Q&A: Why Are Prices So High Now?

Q: I’m trying to heal financially as life returns to pre-pandemic norms, but the rising cost of many commodities, like groceries and gasoline, is making a financial rebound a challenge. Why are prices skyrocketing right now?

A: The jump in prices of many goods is proving to be a formidable challenge to millions of Americans who are attempting to recover from the pandemic. There are several compounding factors triggering the rise in prices across multiple industries, and the upward trend is likely to continue for a while. Here’s what you need to know about the sky-high prices dominating the post-pandemic economy.

How much more do groceries cost compared to a year ago?

A trip to the grocery in 2021 doesn’t come cheap. According to new data from NielsenIQ, all 52 tracked food categories are more expensive now than they were a year ago. The cost of fresh meat, for example, jumped by 8.6% from May 2020 to May 2021, while processed meats are up by 9.2% and the cost of eggs has seen a nationwide increase of 8.2%.

What is causing the increase in grocery prices?

A confluence of factors is causing grocery prices to rise.

For one, the pandemic has caused a shortage in many materials due to a prolonged disruption in the labor force and supply chain, which has increased demand, and the prices of these goods, to rise. Grocery items, in particular, also saw a surge in demand due to the many Americans cooking at home while on lockdown during the pandemic. Many industries are still suffering from these shortages and don’t expect to recover for a while. In fact, the Bloomberg Commodity Spot Index, which tracks 23 raw materials, is at the highest level it’s been in nearly a decade.

Second, there is a shortage in the labor market now, which can likely be attributed to the inflated and extended pandemic unemployment insurance, which made many laborers reluctant to return to work. Employers are forced to offer more pay for attracting workers, and they pass this extra cost on to consumers.

Finally, the increase in prices can be linked to the rise in transportation costs as gas prices continue to rise, which we’ll explore more in a moment. Again, this increased expense is passed on to the shopper through higher prices on consumer goods.

Why are gas prices so high?

It’s sticker shock at the gas pump these days, with prices as high as $4 per gallon in some parts of the country.

There are many factors contributing to the rise and fall in gas prices, of which the fluctuating price of crude oil is most prominent. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), approximately 60% of the money we pay for a gallon of gas goes to cover the costs of the crude oil that went into making it. Another 25% pays for the costs of refining, distributing and marketing the gas, while the rest pays for federal taxes, and state taxes in some states as well.

Crude oil prices, in turn, rise and fall in direct correlation of multiple factors. Most recently, here’s what’s causing the price of crude oil to peak:

  • Basic rules of supply and demand. The last few months saw a loosening of COVID-19 restrictions around the globe. This led to an increase in the demand for gas, and in turn, for crude oil. In contrast, at the height of the pandemic, demand for crude oil fell sharply — and so did its price tag.
  • The presidential election. Crude oil prices have spiked by an average of $0.75 per gallon since Nov. 3, 2020. The oil markets evidently see the current administration as one that will inhibit U.S. oil production, which leads to a tightening on the global oil market. Traders responded by driving up the price of crude oil.
    Seasonal market changes. The price of crude oil tends to rise and fall with the seasons, where prices generally rise in the spring and summer months as more motorists hit the road, thereby increasing demand. The changeover to summer gasoline blends also leads to a jump in gas prices at this time of year
  • Change in the value of the dollar. Oil is priced in U.S. dollars within the world market. When the dollar is strong, relative to other currencies, crude oil is cheaper for Americans and more expensive for the global market. When the dollar is weak, as it is now, oil becomes more expensive for Americans.
  • Strong discipline among the OPEC+ nations. When the nations which are part of OPEC+ stick to their agreement to cut back on oil production, prices increase.

What can I, as a consumer, do about the rising cost of goods?

Unfortunately, as a private consumer, there’s not much you can do to bring down the costs of common goods. However, there are steps you can take to help you manage these costs in a financially responsible manner.

First, you’ll likely need to make some changes to your monthly budget to accommodate the higher costs of groceries and gas. Shuffle your spending categories by trimming discretionary expenses until you have enough money to cover the costs of food and transportation.

Next, incorporate cost-saving techniques you may not have needed to use until now to help you manage these increased expenses. Think couponing, shopping the seasons and the sales, buying items you always use in bulk, and cutting back on pricey grocery items you can do without. To save on gas costs, consider walking to work or to do your errands, carpooling when possible, or using public transportation more often.

