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COVID-19 Infects Financial Stability, But Chronic Low Wages Are The Culprit

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The Federal Reserve found in 2019, 37 percent of adults saying they could not cover a hypothetical expense of $400 with cash, savings, or a credit card, instead, they might turn to Payday lenders who can charge up to 400% interest for a two week loan, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. What’s their Pay-Day loan collateral? The wages and salary the employer has yet to pay. Workers may have to pay up to 400% interest for access to wages and salaries they earned, but have not yet received.

Remember that sinking feeling when you first started work? You might have even wondered why the employer didn’t pay you first. A bi-weekly paycheck means you work for two weeks before getting paid. For those living paycheck to paycheck, this two weeks can put you behind with bad credit and high interest rates and credit card fees.

Though many gig workers want the benefits, union access and labor rights afforded to regular employees, being paid instantly is a substantial perk to a gig. At least one company, Ceridian
CDAY
a global human capital management technology company – may have a partial solution to the payday loans and liquidity problem of “more month than money.” They seem to be having some success convincing their clients that those who work for them want the option to be paid like day laborers.

The company offers a product which allows employers to pay their employees at the employees’ request before pay day. It is not an advance, but rather payment for work already done. Some employers like it. “When you work in a call center, there are some things that aren’t very flexible. We need employees at their desk, on the phones making calls…” said an official for Crescent Bank (via Ceridian’s public relation’s center). “We can’t offer a ton of flexibility with attendance, [but] we can provide a benefit that other shops are not offering,” he said referring to Ceridian’s product.

Employees might be attracted to employers who offer this option, because faster pay could solve a low liquidity problem. Ceridian commissioned a Harris poll survey of 2,070 U.S. adults ages 18 and older — 1,158 who are employed — for three days starting October 19, 2020. The findings (not posted but sent to me privately upon request) are similar to the Fed’s study, one-third of Americans do not have enough saved to cover monthly groceries. This cash poor situation also creates uncertain futures. The Federal Reserve finds only 37 percent of non-retired adults think their retirement savings are on track, while 44 percent think it is not and 19 percent are unsure.

Older Americans tend to have more savings for monthly groceries. 86% of respondents 65 and older report having the required savings compared to 50% of 18–34 year olds. This may say more about the number of years they’ve had to save than their real stability. Older Americans are not out of the woods.

In an ideal world, a near-lifetime of work would afford every older household a financial buffer to cushion a blow to income or health. Most try to have some savings and reasonably priced credit lines in case of unexpected medical bills or joblessness. But in the not-so-ideal world we live in, millions of older households do not have cash savings or other liquid assets to make up for multiple months of lost income.

As a result, financially fragile older households are more at risk of depleting their retirement savings to make ends meet, as evidenced in the current Covid-19 recession. When these households retire — or are forced into retirement—they will have less retirement income and will face downward mobility in the last years of their lives.

STAGNANT WAGES CAUSE FRAGILITY

Most financial fragility is caused by low pay, not the frequency with which low wages are paid. According to the Economic Policy Institute, wages have stagnating over the last 40 years (disclosure: I sit on the board of EPI). “From the end of World War II through the late 1970s, the U.S. economy generated rapid wage growth that was widely shared,” the institute reports. Since 1979 average wage growth has slowed sharply, with the biggest declines in wage growth at the bottom and the middle.

Low wages and the ensuing financial fragility are the result of eroding unions and worker power. Workers no longer have the political clout they once did. And so over the past 40 years, they have only been able to achieve weak and sporadic increases in the minimum wage. These minimal increases have not been enough to keep up with inflation. The real value of the federal minimum wage (currently at $7.25 per hour) has dropped 17% since 2009 and 31% since 1968 (adjusted for inflation). This amounts to about $6,800 less per year for a full-time worker making the federal minimum wage today than for their counterpart 50 years ago.

It’s unlikely employers using products such as Ceridian’s will be able to solve the financial fragility problems of the U.S. That problem stems from 40 years of stagnating wages and waning worker power. In other words, it’s not an issue of how often, but rather how much employers pay their workers.

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3 credit habits that you need to break

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(© Rido – stock.adobe.com)

Are you using your credit card responsibly? Or do you have a few bad habits? Take a look at three common bad habits that people have with their credit cards and the best ways to stop doing them.

