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What’s in the American Rescue Plan?

What’s in the American Rescue Plan?

 

There’s a lot to unpack in the newly-passed, newly-signed American Rescue Plan bill. The goal is to help relieve the economic suffering caused by the COVID pandemic in various sectors. The bill makes unemployment benefits more generous, health insurance more affordable, and having children less expensive. It also reduces the pandemic’s most damaging effects on low-income homeowners and the homeless, people with student loans, state and local governments, and school systems.  

 

Most of the press coverage has focused on the $1,400 checks. Not everybody is receiving them. Only single people with an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or below (households with $150,000 AGI or below) qualify for the full amount. The amount phases out entirely for people with incomes above $80,000 (households with AGIs above $160,000). The reporting period is the most recent year that people filed taxes; it could be 2019 or 2020.

 

Unemployment and Cobra

 

The American Rescue Plan also extends unemployment benefits (either through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program or the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program) for an additional 25 weeks until September 6. It maintains the $300 per week supplemental benefit. It also makes the first $10,200 of those benefits tax-free for people who report less than $150,000 in income. The extra $300 federal supplement doesn’t count when calculating Medicaid eligibility and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

 

The healthcare provisions will be a lifesaver for some ex-employees. Under the government provisions in COBRA, people who lost their jobs can continue buying health insurance through their former employer. Still, they pay full-price rather than the subsidized price companies offer to their workers. The new relief bill would have the government pay the entire COBRA premium from April 1 through September 30.

 

The bill will make health insurance much cheaper for those laid off than those who are still working. (This generous subsidy is not available for persons who left their job voluntarily.) Finally, the law imposes a cost cap on health insurance policies purchased through a government exchange. The premiums should not exceed 8.5% of a person’s adjusted gross income, which will benefit low-wage workers.

 

How the American Rescue Plan helps families

 

Families with children will receive additional benefits—but only families whose income qualifies them for the $1,400 checks. 

 

The bill raises the child tax credit from $2,000 to $3,000 ($3,600 for children ages five and under), and it increases the age limit for qualifying children to 17, from 16 previously. These amounts could apply as a tax refund even for people whose tax bill is zero; that is, those who don’t have any reportable income to offset. 

 

Families with incomes between $150,000 and $170,000 would receive the same $2,000 tax benefit as before, and that benefit phases out for married filers with incomes over $400,000 (singles above $200,000).

 

A bigger set-aside for families with children is a monthly child allowance. The government will send a monthly check of $300 for each child under six years old and $250 for each child between the ages of six and 17.

The American Rescue Plan sets aside $27 billion for financial assistance to people whose household income does not exceed 80% of the area’s median income to offset rent, utilities, and other housing expenses. 

The Rescue Plan sets aside $10 billion to help homeowners struggling to make mortgage payments and $5 billion to help the homeless.

Finally, if the Biden Administration decides to cancel student loan debt (which is not a given), the Act specifies that the borrowers wouldn’t have to pay any income taxes on the forgiven debt. 

The American Rescue Plan pie chart

You can see from the chart, with figures compiled by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, that there is also money set aside to keep restaurants and bars afloat and money to help schools better control the risk of infection so they can reopen. $350 billion is going to state and local governments to prevent layoffs and allow them to continue providing essential services

COVID Economic Projections (002)

The administration passed the American Rescue Plan as a stimulus measure, but we can better characterize it as disaster relief. A graph prepared by the Congressional Budget Office (shown here) clarifies that the U.S. economy was on a path to never quite recover from the COVID recession before this legislation passed. 

With the American Rescue Plan in place, the best estimate is that the economy might fully recover as early as the 4th quarter of this year.

 

 

Are you on track for retirement?

Making sure you will be ready for retirement can be overwhelming. Funding your retirement accounts over the years is a critical part of your journey to the retirement of your dreams. An experienced Financial Advisor can help you navigate the complexities of investment management. Talk to a Financial Advisor>

Dream. Plan. Do.

Platt Wealth Management offers financial plans to answer your important financial questions. Where are you? Where do you want to be? How can you get there? Our four-step financial planning process is designed to be a road map to get you where you want to go while providing flexibility to adapt to changes along the route. We offer stand alone plans or full wealth management plans that include our investment management services. Give us a call today to set up a complimentary review. 619-255-9554.

