just because you are working from home does NOT mean that you can be considered self-employed, but it can make the case more likely if you were already on the line.

If there was a debate between being classified as an employee or an independent contractor when you began working for an organization, now may be the time to revisit your status – but only if you would rather be considered as an independent contractor. There are numerous pros and cons to each for the worker, but keep in mind that W-2 employees cannot take the home office deduction.

Maximize Your Employer Benefit

Check with your human resources department to see if your employer offers benefits such as cell phone reimbursements, a stipend for home office expenses, reimbursements for expenses, or other perks that you might not have needed or otherwise been entitled to before working from home.

Crossing State Lines

Perhaps the biggest confusion and potential change impacts employees who normally work in an office in one state, but live and are now working from another state as a result of working from home. Working at home in one state when your company is in another state could mean that you’re now subject to taxation in both places, especially if either state has a physical presence rule.

The rules around this are numerous and complex and you can easily make mistakes if you don’t keep the right records. Given the complexity, the details are beyond the scope of this article; however, if you are now working in two states due to working from home part-time or from a different state as a result of working from home, it’s probably a good idea to consult your tax professional.

Creature Comforts

Working from home full-time or even semi-regularly might mean you need to upgrade your home office by purchasing equipment or making structural upgrades, such as soundproofing. These expenses can be deductible as long as they meet the home office deduction criteria.

Conclusion

Working from home could become the new normal for millions of people; and if you play it smart, you can end up in both comfort and safety without any adverse financial consequences.