Day: September 15, 2020

Retire Better: Just because it’s easier to raid your retirement accounts doesn’t mean you should

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If you live in Tucson, Ariz., and like barbecue, Brooks McDaniel is the man to see. Or at least was.

In February 2019, McDaniel, then 38, cleaned out his 401 (k), all $16,000 of it, and started up a food van. “Black Market BBQ” he called it.

“The first year we did really well,” he says.

Then the pandemic hit.

Everything shut down almost overnight, McDaniel says, business dried up, and here it is half-a-year later, and he has no idea when or if things will get back to normal.

Meantime, while McDaniel’s 401(k) remained empty, the stock market rose throughout 2019, then plunged during the early stage of the pandemic, then surged in a rally that took the S&P 500 SPX, +0.89%  to an all-time high in early September. If you consider that the index rose about 23% between early February 2019 and Friday’s close, the $16,000 McDaniel withdrew would have grown to some $19,700, not including dividends.

Read: Biden’s 401(k) plan: Changing tax incentive for retirement saving is a great idea

McDaniel, a smart, hardworking young man, will likely make up for this over the long run; he has decades of work ahead of him and there will be future market rallies. And it’s important to mention that his wife, Jessica, has a good job at the University of Arizona. So the couple—and a daughter, born in June—have money coming in and health care.

Yet it’s no fun missing out on a rally (I missed a few myself when I was younger), and serves as a reminder to be careful when taking money out of a retirement plan. And yet because of the pandemic and resulting economic crash (GDP collapsed at a near 32% annual pace in the second quarter), many people have had to raid their accounts, often out of sheer necessity.

Read: In a desperate scramble for poll workers, some companies are pitching in

The federal government has made this easier to do. As recently as March, if you wanted to take money out of a 401(k) and were younger than age 59½, you had to pay a 10% penalty on the amount, which was also taxed. But the CARES Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump on March 27, waives the penalty; this has surely encouraged some cash-strapped Americans to take money out. Whatever you take out is still taxed, but you’re allowed to spread the burden over three years if you wish.

If you have an IRA and/or a 403(b) plans, the loosening of restrictions is similar. Here’s a page on the IRS website that gives more details in—a rarity for the government—fairly straightforward language.

I certainly empathize with anyone who has had to tap into these accounts. Millions of jobs have been lost, the bills keep coming in—what are you going to do? And yet, the S&P 500 has soared 31% since the CARES Act was signed. Again, you never know when the market will rebound.

But instead of tapping into your retirement funds—to either start a business or get by during the kind of rough patch that millions of Americans have had to endure this year, there are other options that may be worth considering.

“I recognize that many people don’t have this luxury, but the best thing, if you are able, is to build up a rainy-day fund, say six months’ of living expenses in cash,” says Reginald Nosegbe, founder and chief executive officer of Valspresso, Inc., a Reston, Va.-based financial technology and investment strategy firm. “But when you deplete a retirement account, for whatever the reason, you’re essentially market timing, and it’s hard to win trying to time the market.”

Nosegbe offers one idea: Instead of cleaning out a retirement account, consider using it as collateral and borrowing against it. “This can help you stay invested for the long term,” he points out, “which improves your chances of having a more secure retirement.”

He’s quick to add that you should talk with a trusted investment adviser before making any moves, and if you don’t have one, find one.

Meantime, Chad Parks, founder and chief executive officer of Ubiquity Retirement + Savings, takes it even further. His advice: Not only should you leave your retirement funds alone, you should consider adding to them if you possibly can. Easier said than done.

“Look at your spending pre- and post-pandemic,” Parks says. “Try to come out the other side more mindful of where you are spending your money. The more money you can put away earlier, the more time you can buy yourself in the future. Find a silver lining in this mayhem by changing your habits to set yourself up for an earlier retirement.”

There’s another kind of low-hanging fruit that many Americans have been using to raise cash make to through the pandemic: Credit cards. This is a real no-no, given the exorbitant interest rates that issuers typically charge. Yet, says a study by, some 23% of Americans have used plastic to raise cash. Avoid this method of financing at all costs.

If, like many of us, you don’t have a few months’ cash in the bank, here’s another idea to consider: a home equity line of credit (HELOC) that allows you to borrow from a bank, using whatever equity you’ve built up as collateral. Just as mortgage rates have plunged to record lows this year, HELOC rates have fallen sharply too; chances are you may be able to lock in a pretty affordable rate. But as is the case with any financial product, there are potential land mines to be aware of.

You may also be able to borrow against a life insurance policy, depending on what type of policy you have. A whole life policy for example, will probably let you borrow cash based on premiums you’ve already paid. A term policy probably won’t. Proceed carefully here, and make sure you understand the pros and cons.

Deep Dive: Semiconductor stocks are hot, and these numbers say they have more room to run

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Investors are willing to pay dearly for growth in this stock market environment. But if you turn away from headlines about large merger deals, you may be surprised that some chip makers are trading at valuations well below that of the S&P 500 Index, which includes plenty of slow-growing companies.

