How Coronavirus is Impacting Your Retirement Plan

At the end of 2019 Congress passed into law the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act, also known as the SECURE Act. With over 1.3 million COVID-19 cases in the United States and more than 79,000 deaths recorded, it might be time for you to rethink your Individual Retirement Account (IRA) or 401k distribution upon death.

SECURE Act

Under the SECURE Act starting in 2020, a non spouse heir who inherits retirement account distributions can no longer stretch out the receipt of those funds over his or her lifetime. A non spouse heir must now receive those distributions over ten years.

This means that your children can no longer spread the required minimum distributions from all the money you saved for years, over their lifetime. Therefore, they may be placed into a higher tax bracket having to withdraw this money over ten years and not a lifetime. This is also true if you have an estate plan and leave your retirement in a trust.

Here are some additional ways the SECURE Act may impact you:

  1. As an employee you can now contribute to a traditional IRA after age 70. That said, you may want to consider contributing to a Roth IRA instead of a traditional IRA.
  2. If you adopt or give birth to a child you can withdraw up to $5,000.00 from your IRA or 401K without tax penalty.
  3. Beginning in 2021 as a part-time employee you will be eligible to contribute to a 401K plan. Prior to the passage of this Act, people who worked less than 1,000 hours durning a year were not allowed to participate in such plans.
  4. Consider converting your traditional IRA in stages to a Roth IRA. While your heirs will still have to withdraw the money in ten years, they would not be taxed on the money and they could allow it to grow with nine years of tax free growth.

Ruthven R. Phillip, Esq., is a tax attorney, Stewardship and Philanthropy Ministry Assistant, and CEO of Give2Getrich, LLC

Give2Get Rich, LLC 2020. All Rights Reserved. Any distribution or reproduction of part or all of the contents in any form is prohibited.




COVID-19 Feels Like a Hurricane: Be Prepared

Can we think of the coronavirus as a hurricane?

Hurricanes can pack wind speeds from 74 mph to 95 mph as a Category 1 and quickly climb to 157 mph or higher as a Category 5. How destructive a hurricane is depends on its wind speed. When a hurricane strikes land it can cause considerable damage. The damage to life and property can be most devastating.

The greatest amount of damage, however, is generally caused by flooding and storm surge. Nevertheless, Hurricanes have leveled tall buildings, homes, large trees and destroyed entire communities. Even worse, hurricanes can develop tornadoes that can cause death and destruction in their path.

Those along the Texas-Louisiana Coast can attest to how devastating hurricanes can be. Hurricane Harvey devastated the Texas – Louisiana Coast in August 2017. It caused major destruction and many deaths. Today, some people have still not recovered from Hurricane Harvey.

Hurricane COVID-19

Now, what does the Covid-19 have to do with a hurricane? Well, like a hurricane, COVID-19 is causing destruction and death in its path. Its impact has been of epic proportions. It has caused more deaths than any hurricane and shut down businesses, schools, universities, churches, and it has inhibited mobility on a global scale.

Within the center of a hurricane is what is called the Eye. The Eye has very low air pressure. It generally does not have any clouds and the wind is calm. If you have been in the eye of a storm it is a beautiful sight. The sky is blue, the sun is radiantly shining, the wind offers a soft cool breeze, the birds are chirping…It is like a beautiful spring day. But, warning! Don’t let that fool you! The most dangerous part of the storm is the eye-wall. It is the outer part of the hurricane. The eye-wall has a front and backside. The front and backside of the hurricane pack the highest speeds. The winds can reach as high as 157 mph plus.

More Destruction is Coming

When the front-side of the storm hits, with its howling winds, roaring thunder, flashing lightning and pounding rain, it can be very scary, even terrifying. But then comes the calm, the eye of the storm. Currently, we are experiencing the front-side of Hurricane COVID-19. It carries in its path sickness and death, and financial and economic destruction. Soon we will experience the calm, the eye of the storm. It will come in the form of the Economic Stimulus Package, the decline in the number of deaths and confirmed cases, and even the reopening of several establishments. But once we get through the Eye of COVID we’ve still got to get past the backside of it.

In other words, the backside of COVID-19 is coming, and it will be just as destructive as the front side of the storm. The backside of COVID will consist of families fully realizing their loved ones are gone. It will consist of millions of people trying to get jobs to no avail. In fact, Physicians Weekly suggests we need to get ready for the coming Mental Health pandemic post-COVID.

The full extent of how things will look after we experience the backside of this illness, we do not know. But it will be devastating! How we see the world tomorrow will not be the same as we see it today. Hurricane COVID-19 will create a new normal for us. What will that new normal be? I do not know. But, the time to prepare is now!