Rising prices might be hard on the wallet, but with some proactive steps, you can still stay on top of your finances and help bring your financial health back to pre-pandemic norms.

Your Turn: How are you budgeting for the rise in the cost of groceries and gas? Share your tips with us in the comments.

What to Do with Your Money When Crisis Hits: A Survival Guide

Title: What to Do with Your Money When Crisis Hits: A Survival Guide

Author: Michelle Singletary

Hardcover: 224 pages

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Publishing date: May 18, 2021

Who is this book for? 

  • Anyone who is struggling to stay on top of their finances.
  • Anyone who’s ever wondered how to handle their money during a financial crisis, such as a pandemic, recession, bear market or energy crisis.

What’s inside this book?

  • Singletary’s expert advice for weathering financial storms.
  • Answers to questions about handling money during a financial crisis.
  • A practical guide for managing common money concerns.

3 lessons you’ll learn from this book: 

  1. The most important steps to take when facing a financial crisis.
  2. How to keep a financial crisis from becoming a catastrophe.
  3. How to manage debt, credit card issues and cash-flow problems.

5 questions this book will answer for you: 

  1. What bills must be paid first when in a financial crisis?
  2. When is it OK to dip into savings?
  3. How can I cut back on spending?
  4. How do I keep from panicking when the stock market is down?
  5. How do I tell a scam from a legitimate opportunity?

What people are saying about this book: 

  • “If you’re one of the tens of millions of Americans who are struggling financially, or if you’re faced with helping others who are struggling, you need to read this. Michelle Singletary has written an outstanding book, filled with no-nonsense, let’s-get-to-it advice that’s immensely practical, easy to read and emotionally reassuring. Stop lamenting your situation and let Michelle show you the way out of your crisis.”  – Ric Edelman
  • “Michelle Singletary, a voice of financial reason and calm throughout the pandemic, helps us move forward with what we need most—answers.  From when to raid your retirement accounts, go back to school, and so much more, her clear, precise guidance will put you on the right track to rebuild your future.”   – Jean Chatzky
  • “This is a compassionate encyclopedia of financial first aid when you stumble, and good financial health practices when you are back on your feet. Michelle Singletary has been the down to earth, practical advisor to the stars — and us ordinary folks — for decades.” – Vicki Robin
  • “Michelle Singletary’s latest book is full of clear, wise advice that anyone can follow—and everyone should—especially when they are thrown a curve in the game of life.” ­- Knight A. Kiplinger

 Your Turn: What did you think of “What to Do with Your Money When Crisis Hits: A Survival Guide?” Share your opinion in the comments.

How Much Does it Cost to Have a Dog?

Q: I’d love to have a dog, but I’m not sure I can afford one. What kind of expenses am I looking at if I bring a furry canine friend home?

A: Owning and caring for a dog doesn’t come cheap. But, if you work out the numbers before moving forward, you’ll know what to expect and have an easier time budgeting for these new expenses.

Here’s a rundown of what buying and owning a dog can cost.

Start-up costs

First, let’s take a look at the larger expenses that you’ll, fortunately, only need to pay once.

If you decide to buy a purebred from a breeder, it’ll run you $500-$2,000. This cost may be offset by lower healthcare expenses, as purebreds from reputable breeders are generally healthier. If you get your dog from a shelter, you can pay as little as $50 or up to $200.

You’ll need to spring for some doggy gear before bringing your pet home, including a bed, a collar and leash, a feeding bowl and some toys, for starters. Combined, these should run you, on average, about $50-$100.

If you want to get your dog trained, you can pay as little as $25 for a single class, or up to $300 for a full course of training, plus resource materials.

Next, is getting your dog spayed or neutered, which can add $20-$300 to your initial costs.

Licensing, vaccinations and a microchip will bring that total up by $110-$360.

Total one-time costs: $255-$3,060

Ongoing costs

Once you’ve paid the costs to bring your dog home, you’ll need to consider what it costs to care for your pet each month.

Dog food

Your four-pawed friend’s got to eat, but how much is dog food going to run you? That depends on several variables.

First, how much are you able to spend? The cheapest dog food can cost less than a dollar a pound, but if you go gourmet, expect to pay gourmet prices, or up to $1.60/lb.

The size of your dog also plays a role in how much the food will cost. A small 3-pound pup will only need 140 calories a day, or ⅓ cup of food, while a 100-pound beast will need a whopping 1,925 calories a day, or 4½ cups of food.

