Betches said it best! Here's our best shot at the skinny on retirement savings accounts.
Not only will BB&B break down 401(k)'s- but we'll also look at the other options for saving for your future. Prepare to be well informed and never ask the below question AGAIN!
When you're in your 20's, 30's even 40's, retirement may seem like a long ways off. Why should I be keeping my hard-earned money from myself when I could be using it to jet to Baha Mar with my girlfriends (Real Housewives of Beverly Hills style, you know.)
BECAUSE, life is hella expensive. You may think life is costly now, but just wait until you're your grandparents age. Healthcare, travel, simply daily life...imagine living the way you do now without an income...pretty tough, right?
Hopefully when you're in your 60's, you will be winding down your career (maybe sooner or later, depends!) but one day you (probably) will be in fact living without a steady income (possibly still investments etc. but not a paycheck.)
So, let's put Baha Mar on the back burner for now and talk about saving instead of spending!
Will make this as simple & painless as possible- bible. Thanks to the TheBalance.com for guidance on this post.
401(k). A workplace retirement account that is offered as an employee benefit. Basically, thanks for working here, we're going to administer a retirement account for you as an extension of our gratitude.
The account allows you to contribute a portion of your PRE-tax paycheck to tax-DEFERRED investments.
Good lord, what?! If your GROSS salary (Gross = BEFORE taxes) was $75,000 and you contribute $5,000 to your 401(k)- come tax time, you will only be taxed on $70,000.
You can begin withdrawing at age 59 1/2...any earlier, you will be fined a penalty. The maximum annual contribution is $19,000 as of 2019. If you're over 50, you can contribute $25,000.
What is the big draw to this? COMPANY. MATCHING. English!? Some companies will "match" up to a certain percent or dollar amount. If your company offers to match up to $5,000- you would be smart to put in at LEAST $5,000. It is essentially free money.
Individual Retirement Account (IRA). This route is chosen by individuals who 1) do not have a company 401(k) plan or 2) you have maxed out your 401(k) for the year and would like to tuck a bit more away.
An IRA is used to invest money for retirement in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, exchange traded funds (ETFs), etc. A cool part of an IRA is it truly acts as an investment account- you can buy and sell investments as you normally would. However, the retirement aspect comes into play as you cannot REMOVE money from said account until age 59 1/2, similar to the 401(k).
Many taxpayers can deduct their IRA contributions on income tax returns IF they don't also have a 401(k) at work which will reduce their taxable income *there are restrictions*
It takes about 15 minutes to open an IRA. You can do so with investment firms such as E*TRADE, Fidelity or the one I personally use, Vanguard.
There are 2 types of IRA's.
Traditional IRA. This will be an account invested with PRE-tax money. As discussed above, Uncle Sam will come to collect taxes when you withdraw this money later.
Roth IRA. This will be an account invested with POST-tax money. Meaning, your gross sum you are paid will be taxed, then the money will be invested and never taxed again.
A Roth is unique as the age 59 1/2 does not apply- you may withdraw contributions at any time without a penalty (with a traditional it's usually 10%.) Note, it has to be at least 5 years after you started the account*
Contribution limits to IRA's are low though: $6,000 for both types in 2019, $7,000 if you're over 50.
Roth 401(k). A little combo here!
This is essentially a mix of the features of a 401(k) and a Roth IRA. This is similar to a 401(k) as it is offered through employers.
This is a new instrument as it gives the Roth aspect of contributions coming AFTER taxes. Same as the Roth IRA, contributions are never taxed again as long as you remain in the plan for at least 5 years.
A contingency here, if you're making relatively big bucks*, you may be restricted to contributing. *$122,000 for single filers in 2019 up to $137,000. $193,000 to $203,000 for those filing jointly.
Simple IRA. The Savings Incentive Match for Employees (SIMPLE) IRA is a retirement option for small businesses with less than 100 employees. 401(k) plans are a large reason many people join large firms, therefore, this is a chance for smaller firms to also give a similar draw like the big dawgs.
Very similar to a 401(k), the account is made with PRE-tax dollars. Again, the money will grow tax deferred until retirement (it will be taxed upon withdrawal.)
The penalty for early removal is the kicker here, if you take money out within 2 years of opening and/or before age 59 1/2, you will pay a penalty of 25%- yikes!
One more- you cannot borrow money from a SIMPLE as you can from a 401(k).
SEP IRA. A Self Employed Pension IRA allows you to contribute a portion of your income to your own retirement account if you're self-employed and have NO employees.
You can fully deduct these contributions from your taxable income. The maximum contribution limits are higher than the others- for 2019, $56,000 or 25% of your income, whichever is less.
Can I have more than one plan? YES. As seen above, you can have a combination. The amount you may deduct from your taxable income will be capped at a certain point though.
Decide how much you're wanting to save and go from there.
What if I need to use the money in my 401(k) for an emergency? Most plans offer what is known as 401(k) loans if you find yourself in a bind...this should be a last resort!
What if I quit my job? What happens to my 401(k)? At this point, you will have a decision to make:
Should I be saving money besides of 401(k)? How can I put this gently- DUH. The more money you save, the better! If you want to buy a car, a house, a yacht, a plane, a giraffe (you do you)- you need to be saving and investing separate from retirement funds.
This money is not to be touched until you're up there in age- so do not rely upon it. It will be there to help you one day but this is not your emergency fund. Think of it as your nest egg but also don't think of it at all. Just ensure you're contributing and not leaving money on the table.
Off to Davos global executives, world leaders and members of the media went this week! This was one of my favorite posts last year so figured I would do it again as the Global Risks Report by my employer, Marsh & McLennan Companies, has just released the 14th edition for 2019.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) is a Swiss non-profit foundation. The international body cites it's mission as "committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas".
In layman's terms, it is a gathering of about 3,000 businesspeople, celebrities and journalists to discuss the state of the world. The theme for the 2019 forum is "Globalization 4.0: Shaping a Global Architecture in the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution."