Nvidia Inc. US:NVDA  made a big splash Monday when it announced a $40 billion deal to acquire Arm Holdings. This would broaden Nvidia’s manufacturing scale, setting it up to better compete with Intel Corp. US:INTC  and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. US:AMD. Nvidia’s stock has risen so much that it trades for 51.5 times the consensus earnings estimate among analysts polled by FactSet. That’s up from 33.9 at the end of 2019.

In June, we looked at the components of the iShares PHLX Semiconductor ETF US:SOXX, which holds all 30 stocks in the PHLX Semiconductor Index US:SOX. At the time, the semiconductor group was recovering more rapidly from the coronavirus doldrums of March than the S&P 500 Index was.

SOXX has accelerated, relative to the broader market, since then. Here’s how the ETF has performed this year against the SPDR S&P 500 ETF US:SPY :

The semiconductor group is outpacing the S&P 500 this year.

Semiconductor group is cheap

Here’s a chart comparing forward price to earnings ratios, based on consensus earnings estimates for the subsequent 12 months on a rolling basis among analysts polled by FactSet for SOXX and the S&P 500 Index US:SPX :


As of the close Sept. 14, SOXX was trading for 19.8 times forward earnings estimates — the same price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio it had Dec. 31. Meanwhile, the forward P/E for the S&P 500 US:SPX  has increased to 22.1 from 18.3 at the end of 2020.

Based on the most recent quarterly results available through Sept. 14, two-thirds of the SOXX 30 showed increases in revenue for their most recently reported quarter from a year earlier. In comparison, only about a third of the S&P 500 showed year-over-year increases in quarterly sales.

Here are the 30 SOXX stocks, listed by their percentage of the ETF’s portfolio, along with current forward P/E ratios, those at the end of 2019, quarterly sales-growth figures and year-to-date total returns. You will need to scroll the table at the bottom, to the right, to see all the data:

Company Ticker P/E ratio P/E ratio – Dec. 31, 2019 Quarterly sales growth Total return – 2020 Share of SOXX portfolio
Nvidia Corp. US:NVDA   51.5 33.9 50% 119% 9.8%
Qualcomm Inc. US:QCOM   19.6 21.1 -49% 31% 9.5%
Broadcom Inc. US:AVGO   14.5 13.6 6% 18% 8.4%
Texas Instruments Inc. US:TXN   27.9 27.4 -12% 10% 7.9%
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. ADR US:TSM   26.9 21.9 34% 40% 5.4%
Intel Corp. US:INTC   11.5 12.9 20% -16% 5.3%
Advanced Micro Devices Inc. US:AMD   55.1 42.6 26% 70% 4.9%
NXP Semiconductors NV US:NXPI   23.5 15.9 -18% 0% 4.1%
Lam Research Corp. US:LRCX   14.6 17.9 18% 5% 3.8%
Micron Technology Inc. US:MU   14.1 18.7 14% -9% 3.5%
Analog Devices Inc. US:ADI   21.3 25.0 -2% -2% 3.4%
Applied Materials Inc. US:AMAT   12.3 16.4 23% -7% 3.4%
ASML Holding NV ADR US:ASML   35.0 29.5 27% 25% 3.3%
KLA Corp. US:KLAC   15.8 17.7 16% 1% 3.3%
Marvell Technology Group Ltd. US:MRVL   34.7 35.0 11% 48% 3.1%
Microchip Technology Inc. US:MCHP   17.1 18.8 -1% -1% 3.0%
Xilinx Inc. US:XLNX   35.0 31.4 -14% 5% 2.9%
Skyworks Solutions Inc. US:SWKS   21.3 18.7 -4% 15% 2.7%
Maxim Integrated Products Inc. US:MXIM   27.0 26.4 -2% 10% 2.1%
Qorvo Inc. US:QRVO   17.2 19.3 2% 6% 1.7%
Teradyne Inc. US:TER   21.7 21.1 49% 13% 1.5%
Monolithic Power Systems Inc. US:MPWR   49.1 39.8 23% 40% 1.3%
Entegris Inc. US:ENTG   27.0 22.1 18% 36% 1.1%
ON Semiconductor Corp. US:ON   22.1 16.6 -10% -10% 1.1%
Cree Inc. US:CREE   N/A N/A -18% 36% 0.8%
MKS Instruments Inc. US:MKSI   14.7 19.9 15% -5% 0.7%
Cabot Microelectronics Corp. US:CCMP   20.8 20.6 1% 2% 0.5%
Silicon Laboratories Inc. US:SLAB   34.0 34.7 0% -16% 0.5%
Semtech Corp. US:SMTC   30.0 32.5 5% 6% 0.4%
Cirrus Logic Inc. US:CRUS   18.1 26.1 2% -27% 0.4%
Source: FactSet

You can click on the tickers for more about each company.

Qualcomm Inc. US:QCOM, the second-largest holding of SOXX, had a 49% decline in fiscal third-quarter earnings, because the year-earlier quarterly revenue of $9.64 billion included $4.7 billion from a settlement with Apple and contract manufacturers, and $150 million in revenue from an interim agreement with Huawei. Excluding those items, Qualcomm’s $4.89 billion in revenue for the fiscal third quarter of 2020 would have been up 2% from a year earlier.