Finally, consider your dog’s special dietary requirements. A bag of food for dogs with sensitive stomachs can cost as much as $2.60/lb.

Total monthly cost: $20-80 

Preventative health care and routine well visits

All dogs will need some medication to prevent common conditions, like heartworms, fleas and ticks. Some vets may recommend vitamins or other supplements and dogs should also have their teeth brushed occasionally. Costs for these preventative measures will vary by the size of the dog and its general health.

Most vets also advise dog owners to bring their pets in for a wellness checkup at least once a year. The cost of this visit will vary by location and practitioner.

Total monthly cost: $20-80

Grooming and bathing 

If you’ll be giving doggy baths at home or out in the yard and trimming its claws, you can save hundreds of dollars a year. If you’ll be hiring someone else to do the washing and occasional grooming, these costs can add another $100 to your monthly dog costs.

Total monthly cost: $0-100

Doggy day care, boarding and walking

Here’s where doggy costs can start to skyrocket.

Doggy day care averages $40 a day, while individuals who travel often can expect to add another $100 to their pet costs for every overnight stay. Hiring someone to walk your dog will bring these costs up even more, with professional dog-walking services charging as much as $30 for every half-hour walk.

Total monthly cost: $0-600

So, how much does it cost, in total, to own a dog? After the initial costs, expect to pay anywhere from $40 to $960 a month, depending on how much you choose to spend and how often you’ll need to leave your pet in day care.

That furry friend doesn’t come cheap, but you can’t put a price on the companionship, and boundless love, that a dog will bring you. Be sure to review the costs before bringing your pet home, and to make sure you can comfortably afford these new expenses.

Enjoy your four-legged friend!

Your Turn: Have you recently purchased or adopted your own furry friend? Tell us how you cover your new expenses.

Learn More:
moneyunder30.com
thesprucepets.com
pawp.com
thrillist.com

Get Good With Money: Ten Simple Steps to Becoming Financially Whole

Title: Get Good with Money: Ten Simple Steps to Becoming Financially Whole

Author: Tiffany Aliche

Hardcover: 368 pages

Publisher: Rodale Books

Publishing date: March 30, 2021

Who is this book for? 

Anyone looking to take charge of their personal finances, get their spending under control and learn how to live with financial wholeness.

What’s inside this book?

  • The 10-step formula for attaining financial security and peace of mind that was created and perfected by Aliche, AKA “The Budgetnista.”
  • Checklists, worksheets, a toolkit of resources and advanced advice from money-management experts.
  • Real-life examples to bring financial lessons home.
  • Actionable steps for taking charge of your credit score, maximizing bill-paying automation, savings and investing and calculating your life, disability and property insurance needs.

5 lessons you’ll learn from this book: How to achieve and maintain financial wholeness through a series of financial improvements.

  • How to create the game-changing “noodle budget.”
  • How to see your credit score as a grade point average.
  • How to practice mindful budgeting and spending habits.
  • A simple calculation to help you retire early.

3 questions this book will answer for you: 

  • How can I determine if my money problem is that I don’t earn enough or I that I spend too much, and how do I fix either issue?
  • How can I learn to make a habit out of saving for a rainy day?
  • How can I protect my beneficiaries’ future?

What people are saying about this book:

  • “Aliche can take the most complex of money concepts and distill them into something relatable and understandable. No matter where you stand in your money journey, Get Good with Money has a lesson or two for you!” — Erin Lowry
  • “Get Good with Money helps you put all the pieces of your financial life together without making you feel overwhelmed or ashamed about your circumstances. Whether you need to budget better, slash debt, and save more money or learn to invest, boost your net worth, and build wealth, Tiffany Aliche offers great advice to let you know you can do this, sis!” — Lynnette Khalfani-Cox
  • “I’m so inspired by Tiffany Aliche’s own story of digging out of deep debt and building back her credit and her cash flow. Get Good with Money will soon have you believing in your own ability to set yourself up for a life that’s rich in every way.” — Farnoosh Torabi

Your Turn: What did you think of Get Good With Money? Share your opinion in the comments.

Learn More:
amazon.com
goodreads.com
getgoodwithmoney

Know Yourself, Know Your Money

Title: Know Yourself, Know Your Money: Discover WHY you handle money the way you do, and WHAT to do about it!

Author: Rachel Cruze

Hardcover: 272 pages

Publisher: Ramsey Press

Publishing date: Jan. 5, 2021

Who is this book for? 

