This Week In Your Wallet: What, Me Worry?
When are you going back to the office? Are you going back to the office? Does the office still exist?
I was thinking about those questions last week when I – for the first time in a long time – saw my HerMoney colleagues in person. We had breakfast, outside, in New York City, spritzing on the hand sanitizer both before and after the coffee, the eggs and my beloved bialy. (You can get them in the suburbs, but they are definitely not legit.) Granted, there weren’t many of us weighing in on this decision and only one of us has been vaccinated, but almost a year to the date that we exited our office for the last time, we all agreed. We aren’t ready to go back – yet.
I know that some of you have been back to work for months now, and that those of you who are essential workers have never stopped. To the latter, thank you so much for getting the rest of us to a place in this pandemic where we can finally see daylight. And a reminder to all of us, the time to lose vigilance is not now.
Over the weekend, The Wall Street Journal weighed in on the changes continued remote work may bring. Among them? Shifting salaries. While companies like Spotify (based in Sweden) have told employees salaries and benefits will hold no matter where they work, others – Microsoft and Facebook – are considering basing them on cost of living in those areas, and benefits consultants say a number of Fortune 500 companies may follow suit. Added support for caregivers is also in the mix. The story notes that Bank of America is offering eligible employees up to $100 to put toward childcare expenses and has upped the use of days of back-up care (child or adult) to 50.
The latter can’t come soon enough.
Handle With Care
Last week, I participated in an AARP briefing on the financial costs of caregiving. At some point in all of our lives, we will either give care or be cared for. The financial impacts for caregivers in particular are enormous. On an individual level – witness how the cost of caregiving drove this woman into bankruptcy — shouldering these expenses can be devastating. On average, caregivers have an annual out-of-pocket expenditure of $7,400 (which goes toward everything from household costs and unreimbursed medical needs to paying for much-needed respite care). One in 5 caregivers report high financial strain as a result of caregiving, 3 in 10 say they’re no longer able to save, 1 in 4 have taken on more debt and the list — compiled in the report Caregiving in the US 2020 (from AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving) — goes on.
This Financial Workbook for Family Caregivers from AARP can help. It’s a) free, b) downloadable and c) comprehensive – giving you a single place to fill out the necessary information about where all the important docs are located, the wishes of the person being cared for, and even make a budget.
What, Me Worry?
That’s the question of the hour/week/month/year when it comes to inflation. Market watchers saw stocks fall and bond yields rise during the latter part of February as the rollout of vaccines and reopening of more of the economy (along with the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill approved in the House on Friday) fueled expectations of strong GDP growth this year. Republican Senators are pushing back on the bill as being too large, too stimulative and likely to cause inflation. But in a speech before the Senate Banking Committee, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell tried to quell fears. He pointed to the ongoing risks of the virus, the 10 million jobs the economy has not yet regained from pandemic losses, and a recovery that is “uneven and far from complete.”
Inflation – or rising prices – never really goes away. In the last couple of decades, it’s been running at a hair over 2% annually, a level the Fed is comfortable with. The fear is that if the economy recovers faster than expected, that combined with all the stimulus money will send consumers out on a happy little spending spree. It won’t just be things like Grape-Nuts and home appliances where demand outpaces supply, it will be everything, and prices will surge. The Fed expects higher prices and will tolerate them to a point. But if inflation climbs to over 3%, that could result in the Fed having to hike interest rates sooner than anticipated, which would send stocks tumbling and halt the recovery, as Jeffry Bartash writes in this nice MarketWatch explainer. (He also goes into why the global economy and the competition that resulted from it is likely to keep the high inflation of the late ‘70s/early ‘80s at bay.) For now, Powell’s reiterated commitment to moving slowly and carefully seems to be working. Yields fell and markets had a whopper of a day on Monday.
Taxes – You Have Questions, We Have Answers
“Dear IRS, I would like to cancel my subscription. Please remove my name from your mailing list.” Snoopy wrote that. (Of course he did.) For the rest of us, 2021 is shaping up to be a very confusing tax filing year.
If you’re wondering:
Or many other things, we got you.
Have a great week,