Here are some suggestions on how to prepare:

1.      Stay connected with God, Talk to him

2.      Seek God through His Written word

3.      Keep your eyes and ears open

4.      Hear him when he speaks and obey his voice

5.      Seek counsel when you feel the need

6.      Make yourself marketable by developing your God-given abilities

7.      Plan your strategies in harmony with the will of God

8.      Work your plan with God by your side

9.      Avoid depending on man

10.    Most important, put your complete trust in Divine Power

What will you do to survive the after-effects of Hurricane COVID-19?




Your Liberation Library

Book Review of Tim Keller’s The Prodigal Prophet

Jonah  is one of the most well-known stories in the Bible, but you may not have heard it like this.

Timothy Keller examines the story from a different perspective and applies this story to not just people in general, but Christians who think that they don’t have their own cultural, racial, and ethnic biases and hidden agendas.

 

Title:                           The Prodigal Prophet: Jonah and the Mystery of God’s Mercy

Author:                      Timothy Keller

Publisher:                 Viking, 2018

Reviewer:                  Omar Miranda

 

What are the main concerns being addressed?

The main concern being addressed is simply that Keller wants Christians to understand, examine, and resolve their own “hidden” cultural, racial, and ethnic biases and hidden agendas.

Were those concerns clearly stated?

Yes. Timothy Keller clearly demonstrates his comprehensive and authoritative knowledge about the topic.

What are the book’s strengths and contributions?

The book’s strengths are two-fold:

  1. Keller clearly and powerfully “gets into the head of the reader” by masterfully decoding and effectively applying all the cultural specifics of this story, allowing the reader to clearly understand the importance of this story.
  2. Keller effectively applies all the cultural specifics and the lessons and principles learned from this story to today’s modern life and culture in which the reader inhabits.

Keller also contributes a deeper understanding of the unwritten, unresolved cliff-hanger of the “second-half” of this unbelievable story to show how it applies to every single human on earth—but especially to Christians.

What do you wish the author would have added?

I wish Keller added discussion questions at the end of each chapter. This is a short, succinct, and physically small book. But each chapter is immensely dense! Discussion questions would be helpful in allowing the reader to further and more effectively apply or live out the powerful principles brought out in each chapter.

What do you wish the author would have left out?

Nothing. The book was perfect! I actually wish it was longer.

What were some good conscience quickening quotes from the book?

“The book of Jonah yields many insights about God’s love for societies and people beyond the community of believers; about his opposition to toxic nationalism and disdain for other races; and about how to be ’in mission’ in the world despite the subtle and unavoidable power of idolatry in our own lives and hearts. Grasping these insights can make us bridge builders, peacemakers, and agents of reconciliation in the world. Such people are the need of the hour” (5).

“We are taught that our problem is a lack of self-esteem that we live with too much shame and self-incrimination. In addition, we are told, all moral standards are socially constructed and relative, so no one has the right to make you feel guilty. You must determine right or wrong for yourself. In a society dominated by such beliefs, the Bible’s persistent message that we are guilty sinners comes across as oppressive if not evil and dangerous. These modern cultural themes make the offer of grace unnecessary, even an insult” (74).

“How can a God relent from judging evildoers? How can he forgive and not punish sin? Many people in the modern West are not troubled by God’s mercy because they don’t accept the idea of a God who does not get angry when evil destroys the creation he loves…[it] is ultimately not a loving God at all. If you love someone, you must and will get angry if something threatens to destroy him or her. As some have pointed out, you have to have had a pretty comfortable life—without any experience of oppression and injustice yourself—to not want a God who punishes sin” (125-126).

“It is an understanding of God’s grace that removes our burdens. Religious people often invite nonbelievers to convert by calling them to adopt new sets of behaviors and new ritual practices, all the while redoubling their efforts to live a virtuous life. That, however, is to load more burdens on people. The Pharisees did this, laying ‘heavy, cumbersome loads’ on people (Matthew 23:4), and so they sank. All other religions put on people the burden of securing their own salvation, while God provides unearned salvation through his son (cf. Isaiah 46:1-4). While the gospel must lead to a changed life, it is not those changes that save you” (207).

What was so liberating about the book?

The most liberating thing about this book is that the author identifies the chief point of this book: that, if someone is a Christian, and recognized that they have been saved solely by the grace of God and the sacrifice of Jesus, then they are no better than non-Christians. And due to that, Christians, more than anybody else, should treat others—everybody with the same love, grace, and mercy that they, themselves have received from God!

Overall rating: 5 out of 5




How COVID-19 is Impacting Your Credit Report

In the midst of a crisis, where unemployment exceeds 30 million individuals, oftentimes the last thing on your mind is your credit report. Why should you care about your credit report when your household income has decreased from two persons to one or zero. You should care because your credit report is tied to your next job, apartment rental or house purchase. This is why it is critical that preserving and protecting your credit be part of your pandemic survival strategy. Consider the following credit information.