Marsh & McLennan Companies are instrumental in helping put together the Global Risks Report. The report is about 100 pages discussing the worlds largest risks. I think it is vastly important to be aware of the emergence and development of these risks overtime. In this post, I am going to present a synopsis of what was included in this years report.
The report begins with the largest risks our world currently faces: individuals, companies, governments, etc. The first, is from 2018. The second, are 2019's most pressing risks. It is always interesting to see how these change form year to year.
You will note, cyber and natural disasters are always near the top of the list. We will delve into some of these below.
Macroeconomic. Financial market volatility increased as fears over the future of global economies rattled investors and central banks alike. The latest International Monetary Fund (IMF) prediction shows a gradual slowdown over the next few years. Historically large economies (ex: China) have lowered growth estimates. The global debt burden is also continuing to rise as it began post the 2008 financial crisis.
Geopolitical. Rifts between major powers have been increasing- notably the United States and China. A period of globalization has taken place which has altered the political economy globally. A concern arising: should a global crisis take place, would the mega powers of the world be able to join and work together for a collective solution.
Environmental. A range of environmental issues are at the forefront: extreme weather, agreement on proposed climate agendas, loss of species that could alter the human food chain. For humans, loss of biodiversity effects health and socioeconomic development as it can spur malnutrition. Disruptions in the delivery of goods or services due to a natural disaster is also a large concern.
Technology. Data fraud and cyber attacks continue to be high on individuals and corporations list of concerns. The likelihood and potential severity of these attacks on companies computer systems have increased with further emergence of technology. The enhancements of artificial intelligence, while in many ways better our world, pose a threat to societies if not monitored. Technology is also seen as a major loss of privacy and deepening polarization.
Energy Grid. The number one threat to our world, as stated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, is an attack on our energy grid by some sort of cyber malware. Utility companies spent an estimated $1.7B in 2017 on protecting their firms from such an attack. Many agree that in the future, there may need to be a government backstop (to cover expenses as TRIA does for certified acts of terrorism that was instated post 9/11) if this were to happen because no individual company (ex: ConEdison) could sustain the damages.
Oceans. Ongoing climate change and rapidly growing cities continue to make humans more vulnerable to rising sea levels. Urbanization, or the move to cities, exacerbates the risk of destroying natural sources of coastline resilience and put an immense strain on groundwater reserves.
Rising oceans pose a risk to over consuming roads, railways and ports. Internet cables running deep below the grounds surface also could be damaged due to excess water. Sanitation along with drinking water becomes a concern should ground water be contaminated by salt water. This also contributes to damaged agriculture.
Mental Health. Issues ranging from anxiety to depression and beyond effect an estimated 700 million people worldwide. The decline of well-being is, in itself, a risk as it contributes to the degradation of social cohesion and political landscape along with society productivity.
Biological Threats. A release of biological pathogens is widely thought of as a prime terrorist attack scenario. However, these also could be accidentally released. The vitality of having cures for said diseases along with prevention and contingency plans are a key risk mitigation tactic. Intentional biological trends including genetically modified babies is a new frontier requiring monitoring.
Income Inequality. Widening levels of wealth disparity and divergences between public and private levels of capital ownership are exacerbating the gap between the classes. The transfer of public to private wealth has occurred in nearly all countries whether they be developed or emerging. Underlying effects become a lack of cohesion and seemingly a distrust in the system.
Identity Politics. Immigration and migration changes has played a large role in asylum rules and regulations. The rise of the #MeToo movement put the notion of discrimination against gender front and center in industries ranging from Hollywood to Wall Street. Women are also more likely to be displaced from their jobs due to automation.
Globalization. Powers of the world have shifted. World leaders have changed as have the bodies in which they oversee. In relation to states, the following has been taking place: individuals have seen less control as states tend to be the reigning power. Along with companies, many are controlled by the states to the extent in which is the highest percentage seen in decades.
Multilateralism. As variables including GDP continue to evolve and change, multilateralism and the powers that be also must do the same. The idea of states forming an alliance to pursue a greater good , in theory works. However, with economies and political powers evolving, these formations need to be revisited.
Trade. China and the U.S. are arguably the biggest story in this arena. However, they truly are just a fragment of the larger puzzle. Although large economies such as these may influence global growth, smaller countries also play a role. With tensions escalating, the Internal Monetary Fund has revised growth projections for 2019 by 20 basis points. Tariffs on everything from aluminum to washing machines to European cars- the notion of “economic security being national security” is at the forefront for many countries as they evolve as more protectionist.
Investments. Monetary investment in governments, sovereign wealth funds and in particular, strategic sectors, have been blocking investments in emerging technologies. In August of this year, Germany announced a reduction in the threshold at which foreign investments can be blocked. If citizens of one country do not believe in their homeland’s trajectory, they will seek returns elsewhere. The balancing act arises when citizens of that country want to invest and the opportunities have been saturated with outside investors.
Foreign Direct Investment. Also known as FDI, the make-up of where this aid comes from for projects including infrastructure has changed from more traditional to outside governments stepping in. The issue comes as FDI is continuously becoming more politically charged.
Anger. While not as tangible as other topics touched upon in the Risks Report, every year Gallup takes a poll of the world's emotional state. As you may guess if you turn on the television from time to time, we are living in a very divided world. This leads to a "tremendous increase in mutual hatred." People reporting themselves as "angry" or more "on edge" on a daily basis rose in the past year. To blame? Shock: politics ranked as one. Families have been divided and at times stopped speaking on account of disagreements. To quote- "incivility has boiled over because we have lost respect for opinions other than our own." Let's take a step back, my friends.
Social Media. Specifically SM but really technology as a whole has been working it's way into become a full-blown addiction for many. This is the leading cause for feelings of isolation and loneliness. The blurring line between reality and fiction continues to become more opaque. Related to this is lack of sleep, poor performance in work or school and an immense decrease in in-person interactions.
