This Week In Your Wallet: The No, No, No Edition
Taper, No Tantrum
Last week in Jackson Hole, expected Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell took to the mic to announce that the government will soon begin the process of “tapering” – reducing the amount of stimulus it’s been providing for the economy through the pandemic. The support has come in the form of low interest rates (which have made it cheap and easy for businesses and consumers to borrow) and the buying of scads of treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities which has kept the yields on those investments (and, of course, mortgage rates) extremely low.
Wall Street sniffed. Barely. The markets, which expected this news, actually did a little happy dance that it wasn’t more dramatic, then continued their rise. But consumers, as CNN’s Allison Morrow explains, should probably pay a bit more attention. If you’re planning to buy a home, she writes, or you run a small business, it matters. The cost to borrow – for both – will be going up. How far? How fast? Powell is expected to start slowing the bond buying before the end of the year. When interest rates will rise is a little more uncertain and depends on inflation – which the Fed leader believes is “transitory” and will slow as COVID-related supply hitches (more on those in a minute) are resolved, as well as the picture on employment. So, for now, it’s wait and see.
Straight Through, No Lunch
Whether you’re back to work at an office or working from home, let’s pause for a PSA which may sound like it’s coming from Mickey D’s circa 1971, but in fact it’s coming from HerMoney’s Lindsay Mott: You deserve a break today. Specifically, a lunch break. While we, and other personal finance peeps, too often drone on about how those pricey salads, sandwiches and Sweetgreen combos do damage to your budget, she has a different take: You’re losing money by skipping your lunch break, a good $6,000 or more every year. “That’s how much you’re giving your employer in free labor by working straight through the day,” she writes. If you’re one of the 40% of workers who rarely or never takes a break during the day, we’re talking to you.
And note: Money isn’t the not the only reason to get up and – say – walk a few blocks, stretch your calves, clear your head. It adds to happiness, helps you recover your mental focus, and is an actual energy booster. In other words, it can make you more productive. But if you feel guilty about setting these daily boundaries for yourself, don’t. We all need boundaries at work, and here’s some life-changing advice on how to get them. (Or, maybe you just need a new job. This conversation opened my eyes to taking new risks – particularly if you’re someone who is afraid of making the wrong choice.)
Place, No Mats
I went shopping this weekend for placemats. Actually, I’ve been shopping for placemats a lot, spending more time on this task than I probably should. But I’m hosting dinner for Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and I need smaller ones than I currently have to fit everyone around the table. (Or I just need to give up on the placemat idea and use a tablecloth.There’s always that.)
Anyway, I’ve been having a lot of trouble and I wasn’t sure why – are placemats just not a thing anymore? – until I read the latest edition of #TheSupplyChainChronicles in The New York Times over the weekend. Peter S. Baker and Keith Bradsher laid out how it’s not just chips for car manufacturers and kitchen appliances that you can’t get… It’s everything, including (and quite specifically) placemats, and we all better get used to it. Why? Well, one way many manufacturers reacted to the fact that consumers stopped buying during the earlier part of the pandemic was to stop producing so much. Once consumers came back, shortages abounded. And there weren’t enough workers to bring back to make up the slack. That’s the situation we find ourselves in now…and for the near future. “Normalcy,” they write, “might be another year or two away.” Meanwhile, Etsy, here I come.
All Talk, No Action
Inertia. Scientifically, it’s the explanation for the fact that (as many dictionaries note) a body at rest remains at rest, and a body in motion remains in motion. Colloquially, it’s often blamed as the reason that nothing gets done. This week, Jason Zweig, who writes The Intelligent Investor column for The Wall Street Journal, tackled the topic as it relates to our portfolios, acknowledging that – like many of us, he’s sitting on an investment or two that he knows he should have swapped out long ago, but as he writes, “every time I think about switching, I seem to find something more urgent to do. My bookshelves need rearranging! Time to turn the compost pile! My toenails need a trim!” (Note to Jason: TMI on that last one!)
If you can relate, here are a couple of the tips he offered for breaking the cycle. First, break the big decision about making that investment decision into smaller pieces. If you’re holding because you’re not sure what to buy next, step one could be reading an article about choosing investments that are right for you, or scheduling a call with your advisor. And second, tell someone close to you that you’re tackling this challenge. Then ask that person to hold you accountable or, better yet, do it with their own portfolio simultaneously. Then you can keep each other going.
No, Not Again
Finally, our hearts go out to the victims of Hurricane Ida in Louisiana. The pictures out of New Orleans, so reminiscent of Katrina, are devastating. If you want to help, here are a few suggestions.
Sadly, this is not the only climate-driven crisis in the headlines. Here’s how to funnel your donations to victims of the California wildfires.
And, if you’d prefer to focus your energies – and dollars – on the broader challenge of climate change? We’ve got you.
Have a great week,