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MONEY TALK WITH MARIE

What's on your mind

Life is Unpredictable: Taking Control Through Estate Planning

Life throws curveballs. One minute you're feeling healthy and strong, the next you might face an unexpected illness or accident. While we can't predict the future, there are steps we can take to ensure our wishes are respected and our loved ones are cared for, even when we can't speak for ourselves. This is where estate planning comes in, and it's more than just wills and inheritance.

  • Reduce Stress on Loved Ones: During a difficult time, your family shouldn't have to grapple with uncertainty about your wishes. A well-defined estate plan provides a roadmap, lessening the burden on them and allowing them to focus on supporting you.

  • Ensure Your Wishes are Respected: Imagine a situation where you can't communicate your medical preferences. An estate plan, including a healthcare directive, allows you to clearly outline your wishes for treatment, giving you a voice even when you can't speak.

  • Protect Your Assets: A proper plan safeguards your assets and ensures they're distributed according to your desires. This can minimize confusion and potential conflict among beneficiaries.

  • Appoint Guardians for Dependents: If you have minor children or dependent family members, estate planning allows you to designate guardians who will care for them in your absence. This provides peace of mind knowing your loved ones will be looked after.
     

Getting Started with Estate Planning:

  • Estate planning doesn't have to be overwhelming. Here are some initial steps:

  • Gather Information: Familiarize yourself with basic estate planning concepts like wills, healthcare directives, and powers of attorney.

  • Consider Your Needs: Think about your assets, loved ones, and any specific wishes you have.

  • Consult a Professional: An experienced estate planning attorney can guide you through the process, tailor a plan to your unique situation, and answer any questions you may have.

  • Remember, estate planning isn't just about what happens after you're gone. It's about taking control of the present and ensuring your future, whatever it may hold. By planning ahead, you gain peace of mind knowing your loved ones will be cared for and your wishes will be respected, even during life's unexpected moments.

Remember, estate planning isn't just about what happens after you're gone. It's about taking control of the present and ensuring your future, whatever it may hold. By planning ahead, you gain peace of mind knowing your loved ones will be cared for and your wishes will be respected, even during life's unexpected moments.

SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION LAUNCHES LOANS FOR SMALL BUSINESSES AMID BALTIMORE BRIDGE COLLAPSE

Small businesses and private nonprofit organizations affected by the collapse are welcome to apply for SBA's federal EIDLs.

In the wake of the tragic Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse on March 26, 2024, SBA Administrator Isabel Casillas Guzman announced on March 30

that impacted small businesses across the Mid-Atlantic region could apply for low-interest, long-term Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs) from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

According to the SBA, the loan availability comes in response to a disaster declaration request from Maryland Gov. Wes Moore on March 29, encompassing the entire state along with contiguous counties in the District of Columbia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Small businesses, agricultural cooperatives, aquaculture businesses, and private nonprofit organizations are welcome to apply for federal EIDLs of up to $2 million to counteract temporary decreases in revenue due to the collapse. These loans, with interest rates of 4% for small businesses, 3.25% for private nonprofits, and terms up to 30 years, can cover operating expenses like fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable, and other unpaid financial obligations due to the disruption.

 

“As Baltimore and the wider community mourn and start to rebuild, the SBA and the Biden-Harris Administration stand ready to help local small businesses get through the economic disruption caused by the bridge collapse,” Guzman said. As previously covered by BLACK ENTERPRISE, The Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore collapsed last week after a container ship crashed into a support column, reportedly causing seven cars to plummet into the Patapsco River.

Francisco Sánchez, Jr., associate administrator for the SBA’s Office of Disaster Recovery and Resilience, stated: “The bridge collapse will impact small businesses who depend on the transportation and movement of goods from the Baltimore Harbor and along the Francis Scott Key Bridge for their economic livelihood.”

 

Black Roots Run Deep:

Country music's twangy melodies and storytelling lyrics owe a huge debt to African American musical traditions. Work songs sung by enslaved people, with their rhythmic call-and-response format, laid the groundwork for the antiphonal singing styles found in country music. Spirituals, sung with soulful vocals and harmonies, heavily influenced the sound that became synonymous with the genre. The banjo, a staple of country music, descended from West African lutes brought over during the slave trade.


Black Artists, Paved the Way:

Despite their undeniable influence, Black artists faced immense challenges breaking into country music. Charley Pride, who began his career in the 1950s, shattered barriers to become the first Black country superstar. DeFord Bailey, a phenomenal guitarist and early Grand Ole Opry star, faced discrimination but left a lasting mark with his innovative fingerpicking style. These pioneers, along with Darius Rucker and Rhiannon Giddens in recent years, laid the groundwork for a more inclusive country music scene.

 

Beyond Country: A Legacy Woven Throughout Music:

The impact of Black music extends far beyond the country. Blues, with its focus on improvisation and storytelling, formed the foundation for rock and roll, influencing countless genres. Jazz, born from Black American traditions, revolutionized musical composition and improvisation, forever changing the music landscape. Early R&B and soul artists like Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin introduced elements of gospel and blues to mainstream audiences, shaping the sound of popular music as we know it.

 

A Call for Recognition and Celebration:

"Cowboy Carter" serves as a powerful reminder that Black artists have always been at the forefront of shaping American music, including country music. While their contributions are undeniable, their stories are often overlooked. Beyoncé's exploration of the genre, intentional or not, forces us to confront this blind spot and celebrate the rich tapestry of influences that make American music so vibrant.

