Skimm Money: An S&P 500 Record, Protecting Your Info, and Opting Out of the Child Tax Credit Payments

Published on: Aug 20, 2021fb-roundtwitter-roundemail-round

Hey. 

It’s been a heavy news week. If you want to lend a hand, check out where you can donate to relief efforts in Haiti. Plus a few ways to help Afghan refugees and other victims of humanitarian crises

Headlines, Skimm’d

  • Head underwater. The pandemic pause on student loan payments didn't put a dent in many original balances. Among borrowers with income-driven repayment plans who made voluntary payments on loans serviced by Navient, 63% still owe more than they initially borrowed.

  • Retail sales cool for the summer. They dropped 1.1% in July, worse than the 0.3% dip economists anticipated (but still much better than July 2020). That signals a bumpy economic recovery. And that consumers are spending more on services and less on goods, reversing lockdown spending trends.

  • What goes up...? The S&P 500 briefly hit a new record on Monday, about 100% higher than its March 2020 low – the fastest it's doubled since WWII. That has some experts watching out for a market correction (hint: a 10%+ drop from a recent peak). But others think this could be the start of an economic boom

News to Wallet

data breach financial impact
Design: ML Howell, Credit: iStock
How to Protect Your Wallet From Data Breaches and Scams

Hide your passwords. Hide your pins. T-Mobile just joined the long list of companies hit by data breaches. Even the gov is on high alert. The Labor Department recently gave states extra funds to fight a rise in unemployment fraud. If hackers get their hands on your personal info (think: Social Security number, passwords, your birthday, etc.), it could be bad for your bank account. We Skimm’d what to do if you think your info's been compromised. 

Make Good (Money) Choices

Elle Woods
Design: Daniel Giunta | Credit: Alamy
If you’ve been thinking about grad school…

Think about the cost, too. It has a major impact on your ROE – aka return on education. As in, your potential post-school salary minus any future loan payments and earnings lost while attending class. It's not a magic formula. But running the numbers can help you figure out if it's worth it. And whether you should take on extra debt. (Psst...hear what Erika James, dean of the Wharton School at UPenn, had to say on our podcast "9 to 5ish" about how to make the right choice for you.)

If you need a ride for your next vacation…

Plan ahead. Because demand is way up and supplies are short. Good news for car rental company Hertz, which saw a 62% jump in quarterly sales as travel rebounded over the past few months. But not so much for travelers hoping to hit the open road. Booking far in advance can help you secure a ride. Also consider car-sharing services like Getaround and Turo. And before you pay for extra car insurance through a rental company, check to see if your own auto insurance policy or credit card benefits will cover you.

If you're planning to ask to WFH forever...

Understand what that means for your wallet first. Example: if you work in a different state than your employer operates, you could owe taxes in more than one state. And some companies (hey, Google) are considering pay cuts for remote workers, depending on where they live. Which could be a pain in the budget.

Tips Don’t Lie

Yes or No checkbox
Design: ML Howell, Credit: iStock

Decide if you'll opt out of the child tax credit monthly payments. The child tax credit works differently this year. You get half the money in monthly installments through 2021, and the rest when you file your taxes in 2022. The catch: if Uncle Sam overpays you this year, you could be on the hook to pay him back. To avoid that, you can unenroll three days before the first Thursday of the next month by 11:59 pm ET. That's August 30 to skip the September and all following payments.

We asked tax expert Kelly Phillips Erb to help us break down what you need to know about the expanded child tax credit, including more about why overpayments could happen.

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Ivana Pino, Casey Bond, Stacy Rapacon, and Elyse Steinhaus