When You Donate Blood, You Save Lives and Earn Gift Cards

One pint of blood can save three lives. That alone is what drives people to roll up their sleeves and get that needle prick. But there’s another good reason to sign up to be a regular blood donor: Gift cards.

You get a lot more than a T-shirt and some peanut butter crackers these days when you donate blood. Blood collection organizations routinely give out $20 worth of gift cards to Amazon, restaurants and major retailers at blood drives. You can give blood every 56 days, or six times a year.

So, a couple can average $240 in perks and save 36 lives in one year. For a family of four with kids above 16 and old enough to donate, that’s about $500 in gift cards per year and 72 lives saved.

“One time we went to Kohl’s and there was a blood drive in the parking lot,” said Beverly Mattis of Wake Forest, N.C. “They gave us each a $20 Kohl’s gift card so my daughter and I went in and did some shopping afterward.”

A man wearing a face mask shows off his gift certificates after donating blood.
Exavier Jones shows off his $10 gift certificate after donating blood at a OneBlood Big Red Bus in St. Petersburg, Fla. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

Exavier Jones gave blood recently at a OneBlood mobile collection bus outside casual dining restaurant Carrabba’s Italian Grill in St. Petersburg.

“I’m type O. That’s always needed, so I try to give as often as I can,” he said, explaining that any blood type can accept type O blood. He received a $10 Carrabba’s gift card and a $10 e-gift card to use at one of a variety of retailers.

How to Get the Perks of Being a Regular Blood Donor

If you register to be a blood donor with the blood collection organization in your area, you will receive texts or emails with dates of upcoming blood drives and the perks. There are many blood collection organizations around the country. Here are three of the biggest, and how to register:

There’s no requirement that you give a certain number of times a year, but there is encouragement.

OneBlood, which collects blood in the Southeast, partnered with Carrabba’s to give $10 gift cards each time someone donated between January and April. Those who gave twice received an additional $25 gift card along with the two $10 cards.

“I got $10. I’m going to go inside and have a lasagna dinner tonight,” said Bill Howard after donating at the Carrabba’s in St. Petersburg.

The gift cards are nice for sure, he said, but the main reason he gives regularly is because he was stabbed during the Vietnam War and needed a lot of blood to survive. He wants to save others like a stranger’s blood once saved him.

A man wearing a camouflage hat poses for a portrait outside of a blood donation bus.
Bill Howard donates blood regularly because his life was saved by a person who donated blood after he was stabbed in the Vietnam War. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

“I would say most of the time at almost all of our drives our intention is to have a donor gift,” said Pat Michaels, OneBlood director of media relations. “It could be Carrabba’s, Publix, Red Lobster. We have built up some wonderful partners,” he said.

OneBlood also gives out tickets donated by the Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jacksonville Jaguars, the Daytona 500 and Carowinds amusement park near Charlotte, N.C.

Along with gift cards and tickets, many blood collection groups also give out swag such as beach towels, fleece blankets, car sun shades and insulated water bottles.

Vitalant, which is based in Scottsdale, Ariz., is the largest nonprofit blood service provider in the country serving 40 states. It hosts more than 30,000 blood drives a year and offers a variety of perks and incentives for blood donors.

Vitalant is partnering with the Arizona Diamondbacks to encourage high school students there to organize blood drives at school. The team will host more than 1,000 students from blood drive committees. Organizers from the two schools who achieve the most donations will share a party suite at a Diamondbacks game.

Vitalant is also encouraging women to organize a blood drive with friends the same as they might host a party at their homes selling jewelry or clothes. An organizer can invite eight friends to a private party at a collection center that’s catered with fun food where donors receive gift cards and other swag.

For donors with a sweet tooth, Vitalant recently promoted a pint-for-a-pint offer. Donors who gave a pint of blood received a voucher for a free pint of frozen custard at Culver’s.

The American Red Cross recently offered $5 Amazon gift cards to some donors, and their names were entered for a chance to win a trip for four to the 2022 Indianapolis 500. Winners will receive pit credentials, airfare, hotel accommodations and a $500 gift card. Other Red Cross blood drives enter donors’ names in a drawing for a chance to win a $1,000 e-Gift card to one of several stores.

More Perks for Donating Platelets

Platelets are small cells that stop bleeding by forming clots. Donated platelets are used for cancer patients, transplants, burn patients and traumatic injuries.

When someone donates platelets, a machine extracts them from whole blood then returns the rest of the blood back to the donor. The process takes about three hours.

Because it takes longer than donating whole blood, more perks are offered for people who give platelets, which can be donated every seven days. OneBlood recently challenged platelet donors to a two-month program offering gift cards valued at $25 for their second donation, $50 for their third and $75 for their fourth.

It is also promoting a three month challenge, offering gift cards valued at $25 for the second donation, $50 for the third, $75 for the fourth, $100 for the fifth and $125 for the sixth. That’s a total of $375 in gift cards in three months.

People line up at a blood donation bus to donate blood.
According to Givingblood.org, only 37% of the U.S. population can donate blood. Less than 10 percent of those people donate blood at least once a year. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

Constant Need Increased During the Pandemic

Even in typical times, blood collection organizations are constantly trying to recruit more donors. Only 37% of the U.S. population is eligible to donate blood, and less than 10 percent of those people do so at least once a year, according to Givingblood.org.

Numerous impacts of COVID-19 made it even harder to reach and encourage donors, according to Michaels at OneBlood.

“There has been every reason for there to be a shortage of blood drives,” he said. Blood drives at colleges, high schools and office buildings were cancelled for months on end because they were closed.

“We had to recover by creating new partnerships,” Michaels said. OneBlood worked with county elections offices across the country as well as hundreds of homeowners associations to connect with groups of people who would sign up for blood drives, he said.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

IRS offers new COVID-19 flexibility for employee healthcare benefits – Lexington Law

A family plays with their dog.

Disclosure regarding Lexington Law’s editorial content.

As COVID-19 swept the globe and the country, it put stress on all types of supply chains and industries. It has also put stress on the financial and health situations of many Americans.

If you’re looking back to whenever your last healthcare benefits enrollment period was and grimacing at the choices you made, you’re in luck—you might have the chance to change them. In addition to extending the tax deadline for 2020, the IRS has issued a rule modification in light of the pandemic that might allow you to change your elections mid-year instead of waiting for the next open enrollment period.

Find out more about these changes and what they might mean
for you here.

Key Points

  • You may be able to switch to a different healthcare
    plan if your employer allows it.
  • You may be able to drop employer-sponsored
    coverage if your employer allows it.
  • You may be able to change contributions to a
    flexible spending account (FSA) if your employer allows it.
  • Employers may voluntarily extend the grace
    period for using 2019 FSA funds.

A Potential Mid-Year Open-Enrollment Period

The IRS rule change allows mid-year enrollment in a
different plan that your employer offers. This means employees may be able to
make new elections to better use their income and protect themselves against healthcare
expenses.

However, employers are being given the choice of whether
they want to offer these options. The answers to the questions below all depend
on whether your employer elects to allow changes.

Can I drop my healthcare insurance altogether?

Yes, you can elect to end healthcare insurance coverage through your employer. The caveat is that you must replace that coverage with a qualifying plan through the health insurance marketplace, a spouse’s benefits or another option.

Can I switch healthcare plans?

If the employer allows it, yes, you can switch healthcare
plans outside of the normal open enrollment. This is true even for people who
have not had a qualifying event such as a job loss or a change in marital
status.