Financial Independence for Women

Financial Independence for Women

Your road map to financial security.

 

Women face many unique challenges when it comes to personal finance and investing.

  • Physical and emotional – longevity, more subject to elder abuse, more likely to struggle after divorce or death of partner.
  • Workplace – lower salary over fewer earning years, out of workforce caring for family.
  • Behavioral – less confident about investing skills, more likely to start investing later, invest in less risky assets, less likely to participate in workplace retirement plans.

What does freedom mean to you – starting your own business, going part-time or leaving the workforce, moving abroad, leaving a relationship or job that isn’t right for you, living without debt hanging over your head?

 

Make your future self happy.

In his TED Talk, Daniel Goldstein tells us that our present self doesn’t want to save but wants to consume and have fun but our future self wants our present self to save. Present self is the one that’s in charge, so how do we convince our present self to pay attention to our investment accounts?

Click here to view on YouTube >>

Draw a persuasive picture.

 

  • Imagine yourself in the future.
  • Anticipate your emotional reaction when future self is able to retire without stress.
  • Visualize reaching your goals.
  • Positive reinforcement about good things your past self has done.
  • Remove obstacles such as inertia.
  • Put decisions on automatic pilot

Where do you want to be?

 

  • When do you want to retire?
  • What does retirement look like to you?
  • How much will that retirement cost?
  • Do you have flexibility?
  • Do you have short-term goals that also need to be funded?
  • What is your time horizon?
  • Do you know how much your Social Security Benefit will be?
  • How much do you need to save?
  • How will you bridge the gap?

.

Debt Best Practices

Pay on time every time! Call your credit card company and request a rate decrease. Transfer high rate balances and consoldate into a low interest loan. Clean up your credit report. Review your credit activity yearly. www.annualcreditreport.com

 

 

4% Rule

You can withdraw 4% each year from a  balanced portfolio (60% stocks 40% bonds) over a 30-year retirement period with a high probability of success of not running out of money.

1M portfolio x .04 = $40,000 per year.

 

Reading List

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

Don’t Ask by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever

The Marshmallow Experiment

4% Rule by Bill Bengen

 

Action Plan

Now is the time to review your accounts, to check for diversification, and to make sure your asset allocation matches your risk tolerance.

So, what is the right portfolio for you?

The asset allocation decision is driven by your risk tolerance.  Risk tolerance is actually a two-prong test.  It encompasses your willingness to take risk and your ability to take risk, which are sometimes at odds with one another.  Willingness is determined by how much portfolio volatility you are comfortable with, which is a subjective choice.   The ability to take risk is an objective determination based on a number of factors including, but not limited to, your goals, your cash flow needs, and tax considerations.   

    Would you like to know your risk tolerance score?

     

    We invite you to complete our online risk tolerance questionnaire. You will receive a personalized and comprehensive risk report. Once you have an idea of your risk number, you can give us a call and we will be happy to review the results and look over your investments to make sure your allocations are aligned with your risk profile

     

    Risk Tolerance Questionnaire

    Find out your personal risk capacity and risk tolerance.

    Medicare

    After reading through the information, you might still have questions. Call us.

    Social Security

    Get started with your account and access to your benefits information.

    Would you like to receive more tools, resources and education? 

    Sign Up

    In a couple of weeks we will have a secure portal for you to sign in and view the full Women’s Alliance Round Table presentation, along with questions and answers from coworkers, tools and downloads for your continued financial journey.

    Would you like to receive our informative Newsletter?

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    Platt Wealth Management offers financial plans to answer your important financial questions. Where are you? Where do you want to be? How can you get there? Our four-step financial planning process is designed to be a road map to get you where you want to go while providing flexibility to adapt to changes along the route. We offer stand alone plans or full wealth management plans that include our investment management services. Give us a call today to set up a complimentary review. 619-255-9554.

    Dream. Plan. Do.

    Smart Credit for Smart People

    Smart Credit for Smart People

    In the consumer economy, credit is pretty easy to obtain. That often leads to problems for those who don’t know how to use it wisely. At the other end of the spectrum, some people avoid using credit altogether. Smart people use smart credit strategies to maximize their financial position.