So next time you hear a twangy guitar or a soulful melody, remember the Black roots that run deep within country music, and the enduring legacy of Black music that continues to shape the sounds we love

 

1. Build Your Emergency Fund: Aim to save 3-6 months of living expenses to create a safety net for unexpected expenses like car repairs, medical bills, or job loss. This financial cushion can provide peace of mind and prevent you from going into debt in an emergency.

2. Pay Down Debt: Prioritize high-interest debt like credit cards or payday loans. Paying them down reduces the amount of interest you pay over time and frees up more of your income for other goals. This can significantly improve your financial health and credit score.

3. Invest in Your Future: Contribute to your retirement savings through an IRA or 401(k) to benefit from tax advantages and compound interest. This is an excellent way to grow your wealth for the long term and prepare for a secure retirement.

4. Invest in Yourself: Use your refund to invest in yourself by taking a career development course, learning a new skill, or pursuing a personal goal that requires financial investment. This can enhance your earning potential and lead to new opportunities.

5. Improve Your Home: Invest in essential home repairs or maintenance you've been putting off. You can also consider making energy-efficient upgrades to save money on future utility bills and increase your home's value.

6. Help Others: Donate to a charity you care about or support a friend or family member in need. Giving back can be a fulfilling way to use your refund and make a positive impact on others.

7. Save for a Specific Goal: Use your refund as a jumpstart for a specific goal, such as a down payment on a house, a dream vacation, or a child's education. Having a concrete goal in mind can help you stay motivated and track your progress.

REMEMBER: An IRS refund is money the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) pays you back when you have overpaid your taxes for the previous year. 

 

Consider part-time work, seasonal jobs, or the gig economy.

  • Delay claiming: If possible, delaying claiming until age 70 maximizes your monthly benefit. Early claiming permanently reduces it.

  • Explore spousal benefits: Even if you haven't paid much into Social Security, you might be eligible for spousal benefits based on your former partner's earnings history.

Seek Government Assistance:

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI): This federal program provides monthly cash assistance to low-income seniors with limited resources. While income limits vary, explore eligibility on the Social Security Administration website.

  • Medicare: This program helps cover healthcare costs for people over 65. Enroll as soon as eligible to avoid penalties.

  • Medicaid: If you have low income and limited assets, this program might help cover medical expenses not covered by Medicare.

  • Housing assistance: Explore programs like Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers or public housing options based on your income and location. 

Additional Income Streams:

  • Part-time work: Look for flexible jobs suitable for your skills and limitations. Gig platforms, remote work opportunities, or local businesses could be options.

  • Monetize hobbies or skills: Consider selling crafts, offering freelance services, or teaching online courses based on your skills and interests.

  • Rent out a room or unused space: If feasible, renting out a room or even offering storage space through platforms like Neighbor can generate extra income.

Debt Management:

  • Create a budget: Track your income and expenses meticulously to identify areas for cutting back. Prioritize essential needs like housing and healthcare.

  • Seek credit counseling: If managing debt feels overwhelming, non-profit credit counseling agencies can provide guidance and negotiate with creditors.

  • Explore debt consolidation: Depending on your situation, consolidating debt into a single loan with a lower interest rate could simplify repayment.

Professional Guidance:

  • Financial advisor: While traditional retirement planning might not be the focus, a financial advisor specializing in low-income or late-stage planning can offer personalized strategies and identify resource opportunities.

  • Senior benefits counselor: These professionals can help navigate government programs and entitlements tailored to your specific situation.

Lifestyle Adjustments:

  • Downsize expenses: Analyze your spending habits and find areas to cut back, like entertainment, subscriptions, or dining out. Consider downsizing your living space if feasible.

  • Utilize community resources: Look for senior centers, food banks, or community gardens that offer free or low-cost services and support.

  • Embrace a positive mindset: Focus on progress, celebrate small wins, and seek support from friends, family, or online communities.

Remember:

  • While starting late makes things more challenging, it's still possible to create a more secure future.

  • Take control of your finances, make informed decisions, and seek professional help when needed.

  • Focus on maximizing benefits, exploring additional income streams, managing debt, and adjusting your lifestyle.

  • Maintain a positive outlook and remember that every step you take is progress towards a more secure future.

Additional Resources:

 

Woke Up Like This: Beyoncé's "Cowboy Carter" and the Black Roots of Country Music

Let's be honest, when Beyoncé dropped "Cowboy Carter," Act II of her Renaissance project, eyebrows were raised. Queen Bey tackling country music? This unexpected genre exploration sparked a firestorm of conversation, leaving me, a Black woman music lover, with a question: where does country music come from, anyway?

Turns out, the answer isn't as simple as overalls and dusty roads. My initial surprise at Beyoncé's foray into country music led me down a rabbit hole – a fascinating one, at that. Here's what I discovered:

7 SMART WAYS TO PUT YOUR REFUND TO GOOD USE:
 

Getting a tax refund can be exciting! But before you splurge, consider how you can use this windfall to improve your financial situation or achieve your goals.
Here are 7 smart ways to put your refund to good use:

HOW CAN I RETIRE? I’M 67, HAVE NOTHING SAVED, AND AM COMING OUT OF BANKRUPTCY. I HAVE PAID VERY LITTLE INTO SOCIAL SECURITY.

It's completely understandable to feel unsure about retirement in your situation. While it presents considerable challenges, it's not impossible to navigate towards a more secure future. Here are some key points to consider, expanding on the previous advice:

Maximize Social Security:

  • Explore work options: Even a few months of additional work can significantly increase your benefits.

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