My father worked in a hospital and died from COVID-19. We can’t afford his burial or funeral expenses — what can we do?


My dad recently died due to coronavirus. He was also an employee of the hospital where he died.

Can we file for any death benefits or claim funeral expenses from the hospital where he worked? We cannot cover the funeral costs for him. My dad was a low-income employee.

Please help me. I need advice on what we could do to get any financial assistance from his company, and if the state provides any funeral assistance.

We do not know where to go or what to do.

M. in Tampa, Fla.

Dear M.,

Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’m very sorry for your loss. Depending on the kind of hospital where your father worked, where may be quite a lot of things you can do.

From Florida’s Office of Insurance Regulation: In response to an executive order issued by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, establishing COVID-19 response protocols and directing a public-health emergency, first responders, health-care workers, and others that contract COVID-19 due to work-related exposure would be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits under Florida law.

Contact the hospital where your father worked and speak to human resources and/or his direct supervisor. Ask if he has any life-insurance policy through the company and/or whether it is helping with these expenses, or if there’s a COVID-19 fund to help families of employees who have died of the virus. Unfortunately, more hazardous working conditions do not always guarantee coverage.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency provided funeral assistance of more than $250 million in the wake of Hurricane Irma in 2017, but FEMA is not allocating funds for those who have died from COVID-19. Democratic members of Congress have asked President Donald Trump to help out families who have lost loved ones to coronavirus.

“Just as with all previous disasters, we should not expect the families of those that died — or the hardest-hit states — to pay for burials,” according to the statement released in May by Rep. Bennie Thompson, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and Rep. Peter DeFazio, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

“President Trump needs to step up and approve this assistance so FEMA can pay for the funerals of our fellow Americans so they can be buried in dignity. It is the least he can do,” they wrote. The $2.2 trillion CARES Act that was enacted in March and the House-approved $3 trillion HEROES Act to help people make ends meet during the pandemic did not allocate money toward this.

The Moneyist:My husband died from COVID-19. Will the IRS allow me to use his $1,200 stimulus check for funeral and medical expenses?

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, “14 states have taken action to extend workers’ compensation coverage to include COVID-19 as a work-related illness. Six states have enacted legislation creating a presumption of coverage for various types of workers. Alaska, Minnesota, Utah and Wisconsin limit the coverage to first responders and health-care workers.”

“Illinois covers all essential workers and Wyoming covers all workers. Four states have used executive-branch authority to implement presumption policies for first responders and health-care workers in response to COVID-19,” it said. “Four states, including California and Kentucky, have taken executive action to provide coverage to other essential workers, like grocery-store employees.”

The NCSL is tracking legislation, executive orders and other administrative policy changes that directly address workers’ compensation coverage for COVID-19. In Florida, first responders, child-safety investigators, corrections officers, National Guard members responding to COVID-19 and state-employed health-care workers have the presumption of occupational disease.

The national law firm Fisher Phillips breaks down the presumption of occupational disease. “This means the law concludes that any such public servants who contract cardiovascular, pulmonary, or respiratory diseases are presumed to have contracted such diseases at work,” said Jerry Cline, a member of the firm’s COVID-19 task force.

Some states have expanded this to other workers who have a higher risk of exposure to COVID-19. “Expect the number of states enacting COVID-19 occupational disease claims to increase, as we are living through a resurgence of increased infection, which will undoubtedly increase the risk of exposure to first responders and related worker classifications,” Cline added.

Thank you again for writing in. I wish you all the good wishes and strength in the world in finding a way through both the emotional, and financial, challenges that lie ahead.

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com

Want to read more?Follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitterand read more of his columns here

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I did not file my taxes because I was afraid I could not afford to pay. Is it too late to file taxes for a $1,200 stimulus check now?


The Moneyist has received hundreds of letters about stimulus checks over the last seven days. Many of these relate to people filing their 2018 or 2019 tax returns late. Here are five of those letters — and one answer:

Dear Moneyist #1,

I was reluctant to file my taxes for 2018 and 2019 for fear of owing what I could not afford to pay. Is it too late to qualify for the first stimulus payment? If so, what was the cut off date for filing your taxes?

Shantae

Dear Moneyist #2,

I didn’t file my 2018 taxes because I had to collect all my tax documents (which were misplaced when we moved). I did file my 2019 taxes in March, but my stimulus check is still showing as “processing.” Will I still get my stimulus check this year once the Internal Revenue Service has finished processing my 2019 taxes?

Jennifer

Dear Moneyist #3,

I receive Social Security. It is my only income, so I did not file tax returns. I get my monthly payment via direct deposit. I have had the same bank-account information for 15 years. Yet I have not received my CARES Act benefit.

