With the election of Joe Biden to the Presidency, you're probably here seeking to understand how much your taxes are going to go up.
The answer: most people will see no tax increases.
The tax plan that Joe Biden has rolled out is targeted at individuals making more than $400,000 a year, less than 1% of the population of the US. If you (like me) are not one of these lucky individuals, then it's very-likely that nothing in this article is going to apply to you.
But, for argument's sake, let's hop in the Model S, drive over to the penthouse, and analyze what Biden's tax code plans mean for you.
If you make over $400,000 a year
First, Biden is going to impose a 12.4% tax on incomes over $400,000 to fund Social Security, split evenly between employers and employees. This is a new tax, because Social Security taxes in the past have been capped on income at or below $137,700.
People who made over $137,700 had a tax break where they didn't have to pay into Social Security for all of their income. Biden's tax plan still allows people making over $137,700 to not pay the Social Security payroll tax for income above that amount as long as they make under $400,000.
When your income exceeds $400,000, you then have to start paying the tax again. This creates an interesting tax structure where people's income at the very bottom and the very top of their income is being taxed for Social Security, but income in the middle is not.
Second, while Biden is likely to keep many of changes from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, he has stated that he is going to revert the marginal tax rate for individual incomes above $400,000 from 37% back to the previous 39.6%. As with the Social Security tax, this does not kick in unless your income goes above $400,000.
Individuals making above $400,000 will also have their incomes above $400,000 see itemized deductions capped at 28%. That means if your income is over $400,000 and your tax rate is over 28%, you have less options for itemizing your deductions to get a lower tax rate.
Some business owners have benefitted from deducting up to 20% of their business income as well as 20% of the dividends from qualifying Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) on their taxes. Biden is proposing phasing that out for incomes above – drumroll - $400,000.
But what if you're not just making $400,000 a year? What if you are making even more than $400,000 a year? What if you earn over $1 million a year? That's when Biden's really going to hit you where it hurts – your investments.
Most people pay taxes on what's called "earned income," referring to things like your salary at your job. The tax rates for that range from 10% to 37%, depending on how much you make. If you make money from investments instead, that's a whole different story.
If you buy an investment and sell it for a profit within one year of purchase, you would pay your normal income tax on any profit you make. But if you hold the investment for longer than a year, you pay a reduced tax rate between 0% and 20%, depending on your income.
If you make over $200,000 ($250,000 for married couples), you would also pay a 3.8% tax on net investment income. What Biden is proposing is taxing any income over $1 million the same regardless of it comes from your salary or your long-term investments.
The wealthiest people in the US have seen a large amount of their income come from investments, and this measure would keep the wealthiest Americans from paying less in taxes than average working people just because the money comes from holding stocks or real estate instead of a traditional job.
If you make under $400,000 a year
Let's say that you, like more than 99% of Americans, do not make $400,000 a year. Does this mean Biden's tax plan will not affect you at all? There's actually a decent chance you might see some changes to your taxes.
Biden is proposing bringing back the First-Time Homebuyers' Tax Credit, originally created to help the housing market during the Great Recession, and provide up to $15,000 for first-time homebuyers. With interest rates at historic lows, this may be another incentive for you to consider dipping your toes into the real estate game and becoming a homeowner.
Biden is also proposing expanding the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit from $3,000 up to $8,000 for one dependent and $16,000 if you have multiple dependents. The maximum reimbursement rate would also adjust from 35% to 50%. If you have kids or other dependents, this may reduce how much you pay in taxes by giving you a child tax credit the money you spend to support your family.
Biden also has a few very targeted tax cuts and tax benefits that will apply to a much smaller group of people. One is expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (a tax credit for low-income people who are very close to the poverty line) and allowing people over the age of 65 to also claim the credit even if they do not have dependent children.
He would also provide a refundable low-income renter's credit, reinstate tax credits for the purchase of electric vehicles and improvements to your home to make them more energy-efficient, as well as exempt forgiven student loans from taxable income. These may not apply to as wide a group of people, but if you're older, a renter, looking to live a more green lifestyle, or seeking forgiveness for student loans, Biden's tax proposals can have you looking at a smaller tax bill.
Biden's plans for inheritances
At first glance, it looks like everyone making more than $400,000 a year will pay higher taxes and everyone else will pay less taxes than they currently do. However, there is a part of Biden's tax plan that may have an impact on you even if you are lower income – if you have a rich family.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act raised the threshold at which estate taxes are paid and lowered how much they have to pay in taxes. If you stand to inherit an estate worth $11.6 million dollars today ($23 million if you are a married couple), right now you don't pay taxes on it.