    Credit provides leverage to help consumers build assets and wealth. In honor of March being National Credit Month, here’s the lowdown.

    Why do most Americans need credit?

    Now that credit scores are national, standardized, and organized by the three credit-reporting bureaus, it’s become a popular measuring tool. Before 1989, credit scores were localized affairs and used mainly for just obtaining loans or credit cards. 

    Today that’s no longer the case because credit scores aren’t just for lenders anymore. It’s essential to monitor your score since there can be a lot riding on it. In today’s world, it’s necessary to have one in the first place. 

    Americans who don’t have at least one credit card will likely find themselves disadvantaged in various financial situations. Not only when it comes to arranging for a mortgage to buy their house but also in finding a job and renting an apartment. 

    Landlords and employers often request a check on the applicant’s credit history. Some consider the lack of a credit score even worse than a bad one. Good landlords may not rent to someone with no credit at all.

    Most Americans must build a retirement nest egg through contributions to a retirement plan. Still, a significant source of household wealth remains the family home. Buying a house for cash is beyond most people’s means, so financing through a mortgage is critical. A history of good credit means a much lower interest rate added to the principal cost than a higher rate for someone with poor or no credit at all.

    That’s why young adults need a credit card and learn to use it responsibly by paying off the balance every month to avoid interest charges. That’s the best way to start a history of good credit, as well as avoiding the pitfalls of having too much revolving debt.

    Maximizing the use of credit cards

    As long as you pay off the card balance each month, the amount due doesn’t continuously increase with interest payments. Using credit cards can help consumers build wealth. 

    In addition to making money, wealth depends on not losing money or giving up too many gains. If someone gains unauthorized access to your card, it’s easier to dispute a transaction compared to a debit card.

    Make money with your credit by finding cards that provide rewards that match your lifestyle. If you do a lot of traveling (and will resume after the coronavirus pandemic), then a card that offers travel rewards makes a lot of sense as long as the annual fee doesn’t wipe out the reward. 

    When you have good credit, it’s easy to find a credit card with low or no fees that give you rewards on your purchases. Cashback is a great reward, but many cards these days offer points instead. You can still benefit from the points rewards because you can exchange points for various merchandise and gift cards. Now you’ve got presents for birthdays and holidays covered.

    Smart credit as leverage

    While credit cards are one example of credit, they don’t provide you with any leverage because you pay the balance every month. Using different credit types to buy assets gives you the ability to invest more without paying the entire amount upfront.

    What kinds of assets does credit help you leverage? Technically vehicles are listed as assets on the balance sheet, but they depreciate quickly. Taking out a loan to buy a car doesn’t provide you with an asset. 

    However, taking out a loan (mortgage) to buy a property or taking out a loan (student loans) to increase your human capital will help you accumulate wealth when used correctly. 

    Being smart about leverage allows you to invest in something that you can’t afford to pay for entirely right now but will be able to in the future (given some reasonable assumptions). Using leverage to buy an asset (or capital) that you won’t be able to maintain in the future sets you up for potential disaster. Keeping it reasonable helps ensure the loan amount won’t wreck your finances down the line.

    Using credit for smart timing

    For example, initially, interest-only (IO) mortgages were used for people who logically expected enough income in the near future that would then allow them to pay down the principal. A typical example (at least here in California) is a Hollywood director who could expect millions from one film released after nine months. The IO loan helped them buy a decent house now rather than wait a year for the money to come in. 

    These loans weren’t intended to finance too much house for people who didn’t expect they’d be able to afford the payments. Of course, IO loans aren’t the only ones that can be misused. You’ve probably heard of the phenomenon known as being “house-poor,” where the housing and associated payments eat up most of the homeowner’s income. 

    Sometimes that’s due to something unexpected like job loss. But sometimes, it’s due to a mortgage that’s larger than the homeowner can reasonably expect to carry for 15 or 30 years. While layoffs and recessions aren’t predictable, the amount of income you need to sustain a mortgage and associated housing payments is. 

    Using smart credit for better returns

    Home equity loans make sense when you’re making improvements to the home that will increase its value. They make less sense when you’re taking the money out to buy something. 