Workplace Stress. A large number of workers globally attribute being overworked with their lack of happiness in their jobs. Other factors include ergonomic stress or lack of a work environment that provides comfort. Many report a constant stress is the creeping up of automation and the fact many jobs will be replaced by AI in the coming years.
^These may not seem as serious as inflation or an impending recession, but people are what make up our world. If we live in an environment where individuals are constantly anxious and angry, the long term effects will indirectly influence most of these other topics in some form or fashion.
Outbreaks. The spread of infectious diseases across the world have been occurring with increasing frequency. Five trends have been driving this: surging trade can pass diseases into different parts of the world by both humans and food contamination. With 55% of the world living in urban areas, high density living enhances the risk of disease spreading. Deforestation has been an issue in countries such as Africa where diseases are spread via mosquitoes and other various animals. Climate change has been linked to a rise in the transmission of diseases including dengue fever. Finally, human displacement. When thinking about the Syrian refugee crisis, humans migrating and generally in rough conditions and close confines once arriving at migration camps have led to outbreaks.
Healthcare Costs. While healthcare is advancing and less lives are being lost because of modern medicine, these potions to cure sicknesses come at a hefty cost. Procedure and prescription costs have skyrocketed leading to an increase in the cost of healthcare. Without insurance provided by your employer, it can be very difficult to stay ahead of healthcare expenses.
Pathogen Preparedness. Speaking on biologic threats above, the World Health Organization is proactively preparing for worst case scenarios. Should an attack of sorts take place where a pathogen is released, how would the WHO be able to ensure the disease is contained and then not passed along to both doctors and other citizens.
Disaster Recovery. Over the years, we have seen an increase in the cost of disasters. Notably expensive storms, hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, the cost for spending post a disaster is almost nine times higher in many cases than on preventing the disaster in the first place.
Why are the storms costing more? Are storms getting worse? Possibly. Frequency ebbs and flows. But a key factor is simple: there is more STUFF! There are more homes than in the 80's. More businesses, cars, bridges- more things that can be wrecked causing an increase in recovery costs.
Waste. Population growth clearly exacerbates food availability. To sustain current food levels between 2019 and 2050, this will require a 70% increase in food production. Coupled with other issues mentioned above- this could be a tall order. A large issue has to do with the amount of food wasted- particularly in Western civilizations. 95 kg's of food is wasted per person every year in the United States. Compared to Rwanda? 1 kg.
Food Insecurity. You've heard of the trade war between the U.S. and China- mainly steel, aluminum. There is also the potential for a food trade war in the future. Cross border issues can block certain goods, unable to be grown or produced in a country, from entering. If an ecosystem in one country fails, they may be entirely reliant upon a neighbor. A tense conflict could limit accessibility.
Supply and Demand. As we spoke above on the trade war, there are sometimes unintended consequences of tariffs, etc. Imposing tariffs on certain goods may bring another government to the negotiating table but as seen with Chinese goods, these tariffs then make U.S. products more expensive. Why? Supply and demand basics. If you cut off the pipeline of semiconductors for iPhones that come from China (and are generally cheap) you are going to have to find somewhere else to get said components- usually from a more expensive source.
Fracking. Similar to the above, you're facing what some environmentalists consider a trade-off. While reports of fracking directly causing earthquakes is largely unsubstantiated, many see our energy independence which was shepherded by the Bush administration as a trade-off to environmental harm. The United States is now a net exporter of energy for the first time in years. Currently with an oversupply of natural gas and a healthy pipeline of crude, studies will need to continue to be done to ensure if fracking is ceased because of these concerns- that it will be worth the price the U.S. will pay to go back to being energy dependent.
Space. The amount of government and commercial activity in space has been increasing rapidly. The concern is of course an actual collision but second that it could become a potential battleground.
As you can see, Davos is chock-full of discussions and gives a good feel of sentiment for the year ahead. I will leave you with a few interviews with the CNBC anchors and some of the most influential business people in the world.
Jamie Dimon. Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase.
David Solomon. CEO of Goldman Sachs.
Ginni Rometty. Chairwoman, President & CEO of IBM.
Christine Lagarde. Chairwoman of the International Monetary Funds (IMF).
James Gorman. Chairman and CEO of Morgan Stanley.
Majid Jafar. CEO of Crescent Petroleum. "Oil prices are more likely to hit $90 than $40 in 2019."
Mark Weinberger. CEO and Global Chairman of Ernst & Young. "The government shutdown will not have a long-term effect on GDP."
Jim Coulter. Founder of TPG. "The economy is like a frat party at 4 AM- late, but not over."
Bono. Singer, U2. "Capitalism is a 'wild beast' that if not tamed, can chew up a lot of lives."
Jes Staley. CEO of Barclays. "We'll likely be uncertain about Brexit right down to the wire."
Ray Dalio. Founder of Bridgewater Associates. "Capital could flee the U.S. if Alexandria Ocasio-Cortex's tax idea becomes a reality."
Marc Benioff. CEO of Salesforce. "San Francisco is a train wreck of inequality because of Silicon Valley."
So, this may have seemed like a bunch of gloom and doom but I will leave you with this.
James Gorman spoke on his notice during Davos that the more he spoke with other business titans and global leaders, that somehow the conversation turned more negative than our reality really is. He said you can seemingly talk yourself into thinking the world is worse off.
Jamie Dimon followed this with, of course, the world isn't perfect. But what are we, WE, as individuals doing on a daily basis to make it better. Take it all with a grain of salt and keep on a'goin', one day at a time.
"Look up at the stars, and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious."- Stephen Hawking
Marsh & McLennan Companies
Zurich Insurance America
World Economic Forum
Group of 20
So, yeah, about that budget...
The holidays are right around the corner and many are prepping their wallets for large spending months in the near future.
From Market Watch, Americans racked up on average $1,054 in the 2017 holiday season. Half of people could pay off in 3 months. 29% would take more than 5 months. 10% would only be able to make minimum payments on their credit cards.
