From uncertainty to sturdier financial footing, during the pandemic

Kendra Willis

by JR Valrey, Black New World Media

Health has been a big topic during the COVID-19 pandemic quarantine, but no one is talking about financial health. With the stock market being stunted and the government doling out trillions of dollars to individual citizens, small businesses and corporations, it is beyond the time when we should realize that the economy is in free-fall and we need to know and think about what is happening with our finances. 

The billionaire class in the United States has reportedly financially benefited greatly from the pandemic, that many are beginning to call a “plandemic,” but the working class is drowning financially from a lack of experience and financial knowledge about the use of certain financial tools and techniques in certain situations. 

Kendra Willis has been a financial advisor for years and someone that I talk to about my money matters regularly, so I expanded a conversation that we recently had on the phone into an article, because this type of information is not reaching the average Black households that are wading through the pandemic, trying to get their feet on sturdier financial terrain. 

The money paid into payroll taxes is used to fund programs such as Social Security and Medicare. If Trump is re-elected and completely eliminates the payroll tax, then he is essentially single handedly going to bankrupt and defund the social security program as a whole. 

JR Valrey: Trump recently announced that he would cut payroll taxes if he won re-election. What does this mean for the aging population? What can be done?

Kendra Willis: As of right now, he recently signed an executive order to defer payroll taxes throughout the remainder of the year. Many people aren’t aware that all employees and employers pay a 6.2 percent payroll tax on wages, which is capped out at $137,700. 

The money paid into payroll taxes is used to fund programs such as Social Security and Medicare. If Trump is re-elected and completely eliminates the payroll tax, then he is essentially single handedly going to bankrupt and defund the social security program as a whole. 

That act in and of itself can completely shake up America because as of right now, 64 million Americans receive Social Security benefits, and let’s not mention the hundreds of millions of Americans who will rely on the benefit in years to come. Cutting the Social Security program is a way to rob Americans of the retirement funds that are due to them. 

People have worked hard and put into the social security pot for years, just to have the government steal it from them, for what reason? You asked what can be done? 

One of the things that we as American citizens can do is we can band together to get Trump out of office. We need a president who is going to look out for us all, old and young alike, and Trump is showing signs that he isn’t that president now and never will be. 

JR Valrey: People’s 401k accounts have taken a beating since the COVID pandemic began. Can you explain why? What should people do with their 401k’s now?

Kendra Willis: Many people don’t realize that their 401k plans are company sponsored plans that are directly linked to stock market performance. Your 401k plan is generally a mutual fund, and mutual funds’ performance is based on market performance. 

When the stock market doesn’t do well, neither does your 401k. In a down market you lose money from your plan. The coronavirus pandemic caused market volatility and when the market crashed many people lost a good portion of their retirement funds. 

During a down market, many advisors may tell people to ride it out or to hang tight, keep contributing and just hope for the best. What people aren’t often told is that you don’t have to hang tight and just watch your money tank or get flushed down the toilet. 

There are other things that a person can do. One thing I constantly stress as a financial educator is that people need to seek a financial literacy education and that you must understand where you are putting your funds in the first place. You have to know how that 401k plan works and you must also know that there are other plans in the market that aren’t directly linked to the stock market. 

There are places that you can put your money that will offer you the gains of the stock market without the losses. You have to learn to do your research and take control over your money because your money is tied to your financial future and no one is going to be more concerned about your finances than you are. 

Another good thing is that even though the pandemic has caused market volatility, the Cares Act was put in place allowing Americans the opportunity to withdraw from their traditional retirement plans penalty free for the remainder of the year. Typically, if you were to withdraw from these plans you would be penalized if you took a withdrawal or loan and you were under the age of 59 and a half. 

My company and my team – Team BOM, the Black Owned Money Movement – offers FREE financial literacy workshops, online webinars, seminars and one on one sessions to help people to understand how to master their money and to be their own money managers.

But now the Cares Act gives the opportunity to take a loan no matter how old you are without penalty and with a tax deferment, so now is possibly a good time to withdraw some of that money and sit down with a financial educator and or advisor to discuss what the best options are for that money. 

JR Valrey: What are some other ways that people can protect their money?

Kendra Willis: Again, as stated before, you can protect your money by learning what your options for growth are. People, especially younger people who still have 10, 20, 30 more years before approaching retirement age, must take the time to seek a sound financial literacy education. 

My company and my team – Team BOM, the Black Owned Money Movement – offers FREE financial literacy workshops, online webinars, seminars and one on one sessions to help people to understand how to master their money and to be their own money managers. 

I’ve learned that most of us only know what we know and because many of us didn’t grow up in households or environments where financial literacy was taught, we rely on what we already know and put too much trust in our employers and in the government when it comes to our finances. If the pandemic has taught us anything, I’m hoping it taught people to really take control over their finances and to start being more aware of what’s happening with their finances. 

For those who want to learn how to save, grow and protect their money, there are resources available and myself and my team of licensed and dedicated educators are one of those resources. We want to help people to take control of their money for the remainder of their lives, and we want to give people the tools to create generational wealth. 

JR Valrey: What have people been coming to you for recently the most?

Kendra Willis: Recently people have been coming to me to help them to come up with a solid financial plan to move forward in life. People want to learn how to master their money, and sitting down with me and my team even once can help people to really get an understanding of how to have at least a basic strong financial foundation. 

We’ve also seen an influx of people wanting to move their money from a spiraling 401k plan into a more solid and stable retirement plan that will give them steady growth. When I introduce these types of plans, people are often shocked because they didn’t know they existed. They didn’t know that there was such a thing as a no loss guarantee plan. 

And I am happy to educate. All of our consultations are free of charge and we help whoever needs the help no matter where they are from or what their level of financial expertise is. We pride ourselves on being able to bring Wall Street to Main Street. 

JR Valrey: How can people get in touch with you?

Kendra Willis: I can be reached on Facebook under Motivate Your Money With Kendra Willis or via email at info4kendralwillis@gmail.com. People can also leave a message or text me at 209-740-9970, my company phone line. 

Note: Kendra Willis is a financial educator, team builder and speaker. She is the owner of Willis Insurance & Financial Services and the marketing director of TEAM BOM, a Transamerica Affiliate. 

SF Bay View Oakland Bureau Chief JR Valrey, journalist, author, filmmaker and founder of the Black New World Journalists Society, can be reached at blockreportradio@gmail.com or on Facebook. Visit www.youtube.com/blockreporttv. All stories related to COVID-19 were partially made possible by the Akonadi Fund #SoLoveCanWin.