Everyone I know has gotten their payment, including those on Social Security. I even know people who have received paper checks. I have never been able to access the IRS tool. It always says, “No information available.” There doesn’t seem to be any way to get help from either the IRS or SSA.

Where is my check?

Sandra

Dear Moneyist #4,

I didn’t file taxes for 2018 and I did it for the first time on April 6 for 2019. So far I haven’t received my stimulus check. Do you think this happened because I filed my taxes too late? I meet all the requirements from the IRS.

Kimberly

Dear Moneyist #5,

I filed my 2018 taxes two days ago, and I have yet to file my 2019 taxes. Is it too late to receive a stimulus check?

N.C.

Dear Late Filers,

First off, you need to make sure you qualify. The IRS is sending $1,200 to individuals with an annual adjusted gross income below $75,000 and $2,400 to married couples filing taxes jointly who earn under $150,000, plus $500 per qualifying child.

The stimulus check is an advance payment of a refundable credit on your 2020 return, so the IRS will take into account 2018 tax returns, if you have not filed your 2019 return yet. If you have not filed your 2018 return, it’s not too late to file now. You may, however, face a late-payment fee.

The agency has said it will continue to process stimulus checks throughout 2020 and, to help people, it has extended the deadline for people filing their 2019 income taxes from April 15 to July 15. More than 130 million stimulus checks have been cut thus far.

High Noon last Wednesday was the deadline for Americans to submit their direct-deposit information to the Internal Revenue Service, the IRS said. Checks mailed out after Wednesday’s deadline would arrive by late May at the earliest.

Dispatches from a pandemic:Letter from New York: ‘New Yorkers wear colorful homemade masks, while nurses wear garbage bags. When I hear an ambulance, I wonder if there’s a coronavirus patient inside. Are there more 911 calls, or do I notice every distant siren?’

Those collecting Social Security and who are not working do not have to file a tax return. The IRS will have those details on file. People who are receiving checks by direct deposit will more than likely receive their payments before those getting paper checks through the mail.

Obviously, this is another reminder to stay current with your taxes to avoid fees and any other legal issues that may occur further down the line. It’s unlikely the IRS will have the manpower to audit people who have not filed, but no one wants the IRS on their case.

People working at state tax offices are working hard to process these payments. New jobless claims have topped 36 million in recent weeks due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. They are working hard to ensure that people get their stimulus money.

The Democratic-run House of Representatives approved a $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill on Friday night; analysts are saying it’s likely that President Donald Trump will end up signing a new aid package into law next month or later following extensive negotiations.

The bottom line: If you do not receive your stimulus check this year, you will receive it next year. People can check the status of their stimulus payment here.

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com

Want to read more?Follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitterand read more of his columns here

Would you like to sign up to an email alert when a new Moneyist column has been published? If so, click on this link.

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‘Giving Tuesday Now’ asks Americans to lend a hand during the coronavirus pandemic — even if they can’t afford to donate


An annual online giving campaign that raises billions for charities is holding an emergency version of the event to help people suffering as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Giving Tuesday usually happens on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, but this Tuesday, May 5, organizers are hosting Giving Tuesday Now “as an emergency response to the unprecedented need caused by COVID-19,” organizers said.

“Communities are encouraged to take action on behalf of first responders, as well as the world’s other — often forgotten — frontline workers: the nonprofits and community organizations that feed, house, educate, and nurture neighbors impacted by the global pandemic,” Giving Tuesday organizers said in a statement.

Giving Tuesday raised $2 billion for U.S. nonprofits in 2019, but since then, the pandemic has dealt a double blow of illness and economic hardship. More than 30 million workers have lost their jobs.

Some 41.5% of U.S. adults say their households have lost jobs or income because of the coronavirus outbreak, and among those, 42% said they could not pay for basic expenses such as rent, mortgage, utilities, groceries or medical care in the past month, a survey conducted between March 25 and April 10 by the Urban Institute and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found.

But even people who can’t afford to donate money to a charity can make a difference, say the organizers of Giving Tuesday Now. In a guide on how individuals can contribute, Giving Tuesday organizers suggest virtual volunteering, posting a video that shares a useful skill, or running errands for a neighbor who’s alone, or just checking in on them so they can hear a friendly voice.

People who have the financial wherewithal can find vetted charities to donate to on the charity rating websites Charity Navigator and CharityWatch. To donate in your own backyard, community foundations and the United Way are two options. Food banks have seen a surge in demand as many cope with hunger. To find one in your area to donate to, check the Feeding America website.

