Weekly Digest – March 30 2022
One of the most puzzling side effects of COVID-19 is a syndrome called “covid brain,” which is characterized by sluggish thinking and memory problems. Neuroscientists have begun identifying commonalities between covid brain, chemo brain, and Alzheimer’s disease. So far, the studies are small and do not indicate avenues for treatment. However, the studies confirm the seriousness of the brain effects of infections and provide hope that treatments may be developed more quickly.
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.
The IRS has $1.5 billion in tax refunds for people who have not filed a 2018 tax return. If those returns are not filed by April 18, 2022, the refunds will disappear with the closing of the three-year window for filing tax returns. About half of the refunds are estimated to be more than $813. Refund checks for 2018 may be delayed if taxpayers have not filed 2019 or 2020 returns. In addition, refunds may be retained by the IRS for any amounts owed to the federal or state governments or to offset unpaid child support or student loans.
So far, the IRS has delivered more than 45 million tax refunds with average payments of $3,352. However, the IRS is still digging out from a backlog of millions of unprocessed individual returns from 2020. Most refunds are issued within 21 days, but delays can be caused by paper-filed returns, payments by mail, errors, or identity theft problems. Last year, the IRS sent out about 7.4 million notices about math errors or discrepancies with IRS records. Many of those are still waiting for resolution. After you file your return, check the online Where’s My Refund? tool, which may be updated as soon as 24 hours after the IRS receives an electronically filed return.
The pandemic widened the gap between men and women for retirement readiness: only 19% of women said they were on track to retire compared to 35% of men, according to a recent survey by TIAA. In 2013, that gap was only 9%, but it has now grown to 16%. In addition, only 31% of women said they were able to save for retirement, compared to 44% of men.
Delinquencies on federal student loans may increase in May when forbearance ends. Payments on federal student loans were paused when the pandemic began in 2020. An estimated $195 million worth of payments has been waived. Even before the pandemic, many borrowers were making payments that were too small to cover interest, so fewer than half were making progress in paying off their loans. Recent signals from the White House indicate that another delay to the restart of payments may be coming.
Many older workers nearing retirement are taking a phased approach, where they continue to work part-time. A phased approach is not for everyone: many cannot afford to give up pay or benefits in exchange for more free time. Discussing this option with your employer is a good way to start. Options to supplement your income include tapping your retirement savings or taking Social Security benefits. However, both of those options may reduce your income after you completely retire.
THE GREAT REASSESSMENT
While unemployment continues to drop, nearly half of workers are looking for a new job, a signal that the “Great Resignation” may continue into 2022 or beyond, according to a survey by Willis Towers Watson. Forty-four percent of respondents were classified as “job seekers,” with 33% actively looking for new work and 11% planning to look soon. A strong job market and the promise of higher pay as employers compete for scarce talent is enticing workers to keep their options open. Nearly half (41%) said they’d leave for an increase as small as 5%, while 20% said they’d leave for the same pay but better benefits or working conditions.
REMOTE AND HYBRID WORK OPTIONS
As remote work becomes more of the norm, this article in PC Magazine offers a few simple and inexpensive options to make your home office more pleasant. A better set of headphones with a built-in microphone can make it easier to focus and can improve sound quality on video calls. An inexpensive back pillow will make a standard chair more comfortable. Raising the height of your monitor or laptop reduces neck strain.
Gas prices have been at record highs for the last few weeks, after shooting up at the fastest rate in history. Adjusting for inflation, drivers are paying the highest prices since 2014, and nearly the same prices as in the early 1980s. Depending on where you live, per gallon price increases range from a low of 28 cents in Maryland and $1.15 in Nevada. The price of crude oil is one of the biggest components of the price of gasoline, so as crude oil prices rise above $100 per barrel, gas prices follow suit.
Jobless claims fell to the lowest level since 1969, with just 187,000 initial claims. Continuing claims also fell to a similar historic low, to just 1.35 million, a level not seen since 1970. However, about half a million fewer people are in the workforce now than before the pandemic, which has left employers struggling to find workers.
- IRS resources for stimulus payments:
- IRS information about the Advance Child Tax Credit Payments
- The best source for up-to-date and accurate health information is the Center for Disease Control (CDC)
- Entrepreneur put together a listing of free tech resources for remote work
- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has warnings about COVID-related scams
- PC Magazine explains how to carry your vaccination card on your phone
- How to create a strong password
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!