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retirement planning

Where Should You Retire?

This week, our Your Money's Worth podcast host Ryan Ermey interviews co-host Sandy Block about her recent story about the best retirement destinations. Also, the pair discuss "headline" stock market indexes, missing stimulus checks and interest on tax refunds.

Ryan Ermey: Whether you're looking for sunshine and surf or snow and solitude, you probably have a pretty good idea of where you want to retire, but will it be wallet-friendly? Sandy breaks down our cover story on our favorite money-smart retirement destinations in our main segment.

Ryan Ermey: On today's show, we'll chat about the differences in headline stock market indexes, and a new edition of deal or no deal, cover stimulus checks and interest on tax refunds. That's all ahead on this episode of Your Money's Worth. Stick around.

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Ryan Ermey: Welcome to Your Money's Worth. I'm Kiplinger's associate editor Ryan Ermey, joined as always by senior editor Sandy Block. And Sandy, how excited are you that we just had the best second quarter in the stock market since 1998?

Sandy Block: Speechless, Ryan. That's the only thing I can say.

Ryan Ermey: It's been interesting on social media today, watching a lot of people take, let's call them victory laps about the stock market's performance in the second quarter, especially  . . . It's like we've all forgotten our math class here, that a 50% decline in a given investment requires a hundred percent gain to get back to even. So despite a record breaking quarter, the S&P 500 is still down 3.1% in 2020. I saw someone tweet, "Congratulations to your 401(k)." Most people's 401(k)s are probably still down.

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Ryan Ermey: Anyway, I thought it was an opportunity to discuss something that I wrote about in the August issue of Kiplinger's, which is what people talk about when they talk about the market. You might see in a headline, "Stocks have best quarter since 1998," or what have you. And what do people mean by stocks? What do people mean by the market? For most people, you're getting three answers to that, if you're tuning into the radio and if you're sitting in the back of an Uber while they listen to NPR, that's I always seem to be-

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Sandy Block: On the hour. That's right.

Ryan Ermey: If you're checking into your brokerage account, if you're looking at Yahoo! Finance, you're generally getting a three-pronged answer in the form of the performance of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the NASDAQ Composite Index, which is just colloquially called the NASDAQ and the S&P 500. So understanding the differences between these different indexes is important in understanding which slice of the stock market that you're looking at. And if you're investing in ETFs or index funds, which people increasingly are, it's important to know what you're actually invested in. So over the long-term all three of them do work as market barometers, and they tend to move in similar directions.

Ryan Ermey: Over the past 15 years, the Dow has been 97% correlated to the S&P 500, meaning they move in the same direction 97% of the time. And the NASDAQ has been 95% correlated to the S&P. Although lately there's been a pretty big divergence in performance. So we mentioned the year to date return of the S&P 500, that's down 3.1%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 8.4% so far in 2020. Meanwhile, the NASDAQ composite is up 12.7%. It's a big difference.

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Sandy Block: That is a big difference. And is that because, I'm just guessing here, that the NASDAQ is so weighted with tech stocks and tech companies have done well during the pandemic, because we're all online all the time?

Ryan Ermey: So not necessarily because we're all online all the time, but yeah, tech has been doing really well because a lot of their operations really haven't changed. If you're an online company, say you're the company that's enabling us to communicate with each other and have this podcast right now, your operations haven't been interrupted by the pandemic. Both the S&P and the NASDAQ have huge weightings to the top five companies in the index. And that's an important thing to remember that both of these indexes are market cap weighted. So share price times shares outstanding. The biggest stocks, essentially in this sense by market capitalization, occupy the biggest spots in the index. And if you're talking about the five biggest companies, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon.com, Alphabet and Facebook make up in the low 20s percentages of the S&P 500. For the NASDAQ, they are closer to 40% of the index.

