401(k) Plan: Start off knowing what exactly this plan actually is. A 401(k) plan is a tax-deferred retirement plan that is offered through your place of employment. The plan can be a cash election, profit-sharing, or stock bonus plan, or a salary reduction per paycheck plan. This plan will help you save for future retirement. Planning wisely will make for the best returns come retirement time.

Accrued Benefits: This describes the benefits an employee with a 401(k) plan has already amassed to date based upon their salary and work time put in thus far.

Annuity: This is a contractual agreement where the insurance company is held to make regular payments to someone for the rest of their lifetime or an agreed upon time frame.

Auto Enrollment: Sorry, you're not getting a new car. This is actually the practice of enrolling all eligible employees in a retirement plan without their request to participate. If the employee wants to opt-out, they must file a request with HR.



Brokerage Window: In some cases, this is the glass pane where you can peek into the broker's office, but for our purposes, a brokerage window is when a 401(k) plan allows for employees to invest in stocks and funds offered by a brokerage firm and part of the employer's plan.

Elective Deferral: The amount an employee contributed to a 401(k) plan, either pre-tax or as Roth contributions if the employer's plan offers a Roth option. *See "Roth" below.

Employer Matching Contribution: Some employers will put money towards their employees' savings plans. Matching contributions are usually a set percentage of what the employee puts in, up to a fixed limit.

Employer Discretionary Contributions: Employers may have a plan at the end of the year for increased matching contributions or profit sharing. These are tax-deductible expenses.

ERISA: This stands for The Employee Retirement Income Security Act, established in 1974. This act sets standards for 401(k) plan administrators and holds up the same rights and regulations for all plan participants across the board.

Fixed Match: No, not a tennis game with a pre-determined winner, but a matching employer contribution that must be contributed each year to an employee's plan as part of the agreement unless otherwise amended.

Individual Retirement Account (IRA): This is a retirement plan that is person and tax-sheltered. Employees who work for a company that doesn't offer a 401(k) may opt for an IRA instead.



Longevity Risk: We all hope to have enough money saved to cover our expenses for the rest of our lives, but a longevity risk is the chance of outliving one's savings. Hopefully, we are all covered for life by contributing as much as possible during our working years.

Participant: This is the person who is eligible to make contributions to a 401(k) plan or to share in an employer's contributions to a 401(k).

Plan Provider: This is the company or firm that develops and sells the 401(k) plan to your employer. This may be a mutual fund company, an insurance company, a brokerage firm, or another related financial services institution.

Plan Sponsor: In a nutshell, your employer. The plan sponsor is the party that offers the 401(k) plan to their employees. They are responsible for choosing the plan and the provider and which investment options will be delivered by the plan.

Pre-tax: Contributions are put into a 401(k) before taxes are calculated. The employee's gross pay is then reduced by how much is put into the plan.

Retirement Plan: This is a plan person makes to set aside income for use during retirement. A 401(k) is an example of such a plan.

Roth 401(k): This is a special feature of a 401(k) plan that lets employees make contributions on an after-tax basis. The money will grow tax-free and can be withdrawn tax-free once the employee reaches the age of 59½ and has had the account for 5 or more years.

Tax-Deferred: Until money is withdrawn from a 401(k), no federal income tax is paid on contributions or earnings.

Vesting: This is the period of time an employee must work for an employer before they are eligible for a 401(k). Some employers start immediately while others require a year or more of employment.

It's time to prep for retirement. With this 101 on 401(k), you're on the path to saving for the "golden years!"

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What do you do when financial hardship hits and you can't make your monthly mortgage payments? This is a question on many homeowner's minds as nearly 17.8 million Americans are reportedly unemployed during the coronavirus pandemic.

When homeowners face financial hardship, such as the loss of a job, they often look to obtain a forbearance agreement from their lender. A forbearance happens when your lender grants you a temporary pause or reduction in monthly payments on your mortgage. Forbearance is not the same as payment forgiveness, in that you still have to pay the entire amount back by an agreed-upon time.

Mortgage lending institutions differ on their mortgage relief policies and qualifications; however, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act were signed into law in late March of this year to protect government-backed mortgages.

Federally backed mortgages include:

  • Fannie Mae
  • Freddie Mac
  • The Federal Housing Administration (FHA)
  • The US Department of Veteran Affairs (VA)
  • The US Department of Agriculture (USDA)

Under the CARES Act, homeowners with a federally backed loan who either directly or indirectly suffer financial hardship due to coronavirus automatically qualify for mortgage forbearance.

Even if your mortgage is not secured by one of these agencies, you still can call and see if you qualify, as many lenders will still offer the option in order to avoid foreclosures.

Under the CARES act, homeowners can claim mortgage forbearance due to financial hardship from COVID-19 for up to 12 months without requiring any documentation or verification. During the forbearance period, mortgage lenders cannot charge late fees or penalties.

Additionally, as long as your mortgage is current at the time you claim forbearance, the lender is required to keep reporting your mortgage as paid current throughout the entire period.

At the end of the forbearance, the CARES act protects consumers from having to make a lump sum payment. Instead, you will be given a repayment plan from your provider. Since repayment options vary, it's important you ask your provider about all of your repayment options.

Possible Repayment Options:

You may be eligible for a loan modification at the end of your forbearance. With modification, the mortgage terms are changed in order to add payments that were missed during the forbearance onto the end of the loan, extending the term.

Another option that may work for some is a reduced payment option. This allows you to keep paying monthly payments at a reduced amount. The amount missed is usually added back into the monthly payments at the end of the forbearance.

For example:

Regular payment: $1000 per month

Reduced payment: $500 per month

Payment after forbearance period: $1500 (until caught up)

Balloon payments, or lump sum payments at the end of the forbearance, are prohibited under the CARES Act. However, mortgage lenders may require homeowners who are not protected under the CARES Act to make a balloon payment at the end, so again it is best to check first with your provider.

Mortgage forbearance should only be considered in true financial hardship. In other words, just because of the pandemic, you should not take a forbearance on your mortgage if you can still afford your payments. Likewise, if you are able to start making payments before the forbearance period is up, it's best to do so as soon as possible.

The Next Steps:

Before you get in touch with your mortgage servicer, save time by gathering as much documentation about the mortgage as you can. Also, be ready to list your income and monthly expenses. Due to an influx in calls, financial institutions are experiencing extremely long wait times right now, and having your information at the ready will help.

Have questions ready to ask. Here are some questions you should be asking:

  • What fees are associated with the forbearance?
  • What are all the repayment options available to you at the end of the forbearance?
  • Will you be charged interest during the forbearance period?

If your forbearance is approved, make sure to keep all documentation pertaining to it. Make sure to cancel any automatic payments to the mortgage during the forbearance period, and keep tabs on your credit report to make sure your lender doesn't report the loan as unpaid.


For more information on forbearance, contact your lender and discuss your options. If you need more assistance with understanding your options, you can contact a local agent for the housing counseling agency, or call their hotline at 1-800-569-4287.