Can I get health insurance if I didn’t have it before?

Yes, if your employer allows an open enrollment period mid-year, you can elect benefits even if you previously declined them. This allows more people to get insurance that they may now want or need in light of the pandemic.

If I change plans, will I lose what I’ve paid toward my out-of-pocket deductible?

It’s probable that changing plans will reset all
benefits-related counters. That includes deductibles and out-of-pocket
expenses. If you’re considering making a change, weigh how much you’ve already
contributed toward your deductible and out-of-pocket maximum. In some cases, it
might be more financially beneficial to stick with the plan you have if you’re
close to or have already met your maximum.

Changes to FSAs

The IRS also provides a rule change that addresses flexible spending accounts. Again, these changes are dependent upon the employer choosing to participate.

If the employer does choose to participate, employees can make mid-year changes to their FSA elections. For example, you might have elected not to fund an FSA or to fund it very minimally. But in light of the health crisis, you may now want to put more money into your account to cover medical expenses. You may be able to do so.

Alternatively, perhaps your spouse lost his or her job due to COVID-19, and you’d previously elected to fund your FSA with a large amount. You might now need that money to pay for non-FSA-approved expenses. You may be able to elect to reduce your contributions.

Changes to Dependent Care Assistance Programs

The same rule change applies to section 125 cafeteria
plans used to help cover the cost of childcare programs. If your employer
allows it, you can elect to increase or decrease the contributions you’re
making to these programs.

For example, you might have previously elected to contribute enough money to pay for your children’s daycare expenses. This allows you to pay those costs with pretax dollars.

However, during the pandemic, your daycare might have closed, leaving your kids at home with you. Those contributed dollars are going nowhere and you risk losing them. If your employer allows it, you can change your contribution to stop adding money into your cafeteria plan. You can then use those funds to cover expenses related to your children being home.

Healthcare Coverage for COVID-19

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act instituted some exemptions to help ensure high-deductible plans and other insurance plans covered more services related to COVID-19. For example, the plan includes a specific exemption for telehealth services to help allow insurance providers to cover necessary telehealth treatments and appointments.

The IRS rule change allows those exemptions to be applied
retroactively up to January 1, 2020. That means if you sought telehealth or
other COVID-19-related care in the past months, you may be able to have those
claims adjudicated by your insurance plan at this time.

Reach Out to Your Employer’s Benefits Office

Understanding benefits and how they can impact your entire financial life can be difficult. Start by reaching out to your employer’s HR or benefits office to understand whether they’re going to offer the option for mid-year elections and whether they can provide information about how the options work.


Reviewed by John Heath, Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm. Written by Lexington Law.

Born and raised in Salt Lake City, John Heath earned his BA from the University of Utah and his Juris Doctor from Ohio Northern University. John has been the Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm since 2004. The firm focuses primarily on consumer credit report repair, but also practices family law, criminal law, general consumer litigation and collection defense on behalf of consumer debtors. John is admitted to practice law in Utah, Colorado, Washington D. C., Georgia, Texas and New York.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.

Source: lexingtonlaw.com

IRS offers new COVID-19 flexibility for employee healthcare benefits

A family plays with their dog.

Disclosure regarding Lexington Law’s editorial content.

As COVID-19 swept the globe and the country, it put stress on all types of supply chains and industries. It has also put stress on the financial and health situations of many Americans.

If you’re looking back to whenever your last healthcare benefits enrollment period was and grimacing at the choices you made, you’re in luck—you might have the chance to change them. In addition to extending the tax deadline for 2020, the IRS has issued a rule modification in light of the pandemic that might allow you to change your elections mid-year instead of waiting for the next open enrollment period.

Find out more about these changes and what they might mean
for you here.

Key Points

  • You may be able to switch to a different healthcare
    plan if your employer allows it.
  • You may be able to drop employer-sponsored
    coverage if your employer allows it.
  • You may be able to change contributions to a
    flexible spending account (FSA) if your employer allows it.
  • Employers may voluntarily extend the grace
    period for using 2019 FSA funds.

A Potential Mid-Year Open-Enrollment Period

The IRS rule change allows mid-year enrollment in a
different plan that your employer offers. This means employees may be able to
make new elections to better use their income and protect themselves against healthcare
expenses.

However, employers are being given the choice of whether
they want to offer these options. The answers to the questions below all depend
on whether your employer elects to allow changes.

Can I drop my healthcare insurance altogether?

Yes, you can elect to end healthcare insurance coverage through your employer. The caveat is that you must replace that coverage with a qualifying plan through the health insurance marketplace, a spouse’s benefits or another option.

Can I switch healthcare plans?

If the employer allows it, yes, you can switch healthcare
plans outside of the normal open enrollment. This is true even for people who
have not had a qualifying event such as a job loss or a change in marital
status.

Can I get health insurance if I didn’t have it before?

Yes, if your employer allows an open enrollment period mid-year, you can elect benefits even if you previously declined them. This allows more people to get insurance that they may now want or need in light of the pandemic.

If I change plans, will I lose what I’ve paid toward my out-of-pocket deductible?

It’s probable that changing plans will reset all
benefits-related counters. That includes deductibles and out-of-pocket
expenses. If you’re considering making a change, weigh how much you’ve already
contributed toward your deductible and out-of-pocket maximum. In some cases, it
might be more financially beneficial to stick with the plan you have if you’re
close to or have already met your maximum.

Changes to FSAs

The IRS also provides a rule change that addresses flexible spending accounts. Again, these changes are dependent upon the employer choosing to participate.

If the employer does choose to participate, employees can make mid-year changes to their FSA elections. For example, you might have elected not to fund an FSA or to fund it very minimally. But in light of the health crisis, you may now want to put more money into your account to cover medical expenses. You may be able to do so.

Alternatively, perhaps your spouse lost his or her job due to COVID-19, and you’d previously elected to fund your FSA with a large amount. You might now need that money to pay for non-FSA-approved expenses. You may be able to elect to reduce your contributions.

Changes to Dependent Care Assistance Programs

The same rule change applies to section 125 cafeteria
plans used to help cover the cost of childcare programs. If your employer
allows it, you can elect to increase or decrease the contributions you’re
making to these programs.

For example, you might have previously elected to contribute enough money to pay for your children’s daycare expenses. This allows you to pay those costs with pretax dollars.

However, during the pandemic, your daycare might have closed, leaving your kids at home with you. Those contributed dollars are going nowhere and you risk losing them. If your employer allows it, you can change your contribution to stop adding money into your cafeteria plan. You can then use those funds to cover expenses related to your children being home.

Healthcare Coverage for COVID-19

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act instituted some exemptions to help ensure high-deductible plans and other insurance plans covered more services related to COVID-19. For example, the plan includes a specific exemption for telehealth services to help allow insurance providers to cover necessary telehealth treatments and appointments.

The IRS rule change allows those exemptions to be applied
retroactively up to January 1, 2020. That means if you sought telehealth or
other COVID-19-related care in the past months, you may be able to have those
claims adjudicated by your insurance plan at this time.

Reach Out to Your Employer’s Benefits Office

Understanding benefits and how they can impact your entire financial life can be difficult. Start by reaching out to your employer’s HR or benefits office to understand whether they’re going to offer the option for mid-year elections and whether they can provide information about how the options work.


Reviewed by John Heath, Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm. Written by Lexington Law.

