New Fed Strategy Means Cheaper Loans For A Long time — Here’s How You Can Benefit

fed resize

As we’ve all been waiting to hear about the outcome and policy changes from the Jackson Hole symposium, there’ve been some updates that you should know. The Federal Reserve has said that it will let inflation run “hotter than normal” to help the economy bounce back from the coronavirus crisis, according to a CNBC article. According to some commentary, it seems as though this policy change is meant as a stimulus, to get people to spend more. 

Since the central bank lowered its benchmark rate to near zero in March, credit card rates have hit a low of 16.03%, on average, according to Bankrate.com. The average interest rate on personal loans is currently about 12.07% and home equity lines of credit are as low as 4.79%, according to Bankrate, both notably less than the APR on a credit card.

On the flipside, “Low inflation has helped suppress mortgage rates,” said Tendayi Kapfidze, chief economist at LendingTree, an online loan marketplace. “If you let inflation go up, mortgage rates will also go higher.”

Given this new economic data, and with these cheaper loans for a longer period of time, it’s important to take a look at where you can lock in those lower rates, such as through credit card balance transfers or refinancing your mortgage. If you have any questions about this new policy, and want to see how this could be an advantage for your portfolio, please reach out to us at info@shermanwealth.com and we would be happy to discuss with you. 

How Much Longer Until The US Economy Is Back To Normal? This New Index Shows We Have A Long Way To Go

U.S.-Economy-and-Coronavirus-wreckingball

As we approach the six month mark from when COVID-19 turned our world upside down, we are beginning to adjust our lives to this new “normal”. As we continue to adapt to this different way of life, some things are seeming back to the way they were before, but much remains new and strange. We are going about our days wearing masks and social distancing, watching our favorite sports teams play in “bubbles”, empty stadiums and arenas, and spending our work day in sweats and from the comfort of our homes. 

As we begin to normalize some of these news ways of living, it raises the question of how far we really are from our old way of life? How much progress are we making towards this new “normal” that will be our future? As of right now, we’re seeing what’s called a “K” shape recovery, which is that the stock market is recovered, but the economy and mainstreet remains suffering. People are wondering if there will be a double dip recession potentially in the fall and winter months if the virus comes back. 

We’ve been thinking about how to tackle these difficult and unknown questions and found an interesting article by CNN Business and Moody’s Analytics, which raises some of these questions as they relate to the economy.

According to their analytics team, the U.S. economy remains far from normal. Based on the back-to-normal Index that they constructed, which takes into account 37 indicators, including traditional government stats and metrics from a host of private firms to capture economic trends in real time, the U.S. economy was operating at only 78% of normal as of August 19th. They are using the economic data from prior to when the pandemic struck in early March as a baseline as “normal”. They are saying that the “economic activity nationwide is down by almost one-fourth from its pre-pandemic level-far from normal”. 

Even though that data is not so promising, it’s important to note that it is substantially better than the darkest days of the pandemic in mid-April, when we were unsure of how dangerous this virus could be. As business re-opened between mid-April and mid-June, according to their back-to-normal index, the economy opened too quickly, with many surges in coronavirus cases throughout the summer leading to states halting their reopening plans. 

While our country is recovering slowly but surely from this deadly pandemic that has swept our world, we still have ways to go to reach our pre-pandemic “normal”. While the economy still needs time to recover, it’s the best time to think about your finances and how to manage your money to make sure you come out of these unprecedented times strong. Find out how much risk you are taking on, what investments you have and where you want to be given the circumstances and with the all time highs in the markets. If you have any questions about your portfolio or ways you can manage your money during these rocky times, please reach out to us and we’d be happy to help. 

Financial Literacy More Important to Americans Than Health and Wellness

financial literacy blog

As we’ve mentioned previously, financial literacy is a skill that is lacking in our education system and amongst individuals across the country. A recent survey by Charles Schwab discusses the importance of financial literacy to Americans and how it should take precedence over health and wellness. 

According to the survey, the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the need for basic personal finance and money management skills. Nearly 63% of U.S. adults said financial education was the most important supplementary graduation requirement to Math, English, and Science. That’s comparable with 43% of individuals who said health and wellness was more important. 

History shows that everytime our country faces a detrimental crisis, “the need for greater financial literacy becomes more apparent,” said Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, president of Charles Schwab Foundation.

The following data was collected to support the need for financial education within our schooling system and within our country. 

Nearly nine in 10 Americans (89%) said a lack of financial education contributes to some of the country’s social issues, including poverty (58%), lack of job opportunities (53%), unemployment (53%) and wealth inequality (52%).