    Similarly, refinancing a mortgage is a great idea when either rates have dropped or your credit has improved to the point where you can substantially save on payments. It’s a bad one when you’re trying to take money out for a purchase because you don’t have any other cash available. Especially an investment that doesn’t result in ownership of an asset.

    If you’re building a business that’s likely to grow and prosper, taking out a business loan to get through those first lean years is an excellent use of leverage. It works with investment real estate, too. Many lenders will allow you to use the property’s expected rental income to increase the loan principal. 

    Making sure that the amount is within reason applies to student loans as well. Taking out a 6-figure loan to pay for school may make sense when you’re entering a field, like medicine, where you’ll be richly rewarded with hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. But it’s way too much for a job where the average income is only in the five figures annually.

    Using credit wisely and as leverage to accumulate capital and build assets is an integral part of a smart financial plan. Debt isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as you manage your credit exposure and avoid incurring unnecessary interest charges.

    Good credit is necessary for the modern world, so having at least one credit card paid off monthly is helpful for many financial decisions.

    Are you thinking about refinancing a mortgage or investing in property? Feel free to give us a call at 619.255.9554 or send us an email to set up an appointment.

     

    Are you on track for retirement?

    Making sure you will be ready for retirement can be overwhelming. Funding your retirement accounts over the years is a critical part of your journey to the retirement of your dreams. An experienced Financial Advisor can help you navigate the complexities of investment management. Talk to a Financial Advisor>

    Dream. Plan. Do.

    Platt Wealth Management offers financial plans to answer your important financial questions. Where are you? Where do you want to be? How can you get there? Our four-step financial planning process is designed to be a road map to get you where you want to go while providing flexibility to adapt to changes along the route. We offer stand alone plans or full wealth management plans that include our investment management services. Give us a call today to set up a complimentary review. 619-255-9554.

    Financial Planning and Investing for Women

    Financial Planning and Investing for Women

    We’ve put together some ideas for women to get comfortable talking about financial planning and investing.

    Women face many unique challenges when it comes to personal finance and investing. One big challenge is that money is a taboo topic for women. By one estimate, 90% of women will be solely in charge of their money at one point in their lives. It can be hard to take control of your financial situation if you don’t feel comfortable talking about it.

    According to research by Fidelity, 80% of women investors refrained from talking about money with people close to them, citing reasons like it’s too personal or uncomfortable, or not wanting people close to them to have that knowledge. Only 47% of women said they would be comfortable talking about money with a financial professional.

    These statistics are seemingly at odds with results from the same study that showed a huge majority of women would like to become more engaged with financial planning and learning more about money and investing.

    With these statistics in mind, we put together a quick list of ideas to help you start talking about your money, finances, and investments.

     

    Find your tribe of women investors.

    Find a community of people that you trust to discuss financial issues. If you have specific goals (like saving more or getting out of debt), surrounding yourself with like-minded people can give you support and encouragement. A group of women can help you feel comfortable enough to ask questions and learn from each other.

    Learn more about financial planning for women.

    Commit time to learning more about personal finance, investing and financial planning. There are many books and online resources dedicated to helping people learn.  Start with our video series on Financial Fundamentals.

     

    Ask your financial advisor questions.

    Don’t be afraid to ask questions if something is confusing or if there are terms you aren’t familiar with. A good financial advisor knows that it is important that you understand your finances and investments for you own security and peace of mind. 

    Be compassionate to yourself when relearning how to talk about money.

    Understand that most people feel some discomfort talking about money, not just women. Personal finance reveals how you spend your money and what is important to you in your life. Talking about it is deeply personal and emotional. You might have to take a hard look at your upbringing and social or cultural teachings about money. If you were taught that it isn’t polite to talk about money or if finances were a source of stress in your family, you may have to relearn some of the beliefs that you were raised with. This can be difficult, so be kind to yourself as you go through this process. 

    Find a financial advisor who understands women investors and their unique concerns.

     

    Find a financial profession that wants to understand your situation and your concerns, answer your questions in a non-judgmental way, and explains your options with the pros and cons of each course of action.

