Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Spending, saving, or investing your graduation gift. Also in the news: How to find your net worth, how to avoid auto repossession, and avoiding a huge salary negotiation mistake.

Should You Spend, Save or Invest Your Graduation Gift?
Using it wisely.

How to Find Your Net Worth
Determining your number.

Late Car Payment? Avoid Repossession in 3 Quick Steps
Hanging on to your wheels.

You’ve probably already made this huge salary negotiation mistake
Don’t undervalue yourself.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Credit counseling for housing. Also in the news: What happens to your debt after you die, how to benchmark your net worth, and how to navigate five embarrassing money situations.

Credit Counseling for Housing: What It Is and What to Expect
You don’t have to go it alone.

Will Your Heirs Have to Pay Up When You Die With Debt?
Your creditors will be waiting.

How to Benchmark Your Net Worth In 3 Easy Steps
Taking stock.

How to Navigate 5 Embarrassing Money Situations
It happens to everyone.

Why millennials aren’t saving

DrowningSavings rates for adults under 35 plunged from 5 percent in 2009 to a negative 2 percent, according to Moody’s Analytics, and the consequences are potentially huge. Here’s how a Wall Street Journal writer put it:

“A lack of savings increases the vulnerability of young workers in the postrecession economy, leaving many without a financial cushion for unexpected expenses, raising the difficulty of job transitions and leaving them further away from goals like eventual homeownership—let alone retirement….Those who don’t save are unlikely to be wealthy in the future, meaning American angst over wealth inequality seems poised to persist if most millennials are unable to save or choose not to.”

Unfortunately, the two “real people” quoted in the story both have college educations and decent jobs. The first has credit card debt (a synonym for “frivolous spending”) and would rather spend on “her social life and travel” while the second finds investments “too complicated.” These two reinforce the narrative that the only reason people don’t save is because they don’t want to.

In reality, most people under 35 don’t have a college degree. They have a higher unemployment rate than their elders and much smaller incomes–the median for households headed by someone under 35 was $35,300 in 2013, down from $37,600 in 2010. As the WSJ article notes, wages for those 35 and under have fallen 9 percent, in inflation-adjusted terms, since 1995.

(Millennials, by the way, also don’t have much credit card debt. In the 2010 survey, the latest for which age breakdowns are available, fewer than 40 percent of under-35 households carried credit card balances, and the median amount owed was $1,600.)

Saving on small incomes is, of course, possible–and essential if you ever hope to get ahead. But any discussion of savings among the young should acknowledge how much harder it is to do in an era of falling incomes. Today’s millennials have it tougher than Generation X did at their age, and way, way tougher than the Baby Boomers. It may comfort older, wealthier Americans to imagine the younger generation is just more frivolous. But that does a disservice to millennials, and to our understanding of the real causes of wealth inequality.

 

 

 

Are you falling behind?

siblingsMore than half of Americans—56 percent—say they’re falling behind financially, according to a new national survey by the Pew Research Center.

That’s not surprising, given that a recent Census Bureau study concluded that most Americans are worse off financially than they were before the recession, despite gains in the stock market and home prices.

Which is why Donna Freedman’s latest piece for Get Rich Slowly, “Why I voluntarily slashed my salary,” is a timely read.

Like the rest of us who wrote for MSN Money, Donna faced a big drop in income when the site pulled the plug on original content. Rather than try to recoup what she’d lost, though, Donna made a conscious decision to live on a lot less.

Donna’s situation is Donna’s. Yours is probably quite different. But I’m always inspired reading what she has to say about the benefits of a more frugal, conscious life.

That doesn’t mean I think that status quo is okay. The ever-widening gap between rich and poor is not okay. The huge debts young people take on to get educated is not okay.  The fact that most people’s finances can be seriously and permanently upended–by a layoff, a divorce, a death in the family–is not okay.

It’s also not okay to keep blaming individuals for what are clearly huge economic trends. Overspending on credit cards did not trigger the Great Recession.

But if you’re living with less, Job One is figuring out how to make that work, at least for now. Job Two may be pushing for change.

 

Do you feel richer yet?

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailWe’re richer than we were before the recession, according to a new report by the Federal Reserve. The net worth of U.S. households and nonprofit organizations is now a record $80.7 trillion, 14% higher than last year. The previous peak in 2007 was $76.59 trillion in today’s dollars.

If you don’t feel wealthier, though, you’re not alone. Most of the gains went to the country’s richest households, and older people saw bigger wealth increases than younger people. That doesn’t bode well for consumer spending, economists said, since younger and less wealthy households are more likely to spend their gains. An article in today’s Wall Street Journal includes this quote:

“Wealth inequality…has increased over time,” said William Emmons, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. “So, there seems to be a disconnect: There are big wealth gains, but not much follow-through on consumer spending.”

Another study by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis found that the average family headed by someone under 40 has recovered only about a third of the net worth lost during the financial crisis and recession, while the average wealth of middle-aged and older families is about where it was prior to the crisis.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

valentines-day-money-100092381726Today’s top story: How your net worth can keep your budget in check. Also in the news: What to do when your employer switches 401(k)s, protecting elderly parents finances, and watching out for Valentine’s Day scams.

Calculate Your Net Worth While Budgeting to Maintain Perspective
Looking at the bigger picture in order to focus on the smaller one.

Your Best Moves When an Employer Switches 401(k)s
First move: Don’t panic.

Why Do Elderly Parents Fall For Scams That Seem So Obvious To Us?
How to protect elderly parents from falling victim to financial predators.

Don’t Fall for these 5 Valentine’s Day Scams
Guarding your heart and your money.

The Hidden Costs of Buying a Car
Don’t let your wallet get taken for a ride.