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Ryan Ermey: And these are companies that have been not only surviving, but thriving during the pandemic, which is why you're seeing bigger out-performance of the S&P over the Dow, but really big out-performance of the NASDAQ. So the NASDAQ, as you mentioned, Sandy, totes toward fast growing businesses, particularly tech, which comprise some 40% of the index. And even more, if you consider that Google and Facebook are considered communications companies, Amazon is considered a consumer company. So not all tech is tech by the stock market's standards. But over the past 15 years, the NASDAQ has been by far the best performer of the indexes as tech has really been dominant for a long time, a 12.3% return over the past decade and a half compared to 9% for the Dow Jones and 8.8% for the S&P 500. These returns are as of June 30th. We're recording today on July 1st.

Sandy Block: So we've talked before about market breadth. And I wonder if this might explain why there seems to be such a divergence between the stock market and the overall economy, because these tech companies seem to be lifting stock market returns at a time when so many industries are really struggling and so many people are out of work, but the market doesn't really reflect that?

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Ryan Ermey: Well, they're certainly leading the charge, and they're the biggest companies and they command the most market cap, which means that . . . there's something scientific about the fact that they're the biggest companies with the most money being most investor dollars being poured in them are going to be the ones that sway the way the stock market. Now, the interesting thing about the Dow Jones and what makes it a very old school index is that stocks in the Dow Jones Industrial Average are weighted by price rather than by market cap. So the companies with the highest share prices, regardless of how many shares there are get top billing, which is why if you look at what they held at the beginning of the year, the most expensive stock in the index was Boeing, which has been absolutely clobbered.

Ryan Ermey: And so that's that makes the Dow quirkier of these indexes. It's put together by a five-person committee from a mix of Dow Jones Indices, and Wall Street Journal folks. It only holds 30 stocks and factors for inclusion are things like company reputation and investor interest. They're really trying to get 30 most important companies or the most influential companies, but that's not going to be able happen because of this price weighting. It means that they're not going to include companies that have humongous share prices because they would command too much of the index by weight. So they can't have the likes of Alphabet and Amazon.com in there because they cost too much. They would command too much weight.

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Ryan Ermey: But over the past 15 years, as I mentioned, the Dow has actually been a little bit better than the S&P 500. It helps that the Dow's collection of blue chip stocks does tend to hold up better when stocks slide and the Dow has a higher dividend yield than the S&P 500. The S&P 500 is of course the preferred market proxy of Kiplinger's. It's transparent in the way that it's put together. It's essentially the 505 largest companies in the U.S., which covers about 80% of the U.S. stock market by market cap. Because we're going a little long for a second here, but it's our show. We can do what we want.

Ryan Ermey: I did want to just to mention a few ways to invest, if investors are interested. So if you're interested in investing in the Dow, direct Dow exposure, you can do the SPDR Dow Jones Industrial Average ETF Trust (DIA). That tracks the index. If you're into the Dow for its dividend payments, Invesco Dow Jones Industrial Average Dividend ETF (DJD), which holds only dividend paying stocks in the Dow, which right now is all of them, weighted by yield. Now, if you're interested in the NASDAQ, which if you're into . . . the performance has been excellent. So it's been good if you've been in the NASDAQ. Fidelity offers two funds that replicate it, the Fidelity NASDAQ Composite Index Fund (FNCMX) is the mutual fund, which charges 0.36% of assets and expenses, and the Fidelity NASDAQ Composite Index Tracking Stock (ONEQ), which is an ETF, with a lower expense ratio 0.21%.

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Ryan Ermey: And a lot of people probably are familiar with the Q's: Invesco QQQ Trust (QQQ). That tracks the NASDAQ 100, which includes the 100 largest non-financial stocks in the NASDAQ. So the NASDAQ Composite tracks all of the stocks that trade on the NASDAQ Index. This only tracks the hundred largest non-financial ones. So you're just getting an even higher concentrated tech growth portfolio. And then finally, S&P 500. There's any number of S&P 500 funds. The I-Shares S&P 500 Index (IVV) is our favorites and member of the Kiplinger ETF 20. It charges 0.04% in expenses. And, Sandy, we discussed market breadth. If we are indeed entering into a new bull market, there's likely to be broader participation among stocks lifting the stock market.

