[Targeted] Best Buy Visa Offer: $50/$75 in Rewards

The Offer

  • Best Buy visa is offering $50/$75 in rewards, spending requirements are either $1,500 in spend within 90 days or 5 purchases of $50+

Our Verdict

How useful the offer is depends on what offer you receive is.

Source: doctorofcredit.com

Swimming Pool Financing: What to Know and Best Pool Loans

Who doesn’t love a relaxing dip in the swimming pool on a sweltering, hot day? And when that swimming pool is in your backyard, it’s even better.

You could bring your friends together over the summer by hosting pool parties. You could teach your kids to swim right at home. If you rent out your place on Airbnb or Vrbo, you could fetch top dollar for the additional amenity.

Sounds like a dream.

If your house didn’t already come with a pool when you moved in, there’s still a possibility of turning your pool fantasies into reality if you have enough space.

And if you don’t have tens of thousands of dollars upfront to spend on a pool construction project, there’s always pool financing.

What Is Pool Financing?

Pool financing is when you borrow money from a financial institution or lender to cover the costs of building a pool. Pool construction typically costs anywhere from $17,971 to $46,481 with the average cost being around $32,059, according to HomeAdvisor.

Of course, the cost will vary based on the size, the type of pool, your location and where you plan to build the pool on your property. Adding a small plunge pool to a cleared, flat space in your backyard will cost considerably less than adding a resort-style pool with waterfalls and a jacuzzi to your property that requires you to cut down multiple trees and level the land.

Besides the personal enjoyment that comes along with having a pool, this addition to your home could boost your property value and make your home more desirable to future buyers, renters or short-term guests.

The high cost to install a pool means that many people rely on pool financing. There are several ways to go about getting a loan for a pool.

Options for Pool Financing

If you want to add a pool to your property, but don’t have the cash upfront, you have several options.

You could get a personal loan (sometimes referred to as a pool loan), a home equity loan, a home equity line of credit or a cash-out refinance. Some pool builders or retailers offer in-house loan programs through their partner lenders. You might also consider using a credit card as your method of financing.

Personal Loans (AKA Pool Loans)

Pool loans are unsecured personal loans offered by banks, credit unions and online lenders. You may be able to get a pool loan through the financial institution where you already have existing accounts, or you might choose to get financed from an online lender or financing consultant company that deals exclusively with pool loans and home improvement loans.

One of the benefits of personal loans is that you don’t have to offer up any collateral. If you stop making payments and default on your loan, you don’t have to worry about your house being foreclosed — though the lender still could sue you. If approved for an unsecured personal loan, you can usually receive funds within a couple of days, much quicker than some other financing options.

Because you don’t have any collateral backing the loan, however, these financing options can come with higher interest rates. Interest rates can start around 3% and go up to about 36%.

A borrower’s credit score, credit history, income and existing debt load all affect the interest rate.

Personal loan terms generally range from about two to 12 years — though some pool loans can have terms up to 20 years or more. You can get loans from $1,000 to over $200,000 to fund simple above-ground pools or elaborate in-ground pool projects.

Home Equity Loans

Home equity loans are essentially when you tap into the equity you have in your home and take out a second mortgage. If you have a significant amount of equity, you could finance your pool project this way.

Home equity loans generally have lower interest rates than personal loans because your home is used as collateral. If you default on your loan, the lender could foreclose on your home.

Also, with home equity loans you’ll face additional fees, like a home appraisal cost and closing costs, so be sure to factor that into your decision making.

Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC)

A home equity line of credit or HELOC also taps into the equity you have in your home, but it’s a revolving line of credit that you can use for several years instead of a loan that provides you with one lump sum of cash.

With a HELOC, you can pull out funds as needed to finance your pool construction and other home improvement projects. While you’ll only pay back what you borrow, the interest on HELOCs are usually adjustable rates rather than fixed rates. That means your monthly payments can increase during your repayment period.

Cash-Out Refinance

A cash-out refinance is essentially when you replace your existing mortgage with a new mortgage that exceeds what you owe on the house and you take out the difference in cash.

You can then use that lump sum to pay for your pool, and you’ll pay it back throughout the course of your new mortgage — over the next 10 to 30 years depending on your loan terms.

A cash-out refinance might make sense if you’re able to get a lower interest rate than your current mortgage. However, just like with a home equity loan or HELOC, your home is being used as collateral, and you’ll face additional fees involved in the refinancing process.

In-House Financing from the Pool Builder

Some pool companies may directly provide you with pool financing offers, so you don’t have to search for financing on your own. The pool companies typically aren’t offering the loan to you themselves, but they’ve partnered with a lender or network of lenders to provide you with financing options.

This type of financing is the same as applying for a personal loan or pool loan. The benefit is that you get a one-stop-shop experience instead of having to reach out to lenders individually. Your pool contractor may even be able to assist you through the loan process.

The downside is that you could potentially miss out on a better deal by only getting quotes from the pool company’s partnered lenders.

Credit Cards

Because of their high interest rates, credit cards are usually not recommended as options for financing a new swimming pool. However, there can be situations where it’d make sense.