Born and raised in Salt Lake City, John Heath earned his BA from the University of Utah and his Juris Doctor from Ohio Northern University. John has been the Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm since 2004. The firm focuses primarily on consumer credit report repair, but also practices family law, criminal law, general consumer litigation and collection defense on behalf of consumer debtors. John is admitted to practice law in Utah, Colorado, Washington D. C., Georgia, Texas and New York.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.

Source: lexingtonlaw.com

What Is a Bond Mutual Fund – Risks & Different Types of This Investment

Investing is an important part of saving for the future, but many people are wary of putting their money into the stock market. Stocks can be volatile, with prices that change every day. If you can’t handle the volatility and risk of stocks or want to diversify your portfolio into a less risky investment, bonds are a good way to do so.

As with many types of investments, you can invest in bonds through a mutual fund, which gives you easy diversification and professional portfolio management — for a fee.

Are bond mutual funds a good addition to your portfolio? Here are the basics of these investment vehicles.

What Is a Bond?

A bond is a type of debt security. When organizations such as national and local governments, government agencies, or companies want to borrow money, one of the ways they can get the loan they need is by issuing a bond.

Investors purchase bonds from the organizations issuing them. Typically, bonds come with an interest rate and a maturity. For example, a company might sell bonds with an interest rate of 5% and a maturity of 20 years.

The investor would pay the company $1,000 for a $1,000 bond. Each year, that investor receives an interest payment of $50 (5% of $1,000). After 20 years, the investor receives a final interest payment plus the $1,000 they paid to buy the bond.


What Is a Mutual Fund?

A mutual fund is a way for investors to invest in a diverse portfolio while only having to purchase a single security.

Mutual funds pool money from many investors and use that money to buy bonds, stocks, and other securities. Each investor in the fund effectively owns a portion of the fund’s portfolio, so an investor can buy shares in one mutual fund to get exposure to hundreds of stocks or bonds.

This makes it easy for investors to diversify their portfolios.

Mutual fund managers make sure the fund’s portfolio follows their stated strategy and work towards the fund’s stated goal. Mutual funds charge a fee, called an expense ratio, for their services, which is important for investors to keep in mind when comparing funds.

Pro tip: Most mutual funds can be purchased through the individual fund family or through an online broker like Robinhood or Public.


Types of Bond Mutual Funds

There are many types of bond mutual funds that people can invest in.

1. Government

Government bond funds invest most of their money into bonds issued by different governments. Most American government bond funds invest primarily in bonds issued by the U.S. Treasury.

U.S. government debt is seen as some of the safest debt available. There is very little chance that the United States will default on its payments. That security can be appealing for investors, but also translates to lower interest rates than other bonds.

2. Corporate

Corporate bond funds invest most of their assets into bonds issued by companies.

Just like individuals, businesses receive credit ratings that affect how much interest they have to pay to lenders — in this case, investors looking to buy their bonds. Most corporate bond funds buy “investment-grade” bonds, which include the highest-rated bonds from the most creditworthy companies.

The lower a bond’s credit rating, the higher the interest rate it will pay. However, lower credit ratings also translate to a higher risk of default, so corporate bond funds will hold a mixture of bonds from a variety of companies to help diversify their risks.

3. Municipal

Municipal bonds are bonds issued by state and local governments, as well as government agencies.

Like businesses, different municipalities can have different credit ratings, which impacts the interest they must pay to sell their bonds. Municipal bond funds own a mixture of different bonds to help reduce the risk of any one issuer defaulting on its payments.

One unique perk of municipal bonds is that some or all of the interest that investors earn can be tax-free. The tax treatment of the returns depends on the precise holdings of the fund and where the investor lives.

Some mutual fund companies design special municipal bond funds for different states, giving investors from those states an option that provides completely tax-free yields.

The tax advantages municipal bond funds offer can make their effective yields higher than other bond funds that don’t offer tax-free yields. For example, someone in the 24% tax bracket would need to earn just under 4% on a taxable bond fund to get the equivalent return of a tax-free municipal bond fund offering 3%.

4. High-Yield

High-yield bond funds invest in bonds that offer higher interest rates than other bonds, like municipal bonds and government bonds.

Typically, this means buying bonds from issuers with lower credit ratings than investment-grade bonds. These bonds are sometimes called junk bonds. Their name comes from the fact that they are significantly riskier than other types of bonds, so there’s a higher chance that the issuer defaults and stops making interest payments.

Bond mutual funds diversify by buying bonds from hundreds of different issuers, which can help reduce this risk, but there’s still a good chance that some of the bonds in the fund’s portfolio will go into default, which can drag down the fund’s performance.

5. International

Foreign governments and companies need to borrow money just like American companies and governments. There’s nothing stopping Americans from investing in foreign bonds, so there are some mutual funds that focus on buying international bonds.

Each country and company has a credit rating that impacts the interest rate it has to pay. Many stable governments are seen as highly safe, much like the United States, but smaller or less economically developed nations sometimes have lower credit ratings, leading them to pay higher interest rates.

Another factor to keep in mind with international bonds is the currency they’re denominated in.

With American bonds, you buy the bond in dollars and get interest payments in dollars. If you buy a British bond, you might have to convert your dollars to pounds to buy the bond and receive your interest payments in pounds. This adds some currency risk to the equation, which can make investing in international bond funds more complex.

6. Mixed

Some bond mutual funds don’t specialize in any single type of bond. Instead, they hold a variety of bonds, foreign and domestic, government and corporate. This lets the fund managers focus on buying high-quality bonds with solid yields instead of restricting themselves to a specific class of bonds.


Why Invest in Bond Mutual Funds?

There are a few reasons for investors to consider investing in bond mutual funds.

Reduce Portfolio Risk and Volatility

One advantage of investing in bonds is that they tend to be much less risky and volatile than stocks.

Investing in stocks or mutual funds that hold stocks is an effective way to grow your investment portfolio. The S&P 500, for example, has averaged returns of almost 10% per year over the past century. However, in some years, the index has moved almost 40% upward or downward.

Over the long term, it’s easier to handle the volatility of stocks, but some people don’t have long-term investing goals. For example, people in retirement are more concerned with producing income and maintaining their spending power.

Putting some of your portfolio into bonds can reduce the impact of volatile stocks on your portfolio. This can be good for more risk-averse investors or those who have shorter time horizons for their investments.

There are some mutual funds, called target-date mutual funds, that hold a mix of stocks and bonds and increase their bond holdings over time, reducing risk as the target date nears.

Income

Bonds make regular interest payments to their holders and the majority of bond funds use some of the money they receive to make payments to their investors. This makes bond mutual funds popular among investors who want to make their investment portfolio a source of passive income.

You can look at different bond mutual funds and their annual yields to get an idea of how much income they’ll provide each year. For example, if a mutual fund offers a yield of 2.5%, investors can expect to receive $250 each year for every $10,000 they invest in the fund.

Pro tip: Have you considered hiring a financial advisor but don’t want to pay the high fees? Enter Vanguard Personal Advisor Services. When you sign up you’ll work closely with an advisor to create a custom investment plan that can help you meet your financial goals. Read our Vanguard Personal Advisor Services review.


Risks of Bond Funds

Before investing in bonds or bond mutual funds, you should consider the risks of investing in bonds.

Interest Rate Risk

One of the primary risks of fixed-income investing — whether you’re investing in bonds or bond funds — is interest rate risk.

Investors can buy and sell most bonds on the open market in addition to buying newly issued bonds directly from the issuing company or government. The market value of a bond will change with market interest rates.

