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I didn’t receive a $1,200 stimulus check earlier in 2020. Will I get a $600 stimulus check this time around?

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Dear Moneyist,

I was married and didn’t qualify for the $1,200 stimulus check based on my 2018 tax returns.

I am now divorced and filed my 2019 tax returns separately. I filed about 10 days after the traditional filing date, so I missed out on the first round.

With a second round of stimulus checks of $600 announced by Congress on Sunday, will the Internal Revenue Service give me a check based on my 2019 return?

Waiting for check(s)

The Moneyist: My father left his estate to me and nothing to my 3 wealthier brothers. They now want their share. Should I do as they say?

Dear Waiting,

Your economic impact payment is effectively an advance on a 2020 tax credit, so you should receive a stimulus payment of up to $1,200 and $600, but they likely won’t arrive until next year, unfortunately.

Last March, the IRS will send $1,200 payments to individuals with adjusted gross annual income below $75,000, and $2,400 to married couples filing taxes jointly who earn under $150,000. This time around, you can only expect $600 check if you make $75,000 or less.


‘Eligible taxpayers who received a smaller-than-expected economic impact payment may qualify to receive an additional amount early next year.’


— Internal Revenue Service guidance

“In many instances, eligible taxpayers who received a smaller-than-expected economic impact payment may qualify to receive an additional amount early next year when they file their 2020 federal income tax return,” the IRS said.

“EIPs are technically an advance payment of a new temporary tax credit that eligible taxpayers can claim on their 2020 return. Everyone should keep for their records the letter they receive by mail within a few weeks after their payment is issued,” it added.

If the IRS doesn’t have a taxpayer’s direct-deposit information on file, the agency will mail checks. You can submit your bank-account and address information through the IRS tracking tool, “Get My Payment.” It should also tell you if the IRS needs more bank-account information.

The Moneyist:‘It was hell!’ I stayed in an Airbnb on my parents’ street for Thanksgiving. My mom pleaded with me NOT to write a bad review. What do I do?

I received hundreds of emails every week from people who had not received their stimulus check in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some were listed as dependents on their parents’ tax returns, which rules them out of receiving a payment this year; others do qualify yet wondered why they have not received a payment.

If the IRS does not have your bank-account information on file, it will likely take longer. Approximately 14 million Americans don’t have bank accounts or 6.5% of U.S. households. Immigration status also plays a role. The government is paying American citizens, and some non–U.S. citizens, including “legal permanent residents” or green-card holders, according to the IRS.

Marriage to a green-card holder does not necessarily mean a second stimulus check, lawyers say. Others have had their stimulus checks garnished due to unpaid child-support payments. If you are behind on student loans, however, that will not impact your payment.

I understand that you are anxious, and I hope that you manage to hold out until next year for your check. 2020 has been a year few people will ever forget, but it’s been a time when millions of Americans are facing the most difficult circumstances together.

The Moneyist:‘I lost my mom 2 months ago and I’m still in a fog’: My brother and his family moved into her home. They want more than half

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions 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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‘I could live on my Social Security and still save money’: This 66-year-old left Chicago for ‘calming’ Costa Rica — where he now plans to live indefinitely

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Editor’s note: This article was first published in September 2019.

A school break changed 66-year-old Martin Farber’s life forever.

In 2007, his daughter — who at the time was attending Illinois State University — decided she wanted to spend a college holiday volunteering in Costa Rica and staying with a local family, he explains. She came home raving about the experience, so, in 2008, Farber — who at the time was living in Evanston, Ill., just outside Chicago, and selling cars — took his first trip there.

“It was a big surprise to me — bumpy roads, dogs barking in the streets,” he says. “I wasn’t enamored at first.”

But as his daughter began traveling there more and eventually moved there for a year, he took additional trips to Costa Rica. It quickly grew on him — in particular, the people. “The Costa Rican people are warm, open and friendly. I felt less invisible in a strange country in a strange town where I didn’t speak the language than I did in Evanston.”

And the more time he spent there, the more it impacted him: “On one of my trips there, I thought: My daughter’s life makes more sense than mine,” he says. “There was nothing wrong with my life, but I felt that my life was out of context with who I’d become. … I would have bills and make money to pay them, but that had ceased to be satisfying,” he recalls. “I knew I needed to change my life — there was no more joy in what I was doing.”

What’s more, when he’d return from his Costa Rica trips, people noticed. “I would come back, and my friends and therapist would say: You seem better after you go,” he says with a laugh.