Ryan Ermey: So you might want to consider an equal weight version of the S&P 500, the Invesco S&P 500 Equal Weight ETF (RSP) tracks a version of the S&P that assigns equal weighting to all 505 stocks and charges 0.2%. So next time you're listening to NPR market news on the eights or whenever it breaks. That's what I used to do in Philly, "On the eights, or when it breaks." Just have an idea in your head that the three indexes are different in terms of how they're put together and what they hold. And so the market's not a monolithic thing. So whenever things are being tracked, you're getting a slice of what stocks are actually doing. So keep it on the indexes and keep an eye on your portfolio.

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Ryan Ermey: Coming up, our favorite places to retire feature low taxes, excellent healthcare and space to breathe. Come right back.

Ryan Ermey: We are back and Sandy, you are the author of the cover story for the August issue of Kiplinger's. So you are a special guest today, because that's what we're talking about.

Sandy Block: That's right. Our annual cover of best places to retire.

Ryan Ermey: So we do this every year. And I guess the question off the top is why did we decide to publish this story during a time when people by and large aren't going anywhere?

Sandy Block: Well, we had a lively discussion about whether we should do that this year, because as you said, people aren't going anywhere. But we came down on two things. One is just because people aren't going anywhere now doesn't mean they're never going to go anywhere again. And people tend to plan on their retirement destination pretty far in advance. So we thought let's just give our people some ideas, so they can start thinking about it. And when they are ready to start traveling to places, they can narrow down their list. And then we did allow the pandemic to inform our criteria. And I need to give a shout out here to our Kiplinger contributor Stacy Rapacon, who did the bulk of research on this and wrote up the cities.

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Sandy Block: So I don't want to take all credit for the work on this, because she did a ton of work. But what we decided to do was screen cities for a sort of criteria that are in people's minds right now. And obviously, number one is good healthcare. Everyone cares about that, but we also screened for low density. Maybe right now and maybe even in the future, people aren't going to be so keen on living really close to each other. So the cities we chose have more space. They're not necessarily out in the middle of nowhere, but you're not living right on top of each other. We looked for a modest cost of living, low taxes or at least neutral taxes, and the other thing I thought was really interesting that Stacy screened for was internet access.

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Sandy Block: Millions of people in this country do not have broadband and that's important for everybody, but if you're a senior, that's often the only efficient way you can find out about your Social Security. We were reporting on the growth of telehealth, where you communicate with your doctors. Obviously, right now it's critical. It might be the only way a retiree can talk to their grandchildren is on Zoom or Google Hangouts. So we'd looked for that, too. And then we came up with seven cities that we think people might want to check out when they're ready to start checking places out.

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Ryan Ermey: So a couple of things there. And the answer to the first question totally makes sense because it's not like people take our magazine out of their mailbox, look at a city and go, "Honey, we're packing bags. We're going to Florida."

Sandy Block: Somebody might, but I've never-

Ryan Ermey: Sandy Block says it, we're going.

Sandy Block: Let's go.

Ryan Ermey: So that's fair enough. And you mentioned how this year's rankings are trying to adjust for possibly the new normal here that we're going to have. A lot of our financial coverage is really about trying to prepare people for what the world might look like as we emerge from this. You also mentioned tax-friendliness. Quickly, what are some a couple of the taxes that you guys are, are focusing on if you're making sure that states are tax-friendly, because you said friendly or neutral. Not exactly sure what people mean by neutral.

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Sandy Block: Well, that means they're not a high tax state. And we publish and we've talked about this, I think, on the podcast. We publish a tax map for retirees that rates states as either tax friendly, tax unfriendly, neutral. And so we didn't include any unfriendly states. Basically, we look at a variety of taxes that seniors pay in a particular state, income tax, obviously being one of them, but also property taxes, sales taxes, and how different types of retirement income are taxed. And that's really important, because some of these states might have an income tax as versus Florida has no income tax, which is why everybody wants to move to Florida. But there are other states that might have an income tax, but exclude most retirement income. They might exclude all of your withdrawals from your IRAs and your pensions and things like that. And in that case, the fact that it has an income tax is irrelevant. So we try to focus on . . . because this is a budget item for seniors and we know from hearing from people that this is something people are very sensitive to.