They survey found half of respondents would be hard-pressed to cover a $1,000 or less emergency expense in the next month if they had to. Financial education stresses the importance of saving and building up an emergency fund. 

Many respondents indicated that they wished they had been taught financial skills when they were younger, including the value of saving money (59%), basic money management (52%) and how to set financial goals and work toward them (51%). Due to this lack of financial education, so many individuals are lost when it comes to how much they should be saving, where they should save, where they should invest and more. 

Sherman Wealth has long been a strong advocate of increasing financial literacy in our country and encouraging our youth to educate themselves early on in their lives. A thorough financial education is now more important than ever. Learning the proper way to manage money and set yourself up for financial success will ensure you are prepared at all times, even during an economic crisis, such as a pandemic. 

Many schools across the country are realizing the importance of beginning a financial education at an early age. Studies show that having state-required classes can have a significant impact on students’ money moves in the future. Forty-five states now include personal finance education in their curriculum standards for kindergarten through 12 grades. In addition to programs in schools, Wall Street Bound is an organization that provides urban youth with financial, educational, and technical resources to get them closer to Wall Street. If you are passionate about spreading awareness about financial literacy, you can support Wall Street Bound with a donation.  As always, Sherman Wealth is here to answer any questions you may have and most importantly, happy to help educate you and those around you on what money means and how you should make financial literacy a priority.

What’s Ahead For Your Taxes If Biden Takes The Presidency

Screen Shot 2020-08-18 at 4.53.57 PM

With the election around the corner and recent news of Joe Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, we wanted to take a look at his proposed tax plan and what impact it may have on the finances and current tax plans of Americans.

As Biden accepts his party’s nomination for president this week at the Democratic National Convention, high-income earners are beginning to wonder if it’s time to revisit their tax plans. Indeed, taxpayers with taxable income over $400,000 could see their individual income taxes tick up under a Biden presidency. The former vice president has also called for raising taxes on wealth transfer.

Below we will outline Biden’s proposed tax plan, which CNBC has sliced into two categories, income taxes and estate planning. 

Income Tax 

On the income tax side, Biden calls for raising the top individual income tax rate to 39.6% from 37%, and applying it to taxpayers with taxable income over $400,000, according to an analysis from the Tax Policy Center.

He’s also talking about an increase to payroll taxes. Biden would apply the 12.4% portion of the Social Security tax — which is normally shared by both the employee and employer — to earnings over $400,000, the Tax Policy Center found. Currently, the Social Security tax is subject to a wage cap of $137,700 and is adjusted annually.

Finally, Biden would also boost rates on long-term capital gains and qualified dividends to 39.6% — the same top rate as ordinary income — for those with income over $1 million, according to theTax Foundation.  The long-term capital gains tax rate in 2020 is 20% for single households with more than $441,451 in taxable income ($496,601 for married-filing-jointly).

Estate Planning 

Last month, the Democratic presidential contender collaborated with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and the two formed six task forces to release a 110-page policy document. The document gives some insight on what we might expect from a Biden administration. “Estate taxes should also be raised back to the historical norm,” the task force wrote in the policy plan.         

Indeed, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act roughly doubled the amount that you can transfer to other people — either at death or as a gift during life — without facing the 40% estate and gift tax. The gift-and-estate tax exemption is $11.58 million per individual in 2020.

Biden has set his sights on the “step-up in basis,” a provision in the tax code that allows an individual to hold onto an asset for years, watch it appreciate and then bequeath it to an heir at death. The owner’s basis — the original investment in the asset — steps up to market value at death, which means the heir is subject to little to no capital gains taxes if he sells it. Biden proposes taxing the unrealized capital gains in the asset at death, which essentially does away with the step-up. Wealthy households are likely to use gifting strategies to head off this change, said Bertles of Tiedemann Advisors. “This can be as simple as giving assets to a trust or outright to kids or grandkids while using the exemption,” he said.

Make sure to take a look at Biden’s proposal and think about how that may impact your situation. In just a few short months, this plan could be put into effect, so start thinking about any changes you could make to your tax plan and talk to an advisor for some guidance. As always, we are here to help if you have any questions regarding what these changes could mean for you. 

 

3 In 5 Parents Say Remote Learning Will Negatively Impact Their Finances

IMG_1836 (1)

It’s hard to believe, but summer is almost over and another new school year is only a few weeks away. However, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, distance and hybrid learning will become the new normal this fall. Those with school age children will need to adjust in order to make this situation as successful as possible and many parents are in the process of converting their homes into a virtual learning space for their children.