Habit 1: Pushing the limits

The first bad credit habit is pushing your outstanding balance close to its limit. What’s wrong with that? The first problem is that you’re giving yourself a larger debt load to contend with every month — one that accumulates interest the longer that it sits. It could be very difficult to pay down, and it could even lead to you maxing out your card.

The second problem with this habit is that it leaves you vulnerable to emergencies. You’ve taken up the majority of your available credit, so you can’t depend on it for unexpected payments. What if you need to pay for an urgent repair and there’s not enough room on your card? What can you do?

To avoid that difficult situation, you could apply for an online loan to help you cover the emergency costs and move forward. See how you can apply for an online loan in Ohio when you have no other safety nets to fall back on. It’s important that you only turn to this solution when you’re dealing with an emergency. It’s not for everyday purchases or small budgeting mistakes.

In the meantime, you should try your best to keep your credit utilization at 30% or lower — this means that your balance should be below the halfway point of your limit.

Habit 2: Paying the minimum

You pay your credit card bills on time, but you only give the minimum payment. While this habit can stop you from racking up late fees and penalties, it can still get you into hot water if you’re not careful.

Only paying the minimum for your bill will make it very difficult for you to whittle down the balance, especially when you’re continuing to charge expenses on your card. You’re only taking $20-$25 off a growing pile.

So, what can you do? If you’re paying this amount by choice, stop it — you’re only making things harder for yourself down the line. If you’re paying this amount because you don’t have any more funds, look at your budget to see whether you can cut your monthly costs to get more savings and use them to tackle your balance.

Habit 3: Using it for every single expense

You don’t need to put every single expense on your credit card. Your morning coffee? Your afternoon snack? Putting these small, everyday expenses on your card is a habit that can make your balance climb quickly.

You also don’t want to put some very important expenses on there, like mortgage payments. For one, these payments are large and will take up a significant amount of your credit. Secondly, if you need to use a credit card to make these payments on time, you need to reinvestigate your budget to see whether you can actually afford your living space.

So, what you should you do? Use a debit card, cash or checks to pay for the items above. Only put expenses on your credit card that you’re positive you can pay off in a reasonable timeframe.

Don’t let these bad habits drag you down and get you into financial trouble. Break them now, before it’s too late.

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Free credit reports have been extended; here’s why it’s important to check yours regularly

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Checking your credit could save you from identity theft. (iStock)

Typically, you’d be able to check your credit report — at least for free — just once annually through each of the three major credit reporting agencies. But thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, credit reports are now more accessible than ever.

Credit reporting companies Equifax, Experian and TransUnion are all offering  free credit reports weekly through April 20, 2022.

The move means better insight into your financial health during what, for most, is an economically challenging time. According to experts, it might also be a time that’s ripe for at-risk personal information and identity theft, too — even more reason consumers should be checking their credit on the regular.

HOW OFTEN DOES YOUR CREDIT SCORE CHANGE?

Have you checked your annual credit lately? If not, here’s what you need to know about these free nationwide credit reports and how to get them. If you’re not sure where you fit on the credit score spectrum, you may want to start using a credit monitoring service to track changes to your credit score. Credible can get you set up with a free service today.

Free credit reports for all?

The nation’s three credit bureaus initially started offering free weekly credit reporting last year, just after the pandemic began. In early March, they announced they’d extended the offer for another year, this time through April 20, 2022.

To request your free credit reports and access copies, you can go to AnnualCreditReport.com and provide some basic information to verify your identity (things like your date of birth, Social Security Number, and address).

Once your report is ready, you should see a detailed list of all open and closed accounts in your name, your payment history, recent credit activity and more.

5 BENEFITS OF HAVING A GOOD CREDIT SCORE

Protect yourself from identity theft

There are many reasons why checking your credit activity is important, but chief among them? That’d be the prevalence of data breaches in today’s world — not to mention the risk of identity theft they come with.

“In the past, it was perfectly acceptable for people to check their credit history once a year, but now with security breaches happening on a regular basis, consumers should be monitoring their credit more closely than ever,” said Clint Lotz, president and founder of TrackStar.ai, a predictive credit technology firm.

Lotz said the Equifax breach — which exposed over 147 million Americans’ personal information in mid-July 2017 — is the perfect example of why watching your credit report is important as far as identity theft protection goes. The pandemic, he said, adds an extra layer of risk to things.