Anyone who’s ever wondered why they make the money choices they do and how they can change them for the better.
Anyone who has ever tried to understand why the people in their lives make the money choices they do.

What’s inside this book?

The introduction and explanation of the 7 Money Tendencies:

1. Saver or Spender

2. Nerd or Free Spirit

3. Experiences or Things

4. Quality or Quantity

5. Safety or Status

6. Abundance or Scarcity

7. Planned Giving or Spontaneous Giving

New ways to understand how your parents, your fears and your beliefs impact your money mindset.

5 lessons you’ll learn from this book: 

  • Where you land on the scale of the Seven Money Tendencies and why it matters.
  • Which of the Four Childhood Money Classrooms shaped your money mindset.
  • How the Six Core Money Fears can drive your most common money mistakes.
  • Why you handle money the way you do, and what to do about it.
  • How to take control of your money to achieve financial freedom.

3 questions this book will answer for you: 

  • How does my childhood impact the money choices I make today?
  • Why do I constantly make money mistakes?
  • How can I change my money mindset for good?

What people are saying about this book: 

  • “Rachel does such a great job of getting to the root of why we make the money decisions (and mistakes) we do. This book is a self-discovery necessity.” — Marcus Buckingham
  • “I have often said if you want to understand someone, look at their checkbook and their calendar. How we spend time and money says a lot about who we are. Rachel goes deep into unraveling that mystery.” — Dr. Henry Cloud
  • “We’re all faced with the responsibility of managing finances. Rachel Cruze dives deep into why we interact with money the way we do… so you can make real progress toward your money goals!” — Candace Cameron Bure
  • “This book will not only change your money habits, it will also improve your relationships — and your life!” — Christine Caine

Your Turn: What did you think of Know Yourself, Know Your Money? Share your opinion in the comments.

Beware Romance Scams

With COVID-19 forcing more singles to meet and date online, America’s most expensive scam is on the rise. Romance scams are all over the internet and can be difficult to spot  While the data for 2020 is not yet available, according to the FTC, Americans lost a collective $201 million to romance scams in 2019.

Don’t be the next victim of a romance scam! Here’s all you need to know:

How the scam plays out

In a romance ruse, a scammer will create a bogus online profile and attempt to connect to singles on dating apps and websites, as well as through social media platforms. After a connection is formed, the scammer will work to build up the relationship with the victim, calling and texting often. Once the scammer has gained the victim’s trust, the scammer will spin a sorry story and ask the victim for money.

The scammer may explain that they cannot meet in person because they are currently living or traveling outside the United States. They’ll claim to be a doctor working for an international organization, a blue-collar worker in the middle of a construction project or to be part of the military and currently serving overseas. They may ask for money to help cover travel expenses, pay for medical treatment, cover customs fees at the airport or to pay for a visa or other official travel documents.

The scammer will ask for payment via wire transfer or prepaid debit card. Once they’ve received the funds, they will disappear. Alternatively, the scammer will ask their “date” to share personal financial information and then go on to empty the victim’s accounts.

How to spot a romance scam

If you’re in the market for a new date and you’re hoping to meet someone online, look out for these red flags:

Profile is too good to be true. If a single’s profile has unrealistic credentials, including a magazine-worthy photo, you’re likely looking at a scam.
Single rushes into the relationship. If the contact comes on too strong, too fast, it may be a scam.

Single asks you for money. Don’t believe a money-starved story of someone you just met online, especially if they start asking you to help them out.

How to play it safe online

Avoid falling victim to romance scams and similar ruses by following basic online safety rules.

First, never share personal details online with anyone whose identity you cannot verify. This includes all financial information, credit card details and personal information that can be used to unlock a password on any of your accounts.

Second, only visit secure sites and keep all the settings on your social media pages private. Never engage in conversation with a stranger who reaches out to you on a platform you’ve just begun using, or who sends you personal texts or emails you without any prior communication.

It’s equally important never to send money to anyone online.

If you suspect a romance scam

If you believe you’ve been targeted by a romance scam, take these steps to avoid further damage:

Research the name on the profile to see if the details check out. You can also use an online background checking tool, such as BeenVerified or TruthFinder, to verify the credibility of the profile.

Do a reverse-image search of the profile picture to see if it’s a stock photo or an image that was plucked off the internet. You can also ask the contact to share a current photo of themselves.