1. Modifications under the CARES Act to the Fair Credit Reporting Act:

Under Section 4021 of the CARES Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), 15 U.S.C. § 1681 et. seq., is amended to impose new reporting requirements on institutions that furnish credit information to credit reporting agencies. Section 4021 provides that an institution that makes an “accommodation” with respect to one or more payments on a credit obligation or account that is subject to deferrals or forbearance agreements because of the COVID-19 pandemic—and the consumer makes the payments or is not required to make one or more payments pursuant to the accommodation—must report such obligation or account as “current” or as the status reported prior to the accommodation.

Are all your credit accounts current?

In other words, accounts that were current before the accommodations would remain current during the relief period, irrespective of any accommodations. On the other hand, delinquent accounts before the accommodations would remain delinquent, unless brought current by the consumer.

It’s important to know that this new reporting requirement does not apply to consumer accounts that have been charged off. These responsibilities will apply to reporting on accommodations made to consumer accounts between January 31, 2020 until 120 days after the end of the COVID-19 national emergency.

2. Greater Credit Access:

Starting on April 20, 2020, the three credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion will allow you to check your credit report for free each week for the next twelve months. Given COVID-19 scams, it is critical that you check your credit report frequently. These frequent credit checks by you will not impact your credit score. You can access your free credit report each week through AnnualCreditReport.com

3. Current Account:

If your account is current and you make an agreement to make a partial payment, skip a payment, or other accommodation, then the creditor is to report to credit reporting companies that you are current on your loan or account. This applies only if you are meeting the terms of the agreement.

4. Delinquent Account:

If your account is already delinquent and you make an agreement, then your account will maintain that status during the agreement until you bring the account current. If your account is already delinquent and you make an agreement, and you bring your account current, the creditor must report that you are current on your loan or account.

Credit Protection

COVID-19 now provides a shield in protecting your credit status. Remember, the CARES Act requirement applies only to agreements made between January 31, 2020 and either 120 days after March 27, 2020 or 120 days after the national emergency concerning COVID–19 ends. Take advantage of these options. Who knows, it may even be an opportune time to start rebuilding your credit.

Ruthven R. Phillip, Esq., is a tax attorney, Stewardship and Philanthropy Ministry Assistant, and CEO of Give2Getrich, LLC




A Mother’s Plea for Autism Awareness

Autism Spectrum Disorder entered my life 6 years ago.

My youngest son, Kenden Andrew was diagnosed at the age of 2. Immediately, I started learning about his disability. I learned Autism is a complex developmental disorder. Some of the challenges of Autism are seen in communication, social skills, and behavior. All three affect Kenden. I also discovered no one person is the same. The most important thing I can share about Autism, is each person is unique. I like to see it as, God blessed each and every one of them with their own special superpower.

The truth is there is no one definitive cause for Autism. According to Autism Speaks, “Research suggests that autism develops from a combination of genetic and non-genetic, or environmental, influences.” While some wonder if complications during pregnancy are a factor, during my pregnancy I had no complications. In fact, I knew the exact date that I would be having Kenden. My doctor scheduled me for a c-section due to my previous one with my first son, Jaylan. Everything went as planned. I stayed in the hospital for a couple of days and then was discharged home.

The first night home alone was extremely hard. I will never forget it! Both boys were fed and bathed for the night. I put Jaylan to bed first and then tended to my new baby boy.

I just knew this night would go smooth but…it didn’t.

For the life of me I couldn’t get my baby to sleep. Nothing seemed to work. He was clean, fed, and sleepy but just refused to sleep. That night I felt defeated. I kept saying to myself something isn’t right, but would immediately tell myself to erase that thought from my mind. I felt it was wrong to compare my two children. My baby experience with my older son was smooth sailing. But things were different with Kenden. Soon, months led to years of no sleep, uncontrollable behaviors, and no verbal communication from Kenden.

At the age of one, Kenden was accepted into the Tennessee Early Intervention Program. This program assisted us with resources to help Kenden. Most importantly, they setup Speech and Occupational Therapy for him. At that time, he had therapy twice a week. Also, they helped with placing him into a Special Education Pre- Kindergarten Program. By the age of three, Kenden was going to school three days a week. I believe early intervention has been one of the reasons for his continued success.

There is Hope in Progress

Kenden is now 8 years old. He has made great strides with his communication, social skills, and behavior. About 3 years ago Kenden finally started saying words. He is still in Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and Applied Behavioral Analysis Therapy once a week. Not only has early intervention been a great attribute to his success but I’m so thankful for my church family. I attend Ephesus SDA Church in Clarksville, TN. Sometimes I still struggle with taking Kenden out in the community because I worry about his behavior and the reaction of others. People tend to forget a disability isn’t always visible.