See also:6 ways to help others during the coronavirus outbreak — ‘Everyone is a responder in this crisis’

The pandemic and its economic fallout have hit certain groups harder than others, with African-Americans and other people of color bearing a disproportionate toll of the health impacts. Meanwhile, many low-wage workers face the double risk of contracting the virus and suffering financially. The social isolation of the pandemic is also creating troubling ripple effects, including concerns about an increase in domestic violence and child abuse.

“The most vulnerable among us will be hit the hardest and take the longest to recover,” Regine A. Webster, vice president of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, told MarketWatch in March. “Remember there will be physical health, mental health and economic impacts of the pandemic long after the initial outbreak.”

Some generous Americans have already donated part or all of their $1,200 stimulus checks to charity. People who donate to charity this year can deduct up to $300 of their donation from their taxable income without itemizing, thanks to new rules created by the CARES Act.

Big-name philanthropists and corporations have poured money into responding to the COVID-19 crisis. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, led by Microsoft
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co-founder Bill Gates and his wife, has pitched in $256 million; Twitter
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co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey pledged $1 billion of Square, Inc. stock, Google
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pledged more than $800 million, much of which will be in the form of ad credits to small businesses.

Giving Tuesday was created in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation as a way to promote generosity. This year’s Giving Tuesday is scheduled for Dec. 1, 2020.



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I’m 33, and my fiancée and I plan to save 20% of our $195,000-a-year income. Can we afford to retire before age 60?


iStock

It takes a pile of money to retire in New York City.

Dear Catey,

I’m 33, have no debt and a net worth of $700,000, with $600,000 of that invested (95% in stocks; 5% in bonds), $50,000 in an emergency fund and $50,000 sitting in a bank account so I can invest it later this year if we get a selloff. My fiancée is 30, also has no debt and has a family trust worth $100,000 that’s also invested.

I earn $130,000 a year and am eligible for a $30,000 a year bonus; she earns $65,000 a year and is eligible for a $10,000 bonus. We plan to save 20% of our base salary and half (posttax) of any bonuses we get.

Our question is this: Will we be able to retire — in New York City, where we live now — before age 60?

Best,
M.C.

Dear M.C.,

First of all, congratulations on having amassed a $700,000 net worth at the fairly young age of 33. Compared with your peers, you’re doing very well.

Add to that your hopes of saving 20% a year of both you and your fiancée’s salaries, as well as half the bonus, and you’re likely to be far ahead of your contemporaries in terms of retirement savings — assuming, among many other things, that you invest the money well.

But will that be enough for you two to retire before 60 — and in pricey New York City? That depends on a number of factors, including how lavish of a lifestyle you want to live in the Big Apple. Here’s what experts shared.

On paper — and if all goes according to plan — you guys likely can retire before 60 and in New York City, financial planners tell MarketWatch. “In the plain vanilla projection, yes, you will get there — but that’s with no gray areas,” says certified financial planner Dennis Nolte of Seacrest Investment Services in Winter Park, Fla. “That probably isn’t realistic.”

Here’s how the math might work out for you to retire by 60, explains certified financial planner John Carbonara of NXT Phase Financial Services in Jericho, N.Y. Assuming you and your fiancée have a total of $750,000 invested (that’s everything except the emergency fund) and get a roughly 6% return on that over the next 27 years (when you hit age 60), you’d have more than $3.6 million invested the bank. Now if you add in annual savings)— let’s assume you two save $65,000 a year for 27 years and earn 6% — that could add up to more than $4.1 million.

“Between the current growth of assets and the growth of future savings, there is the possibility they could accumulate $7.57 million by age 60,” explains Carbonara. “If we applied a 4% distribution rate rule to the accumulated amount, someone could draw $310,000 gross annually. Tax rates at retirement would also have to be applied to come up with a net income number.”

Carbonara points out that this is all just hypothetical: “These are big assumptions as bonuses are not guaranteed, we don’t know his tax rate, and we don’t know whether the family could maintain that savings.”

Indeed, you have to factor real life into the equation — including taxes, such as the income tax you might pay withdrawing from your retirement fund and the tax penalties if you need to withdraw pretax retirement funds before 59½, Carbonara says. Nolte notes that you should think about whether or not you will have kids (which can be very expensive) and factor that in, as well as how much you will really need to live on in New York City in retirement.

Certified financial planner Larry Heller, the president of Heller Wealth Management in New York City, adds that housing is another factor to consider: “Will they be purchasing an apartment in NYC or will they be renting? Housing costs in NYC can be very expensive. Purchasing a home could drastically reduce their investible assets,” he explains. “Also, what will they do about health insurance until they are eligible for Medicare?”

