Despite a strong economy, millions of Americans face financial struggles. These difficulties include lower household net worth, increased loan defaults, and high levels of credit card debt. These are the findings in the recent report, U.S. Financial Health Pulse, published by the Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI), in partnership with Omidyar Network, the Metlife Foundation, and AARP.
The report assesses various financial health indicators that include income, bill payment, spending, saving, debt load, insurance, retirement planning and credit scores. When combined, these factors provide a composite view of the spending, saving, borrowing, and financial planning activities of Americans.
Some of the findings of the 2018 baseline report include:
- 17 percent of American are viewed as financially vulnerable, 55 percent financially coping, and 28 percent financially healthy.
- 47 percent of respondents reported spending that equals or exceeds their income.
- 36 percent are unable to pay all of their bills on time.
- 30 percent say they have more debt than is manageable.
U.S. Financial Health Pulse is intended to guide financial institutions, government agencies, and community organization in developing educational programs and financial products to better serve the needs of Americans. This study will be conducted each year to determine changes in America’s financial health.
For additional information on U.S. Financial Health Pulse and to view the report, click here.
- Have students talk to friends to determine which of the financial health indicators they believe to be most important.
- Have students create a survey instrument to measure various financial health indicators.
- What are the benefits of measuring financial health in our society?
- Describe actions that might be taken by business, government, and community organizations to address the financial difficulties faced by people.
As more and more people work as freelancers, independent contractors, and sharing economy workers, concerns grow regarding retirement for this group. A recent study revealed that very few full-time gig economy workers have an adequate retirement plan. Relying on Social Security is probably not enough since those funds will not likely cover retirement living expenses.
Most gig economy workers are one-person businesses, many with limited financial literacy. As a result, they do not properly plan for retirement savings. Self-employed individuals also face the challenge of volatile income streams. And, they lack employer-provided benefits, such as health and disability insurance, unemployment benefits, and paid time off. In addition, these gig economy workers are responsible for paying 100 percent of their Social Security and Medicare taxes through self-employment tax.
Some advantages of gig economy workers are:
- deducting most business-related expenses, reducing their taxable income.
- access to Simplified Employee Pensions (SEPs) that allow self-employed people to contribute to a tax-deferred retirement fund.
- the ability to supplement their retirement income as they may continue to work part-time with customers and clients in their later years.
While gig workers face several financial challenges, programs are surfacing to help the self-employed save for retirement and achieve better long-term financial security. These include:
- Open Multiple Employer Plans (MEPs) or Pooled Employer Plans (PEPs) that let employers combine resources for independent workers to purchase group health and disability insurance.
- A proposed Portable Benefits for Independent Workers Pilot Program Act to establish a fund through the U.S. Department of Labor.
- Several states are creating automatic-enrollment IRAs involving government-facilitated programs administered by private financial firms.
For additional information on retirement planning in the gig economy, go to:
- Have students talk to a freelancer or independent contractor to obtain information about their financial planning activities.
- Have students create a financial plan with recommendations for a freelancer or independent contractor.
- What do you believe are the benefits and drawbacks for gig economy workers?
- Describe actions you would recommend to self-employed individuals for improved personal financial security.
According to a recent study, the financial activities of today’s young adults (ages 23-37) include the following:
- One in four millennials are concerned about not having enough money saved.
- Over 70 percent of these young people believe their generation overspends, and 64 percent believe that their generation is bad at managing money.
- Over 60 percent of millennials are saving, and 67 percent are consistent in working toward a savings goal.
These money attitudes and behaviors are reported in the fifth edition of our Better Money Habits Millennial Report, with these additional findings:
- A reported 73 of millennials who have a budget, stay within their budget every month or most months.
- Nearly half (47 percent) of millennials have $15,000 or more in savings.
- While 16 percent millennials have $100,000 or more in savings.
Millennial parents are sensitive to child-raising costs. While older generations report that finances weren’t a main factor in the decision to have children, millennial parents believe the opposite. While many are paying off their own student loans, nearly a quarter of older millennials are saving for their children’s education.
For additional information on money habits of millennials, click here.
- Have students talk to friends to obtain information about their budgeting and saving habits.
- Have students locate and report on an app that would help guide their spending and saving activities.
- What attitudes and behaviors did you learn when you were young that influence your spending and saving habits today?
- Based on these research results, what money management suggestions would you offer to others?