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Ryan Ermey: Right. And really important differentiator for Kiplinger's in terms of you have to be thinking about how where you're going to retire is going to affect the finances of your retirement and not necessarily just sunshine and lovely weather and fishing and pools and all that. So let's get into some of the places, Sandy. Were there any that made the list that stuck out to you as surprising? A place that you thought, "Huh, maybe I could see myself retiring there."

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Sandy Block: Yeah. I was thinking Knoxville,Tennessee. I have family in Tennessee, but my only recollection of Knoxville is being stuck in an epic traffic jam there when I was a little girl and we were on our way to visit relatives. So I haven't really explored Knoxville, but by the description I thought it was very intriguing. For one thing, it's really affordable. The median home value is $128,000, which would buy you a tool shed in D.C. It's so cheap. So it's just a very low cost metro area. It's near the Great Smoky Mountains, which are beautiful. There are tons of act outdoor activities, but at the same time Knoxville is a decent sized town. It's not some cow town, so there's lots of activities there too. So that one, and Tennessee is beautiful and it's also a state that is not so far South that I think it's horribly hot. You get a little more weather there than you do if you go South to Florida. So that one intrigued me. Did any of them stand out for you, Ryan?

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Ryan Ermey: Well, before I get into that, I should also say that when I worked on this story, the angle-

Sandy Block: That's right. You traveled for this story.

Ryan Ermey: I sure did. The angle was university towns and Knoxville is where the University of Tennessee is.

Sandy Block: That's right. And that's always a plus, because there's activities. You can get classes. College towns are great places to retire.

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Ryan Ermey: Yeah, which is another point in the win column for Knoxville. The one that stuck out to me and I wanted to ask you about was Raleigh. I have some buddies who moved there after college and it's a really charming city. And I've always had a good time partying in Raleigh.

Sandy Block: I'm not sure that's on the top of the list of our retirees  that it's a great place to party, but maybe, I don't know, younger retirees. The interesting thing about that area and that's the ultimate college town, which is -- I think -- why it's interesting, but according to Stacy's research it has pretty good density. They're not that close together there. It has a relatively low population density, about 3,000.

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Ryan Ermey: Yeah, definitely sprawl a little bit.

Sandy Block: Yeah, if you want that. And what she pointed out was that the triangle has about 3,000 people per square mile. Compare that to New York City, which has about 27,500 people per square mile. So if you want a little space, but you don't want to live out in the middle of nowhere. Healthcare, because of the college presence, is really good. The rap on that area is unlike my town of Knoxville. Home prices are pretty high, but a lot of people are willing to pay them for the other amenities that they get.

Ryan Ermey: Yeah. And in my experience, downtown Raleigh . . . there was like . . . let's call it six square blocks with a lot of stuff and cafes and breweries and shopping and dining and all this stuff. But then you get in your car and it gets pretty residential pretty quick. So might be nice for people who want the best of both worlds. And of course, Sandy, we always have a Florida destination. I went to St. Augustine when I reported this story. Inquiring minds want to know where should people be heading in Florida.

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Sandy Block: We included Pensacola, which is not a big city in Florida, so it passes the density test, but it does have good health care, some very nice beaches and Florida has no income tax. It has no winters and it's got a lot of beach. So people are always looking for one of those. So we put in Pensacola this year. And the other cool thing about Pensacola, it is home to Naval Air Station Pensacola and the iconic Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Squadron. So if you're a fly boy or fly girl, it's a cool place. And more broadly, it has a strong, positive military presence. And that is a boost for the local economy and you'd like to live in a place that has a good economy. So Pensacola made our list this year. I love St. Augustine. We just don't do repeats. I would move to St. Augustine in a heartbeat. I'll tell you, it looked gorgeous.

