I'm Stephanie Sammons, a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and the Founder of Sammons Wealth Management. I help successful women professionals who are in midlife plan for their ideal retirement. Learn more about planning, saving, and investing for your ideal retirement at Sammons Wealth Management.
business uncertainty covid | planning under uncertainty | strategies for turbulent industries

Show Notes for this Episode:

What can you do now to take charge of your financial life in the midst of a global pandemic and economic recession? As I share in this episode of the podcast, hope is not a strategy. Staying the course does not mean standing still.

You may be like many of the women I talk to who don’t know what to do. They are concerned about their jobs, their future retirement, their investment portfolio, and their own health and safety.

As women we tend to have apathy (lack of interest or time to invest) when it comes to taking action with our finances, and that can lead to inertia (doing nothing or looking the other way).

The purpose of this episode is to empower you to take a hard look at your retirement vision, investment strategy, and other significant areas of your financial life so that you can take charge. The strategies I share in this episode are the same strategies I discuss with my private clients through my financial planning and investment management firm for women professionals, Sammons Wealth Management.

These strategies can help you understand what to focus on now and how to improve your financial situation during this challenging time.

Posts Related to this Episode:

Assessing Your Personal Investor Risk Tolerance

Women and the New Retirement Reality

7 Midlife Money Moves for the New Economy

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Welcome to the Midlife Money Gal Podcast. I'm Stephanie Sammons, an experienced certified financial planner guiding women professionals in midlife to and through their retirement years.

Hello and welcome. I'm Stephanie Sammons. If this is your first time tuning in to the Midlife Money Gal Podcast, I want to extend a very warm welcome to you. I have a very special episode in store today and I'm excited to share it with listeners. And the title of this episode is called Five Take Charge Financial Strategies for Uncertain Economic Times. We continue to be in uncertain economic times. We also continue to see this virus linger and create uncertainty for our health and our wellness. So we have all of this going on at one time and it's something that we've never been through before. And it creates a lot of fear, a lot of uncertainty, and I want to help you understand what you can do today to take charge and to improve your financial situation.

First let me give you the backdrop. We went from a bull market to a bear market, back to a bull market in record time. Within a few short months, all of this happens and something like this in the past has happened over a much longer timeframe. The economy was humming along just fine back in January, February, and then this virus came along and we plunged into an economic recession and we literally shut down our economy. Everything came to a screeching halt. And now we are in a situation where we have a lot of sick people in our country. Unfortunately, we have a lost a lot of lives because of this virus. We have record job losses, we have high unemployment, we have people who are getting to the point where they're not going to be able to make their mortgage payments or their rent payments.

We have companies that have very little visibility into what their earnings are going to be, or if they are even going to survive, especially in certain industries like travel, hospitality, restaurants, commercial real estate, we have empty offices, we are mostly working virtually and not going into our offices. Is it going to be like this forever? Well, the answer to that is, no. I do believe we will return to some kind of normalcy in the not so distant future, but we're going to experience volatility and uncertainty for a little while longer, maybe through 2021. It's tough to say. This virus, which was essentially a manmade situation, that we had no control over, is lingering. It is resurging in some parts of the country, spiking in some states, including my own state of Texas, but we have a lot of smart people working on medicines, and treatments, and ultimately a vaccine to defeat this virus. And we're seeing some very good progress now. It's mid July when this show is airing. Very good progress with vaccine development. Very hopeful about that.

Congress provided stimulus in the form of the CARES package and the Paycheck Protection Program to businesses. This stimulus has begun to run out. Will Congress create a new stimulus package? Probably. We just don't know yet. It is under discussion right now. The Federal Reserve has provided massive liquidity to the markets and to businesses who are suffering through all of this due to no fault of their own. So you could argue that we have created a manmade solution in order to oppose the virus and support and prop up the economy. So we have these two things going on at once. Now in the past, what has been missing from a bear market in an economic recession is the kind of stimulus and liquidity being pumped into the markets and into the economy that we have in this situation. This has really never been done. So that's a good thing that we have this support. Now what we're facing is, when does it run out and how long does the virus decide to stick around? The virus has a mind of its own.