This change in schooling is not only disrupting the educational system as we’ve known it, but a new survey conducted by Bankrate revealed that “61% of parents with school-aged children are forced to re-evaluate their finances and careers as they prepare for a unique school situation”. Parents also revealed that “they are not feeling particularly optimistic about the educational side of remote learning” with 42% of respondents anticipating negative impacts on their child’s education. 

One of the huge tangible expenses that goes along with remote virtual learning is technology. In the past, most pre-school children and even middle/high-school children did not have access to their own laptops, as it was not necessary for their educational success. However, remote learning is forcing all students, regardless of age or grade, to have undivided access to their own digital device to access their teachers, homework, and resources. And those families who had shared technological devices amongst a few family members are now forced to purchase a device for each person, which is a huge added expense. However, before purchasing your child a new computer, please check with your school to find out whether they are providing laptops for each student for the upcoming year since many districts will be offering them.

Another factor that will negatively impact parents as children begin remote schooling is time. In the pre-coronavirus world, parents had the ability to drop their children in school, enroll them in after-school activities, while also fully engaging in their personal careers. With students learning from home, needing supervision and assistance in their learning, parents are worried it will negatively impact their careers and work/life balance. Some parents will find they have to cut work hours to help their children learn or incur additional expenses such as tutors/babysitters so that they can continue to work. And on top of that, some parents may need to quit their jobs completely. 

While this transition will be difficult for many, it is crucial to remember the importance of utilizing all your resources, which we have spoken about in previous blogs. Reach out to family members for help, scan the web for good deals before making a big purchase and remember that we are all in this together. Lastly, as we adjust to our new complicated normal, remember to keep track of your finances and manage your money. You may find it useful to create a new budget for the upcoming school year since it is likely to look different than it did in the past. As always, if you have any questions about your portfolio or finances, please reach out to us and we are happy to help! 

Millennials Slammed by Second Financial Crisis Fall Even Further Behind

millennials

If one economic recession wasn’t enough for millennials to grapple with, why not throw another their way? 

The economic hit of the coronavirus pandemic is looking pretty bad to millennials. We’ve been reading many articles discussing how unemployment seems to be looking the worst for their generation in contract to others. 

The 12.5% unemployment rate among millennials is higher than that of Generation X (born between 1965 and 1980), and baby boomers (1946 to 1964), according to May figures from the Pew Research Center

Millennials have found it fundamentally more difficult to start a career  and find jobs in comparison to other generations who are now married and have children. Research shows that even the most educated millennials are employed at lower rates than older college graduates and millennials’ tendency to work at lower-paying firms has caused them to lag behind in earnings.

As a result, the millennial generation has less wealth than their predecessors had at the same age, and about one-quarter of millennial households have more debt than assets, according to the St. Louis Fed. 

Between February and May, millennials got hit the hardest in terms of unemployment, according to the chart below by St. Louis Fed. Millennials are now at risk of falling further behind because they entered the pandemic in a weaker position than older Americans. 

For millennials who have been impacted by this second economic recession, it is important to take a step back and start re-evaluating their careers and financial lives. It is also crucial to start early, set up a plan, and stick to it to see it through in the long run. Building up your wealth is crucial, especially while you are stuck at home during the pandemic and economic recession. Putting aside even just a little bit of money each week or month will grow over time due to compound interest.  Think about investing some of the money you might have spent on going to the movies or out to eat or having some of your paycheck put directly into a different account that is solely for saving.  However, make sure you still treat yourself to a morning latte or favorite takeout from time to time – you CAN save for your future without sacrificing all the little extra things that make you happy.  

 Now is the time for millennials to consider seeking financial help and guidance to navigate these bumpy waters and prepare a plan to help them succeed financially in the long term. If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out and we would be happy to help create a financial plan to suit your individual needs. 

Here’s How to Prepare your Finances

finances

With the additional $600 per week unemployment benefits coming to an end this week, it is important to think about the ways in which you can prepare your finances for the months ahead. Many Americans are currently jobless and have been relying on these additional COVID-19 related unemployment benefits. There is much uncertainty as we navigate through the pandemic the best we can, but there is great value in coming up with a plan to start saving and getting your finances in order as your benefits may decrease in the coming months. 

Here are some key ways to be prepared for your future and what you should expect as any additional unemployment relief comes to an end. 