In general, if market rates rise, the value of existing bonds falls. Conversely, if market rates fall, the value of existing bonds rises.

To understand why this happens, consider this example. Say you purchased a BBB-rated corporate bond with an interest rate of 2% for $1,000. Since you bought the bond, market rates have increased, so now BBB-rated companies now have to pay 3% to convince investors to buy their bonds.

If someone can buy a new $1,000 bond paying 3% interest, why would they pay you the same amount for your $1,000 bond paying 2% interest? If you want to sell your bond, you’ll have to sell it at a discount because investors can get a better deal on newly issued bonds.

Of course, the opposite is true if interest rates fall. In the above example, if market rates fell to 1%, you could command a premium for your bond paying 2% because investors can’t find new bonds of the same quality that pay that much anymore.

Interest rate risk applies to bond funds just as it applies to individual bonds. As rates rise, the share price of the fund tends to fall and vice versa.

Generally, the longer the bond’s maturity, the greater the effect a change in market interest rates will have on the bond’s value. Short-term bonds have much less interest rate risk than long-term bonds. Bond funds usually list the average time to maturity of bonds in their portfolio, which can help you assess a fund’s interest rate risk.

Credit Risk

Bonds are debt securities, meaning they’re reliant on the bond issuer being able to pay its debts.

Just like people, companies and governments can go bankrupt or default on their loan payments. If this happens, the people who own those bonds won’t get the money they lent back.

Bond mutual funds hold thousands of bonds, but if one of the issuers defaults, some of the fund’s bonds become worthless, reducing the value of the investors’ shares in the fund.

Bonds issued by organizations with higher credit ratings are generally less risky than those with poor credit ratings. For example, most people would consider U.S. government bonds to have a very low credit risk. A junk bond fund would have much more credit risk.

Foreign Exchange Risk

If you’re buying shares in a bond fund that invests in foreign bonds, you should consider foreign exchange risk.

Currencies constantly fluctuate in value. Over the past five years, $1 could buy anywhere between 0.80 and 0.96 euros.

To maximize returns, investors want to buy foreign bonds when the dollar is strong and receive interest payments and return of principal when the dollar is weak.

However, it’s incredibly hard to predict how currencies’ values will change over time, so investors in foreign bonds should consider how changing currency values will affect their returns.

Some bond funds use different strategies to hedge against this risk, using tools like currency futures or buying dollar-denominated bonds from foreign entities.

Fees

Mutual funds charge fees, which they commonly express as an expense ratio.

A fund’s expense ratio is the percentage of your invested assets that you pay each year. For example, someone who invests $10,000 in a mutual fund with a 1% expense ratio will pay $100 in fees each year.

Expense ratio fees are included when calculating the fund’s share price each day, so you don’t have to worry about having cash on hand to pay the fee. The fees are taken directly out of the fund’s share price, almost imperceptibly. Still, it’s important to understand the impact fees have on your overall returns.

If you invest $10,000 in a fund that produces an annual return of 5% and has a 0.25% expense ratio, after 20 years you’ll have $25,297.68. If that same fund had an expense ratio of 0.50%, you’d finish the 20 years with $24,117.14 instead.

In this example, a difference of 0.25% in fees would cost you more than $1,000.

If you find two bond funds with similar holdings and strategies, the one with the lower fees tends to be the better choice.


Final Word

Bond mutual funds are a popular way for investors to get exposure to bonds in their portfolios. Just as there are many different types of stocks, there are many types of bonds, each with advantages and disadvantages.

If you don’t want to pick and choose bonds to invest in, bond funds offer instant diversification and professional management. If you want an even more hands-off investing experience, working with a financial advisor or robo-advisor that handles your entire portfolio may be worth considering.

Source: moneycrashers.com

10 Cities Near Philadelphia To Live in 2021

The brilliant city of Philadelphia is a wonderful place to work and play. But city living isn’t the life for everyone.

Fortunately, the region – known as the Delaware Valley — has a slew of options for incredible boroughs, towns and cities near Philadelphia in which to live. These spots offer a wide range of entertainment, dining, nightlife, recreation and comfortable apartments.

Of all the incredible places to live within easy commuting distance of Philadelphia, it’s hard to narrow down to a top 10. But we are sure you’ll find these 10 cities near Philadelphia — all within five to 25 miles of Center City and listed by distance from the city — perfect places to call home.

  • Haddon Township, NJ
  • Ardmore, PA
  • Conshohocken, PA
  • Hatboro, PA
  • King of Prussia, PA
  • Langhorne, PA
  • Phoenixville, PA
  • West Chester, PA
  • Wilmington, DE
  • Doylestown, PA

Haddon Township, NJ facing the City Center in Philadelphia.Haddon Township, NJ facing the City Center in Philadelphia.

  • Distance from downtown: 7.0 miles
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,530 (down 3.38 percent since last year)
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,713 (down 13.88 percent since last year)

In New Jersey, townships are full-fledged municipalities, and Haddon Township is one of the region’s best cities near Philadelphia. Just 10 or so minutes from the Ben Franklin Bridge to Center City Philadelphia, the township offers both the quiet of a suburb and a main street that rivals any in the state for drinking and dining options.

Bustling Haddon Avenue in the downtown Westmont section is a mile-long stretch featuring some bakeries, cheesesteak joints, pasta shops, pizza places, taquerias, bars and taverns. Farther out, chain dining and big box stores line White and Black Horse pikes.

Haddon also offers plenty of green space, from Cooper River Park in the north along the lake to Newton Lake Park and Saddler’s Woods on the south.

Public transportation into Philly is a snap with Westmont Station a direct link via PATCO with park-and-ride facilities.

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Ardmore, PA. Ardmore, PA.

Photo source: Apartment Guide / One Ardmore Place
  • Distance from downtown: 7.7 miles
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,357 (down 61.90 percent since last year)
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $2,552 (down 35.50 percent since last year)

Among swanky locales like Bryn Mawr, Villanova and Gladwyne, Ardmore is the iconic Philadelphia Main Line’s most accessible city to everyday folk.

Ardmore’s median income comes in at a tenth that of some of the region’s richest communities and is a much cheaper home value. But Ardmore is also less insular. The city is a destination for visitors and day-trippers from across the Delaware Valley.

Ardmore splits down the middle between Montgomery and Delaware Counties and Haverford and Lower Merion Townships. Its backbone is busy Lancaster Avenue that offers retail shopping, trendy restaurants and the 500-capacity Ardmore Music Hall, one of the area’s top concert clubs.

While other Main Line towns shun outsiders, the hum of Lancaster Avenue feels welcoming to all.

And on the north end of town is one of the region’s best spots for retail therapy or even just window shopping. Suburban Square is a six-square-block upscale outdoor shopping plaza. Dating back to the 1920s, the square is one of the nation’s oldest planned shopping centers.

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Conshockocken, PA, one of the cities near philadelphiaConshockocken, PA, one of the cities near philadelphia

Photo source: Conshohocken Borough / Facebook
  • Distance from downtown: 12.6 miles
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,705 (down 7.82 percent since last year)
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $2,265 (up 7.69 percent since last year)

Throughout its history, Conshohocken has always held an important geographic location. Sitting at one of the largest bends of the Schuylkill River, the land was originally a large milling region along rail and shipping lines.

As interstates went up, the region morphed into a factory industrial center. As manufacturing declined, it was those same highways that turned “Conshy” into one of the most desirable suburban-chic and cosmopolitan residential commuter communities in the city.

