The CARES ACT Makes 401(k) Withdrawals Easier, but Should You?

Customarily, retirement savings plans such as 401(k)s are tough to withdraw from before age 59.5 without accruing penalties and tax withholdings, but the CARES Act, which was passed by Congress in response to the economic hit caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, temporarily eliminated such penalties. Now that you can more easily access assets that have been set aside for future use, should you?

Amended Penalties for Early Withdrawal

Recognizing that many Americans who live paycheck to paycheck would need access to funds in the face of lost income as a result of government shutdowns, Congress passed the CARES Act, which temporarily eliminates the 10% early-withdrawal penalty and the 20% federal tax withholding on early 401(k) withdrawals. Taxes on any withdrawn funds will still be applicable because the original contributions were pre-tax, but whereas those taxes are typically due within the same year as the withdrawal, the CARES Act permits the amount due to be stretched over a period of three years.

Be Aware of Potential Penalties

It may seem as though the vault has been unlocked, but before you decide to take advantage of the easily accessible funds, you should consider the potential ramifications of such a move. If the amount withdrawn isn’t returned within the three-year window (either in one lump sum or in multiple payments over three years), you will be responsible for paying income tax on the withdrawal. This could be a significant amount depending on the size of the withdrawal. It’s also worth remembering that for the amount of time the funds are out of your retirement savings, they discontinue making returns on your investment, which could result in potentially long-term consequences, including compound tax deferred growth benefits.

Remember the End Goal

If you are struggling in today’s economic downturn, the laxed rules and penalties to access retirement funds is tempting, but it’s important to keep the end goal in sight, which is retirement. The long-term impact to your savings, even when it’s paid back over time, may not be worth it. Unless you’re really struggling to make ends meet, the best move is to leave the money in your 401(k). Cashing out now, when the market reflects depressed values, means that you’d be selling low, which isn’t a recommended strategy.

Establishing Long-Term, Sustainable Revenue for Your Business

Experiencing business growth is always exciting for an entrepreneur, but periods of growth aren’t always continuous given that every business has ups and downs. Implement growth strategies with the tips below to help your business become more sustainably profitable over time.

Define the Purpose of Your Business

A clear purpose propels growth, profit, and sustainable success, but business owners must regularly review their objectives to be sure that they’re still serving the company in an authentic way. Does your purpose still prompt strong engagement within the company as well as with clients? Does it still lend itself to focus, drive, and innovation? A genuine and straightforward vision helps both entrepreneurs and team members to create valuable and original products and services.

Maximize Operational Efficiency

Delegate, delegate, delegate. Transferring tasks and projects to qualified employees saves you time by removing the burden of smaller duties from your proverbial plate, which allows you to focus on larger aspects of running a business. Relinquishing some of this control also allows you to move into a business leadership and visionary position at a macro level rather than spinning your wheels at the micro level just to keep the business afloat.

Build Your Brand

Your business can grow by leaps and bounds when you develop a reputable and reliable brand. A well-considered brand will help you stand out among competitors and stay fresh in the minds of both new and potential customers. However much of your budget you can allot to marketing, make sure you pin point your target audience, connect with your audience in an authentic way, and keep your messaging concise, simple, and inspiring.

Cultivate Customer Loyalty

A vital factor of business growth and sustainability is your company’s ability to keep repeat customers. Not only does establishing client loyalty help to bolster sales, it also spurs word-of-mouth testimonies that will bring in more business. Be sure to implement expectations within your hiring, training, and review processes that will strengthen your company’s relationship with customers. Keeping in touch with clients and asking their opinions will also help to ensure repeat business.

Be Attentive to Budgeting

Maintaining a budget keeps unnecessary expenses at bay and necessary expenses within financial means. Additionally, acute awareness of your company’s funds means that you know how much can be spent on marketing, technology, new product, new hires, etc. in any quarter or season. Let your budget slip and you risk delving into debt, which will only slow the long-term growth of your business.

Embrace Change

Businesses can grow under the guidance of flexible and adaptive leaders who are willing to embrace new methods and processes, new technology, new industry standards, etc. All businesses unavoidably experience seasons of growing pains, but how you as an entrepreneur approach those seasons makes all the difference. You can continue to do the things the way you’ve always done them and risk a stagnant business, or you can embrace change and move your business forward.

How to Save a Failing Business

Failure is a very real possibility for small businesses. It’s a reality that will test your resolve as a business owner as well as the durability of your business strategy. When giving up feels like the only option, here are some tips to turn a sinking ship around.

Network

Connect with other business owners, influential people in your industry, and even professional business consultants. The chances are highly likely that you’re not the first business owner to be going through this phase. Be willing to ask questions and be open to new ideas.

Execute A Strategy

Do you have a clear vision of your overall strategy and the bigger picture for your business? If not, consider working with a professional marketing agency or consultant to help develop an effective plan to nurture client relationships and keep customers engaged in the long game, which will translate to consistent sales.

Invest in Employee Trust and Motivation

You wouldn’t have made it this far without significant contribution from your team, but be sure all employees are on the same page. Do they understand your business model and long-term goals? Are their contributions and talents valued? A dedicated and active team will build company morale and translate to better sales, better products, and better output.

