Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: What to do if you’re laid off due to Coronavirus. Also in the news: Coronavirus relief for small businesses and the self-employed, free ways to protect your mental health, and 4 things to do for your parents during the Coronavirus outbreak.

What to Do if You’re Laid Off Due to Coronavirus
One step at a time.

Coronavirus Relief for Small Businesses and the Self-Employed
What the CARES Act offers.

Free Ways to Protect Your Mental Health
Just as important as your physical health.

Do These 4 Things for Your Parents During Coronavirus Outbreak
We all need to take care of each other.

Q&A: Setting up nieces and nephews for success

Dear Liz: This is a little unorthodox, but I’m hoping you can help. I have six nieces and nephews from my various brothers and sisters. They range in age from babies to teenagers. When they get older, I want to be able to assist them with therapy sessions — not because I think their parents will mess them up, but because I believe mental health is important to success. I imagine telling them about this fund when they are about 18 or so, so I’d need money I can access in five to 10 years. How should I start saving for this? What accounts should I use? Should I open one account for each of them, and how can I manage this the best way for my taxes?

Answer: Custodial accounts could save money on taxes, but the money would become entirely theirs at a certain point (typically age 18 or 21) and you would lose control over what they did with it. You could hire an attorney to draft trusts that would have more restrictions, but that will cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars to set up and administer.

The simplest solution would be to set up one or more accounts in your own name that you’ve earmarked for this purpose. You would pay taxes on any interest, dividends and capital gains accrued, but you would maintain control of the money and it wouldn’t affect the children’s ability to get financial aid in college.

Keeping control also gives you the flexibility to use the money for another purpose, in case your young relatives don’t need or want therapy. Mental health challenges — although widespread — aren’t universal. A survey funded by the National Institute of Mental Health found 46% of adults had a psychiatric disorder at some time in the past, and one-quarter had experienced a problem in the previous year. The most common disorders were major depression (17%), alcohol abuse (13%) and social anxiety disorder (12%).

If you’re concerned about their success and want to help with money they’re even more likely to need, consider funding 529 college savings plans. The money can grow tax-deferred and be used tax-free at virtually any post-secondary school in the U.S., as well as some abroad. You can maintain control and have the flexibility to move money to other beneficiaries, or to withdraw it at any time (although you’d pay penalties and taxes on any earnings).

Q&A: How to help family while on a limited budget

Dear Liz: My son, who is almost 50, is mentally and emotionally challenged. He has been unemployed and homeless for years. Although not a criminal, he’s been in jail a few times because of his explosive, combative nature. There seems to be no help for him in the state where he lives. I do send a few dollars for his basic needs when I can, but must be careful with my budget. Do you have any tips that might be helpful in this situation?

Answer: You’re living with a heartbreaking situation. You want to help, but given your age and financial circumstances your ability to do so is limited. Unless you set some boundaries, you could run through your savings and possibly wind up homeless yourself.

You’ll find some helpful resources at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (www.nami.org), which offers information and, in many locations, support groups for families. Another place to find comfort, insights and suggestions would be a 12-step group for co-dependency, such as Co-Dependents Anonymous (www.coda.org), Al-Anon (www.al-anon.org) and Nar-Anon (www.nar-anon.org). Substance abuse often accompanies mental illness, so you may find it helpful to talk to others who have dealt with problem drinkers (Al-Anon) or addicts (Nar-Anon).

Every state has at least some resources for the mentally ill. You can start your search at MentalHealth.gov to see what might be available where your son lives and let him know the options. But as the members of any support group will tell you, you cannot fix another human being or force him to change. What you can do is to take care of yourself.