You also might be wondering how is it that the economy can be in shambles yet the stock market has climbed back at the airing of the show, almost all the way back to where it was before it declined over 30%? How can that be? The economy is based on economic data that happened in the past. So as we receive that data, we review it and we can see what actually has happened in the past. It's already happened. The stock markets are looking forward and they are taking into account, how are companies earnings going to fare beyond 2020? Stock markets look into the future and anticipate what the economy is going to be doing and what earnings are going to ultimately look like.

So that is why there can be a disconnect between what you hear about the economy and what you hear about the stock market. You're going to also continue to see what I believe to be scary headlines about this virus and you've got to remember that a lot of media out there is fear-based and so that's how they suck us in, and that's how they keep us tuning in and listening. So try not to get caught up in how scary things are and think more about what you can do, what you actually have control over. And that's what I want to help you do today with these five strategies I am going to share. Five take charge financial strategies for uncertain economic times.

Now I'm going to give a disclaimer here quickly before I get into these strategies that this is not personalized advice for you as a listener of my podcast. I'm not able to give you personalized financial planning and investment advice because I don't know your personal situation. So I want you to view this as education and information that you can then hopefully apply in some way to your own situation or take it to your financial advisor if you're working with a financial advisor already. If you're not, feel free to reach out to me about your questions, your fears, your uncertainties, and your personal financial situation. We'll talk about that at the end. I want you to stick around because not only am I going to offer a special companion guide to this podcast where you can actually download a PDF guide and read about these strategies that I'm going to share with you, I'll tell you how to get that at the end of the show, and I'll also provide an invitation to connect with me about your own personal financial situation during these uncertain times because I know many people have lost their jobs.

They are trying to figure out how to bridge the gap through this difficult time, and preserve their retirement, secure their retirement, not make any mistakes and bad decisions that can be caused by emotional unrest. And so I want to tell you how you personally can get some help. All right, so this is where we are. We have lot of uncertainty and fear, there may be more pain and economic damage to come, there may be more bankruptcies, there are going to be companies that go out of business that are not going to survive this and most likely it's going to be restaurants and retailers, brick and mortar retailers, companies like these that are really, really struggling right now. I decided that I needed to do a special episode like this where I also offer a companion guide and really put a lot of thought and energy into how I can help.

I just wanted to figure out, what can I do now to help more people get through this and have an understanding of how they can take charge, what they can control and focus on that. And I decided the best way to do that is to give you some of the same strategies that I share with my clients who work with me through my financial planning and investment management firm, Sammons Wealth Management. I wanted to help my podcast listeners, give you the same process, the same strategies so that you can also have a plan for taking control of your money and your wealth during this uncertain time. Fear and uncertainty cause a funny thing to happen. Especially with women, we tend to have inertia when it comes to our financial lives and we tend to have apathy, where we just don't want to think about it.

Inertia is this tendency to do nothing, "I don't even want to look at it. I don't even want to look at my 401(k). I don't even want to think about what I need to be doing right now. I don't want to worry about. I already have enough to worry about. I'm having to work from home and juggle kids and life and dogs and balance." You have a lot on your plate right now and I get that. But I'm here to tell you that hope is not a strategy and staying the course does not mean standing still. If you are standing still and you have inertia and you are not taking charge of your financial situation right now, you have to change it. And I want to encourage you to take charge of your financial life. Now. There's never been a more important time to do so. So I want to help you push through your fear, become more aware of your situation, and then take some action to improve-

And then take some action to improve where you are today, and really set you up for what is to come in the future.

All right, let's get into this. Number one, reassess your retirement plan. Have your goals or your vision for your future, your retirement, changed? Do you have a new perspective? I'm sure you've had time to reflect on your life during this time. I know I have. And your values, what's important to you, your priorities. When we are super busy and caught up in the rat race, sometimes we lose sight of our values. Sometimes we do work and take jobs and commit to things that we really don't value, that we really don't want to be doing.

And I bet that you've had some thoughts about what you're doing with your life right now, with your career. And it's also possible that you've had more time to kind of see what it might be like if you were retired, having a little more time on your hands and maybe spending more time with your family, spending more time on some hobbies and interest, piddling in your garden, cooking, whatever that might be. Hopefully you've had a little bit of a glimpse into how life might be if you were retired. I know some of the folks that I've spoken with are saying, "Oh my gosh, I would be bored to tears. There's no way I am anywhere near being ready to stop working. I want work to be optional for me for as long as possible." And that is how I feel about working and career and contribution. I think it's so important to extend your work life as long as you possibly can. It's good for your brain. It's good for your body. It's good for your development. It's good for social and community and connection. These are all really important things to think about as you age, making that contribution to others or to the workforce.