Here’s a summary of ratings and consensus price targets for the group:

Company Ticker Share ‘buy’ ratings Share neutral ratings Share ‘sell’ ratings Closing price – Sept. 14 Consensus price target Implied 12-month upside potential
Nvidia Corp. US:NVDA   81% 14% 5% $514.89 $553.93 8%
Qualcomm Inc. US:QCOM   64% 29% 7% $113.46 $122.18 8%
Broadcom Inc. US:AVGO   84% 16% 0% $362.20 $401.31 11%
Texas Instruments Inc. US:TXN   39% 45% 16% $138.53 $141.12 2%
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. ADR US:TSM   87% 6% 7% $80.50 $69.37 -14%
Intel Corp. US:INTC   30% 45% 25% $49.41 $57.22 16%
Advanced Micro Devices Inc. US:AMD   39% 53% 8% $77.90 $78.32 1%
NXP Semiconductors NV US:NXPI   71% 29% 0% $125.70 $130.38 4%
Lam Research Corp. US:LRCX   87% 13% 0% $305.42 $406.52 33%
Micron Technology Inc. US:MU   76% 21% 3% $49.03 $64.06 31%
Analog Devices Inc. US:ADI   78% 22% 0% $114.62 $138.80 21%
Applied Materials Inc. US:AMAT   76% 24% 0% $56.46 $77.52 37%
ASML Holding NV ADR US:ASML   58% 33% 9% $367.94 $412.20 12%
KLA Corp. US:KLAC   37% 63% 0% $178.08 $218.13 22%
Marvell Technology Group Ltd. US:MRVL   75% 21% 4% $39.22 $41.42 6%
Microchip Technology Inc. US:MCHP   79% 21% 0% $102.21 $119.24 17%
Xilinx Inc. US:XLNX   31% 58% 11% $101.72 $110.34 8%
Skyworks Solutions Inc. US:SWKS   64% 36% 0% $137.79 $146.60 6%
Maxim Integrated Products Inc. US:MXIM   16% 84% 0% $66.35 $74.97 13%
Qorvo Inc. US:QRVO   64% 36% 0% $122.84 $140.50 14%
Teradyne Inc. US:TER   35% 53% 12% $76.82 $89.32 16%
Monolithic Power Systems Inc. US:MPWR   83% 9% 8% $247.60 $285.22 15%
Entegris Inc. US:ENTG   70% 30% 0% $67.65 $75.78 12%
ON Semiconductor Corp. US:ON   54% 35% 11% $22.01 $23.98 9%
Cree Inc. US:CREE   13% 80% 7% $62.64 $65.46 5%
MKS Instruments Inc. US:MKSI   82% 18% 0% $104.41 $147.82 42%
Cabot Microelectronics Corp. US:CCMP   20% 60% 20% $146.16 $160.50 10%
Silicon Laboratories Inc. US:SLAB   58% 42% 0% $96.87 $114.60 18%
Semtech Corp. US:SMTC   77% 23% 0% $56.23 $63.69 13%
Cirrus Logic Inc. US:CRUS   64% 36% 0% $60.04 $82.63 38%
Source: FactSet

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Mark Hulbert: Here’s the big secret of how the richest Americans made their wealth

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Don’t look to the richest Americans for investment advice. That’s the conclusion I draw from the latest edition of the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans, which was released earlier this month. Over the past year, the wealthiest Americans on balance did not do as well with their investments as the S&P 500 SPX, +1.27%  . In fact, they didn’t even do as well as a standard 60/40 portfolio of stock- and bond index funds.

This puts in a different light the $240 billion by which the richest Americans became richer over the last year. Some commentators have made a big deal out of this big increase coming while much of the U.S. economy is struggling from the pandemic.

But in percentage terms this increase amounts to 8.1%, which is not as good as the stock market. Between September 6, 2019 and July 24, 2020, the dates on which Forbes calculated their 2019 and 2020 lists, the S&P 500 (with dividends reinvested) gained 9.8%. A 60% stock/40% bond portfolio that invested the fixed-income portion in the Vanguard Total Bond Market Index Fund VBMFX,   would have made 8.8% over this period. (See chart below.)

The rich view the stock market primarily as a vehicle for preserving the purchasing power of their already-amassed fortunes.

So there’s nothing particularly noteworthy that these richest Americans did to increase their net worth over the past year. The disconnect that commentators should be focusing on is between the U.S. economy and the stock market, rather than with the super wealthy in particular.

Nor is it a fluke that these richest Americans didn’t beat the market. According to my calculations, the same has been true in each of several previous years as well:

Increase over previous year of the combined wealth of those on the Forbes 400 list

Comparable gain of S&P 500

Forbes 2020 list



Forbes 2019 list



Forbes 2018 list



Forbes 2017 list



Are you surprised by these results? You will be only if you make the mistake of thinking that these richest Americans acquired their wealth on Wall Street. But my analysis of the Forbes 400 lists over the years reveals that almost all of them made their fortunes either through starting a company that eventually made it big or through inheritance. As far as I can tell, the rich view the stock market primarily as a vehicle for preserving the purchasing power of their already-amassed fortunes rather than for creating those fortunes in the first place.

Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway BRK.A, +0.79%   BRK.B, +0.92%  is an exception, of course. But his investment return is so much better than anyone else’s that I consider him the exception that proves the rule.

So keep these results in mind the next time your eye is drawn to a headline touting the investment secrets of the super wealthy. To the extent they have a secret, it is that you should log off your day-trading app, get up out of your chair, and go create something that the world wants and needs.

Mark Hulbert is a regular contributor to MarketWatch. His Hulbert Ratings tracks investment newsletters that pay a flat fee to be audited. He can be reached at

More:Should I still use the 60/40 investing rule for retirement?

Plus:Do you really need $8 million saved up for retirement?

Where Should I Retire?: I’ll retire with a military pension and want to move to a bicycle-friendly, beer-loving place — so where should I go?

This post was originally published on this site

Dear MarketWatch,

I have five years until I retire. I have a nest egg of $1 million and will also have a monthly military pension of approximately $6,000, and Social Security on top of that.

I like cycling 60 miles a day and want to retire in a place that is known for good, safe cycling. I hate hot humid weather and don’t want a lot of snow. I love craft beer. And I would prefer a place with limited or no income tax on a military pension.

Where should I retire? Fort Collins, Colorado, and Asheville, N.C., seem like good places, but the cost of living in Fort Collins seems above average, and I am told Asheville has a lack of housing.

What other places should I consider and how do they compare with the two locations already mentioned? My wife likes the sound of “the Hill County in Texas,” but she knows the heat is bad.


Dear Charles,

The Fort Collins and Asheville areas sound lovely. And popular places tend to be more expensive — that’s just the reality of supply and demand. If that’s where you want to be, the trade-off might be as simple as a smaller house/condo/rental.

You also could seek cheaper housing a bit further from these two cities — Greeley, Colo. (don’t believe everything about the smell), or Hendersonville, N.C. (recommended here), for example. Or what about Raleigh-Durham, with the American Tobacco Trail as the trail network’s spine? You’d have to accept more humidity with that one, however.

I started my search by looking at the League of American Bicyclists’ bicycle-friendly communities. Five, including Fort Collins, are platinum. Housing in only one is cheaper than Fort Collins, but I don’t think you’ll appreciate the snow in Madison, Wis. I ruled out Davis, Calif., because the state is one of seven that taxes military retirement pay in full. (It doesn’t tax Social Security checks, though.)

So I looked further down the list while taking weather and taxes into consideration. You can estimate your state taxes using this calculator, but you may want to verify that with a tax professional.

I’ve described three suggestions for you below. Boise (a silver-level BFC) and Corvallis, Ore. (a gold BFC), recommended here and here, may be other places to consider.

As always, taxes, housing costs, the number of craft brewers and even bike-friendliness can change over the next five years. And some of these places may not mesh with whatever your wife’s wish list includes.

Another piece of advice: Be sure to experience a place in all weather, or at least the worst season, to make sure it’s a fit. Data can only tell you so much. Consider renting, at least at first. Your pension and Social Security may cover your regular expenses, but don’t make yourself house-poor.

Equally, state income taxes aren’t always everything. Virginia, which does tax retirement pay, is rated the best state for military retirees according to this survey and scores second-highest for the “economic environment,” behind Alabama.

Why not check out your shortlist on a bike tour?

A kayaker and a paddleboarder in Mead’s Quarry, part of the Ijams Nature Center in the South Knoxville section of Knoxville, Tenn.

Justin Fe/Visit Knoxville
Instead of Asheville…Knoxville, Tenn.

Asheville is one of America’s premier craft beer destinations, but Knoxville has an above-average number of breweries too. By moving here, you’d get a city twice the size (nearly 190,000 people) and the state’s flagship university (33,000 students and the potential for practically free classes starting at age 65). You’d be in a valley with the Smoky Mountains visible to the east; Asheville’s elevation is more than 1,000 feet higher. Average July highs would be a couple of degrees warmer than in Asheville, and January highs would be a couple of degrees cooler, but a little less snow.

Knoxville is a bronze-level bike-friendly community, as is Asheville. Check out bike rides that tour the breweries. You can also join BikeWalk Knoxville on one of its rides to explore the city.

Tennessee has been reducing its state income tax and will abolish it at the end of 2020. North Carolina will give you a more modest break on your pension and tax your Social Security check.

Housing is much cheaper in Knoxville than in Asheville, whether buying or renting. Here’s what’s for sale in Knoxville now, using listings from (which, like MarketWatch, is owned by News Corp.

And here’s Asheville.

You can flip to the rental market for both.

A sunrise near Wenatchee, Wash.

Courtesy Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce
Instead of Fort Collins…Wenatchee Valley, Washington

The Wenatchee Valley is a bronze-level bicycle-friendly area of 67,000 people in central Washington, so far from Fort Collins’ platinum status and even smaller than Asheville. The city of Wenatchee has nearly 35,000 residents, and the narrow, 50-mile-long Lake Chelan is an hour away. This is an agricultural area — fruit is a big crop, and there’s wine, too — so you should have plenty of rural roads to pedal on. Yes, you’ll also find craft brewers

Washington state doesn’t have an income tax, so Wenatchee checks that box. Colorado offers some tax breaks on both military pensions and Social Security.