    Platt Wealth Management offers financial plans to answer your important financial questions. Where are you? Where do you want to be? How can you get there? Our four-step financial planning process is designed to be a road map to get you where you want to go while providing flexibility to adapt to changes along the route. We offer stand alone plans or full wealth management plans that include our investment management services. Give us a call today to set up a complimentary meeting. 619-255-9554.

     

    Dream. Plan. Do.

    How the Latest Relief Packages Affects AGI’s, RMD’s, Deductions

    How the Latest Relief Packages Affects AGI’s, RMD’s, Deductions

    The U.S. Congress recently passed, and the President signed, the 5,593-page Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 relief package—and experts are still mulling over what the impact will be on ordinary citizens. There are stimulus checks, tax planning relief provisions, and a break for people who experience high medical expenses during the pandemic.

     

    There’s even a new paycheck protection program extension.

     

    New AGI and tax considerations in latest relief package

     

    First, the new legislation provides for stimulus checks, with a “base” credit of $600 per eligible individual plus $600 more for any dependent child (technically, any children qualifying for a Child Tax Credit). But, as with the CARES Act, eligibility starts phasing out for individuals earning more than $75,000 of adjusted gross income or joint filers with over $150,000 AGI.

    These phaseouts, based on the 2019 tax return, seem unfair. The economic hardships the bill was designed to address took place in the final three quarters of 2020. But if the taxpayer’s 2020 income calculation indicates a larger check amount, the government will issue an additional check to make up the difference. If someone receives a stimulus check based on 2019 income and then reports higher 2020 income, that would make that person ineligible to receive the check. There will be no requirement to pay the money back to the government.

    The new legislation also extends regular unemployment compensation benefits for an additional 11 weeks and adds $300 a week to the unemployment checks. This “pandemic unemployment assistance” for individuals who wouldn’t usually qualify for unemployment benefits (such as self-employed persons) was also extended for 11 more weeks. Note that the $300 a week and 11 weeks is lower than the $600 a week and four-month extension passed in the CARES Act.

     

    Medical and charity deductions in the new relief package

     

    On the tax front, the hurdle for deducting medical expenses in any given year was reduced from 10% to 7.5%, meaning that anything over that percentage of adjusted gross income would now be deductible on your next tax return. And the bill extends a provision from the CARES Act relating to charitable deductions.

    People can take a full deduction of up to 100% of their AGI for any cash donation to a public or private charity (but not a donor-advised fund).

    In the bill, Congress did not extend the temporary waiver of required minimum distributions, which means that people over age 72 will have to resume taking their RMDs in 2021.

    What else can we find in those 5,593 pages?

     

    Taxpayers will use their 2019 earned income to determine eligibility for the 2020 earned income tax credit and additional child tax credit.

    Business lunches and dinners have become 100% deductible for 2021 and 2022.
    And the bill creates a second round of the Paycheck Protection Program forgivable loans, with $284 billion set aside.

    Finally, the bill provides funding for the federal government’s operations for another nine months.

     

     

    Are you on track for retirement?

    Making sure you will be ready for retirement can be overwhelming. Funding your retirement accounts over the years is a critical part of your journey to the retirement of your dreams. An experienced Financial Advisor can help you navigate the complexities of investment management. Talk to a Financial Advisor>

    Dream. Plan. Do.

    Platt Wealth Management offers financial plans to answer your important financial questions. Where are you? Where do you want to be? How can you get there? Our four-step financial planning process is designed to be a road map to get you where you want to go while providing flexibility to adapt to changes along the route. We offer stand alone plans or full wealth management plans that include our investment management services. Give us a call today to set up a complimentary review. 619-255-9554.

    Long-Term Care: What You Need to Know

    Long-Term Care: What You Need to Know

    There are many misconceptions and misunderstandings about long-term care (LTC), including who needs it and how to pay for it. It’s essential to break down the main components of long-term care insurance to find what is right for you.

     

    What does long-term care mean?

    If you’re already on Medicare or researching it, you know that Part A covers in-patient hospitalizations and skilled nursing. You might be wondering why people buy policies to cover LTC if Medicare already pays for it.

    But Medicare does not pay for LTC, which is not skilled nursing. It’s home help for someone who can’t perform several of the Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) for themselves: toileting, transferring (for example, from bed to chair), dressing, bathing, feeding, and walking or ambulating. You might also see these referred to as the Basic Activities of Daily Living or BADLs.