If you’re able to open a zero-interest credit card and pay the balance back before the zero-interest period expires, paying with a credit card can be a great option — especially if it’s a rewards card that’ll give you points, airline miles or cash-back for spending or a bonus just for opening the account.

If you choose this financing option, be sure that you’ll be able to pay off the balance in a relatively short period of time. Most credit cards only offer zero-interest periods for the first 12 to 21 months. After that your interest rate could go up to 18% or more.

Pool Loan Comparisons

Getting quotes from multiple lenders will help you select the best deal for your pool construction project. Here’s what a few top lenders are currently offering.

Lyon Financial

Best for Long Loan Terms

4.5 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Pays the pool contractor directly
  • 600 minimum credit score
  • Offers military discounts

Lyon Financial is a financing consultant that has been in business since 1979 and works with a network of lenders to provide loans for pool and home improvement projects. Unlike personal loans that provide the borrower with the funds upfront, Lyon Financial disburses the funding directly to the pool builder in stages as the project progresses.

Lyon Financial

APR (interest rates)

As low as 2.99%

Maximum loan amount

$200,000

Loan terms

Up to 25 years

HFS Financial

Best for Large Pool Loans

4 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Provides loans up to $500,000
  • Most loans are funded within 48 hours
  • No prepayment penalties

HFS Financial is a financing company that partners with third-party lenders to provide homeowners with the money to construct pools on their property. Use their “60 second loan application” to kick off the loan process. Funds are typically dispersed within 48 hours.

HFS Financial

APR (interest rates)

As low as 2.99%

Maximum loan amount

$500,000

Loan terms

Up to 20 years

Viking Capital

Best for Customer Service

4.5 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Supports a network of pool builders
  • 650 minimum credit score
  • Offers military discounts

Viking Capital is a family-owned business that has been in operation since 1999. The company acts in the capacity of a financial consultant, and partners with a network of lenders to provide multiple loan offers for pool construction projects.

Viking Capital

APR (interest rates)

As low as 5.49%

Maximum loan amount

$125,000

Loan terms

Up to 20 years

5 Steps to Securing Pool Financing

Follow these steps to secure a loan for your pool.

1. Determine What Monthly Payments You Can Afford

Before you dig into your pool financing options, you should be clear on what monthly payment you can afford. Having a pool is a luxury. You don’t want a pool construction project to jeopardize your ability to pay your bills and meet your needs.

Figure out how much disposable income you have to work with by comparing your monthly earnings to how much you typically spend each month.

Don’t forget to factor in maintenance and additional utilities usage when estimating how much you can afford to go toward pool costs.

2. Check Your Credit History

When you’re financing a pool, having a good or excellent credit score will help you secure a loan with a low interest rate. Ideally, your credit score should be 700 or above.

Some lenders may offer you financing if you have fair or poor credit, however you may have to pay a lot more over time due to higher interest rates.

To boost your credit score before applying for a pool loan, follow these steps.

3. Get Cost Estimates for Your Pool

Talk with pool builders to get estimates on the total cost of your desired pool project. Get estimates from multiple pool companies so you have a better idea of what options exist.

If the estimates come in higher than you expected, consider scaling down the size of your pool project or using different materials.

Make sure any additional work — like constructing safety fencing — is included in your estimate.

4. Choose What Type of Financing Your Prefer and Shop Around For Lenders

After you figure out what options are available within your budget, it’s time to decide on what type of financing you prefer.

Will you be applying for an unsecured loan or do you plan to tap into your home equity or refinance your mortgage? Are you going to purchase a small above-ground pool that you could pay off in 15 months using a zero-interest credit card?

Once you know what type of financing you’ll go with, reach out to multiple lenders so you can compare offers and choose the best deal. You may be able to use a competitor’s lower offer to get a lender to reduce their offer even further.

5. Complete Loan Application and Sign Off on All Paperwork

The final step to get your pool project financed is to complete any additional paperwork and sign off on the dotted line. Expect to provide information about your income and other existing debt.

Your credit score may take a dip after taking on new debt, but it should rebound as you make regular, on-time payments.

Alternatives to Pool Financing

Taking on debt for a new pool doesn’t have to be your only option.

You could put off your pool construction project for a few years and save up for the expense in cash. Open a high-yield savings account to use as a sinking fund and don’t make withdrawals from the account until you’ve reached your savings goal.

If you think you’re outgrowing your current home — or are looking to downsize — wait until you’re ready to move and then look for a new home with an existing pool.

Or if you’re okay with not having a pool in your backyard, you’ll save money by visiting public pools or renting private pools from Swimply on occasion. This is a good option if you think you wouldn’t get much regular use of having your own pool.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many years can you refinance a pool for?

You can finance a pool over 20 to 30 years, depending on the type of financing you secure. If you need decades to pay back the loan, you might consider refinancing your mortgage or taking out a second mortgage. Private, unsecured loans typically need to be repaid sooner, however some have loan terms of 20 years or more.

What is the best way to finance a pool?

It all depends on your individual circumstances and preferences. If you’ve built up a ton of equity in your home and want to spread your debt payments over a lot of time, you might lean toward a home equity loan or HELOC. If you’ve got excellent credit and would qualify for a low-interest personal loan (unsecured loan), that might be the better option.