If you inherit more than that, you would pay a top rate of 40% tax. Biden is proposing lowering the threshold where the tax would kick in back down to $3.5 million ($7 million for married couples) and raising the tax rate back to 45%. This will affect roughly 0.3% of estates. If you are in the 99.7%, you do not need to worry about the Biden inheritance policy.
Now, the next part is closing an inheritance loophole called the "stepped-up basis" loophole. Right now, when an heir inherits an asset, they only pay taxes on the gain in value of the asset from the time that they inherited it.
Let's say your parents bought $100 worth of stocks decades ago and today those stocks are worth $10,000. If your parents passed away and left you the stocks, you would be allowed to sell them immediately and not pay any taxes.
If you held the stock and the price rose to $12,000, you would only pay taxes on the $2,000 in value the stocks gained since you inherited it. This because the initial value of the stocks would be "stepped-up" to the value at the time you inherited it rather than the value at the time your parents bought it.
This loophole has allowed the very wealthy to leave very valuable assets to their children without needing to pay taxes and allowed generations to pass large fortunes to their children. Biden has proposed closing this loophole and not stepping-up the value of an asset when it is inherited; taxes will instead be paid on the value of the asset from when it was first purchased.
This part of the plan has yet to be fully fleshed-out by Biden, but it appears to be modelled after a proposal from the Obama administration. That plan allowed an exclusion of $100,000 per person (rising with inflation) and excluding $250,000 for primary residences ($500,000 for couples). It also allowed a 15-year payment period and tax deferrals for family-owned small businesses. Biden may roll out similar provisions once he rolls his tax plan out before congress.
Does any of the Biden tax policy outlines even matter?
Biden has presented something of a wish list for his tax plan, but that doesn't mean he can wave a magic wand on January 20th and put it into place. This plan will require significant negotiations in Congress, and if Republicans retain a Senate majority, they may refuse to even allow a bill to have a hearing. Ultimately, Biden's tax proposals may change significantly as they work their way through Congress and if they are not able to garner enough support, they may never come into effect.
Let’s face it: this sucks.
After a massive vaccine campaign, a pretty successful hot-vax summer, and a pre-holiday season which made us believe things would finally-finally be getting back to normal, we were introduced to the Omicron variant.
As booster shots slowly rolled out, none of us were prepared for how hard and how fast this surge would hit. Unlike other variants, Omicron is more resistant to the vaccine and is infecting even those with booster shots and antibodies.
And it’s really effing scary.
Places like New York are teetering on the edge of another lockdown as restaurants close, offices shut down, and events get canceled. In short: it feels like March 2020 again.
In the words of the perpetually relatable Olivia Rodrigo: “do you get deja vu?” Yes, Olivia, we do.
There are some differences to this surge. Luckily most people — especially the vaccinated among us — are experiencing mild symptoms. While numbers are up, hospitals are not as overwhelmed as they were when the virus first slammed us.
However, this time, many of us are experiencing pandemic burn out — mentally and financially.
When the pandemic first began, no one could have imagined how long it would last. Many people who were furloughed or working from home saw it as taking a few weeks off to relax and unwind. Obviously, this was not the case. Rates of unemployment skyrocketed and some were forced to move out of their homes to save money or take other dramatic, unexpected measures.
What did this look like? Burning through savings accounts, plunging into credit card debt, and adopting the precarious paycheck-to-paycheck cycle. According to CNBC “42% of U.S. adults with credit card debt have increased those balances since the Covid-19 pandemic began in March 2020.”
And while employment rates are up in 2021 and the Great Resignation has seen people seeking and finding better opportunities, the Omicron surge proves it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.
In a recent money confessional on Slate’s “Pay Dirt” column, one reader expressed their frustration at the financial setbacks they experienced during the pandemic. While they were not totaled by the changes, they had to drastically adjust their life plans.
The columnist responded: “A lot of people had their dreams shattered in 2020 … Just because your situation isn’t the same as your more-hard-hit co-workers’ doesn’t mean that you aren’t grieving the loss of your income,” giving us all permission to feel the negative feelings. They continued: “Toxic positivity is very real in the United States and inspires a lot of people to say that no matter what their life is like, they should be happy … But you can be happy and grateful, yet still, acknowledge the suck in a situation.”
This perspective reflects a necessary shift that we all need to make. Especially as we approach yet another perilous year in the land of Covidia. It’s soooo hard to continue — and continue and continue — being grateful and not be, quite frankly, fed up. So what can we do about it?
As everything is spiraling out of control, there are small things you can do to feel less overwhelmed. And maybe, less bitter, sad, or resentful — provide room to process and accept this unfortunate reality as best you can.