The Wenatchee area is more affordable and less busy than Fort Collins, which you should think of as a cheaper(!) version of Boulder. Fort Collins has 170,000 people, plus there are almost another 80,00 in neighboring Loveland and 110,000 in Greeley. The plus side is that it gives you a broad range of neighborhoods and prices.

Average summer highs in Wenatchee are in the mid-80s; average highs in the winter are just above freezing. Fort Collins is a touch cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. You’d get little rain, unlike cities on the other side of the Cascade Mountains, but expect 7 to 9 inches of snow on average in December and January. Despite its higher average temperatures, the snow starts earlier in Fort Collins, lasts longer and you get more of it.

You will find plenty of retirees around Wenatchee. Nearly 20% of Chelan County’s 77,000 residents are 65 or older, according to the Census Bureau. Fort Collins comes with Colorado State University.

If Wenatchee looks too pricey, check out Spokane, another bronze-level BFC. It’s far bigger, with about 225,000 people (and 525,000 in the county), and has more craft brewers. The drawback is more snow. If you want to go smaller, Ellensburg, about 90 minutes south of Wenatchee, is a silver-level BFC and a touch cheaper than Wenatchee.

Here’s what’s on the market in Chelan County.

This is what the housing market looks like in Fort Collins, Loveland and Greeley.

Indiana University’s Little 500 bike race.

Visit Bloomington
Wild card: Bloomington, Indiana

If you like older biking movies, you know this town of 85,000 people from “Breaking Away” and the Little 500 bike race. But did you know the home of Indiana University is a gold-level bike-friendly community?

And we’re not talking about just biking past miles and miles of corn fields on those 60-mile rides. (That would be retiring near rival Purdue University in West Lafayette, a bronze-level community.) Southern Indiana is hilly — test yourself on the brutal Hilly Hundred weekend ride outside of town during peak foliage. Others might prefer the all-terrain Gravel Grovel through the Hoosier National Forest. To chill, take the 9.2-mile trail that runs from the north end of town to the limestone quarry on the south side.

For beer, check out Upland Brewing, which won a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival in 2019. Six more gold-medal winners are in Indianapolis an hour to the north.

Indiana is changing how it taxes military retirement pay; your pension should be exempt as of 2021. The state also doesn’t tax Social Security income.

Temperatures in Bloomington reach an average of 86 in July, while January means an average high of 37 and about 5 inches of snow. If you want to hang out on campus, seniors get 50% off tuition, and the break starts at age 60.

Here are homes on the market now:

Readers, where should Charles and his wife retire? Leave your suggestions in the comments section.

Next Avenue: The VA has expanded aid to cover caregivers for Vietnam vets at a crucial time in the pandemic

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This article is reprinted by permission from It is part of The Coronavirus Outbreak: What You Need To Know Special Report.

An 18-year-old American soldier who went to fight in Vietnam in 1968 — the year of peak deployment —is now 70 years old. In addition to the usual health problems affecting that age group, many Vietnam veterans struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the effects of Agent Orange.

All of this puts them at higher risk of serious illness if they contract COVID-19, and puts a tremendous strain on the family members who want to care for them at home.

Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is about to increase the scope of its Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC) to include eligible veterans who suffered serious injury in the line of duty on or before May 7, 1975. Benefits of the program include monthly stipends, medical training and health insurance. The expansion is set to go into effect Oct. 1.

The program originally covered only the approximately 20,000 veterans who left the service after Sept. 11, 2001. As part of the VA Mission Act of 2018, eligible veterans of all eras will eventually be covered.

Vietnam vets need assistance

With the pandemic raging, this expansion is arriving at a crucial time.

Nancy Switzer, of Rochester, N.Y., founding president of the Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America, has long pushed for expanding the scope of the program.

“The Caregiver Act is really great for families. Vietnam veterans need assistance,” Switzer says. She is the primary caregiver for her husband, Rick, who lost his leg below the knee while serving in Vietnam. In 2014, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, which has spread.

“I retired to take care of Rick. He was having too many problems. For spouses and families, the instinct is to take care of them,” she says, but the experience is draining. “We’re going back and forth to radiation. I just took him for an infusion; it took the whole afternoon.”

Also see: Who will benefit from the updated Older Americans Act?

When the Caregiver Act was originally instituted, “it was a godsend,” says Linda Spoonster Schwartz, a special adviser to the Vietnam Veterans of American (VVA). “But at the same time we had WWII, Korean and Vietnam veterans who didn’t have that sort of help. They’re aging. By the numbers, there are more people who are pre-9/11” who need caregiver help, she notes.

U.S. military involvement in Vietnam ran from early 1961 until May 1975, with about 2.7 million American men and women serving in the war.

Schwartz is a Vietnam veteran who served in the U.S. Air Force for nearly 20 years, was commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs and assistant secretary of the VA under President Barack Obama. She credits former Sen. Elizabeth Dole with pushing the expanded law forward to benefit these pre-9/11 veterans.