    Patients can receive LTC in a facility such as a nursing home or their own homes.

     

    Why should I consider setting aside funds to cover long-term care?

    According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, if you’re approximately retirement age now, you have a 70% chance of needing some LTC. About 1 in 5 of those who will end up receiving long-term care will need it for more than five years.

    Depending on how long you need it, the expenses quickly add up. LTC’s costs range from $3,600 per month for someone who is mostly independent in a facility to about $7,700 in a nursing home. 

    Home health care aides cost approximately $21 per hour on average. The average American who needs this help during the day would spend roughly $5,000 a month. Whether in a facility or at home, typically, women need care for a more extended period than men do.

    It costs a little bit more than average here in California to receive LTC in a facility. The median cost for help with assisted living is about $4,500 and goes up to over $10,600 in a nursing home.

    Some families are willing to self-insure or pay out of pocket should they ever need this kind of assistance. Family members can also provide care, which reduces the cost as well.

    However, some people would prefer to be independent for as long as possible. They’d rather hire someone outside the family to help them go to the bathroom or get dressed.

    Those who choose to hire for this type of care often want to set aside funds for this purpose. They don’t want to be a burden on their loved ones. 

     

    Long-term care insurance (LTCI)

    These policies pay a certain amount for a specified period if a doctor diagnoses the insured as unable to perform two or three ADLs, depending on the policy. 

    Unlike life insurance, there is no medical exam for LTCI. However, the companies use questionnaires, and you may respond with answers that disqualify you. For example, they will typically reject people who are already showing symptoms of cognitive issues such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.

    Although LTCI has been around here in the US since the 1970s, Americans started to purchase them in the 1980s. The insurers at that time made two significant errors in their pricing.

    They didn’t know how fast the cost of health care would accelerate (faster than CPI inflation) and didn’t realize how much longer people would live. These factors led to substantial underpricing on the policies, and in some cases, the insurers even refused to pay for legitimate claims.

    As a result, fewer insurance companies are in the market for LTCI today. However, policies still are being sold.

    The contracts usually stipulate limits on lifetime benefits paid out, the monthly maximum, and potentially a deductible. They also offer inflation riders for additional fees. Most policies today don’t discriminate between facility or in-home care. 

     

    Ways to purchase LTCI

    The original policies were usually use-it-or-lose-it. If you paid for the policy and never required the care, you couldn’t get a refund. Though so much of the population is likely to need it these days, it might not be such an issue for potential buyers. 

    Anecdotally the “sweet spot” for purchasing such a policy was around 55 years old. You wouldn’t have too many years of payments if it turned out you didn’t need it, and you were still young enough that some of the disqualifying medical conditions probably hadn’t appeared.

    These contracts are still available, though their popularity has dropped sharply. Premiums can undergo rate hikes at any time in the future. 

    The insurance company can’t increase the amount you pay just on your policy, but it can raise the premiums on the entire class of people who purchased the same insurance as you. They now have other premium payment options, so you don’t continue to pay for life. 

    Rather than take a use-it-or-lose-it policy with the potential for future premium hikes, some LTCI users purchase a hybrid product. These can be life insurance or annuity products that also allow you to use the money for long-term care.

    In the hybrid with life insurance contracts, typically, the cost of whatever care you use is deducted from the face amount that’s payable at death. Different companies offer different ways to structure the policy.

    When you combine LTCI with an annuity, you usually need to purchase the annuity with a lump sum. There are no premiums for the LTCI, and what you’ll receive is based on how your insurer sets up your contract.

    Although the hybrid products are often more expensive than a plain-vanilla life insurance or annuity policy, they can be a good alternative. Especially for someone who suspects they may need the care but is not interested in a stand-alone policy they might not use.

    No matter what type of long-term care insurance you buy, make sure that you understand what triggers a claim and what the policy promises to pay. 

    If you’re considering LTCI, make sure you check with your company, associations, and groups. Some offer group LTCI plans with relatively attractive premiums.

     

    If you want help determining whether you need to buy some LTCI, give us a call at 619.255.9554 or email us to set up an appointment.

     

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