THIS. IS. BANANAS.
Before we get into some tips and tricks to get the most bang for your buck- let's begin with the trite notion of not living beyond your means.
Warren Buffett stated this in regards to stocks but rings true in daily life. "It is insane to risk what you have and need in order to obtain what you don't need."
If you have lost your job, you don’t need to be spending on family members as if you still have an income. Buying your child the newest pair of Nikes could mean not being able to put food on the table at some point.
It may be a tough conversation but as adults, we have to recognize when you may be in a difficult financial situation and it is necessary not to overextend yourself and end up in financial despair.
And, of course, I will follow that advice with a photo of a Gulfstream only because it's way prettier than a Delta Airbus 320.
Mix and Match Flights. Sites like Priceline can mix and match airline carriers in order to get you the best deal. Possibly one leg will be on United and another on American. Maybe you will have a connection. Every little saving helps when you will be traveling for possibly both Thanksgiving and Christmas (Hanukkah, Kwanzaa- whatever your jam is.)
Cab It. If you’re flying, maybe Uber to the airport depending on how long you will be gone and how expensive parking is- those tabs can add up.
Skip the Luggage. Try to pack only carry-on’s to save from 1) your luggage being lost at a busy time of year but 2) the bag fees that are going up. Most airlines now charge $30 for your first bag and $50 for the second. Multiply that times two for a round-trip.
Road Trip! Close enough? Skip the flight and drive. Oil has been at record lows due to oversupply making gas prices pretty cheap.
You are the host with the most! It is always gracious to host a holiday. A lot of planning is involved and usually a LOT of money. Food, drinks, decor, the little things can really add up.
Have a plan for how much food you will need. Try and buy in bulk to save if you're entertaining groups of people. Also, if people are staying at your home, use the leftovers from the night before to make breakfast the next morning.
Eggs with hams and leftover veggies is not a bad idea. You can also use that leftover champagne for mimosas ;)
Set a Budget. 1st step is to determine how much you can comfortably spend. Look at your upcoming expenses, current credit card statements, bank account and form a plan from there.
Make a List. Begin with a list of items you are buying for friends and family. Write down the item and how much you hope to spend *stick to it!* I will spend $x on the kids, $x on my spouse, etc.
A Deal Isn't Always a Deal. Cool your jets on the “deals” your getting during things like Black Friday. Keep in mind stores use a technique called “anchoring” to make you think you’re getting a crazy deal. Most retailers mark-up items about half. Meaning if they paid $50 for a product, the sales price will be $100 (minimum- lots of stores mark up even more.)
So when you see that glimmering 20% off- know that isn’t REALLY a deal. It’s anchoring. It is telling you the price WAS $100 and now its only $80- when in reality the item is worth $50. Of course its always better to save a bit of money if it’s something you’ve really been hankering.
Just don’t get tied up in thinking you have to buy something because you’re getting some crazy, amazing deal.
Get Creative! Save your bucks and DIY! Head to a craft store and come up with a unique idea. My friend Catherine used her Polaroid camera to snap pics at parties over the holidays and then got inexpensive, cute frames to put them in and gave those as gifts. It’s the thought!
TIPS & TRICKS.
Cash Only. Roll like Migos and Ellen and stick to cash. Hit your bank before the mall and withdraw your chosen an amount, of say $600 to spend on gifts, remove that in cash and don’t touch that card! Using cash makes you more cognizant of what your spending.
Migos keep like $100k on them at all times so maybe do a bit less than that.
Clip the Coupons. For online, look for free shipping and discount codes. For in store, look to see when their sales are starting. Also, check their websites before heading to the physical store as they might have coupons to be used in store.
Prepare for Pop-Ups. Buy a few generic gifts. If someone drops by a present and you feel obligated to give one back- it’s nice to have a couple spare candles or bottles of wine to give in return.
Just remember what the holidays are really all about...ALCOHOL *kidding*- - my family does take it pretty seriously though as you can see above ;)
Overall, don’t get so wrapped up in “stuff.” It is hard work to make money. Throwing it away frivolously on things you don’t really need is just wasteful. Maybe if you all have enough “things” find a charity to donate to. If you want to do good without spending any bucks, go volunteer.
These holidays tend to be about excess and when you’re done it can be pretty exhausting and depressing if you’re going to return to a bank account with 23 pending charges. Be smart. Your friends and family will love you no matter how big or small the gift is. Sometimes the gift of just all being together is enough.
Happy holidays to all of you and your families!
2016 was pretty exhausting. Political ads, debates and family fights at the dinner table over who was voting for who. Well, phew, thank God we don't have to do that for another 4 years. Eh, not quite.
Although we will not be electing another president in 2018, this coming November, there will be midterm elections for congressional and gubernatorial seats- and it's bound to get interesting with the current climate.
I am writing this piece for Barneys, Bergdorfs & Bill$ readers, but also for myself. There are many upcoming elections- it can be hard to keep track.
Hopefully this serves as an all-encompassing, brief breakdown of what is to come.
Let's start with the two branches of Congress: the House and the Senate.
House of Representatives. There are 435 seats in the House. The length of these terms is 2 years, therefore every mid-term year and presidential election year, every single seat will be up for grabs. 218 seats are needed in order for one party's control.
The number of seats each state is entitled to (seen above) is based on that state's population. Large states such as California, have numerous seats (53). Smaller states including Vermont and Wyoming only have 1.
You may have heard of certain elections that have already taken place- these have been in rare instances where House members have resigned or, for any other reason, left their post early. The majority will be elected on November 6, 2018.
The representative you vote on is dependent upon the district in which you live. For example I live in the 12th Congressional district of New York based upon my address. Your ballot will already have the district selected.
The Senate. Every state regardless of population has 2 state senators. Some states, the senators are split between political parties whereas others there are 2 Democrats or 2 Republicans. Currently the U.S. Senate is occupied by 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats (including 2 independents) who will occupy the position for 6 years.