You might, on the other hand, have really enjoyed having that time and having that glimpse into, "Gosh, that would be so great if I didn't have to be at my job from eight to five every day, if I didn't have to go into my office, if I had more flexibility, more balance, more freedom, that would be really amazing.

But I believe there is a way to get all of that, and that's why I want you to start thinking about your vision. What would this look like for you now and in your future throughout to, and through your retirement years. And I want you to think about your vision. Where do you want to live? What do you need? What are the material things that you really need in your life that are critical, and what can you do without? How can you downsize maybe a little bit? Or do you want to upsize? Do you want more toys? Do you want a bigger house? These sorts of things. How has that changed? How has your vision changed? Do you want work to be optional in retirement? Do you want to start your own business and create your own financial security, maybe? Do you want to go back to school, get more knowledge and develop some additional skills that make you more marketable?

Regardless of whether or not this experience reaffirms your vision for retirement, or is causing you to rethink your retirement, I want you to reconsider your plan and your vision.

Now, once you have your vision of where you actually want to be, where do you want to end up as you move closer to retirement? What do you want your second half from midlife on to look like? Once you have your vision, then your retirement plan should follow that vision. And the retirement plan incorporates your numbers and really getting a handle on where you are financially. What's it going to cost in retirement? What does it cost you to live comfortably today? That's a great place to start. What are you actually spending? Are you spending less now than you were before this virus took hold? What does it cost you to live comfortably? Are there some things you can cut so that maybe your income doesn't need to be at the same level it is now in retirement? Or maybe you've lost your job and you don't have an income right now, and you are figuring out how to scramble, and you're having to pull from savings, you're having to cut costs. Try to come up with kind of an ideal budget or cost of living that you can get comfortable with.

When is retirement feasible for you? You might want to retire early, but is it actually feasible? Or do you need to work until you are 65 or 70 years old? What resources do you have that you are dedicating to your retirement years? And are those resources going to be able to support you? Are they positioned correctly today to keep you on track? These are the kinds of things that go into the retirement planning process. But all of this means nothing without a vision.

So ultimately, you want to know your numbers, but sketching out your new vision is the first step. So that's what I want you to focus on. And if you're already retired by chance, you can do this exercise too. You can think about how you might want your life to be different given this experience that we have been through.

So a new economy requires a reassessment of your retirement vision and your retirement plan. That's number one,

Number two, review your investment strategy. What works then, won't work now. What got you here is not what will get you there. And why is that? The economy has changed big time. We're in the a part of the economic cycle. And we don't know exactly what part of the cycle we are in. It's possible we experience more economic pain, but it's also possible that we may be turning the corner with the economy. Bottom line is, everything has changed.

When we're in a bull market like we were for about 11 straight years, anyone can throw a dart at the markets and make money. We tend to confuse bull markets with genius, because it just comes so easy. And I would say the underlying theme or the prevailing wisdom of the last bull market was, all you need is an index fund and you're set. Just invest in an index fund, set it, and forget it. And this is no longer the case. You need a more prudent, strategic and proactive approach, I believe, with your investment strategy to navigate these waters, to navigate these difficult times, because not only do you want to position yourself to grow your wealth, to grow your nest egg, but you also want to protect yourself from the downside of volatile markets. And that requires being a little more strategic than just dumping your nest egg into an index fund.

We also have an extremely low, historically low interest rate environment. Longterm bonds are paying nearly the same as very short term bonds. In fact, you can't earn hardly anything on your cash in a savings account or a CD right now. And nobody knows if these low rates will hang around for a really long time, or if we're going to see inflation rear its ugly head where rates go up and prices go up, prices rise when all of this is over. It's hard to predict that.

You also have certain sectors and asset classes performing better than others during this time. Growth has outperformed value for a very long time. Will that continue small cap or large cap? Which type of company will prevail in this environment? US Stocks and bonds or international foreign stocks and bonds? And the truth is, you need a bit of all of these asset classes. You need a globally diversified portfolio that is calibrated to your own personal financial situation, which takes into account how you feel about risk, how much risk you need to be taking, what is your income situation? How far away are you from retirement? You need the right mix of stocks, bonds, and cash globally for your personal situation.