What credit score do you need for pool financing?

Ideally, you’ll want to have a credit score of 700 or higher to get the best interest rates for pool financing. Some companies, however, will accept lower credit scores. As a result, your loan may have a higher interest rate.

What is a good interest rate for a pool loan?

An interest rate around 5% is a good deal for a pool loan. You may be able to find rates even lower if you have excellent credit.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Is Recession Coming? Watch These Signs

recession market scare crash downturn stock business men
By Andrey Burmakin / Shutterstock.com

There’s no time stamp on when recessions pop up, or how long they last. Our last recession was two months long at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, making it the shortest on record.

The one before that was the Great Recession starting in 2007 and lasting 18 months, the longest downturn since World War II.

If the stock market and economy are keeping you on the edge of your seat, you can look for signs of a recession before it hits. That can help you determine whether you should start preparing for a recession, and the act of getting your finances ready for a possible downturn should give you some peace of mind.

An inexact science

work worry
Stock-Asso / Shutterstock.com

Before we dive into the possible warning signs of a recession, it’s worth noting that predicting a recession is not an exact science.

So, while the following warning signs historically have served as indicators that a recession might be on the horizon, that doesn’t mean they are foolproof. The economy is dynamic, and there is no list of indicators that have preceded every past recession.

Still, the following indicators tend to be a good place to start looking if you’re worried about whether a recession lies ahead.

Sign No. 1: The yield curve inverts

Positive yield curve
hafakot / Shutterstock.com

Typically, long-term bonds pay more than short-term bonds, as illustrated above. This makes sense: If you agree to tie up your money for longer periods, you should be paid more for your trouble. This is why a five-year certificate of deposit (CD) pays more than a one-year CD.

Rarely, however, the reverse is true: Long-term bonds start paying less than short-term bonds. When that happens, a recession often follows. In fact, this situation, known as an inverted or negative yield curve, has proven a highly accurate recession predictor.

Why would long-term bonds ever pay less than short-term bonds? The nation’s central bank, the Federal Reserve — or “the Fed” for short — controls short-term rates, but the market controls the rates on longer-term securities.

The Fed can raise short-term rates, which is exactly what they started doing in March 2022, for the first time since 2018. But if investors start thinking things don’t look so good in the economy, they keep their powder dry by buying long-term bonds. The more they buy and bid up the price, the lower the rates on these securities go.

The yield curve did dip into negative territory in late March 2022. It quickly recovered, but it’s worth noting that it was the first time the yield curve turned negative since 2019 and, before that, 2006.

What to watch: You can find Treasury yields on the U.S. Treasury Department’s website. CNBC also tracks in real time the spread, or difference, between the yields on two-year and 10-year Treasurys.

Sign No. 2: The Leading Economic Index slips

Jenga game at risk of slipping
88studio / Shutterstock.com

The Conference Board’s Leading Economic Index (LEI) is one predictor of global economic health. The Conference Board, a nonprofit research group, describes the index as one of “the key elements in an early warning system to signal peaks and troughs in the global business cycle,” with the LEI specifically anticipating turning points in the business cycle.

Monthly dips in the Leading Economic Index aren’t alarming. However, year-over-year drops in the benchmark have been followed by recessions in the past.

The LEI increased by 0.3% from February to March, and by 1.9% over the six months leading up to March, so there’s no reason for concern based on this indicator right now.

What to watch: Keep an eye on Conference Board press releases or media coverage of the index.

Sign No. 3: Interest rates rise

Federal Reserve
Orhan Cam / Shutterstock.com

Government monetary policy can be another economic bellwether. We’ll explain what to watch, but first, a quick refresher on how it works.

The Federal Reserve influences the economy by using a couple of tools. One of those tools is control over short-term interest rates via the target federal funds rate. If the economy is in the doldrums, it can lower the federal funds rate to encourage consumers and businesses to borrow, buy and invest, which stimulates the economy. That’s why this rate was kept near zero for years following the Great Recession that began in December 2007.

On the other hand, if the economy is growing too fast, that can lead to rising prices, otherwise known as inflation. To cool things down, the Fed raises the federal funds rate, which serves to put the brakes on the economy by discouraging both consumers and businesses from borrowing and spending as much.

While interest rates don’t directly affect the stock market, if businesses have to pay more in interest, that hurts their profits, which will ultimately be reflected in a lower stock price.

Also, as rates rise, investors often sell stocks, driving prices lower. Why do they sell? Think about it: If you can earn high interest from insured bank accounts or guaranteed Treasury bonds, why take a chance on stocks?

Again, the Fed resumed raising the federal funds rate in March 2022, marking the first rate hike since 2018. The hike in May — a half-point — was the largest increase since 2000.

What to watch: The Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee posts statements, which include any votes to change the federal funds rate, after each of its regularly scheduled meetings. The meetings are also widely covered by the financial media.

Sign No. 4: Consumer sentiment falls

Upset shopper at a grocery store
C.Snooprock / Shutterstock.com

Another economic indicator published by the Conference Board, the Consumer Confidence Survey, monitors everything from Americans’ buying intentions and vacation plans to their expectations for inflation, stock prices and interest rates.