Quite often, when a person receives a raise or promotion with an increased salary, overspending is the result. In those situations, financial experts recommend maintaining frugal spending patterns. This path will allow a person to avoid becoming a victim of “lifestyle inflation.” Many households earning hundreds of thousands of dollars have trouble avoiding debt and saving for the future. To prevent this situation, the following actions are recommended:
- Maintain your lifestyle and spending habits as you receive raises. Instead of a bigger house or new car, the increased income can be used to stabilize your financial situation and increase saving for future needs.
- Keep your average daily spending low.To avoid lifestyle creep, simply keep your typical day spending at a frugal level.
- Increase your automatic savings amounts. Consider saving an amount from each paycheck equal to the amount of your raise. This will allow you to put aside money for major financial goals and long-term financial security.
- Keep housing costs low. Instead of upgrading, maintain and improve your current home. Housing is a major cause of lifestyle creep when a more expensive home results in higher property taxes, maintenance costs, insurance, association fees and other expenses.
- Remember and review often your financial goals.Do not take your focus off long-term money goals. Short-term desires and impulsive spending can easily undermine your financial future. Create a way to remind yourself of those goals each day.
For additional information on lifestyle inflation, go to:
- Have students ask another person of what actions might be taken when a salary increase is received.
- Have students create a video contrasting wise and unwise actions when receiving a salary increase.
- What factors influence “lifestyle inflation” in our society?
- In addition to the suggestions in the article, what actions might be taken to avoid lifestyle creep?
“On December 22, 2017, President Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.”
Fact: Most Americans wonder how the current wave of tax reform will affect them. This article by Kimberly Amadeo summarizes how the Act changes the amount of income tax that both individuals and businesses pay.
Significant changes in the Act for individuals include
- Lower tax rates (highest rate in 2017 was 39.6 percent drops to 37 percent in 2018) could mean an increase in the amount individuals take home each payday.
- Personal exemptions ($4,150 in 2017) per person are eliminated.
- The standard deduction almost doubles for a single person ($6,350 in 2017) to $12,000. For married and joint filers the standard deduction ($12,700 in 2017) is now $24,000.
- More taxpayers will opt to take the standard deduction instead of itemizing deductions.
- For those taxpayers who choose to itemize, many itemized deductions that were previously allowed have been eliminated.
- Taxpayers who itemize can still deduct charitable contributions, most mortgage interest, retirement savings, and student loan interest.
- Taxpayers who itemize can still deduct up to $10,000 in state and local taxes.
For businesses, the largest and most signification change is lowering the maximum corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent beginning in 2018.
The article does provides more specific information about how the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act affects both individuals and businesses.
For more information, click here.
You may want to use the information in this blog post and the original article to
- Discuss how the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will affect a single college student or a typical American family.
- Explore how lower corporate taxes could impact economic growth, worker salaries, unemployment rates, job creation, and other factors that impact both the nation and individuals.
- Given the information contained in this article and other reports, do you think the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is good for you? Explain your answer.
- For an individual, what effect does lower taxes have on your spending, savings and investments, and retirement planning?
The Personal Financial Satisfaction Index (PFSi), reported by the AICPA (American Institute of Certified Public Accountants) is at an all-time high. This quarterly economic indicator measures the financial situation of average Americans. PFSI is the difference between (1) the Personal Financial Pleasure Index, measuring the growth of assets and opportunities, and (2) the Personal Financial Pain Index, which is based on lost assets and opportunities. The most recent report had a Pleasure Index 68.1 in contrast to a Pain Index of 42.1, resulting in a positive reading of 25.9, the highest since 1994.
While the stock market is high, unemployment is declining, and inflation is low, remember the economy is cyclical. Be sure to consider and plan for your long-term goals. Stay aware and position your financial plan appropriately to safeguard finances when the economy is in a downturn. Also, analyze your cash flow to an attempt to increase savings, including an appropriate emergency fund.
For additional information on financial satisfaction, click here.
- Have students create an action plan for situations that might be encountered in times of economic difficulty.
- Have students create a team presentation with suggestions to take when faced with economic difficulties.
- What are examples of opportunities that create increased personal financial satisfaction?
- Describe actions a person might take when faced with economic difficulties.
Can you imagine getting paid each day that you work? That’s the idea behind Instant Financial’s app, which puts cash in the hands of workers on the same day they work. This program attempts to reduce absenteeism and employee turnover for restaurant chains.