But outside of our home and family, Church has really been the only place I feel comfortable. At Ephesus I don’t have to worry about people’s reaction. Kenden sometimes makes quirky noises and talks loud during service but no one is ever bothered. I love that no one turns their head or gives weird and mean stares at us. Service is never interrupted, and I love it! Kenden is definitely a part of the congregation and they love him. I appreciate their kindness and acceptance of him.

Church Engagement with Autism

It is for this reason that I believe churches are critical for Autism families. One way they can be helpful and inviting to the Autism Community is to talk about Autism. Educate yourself and bring in professionals to train and discuss this disorder with your congregation. Unfortunately, I have found that church tends to brush off or not discuss hard topics. It is oftentimes much easier to bury our heads in the sand and tell others, “I’m praying for you.” But when you are raising a child with a developmental disability the time and energy you have to pour into them is indescribable. Oftentimes, you feel alone and misunderstood. Church should be a place you know you won’t be judged about your child’s meltdowns or have your parenting questioned. It should be a place of peace, understanding, and acceptance.

1 out of 54 children are diagnosed with Autism.

The time is now to put old traditions and usual clichés aside and be about action.

Being a special needs parent, I am always researching and looking for resources and grants. What has been the most helpful is staying connected to my local Autism foundation and programs, my local government and state websites, and any Autism websites such as Autism Speaks. I have had lots of success with these resources. In addition, each year I apply for the Family Support Program funded by my local state. This program is specifically for individuals with disabilities and their family. The program covers a variety of services. It does not take the place of social security benefits, Medicaid, state wavier programs, or private insurance. But it is another resource that helps the individual with the disability to stay at home with their family and community. Also, I stay connected with Kenden’s teachers and therapist. They have been very helpful assisting me with navigating resources for him.

This statement might come as a shock to you. But Autism has been the answer to my prayers. All of the questions I had about Kenden, were finally answered. Autism was the foundation that helped me and Kenden build our bond. I have a clearer understanding of him and I can now effectively parent him.

I believe it’s vital for communities to learn about Autism. The more aware and accepting we become, the more influential we can be to individuals and families with disabilities and disorders like Autism.




How a CEO Implemented a Wellness Program Within His Company

I am not one of those health freaks that insists on everything being organic, free range, cage free, bottled, and non-GMO. Nor do I spend 30+ minutes at the gym seven days a week working on my physique. I’m just a regular guy who like many of you, woke up one day and decided it was time to be a little bit more healthy and fit.

I guess it’s only fair that I tell you that I’ve never been in horrible shape. I’m a tall thin man that at my worst weight was at most between 20-25 pounds overweight – at which point my health care physician called me “border line obese.”  I’m also competitive to a fault. I love to play competitive sports like basketball, softball, and golf. Yes, I have found a way to make golf competitive and therefore keep my attention. I’m also a very frugal business owner.

Every year I’m the one that analyzes our company’s health care costs and makes a decision on which provider to use so that our costs don’t skyrocket. All of these factors led me to start a wellness program at my company. Because of the interest level, not only from my employees but from outsiders as well, I’ve decided to write about our experience and hopefully inspire someone else to take this journey to better health with us.

A Seed Planted

A couple years ago a company approached me offering to implement a wellness program for us. Of course, they presented a well thought out program that offered the employees an amazing experience for wellness growth with prizes, point structures, website metrics and so much more. We considered it for about two minutes. The problem was that I knew everyone wasn’t going to participate.

People buy gym memberships promising themselves they are going to “get their money’s worth” and after a month or two they barely go anymore.  I’m frugal…ok you can call me cheap. So paying for a program that had a per employee cost was not ideal. But the seed was planted. Making it still a good idea to help our employees with their wellness goals.

Implementing a Corporate Wellness Benefits Package

Fast forward to the end of 2019. Me and my business partners are doing year end financials and our budget for the next year. I suggest that a new benefit we can offer our employees should be a wellness benefits package. I even offered to help implement it. We will pay our employees to get healthy which in turn should decrease our health care costs. For a frugal guy this is awesome.

The engineer in me insists that running this should be a piece of cake. I’ll just come up with 12 monthly wellness challenges, that can be self-monitored on the honor system and we will offer $50 each month to every employee that successfully meets the challenge. So no wasted expenses. Because it’s all about wellness, we will focus on nutrition, exercise, and meditation for our various challenges. To make sure that we are seeing progress, we started the year by providing each employee an InBody assessment to baseline several personal statistics such as weight, BMI, and a bunch of other stuff that you need a personal trainer certification to understand. We will take these assessments at six month intervals to track progress.

A Competition with Mr. Competitive

My wife has helped me to be healthier both by example and by nagging verbal impression. I’ve had to watch documentaries on Monsanto and Netflix series like “What the Health.” At home we eat mostly a vegetarian diet with some fish from time to time. She also follows health gurus like the late Dr. Sebi and believes in holistic medicine over synthetic. About a year ago, she finally impressed upon me the value of drinking lots of water. Dare I say, she challenged me! Now it’s on. You just created a competition with Mr. Competitive.