If your research confirms your suspicions, stop all communication with the scammer immediately. Block the scammer’s number and flag their emails as spam. If you’ve already paid a romance scammer with a prepaid gift card, call the company that issued the card to ask them to refund your money.

Report the scam to the FTC. It’s also a good idea to alert the website or app that the scammer is using. You may also consider warning your friends about the scam.

Follow the tips outlined above to keep your love life scam-free.

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a romance scam? Tell us about it in the comments.

Learn More:
consumer.ftc.gov
romancescams.org
fbi.gov

Rewire for Wealth: Three Steps Any Woman Can Take to Program Her Brain for Financial Success

Title: Rewire for Wealth: Three Steps Any Woman Can Take to Program Her Brain for Financial Success

Author: Barbara Huson

Hardcover: 256 pages

Publisher: McGraw-Hill Education

Publishing date:  Jan. 12, 2021

Who is this book for? 

  • Women who’ve gotten a harsh financial wake-up call.
  • Women who want to learn about money management to be financially independent.
  • Women who have always been intimidated by money.
  • Women who think they’re just not “wired” to handle money well.

 What’s inside this book?

  • Huson’s story of how the men in her life handled her money and then hung her out to dry when things got tough.
  • A physiological explanation for why men and women often have very different approaches toward money management and wealth growth.
  • Huson’s revolutionary approach toward changing financial habits.

Five lessons you’ll learn from this book: 

  • How to apply a proven three-step formula ― recognize, reframe and respond differently ― to rewire the brain for a more confident approach to wealth building.
  • Why women often process financial information in a detrimental way.
  • Why every woman needs to know about financial planning.
  • How to eliminate damaging financial behavior.
  • How women can empower themselves to build wealth.

Four questions this book will answer for you: 

  • Why do all the men in my life have such a vastly different approach toward money than I do?
  • Is there a way for me to rewire my brain to process information differently?
  • Will I be stuck in a financial rut forever?
  • Which obstacles are standing between me and financial empowerment?

What people are saying about this book:

  • “If mastering your money feels daunting, you need this book. Barbara expertly exposes what could be holding you back with simple, practical solutions to finally rewire your thinking and truly build a wealthy life.” — David Bach
  • “Barbara Huson is the unequivocal leader in helping women rewire themselves for wealth. This book will go down in history as a total game changer for us.” — Ali Brown
  • “This book will change your life, if you let it.”— Marci Shimoff
  • “Barbara Huson has done it again. By digging into the ways women think about money differently than men do, she is able to chart a path toward lifelong security — and wealth.” — Jean Chatzky

Your Turn: What did you think about Rewire for Wealth? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

How Do I Give Myself an End-of-Year Financial Review?

Q: With 2020 drawing to a close, I’d love to give myself an end-of-year financial review before it goes.  Where do I begin?

A: Giving yourself an end-of-year financial review is a wonderful way to check on the progress you’ve made toward your goals, highlight areas needing improvement and update your accounts, funds and investments. Here’s all you need to know about this important end-of-year ritual.

Step 1: Review all your debts and create a payoff plan

Take a few minutes to list all your debts and their interest rates. Have you made any real progress toward paying them off this year? Or have you stuck with minimal payments each month, leaving the actual balance to pile up since you’re mostly just paying for interest?

If your debt needs some help, you have two primary options for how to proceed:

  • The avalanche method. Focus on paying off the debt with the highest interest rate first, and then continue to the debt with the second-highest interest rate. Move through the list until you’ve paid off all debts.
  • The snowball method. Work your way through your debts, starting with the lowest-balance debt. Then, once it’s paid off, apply the payment that was previously committed to that debt to your new lowest debt. Repeat through the rest until all debts are paid off.

For both methods, be sure to pay the minimum balance on all your other debts each month. Try to boost your income and/or trim your monthly spending for extra cash and use it toward the first debt you are paying off completely.

Step 2: Automate your savings

Review your savings from 2020. Have you reached your goals? Have you forgotten to put money into savings each month?

Going forward, make it easy by automating your savings. Give us a call at 734-676-7000 to set up an automatic monthly transfer from your checking account to your savings account. [You can also set this up through your online and/or mobile banking with us.] This way, you’ll never forget to put money into savings again.

Step 3: Review the progress you have (or haven’t) made on financial goals

Have you made measurable progress toward your financial goals in 2020?