Adjust your Budget 

A great place to start in uncertain times is with your budget. Sit down and attempt to cut out all unnecessary expenses along with looking into other options that may be cheaper. It’s important to think of all your essential monthly costs and see where you can save a buck or two. For example, take a look at your housing, food, utilities, and car payments to see if there are places you can cut down. Also make sure to take a look at bank and credit card statements to cut out those annoying hidden fees or unnecessary charges such as ATM fees. Also, think about selling items you may not use anymore for some extra cash. 

Contact your Creditors 

If you have not already called your creditors, you should consider reaching out to them and discussing your options moving forward. If you are only able to pay the minimum payment on your credit card bill, make sure to let your creditors know so they can figure out a plan and help you out. Many creditors may be able to offer you “financial hardship assistance” so that you can keep your credit in good standing even if you can’t pay more than a certain amount each month.

Build an Emergency Fund Even if You Don’t Think You Can 

We all know it’s important to have a cash cushion, especially in times of economic crisis. However, it can be difficult to think about how to build one when you are already strapped on cash. But, it’s never too late to start saving. The first step is to start reducing any debt. You should also try to put yourself into a “saving mindset” by incrementally setting aside a small stash of cash every month. You can contact your bank to set up auto payments to your savings account each month, which will help you get consistent with your saving habits. 

Expect a Drop in Your Credit Score 

While it’s important to maintain a strong credit score, in times of financial crisis it is okay to expect a drop in your score. As mentioned above, make sure to give your creditors a call to keep them in the loop about your situation. Also, if you are unable to pay your credit card balance in full, at least pay the minimum amount to keep your credit stable. 

Understand Your Costs

When you are strapped for cash, it is important to know which bills you should be prioritizing, for example, housing payments. While the additional unemployment relief is ending, so are the eviction moratoriums. Make sure to do some research and have a conversation with your creditors, landlords, and banks to fully understand the regulations and rules associated with your payments. 

Get Creative and Seek out Resources

Our current environment is a new adjustment for everyone, so don’t be afraid to seek out help even if you never have before. Your local city and state government offer information and resources ready to help you. When the additional coronavirus unemployment relief runs out, you may be able to qualify for government programs such as SNAP, Medicaid, and HEAP, according to CNBC. There are also many charities and organizations that are doing their best to help out those in need. 

Ask your friends and family for advice and we encourage you to seek out a financial advisor for guidance and clarify on your financial situation. If you have any questions or are uncertain about the future of your financial life, we are happy to help you in any way and help you figure out your financial future. Please contact us to schedule a free 30 minute consultation.

 

Recently Graduated? How to Establish A Good Credit Score

credit score

Are you a recent college graduate? Are you starting your first job? While it’s extremely important to save money when you are first starting out, it’s also quite important to know how to spend money and understand the concepts behind your credit score and establishing good credit. 

As your first paycheck starts rolling in, make sure you are opening multiple lines of credit, including opening credit cards, putting your name on your school apartment lease, and signing your name on the comcast bill. However, when you open these lines of credit and sign your name, make sure you are paying your bills in full each month. If your roommate hasn’t paid your cable bill, make sure to stay on top of them so it doesn’t impact you down the road. However, if you have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and can’t pay the full bill, make sure you understand to pay the minimum and reach to your creditor to figure out a reasonable solution or game plan. 

Here are five important credit concepts that you should be aware of:

  1. Low credit scores can cost  you thousands 
  2. Your credit score actually measures your risk of not paying
  3. Credit repair companies charge for services that maybe you can do yourself 
  4. Your age has nothing to do with your credit score, except for how long you’ve been borrowing credit
  5. All types of companies can check your credit score

Unless you have a perfect credit score, there is always room for improvement. The bottom line is that when you are just starting out, it’s easy to overlook the small steps needed in establishing a good score. However, having a good credit score is something that should be maintained and will impact many financial decisions you are able to make in your lifetime. If you have any questions about your credit score, how to obtain credit or how to fix a bad credit score, please contact us for a free 30 minute consultation.

 

Are Your Employees Stressed At Work?

funancial wellnes

Implementing a Financial Wellness Program for Your Employees: A Guide

Over the past few months as we have all been living through the pandemic, anxieties are at an all time high, especially those relating to finances. There have also been notable impacts on employee productivity and engagement. As an employee, your career should be a source of financial relief and security, not of worry and additional stress. 

Given these unprecedented circumstances and the uncertainty that comes with COVID-19, ensuring that your employees feel a sense of financial stability is more important than ever. Implementing a financial wellness program within your company is a great way to ease anxieties and improve workplace satisfaction amongst your employees.  