I started drinking water every day. Not nearly the recommended amount for my size/weight but a new habit was forming. 25 ounces a day turned to 40 ounces a day. Soon I was up to 64 ounces a day (the amount that some research says should be your daily allotment). I can’t say that I was successful everyday, but I was doing something that I never did before. I was drinking water regularly. And I was seeing results.

My energy level went up. My allergy symptoms went down. And I developed a taste for water. This last one is huge because I grew up in the 70’s on Kool Aid and Tang. The thought of drinking water when thirsty was like yuck. Give me the Rock-a-dile Red and we can call it a day. But once I started consciously and deliberately drinking more water, I actually got to the point where I craved water.

The Water Challenge

So I drank less sugary drinks and started simply drinking water. And just when I thought I was doing a great job, a health practitioner at my church rocked my boat. They told me that I should actually drink half my weight in ounces of water everyday.  Now that’s a lot of water. I’ll drown if I try to drink that much water in one day. And then have to do it over and over and over again. Not me! Unless of course someone says “I challenge you to drink half your weight in ounces of water every day.” Man! “That was tricky.”  “You shouldn’t have said that.”  “You just wait!” Oh! Sorry, I was channeling my inner Robert De Niro.

Back to the wellness challenges. Since I personally had seen the advantages of drinking water, and it seemed like a relatively easy thing to do (all my employees have access to water) and to track, the first three challenges would all be about drinking water. I remember my journey of not drinking water everyday to attempting to drink half my weight in ounces of water everyday. It definitely wasn’t a wake up one morning and decide I’m going to start drinking 100 ounces of water today and every day from now on. No problem. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Not!

Getting Organized

So in order to help folks who may also not drink water everyday, I decided that the first challenge would be to create a new habit – drinking some water every day. I know most folks are inherently lazy so I created a spreadsheet. The sheet has tabs for January, February, and March. Each tab has a calendar that represents all the days of that month. At the top of the spreadsheet is a cell for your name, one for your weight, and one that calculates how much water you need to drink daily to meet the challenge.

To make it easy, January’s target was 1/3 of your personal daily target based on half your weight in ounces.  For February the target was 2/3 of your personal target and March was the full amount. The spreadsheet also has several summation calculations so you can see how many total ounces you drink for the month as well as totals per day and per week. For the corporate challenge we paid $50/month to those that met and/or exceeded the total while meeting the daily minimums at least 25 days (23 for Feb).

When January completed, about 40% of our company actually participated and achieved their January water consumption goal. One person actually told me, “this is too easy.”  Of course he only weighed about 150 pounds and therefore only needed to drink 25 ounces a day to meet his January goal. I assured him that he didn’t have to limit himself to the January target and he just laughed.

The Benefit of New Habits

My goal was being met – a new habit of consciously drinking water daily was forming and without major push-back 40% of our employees started a new journey towards healthier living. Another employee said that he lost 9 pounds just two weeks into the water consumption challenge. Strategies started being shared among employees and they were using the 25 ounce water bottles we distributed with our company logo on it. That’s what I call a win, win.

I hope to start nutrition and exercise challenges for April and beyond. I even plan to have a month where we have several different goals in one month. Would love to hear from other health practitioners about other challenge ideas that we could implement, and I plan to continue to write about all of our successes. Think about it, how can your family or company implement wellness challenges?




What You Need to Know About Filing Your Taxes This Year

Federal income tax was introduced with the passage of the Revenue Act in 1861. The year 1913 marked the first time federal income tax filings were required with the filing deadline of March 1st, 1913. In 1918, the filing deadline was changed to March 15, 1918 and in 1955 it was changed again to April 15, 1955. Since 1955, the individual tax filing deadline has not changed until the United States Treasury’s recent announcement to extend the April 15, 2020 filing deadline to July 15, 2020. So what does this announcement mean for you?

FEDERAL FILING DEADLINE

The announcement means that you have until July 15, 2020 to file your personal/individual tax return for tax period 2019. Here, we are generally referring to persons filing Internal Revenue Form (IRS) 1040 or some version of the 1040 Form. For example, this would include disregarded/single member LLC’s and sole properties or schedule C filers.

FEDERAL PAYMENT DEADLINE

The announcement also means that if on July 15, 2020 or before, you have prepared your personal/ individual tax return for tax period 2019 and you have determined you have a tax liability (you owe); you must submit your payment on July 15, 2020. The lesson here is to try and prepare your taxes early to determine your disposition. Don’t procrastinate!

FEDERAL FILING DEADLINE EXTENSION

If for some reason you cannot file your 2019 federal income tax return by July 15, 2020 file an extension using IRS Form 4868 by July 15, 2020. Your extension must be postmarked or filed electronically July 15, 2020. The extension will provide you with time to file your return by October 15, 2020.