In 2018, 35 seats are up for election- 26 are held by Democrats. The Democrats will need to gain 2 seats to take control.
On a local level, states will have local Senates and Senators. These individuals are largely there to work on local issues for their districts.
Gubernatorial. AKA the race for Governor. Each state has one governor. The current breakdown is 33 Republicans, 16 Democrats and 1 Independent (Alaska). Terms are 4 years in each of the 50 states besides Vermont and New Hampshire where terms are 2 years.
The map above was the breakdown of governors by political party in 2016. There will be 36 gubernatorial elections in 2018, as seen in the highlighted map below.
As you can see, Nevada, Arizona, Kansas, Wisconsin, Georgia, Ohio and Florida were all Republican in 2016 and now are considered toss-up's.
Other than the elections mentioned above, there will be races for attorney general, state comptroller, etc. Campaign sites are a great way to get a solid understanding of the issues at hand and candidate stances.
So what's going on right now?
As per a recent article in the WSJ- Democrats are banking on strong turnout this fall to reverse President Obama-era losses that left Republican governors in a near record 33 states. Republicans are defending 26 of those governorship's this fall.
The Republican Governors Association has raised $113M and Democrats with $67M. The gubernatorial elections are particularly important because of years past in Washington, lots of policy making decisions have been pushed to the state level. A large importance is a candidate for governor being endorsed by the President. In the primaries so far- President Trump's favored candidates won the nomination in Georgia, Michigan, Kansas and Florida.
In the House, Republicans are trying to prevent a blue wave. A big question for the states is how popular is President Trump in their district? The more popular- the more likely the seat will remain or flip to red. History has a tendency to repeat itself- last time a president's approval was as low as President Trump's, President George W. Bush's administration lost 30 seats. Democrats may have the wind at their back but they still need to flip 23 seats to take the House majority- and that is no simple feat.
In the Senate, the terrain is vastly different than the House as it is a very red battleground. 10 of the Senate Democrats up for re-election in 2018 represent states that President Trump won in 2018.
You can still register to vote (*note originally published in September). In most states, papers and voter information must be done 15-30 days before an election so don't wait too long. Summer is already over and November will be here before we know it. Check out the Voter Registration website to learn more and check when your states requires you to be registered here.
Also, Refinery29 put together a guide of what you need to vote and other election day information.
Finally, there's a lot of "fake news" out there. A good go-to guide is 270ToWin where I got a lot of the information in this post.
Hope this provided a brief breakdown of what to expect in the coming weeks. Always remember how lucky we are to live in a Democracy where our voices are able to be heard. Not everyone in the world has this privilege.
School is back in session! Now, guaranteed, college kiddos are far more concerned with Animal House like ragers at KA than which credit cards are going to help them down the road.
But let's put these Natty Light and chicken-on-a-stick purchases to good use, shall we?!
There was a great piece in the WSJ today titled Year-by-Year College Education in Credit Scores.
How can students use their four years at school to build a good credit rating and put themselves in a better position post graduation.
Let's start with the stats above. A 22-year-old has a FICO credit score of 651 (the range is 300-850) on average and $2,012 in credit card debt.
Generally as students get older and graduate, they open more credit cards and then rack up more debt as their lifestyles become more expensive and "adulting" begins.
So, let's break this down year-by-year with some tips on how to multi-task your partying, I mean studying, with building for your future.
Freshman Year. Baby steps- parents can add their child as an authorized user on one of their credit cards. Warning to only do this if the parent themselves has a good credit score. If the parent doesn't, this could end up hurting your student from the start. Also, maybe have the talk of what justifies an "emergency" or else you could get some mass bar-tabs from Thirty Thursday. Oh wait, the drinking age is 21- never-mind! ;)
The 2nd option which distances parent from child is a secured credit card. This card works essentially as a debit card as it is funded by depositing cash. The student would spend his/her money each month and then replenish it after paying the bill.
18 is the age at which students are able to begin requesting their credit score information. Using Experian or a similar credit bureau can help them understand how credit is built and why it is important.
Sophomore Year. Headed back for year 2! At this point- some kiddos might have a car by now- maybe not a Porsche like Elle Woods but making car payments on anything getting them across campus to that astronomy lab. Parents may be making the car payments while students pony up for gas- better for their credit score- flip this arrangement! If the student cosigns and makes said payments, it will help them down the road. However, most kids are focused on school and maybe don't have a part-time job so this burden could be too heavy. Evaluate your families personal situation and go from there!
Paying cell phone or utility bills formerly haven't helped credit scores. However, students living off campus can now use Rental Kharma or ClearNow to have those payments reported to bureaus (albeit, make sure they are being paid in full and on time.)
First unsecured credit card- try and gas or retail credit card the author says! Keep the balance low- never more than 30% of your credit line even if you're able to pay off more.
Junior Year. Classes getting a bit harder now, eh?! At this point- if students can make a small dent in that student debt, they will be money ahead. Even if more loans are going to be needed, any payments will be reported and can help credit scores.
Keep trying to move forward with your credit cards as well. If you haven't graduated from your parents CC, try a secured CC, if you have a secured CC, try a retail or gas card. Retail or gas card? Try a full credit card from your bank.
Senior Year. Almost there! If you don't have a credit card at this point- definitely apply based upon your personal situation. Underwriting standards make it easier to get a card albeit the limit may be lower.
If you have a card, try and negotiate for lower annual fees or APR. Although having a lower APR will save you money, the best way to save money is simple: be able to pay your bills every moth. It's not always possible for everyone and we recognize that. But life will be much easier if you don't start off with student loans AND credit card debt. Loans may be inevitable but daily spending is up to you.
The road after this is an exciting one. There will be peaks and valley's and sometimes being an adult is going to hit you hard but everyone has to grow up! There are ways to make your life easier or harder and keeping a level-head on your spending will surely ease your anxiety for the years to come.
Living in debt because of irresponsible spending or simply just not making cognizant efforts to stay in good financial standing will hurt your ability to provide for your family in the future.