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Ryan Ermey: Yeah. Florida's historic host, they call that in the brochures. And the last thing I want to ask you about, we obviously don't want people to just take our word for it and pack their bags and go retire. So what really is the advice, if people are attracted to some of the destinations that they might see in this story and want to start gathering string on it?

Sandy Block: People should do a test drive once they're comfortable going someplace. And a test drive doesn't mean going down there for the weekend and saying, "Wow, I want to live here." When I started working on this -- I've been doing this for seven or eight years -- Airbnb wasn't really a thing. But now it is. And that means you could potentially rent a place and live in your potential destination for weeks or even months and really get an idea of what it is. You don't want to go there just one season. You want to find out what it's like all year round. You just want to get a sense of the place. Even things like the political views of people around you, what traffic is like. There's all these kinds of things that you just don't get visiting.

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Sandy Block: So really to the extent that you can and afford it, you want to stay awhile. And when I was reporting on this, Bert Sperling, who is founder of Best Places, which raised everything, told a story about this beautiful house in Southern Oregon coast that turns over every five years, because these retirees from, I guess the other side of the country look at it and it's beautiful and it's windswept and it's big and they buy it. And then they find out that the nearest airport is three hours away, the nearest hospital is three hours away, the nearest town has two restaurants and one of them is a bar and nobody wants to come visit them, because there's nothing to do.

Sandy Block: So this house keeps turning over and that's the mistake you want to avoid. It's expensive to buy and sell a house. And the great thing about a lot of places that are potential retirement destinations is they do have a lot of rentals. You can rent a condo. And that way you're not committing, you can really make up your mind, because it is a commitment and you don't want to sell your house and leave your kids and your friends and get to a place that you ultimately determined is a bad fit.

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Ryan Ermey: Well, there you have it folks. Don't just take our word for it, but do check out all of the places in our August cover story. We will also have it up in the show notes. And if you do like it, make sure go take a test drive first.

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Ryan Ermey: After the break, refunds and stimuli feature an IRS-themed version of Deal or No Deal.

Ryan Ermey: We are back and before we go, it is a new edition of Deal or No Deal. And Sandy, what do you got?

Sandy Block: I've got a deal. The IRS is paying interest on delayed tax refunds. You don't even have to be a real procrastinator to benefit from this, because the IRS is paying interest on a delayed refund even if you wait until July 15th to file, which you can do this year, because as we've discussed, the Congress and the IRS decided to move the tax filing deadline ahead to give people more time because of the pandemic and the economy. Well, I'm not going to get into the details here because I don't really understand them, but something in the tax code basically says, if the IRS gets to hold onto your money longer than a certain period of time, it has to pay interest.

Sandy Block: And the code doesn't take into account the fact that you were allowed to file later. So the bottom line here is if you haven't filed yet, if you file on July 15th or even if you've already filed, but your refund has been delayed, which has happened to a lot of people, particularly those who filed on paper, because the IRS has a huge backlog. A lot of its workers were sidelined for awhile. So there are a lot of people and the best thing about this is the interest rate is 5%, which is like 4.9% more than you'll get practically anywhere else these days. So it's a decent interest rate.

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Sandy Block: Now, a couple of things that I think are even more fascinating about this deal is you're going to get the interest separate. It's not going to just be added onto your refund. You'll get it in a separate thing. So watch for that and don't throw it away like some people did with their debit stimulus cards. I hope it's not as badly packaged as those were. And the other thing, and this is just fascinating, is that the interest is taxable. It will be treated as taxable and you will have to report it as taxable income in 2020. And don't think the IRS won't notice because they're the ones that sent it to you. So they're going to have a record. So maybe it won't be actually 5% because you're going to have to pay taxes, but it's a little something-something that I think no one was expecting to get. And these days, we'll take everything we can get. So I would definitely call this a deal. Now, Ryan, what did you get?

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Ryan Ermey: Yeah, I guess we should have billed this as an IRS-themed Deal or No Deal, because a lot of people still haven't gotten their stimulus checks and that is no deal, Sandy.