After an uptick in March, consumer confidence fell slightly in April. The Consumer Confidence Index was at 107.3 for the month, down from 107.6. During the recession at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the index was less than 90.

Fluctuation is normal, especially as economic conditions shift. The pandemic, the rising costs of products and the war in Ukraine can change how people feel about the economy from month to month. But if consumer confidence continues to drop, that could be a sign of a looming recession.

What to watch: The Consumer Confidence Survey is updated monthly. Track press releases for it on the Conference Board’s website. The survey is also widely covered in the media.

Sign No. 5: Business confidence cools

Upset businessman holding his head at his computer
Rido / Shutterstock.com

Like consumer confidence, business confidence can shed light on the direction of the economy.

The Conference Board’s Measure of CEO Confidence remained in positive territory — 57 — in the first quarter of 2022. (The board considers measures of more than 50 points as positive, and lower readings as negative.) But this measure marked the third consecutive quarter of decline.

CEOs’ assessment of the current general economic conditions, and their expectations for the near future, also declined.

The outlook of small-business owners isn’t any rosier, according to the National Federation of Independent Business’ Small Business Optimism Index.

In March, inflation overtook labor quality as the top problem among small businesses. In fact, the share of owners raising their average selling prices reached its highest level in the survey’s 48-year history.

Moreover, the share of owners who expect better business conditions over the next six months fell to its lowest level in the survey’s history.

What to watch: Business confidence gauges like the Measure of CEO Confidence and CFO Survey are updated quarterly. The Small Business Optimism Index is updated monthly.

Sign No. 6: Vanguard’s risk forecast worsens

Vangaurd
Casimiro PT / Shutterstock.com

Vanguard is one of the biggest asset management firms in the world, so its economic outlooks can help paint a picture of how to monitor fluctuation in the economy.

Before the recession that started in late 2007, Vanguard’s six-month forecast had said the probability of a recession in six months was greater than 40%, according to The New York Times.

The firm’s forecast for 2022 — subtitled “Striking a better balance” — was overall optimistic, if cautiously so:

“While the economic recovery is expected to continue through 2022, the easy gains in growth from rebounding activity are behind us. We expect growth in both the U.S. and the euro area to slow down to 4% in 2022.”

In March, however, Vanguard downgraded its 2022 estimated growth for the U.S. from 4% to 3.5% — which is where it remained going into May.

What to watch: Vanguard posts its monthly market perspectives on its “Our Insights” webpage and issues press releases about its annual outlooks.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

What Is Inflation (Definition) – Causes & Effects of Rate on Prices & Interest

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Additional Resources

People have always grumbled that a dollar doesn’t go as far as it used to. But these days, that complaint is truer than ever. No matter where you go — the gas station, the grocery store, the movies — prices are higher than they were just a month or two ago.

What we’re seeing is the return of a familiar economic foe: inflation. Many Americans alive today have never seen price increases like these before. For the past three decades, inflation has never been above 4% per year. But as of March 2022, it’s at 8.5%, a level not seen since 1981.

Modest inflation, like what we had up through 2020, is normal and even healthy for an economy. But the rate of inflation we’re seeing now is neither normal nor healthy. It does more than just raise the cost of living. It can have a serious impact on the economy as a whole. 

Recent inflation-related news:


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  • In March 2022, the U.S. inflation rate hit a 40-year high of 8.5%. 
  • Prices for gasoline have increased nearly 50% over the past year.
  • Retail giant Amazon has added a 5% fuel and inflation surcharge for sellers.
  • The Federal Reserve is planning a series of interest rate hikes to cool the overheated economy.

What Is Inflation?

Inflation is more than just rising prices. Prices of specific things we buy, from a gallon of milk to a year of college tuition, rise and fall all the time. These price increases affect individual consumers’ lives, but they don’t have a big impact on the entire economy.

Inflation is a general increase in the prices of goods and services across the board. It drives up prices for everything you buy, from a haircut to a gallon of gas. Or, to put it another way, the purchasing power of every dollar in your pocket declines.

Most of the time, inflation doesn’t disrupt people’s lives too much, because prices rise for labor as well. If your household spending increases by 5% but your paycheck increases by 5% at the same time, you’re no worse off than before.

But when prices rise sharply, wages can’t always keep up. That makes it harder for consumers to make ends meet. It also drives them to change their spending behaviors in ways that often make the problem worse.


Causes of Inflation

Inflation depends on the twin forces of supply and demand. Supply is the amount of a particular good or service that’s available. Demand is the amount of that particular good or service that people want to buy. More demand drives prices up, while more supply drives them down. 

To see why, suppose you have 10 loaves of bread to sell. You have 10 buyers who want bread and are willing to pay $1 per loaf. So you can sell all 10 loaves at $1 each.

But if 10 more buyers suddenly enter the market, they will have to compete for your bread. To make sure they get some, they might be willing to pay as much as $2 per loaf. The higher demand has pushed the price up.

By contrast, if another seller shows up with 10 loaves of bread, the two of you will be competing for buyers. To sell your bread, you might have to lower the price to as little as $0.50 per loaf. The higher supply has pushed prices down.