FAILURE TO FILE and FAILURE TO PAY

I could spend the next few weeks explaining IRC (Internal Revenue Code) Section 6651, but that would be too exciting. Therefore I’m giving you “the skinny” on it. If you can’t file by July 15, 2020 file an extension for….sake! If you owe and don’t have the money to pay, file your tax return anyway for….sake! Why? There are two penalties the IRS will assess if you fail to act.

One penalty is for the failure to file and the other is for the failure to pay. If the deadline comes and you fail to file your return, or an extension (IRS Form 4868) and you owe you will be assessed a penalty of 5% up to 25% of the liability (the amount you owe). Yikes! Additionally, if you owe, don’t have the money and fail to file your prepared or completed return you will be assessed a fail to pay penalty of 5% up to 25% of your tax liability. Yes! That’s right! Between the failure to file your return or an extension AND the failure to pay you could wind up increasing your potential tax liability by an additional 10-45% due to interest and penalties.

STATE DEADLINE

Most states if not all, have adopted the federal deadline for filing your tax returns. For example, the state of Maryland has changed their filing and payment dates to those of the Internal Revenue Service. Check with your local jurisdictions for further details.

They say the only sure thing in life are death and taxes. But where there is income tax the just man will pay more than the unjust man, on the same amount.

Connect with us at: Ruthven@give2getrich.com




Devotional with Pastor Edsel Cadet

This week on #WhatsTheMessage we talked about the impact of COVID-19 on relationships with Dr. Willie and Elaine Oliver and Pastor Kim Bulgin. And for our weekly devotional we are so excited and grateful to have Pastor Edsel Cadet, Senior Pastor of Cambridge SDA Church, share with us a short devotional on relationships. Tune in to this short piece of inspiration to hear how to avoid pitfalls from your past during this quarantine season.




COVID-19 and 12 Homeschooling Tips From a Teacher

Families have been suddenly thrust into homeschooling as a result of COVID-19, the coronavirus pandemic causing school closures nationwide. After spring break came and went in March 2020, students from pre-school through college remained at home due to social distancing and stay-at-home orders. Some schools were able to provide online learning, but not all homes have been able to participate because of the digital divide.

The Digital Divide

According to the International Telecommunications Union, in 2019, “while 97% of the world’s population lived in areas with some internet availability, either mobile or wired, only 53.6% are connected.” Forbes writes that “while the digital divide is greater in developing nations, developed countries see the divide run through rural and low socioeconomic status (SES) communities. In the US, households making under $30,000 are less likely to have internet than their wealthier counterparts, let alone the computers or smartphones to access it.” In other words, learning from home is a privilege that not every student can afford.

Brayson Lockwood, a student at E.D. Nixon Elementary, logs into the internet as a Montgomery Public School bus parks in the parking lot of the Cleveland Avenue YMCA in Montgomery, Ala., and provides wireless internet for the community on Wednesday April 15, 2020. The YMCA is one of 6 locations the internet buses are set up at throughout the county. MICKEY WELSH / ADVERTISER

This crisis has forced our nation to acknowledge that some families and regions lack basic internet access. This digital divide is not only due to the cost of internet service, but also due to a lack in the necessary infrastructure for internet connectivity: cell towers and broadband. Montgomery Public Schools is addressing this very issue by parking “six local school buses to serve as Wi-Fi hotspots for MPS students.” Starting Wednesday, April 15 students can go to six locations that include the Alabama State University Football Stadium parking lot, a YMCA, and a Boys and Girls Club to access the internet for their studies.

A Shift in Education

COVID-19 and the social distancing laws in place because of it has drastically shifted our school systems. Many teachers at all levels are implementing online instruction or providing paper packets with lessons to be completed and returned for grading. To help facilitate this kind of instruction, ZOOM and Google have become new friends for many instructors. Furthermore, these drastic and abrupt changes has caused people to wonder if we have entered a new normal in social distancing. Parents and guardians have even developed a deeper appreciation and respect for teachers and schools. And some are even realizing that teachers and administrators were not lying to them about their child’s behavior or attitudes.

I am a teacher by profession since 1981. God impressed me to homeschool our two children when my son entered 2nd grade and our daughter since infancy in 1993. With my husband being a pastor and a chaplain we were able to travel with him without missing lessons. Daily life experiences became an integral part of our classroom. Our journey concluded after high school graduations as both headed to Oakwood University.

The Blessing in Homeschooling

I loved homeschooling in Michigan, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, and Tennessee. To be honest, we sometimes received criticism from other Black families for daring to educate our own offspring. However, that did not deter us because for us homeschooling is a conviction and not a preference. This makes homeschooling is a lifestyle. In using this system we’ve found that children learn how to learn and develop a passion for learning. For that, I am grateful to God. It’s not a fit for every family, but it was a blessing to ours.