Take a few minutes to review your past goals, taking note of your progress and determining how you can move toward achieving them.

Step 4: Review your retirement account(s) and investments

As you work through this crucial step, be sure to review the following variables:

  • Your employer’s matching contributions. Are you taking advantage of this free money, or leaving some of it on the table?
  • The maximum IRA contribution limits for 2021. You will likely need to make adjustments for the coming year.
  • Management fees and expense ratios for your investments. Fees should ideally be less than 0.1%.
  • Your stock/bond ratio and investing style. You may want to take more risks in 2021 or decide to play it safer this year.
  • Your portfolio’s balance. Does it need adjusting?

Step 5: Create an ICE Binder

The events of 2020 underscored the importance of making plans in case one becomes incapacitated for any reason. Create an In-Case-of-Emergency (ICE) Binder to hold all your important documents in one place in case the unthinkable happens. Because of the sensitive nature of the information it holds, be sure to keep this in a safe place where it will not fall into the hands of identity thieves.

Include the following in your binder:

  • Medical information
  • Account information
  • Child care and pet care details
  • Online accounts and passwords
  • Insurance policy documentation and details
  • Investment accounts and details
  • A copy of your life insurance policy
  • A copy of your living will
  • A copy of your last will and testament

Step 6: Set new financial goals for 2021
As you finish reviewing your financial progress of the past year, look forward to accomplishing greater financial goals in the coming year.

A great way to turn dreams into reality is to set goals that are SMART:

Specific

Measurable

Attainable

Realistic

Timely

Here are some goals you may want to set for the coming year:

  • Create a monthly budget before January. Be sure to include all expense categories. Review on the first of each month and tweak as necessary.
  • Review the week’s spending with your partner each Friday night.
  • Pay off your largest credit card bill by 2022.
  • Start a vacation fund in February.
  • Cut out two subscriptions you don’t really use by mid-year.
  • Slash your weekly grocery bill by 10% before May.

Wishing you a financially healthy New Year!

Your Turn: Do you have any additional steps for your own end-of-year financial review? Share them with us in the comments.

Learn More:
moneyning.com
14news.com
steppingstonestofi.com

Millennials Hit Hardest by Coronavirus Recession

The coronavirus recession hasn’t been easy on anyone, but millennials may have been hit hardest.

According to many economic experts, the 73 million millennials in the U.S. could experience financial setbacks from COVID-19 that have a longer-reaching impact than those experienced by any other age group.

Here’s why the coronavirus pandemic has been especially hard for those in 25- to 39-year-old age bracket.

Another recession for millennials

Economic recessions are nothing new for this demographic. They already lived through the Great Recession of 2008, and for many, the impact of the last recession is still being felt today.

The Great Recession hit millennials when they were still in college or just starting out on their career paths. For some, it meant the choices for their first post-college job were very slim. For others, it meant dropping out of college when there was no longer a guarantee of a degree netting them a higher-paying job. Regardless of how they were impacted, many millennials are still playing catch-up from the recession of 2008.

“For this cohort, already indebted and a step behind on the career ladder, this second pummeling could keep them from accruing the wealth of older generations,” says Gray Kimbrough, Washington, D.C. economist and American University professor.

Job losses across the board

More than 40 million workers in the U.S. have filed for unemployment since the beginning of the pandemic, but this is another area where millennials have been hit harder than most.

According to a recent report by Data for Progress, 52% of respondents under age 45 have lost jobs, been furloughed or had their work hours cut due to COVID-19. In contrast, just 26% of respondents over age 45 have suffered a job loss of some kind during the coronavirus pandemic.

Millions of millennials have lost jobs that are impossible to do while adhering to social distancing mandates. At the height of the economic lockdowns in April, the economy shed a staggering 20.5 million jobs. Of these jobs, 7.7 million were in the leisure and hospitality sector — a sector that is dominated by millennials. An additional 1.4 million lost jobs were in health care, primarily in ambulatory services — another field that employs a disproportionately large number of millennials.

No nest egg

Many millennials who are still on the rebound from the Great Recession are carrying piles of debt and have minimal savings — or none at all.

According to surveys conducted in 2018 by the Federal Reserve, 1 in 4 millennial families have a negative net worth, or debts that outweigh their assets. One in six millennials would not be able to find the funds to cover a $400 emergency. For these young employees, a relatively mild setback from the coronavirus can be devastating to their finances.