Inflation results from demand outstripping supply. Economists often describe this as “too much money chasing too few goods.” There are several ways this kind of imbalance can happen.

Cost-Push Inflation

Cost-push inflation happens when it costs more to produce goods. To go back to the bread example, cost-push inflation might happen because a wheat shortage makes flour more expensive. It costs you more to make each loaf of bread, so you can’t afford to bake as much.

As a result, you bring only five loaves to the market. But there are still 10 customers who want to buy bread, so they must pay more to get their share. The higher cost of production drives down the supply and thus drives up the price.

In the real world, cost-push inflation can result from higher costs for anything that goes into making a product. This includes:

  • Raw Materials. The wheat that went into your bread is an example. Higher-cost wheat means higher-cost flour, which means higher-cost bread.
  • Transportation. In today’s global economy, materials and finished goods move around a lot. Transporting products requires fuel, which usually comes from oil. So whenever oil prices go up, the price of other goods rises as well. 
  • Labor. Another factor in production cost is labor. When schools closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, many parents had to stop working to care for their children. That created a worker shortage that drove prices up.

Demand-Pull Inflation

The opposite of cost-push inflation is demand-pull inflation. It occurs when consumers want to buy more than the market can supply, driving prices up.

Typically, demand-pull inflation results from economic growth. Rising wages and lower levels of unemployment put more money in people’s pockets, and people who have more money want to spend more. If the booming economy hasn’t produced enough goods and services to match this new demand, prices rise.

Other causes of demand-pull inflation include: 

  • Increased Money Supply. Another way people can end up with more money in their pockets is because the government has put more money in circulation. Governments often do this to stimulate a weak economy or to pay off past debts. But as the money supply increases, the purchasing power of each dollar shrinks. 
  • Rapid Population Growth. When the population grows rapidly, the demand for goods and services grows also. If the economy doesn’t produce more to compensate, prices rise. In Europe during the 1500s and 1600s, prices soared as the population grew so fast that agriculture couldn’t keep up with the new demand.
  • Panic Buying. Early in the COVID pandemic, consumers started buying extra groceries to fill their pantries in preparation for a lockdown. This led to shortages of many staple products, like milk and toilet paper. As a result, prices for those goods went up.
  • Pent-Up Demand. This occurs when people return to spending after a period of going without. This often happens in the wake of a recession. It also occurred as pandemic restrictions eased and people returned to enjoying movies, travel, and restaurant meals.

Built-In Inflation

When consumers expect prices to be higher in the future, they often respond by spending more now. If the purchasing power of their savings is only going to fall, it makes more sense to take that money out of the bank and use it on a major purchase, like a new car or a large appliance.

In this way, expectations of high inflation can themselves lead to inflation. This type of inflation is called built-in inflation because it builds on itself. 

When workers expect the cost of living to rise, they demand higher wages. But then they have more to spend, so they spend more, driving prices up. This, in turn, reinforces the belief that  prices will keep rising, leading to still higher wage demands. This cycle of rising wages and prices is called a wage-price spiral.


Effects of Inflation

Inflation does more than just drive up the cost of living. It changes the economy in a variety of ways — some harmful, others helpful. The effects of inflation include:

  • Higher Wages. As prices rise with inflation, wages typically rise as well. This can create a wage-price spiral that drives inflation still higher.
  • Higher Interest Rates. When the dollar is declining in value, banks often respond by raising interest rates on loans. The Federal Reserve also typically raises interest rates to cool the economy and rein in inflation, as discussed below.
  • Cheaper Debt. Inflation is good for debtors because they can pay off their debts with cheaper dollars. This is most useful for loans with a fixed interest rate, such as fixed-rate mortgages and student loans.
  • More Consumption. Inflation encourages consumers to spend money because they know it will be worth less later. All this spending keeps the economy humming, but it can also drive prices even higher.
  • Lower Savings Rates. Just as inflation encourages spending, it discourages saving. Higher interest rates can counter this effect, but they often don’t rise enough to make a difference.
  • Less Valuable Benefits. High inflation is worse for people on a fixed income. They face higher prices without higher wages to make up for them. Benefits such as Social Security change each year to adjust for inflation, but higher benefits next year don’t help when prices are rising right now.
  • More Valuable Tangible Assets. Inflation reduces the purchasing power of the dollars you have in the bank. Tangible assets like real estate, however, gain in dollar value as prices rise.

Measuring Inflation

The most common measure of inflation is the Consumer Price Index, or CPI. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) determines the CPI based on the cost of an imaginary basket of goods and services. BLS workers painstakingly check prices on all these items each month and record how each price changes.

To calculate the annual rate of inflation, the BLS looks at how much all prices in its basket have changed since a year earlier. Then it “weights” the value of each item based on how much of it people buy. The weighted average of all items becomes the CPI.

The BLS then uses the CPI to calculate the annual rate of inflation. It divides this month’s CPI by the CPI from a year ago, then multiplies the result by 100. This shows how the purchasing power of a dollar has changed over the last year. The result is reported monthly.