A view from the hot springs near Martin Farber’s home in Costa Rica.


Martin Farber

So in 2014, he packed up and moved to Orosi — a picturesque, lush small town with waterfalls and hot springs a little over an hour’s drive from San Jose — promising himself he’d stay for two years. It’s been five, and he now plans to stay in Costa Rica indefinitely. (Though Farber notes that, to him, “it’s not a retirement; it’s a chance to lead a new and different life.”)

Here’s what his life is like, from costs to health care to residency to everyday life:

The cost: While many expats spend way more living in Costa Rica, Farber says: “I could live on my Social Security and still save money.” He says “a person can live on $1,200 per month, two people on $2,000.” The key, he says, is to live more like he does and as the Costa Ricans do — in a modest home, eating local food and purchasing local goods.

Indeed, Farber himself spends just $300 a month for rent (he rents a home from a friend who moved recently and gave him a good deal), roughly $225 a month on groceries and just $50 a month total on water and electricity (the temperate climate in Orosi means you rarely need heat or air conditioning). The veteran Volkswagen
VOW,
+0.96%

 
VLKAF,
+0.98%

salesman saves money by not owning a car (those over 65 ride municipal buses for free), which can be a significant expense in Costa Rica; for his cellphone, “I pay as I go … roughly $10 may last me a couple weeks or more,” he says, adding that “many people handle there their cellphones this way. You can get them recharged anywhere.”

His major expense is travel: He goes back to the U.S. to visit his mother in Florida several times a year and lately has spent part of the summer in Chicago helping out a friend with a dealership there. He also spends a good amount of money on health care. He says that while flights can be had for as little as $350 roundtrip during offseasons, the cost can be much higher the rest of the year.

In the saddle.


Martin Farber

Health care: Farber, who has permanent resident status in Costa Rica, says he pays about $90 per month to participate in the country’s health-care system — adding that the health care he’s received has been very good. (A 2018 study of health-care quality and access in more than 190 nations ranked Costa Rica No. 62.)

When he developed a detached retina, though, he paid for the procedure out of pocket so that he didn’t have to wait for the required surgery, he says — adding that the entire procedure cost him about $5,000. “I would have had to have waited four days,” he says, if he had not paid to expedite matters. “That might have been fine, but it might not.” And he adds that the quality of care depends on where you get it in the country.

Lifestyle: Though Farber says that he “moved here with no goals and no agenda,” he’s found plenty to do. “I take Spanish lessons two days a week for two hours a day. It’s been great. I never thought I would acquire a usable language in my 60s,” he says. He also rides his bike all around the area, does some writing and belongs to a community group that undertakes projects to improve the area.

And he often simply takes in nature, which he says has been an essential part of why he feels calmer and more relaxed in Costa Rica than in the U.S. “I live at 3,000 feet but in a valley surrounded by coffee fields and lime trees and water. At night, if I open the windows, I can hear the river rushing by,” he says. “It is very calming … hundreds of trees everywhere … you know the Earth is alive.”

The historic Iglesia de San José de Orosi.


iStock

Cons: “I don’t want to overglorify. It’s not without its problems,” Farber says of Costa Rica. “There are social problems and downsides.” He notes that crime and petty theft can be a problem (“I am cautious,” he says of his approach) and seem to have increased since he moved there, and adds that he misses out on some cultural things because of where he lives. And, he says with a laugh, “I can’t order Thai food at 9 at night.” But, he adds: “These are trade-offs — in the afternoon, I get to walk in the coffee fields and see flocks of parrots.”

Residency: To qualify for Costa Rica’s pensionado visa, expats must prove that they have a pension of at least $1,000 coming in each month. (Here are the details of that program.) Once you have lived in Costa Rica for three years, you can apply for permanent residency. Farber used a lawyer to help him figure out the ins and outs of residency options; his entire path to permanent residency took about a year, he says.

The bottom line: “After five years I am still amazed and surprised that I made the decision to lead a life I never thought I would,” he says. And while he may not stay in Orosi forever — “the town doesn’t have an ambulance, [and] I don’t know what it will be like to be 80 there,” he says — he does plan to stay in Costa Rica in no small part because of the people and sense of community. “I have the feeling that life is good here,” he says. “It’s hard sometimes, but we are all in it together.”



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Mutual Funds Weekly: These money and investing tips can help you read the market’s signs and stay on your path

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