2020 was the most interesting year that many of us have seen in our lifetimes. Coming into 2020, nobody expected global lockdowns and over 1 million deaths worldwide as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Nobody expected the world’s governments to respond the way they did. And yet, here we are, at the end of 2020, doing our best to figure out how economic trends 2021 is going to do.
One thing that 2020 has made clear is that nobody has a crystal ball. With that being said, there are trends and key people that Americans should watch closely in 2021.
Note: This is only an opinion of the author and is in no way to be construed as investing advice.
Economic Trends to Follow in 2021
Joe Biden, The Democrat-Controlled House & The Senate
As of December 2020, the Republicans are still vying for control over the Senate with only the Georgia senate race still left uncounted. However, the presidential election is over and Joe Biden is the President elect of the United States.
No matter what side of the political fence you’re on, it’s still important to watch what Biden and the House do. There are policies they could pass that could impact the economy in both the short and long terms. We will abstain from speculating, however if you watch closely and see what the Trump administration did versus what the Biden administration does, you’ll see how Biden’s election will affect the economy over the next four years.
One big area of interest is what Biden’s administration plans to do regarding China. Trump had been in a “trade war” with China, using tariffs to reduce the importation of Chinese goods into the US. Depending on what Biden does about these tariffs, we may see a change in US-China relations which could affect the economy positively.
Watch China Closely
China has been rapidly growing. China’s GDP growth rate was 6.11% in 2019, 6.75% in 2018, and 6.95% in 2017. They’re expected to see up to 8% GDP growth in 2021, according to Fitch Ratings. But GDP growth rate isn’t the only reason why we should be keeping an eye on China.
The Chinese government, led by President Xi Jinping, has made decisions that may affect its trade relationships. Its reported use of forced labor camps using Uighur Muslims as labor has caused some companies to cut ties with Chinese factories. Not only that, but China had responded to the Trump administration’s “trade war” with additional retaliatory tariffs.
Although China’s activities put it at odds with world powers, it’s unclear what (if anything) they plan to do about China in 2021. Watching China closely over the coming year will help us get an idea of the economic situation going forward. Keep reading this blog on economic trends 2021.
COVID-19 Vaccine Trials & Distribution
As of December 2020, several companies and organizations have completed trials for their COVID-19 vaccines. New York has begun its COVID-19 vaccination program in earnest, aiming to deal with the problem head on.
During 2021, more and more programs will be started to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine to people. The first ones to receive them will be healthcare workers and at-risk groups, followed by the rest of the population.
News regarding COVID-19 vaccinations should be watched closely. Some vaccines may not be as effective as others. Some countries, states, and municipalities may do a better job vaccinating their population. This could result in lopsided economic recovery.
Work From Home Might Be Here to Stay
COVID-19 changed a lot about the way we live our lives. We have quickly adapted to doing most of our shopping online, going out only when necessary, and doing both work and school from home. Our lives have been centered around the home, more so than ever before in our lifetimes.
With vaccines on the horizon, we may be able to see a “new normal” that more closely resembles the old. But there’s evidence that our working from home will be here to stay. About 56% of the US workforce holds a job that is at least partially compatible with working from home. Global Workplace Analytics expects that around 25-30% of the workforce will continue working from home for several days of the week by the end of 2021.
Some tech companies, including Microsoft and Reddit, have stopped adjusting pay to cost of living. This indicates that they may expect a large portion of their workforce to remain remote for the time being.
If you’re still trying to figure out how to make working from home work for you, check out this article we wrote earlier in 2020!
Conclusion: Keep An Eye On World Events!
2020 was an eye-opener. It showed us that it doesn’t take much for things to break down. It also showed us that even when things DO break down, we as a global society find a way to bounce back.
Information You Need To Know About The $600 Stimulus
As of this article’s publishing, millions of Americans have received their $600 stimulus check, the 2nd to be sent to Americans since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
So what is the $600 stimulus check? What is it for? Do you need to pay it back? These questions, and more, will be answered in this article.
If you have yet to receive your stimulus check, this article will tell you what you can do to make sure you get it.
Background of the December 2020 $600 Stimulus Check
In the latter days of December 2020, Congress reached a deal to provide a $900 billion COVID-19 stimulus package to individuals, businesses, and other organizations. This stimulus was part of a $1.4 trillion spending bill to outline how federal programs would be funded through September 30, 2021.