Feel Your Feelings
Toxic positivity festers when we assume we should feel a certain way and don’t pause to let ourselves feel our negative feelings. Emotion comes from the Latin emovere - to "move out, remove, agitate." If we really break it down we get ex "out" + movere "to move." What does that mean to us living in America in the early days of 2022? Get those negative emotions outta here. Feel them and move ‘em out.
Then take a deep look, free from judgment, at how you’re actually doing in your day-to-day life. Try daily journaling, or delve into meditation.
Take Stock of your Life
Often, without realizing it, we fall into habits that become patterns and routines that eventually become our whole lives. So, when these habits are disrupted …. by, I don’t know, a global pandemic … we’re shaken out of our comfort zone and into reality. Take a glance at your life. What are you actually, truly, grateful for? What is mere distraction?
Make a Plan
Our spending habits are the first thing to spiral out of control and the most difficult to course-correct. If you’re worried about your financial health during this time — or you want to be more vigilant just in case — try the Cleo app. This holistic service manages your money for you and helps you gain control and improve your situation. Managing your money no longer feels like a chore, and it’s actually fun!
All in all, Meet Cleo makes you feel like you have a handle on your finances. And in these uncertain times, just being aware of your standing can offer a world of comfort. With Meet Cleo as your side, you no longer have to cave to toxic positivity. This app keeps it real and chats with you like your honest, most blunt friend. And for that, we thank her.
Find out more about Cleo here and put yourself on the path to financial control.
When you think of personal finance, what springs to mind?
Kevin O'Leary of Shark Tank fame? Dave Ramsay yelling into a podcast mic? Finance bros tracking their bitcoin? Unfortunately, these are the images we're constantly bombarded by. So they're the archetypes overwhelmingly represented in personal finance.
But it's not all Chads in down vests and dad-types shaming you about your financial faux paus, the personal finance world has grown increasingly more dynamic and diverse.
With the rise of social media, the importance of financial literacy has entered the mainstream, as essential information is no longer confined to impenetrable, official documents. Instead, educators have changed their approach and are making the intimidating world of managing your money far less scary.
Through graphics, memes — and other whimsical mediums — online financial advice that's geared to younger generations is more and more common.
Now, with the help of TikTok — an app unique for wildly popularizing previously niche subjects — personal finance talk has become ubiquitous.
Who's Doing the Talking
The beauty of social media is its power to democratize. Though TikTok has been criticized for promoting those its algorithm chooses — and has even resulted in strikes from Black Creators demanding to be given more credit — it's also granted platforms to people with different experiences and backgrounds.
When it comes to financial advice, TikTok makes it super relatable. No longer is advice restricted to "skip your morning latte" and "quit that avocado toast" or other millennial-shaming behavior. These days, young people directly advise their peers by sharing sympathetic experiences.
From debt repayment to financial freedom journeys, people are engaging with the obscure realm of finances in a charismatic way.
Financial Feminists … But Don't Call Them Girlbosses
One huge TikTok sub-movement that's emerged is the Financial Feminist movement, which urges women specifically to take charge of their finances.
However, this isn't a repeat of the early 2010s Girlboss Feminism or even Corporate Feminism which encourages women to rise up within an established system. This is a whole new ball game.
By empowering women to speak to each other, personal finance is no longer a shame-game. Instead of scrolling through Reddit threads that mock people who support the trappings of the patriarchy like makeup or highly-feminine clothing — which are often deemed necessary for society to take one seriously, if not by Reddit bloggers — women learn from other women about how to manage their lives.
There's also information about unlearning feminized behaviors, helping women break out of socially coded patterns which hold them back from asking for help, asking for more or asserting — and believing! — their true value.
Financial Feminism takes into account the wage gap, talking about gendered norms and systems that prevent us from living financial lives equal to male counterparts.
Even more radical, however, are accounts which incorporate intersectional politics and social commentary. Instead of merely assessing the numbers, they examine the social structures and hierarchies that cause people to treat their money differently and radically affects how they live their lives.
These little communities have become hubs for financial empowerment for marginalized genders with the mission of helping them know themselves better, do better — and have fun while doing it!
Despite its addictive charm, you can't live your life on TikTok alone.
So while Personal Finance TikTok is an okay place to start, taking effective action means getting off TikTok… and onto a better app. Cleo is a budgeting app that's as engaging as TikTok, but actually helps you do the things you're learning.
According to their website, Cleo integrates all your accounts and — like a financially savvy and brutally honest friend — reveals what's truly going on in your wallet.
Cleo is like the coolest finance major you'll ever meet. Simply text her all your questions about your spending, your habits, and your current balances, and she'll give it to you straight.