The truth is, many find themselves homeschooling without any resources or experience. This sudden homeschooling demand is making many parents and guardians overwhelmed, and even many students stressed out. I’d like to provide newly homeschooling parents with a few tips that I know will help you and your child during this sudden educational shift.

12 Tips for Homeschooling Your Children

1. Get Organized

Gather all your learning materials into a designated area. With items like their computer, tablet, paper, pens, pencils, notebooks crayons, markers, scissors, glue, calculator, rulers, etc. all in one place it improves students ability to focus.

2. Follow a Schedule

If your child’s school is using direct instruction via an online format, you will need to follow it. Feel free to set up your own schedule if children are not required to view designated lessons at specific times. In order for maintained success, students will still need to get adequate sleep and eat breakfast in the morning. Try to limit wasted time during your school day. For example, do not allow children to spend the day playing games or watching non-educational video clips. Garbage in is truly garbage out.

3. Read and read some more

As the United Negro College Fund says, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” Read to your children and have your children read daily. Even though subjects are classified separately, they are deeply connected. Look for overlapping themes in Social Studies/History, Science, Language Arts, English, other languages, and Math. In helping your kids to locate these connections you help them develop an even deeper love for learning. Also help them identify and learn new words to expand their vocabulary.

4. Memorize basic math facts

Stop depending on counting fingers and toes to obtain answers. Help your kids memorize basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts. Multiplication is simply adding over and over. Division is subtracting over and over.

5. Write and/or Keep a Journal

COVID-19 has forced definite changes in our lives. This presents a great opportunity for students to document the events leading up to our new normal. For example: Basic research seeks out information on who, where, when, why, and how. Well, we know that coronavirus was discovered in Wuhan, China, in December 2019 and has since spread throughout the world. Create a timeline. Find pictures of the virus. What’s happening with testing? How many confirmed illnesses and fatalities are there? What’s PPE (personal protective equipment)? What’s social distancing? Why are people wearing masks? Hand washing is essential to kill germs. (By the way, didn’t people know that they needed to wash their hands?)

Students can actually create documents, diaries, and journals that chronicle we managed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Who knows, their insight and perspectives could be essential in the years to come. By writing about this pandemic, their feelings, their activities in daily life, and even creative pieces like poetry, stories, and songs, they will simultaneously grow their critical and creative brain muscles. For this reason, encourage your students to write in complete sentences and to use proper capitalization. This process can also help to teach them language, improve their vocabulary, along with teaching them the grammatical rules to writing.

6. Nature

It’s so important that your children get outside and begin to see nature, and ultimately the world, as an incubator for knowledge. Have them examine seeds that are inside of foods such as sweet peppers or harvest seeds from the deadheads of marigolds. You can even purchase a plant. Let them explore the glory of God’s natural world. Plant flowers in your yard or on your balcony and record the weekly growth. Have them draw or take pictures. Describe the growth process to them and have them note what was required for the process to be successful. In other words, nature is a perfect way to learn new things.

7. Library

Even though we can’t get outside, we can still use your local library’s online services.  Some libraries like the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System give members access to digital comic books, music, audiobooks, eBooks, videos, and even research databases for High School and College Students. So make sure your child has a library card so they can get access to these awesome online amenities, and of course so they can get even more learning opportunities once the libraries open again.

8. Internet & Explore

Use the internet to explore! Dig deeper with online Google searches for information. It’s acceptable to view educational programs and documentaries during your designated instruction time. Get in sync with your child’s school for specific times designated if a teacher is providing direct instruction, but outside of that use every opportunity you can for learning and instruction. A word of caution: Be sure to check your child’s internet history. Try to keep them safe from shady characters, scammers and unsafe websites online.

9. Cook and Bake

Maybe you have cookbooks or favorite recipes. Cooking and baking is a great way to teach your child math and measurements, but also a necessary life skill. You can even locate additional recipes and instructional videos online. By cooking and baking together, you bond as a family but also reinforce academic lessons, inspire new interests, and encourage learning through life experience.

10. Exercise

Moving the body is an important aspect of growing the mind. Exercise with your kids. Jumping jacks, stretches, and sit ups are basic exercises that get the blood pumping and the brain engaged. Just don’t give your neighbor who lives downstairs a headache. Use your back yard if you have one. Take a walk while practicing social distancing. Fresh air is still important. Even though most parks and playgrounds are closed during this time, exercise and play are essential in student’s academic development and growth.