“She saw a need and went for it,” says Schwartz. Dole heads the Elizabeth Dole Foundation; her husband, former Sen. Robert J. Dole, served in World War II.

Vulnerable vets

Vietnam veterans often suffer health problems that make them especially vulnerable to serious illness if they contract COVID-19.

“A lot of veterans have comorbidity,” which means they have more than one chronic disease or condition, something that multiplies their overall health risk, according to Charles G. Byers, VVA’s advocate chair for veterans’ health care. “So many spouses have called me about this” because they are concerned about putting their spouse into a VA facility during the pandemic, he says.

Also see: Trump is losing the support of the military, according to a new poll of active-duty troops

“We’re letting them know they can take care of their loved one. It’s about keeping the veteran at home, with his loved ones, as long as we possibly can,” says Byers, who was a U.S. Army medic in Vietnam.

Nancy Switzer is adamant about keeping her husband at home. “He’s better off here,” she says.

The Vietnam Veterans of America conducted a five-month-long investigation into coronavirus deaths in VA facilities, issuing a report in August.

“Images of overflowing emergency rooms, body bags stacked on loading docks, refrigerated trucks for morgues, and stories of patients dying without their families triggered memories of our own wartime experiences, and we recognized that, today’s battlefield is the COVID-19 pandemic,” VVA National President John Rowan said in a statement when the report was released.

Details of VA caregiver aid

Byers and Schwartz are conducting seminars around the country to educate people about the details of the newly expanded Caregiver Act.

Caregivers will be eligible to receive up to $2,800 a month for aiding veterans who require assistance with what health professionals call “Activities of Daily Living” (ADL), the basics needed for independent living at home or in the community. That includes help with bathing, dressing, feeding and getting in and out of bed.

The program “saves money in the long run,” according to Byers, because it provides compensation to spouses, parents and other partners of severely injured veterans who would otherwise require expensive care in a facility.

Caregivers also are eligible for medical benefits and training. “Training is a very important part of this,” Schwartz says, because caregivers often suffer from anger, stress and burnout. “Care for the caregiver is especially important. They’re working day in and day out.”

Also see: The military is giving me retirement and disability pay — but will it be enough to retire at 48?

But caregivers who apply will find the program complicated, Byers and Schwartz warn. Even Switzer, who has learned her way around VA regulations, is concerned about negotiating PCAFC. “I think I will apply. I have to look into it more. I think I would be able to receive it,” she says.

Short term respite for vet caregivers

In addition to the PCAFC, a new program from the VA and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation provides a bit of respite for family members who care for veterans during the pandemic.

Under the Respite Relief for Military and Veteran Caregivers program, caregivers can apply to receive approximately 24 hours of respite care from a CareLinx professional to help with bathing, companionship, cooking, medication reminders, mobility assistance, transportation and other activities. The program will furnish more than 40,000 hours of nonmedical home care to more than 16,000 veterans.

Stephenie Overman writes about workplace and health issues. She is the author of “Next-Generation Wellness at Work.”

This article is reprinted by permission from, © 2020 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved.

Autotrader: The 7 best full-size luxury SUVs of 2020

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Large luxury SUVs offer more room than midsize luxury SUVs on three rows of seating. And like their smaller siblings, do not skimp on amenities. Many of these big SUVs feature rugged body-on-frame construction which lends itself to towing and real off-road capability. Of course, you’ll pay more on the showroom floor and at the fuel pump. But, having the room to haul plenty of passengers and cargo with the bonus of being able to tow a trailer or venture off into the boonies, can make it well worth the expense. Here’s our list of the best full size luxury SUVs for 2020, ranked by Autotrader.

1. 2020 Lincoln Navigator —$77,480

Score: 4.5 / 5

With its standout styling and opulent interior, the 2020 Lincoln Navigator takes its place as America’s most luxurious full-size SUV. Lincoln upped its game considerably with its redesign, so much so, that the Navigator was named the 2019 North American Truck of the Year. Not only do you have plenty of room on three rows, but the interior also matches the best that European luxury makes have to offer. 

See: 24-way massaging seats, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and more: Cool tech features of the Lincoln Corsair

2. 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS — $76,195

Score: 4.4 / 5

Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class


All-new for 2020, the Mercedes-Benz GLS flagship 3-row luxury SUV has an enviable blend of refinement, capability, technology, and prestige. The GLS is available in 6- and 8-cylinder versions. Both send power to the 4Matic all-wheel drive through 9-speed automatic transmissions. To help in the fuel economy department, the GLS also boasts Mercedes’ EQ electric boost mild hybrid system. 

3. 2020 BMW X7 — $74,895

Score: 4.2 / 5

The BMW X7


The 2020 BMW X7 offers advanced features and 3-row seating in a performance SUV worthy of the BMW name. For 2020, BMW raised the performance quotient considerably with a range-topping X7 M50i that puts out 523 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque, considerably more than the xDrive50i’s 456 hp and 479 lb-ft from its 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8. 

4. 2020 Cadillac Escalade — $76,490

Score: 3.8 / 5

The Cadillac Escalade


The big, bold Cadillac Escalade is a capable and luxurious full-size SUV that’s unabashedly American. Powered by a 6.2-liter V8, you can opt for a standard wheelbase or extended ESV model. Towing is this body-on-frame SUV’s forte. Keep in mind that an all-new 2021 model is on its way. 