These are just some of the things you two need to consider — you may want to talk to a financial planner to go through all the details — but take heart in this: You’re in a very good spot, especially if you tweak as you go.

“They can make changes to the original assumptions along the way and continue to monitor their progress toward a future value goal,” says Carbonara.



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I’m 53, have $1.4 million in my 401(k), $150,000 in savings and my home is paid off. Can I afford to retire?


Hello Catey,

I am a 53-year-old woman who is looking to retire within the next 18 months. I currently have a home that is paid for which I plan to use as a home base. Outside of that home, my assets are $150,000 cash savings and $1.4 million in my 401(k). I plan to travel most of the year outside of the U.S. for the first three years of my retirement.

I hope to have a blog documenting travel/living in various places as a single mature woman. Whenever I am in the U.S., I plan to work jobs that provide a small income with insurance to offset my expenses until reaching Social Security eligibility. I am setting a budget of $30,000 annually for the first five years of my retirement, which should leave me roughly one year to work if I don’t wish to pay a penalty for early withdrawal.

Do I have enough to retire and live the life I’m dreaming of?

Best,
S.D.

Dear S.D.,

As soon as I saw your question, I knew I’d want to answer it, as there’s a raging debate about exactly how much people need to retire. Remember when financial guru Suze Orman threw out the $5 million number and the internet went nuts?

Whatever the number or calculation, one thing is clear: The old $1 million benchmark isn’t going to work for plenty of people.

You, of course, have significantly more than $1 million — but you also hope to retire pretty early. So I turned to experts to get their thoughts on whether you “have enough to retire and live the life [you’re] dreaming of.” Here’s what they told me.

“From a math perspective, yes, you can live the life you are dreaming of,” says Mitchell Hockenbury, a certified financial planner at 1440 Financial Partners in Kansas City, Mo. — but with a big caveat: “I say math perspective because life isn’t always so clean.”

So, the math could work for you, assuming, among other things, that you have smartly invested your 401(k) funds, have saved that $150,000 in a safe spot, and can truly live on about $30,000 a year, experts say.

Hockenbury lays it out like this: The $150,000 in your savings could indeed give you the money to live off $30,000 a year for five years, as you desire; once you spend that you will be 58, and could work for a year and then begin withdrawing from your 401(k) without penalty.

“Presumably, you want to do so until you can take Social Security and then reduce the amount you are pulling from the 401(k). Let’s say the 401(k) maintains the current value of $1.4 million (just to be conservative). The rule of thumb is you can pull 4% as a safe withdrawal rate — that equals $56,000 pretax. Take out the taxes and it puts you ahead of your $30,000 [a year] spending target,” explains Hockenbury. “So the math works, but we are not looking at risk, or adjustments to lifestyle.”

Even if you withdraw 3% — which Corbin Blackwell, a financial planner at Betterment for Business, says may be prudent since your retirement may be longer than 30 years — the math can work. “If you use an even more conservative 3% withdrawal rate, you should be able to safely withdraw $46,500 from your $1,550,000 retirement nest egg [this was adjusted for investment growth] each year. This should be plenty (net of taxes) to cover your $30,000 a year spending budget in retirement. Once your Social Security benefits kick in, you have even more wiggle room. For example, if you receive the average Social Security benefit of $18,036 a year starting at age 67, more than half of your spending will be covered by fixed income,” he explains, concluding that: “While it’s tricky to predict the future, and everyone’s retirement looks different, you’re in a solid financial position.”

Of course, even though the math works, life might not work out quite as well — and you could need more than $30,000 a year to live on, especially if you have a major expense that hurts your bottom line.

Hockenbury says you should think about these, and other, questions when determining whether you can really live the life you are hoping to: Is there anyone you might need to support? How will you afford things like a long-term care event, health insurance or medical issues? How did you calculate your $30,000-a-year living costs (for example, do they include all of the previous considerations) and will this amount work not only when you are traveling but also when you return to the states to live? This guide from investment firm BlackRock can help you figure out how much it might truly cost you to live in retirement, highlighting everything from taxes to one-off pricey expenses to ongoing bills. Plus, you should meet with a financial adviser to make sure your funds are invested smartly, and that there are not other issues you have overlooked that you should factor in.

Bottom line: Figuring out whether you have enough to retire is a far more in-depth process than simply crunching numbers. Hire a pro to walk you through it, and when in doubt, keep saving. As certified financial planner Bobbi Rebell once told me: “No one ever complained they had too much money in retirement.”



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