Conshohocken lies between the I-476 Blue Route and I-76 Schuylkill Expressway at the “Conshohocken Curve.” As industry left, easy access to the region’s two major highways transformed it into a hub for upper-middle-class commuters into the city, especially as apartment complexes and mid-priced high-rise rental towers rose.

And as the population increased, so did the enclave which features shopping and dining spots and many glittering hotels.

The shoreline also features a section of the running and biking Schuylkill River Trail path.

Nearby, Conshohocken’s Fayette Street main street is popular among its young professional population, with a median age of 32 with 63 percent single. The downtown strip offers a selection of quaint boutiques, eateries and cafes, as well as a variety of notable bars.

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Hatboro, PA.Hatboro, PA.

Photo source: Apartment Guide / Livingstone Apartments
  • Distance from downtown: 15.9 miles
  • One-bedroom average rent: N/A
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,695 (up 9.18 percent since last year)

Eastern Montgomery County has just a few towns with true main streets, but one of the best of the bunch is Hatboro. The borough sits along the Bucks County border, a suburban town settled among some residential communities.

Hatboro is known for its plethora of parks and green spaces, including the popular Hatboro Memorial Park and Memorial Pool. But its growing notoriety as a suburban craft beer lovers’ destination is what’s gaining prominence.

In the heart of the Craft Beer Trail of Greater Philadelphia, Hatboro offers Crooked Eye Brewery and Artifact Brewing, both opened within the last several years.

The breweries sit along York Road, Hatboro’s main street. The corridor also offers many bars and gastropubs, vintage clothing stores, hoagie shops and produce grocers, cafés and popular bakeries and Daddypops diner, a favorite of Food Network’s Guy Fieri.

The borough is also convenient for commuters, with Hatboro station along the Warminster Line to Center City just off York Road.

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King of Prussia, PA, one of the cities near philadelphiaKing of Prussia, PA, one of the cities near philadelphia

  • Distance from downtown: 16.9 miles
  • One-bedroom average rent: $2,204 (up 5.44 percent since last year)
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $2,544 (up 0.81 percent since last year)

To speak like a true Philadelphian, pronounce the name of the city of King of Prussia the proper way, “Kingaprusha.”

If you’re familiar with the western Montgomery County city, it’s most likely for one thing: its megamall. The King of Prussia mall is massive, at 2.8 million square feet and 450 stores. It’s the third-largest mall in the nation behind only the Mall of America and the new American Dream in New Jersey.

This central town nestles right along the Schuylkill River — between four major thoroughfares: the Pennsylvania Turnpike, I-76 Schuylkill Expressway, and U.S. Routes 202 and 422. Sitting between renowned Valley Forge Historical Park and county seat Norristown, King of Prussia is both a popular commuter city and an important edge city in its own right.

One key location in KOP is the King of Prussia Town Center. Opened in 2016, the large planned lifestyle development has become a hub of residential activity in town. Acting as the city’s downtown, Town Center offers a bevy of apartments and townhouses at Village at Valley Forge with mixed-use and office space, upscale department stores and a Wegman’s grocery, retail shops and several new restaurants and bars.

Nearby are several office parks, Upper Merion High School and the Valley Forge Casino Resort.

The area is growing so quickly, local transportation authority SEPTA is developing a $2 billion regional rail line to directly connect King of Prussia with University City and Center City Philly.

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Langhorne, PA.Langhorne, PA.

  • Distance from downtown: 22.0 miles
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,413 (down 1.55 percent since last year)
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,691 (up 6.72 percent since last year)

One thing you can have living in the suburbs that you usually don’t in the middle of a city is an amusement park down the street. That’s one of the features of living in the borough of Langhorne and adjoining Middletown Township. Here you’ll find Sesame Place, the Sea World-owned young children’s Sesame Street theme park.

Langhorne borough proper and surrounding Middletown Township are collectively referred to as Langhorne.

The area is an important business and shopping center along Neshaminy Creek in charming Bucks County. Along with numerous national chains and big box stores, a myriad of service centers, retail shops and old-school restaurants line Pine Street and Maple Avenue.

In addition, the borough features a quaint historic district dating back to the 19th century. Sitting just off the I-295 beltway, Langhorne is a popular bedroom community for commuters to Trenton as well as Philadelphia.

The expansive Middletown Country Club splits the borough, with the multistory Oxford Valley Mall out in the Township. And surrounding Lake Luxembourg is the expansive 1,200-acre Core Creek Park. The region offers a variety of housing options, from affordable apartments to large suburban mansions.

Several locations still offer 1950s style tract housing leftover from the expansion of the nearby Levittown planned community.

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Phoenixville, PA, one of the cities near philadelphiaPhoenixville, PA, one of the cities near philadelphia

Photo source: Borough of Phoenixville / Facebook
  • Distance from downtown: 23.9 miles
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,229 (down 14.82 percent since last year)
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,426 (down 12.71 percent since last year)

In 1958, a large gelatinous alien creature was let loose and devoured dozens of residents of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. That of course only happened on screen, in the Steve McQueen horror classic “The Blob,” which filmed and took place in the Chester County suburb.

The movie features a famous scene where terrified residents flee the alien out the Colonial Theater’s doors. That real-life theater is the centerpiece of Phoenixville’s Bridge Street main street as well as the annual Blobfest which celebrates the landmark film.

But as important as the film is, younger residents will tell you it’s the craft beer scene that makes Phoenixville special. After languishing for years as a rundown mill town, a revitalization plan included a call for brewers to set up shop. Today the city of just 17,000 offers 10 craft breweries.

On Bridge Street alone are four breweries, along with a tap house, a distillery and three winery tasting rooms. That collection gives downtown Phoenixville the distinction of having the most breweries per square foot of any place in the nation.

For residents, Phoenixville is more than just beer and blobs. Its absolutely teeming downtown along Bridge Street has boomed with pizzerias and bistros, coffee and smoke shops and boutiques and galleries.

Phoenixville Area High School offers a high ranking and a 15:1 student-teacher ratio. And many parks and green spaces dot the region, including the large Black Rock Sanctuary wildlife refuge along the Schuylkill River bend that also features Basin Trail for hiking and biking. The Schuylkill River Trail also crosses the borough, along French Creek.

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West Chester, PA. West Chester, PA.

  • Distance from downtown: 25.0 miles
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,631 (down 1.23 percent since last year)
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $2,095 (up 7.54 percent since last year)

A little under 25 miles from Center City, West Chester is a more affordable alternative to the nearby Main Line. The seat of Chester County offers a selection of bars, restaurants and shops in its surprising downtown along Gay and Market streets.

Local businesses are accessible, catering to the borough’s young, affluent residents as well as budget-conscious clientele. Need proof? West Chester’s downtown sits on the top-three list of “Great American Main Streets.”

West Chester is a more affordable, younger enclave surrounded by old-money communities like Malvern, Kennett Square and Chadds Ford, with swaths of an urban-rural buffer.

The borough offers high-ranked schools and an average age of just 24.9 years old. A vibrant part of that young community is West Chester University, ranked a Top 10 Public Regional University by U.S. News.

Why is West Chester attractive to young professionals? Perhaps it’s the borough’s title as “Most Exciting Place” in all of eastern Pennsylvania. It’s a locale to meet new people, as the state’s second-most densely populated city, fifth-best for nightlife and fifth-best spot to lead an active lifestyle.

Or maybe it’s because it’s the world headquarters of the QVC shopping network.

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Wilmington, DE. Wilmington, DE.