“It took them [Equifax] months before they even realized they had been hacked, and considering that they hold files on hundreds of millions of Americans, it’s fair to say that many identities were stolen by the time they caught up to it,” Lotz said. “With many of us worrying about very serious issues not related to our credit, it’s a prime time for that stolen data to be put to work by bad actors in slow, methodical ways and in the hopes that nobody notices it.”

More reasons to check your credit

Checking your credit health often isn’t just good for detecting fraud alerts and to protect your identity, though. You can also monitor your report for errors — things like inaccurately reported late payments, for example — and then dispute those with the credit bureau.

If the error gets corrected, it could improve your credit score and make a jump from bad credit to a FICO score that’s more favorable. Not sure of your credit score? Head to Credible to check your score without negatively impacting it.

WHAT IS CREDIT MONITORING, AND HOW DOES IT WORK?

You can also use your credit reports and scores to monitor your financial habits — like the timeliness of your payments or how much debt you have left to pay off. Both of these factors can play a big role in your score, as well as how likely you are to get approved for loans, credit cards and other items.

“If you’re taking out a loan, getting insurance or even applying for a new job, checking your credit will allow you to see an overview of what would be seen by others looking at your credit,” said Leslie Tayne, a debt relief attorney with the Tayne Law Group. “Staying up-to-date on your credit reports and information allows you to know exactly where you need to improve.”

Want to be sure your credit is stellar before applying for a loan or insurance policy? Consider Credible’s partner product Experian Boost, which lets you use positive payment history on utilities, streaming and other bills to improve your credit score.

Set up a monitoring service, too

Though checking your credit reports manually is smart, you should also consider signing up for a credit monitoring service. These consumer financial services check your credit information and score regularly and alert you of any changes.

IS IT WORTH PAYING FOR CREDIT MONITORING?

If you’re interested in monitoring your credit or improving your score, head to Credible and learn more about how Experian can help. You can also use Experian Boost to get credit for on-time bill payments.

Have a finance-related question, but don’t know who to ask? Email The Credible Money Expert at [email protected] and your question might be answered by Credible in our Money Expert column.

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Do Personal Loans Have Penalty APRs?

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Select’s editorial team works independently to review financial products and write articles we think our readers will find useful. We may receive a commission when you click on links for products from our affiliate partners.

When you make your credit card payment late, you’re often subject to late fees and a penalty APR, which is a temporary spike in your interest rate.

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, for instance, has a 13.99% to 23.99% variable APR, but the penalty APR is a variable 29.99% (see rates and fees). Penalty APRs usually last for at least six months, but card issuers often reserve the right to extend them — especially when you continue making late payments. A look at the terms for the Citi® Double Cash Card show us that the “penalty APR may apply indefinitely.”

Penalty APRs are certainly not a trap you want to fall into, but it’s not something you usually have to worry about if you have a personal loan. Personal loan lenders can, however, charge late fees upwards of $39 per late payment. Whether your loan charges late fees all depends on how good of a loan you qualify for, and that comes down to your credit score, borrowing history and ability to make your payments.

Personal loans also tend to charge lower interest rates than credit cards, too. The average personal loan interest rate for two-year loans is currently 9.46% according to Q1 2021 data from the Federal Reserve, compared to 15.91% for credit cards.

Typically, interest rates for personal loans range between roughly 2.49% and 24%, but personal loans for applicants with bad credit can come with even higher APR — so do your research before applying.

Other common personal loan fees include:

  1. Interest: The monthly charge you pay to borrow money
  2. Origination fee: A one-time upfront charge that your lender subtracts from your loan to pay for administration and processing costs
  3. Late fee: A one-time fee charged for each payment that you fail to make by the due date or within your grace period
  4. Early payoff penalty: A fee incurred when you pay off your balance faster than planned (because the lender misses out on months of expected interest payments)

As you can see, personal loans can be costly, even without a penalty APR. It’s obviously best to avoid paying extra fees whenever possible. That’s easier to do when you have a good to excellent credit score, since you’ll qualify for better loan options.

Select has a free tool to help match you with personal loan offers without damaging your credit score.

None of the loans on our best personal loan list charge origination fees or early payoff penalties, but some may charge late fees.

Our top picks for best personal loans

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.

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