This deal was reached after Democrats fought for a $2,000 one-time stimulus payment, which was rejected by Senate Republicans.
This stimulus package includes a plan for COVID-19 vaccine distribution, unemployment aid, $525 billion in aid to small businesses, funding for schools, rent assistance, and improved broadband Internet access.
This also includes an extension to the eviction moratorium by an additional month. However, student loan forbearance is still scheduled to end at the end of January.
The $600 December 2020 stimulus check is an advance payment for the Recovery Rebate Credit, just like the first stimulus check. Learn more about the original COVID-19 stimulus check!
Who Qualifies For The $600 Stimulus Check?
Americans who earned less than $75,000 in 2019 will receive a $600 direct payment, plus $600 per dependent child in the household. Couples filing jointly who earned less than $150,000 per year will receive a $1,200 direct payment.
The benefit amount decreases by $5 for every additional $100 earned above $75,000 (or $150,000). Those who made $87,000 or more in 2019 (or couples filing jointly who made $174,000 or more) will not be eligible for the stimulus payment.
Recipients of the payment who meet the eligibility requirements will not need to pay it back.
The number of dependent children that a household can claim is not capped, so a family with 3 dependent children and 2 parents filing jointly will receive up to $3,000.
All American citizens that paid tax in 2019 are automatically eligible. If you did not pay tax in 2019 (or if you didn’t use the IRS non-filers tool for the 1st payment), you can claim the Recovery Rebate Credit when you file your 2020 return.
Resident aliens are eligible for the stimulus payment provided they meet the eligibility criteria. Also, mixed-status couples (couples where one party does not have a Social Security number) are also eligible for the stimulus payment.
I Did Not Receive My Stimulus Check: What Happened?
In early January, it was reported that millions of eligible recipients did not receive their stimulus check. The problem was found to be linked to those who have filed with TurboTax, Jackson Hewitt or H+R Block. These providers create temporary accounts for taxpayers so they can deduct their preparation fee from the client’s tax return. These temporary accounts may have received the payment.
To check if this happened to you, go to the IRS’s Get My Payment tool. If the payment has been issued but you don’t recognize the account number, then it’s likely one of those temporary accounts.
If you filed your taxes with TurboTax, H&R Block, or Jackson Hewitt, you have two options. The first is to get in contact with your tax preparer and see if you can recover the payment. The second is to file your 2020 tax return as soon as the tax package is released and claim your Recovery Rebate Credit.
As of January 12, 2021, most of the checks have either been mailed out or sent through direct deposit.
- The $600 stimulus check was issued as part of a $900 billion relief response to economic conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
- All Americans earning less than $75,000 per year are eligible for the full $600. Americans earning more than $75,000 but less than $87,000 per year are eligible for partial payment.
- You will also receive an additional $600 per dependent child claimed on your 2019 tax return.
- If you have not received your stimulus check, you may simply have to wait, contact your tax preparer, or claim the credit through the Recovery Rebate Credit on your tax return.
Options for Student Loan Repayment in 2021
Back in March, the US government announced that it would be suspending all payments on federal student loans. This moratorium on payments was extended until January 31, 2021.
Although we don’t rule out the possibility of this moratorium’s extension by the Biden administration, we wanted to teach you about your options for student loan repayment in 2021.
What Are My Options For Student Loan Repayment in 2021?
Income-based repayment is a great way to get started on paying down your student loans without making it impossible for you to afford basic living expenses. So what are income-based repayment programs, and how do they work?
With an income-driven repayment program, you only have to pay a small amount every month, less than your typical payment would be.The way they assign your payment amount is based on a percentage of your discretionary income. The US Federal Student Aid website defines discretionary income as “the difference between your annual income and 150% of the poverty guideline for your family size and state of residence”.
There are several different types of income-based repayment plans, and all of them will differ depending on your situation. To figure out which one is the best for you, you’ll want to apply for income-driven repayment by going here (directs you to the Federal Student Aid website).
Income-based repayment options may not be available for privately held student loans, such as loans issued by Sallie Mae.
For more information about income-driven repayment plans, go to the US Government Student Aid website.
Deferment and forbearance
After the moratorium ends, you may still be able to put your loans in forbearance. Forbearance is when you and the lender agree that you will stop payments on the loan for a set length of time (usually 3 months). Interest continues to accrue, but you don’t owe anything extra if your loan is in forbearance.