So I will ask you, how are you positioned today with your investment portfolio? Your nest egg? How have you held up throughout this time? If indeed you have looked at your statements, you have gone online and looked at your accounts, how have you felt about the ups and downs? Maybe because it happened so quickly, you did not even notice much of a change in the value of your investment assets. But you need to understand how you really feel about risk. And in fact, I did an episode on this very topic, the last episode, 53, retirementmoneygal.com/53. If you want to check that out and learn how you can figure out what your personal risk number is.

Most importantly, I want you to understand how you are positioned. Do you know what you own in your investment and retirement accounts? Do you have any idea? Do you know if the investment vehicles that you own are high cost and have high built in hidden fees that are being paid to a broker, versus working with an independent, fiduciary, registered investment advisor, certified financial planner. That's what I am. And this is not a commercial for the type of financial advisor I am, but I spent many years.

Financial advisor I am, but I spent many years on the other side of the fence at those big brokerage firms, Merrill Lynch and UBS were two firms that I worked for and I know how the sausage is made, frankly. There are lots and lots of hidden fees that clients are not aware of, they don't realize it and that eats into your investment performance over time. So you need to do some investigating, you need to look at your investment and retirement accounts and understand what you own and why. Ask some questions, get some answers and understanding exactly how you are positioned given your goals for the future. A new economy warrants, a new investment strategy, that's number two.

Number three, optimize your tax situation. We've had a lot of changes to the tax code over the last few years. We had the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2018, we've had the Secure Act, we've had the most recent stimulus passed by Congress, the Cares Act and there's something in every single one of these acts that could impact your tax situation. So tax planning is more critical than ever before. Now. I love CPAs and I work with some very good CPAs, but most CPAs are looking at your taxes, calculating your tax return, figuring out what you owe and they're looking at the rear view mirror. They are not necessarily looking ahead and developing a tax strategy for you that can minimize your tax situation and put more money in your pocket. And that's simply because they just don't have the time. That is not their primary job.

If you're doing your own taxes through an online program or something like that, or you use a service attack service in your area where you live, all that is fine. It doesn't matter how you get your taxes done, what matters is that you're reviewing your tax situation throughout the year, and you're looking for opportunities to optimize your tax situation. So questions that you might have during this time, are you struggling at all to make ends meet, have you lost your job, have you had a pay cut? I've had a number of clients who salaries have been temporarily cut during this time. So what are you doing for income to bridge the gap? Hopefully you have a cash reserve, you have some savings that you can tap into, but what if you need to tap into your 401k or an IRA or something like that, a retirement account?

Well, the Cares Act allows you to do that without a penalty, but you need to be strategic about it and you need to see how that's going to impact your overall tax situation. If you go and pull money out of your retirement accounts right now, that counts as income to you for this year, or the Cares Act allows you to spread that income over three years, it requires some planning and some strategy. You want to make sure you're not triggering any major tax event that you are unaware of. Another interesting thing that's going on right now is tax loss selling. So we had a decline in the markets and there are some stocks, and some funds, and some sectors that are still down that haven't recovered. And so tax loss selling is a strategy where you can book a loss in an investment and use that loss to offset a gain in another investment, so that you don't have a tax consequence at the end. This also requires very careful strategy, you need to have someone helping you evaluate what your holdings are and where tax loss selling might make some sense for you.

Additionally, income tax rates are at historic lows. We have some of the lowest tax brackets I've ever seen in my 25 years in this business. These new tax rates were put into place by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2018. Given that being the situation, if you have lower income this year and you're in a lower tax bracket, it might make sense to take some gains in your investment portfolio and redeploy or diversify, or reposition for what's ahead. Your tax impact might be less this year than future years. I personally believe in order to pay for all of this debt that's issued by the government to help prop up the economy will eventually cause tax rates to go back up. So these may be some of the lowest tax rates we see for a long, long time.