Know Your Client Base

Business survival is dependent upon fulfilling customer needs and expectations, so it’s important to always be in tune to the pulse of industry current events, news, products, advertising trends, and overall awareness. Likewise, it’s crucial to keep your ears open to customer engagement, feedback, and satisfaction. Partake in market surveys, meet the customers you’re serving, have one-on-one meetings with clients, and invest in low-cost advertising methods.

Realize the Potential of Your Assets

If you find your business in dire circumstances, relief may come in the form of your company’s assets, which are meant to supply capital for your business. Trading assets might just prove to be the lifeline you need to keep from going under. For example, you can lease out buildings, office space, or machinery for a generous stipend. If at all possible, negotiate a rental or leasing arrangement rather than sell completely. However, if you’re convinced that selling is the right move for you, strive to maintain some proprietary rights in the property.

Go Back to the Drawing Board

Try to determine where things went awry in your business. If you collect data and monitor negative feedback, the trends will give you a clue. Start asking difficult questions about salaries, the amount of staff you’re employing, and compensation packages. What additional cost-cutting actions can you take?

The CARES Act and Small Business Loan Assistance

On March 27 the CARES Act was signed into law in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Below is an overview of the types of assistance available to small businesses in an effort to lessen some of the economic impact.

Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loan

This is a $350 billion loan program that will provide loans to small businesses for 2.5 times the average monthly payroll based on payroll reports from the previous year, with a cap of $10 million.

The interest rate for the Payment Protection Plan is 1%, and loan payments for any non-forgivable parts will be deferred for six months. The loan can become forgivable if funds are used for approved expenses: payroll costs, including continuation of health care benefits during periods of paid sick, medical, or family leave; insurance premiums; employee salaries and commissions; payments of interest on any mortgage obligation, rent, and utilities; and interest on any other debt obligation incurred before February 15, 2020. No more than 25% of the loan forgiveness can be related to non-payroll costs, and the amount of the loan available for forgiveness will be reduced if full-time employee count, salaries, or wages decrease.

Businesses and charitable nonprofits with fewer than 500 employees, self-employed individuals, sole proprietors, and independent contractors are eligible. There may be some exception to larger restaurant and hospitality businesses who have less than 500 employees per location.

Emergency Economic Injury Grants

Small businesses, private nonprofits, sole proprietors, and independent contractors who were in operation as of January 31, 2020 are also eligible for $10,000 of SBA economic injury disaster loans (EIDLs) without a repayment requirement. These loans can be used to pay for expenses such as payroll, paid sick leave to employees, production costs, as well as business debts, rent, and mortgage payments. However, using these funds to refinance pre-existing debt or to pay dividends in not permitted. The deadline to apply for an EIDL is December 16, 2020 for most states.

Debt Relief for SBA Borrowers

Included in the stimulus package is $17 billion for immediate relief to small businesses through standard SBA 7(a), 504, or microloans, which covers loan payments for existing SBA borrowers for six months. This includes principal, interest, and fees. This relief is also offered to new borrowers who take out an SBA loan within six months after March 27, 2020.

Employee Retention Credit

For employers whose businesses were fully or partially suspended as a result of COVID-19, the CARES Act specifies a refundable payroll tax credit for 50% of wages paid by employers during the pandemic. This also applies to business owners whose gross receipts declined by more than 50% when measured against the same quarter in 2019.  Qualified employers with 100 employees or less are entitled to the credit, whether business is open or subject to a shut-down order. However, employers with greater than 100 employees qualify for the credit based on wages paid to employees while business is halted due to COVID 19-related circumstances.

Taxes You Could Face in Retirement

As an American worker, relinquishing part of your income to taxes is standard practice, but once you move out of the workforce, much of your retirement income is subject to taxes as well. Below are some possible taxes you could face in retirement.

Social Security Taxes

If you have income in addition to Social Security, you will likely lose a portion of your benefits to federal taxes. To determine if your Social Security benefit will be taxable, you need to determine your provisional income. This is your income outside of Social Security—including pension payments, traditional 401(k) and IRA withdrawals, and income from a part-time job—plus half of your yearly benefits. If your provisional income totals more than $25,000 for individuals and $32,000 for couples, 50% of your Social Security benefit will be taxable. If your provisional income exceeds $34,000 for individuals and $44,000 for couples, up to 85% of your Social Security benefit will be subject to tax.

Retirement Plan Penalties

A common tax deduction tactic among workers is to deposit money in an IRA shortly before filing taxes in order to defer paying income tax on the new contributions, but this is not an option after age 70 ½. Additionally, if you miss a required distribution from your retirement accounts after age 70 ½, you will incur a 50% penalty, which is added to the income tax due on retirement account distributions. However, Roth IRAs don’t have distribution requirements in retirement, and workers older than 70 ½ might be able to delay 401(k) distributions.

Taxes on Pension Income

With the possible exception of military or disability pension, you should expect to pay taxes on pension income. However, if you contributed after-tax dollars to your pension, you won’t be required to pay tax on that part of the contribution.

Taxes on Investment Sales

If you intend to sell some investments in retirement, expect to report that sale on your tax return as a short-term or long-term capital gain or loss. Long-term gains are generally taxed at a lower rate than other types of income, but you must hold the investment for at least a year and a day in order to qualify for long-term gains. Interest income and dividends will also continue to be taxed as they were before retirement.