  • Distance from downtown: 26.2 miles
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,186 (down 14.08 percent since last year)
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,477 (up 1.09 percent since last year)

Look behind Pennsylvania and New Jersey to find the best cities near Philadelphia — don’t forget about Delaware!

Wilmington is certainly having a moment. While the previous president spent his weekends at swanky Mar-a-Lago or Bedminster golf club, the current chief executive has been taking his off weekends back in his home state of Delaware. President Biden famously grew up in and around Wilmington and is known to have commuted back to his residence weekly dating back to his earliest days as the Diamond State’s senator.

Wilmington, despite being the largest city in a completely different state, is just a half-hour drive from Center City Philly. But it’s the finance industry that fuels the economy of the Corporate City.

The 1980s Financial Center Development Act liberalized financial regulations in Delaware, removing usury laws and interest rate caps. This caused financial and insurance corporations from around the world to set up shops in Wilmington.

An attractive city to big money employers is an attractive city to its white-collar workers. And one of the favorite locals is the Christina River waterfront. Popular waterfront spots include the Blue Rocks’ Frawley Stadium, the Delaware Children’s Museum, a convention center, a movie theater, parks, trails, hotels and a slew of cafes, restaurants and bars.

And for those concerned about Wilmington’s less-than-stellar crime safety record, there is good news. The city reports being “safer now than it’s ever been.” The city is noting its lowest crime rate in recent history.

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dolyestown, PA, one of the cities near philadelphiadolyestown, PA, one of the cities near philadelphia

Photo source: Doylestown Township / Facebook
  • Distance from downtown: 27.2 miles
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,408 (up 25.06 percent since last year)
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,999 (up 9.93 percent since last year)

Gateway to the colonial-estate-and-covered-bridge tourism lands of Upper Bucks, Doylestown is the charming exurban seat of Bucks County.

The borough offers a slew of cultural and entertainment options not usually found in a town of under 9,000, about an hour commute from Center City by either train or car.

Doylestown has one of the densest gatherings of museums out of all of the cities near Philadelphia. James Michener Art Museum (named for the native son author), the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works, the Mercer Museum and Oscar Hammerstein II Farm (the final residence of its namesake) can all be found here.

Just off the center of town is the historic art deco movie house County Theater which shows blockbusters and arthouse films alike.

Elsewhere in Doylestown’s downtown along State and Main streets are quaint thrift shops, big city-worthy restaurants, bookstores, coffee shops and brewpubs.

For those seeking a more natural setting, just as appealing is the natural beauty of rural Bucks County just outside of town, packed with hiking trails, bike paths, water recreation and nature watching. Favorite spots include urban 108-acre Central Park and wooded 1,500-acre Peace Valley Park.

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Make one of these cities near Philadelphia your next home

No matter where you decide to call home, you can’t go wrong with any of the amazing cities near Philadelphia you might choose.

Whether in Bucks, Montgomery, Chester or Delaware Counties, across the river in South Jersey or down I-95 in Delaware, you’ll have tons to do all within a short commute into the city.

Rent prices are based on a rolling weighted average from Apartment Guide and Rent.com’s multifamily rental property inventory of one-bedroom apartments in April 2021. Our team uses a weighted average formula that more accurately represents price availability for each individual unit type and reduces the influence of seasonality on rent prices in specific markets.
The rent information included in this article is used for illustrative purposes only. The data contained herein do not constitute financial advice or a pricing guarantee for any apartment.

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Source: apartmentguide.com

Why Today’s Retirees Need to Pursue Tax-Minimization Strategies

Today’s retirees face many obstacles, from an unpredictable market to a lack of guaranteed income in retirement. While these are important challenges to address, they would be remiss to ignore their future tax burdens. We’ll likely see increased taxes in the future, and this will affect today’s retirees more than tax increases have affected retirees in the past.

Retirement Then vs. Now

Today’s retirees are the first IRA generation: Whereas previous generations could primarily rely on Social Security benefits and pensions to cover their retirement expenses, many of today’s retirees find themselves having to fund a much larger portion of their retirement through their own pre-tax retirement accounts. And while retirement accounts such as 401(k)s and IRAs have significant benefits, they also come with downsides, namely that all of the withdrawals in retirement are taxable as ordinary income at the current tax rates in our country.

This means that if tax rates were to rise, the retiree living off of IRAs will have to pay more in taxes and therefore live off of less after-tax income. Previous generations saved their money in after-tax accounts, meaning if tax rates were to rise, it would not affect them the same way it will for this IRA generation. When we look at the history of taxes and the Biden administration’s tax-increasing proposals, it’s clear that retirees need to have a tax-minimization plan.

Could We See Taxes Increase?

We need to plan for the tax rates of the future, not the present. Previously, tax increases primarily affected wage earners. The Social Security payroll tax and income tax increases had little effect on Social Security beneficiaries and retirees who saved in after-tax accounts. However, those who take distributions from a tax-deferred retirement account and who invest in the market are affected by both income tax increases and new taxes.

These could include:

  • The possible elimination of the favorable long-term capital gains taxes rates for the wealthiest investors. This could mean those with incomes of $1 million or more might pay up to 39.5% on their gains, rather than the current top rate of 20%.
  • Lowering of the current standard deduction. Many retirees don’t itemize their deductions and rely on the standard deduction.  Therefore, if the current standard deduction is lowered, people’s taxes could go up.
  • Imposing the Social Security payroll tax on workers or households earning over $400,000 annually. This tax — in which employers and employees each pay 6.2% and the self-employed pay the full 12.4% — helps pay for Social Security benefits.
  • Lowering the federal estate tax exemption amount, which could affect estates above about $5 million.

Retirees should note that we may be experiencing tax rates at 100-year lows now, and that this could end in light of recent increased government spending. Our already large national debt increased during the pandemic, with the CARES Act of 2020 costing $2.2 trillion and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 costing $1.9 trillion. We will have to pay for this eventually, and retirees with large tax-deferred IRAs could be the ones to do it.

When we look at history, we see that after a period of increased government spending during World War II, income tax rates in the following decades were much higher than they are now. In 1944, the top rate peaked at 94%, and by 1964 it had only gone down to 70%. This doesn’t mean that an individual’s tax bracket will go from 22% to 70%, but there is a lot of room in between where retirees could feel the effects.

When running a financial plan, retirees need to calculate how much taxable income they will have and how much of that will be left after taxes. If tax rates rise, retirees could need to withdraw more from their taxable retirement accounts to be left with the same amount of income, ultimately drawing down their savings faster.

RMDs

Taxes on retirement income can become more burdensome starting at age 72. Most retirees must take RMDs (required minimum distributions) from their traditional retirement accounts starting at age 72, and the amount they must withdraw is based on their age and account balance.

RMDs could force someone to withdraw more than they normally would from their tax-deferred retirement account, causing them to jump into a higher tax bracket. Retirees under the age 72 should look to do careful planning that may minimize this effect by the time they reach this age.  (Keep reading for an idea on how to help do that below.)

Taxes and Your Legacy Goals

RMDs can also potentially increase a beneficiary’s tax burden due to the SECURE Act passed in 2019. It ended the “stretch IRA,” which allowed beneficiaries to stretch out distributions from an inherited retirement account over their lifetimes. Now, most non-spouse beneficiaries must empty traditional accounts within 10 years of the original owner’s death.

Those who want to pass on their retirement accounts should consider tax minimization strategies when creating an estate plan. One possibility is a charitable remainder trust.