Other measures of inflation include:

  • Personal Consumption Expenditures Price Index (PCE). This inflation measure is published by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Like the CPI, it’s a measure of consumer costs, but it’s adjusted to account for changes in the products people buy. The Federal Reserve uses the PCE to guide its monetary policy, as discussed below. 
  • Producer Price Index (PPI). The PPI measures inflation from the seller’s perspective, not the buyer’s. It’s calculated by dividing the price sellers currently get for a basket of goods and services by its price in a base year, then multiplying the result by 100.

Historical Examples of Inflation

A little bit of inflation is normal. But sometimes inflation spirals out of control, with prices rising more than 50% per month. This is called hyperinflation, and it can be devastating for an economy.

Hyperinflation has occurred at various times and places throughout history. During the U.S. Civil War, both sides experienced soaring inflation. Other examples include Germany in the 1920s, Greece and Hungary after World War II, Yugoslavia and Peru in the 1990s, and Venezuela today. In most cases, the main cause was the government printing money to pay for debt. 

The last time the U.S. had prolonged, high rates of inflation was in the 1970s and early 1980s. The inflation rate was nowhere near hyperinflation levels, but it spiked above 10% twice. Eventually, the Fed hiked interest rates to double-digit levels to get it under control.

Although high inflation can be destructive, zero inflation isn’t a good thing, either. At that point, an economy is at risk of the opposite problem, deflation. 

When prices and wages fall across the board, consumers spend less. Sales of products and services fall, so companies cut back staff or go out of business. As a result, jobs are lost and spending drops still more, worsening the problem. The Great Depression was an example.


The Federal Reserve, or Fed, is the U.S. central bank — or more accurately, banks. It’s a group of 12 banks spread across the country under the control of a central board of governors. Its job is to keep the economy on track, reining in inflation while trying to avoid recessions. 

The Fed maintains this balance through monetary policy, or controlling the availability of money.

Its main tool for doing this is interest rates. When the economy is weak, the Fed lowers the federal funds rate. This makes it easier for people to borrow and spend. 

When the problem is inflation, it does the opposite, raising interest rates. This makes it more costly to borrow and more worthwhile to save. As a result, consumers spend less, slowing down the wage-price spiral.

The Fed has other tools for fighting inflation as well. One option is to change reserve requirements for banks, requiring them to hold more cash. That gives them less to lend out, which in turn reduces the amount consumers and businesses have to spend.

Finally, the Fed can reduce the money supply directly. The main way it does this is to increase the interest rate paid on government bonds. That encourages more people to buy bonds, which temporarily takes their money out of circulation and puts it in the hands of the government.


Inflation Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

If you keep seeing stories about inflation in the news, you may have some other questions about how it works. For instance, you may wonder:

What Is Hyperinflation?

Hyperinflation is more than just high inflation. It’s a wage-price spiral gone mad, sending prices soaring out of control. As noted above, the usual definition of hyperinflation is an inflation rate of at least 50% per month — more than 12,000% per year. However, some economists use the term to refer to an inflation rate of 1,000% or more per year.

What Is Disinflation?

Disinflation is a fall in the rate of inflation. This is what the Federal Reserve and other central banks try to achieve through their monetary policy, such as raising interest rates.

Disinflation is not the same as deflation, or falling prices. During a period of disinflation, prices are continuing to rise, but the rate at which they rise is slowing down.

What Is Transitory Inflation?

When the first signs of a post-COVID-19 inflation spike appeared, Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell described it as “transitory.” By this, he meant that the rise in prices would be short-lived and would not do permanent damage to the economy. 

However, in November 2021, Powell declared it was “time to retire that word.” Based on the growth in prices, he had concluded that inflation was more of a long-term trend. The Federal Reserve responded by planning to fight inflation harder, buying more bonds and plotting out a series of interest rate hikes.

What Is Core Inflation?

Measuring inflation can be tricky because prices for some products fluctuate more than others. Food and energy prices, in particular, can shift a lot from month to month. Including these products in the CPI can lead to sharp, but temporary, spikes or dips in the inflation rate.

To adjust for this, the CPI and PCE have a separate “core” version that doesn’t include food or energy prices. This core inflation measure is more useful for predicting long-term trends. The  main versions of the CPI and PCE, known as the “headline” versions, give a more accurate picture of how prices are changing right now.

What Is the Consumer Price Index (CPI)?

As noted above, the Consumer Price Index, or CPI, is the main measure of inflation in the United States. The BLS calculates it based on how much prices have risen for an imaginary basket of goods and services that many Americans buy.


Final Word

A little inflation in an economy is normal. It can even be a good thing, because it’s a sign that consumers are spending and businesses are earning. The Fed generally considers an annual inflation rate of 2% to be healthy.

However, higher inflation can cause serious problems for an economy. It’s bad for savers whose nest eggs, including retirement savings, shrink in value. It’s even worse for seniors and others on fixed incomes whose purchasing power has fallen. And it often requires strong measures from the central bank to correct it — measures that risk driving the economy into a recession.

If you’re concerned about the effects of inflation, there are several ways to protect yourself. You can adjust your household budget, putting more dollars into the categories where prices are rising fastest. You can stock up on household basics now, before the purchasing power of your dollars falls too much. 