5. 2020 Lexus LX — $87,775

Score: 3.6 / 5

The 2020 Lexus LX 570 isn’t the most modern full-size luxury SUV, but it offers a lot of equipment and capability. The LX is another one of these high-zoot SUVs with old-school body-on-frame construction well-suited to pull loads and venture off-road. Lexus recently added a less costly 2-row version. 

Looking for something smaller? See: The year’s best small luxury SUVs

6. 2020 Infiniti QX80— $68,145

Score: 3.3 / 5

The Infiniti QX80


With rugged styling and good towing capacity that tops out at 8,500 pounds, the 2020 Infiniti QX80 is big on V8 power, ability, opulence, and image. This big box SUV has a soft side with diamond-pattern pleated leather and a forest-full of real wood accents inside.

Read: Four electric and hybrid SUVs that can tow some serious weight

7. 2020 Land Rover Range Rover — $92,195

Score: 3.3/5

The Land Rover Range Rover is the company’s flagship SUV, with a comfortable cabin and excellent off-road capability. Buyers can opt for a turbocharged inline-6 or a supercharged V8. The looks are classy and understated, the interior rich with detail. It is the quintessential staff car for the upper crust. 

Also see: 8 new luxury SUVs for under $50,000

This story originally ran on Joining the military can affect your credit, learn how to protect it

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Around a third of active military service members in 2019 said they didn’t pay all their bills on time, and close to that number of military spouses said the same. Military service can require some serious financial planning. But many service members might not realize how joining the military impacts their credit—and how their credit can impact their military career.

Here’s what you should know about the relationship between a military career and credit, and some information about resources that can help military members protect their credit.

How your credit can impact your ability to join the military

No matter which branch of the military you want to join, you have to meet certain eligibility requirements. Specific requirements vary by service branch as well as the level of security needed for the job.

The military does conduct background checks to determine factors such as whether you have a criminal background. A credit check is often included by some branches because the state of your financial situation can help provide a picture about your overall reliability. And if you’re dealing with a great deal of debt or have negative items on your credit report, it could make you vulnerable. Someone in financial distress could be at greater risk of illegal or questionable activity to generate money.

You can be denied military enlistment if you’re in financial trouble, such as if you have a number of collections in your credit history. But it’s actually more likely that poor credit will impact your ability to move up within a military career. That’s because Guideline F of the National Security Adjudicative Guidelines outlines financial considerations that may disqualify you from various levels of security clearance.

Failing to meet those requirements could result in revocation of security clearance. And that could mean losing your job with the military. Any time enlistment depends on a security clearance, the same could be true for simply joining up.

How joining the military affects your credit

Joining the military doesn’t have a direct impact on your credit. You won’t get points on your score because you’re a service member, for example. However, you might want to pay attention to your credit because you could be subject to greater financial monitoring depending on your position and security clearance.

Also on MarketWatch: Trump is losing the support of the military, according to a new poll of active-duty troops

Being in the military can also create some challenges that relate to credit. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling notes some common financial trends and challenges experienced by military members and their families, including:

  • Struggling to pay bills on time. According to NFCC, service member households are more likely to pay bills late than other US households. In some cases, this might simply be due to challenges associated with managing daily activities, such as bills, when you’re deployed or moving from place to place regularly.
  • Putting major decisions on hold. More than 70% of service members or their spouses say they put major decisions, including buying a new home, on hold during military service.
  • Sticking to a budget. More than 50% of active military members and/or their spouses say they don’t manage a regular budget.
Protecting your credit while you serve

That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to maintain a strong credit score while you serve in the military. In fact, a number of resources are available to help you do just that. Here are just a few tips for protecting your credit while you’re in the military, particularly when you’re deployed.

1. Place an active duty alert on your credit reports

An active duty alert is like a fraud alert. It’s a notice on your credit reports that encourages lenders to take extra precautions when approving credit in your name. In some cases, creditors may be required to contact you directly or otherwise verify your identity when approving credit. This makes it harder for someone to pretend to be you and apply for a loan or credit card.

Active duty alerts also remove you from insurance and credit card offers for up to two years. That means that providers can’t do a soft pull on your credit report and send you a preapproved offer in the mail. This reduces the potential for someone to take that preapproved offer and open credit in your name without you knowing about it.

See: Follow this simple blueprint to manage your credit score

Active duty alerts are free. You can request one from any of the three major credit bureaus and ask that it let the other two know to do the same. Active duty alerts last for one year, so you’ll need to request them annually if desired.

2. Understand your rights under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act

The SCRA offers some protection for military members when it comes to civil legal action, including those related to financial matters. Some of the protections under this act include:

  • Rate cap. In some cases, if military members have high-interest debt from before they joined, they may be able to get the interest rates reduced to no more than 6%.
  • Default judgment protection. In civil cases, a default judgment occurs when one person doesn’t show up to a scheduled hearing. If default judgments are allowed, the judge decides in favor of the party that showed up. Due to the nature of their occupation, military members may be protected from default judgments if they aren’t able to make a hearing due to their military service.
  • Repossession and foreclosure. In certain cases, creditors must get court orders to repossess or foreclose on property of an active service member. This typically requires that the military service person took out the loan on the property before enlisting or otherwise going into active duty status.