Again, you need to really review all of the elements that are tangent to your tax situation that can impact your tax situation, your income, even if you're receiving unemployment income during this time, your investments, your stock compensation, do you have options or deferred compensation or restricted stock? These can all have an impact, they can be taxable events to you. Are there any other tax saving opportunities that you can take advantage of now, or if you're making money in this environment, you haven't lost your job or your business is doing well, maybe you need to increase your tax deductible savings into a 401k or some other kind of retirement plan vehicle, depending on your situation. If you're a business owner, maybe it's a good time to set up a retirement plan for your business, or if you have a retirement plan to fully fund that, if you have the cash to do so. A new economy calls for a review of your personal tax strategy, very, very important, managing your taxes efficiently and effectively can be just as important as how you manage your investment portfolio and your investment strategy. So don't discount that.

Number four, this is one of my personal favorites. This is something that is easy for you to do, it's just going to require a little bit of time and energy, and that is the strategy to simplify your financial life. How many bank accounts do you have, how many credit card accounts do you have, how many investment accounts, how many retirement accounts, 401ks, IRAs, things like that. Or maybe old pension accounts sitting with companies that you worked for years ago, an annuity, do you annuities out there? Do you have variable life insurance policies that have investments inside of them, do you have 529 accounts? How many accounts do you have that are just spread all over the place and how can you possibly keep up with all that, it's very difficult to do so, and that is just the truth.

Chances are having your investment accounts and your bank accounts and your credit card accounts spread all over the place, it's costing you time, it's costing you money. You're probably leaving money on the table and you're actually putting your financial data at risk when you have multiple accounts in institutions that you have logins and passwords for that you're having to keep up with. It's just easier, you're more vulnerable to getting hacked with that being the case. So it can even enhance the security of your financial data to consolidate and simplify and streamline your financial life. Maybe you have one to three logins instead of 10 to 12 logins. So to simplify your financial life, you want to consolidate as much as possible these like kind accounts, bank accounts, retirement accounts, credit card accounts, and try to get down to something like one bank account or maybe two, if you have your own bank account and you share a joint account with your spouse, for example.

Then maybe you get down to one credit card, much easier to monitor for a fraud or something that doesn't look right when you have fewer accounts to review. Consolidating your investment and retirement accounts under one umbrella, et cetera, you're going to be able to see the big picture, monitor your financial life and get a better understanding for your spending and your saving. You're also probably going to be able to lower your cost and your fees that are hitting all of these accounts, when you consolidate you reduce those redundancies and you also reduce redundancies in the kinds of investments that you are holding.

That goes back to your investment strategy. You want to be able to see the big picture. And once you have a more simplified view of your financial life, that's when it becomes much easier to build a financial plan, build a retirement plan around your vision because you know exactly what you have and you can see your personal balance sheet, which is something I provide to my clients, which is an overview of all of their assets and all of their liabilities and a net worth statement, if you will. The strategy of simplifying, and streamlining, and consolidating your financial life will help you have foundation and greater certainty during uncertain economic times.

Okay. We are at number five, the fifth take charge strategy for uncertain economic times. And that is to get your estate plan in order. COVID-19 has caused more illness than we've ever seen at one time and unfortunately, more deaths. There have been many people who have become very sick and it was completely unexpected. There have been many others who have fared just fine, but maybe have been down for two or three weeks where they couldn't work or couldn't take care of fam-

Or they couldn't work or couldn't take care of family or business or whatever the case might be. But this whole experience has really forced us to think about our own mortality. At least it has for me and I know, especially in midlife, when you're 50 plus, you do start thinking about your future and you do start thinking about, gosh, what do I still want to do in my life that I haven't done yet? What do I want to change? What do I want to experience? You do think about your second half and your retirement and your own mortality. How do you prepare in the event that you become incapacitated or you find yourself at the end of life? God forbid that you don't have to go through this anytime soon, but I just want you to think about what's possible.

How can you take action now to prepare yourself and to make sure your family is taken care of and that your family or the person who is closest to you in your life, whether that be a spouse or a friend or a partner or a sibling or a parent that they know what your wishes are if you were to become incapacitated or facing an end of life situation. The estate planning attorneys who I know have been absolutely swamped putting together estate plans for individuals and couples and putting together succession plans for business owners so that they have business continuity if something were to happen. Now is the right time to get your estate plan in order and get your wishes solidified. You want to get this structured exactly the way you envision it. If you've already done wills and powers of attorney and these important documents, it's also an important time to review any existing estate plans that you've put into place and potentially update or change those plans.