She'll also tell you when you're running low — like when you really should skip that Starbucks stop so you'll have money left for the subway home — and keeps you on track of your goals.
Ah yes, 'tis finally the giving season!
As someone whose love-language is gift giving, I relish most opportunities to spoil my friends with sweet tokens of appreciation. I am the queen of spontaneous gifts. When I'm puttering around the city, doing my silly little tasks, I always perk up when I find some small trinket that I can give my friends.
Nothing says "I love you" more than saying, "hey, this reminded me of you." And then handing them a nod to a past conversation, or a memory we share. So, sorry to my friends for cluttering your houses with sentimental junk, but I'm even more apologetic for my fatal flaw: when it comes to the holidays … I always draw a blank!
To me, organic gifting is much more genuine than holiday gifting. Yet, if I were to use that as an excuse for turning up empty-handed to every single holiday party this season. I fear I'd start the new year off with fewer friends. And, as someone who loves to receive gifts just as much, I don't want to chance burning bridges that might hold presents on the other side.
So, when the holiday season arrives, I spend far too much of my precious time strategizing my gifts for my friends.
Often, when I draw a blank, I end up splurging on expensive gifts — a luxury candle, a decadent face oil, a classy bottle of perfume. Sure, these opulent gifts are a cop out, but they're guaranteed successes. Upon opening a package containing their favorite, overpriced indulgence who wouldn't smile?
Due to my holiday default, I'm forced to do some serious budget planning to accommodate my lavish spending. Or, more often, I go spectacularly over-budget.
However, this year, I must make a change. After my summer of post-vax hedonism that granted justification to spend more money than I'd ever dare, my holiday budget's looking pretty lean.
After sitting myself down and giving myself a strict talking to about prioritizing my savings, I've come up with some tips on how to save money around the holidays:
Review your budget
The amount of money we think we spend and the money we actually spend are two very different numbers. Grab a drink, pull out your bank statements, it's time to get to the bottom of your spending.
Take a look at two or three months and categorize your purchases. Which ones were intentional? Which ones were emotional? And how many times did you go to the coffee shop just to feel something and leave with a $10 latte and pastry? Once the truth is laid out in front of you, it's easy to see where you're bleeding money.
For me, it's coffee shops and boutique clothing stores I discover during jaunts around trendy neighborhoods. Whatever your vices are, do your best to become aware of them.
Budgeting apps like Cleo have helped me curb my impulse spending a ton! Cleo talks to me like a friend would — a friend who is not afraid to tell me no and call me out on my overspending. We all need a friend like Cleo, so download the app and watch your budget change overnight.
via Cleo App
Cut out what you don't need
It's all well and good to glance at your spending, but the next step is brutal: get honest with yourself about the purchases you could have gone without. But this isn't about deprivation, it's prioritization. What can you relinquish now to ensure you have a great holiday season later?
Cringing at past impulse buys I've made, I vowed to avoid my typical temptations, since I couldn't resist them. I know I'm easily lured into charming little storefronts downtown. So I took new routes home, avoiding the streets where all the cool clothes lie, waiting for me to cave.
I'm sure, in good time, I'll be back. But that's a problem for 2022-me. Until then, we just have to hold out for less than two months, get the gifts our friends deserve, and then it's back to regularly scheduled planning.
Make a spending plan
Saving without a plan usually leads to spending. As you narrow down what you can afford, figure out what you want to buy. I like to split it into categories: larger expenses vs. affordable picks.
Here's the fun part: shopping around. Sometimes I only have a general idea of what I want to buy, and sometimes I have specifics in mind. Either way, I love to shop around for a deal.
When it comes to saving money, research is paramount. Various vendors might have different prices, promotional codes, or sales. A quick Google search can often save you 10% or more, so don't take the first price you see as gospel.
via Cleo App
After finding the best price, I can budget for what I'm going to buy and when. Which takes me to ….
Take advantage of sales … strategically
The holiday season brings with it the promise of big, blowout sales. But, if you're not careful, you can end up spending more money during a sale — which is precisely the stores' intention.
Don't fall victim to the allure of those big, red "SALE" stickers. Instead, plot out how to take advantage of a number of sales for different products. Adding those sale prices to your spending plan will keep you focused and on track, instead of buying frivolous items no one will ever use just because the prices are slashed.
Saving money over the holidays doesn't mean you have to make a Scrooge of yourself. You can still gift and gift well, just more intelligently. Spending with intention is key to savings, while investing thoughtfully into your relationships.
Apps like Cleo can help you keep your finances on track without feeling overwhelming. With one download, you could be on your way to mega-savings.