3. Understand your rights under the Military Lending Act

The Military Lending Act provides a number of protections for active military members who are seeking credit during their service. Some provisions of the act include:

  • Capping interest, including finance charges and fees, on loans to 36% regardless of credit score and other factors.
  • Limiting what creditors can ask you to agree to, such as mandatory arbitration clauses and mandatory payments from your paycheck.
  • Protection against prepay penalties if you pay the loan back early.

For any questions about your individual circumstance regarding FCRA or the MLA contact your military branch’s legal office for guidance.

Credit-related perks for military members

As a current or former military service member, you may also have access to perks that help you build and manage your credit and personal finances. Here are just a few.

  • Special credit card or loan offers. Military members have access to several credit card offers that others do not, including USAA cards with low interest rates. And you might qualify for a home loan backed by the VA, which can help you gain access to potentially better terms or lower down payment requirements.
  • Free credit monitoring. Starting October 31, 2019, military members can access free credit monitoring via the credit bureaus.
  • Access to Personal Financial Managers or Personal Financial Counselors. These are individuals trained to help military members and their families manage money and credit in a positive and proactive way.
  • The Department of Defense Savings Deposit Program. If you’re deployed to an active combat zone and receiving Hostile Fire Pay, you can build your savings with this program. You can deposit up to $10,000 and earn 10% interest on it.

Note: The CARES Act specifically provides some protections to military personnel and veterans during the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes protections for VA-guaranteed loans for those experiencing financial hardships.

Check your credit after deployment

Understanding your rights and what resources you have available—as well as taking proactive approaches—can help protect your credit while you’re in the military. But no plan is foolproof, and mistakes can happen. So, it’s important to check your credit reports whenever you return from deployment and regularly even when you’re not deployed.

Also see: What is the FICO Resilience Index, and how will it affect your credit?

If you find anything on your credit that isn’t correct, you have a right to challenge it. DIY credit disputing is possible, but it takes more time than active duty military members might have. Consider working with a credit repair firm with tools to focus on verification and challenges for military personnel. Working to challenge inaccurate negative items can help you protect your credit so you can protect your security clearance and your financial future as well.

This article originally appeared on

The Moneyist: I moved into my in-laws home. My husband wants to pay his parents’ mortgage, but it will come out of my income. How can I protect myself?

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Dear Moneyist,

I got married recently and moved into my husband’s house that he shares with his parents. (His name and his parents’ name are on the deed.) Currently, we pay a small amount for rent, but my husband hopes to take on the mortgage of the house over the next couple of years. I am the breadwinner, and so the majority (or even all) of the money that would go towards the mortgage would be coming from me.

Before fully committing to this, are there any precautions I need to take? Or what are the risks I could be facing? I am worried about what would happen if I end up paying off their home, and they want to sell it or my in-laws pass away, or if they decide to give their share of the house to my husband’s sister, or if my husband and I separate (which is more of a worse-case scenario).

In all those cases would I be entitled to anything with the house? Unfortunately, you can sometimes get screwed over dealing with family. How can I prevent this from happening? I do want to help pay the mortgage. I would like to think my husband and his family would not do anything untoward, but I still would like to take precautions. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Thank you for your help.


The Moneyist: My sister-in-law moved in with her mother, changed her will, set up a new trust and inherited everything. Is it too late to claim what rightfully belongs to us?

Dear Daughter-in-law,

It’s not a good idea to use marital funds to pay off your in-laws’ mortgage, particularly given all of the potential scenarios you lay out. There are probably a few more that you have not thought of, but they all end up in the same place. You use your income, which could be used to build wealth and/or pay off your own mortgage, and end up with half or quarter of a home when you’re done.

Before using your own funds for this purpose, you would need your parents to either sign a quit claim to deed 50% of the home to you and your husband, and/or set up an agreement where you both own the home and your in-laws have the right to live there for the rest of their lives. Put your heads together and pay off your own mortgage.

California is a community property state. But inheritance is generally considered separate property. But it’s not so cut and dry. According to Fernandez & Karney, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based law firm, “Much of the work in the divorce process comes down to picking apart where separate and community property has co-mingled over the course of the marriage.”

The Moneyist: My mother’s will says her boyfriend can live in her home after she dies. Can I still kick him out if the deed is transferred to me?

Given that you would use marital funds to pay your husband’s part of the mortgage, his portion of the house should then turn from separate property to community property where you both own 50% of his half. Similarly, if you made improvements to this home, his portion of the property would become community property.

But that’s messy. Make sure your in-laws and your husband agree to everything in writing before you make contributions to their half of the mortgage. As you say, you could pay off all of this mortgage, your in-laws could die, resulting in the house being split 50/50 between your husband and his sister, you divorce from your husband and are left with quarter of a home.

If this column proves nothing else, it’s that families and the people you trust the most in the world can sometimes be the most unpredictable.

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at

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