What Can Retirees Do Now to Prepare for Higher Taxes Later?

Those who will draw a significant portion of their retirement income from taxable retirement account should take note, and work to minimize their overall tax burden. There are many strategies they can employ, including converting part or all of their traditional 401(k) or IRA to a Roth IRA. This involves paying tax on the amount converted and eventually withdrawing it from the Roth tax-free. If we see taxes increase in the future, a Roth conversion at today’s rates could potentially be a good strategy for those whose tax burden won’t substantially decrease in retirement.

In addition to providing tax-free income, a Roth is also exempt from RMDs. This means that the money in a Roth IRA can continue to grow throughout the owner’s lifetime tax-free. When it’s inherited, the beneficiary will have to drain the account in 10 years, as with a traditional IRA. However, distributions from traditional IRAs, distributions from Roth IRAs are not taxable and will not incur an early withdrawal penalty as long as the account is at least five years old.

The Bottom Line for Retirees

Retirees who have both traditional and Roth IRAs can strategically withdraw from each to avoid going into a higher tax bracket, continue to reap the tax-advantage benefits of a retirement account after age 72, and pass on potentially tax-free wealth to their beneficiaries. Those who think tax hikes are on the horizon and who don’t plan to live on significantly less income in retirement should consider tax-minimization strategies such as a Roth conversion.

Investment Advisory Services offered through Epstein and White Financial LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor.  Epstein & White Retirement Income Solutions, LLC is a licensed insurance agency with the state of California Department of Insurance (#0K53785).  As of March 31, 2021, Epstein and White is now a part of Mercer Global Advisors Inc. Mercer Global Advisors Inc. (“Mercer Advisors”) is registered as an Investment Adviser with the SEC. The firm only transacts business in states where it is properly registered or is excluded or exempted from registration requirements. The information, suggestions and recommendations included in this material is for informational purposes only and cannot be relied upon for any financial, legal, tax, accounting, or insurance purposes.  Epstein and White Financial is not a certified public accounting firm, and no portion of its services should be construed as legal or accounting advice. Please consult with your own accountant and financial planning professional to determine how tax changes affect your unique financial situation. A copy of Epstein & White Financial LLC’s current written disclosure statement discussing advisory services and fees is available for review upon request or at www.adviserinfo.sec.gov.

Founder and CEO, Epstein and White Retirement Income Solutions

Bradley White is founder and CEO of Epstein and White. He’s a Certified Financial Planner™ and has a bachelor’s degree in finance from San Diego State University. He’s an Investment Advisor Representative (IAR) and an insurance professional.

Source: kiplinger.com

Investing in Food Stocks

You may not know what the future holds, but you know there’ll be a meal involved. A good meal or grocery trip is not only a necessity for survival, it can also be part of an investment strategy.

While restaurants and grocery stores may come to mind, the world of food stocks is larger than one might think, encompassing everything from a grain of wheat to the latest on-demand app.

Food stocks and the industries surrounding them have long been a part of investors’ portfolios. The most recent figures show that Americans dedicate close to 10% of their disposable income on food, a level that’s been consistent for about two decades. Roughly half that is spent for food at home, and the other half is on dining out.

But some types of food stocks can hold more risk than others. Read on to learn the history of food stocks in the market, the types of food stocks, and the overall risk profile of these investments.

Are Food Companies Consumer Staples or Discretionary Stocks?

Looking at the market as a whole, food stocks are part of the “consumer staples” industry, which is considered to be a “defensive” sector in investing. Defensive sectors are those less closely tied to the economy. That means even if the economy is in a recession, consumer staples are seen as less risky and more stable than other industries.

However, no stock is recession-proof. And not all food stocks are actually consumer staples. For instance, restaurant companies typically fall into the consumer discretionary category, which consist of “cyclical stocks,” or those tied to how well the economy is doing. That’s because of how people tend to dine out when they have more income to spend in their pockets.

Recommended: Investing With the Business Cycle

When deciding whether to invest in a food stock, beginner investors might want to research which industry the company falls under: consumer staples or consumer discretionary.

Different Types of Food Stocks

Food stocks include more than just memorable brands. It’s more encompassing than just consumer-facing brands or restaurants. Anything that helps food get to your plate can be considered part of the food supply chain.

Food stocks generally fall under these seven sub-industries:

Farming

Food stock investing can start at the granular level–investing in raw agricultural commodities like soy, rice, wheat, and corn. Farming stocks can also include the ancillary companies that foster that growth–companies that create and distribute insecticide and herbicide or build the industrial-size farm equipment to help harvest goods.

While one might think investing in farming stock would be actual farms, the reality is the opposite. About 98% of farms in the U.S. are family-owned and therefore, not publicly traded. So investing in farming stock primarily means the chemicals and machinery that help harvest the raw product.

Farming stocks can waver based on things like the weather and current events. It can be challenging to predict the next rainy season or drought, sometimes making it hard to track and predict value. In addition, tariffs and trade agreements can influence the performance of these stocks, making them more volatile.

Recommended: Understanding Stock Volatility

Food-Processing Stocks

Companies that work in food processing buy raw ingredients that are combined to make items in the grocery store aisles or on restaurant menus.

Some names and brands in the food processing sector might not be familiar to the casual investor. More often than not, these companies are behind the scenes, operating at a large scale to provide the world oils and sweeteners.

Food processing stocks have their own quirks when it comes to investing. Unlike farming, they’re less influenced by the whims of weather or season, but they still have an associated set of risks. The costs associated with this industry vertical are vast, and price competition across brands can lead to drops or jumps in the market.

Stocks of Food Producers

Further up the supply chain comes food producers, where novice investors are more likely to know these brands and companies from daily life and dietary habits. Food producers take the raw ingredients provided by processors and create the items found on store shelves.

Break this vertical down further to find “diversified” and “specialized” producers.

As the name suggests, diversified food producers are companies that create a ton of different products under the same name umbrella, like Nestlé, which makes everything from baby food to ice cream.

Then there are specialized producers. They make consumer products as well, but these companies often cater to a narrower audience, producing only a few items, often within the same vertical.

In times of recession, luxury or expensive food processing stocks might take a dip. Additionally, consumer trends can influence the market. Take the alternative meat craze–a popular investment trend in recent years. Investors saw larger-than-average returns for the industry due to interest in the trend.

Food-Distribution Stocks

Distribution companies have little to do with consumption or production and focus more on logistics and transport. These companies send products across the country and world.

Distribution companies range from very large, reaching national distribution, to fairly small, where they connect specialty retailers. The distribution market might have its long-term players, but investing in it comes with its own risks.

Grocery-Store Stocks

Grocery stores have become big business in the investment game. The next link in the chain, grocery stores are where the products end up once a distributor drops them off.

Grocery store investments are hardly recession-proof, but the necessity of groceries as a staple for consumers suggests these investments take a lesser hit in a market downturn.

Recommended: Investing During a Recession

Restaurant Stocks

Restaurants are an additional resting place for food distributors. In economic downturns, discretionary restaurant spending is usually the first to go, making this industry within food investing slightly less stable than the others. Additionally, this arena might be most susceptible to trends.

Food-Delivery Service Stocks

The newest addition in food stocks is more about tech than good eats. Online delivery services have burst onto the scene, and with a limited history of performance, are considered to be riskier than the traditional food stocks outlined above.

Right now, delivery service companies are still duking it out across the country, expanding to new cities and slashing the price of services to entice customers.