Finally, you can choose investments that do well during periods of inflation. Stock-based mutual funds and real estate investment trusts are both good choices. Just be careful with inflation hedges like gold and cryptocurrency, which carry risks of their own.

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GME is so 2021. Fine art is forever. And its 5-year returns are a heck of a lot better than this week’s meme stock. Invest in something real. Invest with Masterworks.

Amy Livingston is a freelance writer who can actually answer yes to the question, “And from that you make a living?” She has written about personal finance and shopping strategies for a variety of publications, including ConsumerSearch.com, ShopSmart.com, and the Dollar Stretcher newsletter. She also maintains a personal blog, Ecofrugal Living, on ways to save money and live green at the same time.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Camping This Summer? Here’s What Gear Is Worth It

Save more, spend smarter, and make your money go further

With summer upon us, it’s a great time to go outside and get away from it all. While figuring out which gear to bring may seem overwhelming, it really doesn’t have to be that complicated. Before you hit the road, let’s talk about the basics as well as a few items worth spending a little more on to help you and your family or friends enjoy a memorable trip in the great outdoors.

9 Essential Pieces of Camping Equipment

Here are 9 pieces of equipment that you’ll definitely want to have before going camping

  • Tent — even if you plan on sleeping under the stars, it will make sense to have a tent in case of inclement weather or emergencies.
  • Water bottle or hydration system — Staying hydrated while camping is a crucial part of being safe. A good rule of thumb is to bring two gallons of water per person per day if you don’t have a reliable water source at your camping location
  • Weather-appropriate clothing — Packing the right clothing for the weather conditions can make the difference between an enjoyable camping trip and pure misery. Having layers and a rain jacket is ideal to ensure you’re covered no matter the weather.
  • Lantern, flashlight or headlamp — Even if you have a fire going it’s always good to have a flashlight on hand to ensure you can navigate safely in the dark.
  • Cooler — Having a good cooler to keep food and drinks in can make a big difference especially on multi-day camping trips. Upgrading to a cooler that can retain ice for 4-5 days is worth it and can be found for under $50.
  • Portable grill or camping stove + fuel — Always check the campsite to see if they have grills available. If not, you’ll want to bring something to cook your food and remember to bring extra fuel. If you plan on using the campfire to cook having a grill rack will do the trick.
  • Toilet paper and hand sanitizer — Even if your campsite has bathrooms it doesn’t necessarily mean there will be toilet paper or soap.
  • First aid supplies — This is a must-have. It’s best to be prepared with a standard first aid kit, even for minor cuts and splinters.
  • Graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows —  Got to make sure that you have something fun to do over the nightly campfire!

Camping Equipment to Splurge on

When it comes to camping gear, there are certain things that you’ll want to splurge on. This is especially true if you are a frequent camper or are planning on using it a lot. With some types of camping equipment, it just makes a lot more sense to spend a little more upfront for something that will last longer rather than something cheaper that will break after a few uses.

The first is a good tent. This is something I learned the hard way when I brought a pop-up tent thinking the ease of setup was most important. While set up was easy, it was also easy for the wind to blow the tent down and collapse the tent on us while we were sleeping. Spending a little more on a sturdy tent is well worth it.

Another thing where quality can really make a difference is in a sleeping bag or sleeping pad. After all, you’ll be spending 6-8 hours a day with it, so you’ll want to make sure it’s comfortable and protects you from the elements.

Consider Renting Camping Gear (Instead of Buying)

The cost of buying all new camping equipment can add up quickly. And if you’re on a tight budget, you might be looking for ways to go camping on the cheap. If you don’t want to sacrifice on quality, one possibility is to rent camping gear. There are many companies (both online and local) that allow you to rent things like backpacks, tents, and sleeping bags. This allows you to get high-quality gear for a lower price than buying it outright.

Another option to consider is borrowing, sharing, or buying used equipment. While you might not want to share a sleeping bag with someone else, sharing a tent can make a lot of sense. Many outdoor enthusiasts have a TON of gear and would be happy to let you use or borrow it. This can give you an idea of whether camping is going to be more than a one-time thing, and what gear you’ll need.

6 Amazing Places to Camp

And now that you’ve got all that great camping equipment, here are a few places to consider trying out on your camping trips this summer

  1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee — several different kinds of camping are allowed in the Great Smokies, and you’ll be close to many other types of attractions as well.
  2. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia — amazing views of waterfalls and forests within driving distance of much of the Eastern United States.
  3. Arches National Park, Utah — if you’re a hiker who appreciates amazing views, you’ll want to be sure to check out Arches National Park.
  4. Glacier National Park, Montana — amazing views of the eponymous glaciers are the big draw here.
  5. Acadia National Park, Maine — commune with nature featuring over 17 million acres of forest and 6,000 lakes and ponds.
  6. Big Bend National Park, Texas — kayaking, rafting, and canoeing along with plenty of backcountry camping are a feature of this remote national park.
  7. Los Padres National Forest, California — the redwoods and views of the pacific ocean,

If you’re just getting started, hopefully, these trips can provide some inspiration for a lifelong joy of nature.