Here are just a general overview of the critical must have documents you need to have in place. You need a will, you need a healthcare and a financial power of attorney that provides instruction to someone if you are incapacitated on what to do, how to handle your healthcare decisions and how to handle financial decisions on your behalf, you need a living will, a living will, or a medical directive that communicates what you want to happen in an end of life situation. For example, do you want a do not resuscitate order? That's something that has to be written and put into this document that you need to have in place. You want to think about these really tough things. I know it's hard to think about this stuff, but it's super important. If you have parents who are still living, who don't have this in place who don't have their estate planning done, you might want to have a discussion with them and you might want to help them with this. It's possible they have something in place, but they haven't reviewed it in a long time.

If you have minor children, you might need to look at trusts and how to use trusts to pass your estate in a way that protects your minor children. The other thing is that every state is different so you need to look for an estate planning attorney in your state who knows the laws of your state and which forms are required and who can help you get your written legal documents in place. I can't stress this enough that planning for the unexpected is so so important. Life is a journey and there are so many things that pop up that we don't plan for that we can't control and so getting these estate planning documents in place can at least provide you and your family some peace of mind if something goes wrong. A pandemic is really a terrific reminder that we need to be more thoughtful about our estate planning and put a strategy in place.

Okay. Those are the five strategies. The five take charge, financial strategies for uncertain economic times. Number one was reassess your retirement plan. Number two, review your investment strategy. Number three, optimize your tax situation. Number four, simplify your financial life. And number five, get your estate plan in order. Those are five strategies that you can take action on today. I believe that you really do have to be your own advocate. Don't wait around or rely on someone else. Even if they're a professional that you work with, don't wait around for them to suggest or provide you with guidance. Be your own advocate, ask for and communicate what you need to have happen so that your financial situation can become more secure. That's really, really important. Don't think, well, I guess my financial advisor will reach out to me when it's time to take care of these things because oftentimes that doesn't happen. You may not be hearing from your financial advisor at all, or very much during this uncertain time. Take action yourself and make sure that you are on the right track for your vision and your goals.

All right. In the beginning of this show, I mentioned a free companion guide, a PDF guide that I have put together and I'm going to provide it to you. You can go to retirementmoneygal.com/takecharge, all one word forward slash take charge. I'm asking you to provide your email address. You also receive updates whenever I publish a new podcast episode and other articles and videos along the way that can be helpful to you. You will receive this companion guide at no charge. It's free and I'm providing it to you just in exchange for your email address so that we can communicate ongoing. I also want to just put this out there, if you are nearing retirement and you have accumulated savings and investments and retirement assets of $500,000 or more, I may be able to help you personally implement some of these strategies have talked about today through my financial planning and investment management firms, Sammons Wealth Management.

If you want to simply have a conversation about your concerns and your fears and your worries and your personal financial situation, I invite you to reach out to me. You can send me an email directly at [email protected] and I'll give you the next steps. Or if you just simply have a question, reach out and ask me, you can send me an email at any time.

I hope that this episode has been helpful to you. I hope it will make you become more aware and more excited about taking charge of your financial life, taking some action during these uncertain economic times. I will be back next week. I'm going to be talking about some timeless strategies and some current strategies for managing your career right now during this difficult time. You'll want to tune in and find out, especially if you have lost your job or you are worried about your job, or you have simply realized during this time that you might want to make a career change, you might want to do something different going forward. Tune in next week for that. Thank you so much for listening.

If you have not yet subscribed to the Midlife Money Gal podcast, you can do so through Apple podcasts, Spotify and Google podcasts, those are the three main places, you can visit retirementmoneygal.com. If you enjoyed the show and other shows that you've listened to, I would really appreciate a rating and maybe even a review on iTunes, Apple podcasts. They make it super easy. You can do it right there on your phone. That helps me a lot. It helps other people find the podcast who might need to hear the message. And I'd greatly appreciate that. Thank you so much for listening and I'll be back with you next week.

This show is for informational and educational purposes only. Please do not consider any of the content as personalized financial investment tax or legal advice. You've been listening to the Midlife Money Gal podcast. To learn more and to join our community, visit retirementmoneygal.com.

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