Everyone has a different situation and some are much more difficult than others. But really, don't make your life harder than it needs to be. Make a concerted effort to control your spending, borrow wisely all while enhancing your credit score will lead to a much nicer life.
Fan of the president- not a fan of the president. Doesn't matter. But there are certain things we Americans cannot deny.
Like the fact our economy is thriving.
Whether or not you think President Trump is responsible for this is beside the point. I think it is vital to understand what is going on fiscally in our country as social issues tend to take over the headlines and the state of our country can seem a bit, well, depressing.
Fiscal stories are what some, well, maybe lots would deem boring. Here is brief (hopefully not confusing) synopsis of how the American economy is doing:
Today, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) numbers were released for the 2nd quarter of 2018. GDP is released for each of the 4 quarters of the year (similar to companies- although corporations fiscal years may not begin in January.)
1st quarter = January 1st -March 30th. 2nd quarter = April 1st - June 30th...you get the idea.
GDP is detailed in Barneys, Bergdorfs & Bill$, but basically it is the best way to measure a country's economy. It is the total value of everything produced by all the people and companies in the country- if they are located within a country's boundaries, the government counts that production into GDP.
Gross Domestic Product = Personal Consumption Expenditures (how much Americans spend on goods) + Business Investment + Government Spending + (Exports - Imports)- - hang in there, this gets simpler.
Nominal vs. Real GDP: real values are adjusted for inflation, nominal values are not- with this, nominal GDP values will appears higher.
Inflation: the rate at which the general level of prices for goods and services are rising. When inflation rises, the power of your currency (our dollar)- falls.
Don't let the words confuse you- it may seem complicated but the principle is simple.
Understand inflation is why people invest their money. They invest to make a return. While it may seem more safe to stash your cash in your bank account- due to inflation, your money is devaluing. The goal is "price stability." Not too much inflation, not too little.
So what did today's report say and what does that say about our economy?
First half of 2018 results:
Tariffs. You have no doubt heard the conversation revolving around tariffs, most notably, the battle with China.
So what's the skinny and how does this factor into our economy?
In a nutshell:
And as you can see above, not everything is hunky dory but overall, fiscally, things are going well.
It is easy to be consumed by the "gloom and doom" on newspaper headlines and mainstream news.
These stories sell, and don't get me wrong, obviously not everything in this country is going swimmingly, but these figures released today are something Americans should be proud of.
You can credit whomever you like with these successes. I tend to agree with the idea that if things are going well, Presidents may get too much praise. If things are going poorly, Presidents may obtain too much flack.
A lot of what goes on is not necessarily a direct result of their actions but a combination of many elements and potentially have been years in the making.
The soon to be retiring CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein, said this at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this past January and I think he nailed it:
I like a lot more stuff than I don't. The stuff I don't like is not as substantive. Some of it is, and some of it is social aspects. I've said this, but I don't want to be hypocritical either.
I've really liked what he (President Trump) has done for the economy and I think he's gone out of his way to be very, very supportive of the system.
Frankly, I want to honor that.
We are America.
I'm not a huge TV person. I'll engage in a couple guilty pleasures- Real Housewives, I'm shamelessly a sucker.
But I tend to stick with financial news on CNBC. As far as shows go, I migrate towards anything having to do with business. Succession on HBO is a newbie but, in my mind, there is absolutely nothing that touches my absolute obsession.
Billions on Showtime.
The main character, Bobby Axelrod is the hedge fund magnate behind Axe Capital. It is hard not to desire and be in awe of this Metallica blasting, sports car driving, multi billionaire alpha male.
A crash-pad with sweeping views of Manhattan to his Greenwich home base to a palatial pad in Southampton on Meadow Lane, he makes what he coins "F you money."
Many draw parallels to former SAC Capital boss, Steve Cohen. SAC Capital was fairly synonymous with insider trading. In 2010, the SEC opened a case. By 2013, the firm had plead guilty to the charges and many indicted. If you are familiar with the case and enjoy the show check out, Black Edge.
So is he corrupt? Yes. This is the entire premise of the show. How close to the law can you skirt before you get caught. How manipulative can you be to make an immense amount of money while keeping the SEC off your scent.
As narcissistic as he seems, he is a fairly likeable character many would say. He is the face of capitalism. Coming from nothing, he worked until he made it. Caddying for arrogant businessmen who now ask him for money.
The show has celebrity cameos from real life business tycoons- the likes of Sara Blakley of Spanx to hotelier Jonathan Tisch to Avenue Cap boss Marc Lasry.
The show is complicated with life, business and the insatiable desire to live on the edge. Incredibly accurate & well written, the Showtime original is directed by a slew of people familiar with financial markets, of which include Andrew Ross Sorkin of CNBC's Squawk Box.
This show is riddled with pithy one-liners that serve as major business motivation (the legal way, let me clarify.) Here are a couple quotes that embody the power, drive and lust for more that have shaped the first 3 seasons.
"You don't have to outswim the shark. You just have to outswim the guy you're scuba diving with."
"No one quits while they're ahead. This isn't France. It's America."
"Calculation is not something to be scoffed at. It's a tool. A tactic. And I use it proudly and often."
"I like nightmares. When I wake up, they leave me deeply valuing my reality."
"You know your shopper isn't your friend. Your personal trainer doesn't actually think you're making progress and all the charities you give money to don't actually honor you when they honor you."
"The fact you can't fully understand that doesn't mean he's wrong. It just means you haven't gone beyond your own limits."
"Foolishness is right next door to strength."
"A lot of guys watch Bruce Lee movies. Doesn't mean they can do karate."
"You don't try to be loyal. You just are. Or you're not."
"Get good at letting go, which is a different kind of freedom."
"It's not easy to do. But people are at their best when they feel appreciated."
"Meaning matters more to me than happiness."
"When did it become a crime to succeed in this country? People used to want to be the guy in the limousine. They still do. But now they throw eggs at it."