Pros and Cons of Investing in Food Stocks

With all the ingredients in order, it’s time to highlight a few of the basic pros and cons of investing in food stocks.

Pro: Food stocks, particularly those that are consumer staples, can perform consistently. Food stocks can be a relatively safe, recession-resistant investment (but remember all stocks have inherent risk).
Con: Food stocks perform consistently. For an investor looking for a higher-risk investment, the steady year-over-year earnings might not be as enticing for someone trying to build a high-return portfolio.
Pro: Familiarity with brands. Many food stocks are also commonly found in investors’ pantries and refrigerators. For someone new to investing, buying stocks in the brands they trust and use could be a great way to dip their toes in the market.
Con: Not all food stocks are immune to ups and downs in the economy. Some companies, particularly restaurant groups or those that produce higher-priced products, may be hurt if discretionary spending by consumers pulls back.

The Takeaway

Investing in food companies can actually lead to investing in a wide range of different companies–those that are defensive and more immune to economic shifts, those that are cyclical and rise when the economy is hot.

It can also involve wagering on stocks that have long been a part of the food supply chain, as well as startup unicorn companies that are using innovative mobile technology to deliver meals to consumers.

For individuals who want to try their hand at picking food stocks, SoFi’s Active Investing platform may be a good option. Investors can buy traditional stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), or even fractional shares of some companies. For those who need help, the Automated Investing service builds portfolios for SoFi Members and Certified Financial Planners can answer questions on investing.

Get started with SoFi Invest today.


SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . SoFi Invest refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
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For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, please visit www.sofi.com/legal.
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Our Seasonal Guide to the Best Outdoor Gear Deals

Planning a vacation in the great outdoors in the next year? Now’s the time to start thinking about new gear and how you can get it for less.

Outdoor equipment can be pricey, but buying it at the right time of the year can get you the gear you covet at a better price. The savings will give you more cash to spend on the outdoor adventures themselves.

We’ve noted national retailers as good sources, however you might be able to get better details from Facebook’s Marketplace or Nextdoor for secondhand equipment. At Gear Trade you can buy both new and used equipment.

It’s time to get out there.

Guide to Buying Outdoor Gear at the Right Time

Ski Equipment

Best time to buy: Fall and March

Details: When ski shops shut down for the season, they usually have to clear out the inventory. Many of these stores stay in the outdoor gear business year-round, converting to bicycle or camping gear stores come spring and summer. But there’s always the question of what to do with all the bulky skis and snowboards that are left. The answer is usually to sell them cheaply. While the selection might not be great post-ski season, the prices are. Another option is to buy used ski equipment via GearTrade.com. Every week that an item doesn’t sell, the price drops so you can watch your favorite items until the price is right (unless someone else snags it first).

You’ll save: 50-60 percent

Where to buy it: Backcountry; REI; Gear Trade

Camping Equipment (Mostly Tents, Things to Sleep On)

Best time to buy: September

Details: In September, retailers don’t typically have many people clamoring to buy camping gear because it’s getting cold in much of the country, and they want to sell as much as possible, Priobrazhenskiy says. November through January are also good times to purchase when people are searching for holiday gifts. If you have a last-minute outing, you can find discounted items in late August as well, says Andrew Priobrazhenskiy, the CEO of DiscountReactor, an e-commerce business.

You’ll save: 50 percent

Where to buy: REI;  Dick’s Sporting Goods

Seasonal Sports Clothes (Ski Coats, Bathing Suits, Hiking Clothes and More)

Best time to buy: May

Details: If you wait until July or August, you’ll also be able to get your hands on great sale options and discounts as well, says Priobrazhenskiy.

You’ll save: 50 percent

Where to buy: REI;  Patagonia; Moosejaw

Outdoor Cooking Gear

Best time to buy: February, June and August

Details: These items such as camp stoves and cooking supplies and utensils tend to go on sale during these months. This is when most people plan their camping and outdoor trips, and retailers want to snag the business, Priobrazhenskiy says.

You’ll save: Up to 60 percent

Where to buy: Dick’s Sporting Goods

Stand Up Paddleboards, Surf Boards, Kiteboards, Windsurfers

Best time to buy: August

Details: Purchasing your water sports equipment at the end of the summer is best because many stores hold end-of-season clearance sales, says Holly Appleby, a marine conservation researcher and surf instructor who runs Ocean Today, a project dedicated to ocean education. If you purchase at the end of the season, however, ensure you have adequate storage for your new equipment. Surfboards and paddleboards should be stored out of the sun in a cool, dry place, Appleby says. And while many items can be purchased secondhand, Appleby cautions against purchasing water sports equipment this way. “Purchasing secondhand usually means you can get good deals year-round, but while you’ll likely save money, there’s a chance the safety of the item has been compromised,” she says.

You’ll save: 40 percent

Where to buy: Dick’s Sporting Goods; REI

Kayaks and Canoes

Best time to buy: End of August

Details: The prime season for paddling around lakes, rivers and other waterways in much of the United States is August. So the end of August is a great time to buy a discounted kayak, canoe or other piece of paddle equipment. Don’t want to store it for a year before you’ll get to use it? Memorial Day usually draws major lake equipment sales, as does Christmas. The worst time to purchase these items is spring, when the new inventory arrives in the stores. Often, you can find used paddling craft and equipment on Craigslist or on local Facebook groups for half the price during the spring and fall months.

Two people kayak in the water.
Getty Images

You’ll save: 40-50 percent

Where to buy: REI; Cabela’s

Hiking Gear

Best time to buy: March and April

Details: The majority of sporting goods retailers like Dick’s Sporting Goods, Bass Pro Shops and Camping World will have closeouts in the spring to make room for new gear and accessories for hiking such as boots, packs, navigation tools and trekking poles, says Vipin Porwal, founder and consumer savings expert at Smarty and Smarty Plus. “It’s very important to take advantage of any available savings with trending coupons and rewards like cash back in order to assure the best price, regardless of the stores you’re shopping in,” Porwal says.

You’ll save: 10-40 percent

Where to buy: Dick’s Sporting Goods; Bass Pro Shops; Camping World

Bicycles and Helmets

Best time to buy: Fall

Details: This is when the stores get rid of the previous summer stock and to make room for new models. But you can also get good deals on Black Friday and around the Christmas season. If you’re looking for a specialist bike, such as a mountain bike or a road bike, these will be on sale whenever they’re out of race season (usually the winter months). Save even more by asking to purchase a demo bike. These are the bikes that shops lend to prospective buyers. They tend to be well-maintained, and are the equivalent of an open box item in an electronics store.

You’ll save: 20-35 percent

Where to buy: You should purchase bicycles at a local store to get the correct fit.

Fishing Gear

Best time to buy: February

Details: About two months after the December holiday season is the sweet spot: It’s too early to fish in much of the country except for all but hardy ice anglers and stores need to sell off their older gear. Make sure to look in the used sections as well because that’s where better deals can be found.

You’ll save: 25-40 percent

Where to buy: Cabela’s; Bass Pro Shops

Car Racks to Carry It All

Best time to buy: November

Details: Black Friday is the best time to snag racks for bikes, watercraft, skis, snowboards and more, but you’ll rarely see these for more than 20 percent off. Want a better deal? Look for these on EBay or Craigslist, or scour local Facebook Marketplace listings. These are sturdy so you don’t typically have to worry about it being damaged and often, people will use theirs for a trip or two before getting rid of it.

You’ll save: 20 percent

Where to buy: REI; Backcountry

Danielle Braff is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com