Weekly Digest – March 16 2022

After two years of pandemic disruptions, many of us have developed unhealthy habits and may need a reboot. Data from Nielsen shows that sales of alcohol are higher now than before the pandemic, while fitness trackers show that people are on the average taking fewer steps. In another study, volunteer participants gained about 1.5 pounds per month. Rebooting your habits can begin with something as simple as setting up time on your calendar to exercise. Combining exercise with a fun activity can also help to make the habit sticky.

THE AMERICAN RECOVERY PLAN ACT (ARPA)

Monthly Child Tax Credit Payments

If you have questions about the advance Child Tax Credits for 2021, the two best sources are the instructions for Schedule 8812, which is used to calculate and report the credit on your 2021 tax return, and the IRS FAQs. Before filing your tax return, check your IRS Online Account to be sure you report the correct amount of any advance Child Tax Credit payments received during 2021. This will help ensure that refunds are paid promptly within 21 days. As a reminder, couples who filed Married Filing Joint will each receive a letter reporting half of the payments received. When filing 2021 tax returns, married couples will need to combine both amounts when they file their joint return.

TAX ISSUES

The IRS is still dealing with a backlog of 22 million pieces of unprocessed and incompletely processed returns and correspondence. A perfect storm of the pandemic shut-down, additional responsibilities in getting stimulus and advance child tax credit payments, and years of budget cuts have left the IRS “thinly strapped,” in the words of former IRS commissioner Mark Everson. Millions of people are still waiting on their 2020 tax refunds, even as the deadline for filing 2021 returns approaches. Tens of thousands of businesses are waiting to receive funds for the employee retention credit six months after applying. The best way to get your refund faster is to request direct deposit, and to ensure that all the numbers – especially those related to stimulus payments and the child tax credit – are correct.

PERSONAL FINANCE

Many business owners discover at the end of their career that the business they planned on selling to finance their retirement isn’t worth nearly as much as they hoped for, resulting in a substantial wealth gap. This article in Kiplinger explains how to calculate that wealth gap. One way to finance that wealth gap is to work on your business well before you plan to retire to create an asset that can be sold to bridge the wealth gap.

THE GREAT REASSESSMENT

While many employers are trying to lure back workers with higher pay, many of those who quit during the Great Resignation did not cite their rate of pay as their main reason to leave their job. According to a survey from McKinsey, the top three reasons were unsustainable workloads, uncaring leaders, and a lack of career development options. Many companies still have the same revenue goals, but with fewer employees to do the work, those who remain face burnout. For those who have returned to work, workplace flexibility was the top reason reported. But many of those who have returned might leave again due to lack of career development, inadequate compensation, and a lack of meaningful work.

What should an employer do if a valuable employee decides to leave? First, find out why they are considering quitting and find ways to resolve the issue, perhaps by assigning them different tasks or to a different part of the company. Second, talk to your people regularly about non-work topics and express gratitude for their contributions. Third, make sure to part on good terms. Find out why they left, and keep in touch so they are welcome to return if they want.

Many people who quit during the Great Resignation are trying out life without a steady paycheck. Some started their own businesses, while others are freelancers or contractors. Being self-employed can mean taking a financial hit, so planning ahead and building up a cash reserve or developing a strict budget can help to get through lean times.

REMOTE AND HYBRID WORK OPTIONS

What do you need to be productive when you have a hybrid work schedule? This article from the Wall Street Journal lists the must-have tech for hybrid employees. Keeping a backpack loaded with a small laptop plus charger and long power cord, corded headphones, and a subscription to a VPN service makes it easy to work at a coffee shop. Tablets can make commuting by train easier, while multiple large screens at home make work more pleasant.

A new trend is “workcations,” where remote workers leave their home base to travel for leisure while managing their full workload. For example, one person spent time in England’s Lake District caring for family members while also performing work duties. People who have done this report improved productivity and creativity, as well as stress relief and a recharge to mental batteries. Integrating work and life may be more realistic than achieving work-life balance. Combining work and vacation successfully requires advance planning and understanding that a workcation won’t be as restful as a completely unplugged vacation.

While bosses are eager to bring everyone back to the office, there’s a disconnect with employees, who may have had a better experience working at home than they had in the office. For many employees, remote work put them on an even footing with others and created a stronger sense of belonging to workplace culture. The preference for working in the office may be based on outdated myths of chance meetings in hallways and at water coolers and the need of older executives to communicate face-to-face. Some business leaders may simply miss seeing people.

ECONOMY

Rising energy, food and service prices pushed inflation for February to 7.9%, a four-decade high, but the crisis in Ukraine may push prices even higher. Persistent shipping bottlenecks and supply shortages in the wake of increased consumer demand continue to push prices higher, while a tight labor market makes it difficult for employers to hire enough workers to keep up with demand. Prices for used cars and trucks have the biggest increase over the last year, at more than 40%, with gasoline costs close behind at 38% more than a year ago. The outbreak of war in Ukraine has increased prices for oil, wheat, and precious metals. While some businesses are able to pass price increases on to consumers, those who signed contracts months ago have limited recourse. While wages have gone up over the last year, those increases are not always keeping up with inflation.

There are signs that the big raises of the last year may be slowly tapering off. Although average pay rose by 5.1% over the last year, hourly earnings rose only by a penny in February. As the most serious impacts of the pandemic wane, workers are reentering the workforce, with 678,000 new jobs added to the economy in February. As more workers return to work, they may lose their bargaining power, bringing wages down. Even with higher pay, wages haven’t kept up with inflation. In January, the consumer price index rose by 7.5%.

GENERAL RESOURCES

We sincerely hope that you and your family are well and remain well. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We are all in this together!

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