"The greats never sacrifice the important for the urgent. They handle the immediate problem and still make sure to secure the future."
"Nobody leaves a negotiation happy."
"What is it you do that you're the best in the world at?"
And the grand finale:
"What's the point of having f*** you money, if you never say f*** you?"
"The moral of the story is, you get one life, so do it all."
The old adage of two brains being better than one still rings true. I mean, look at these two fellas. Bill Gates has long championed Warren Buffet as being his mentor. Not a bad choice.
Some have one mentor. Some have two, ten... No matter the number, one way to think of these mentors or people of admiration is your "personal board of directors" (P.B.O.D.)
Every company, public or private, must have a least one director. The mandate of said director, or directors as per Investopedia, is to establish policies for corporate management and oversight, making decisions on major company issues. Within public companies, the B.O.D. represents the shareholders.
But that's for the company. What about for you?
In this weekend's Wall Street Journal, Microsoft Executive Vice President of Business Development, Peggy Johnson, lent her insight into the people she leans on as her system of checks and balances. "She largely relies on her gut when making big decisions but then 'validates her intuition' by checking in with valued former colleagues, mentors and family as independent advisors."
From a former colleague at Qualcomm, to the CEO of Ulta Beauty to the President of Liberty Media who helped her adjust when she was appointed to her first board seat, Peggy has stacked her roster full of people who have supported her & whose opinions she deeply values.
You only know where you've been, therefore it is vital to tap into and develop genuine relationships with those that may not always know MORE than you, but have had different experiences than you, or have been around the block a few more times.
Check out some famous duos below and their testaments to the value of a P.B.O.D.'s.
Sir Richard Branson. Founder, the Virgin Group.
Mentor: Sir Freddie Laker. Founder, Laker Airways.
Oprah Winfrey. Chairwoman and CEO, HARPO and the Oprah Winfrey Network.
Mentor: Maya Angelou. American poet, Civil Rights activist.
Tim Cook. CEO of Apple.
Mentor: Steve Jobs. Former CEO and Founder of Apple.
Tony Bennett. Jazz musician.
Mentor: Frank Sinatra. Jazz musician.
The lessons learned from mentors are endless. Configuring a personal board of directors will pay major dividends down the road. Who knows, you might even succeed them one day (David Solomon will take the reins after Lloyd Blankfein's retirement.) Mentors come in all forms:
It is important to discover the people whose personalities, integrity and work ethic you admire and then place them on your team. It doesn't always have to be an explicit "will you be my mentor"/"will you be on my personal board."
They know, and you know. Personal relationships are incredibly sacred and given constant effort to maintain & grow, can be incredibly valuable.
Wall Street Journal
Swimming, hiking, campfire songs and pitching tents are SO old school when it comes to summer camps.
Meet the new era of summertime recreational activity for your kiddos: Stocks, Entrepreneurial Skills and Personal Finance camp.
"With names like Camp Millionaire, MoolahU, Future Investors Club of America and WhizBizKids, these camps are designed to appeal to parents who want to teach their children the basics of money management, or support budding Warren Buffetts and Steve Jobses who show an interest in business"- WSJ.
One would assume, the kids going to these camps are quite exceptional children. Ages vary as does the curriculum. From active and passive income, to building investing skills to lending tools to children who one day hope to begin their own start-up...these kids will have a leg up in the future.
It only makes sense lots of these camps are popping up around the start-up capital of the United States, Austin, Texas.
Spurred by necessity, camp founders realize the lack of financial education children receive while in school. Per the WSJ article linked above, only 16 states require any economics work during K-12. Only 7 states require personal finance curriculum.
An independent program, Junior Achievement, has been offered in schools for sometime now. The non-profit relies on business men and women from surrounding communities to donate their time to speak and lend business insights to classrooms.
I have fond memories of my father being the instructor for my 5th grade class. The kids enjoy being treated like adults. Gaining knowledge on topics usually left for the "grown-ups" may be confusing at times, but empowers young minds.
As far as formal curriculum implementation, some parents are not going to wait for schools to make the first move.
Family demographics of kids attending these camps show they come from two types of parents. Wealthy couples who don't feel as if they can alone teach their children about the value of a dollar. The second are parents who wish they themselves could have been more financially successful and yearn to provide those opportunities for their offspring.
An important highlight of these camps however - lots of times it is not the parents idea. It is the kids.
15 year old entrepreneur, Ben Aubin, has attended a financial literacy summer camp since he was 8. Since then he has started miscellaneous small companies and has created 3 apps...at 15!
These camps mean business. No cargo shorts, backpacks and tennis shoes. Many require kids come suited up as they would for a job interview. They learn to work in teams as we all do in formal business environments. Developing business plans in which they present at the end of their program, these kids get a small sample of the "real world" before heading back to school in the fall.
Kids earn "pay checks" during camp and then learn to pay taxes from their earnings, balance a budget and delve into how debt works on a basic scale.
Stocks and bonds are topics many camp-goers find deeply interesting. Post camp, parents will help their children set up small brokerage accounts funded with summer earnings from their own small businesses or savings from birthdays, etc.
What about letting kids be kids opponents argue?! The majority of these kids LOVE this stuff!
Their interests differ from others their age. These camps are only for a couple weeks during the summer which leaves plenty of time for running around the park with friends.
Kids leaving these camps and have set off to start their own small businesses for the rest of the summer, empowered by what they have learned and the freedom their parents have bestowed upon them.
As the article alluded, these kids could be the next Buffett, Gates or Jobs. Or simply just financially literate, hard-working people trying to achieve the American Dream.
No matter the long term outcome, I believe it is wonderful people are championing these programs that are deeply needed.
No matter your occupation, we all have bills. Learning these skills while you're young instead of once you're thrust into adult life will pay dividends down the road.
Wall Street Journal
Future Investors of America
Dimon 2024! I can see it now...well...maybe not. Our friends at CNBC estimate a 20% likelihood that the chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase stages a run for president. Couldn't be in 2020 because he has vowed to stay on board at JPM for at least the next few years.