11. Trips & Extracurricular Activities

Field trips are a critical piece to a child’s learning experience. While social distancing has prevented us from being able to travel, several museums, zoos, aquariums and more are offering virtual tours. In fact, We Are Teachers has compiled over 25 educational virtual field trips students in quarantine can take. Even though you can’t get outside don’t see being homebound as a handicap, see it as an opportunity.

http://https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YnF-o-nJ1To

12. Bible Study

Reading the Bible with your children is a great way to stretch them academically. Encourage them to read verses aloud and ask them what they think the verses mean. Teach them about the importance of reading verses in the context of chapters, individual books, and even within the context of the Old or New Testament. This will not only increase their critical thinking skills, but also give them the tools to develop a relationship with God for themselves.

These are not exhaustive, but they are a few tips to assist you in homeschooling your students. While such a task can most certainly become overwhelming, try seeing this time as an opportunity to help your kids love learning and to discover their passions. While this is a stressful time now, we won’t always be in this situation. Try being intentional with the time you have and how you use it. You don’t have to fill in every minute from 8 am-3 pm as though they are in school. But instead, try to find ways to make home life something that encourages and inspires learning. And most importantly, enjoy this season in life when your family is blessed to spend more time together.




Virus Economics: How to Spend Your Stimulus Check

Pandemic viruses are the mother of invention. Think about it! Within two weeks of the United States Congress passing stimulus legislation, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), who would take several weeks if not months to provide taxpayers their refund, began issuing checks or direct deposits to over seventy-five million qualified individuals. While this issue is not the subject of my blog, I cannot help but ask, why does it take them so long to send me my Benjamins? Anyway, with social distancing and lock downs in effect we now have to deal with stimulus viral economics. How do you plan to spend your stimulus? Do you have a plan? What should you spend it on? Let’s highlight some options and controversy.

1. TITHING

This is probably controversy #1. Should I really be giving the church 10% of my stimulus check? It’s a pandemic after all! Can I defer my contribution and catch up later?  I’m already behind on my other bills. Is tithe a necessary expense?  Send your thoughts and responses to: ruthven@give2getrich.com let’s talk!

2. CREDIT CARD

Some who provide financial information may have a different view, but stimulus checks should not be used to pay your credit card bills. They can wait! While it’s not my considered recommendation to suggest ignoring your debt, this is an exception. Credit card payments are important but not necessary.

3. MORTGAGE /RENT

Now here is an expense worthy of top priority. Stimulus checks should be used to keep a roof over your head. Remember the average American rent is estimated to be $1,400.00. If your stimulus check is $1,200.00 then you have the perfect opportunity to take care as much of this expense as possible. Although this might seem like a no brainer, it’s worth mentioning: using your stimulus check to pay your mortgage or rent is a great way to use your stimulus check.

4. FOOD

In the battle of critical choices between food or mortgage who wins? It is a difficult choice, but I would probably choose to spend the money on mortgage/rent. My thought is I can always visit a soup kitchen, church, food pantry, neighbor or some place for assistance. Although, one can argue that since under the law and national emergency your landlord or mortgage company will probably not be able to evict you, I would vote in favor of paying the mortgage/rent. This decision is influenced by several factors like your family size, how many kids are at home or elderly parents living with you. The point is, either expense would qualify for stimulus check spending.

5. UTILITIES

When I say utilities I am thinking about electric, gas and telephone for starters. But this budget item begs the question, should stimulus checks be used to pay for cable bills? The answer is, do you need cable and if so, can you not find it at a cheaper price? Is cable a necessity? When considering whether or not to use your stimulus check on utilities ask whether or not the utility is a necessity and if you can get it elsewhere at a cheaper cost first.

6. CHILD SUPPORT

A client of mine text me this week to clarify whether or not her former husband’s stimulus check would be garnished for child support payments. I had to inform her that unfortunately he would receive his stimulus check despite his outstanding child support obligation. Does child support qualify as a necessary stimulus check expense? I would argue yes. The decision as to whether or not child support is a budgetary item to spend ones stimulus check on seems to revolve around which parent has custody or who is the child living with. But should that really matter? For the non-custodial parent, is this your child? If the child were living with you would not food and shelter qualify as necessary stimulus check expenses? Then such suggests that individuals should consider using their stimulus check to pay their child support.

7. DONATE

There are at least 20 million plus individuals who have lost their employment. State systems and processes are not equipped to handle the deluge of people applying for unemployment. Additionally, it may take some time before the unemployed begin receiving payments. Due to such a crisis there are several non-profits and churches who are addressing the needs of those in underserved communities during this virus. If you are in the position to do so I believe donating to these organizations is definitely a worthwhile expense. Again, if you are in the financial position to do so.

8. EMERGENCY FUND

If you can afford it, put some into your emergency fund. While you may still be employed and able to work from home, nothing is guaranteed in this economy. It’s called a rainy day fund, because one day it’s going to rain!

In conclusion, spend your stimulus check on absolute necessities first. It’s government assistance tailor-made to helping you meet your most important needs. Needs you are potentially unable to meet due to the drastic shift in our economy due to the virus.