Sandy Block: No deal. That's a bad deal.

Ryan Ermey: And so what gives? So first of all, your stimulus payment is really an advance on a 2020 tax credit. Right? So that in fact is not taxable, because it's a tax credit. You'll eventually get it one way or the other, but maybe you could use the money and look, we want it now. We're like Veruca in "Willy Wonka." You tell us where we're getting money, we want it now. So one reason that you may not have gotten it is because the IRS may not have your bank account information, or it may have the wrong information or a change of address issue could have happened.

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Ryan Ermey: So your first stop should be the IRS Get My Payment tracking tool where you can submit your bank account and your address information. The IRS will let you know through that portal, if they need more bank account information. So that should be your first step. It could also be that you're just far back in a line. The IRS sent checks to low income folks first and has scheduled payments all the way through late August as it goes up the household income. So for instance, if your household income is $150 to $160,000 and your receiving a paper check, you aren't scheduled to get one until July 31st. And we have that whole calendar on Kiplinger.com. So we'll put that in the show notes.

Ryan Ermey: Now, if you're eligible for a payment, but because of low income or some other reason, didn't need to file a tax return for 2018 or 2019, and remember that's what the IRS used to determine if you were eligible for the payment, you may need to use the IRS's Non-Filers Tool to give the agency your information. So for that, you head to the IRS website, you check the requirements, they have a whole . . . the IRS website is always hysterical to me. Sandy, I know you know this. Example one, "You're a single filer who was a dependent last year." And then it's like, example two, "You and your wife have gone to Ecuador and you have $10,000 . . . " Oh my God, every possible permutation.

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Sandy Block: They want to cover the landscape. That's right.

Ryan Ermey: They have really complicated examples. So I'm sure you'll be able to find whatever your circumstances in general. The IRS has added 3,500 telephone representatives to help you navigate these issues. So feel free to call them up. Especially, if you suspect that you threw out a paper check or they sent these debit cards out that look sketchy.

Sandy Block: It looks really sketchy. I almost tossed mine.

Ryan Ermey: Let's face it.

Sandy Block: Now I've got to buy a refrigerator, but I almost tossed it.

Ryan Ermey: So you can call (800) 240-8100 to request a replacement. It's free. It says, "Press option two when prompted." No excuses folks. And you should call the same number if you expect that someone claimed a stimulus in your name, or if you were possibly the victim of identity theft, you should also file a complaint at identitytheft.gov. So you should go through the IRS and through the FTC. And finally, we should note that the IRS has an estimated 10 million pieces of mail to open and process, including 4.7 million tax returns. So it could be that you're just lost in the shuffle.

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Sandy Block: It's going to be a while.

Ryan Ermey: It could be taking a while. So the one piece of advice I have for that, and this is something that you've talked about, Sandy, is signing up for an informed delivery for USPS.

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Sandy Block: Yes. The United States Postal Service informed delivery. So at least you won't miss something. I think that's a good idea.

Ryan Ermey: So it's a service that lets you track the mail that's coming into your mailbox. So if you, say talk to the IRS and they give you some sense that your check or your card is on the way, at least you can have a sense of when it's going to be in your mailbox and perhaps if your neighbors have gone into your mailbox and then you do have to file an FTC complaint. So there you have it. We will be coming. We've talked to Rocky Mengle about the possibility of a second stimulus. If more news emerges on that front, we will absolutely be covering it.

Sandy Block: We'll be all over that.

Ryan Ermey: Yes, indeed. And until then, hopefully if you haven't received your check, it's on the way/you haven't thrown it out.

Ryan Ermey: That'll just about do it for this episode of Your Money's Worth. For show notes and more great Kiplinger content on the topics we discussed on today's show, visit Kiplinger.com/podcast. You can stay connected with us on TwitterFacebook or by e-mailing us at podcast@kiplinger.com.

Ryan Ermey: And if you liked the show, please remember to rate, review and subscribe to Your Money's Worth wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for listening.

Links and resources mentioned in this episode:

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