We can dream!
Each year, like most CEO's, Mr. Dimon releases a letter to shareholders. His is more anticipated than most (Larry Fink of BlackRock generates pretty equivalent hype.)
Jamie's 47-page letter was released today. So why does the Street, politicians and business people worldwide value his opinion so much?
Remember that little recession in 2008? When the U.S. was teetering on the edge of financial collapse, 9 CEO's of the worlds largest banks were summoned by the U.S. and New York Fed Chair's, the Treasury Secretary and the head of the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.)
Gathered in downtown Manhattan, these 9 men collectively controlled $9T in assets, or 70% of the U.S. financial system.
If you have seen the movie Too Big To Fail, this was that ominous scene in the large conference room. As part of many negotiations and mass lending's, the Fed teed up a deal for JPM to acquire failing Bear Stearns.
$700B later, of the 9 CEO's, only 2 survived and continued to lead their firms- Goldman Sach's Lloyd Blankfein and, of course, Jamie Dimon.
One can assume this guy "just gets it."
He is not without his controversies. From the memorable 2017 Delivering Alpha appearance where he declared Bitcoin a "fraud." To being the poster child for inflated executive compensation as he harbors a net worth of over a billion dollars. Above is his family Christmas card that raised eyebrows citing opulence. Isn't a Christmas card supposed to be fun?!
As Bobby Axelrod on Billions said: "When did it become a crime to succeed in this country? America used to salute the guy in the limousine. They wanted to be the guy in the limousine. They still want to. But now they throw eggs at it."
Whether you think he is overpaid, overrated or one of the greatest business leaders of our time, Mr. Dimon does not mince words. No one can accuse him of being anything but a staunch capitalist. Dimon has a great pulse on the economy as a whole and has provided immense value for JPM for the past 12 years.
Below is a summary of said letter. Small government, less regulations & praise for POTUS.
On JPMorgan's Initiatives:
Use of Capital. "We much prefer to use our capital to grow than to buy back stock...We currently have excess capital, but due to recent tax reform and a more constructive regulatory environment, we hope to use funds to grow our businesses, expand into new markets and support employees."
Risk Management. "When people talk about banks, it sounds like we are taking big bets...This is the complete opposite. Every loan we extend is a proprietary risk. Every new facility we build is a risk...We perform extensive analytics and stress testing to challenge our assumptions...We try to manage the company such that all possibilities including the worst case-scenarios cannot hurt the company."
Employee Opportunities. "The path to opportunity begins at a young age, but too many young people, particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds do not get a fair shot." JPMorgan is investing $350MM to support demand-driven skills training along with re-entry programs for individuals that have been out of the workforce or incarcerated.
Diversity. "I believe the door to diversity opens when you run a great company where everyone feels they are treated fairly and with respect."
On Business as a Whole:
Brexit. "We are prepared for it to be a hard Brexit. It essentially means moving 300-400 jobs around Europe. The worst outcome would be much of London's financial center moving to the Continent over time."
Employment. "It may well drop to 3.5% this year, and there are more signals that businesses will improve CAPEX and raise payrolls. Wages, jobs and household formation are increasing."
Regulation. "Excessive regulations for both large and small companies reduced growth and business formation. Ease of starting a business worsened with small business formation dropping to the lowest rate in 30 years."
Trade. "It is not unreasonable for the U.S. to seek more equitable terms."
Corporate Taxation. "We had a hugely and increasingly uncompetitive tax system driving companies capital and brainpower overseas...the article (below- 'A Politician's Dream is a Businessman's Nightmare') provides excellent advise for our legislators and regulators...The current administration is taking steps to reduce unnecessary regulation by insisting congressional rules around cost-benefit analysis be properly applied."
On Markets, the Fed & Economy as a Whole:
Volatility (Commodities/Tariffs) "I am a little perplexed when people are surprised by large market moves. Oftentimes it only takes a an unexpected supply/demand imbalance of a few percent and changing sentiment to drastically move markets...Oil, cotton, corn, aluminum...each industry or commodity has continuously changing supply and demand."
The VIX. "Same for stocks, bonds, interest rates and currencies. Changing expectations whether around inflation, growth or recession, supply and demand, sentiment and other factors can cause drastic volatility."
Economic Growth. "We have had subpar economic growth over the last 8 years. Our growth cumulatively in this expansion has been about 20%. A more normal recovery would be 40% by now."
Quantitative Easing (QE). "As long as rates are rising because the economy is strengthening and inflation is contained, it is reasonable to expect the reversal of QE will not be painful...QE has never been done on this scale before so the effect on asset prices, confidence, CAPEX, and other factors cannot possibly be known."
Rate Hikes. "We have to deal with the possibility that the Fed and other central banks will need to take more drastic action...People underestimate the possibility of higher inflation and wages, which means they might be underestimating the chance the Fed will have to raise rates faster."
On Government Inefficiencies. The full article above can be read here.
Labor Force Participation. "Especially men aged 25-54 has dropped dramatically. An estimated 2 million Americans are addicted to opioids...a main cause. 70% of todays youth are ineligible for military service due to lack of proper education or health issues."
Infrastructure. "It took 8 years to get a man to the moon (idea to inception,) yet it now can take a decade to simply get permits to build a bridge or new solar field. We are now not even ranked among the top 20 developed nations."
Immigration. "Policies fail us. 40% of foreign students who receive advanced degrees have no legal way of staying here...One of our largest exports is brainpower."
Healthcare. "Nations costs are twice the amount per person compared with most developed nations."
Debt. "America's net debt stands at 77% of GDP...Hopefully with the right policies we can grow GDP at faster than 2%."
We have an incredible country but, as seen above, we are not without our flaws.
Jamie Dimon's perspective lends to the idea of more rational and comprehensive moves from our government.
More ways to make America competitive. Stop practices that are hindering us and start enacting change to grow our country for years to come.