The Bottom Line

Going camping with your friends or family doesn’t have to break your budget. While there are some camping essentials you’ll want to splurge on, there are other areas where you can stretch your dollars. This can include renting equipment instead of buying it, borrowing, or sharing with friends. No matter what your outdoor adventures look like, make sure to have a plan for it and fit it within your budget.

Save more, spend smarter, and make your money go further

Dan Miller

Dan Miller is a freelance writer and founder of PointsWithACrew.com, a site that helps families to travel for free / cheap. His home base is in Cincinnati, but he tries to travel the world as much as possible with his wife and 6 kids. More from Dan Miller

Sources

Before you hit the road, let’s talk about camping equipment to help ensure a relaxing trip in the great outdoors.

Source: mint.intuit.com

How Psychology Affects Your Search for a Financial Adviser

Selecting the right financial adviser is an important but difficult decision. Key considerations include whether your prospective adviser has the right technical skills, charges fair fees and puts your interests first. Focus on these factors and you’ll find thousands of qualified advisers. But which factors should you prioritize when finding the best one for you?

Turns out, you should be looking to psychology. A 2019 Vanguard study found that a client’s emotional relationship with their adviser – not their fees or technical skills – accounted for over half of the perceived value of the engagement. These feelings have real consequences for your bottom line.

Another series of Vanguard studies found clients who work with advisers have better investment returns than those who don’t. To explain this effect, the studies examined the individual impact of numerous factors, including a range of technical skills, like optimizing asset location and implementing the most cost-effective strategies. Turns out behavioral coaching, a psychological factor, accounted for half the total effect – double that of the most impactful technical skill.

While you’re interviewing a prospective adviser, here are some other considerations and questions to ask:

What are your values?

Financial planning is the process of helping clients achieve their goals – whether those goals are to be financially independent, support a charity or anything in between. Advisers are trained to respect and help fulfill all their clients’ goals. But if your goals and values are contrary to an advisers’, it can be difficult for them to take your perspective and make the best recommendations. For example, an adviser who tends to prioritize attaining financial independence may consistently push back on your goal to donate 10% of your income to charity.

An adviser who shares your deeply held values will have an easier time empathizing with your financial situation and is more likely to make recommendations that you’ll implement.

Will we get along?

Would if we could be friends with everyone, but some personalities just don’t mesh. Don’t think you need to overthink this (although you’re welcome to). Consider what kinds of people you tend to get along with. Remember that you may be spending many years working with your adviser, so it helps to like them and feel like you get along.

At a minimum, feel free to avoid working with someone who gives you a bad first impression. While our first impressions are not always accurate, they can tell us a lot – and quickly! For example, one study found it takes just a fraction of a second to decide whether you should trust someone.

How will you communicate your recommendations and coach me?

It is critical that you fully understand the recommendations your adviser is making. Otherwise, you won’t implement them! Consider your learning style. How do you understand things most easily: in writing? With charts and graphs? Whatever your answer, find an adviser whose communication style matches your learning style.

Often, recommendations take some time to implement and have many steps. Some folks struggle to follow through – especially if they have anxiety around money. The best advisers coach their clients throughout the process.

Not all great coaches are the same. Phil Jackson, winner of 11 NBA championships, was known as a “Zen Master.” Bill Belichick, the NFL coach with the most Super Bowl wins, is much more detail-oriented and logistical. Consider what motivates you to stick with a plan and try to find an adviser who fits your coaching needs.   

Keep in mind that some folks are better communicators than others. How well an adviser communicates has a real impact on their clients. For example, a study investigating clients’ trust in their financial advisers found the adviser’s communication skills were twice as important as their technical competency.

Do you have good experiences working with people from my background?

Individual differences are not the only thing to consider when selecting a financial adviser. Your adviser’s cultural background and cultural competency can affect whether you have a successful relationship.

When people share similar experiences and backgrounds, they often have an easier time communicating and empathizing with one another. Moreover, financial advising has not always been offered or provided equitably to women, people of color and members of many other minority backgrounds. Research released by The American College Center for Economic Empowerment and Equality underscores this point: Three in five Black women expressed difficulty in finding financial professionals or advisers they trust, per the study.  It’s why efforts like the CFP® Board’s diversity and inclusion initiatives are critical to increase the representation of people from all backgrounds in financial planning and meet the needs of our diverse society.

That said, the client and adviser don’t need to share a cultural connection to have a successful relationship. Many financial advisers have excellent cross-cultural communication and cultural competence. Some of the best thinking comes when people with different perspectives can work together to come up with innovative solutions.

Ultimately, you should establish a relationship you value with an adviser you trust. Exactly how you make that decision is up to you. To start that process, consider resources like https://www.letsmakeaplan.org/ and https://www.xyplanningnetwork.com/ that can connect you with  advisers held to fiduciary standard.

Assistant Professor of Financial Planning, The American College of Financial Services

Matt J. Goren is an Assistant Professor of Financial Planning at The American College of Financial Services who focuses on the interplay of personal finance and psychology. In addition to teaching and developing content, he provides strategic consulting on financial literacy initiatives and hosts a personal finance radio show, Nothing Funny About Money, which was named 2018’s most outstanding consumer financial information resource by the AFCPE.

Source: kiplinger.com