At the end of each workday, employees may take 50 per cent of their pay for that day and transfer it to an instant account; the other half is paid at the end of the regular pay period. Funds in the Instant account may be accessed with a debit card or transferred to a bank account.
The app can reduce the use of payday loans, with exorbitant borrowing rates, as workers have access to funds between pay periods. Instant Financial makes money from fees charged employers and merchants when debit cards are used; although employees may pay ATM fees.
A major concern of the app is that it might discourage long-term financial planning. Poor budgeting habits could result in increased use of debt due to a lack of funds at the end of the month. Employees who use the app are encouraged to practice wise money management, including creating and building an emergency fund and other savings.
For additional information on instant pay, click here.
- Have students talk with others about the benefits and drawbacks of an instant account.
- Have students describe two situations: (1) a person who used the instant account wisely, and (2) someone who mismanaged their money as a result of using the instant account.
- What factors might be considered when deciding whether or not to use an instant account?
- Describe how an instant account might result in improved money management and in weakened money management activities.
Natural disasters create a need for unique actions. After physical safety is assured, some of the activities related to finances include:
- contacting your insurance company – request a copy of your policy, take photos and videos to document your claim.
- registering for assistance at DisasterAssistance.gov or call 1-800-621-3362.
- talking with your mortgage lender and credit card companies since you may not be able to make upcoming payments on time.
- contacting utility companies to suspend service if you will not be living in your home due to damage.
Beware of various scams that surface after natural disasters. These frauds can include phony repairs, deceptive contractors, requiring up-front fees, fake charities, and misrepresenting oneself as an insurance company agent or government representative to obtain personal information.
Assistance for the personal and financial chaos created by a hurricane or other natural disaster may be obtained from these organizations:
For additional information on financial actions for disasters, click here.
- Have students role play situations that might require actions such as those described in this article.
- Have students create a video with suggestions to take when encountering a natural disaster.
- How might the advice offered in this article be communicated to people who are victims of a natural disaster?
- Describe common mistakes people might make when encountering a natural disaster.
CPAs and financial advisers point out five “silent killers” that create barriers for the successful implementation of estate, retirement, and investment plans. These common mistakes are:
1. Unrealistic Expectations. A valid financial plan must be based on practical assumptions, such as an appropriate forecast of rate of return, inflation, and future cash flow needs
2. Emotional Decision Making. Feelings and personal sentiment must be identified and minimized when setting goals and planning financial projections.
3. Inflexibility. A useful financial plan must take into account unexpected events. Creation of an emergency fund and contingency plan is vital.
4. Inaction. Without a plan for action, the perfect financial plan is worthless. Common results of inaction can be not having appropriate of property and casualty insurance coverage, financial hardship of dependents due to inadequate life and disability coverage, failing to address how assets are to be distributed in an estate plan, and overlooking a tax strategy.
5. Unclear Values and Priorities. Being on the wrong path will result in an undesired financial destination. Reflection of areas of importance and priorities is fundamental for implementing a financial plan and achieving financial goals.
For additional information on financial planning silent killers, click here.
- Have students talk with others about barriers they have encountered in their financial decision making.
- Have students create situations that reflect each of the five situations. Ask them to suggest actions to overcome these difficulties.
- Explain which of these financial planning barriers you believe is the most dangerous.
- What are possible actions a person might take to avoid these financial planning barriers?
Mobile start-up companies and other organizations are working with financial institutions to assist consumers with apps and websites that address various financial tasks and concerns. These include:
- Albert (www.meetalbert.com) is a mobile app to guide your financial decisions with the assistance of various financial institutions.
- EARN (www.earn.org) is a national nonprofit to help low-income families create a habit of saving and break the cycle of financial instability.
- eCreditHero (www.getcredithero.com) is designed to fix errors that appear on an estimated 80 percent of the credit reports of Americans.
- Scratch (www.scratch.fi) helps borrowers to better understand, manage, and repay loans.
- WiseBanyan (www.wisebanyan.com) is a free financial advisor that suggests and manages investment plans for various financial goals, such as savings for retirement, creating an emergency fund, and buying a home.
For additional information on innovative financial planning apps, click here.
- Have students search for a website or app that would be of value of improved personal financial planning.
- Have students talk to others about the financial concerns they face. Ask students to propose an app or website that would address a personal finance concern.
- What personal financial planning areas provide people with the most difficulty?
- Describe potential apps or websites that might be created to assist people with their personal financial planning activities?