What Is a Financial Wellness Program? 

Financial wellness programs are designed to alleviate the financial worries of your employees. They go beyond mere financial understanding; they promote a healthy relationship with money by offering the appropriate tools and guidance. These programs combine employee-centric education and application to yield better results. 

How to Implement a Program 

There’s no perfect financial wellness program; the best program for you depends on the nature of your business and the needs of your employees. There are many ways you can go about it: do you want to use a platform specially designed for financial wellness programs, or do you want it to be more of a program customized in-house? What do you want the focus to be? What would best benefit your employees?

Here at Sherman Wealth, we offer financial wellness services for employees and work with many local small businesses in establishing and implementing the right financial wellness program for their firm. We strive to develop a well-being strategy that will empower employees to learn, plan and make real changes to reach their goal of financial stability and success. If your company is in need of a financial wellness program, reach out to us and we will be happy to help you implement a unique program that is right for your team. Please let us know if you have any questions and contact us to get started!

 

Fees & Your Investments: What You Need To Know

Screen Shot 2020-07-09 at 5.02.14 PM

Whether your investment portfolio consists of a 401k or multiple brokerage and retirement accounts, it is important to understand the fees associated with your investments which can dramatically lower returns over the years. Here are some fees you should look out for. 

Account Fees:

For 401k accounts, there are typically fees charged by the plan provider to administer the plan. Brokerage accounts may also have various account service fees, so check the fine print for more details. Sometimes these are waived if you opt-in to electronic delivery and or meet certain account minimums.

Fund Fees:

When it comes to fund fees, ETFs tend to be lower cost than mutual fund fees. Most ETFs are passively managed index funds, while most mutual funds are actively managed funds although the reverse also exists. Actively managed funds will have higher fees, but fees will also vary depending on the underlying assets.

Expense Ratio

The expense ratio is the annual fee that ETFs and mutual funds charge their shareholders. It is expressed as the percentage of assets deducted for fund expenses such as management fees, administrative fees, operating costs, and all other asset-based costs incurred by the fund. Mutual funds also include 12b-1 fees in the expense ratio, which ETFs do not have. What is not included in the expense ratio of a fund is the cost to trade the fund itself.

Mutual Fund Specific Fees:

12B-1 Fees

These mutual fund fees are charged annually and are considered to be an operational expense associated with a fund’s “marketing and distribution.” This could be anything from paying brokers to sell the funds or providing sales incentives. These fees are included in a fund’s expense ratio meaning the higher the 12B-1 fee, the higher the expense ratio. Investors can locate more information about these particular fees in a fund’s prospectus.

Front-End Load Fees

Front-end load fees are paid out to a broker in the form of commission when he or she sells a mutual fund. When an investor purchases a front-end load mutual fund, a percentage of their investment, usually 2% to 5%, goes to the broker. 

Back-End Load Fees

Also known as a deferred sales charge or DSC, back-end load mutual funds charge a penalty fee if you sell your shares within five to ten years. Fees are highest within the first year of purchase, and decrease each year until the end of the agreed-upon holding period. 

Trading Costs:

Transaction Fees

Despite a trend of more brokerages offering free transactions, transaction fees still exist when buying and selling investments. The price range of transaction fees varies, and it should be an expense to keep track of if you make lots of transactions over time. 

Bid-Ask Spread

The bid-ask spread is a truly hidden cost to trading and is referred to as an implicit cost. This is the difference between the price to buy a security and to sell a security, which are not the same. Highly liquid securities will have very tight spreads, making this cost minimal, but it is important to pay attention to the liquidity of the fund. 

Advisor Fees:

Looking for someone to manage your finances? 

While some advisors are commission based and make money through the commissions associated with each investment transaction, here at Sherman Wealth, we are a fee-only (RIA) financial planning advisor, and can help you manage your finances and encourage you to think differently about your money.

As a fee-only registered investment advisor (RIA), we charge a flat rate for our services. RIAs have a fiduciary responsibility to act in their clients’ best interests. Unlike investment brokers who can end up costing the client a lot of money depending on the frequency and volume of trades, we provide advice and make transactions without taking commission-based compensation. RIA’s  tend to use low-fee investments, including low-cost no-load mutual funds, individual stocks and bonds and investments that do not have 12B-1 fees.

If you have any questions or think we could be of service to you, please sign up for a free 30-minute consultation here. We would be happy to help you and answer any questions you may have.