Millennials also tend to neglect their retirements. A recent report by the National Institute on Retirement Security found that 66% of millennials in the workforce have nothing put away for their retirement.

Can millennials recover?

Millennials had still not fully recovered from the Great Recession when the coronavirus pummeled the economy. They have shouldered a large share of job losses and have little or no savings to fall back on.

But there is hope. Millennials may not be as young as they were during the Great Recession, but they still have time to bounce back. They can use the unique challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to reevaluate their career track and move onward toward a brighter future.

This age group, also known as Gen Y, is famous for its resilience and can-do attitude. They’ve gotten through the Great Recession of 2008 and they’ll beat the coronavirus recession, too. With hard work, perseverance and small steps toward a better future, millennials can pull themselves up and regain their financial health.

If you’re experiencing financial difficulties, we can help. Call, click or stop by Advantage One Credit Union to speak to a member service representative today.

Your Turn: Are you a millennial who has been impacted by the coronavirus recession? Tell us about it in the comments.

Learn More:
politicalwire.com
wsj.com
npr.org
investopedia.com
foxnews.com
wsj.com
cnbc.com

8 Ways to Spot a Counterfeit Bill

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it a wave of scams, with no signs of slowing down. These scams are also producing a surge of counterfeit bills into circulation. Using cutting-edge technology, scammers create bills that look just like the real thing to the untrained eye. Unfortunately, once counterfeit bills are passed, their new owner can become liable for passing them on to someone else.

In an effort to combat the reach of counterfeit bills, the Secret Service and the U.S. Treasury have added several identifying features to legitimate dollar bills to help citizens and business owners determine whether they are authentic. Here are some signs that can tell you if a bill is the real thing:

A hologram of the face image on the bill: When held up to the light, the hologram on the bill should match the face on the front of the bill. Scammers will often bleach a lower denomination bill and try to pass it off as a bill of a higher denomination — but they can’t change the interior hologram. So, if the $100 bill is really a counterfeit bill created from a $5 one, holding the bill up to the light will reveal the face of Abraham Lincoln, and not Benjamin Franklin, who appears on authentic $100s.

A thin vertical strip of text spelling out the bill’s denomination: Holding the note up to the light will also display this sign of authenticity on genuine bills.

Color-shifting ink: All new-series bills, except for the $5 bill, were designed with this trick: If you tilt the bill back and forth, the numeral in the lower right hand corner will shift from green to black and back to green again.

Watermark: The watermark of the bill can be seen in an unprinted space to the right of the portrait when the bill is held up to the light.

Security thread: Also apparent when the bill is held up to light, the security thread is a thin strip running from the top of the face on the bill until its bottom. The security strip is positioned to the right of the portrait on $10 and $50 bills, and to the left of the portrait on $5s, $20s and $100s.

Ultraviolet glow: You’ll need an ultraviolet light for this to work, but it’s an instant reveal about the bill’s authenticity. When held up to an ultraviolet light, $5 bills glow blue, $10 bills glow orange, $20 bills glow green, $50 bills glow yellow, and $100 bills glow red.

Microprinting: For yet another sign of a bill’s authenticity, you can look for tiny microprinting on the bill’s security thread, which spells out its denomination in all-caps text.

Fine line printing patterns: Look for very fine lines behind the portrait and on the other side of the bill as well.

What to do if you’ve been passed a counterfeit bill

If a note you’ve been passed does not hold up to the authenticity test, and you believe it’s a counterfeit bill, the U.S. Treasury advises the following course of action:

  • Do not put yourself in a position of danger.
  • Do not return the bill to the passer.
  • If possible, delay the passer with an excuse.
  • Take note of the passer’s physical appearance and record their vehicle license plate if possible.
  • Contact your local police department or call your local Secret Service office.
  • Write your initials and date in the white border area of the suspected counterfeit note.
  • Do not handle the counterfeit note. Place it inside a protective cover, a plastic bag or an envelope until you can pass it on to an identified Secret Service Special agent. You can also mail it to your nearest Secret Service office.

Counterfeit cash can be harder to spot than you think. Don’t get stuck holding the bag! If you think you’ve been passed a counterfeit bill, and the note is missing the signs listed above, follow the advice of the U.S. Treasury to keep your hands clean.

Your Turn: Have you ever encountered a counterfeit bill? Tell us about it in the comments.

Learn More:
losspreventionmedia.com
mentalfloss.com
secretservice.gov
businessknowhow.com
wvnews.com