Deferment is a bit different, and usually you need to meet certain conditions to qualify for student loan deferment. Deferment is generally available to those who are current students, medical residents, or those who are working in professions such as teaching. In some situations, your interest may no longer accrue.
If you’re concerned about being able to make your payments in February, you may want to consider putting your loans in forbearance.
Refinancing or Consolidation
Many student borrowers find that their loan has an enormous interest rate, making it hard to afford the payments on them. Refinancing or consolidation can help you, providing low monthly payments with a fixed interest rate.
Refinancing and consolidation are similar, but they refer to different things. Refinancing is when you pay off one loan by taking a new one, often with lower payments and/or a lower interest rate. Consolidation takes multiple loans and bundles them together into one loan, often by using the new, large loan to pay off the smaller ones.
The US Government offers a Direct Consolidation Loan which you can apply for here. You can choose to consolidate your loans using a private lender instead. Depending on the interest rate you get and the payments you will have, you may decide to choose one over the other.
If you refinance or consolidate federal student loans using a private company, you may lose some of the benefits of taking out federal student loans such as subsidized interest rates and income-based repayment. We recommend saving refinancing for private student loans or federal loans with higher interest rates such as PLUS loans.
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Credit Score Hacks for 2021
It’s almost time for New Year’s Resolutions, and one of the biggest ones that people have is to get their personal finances in order. One big aspect of one’s overall financial profile is their credit score. Having a good credit score means that you’ll have access to lower interest rate loans. It’s also important for qualifying for mortgages and other large loans.
If you want to increase your credit score in 2021, we’ve got just the thing for you. In this article we will be going over some things that you can start in January to help you get a better credit score in 2021.
Although these aren’t so much “hacks” as they are “strategies”, we still feel it’s important to share these ways for you to improve your credit score in 2021.
Hacks To Improve Your Credit Score in 2021
Snowball your credit card debt
Your credit card debt is one of the biggest things holding your credit score back. If you have credit card debt, it should be the first debt that you tackle, as it’s the most impactful to your credit score and could cost you many times more than the principal in interest.
One of the best ways to see early credit score “wins” regarding your credit card debt is to snowball your debt. We wrote an entire article on snowballing debt, which we recommend that you read.
In short, to snowball your debt is to focus all your debt repayment efforts on the smallest balances in order to pay them off quickly. This does two things at once: first, it lowers your monthly debt repayment obligation as you snowball your debt (even though you’ll likely be committing the same total amount per month to your debt). Second, it reduces your overall balance which improves your credit score as you pay your debt balances down.
This strategy for reducing debt is one of the best ways to boost your credit score quickly while also taking care of a nagging debt obligation.
Remember: if you’re paying off your credit card debt, you want to keep old accounts open and available to you! There’s no need to close an old credit account; instead, keep them open and have statements sent to your email every month.
Refinance your debt
If you have debt with high interest rates, there are ways that you can refinance it. Refinancing is when you take out a new loan to pay off an old one. It’s commonly done when you can get lower interest rates to refinance a loan. It’s also done when consolidating multiple loans, which is a good way to get a handle on debt payments.
Refinancing your debt won’t increase your credit score right away: in fact, it may lower it in the short term. However, there are refinancing strategies that can help you increase your credit score this year. If you’re able to make payments whereas before you were unable to afford them, you should see your credit score slowly rise.
There are many different ways to refinance your debt obligations, including your mortgage, your student loans, and other large sources of debt.
The most important thing to remember when refinancing is to consider the long term implications. Refinancing your student loans could save you thousands of dollars over the lifetime of the loan.
Get your annual credit report & dispute items
If you don’t know what’s on your credit report, you might be an unwitting victim of fraud or clerical errors made by lenders or credit reporting agencies.
In 2020, the federal government was giving out unlimited copies of your credit report to make sure that people were able to get access to their credit history during these difficult times. You can still get one free credit report per year from each of the three bureaus from https://annualcreditreport.com. Check your credit report and see what’s on it: you might be surprised.
If you ARE surprised about anything you find on your credit report, it might be time to make some phone calls. First, you’ll want to contact the lender in question to see what they have on file in your name. This alone could clear up any mistakes. Next, you’ll want to call the credit bureau that issued your report (Experian, Equifax, TransUnion). They’ll then take you through the dispute process, which can take several weeks to resolve.
We at The Credit Pros can help you with the dispute process. Learn more about how the dispute process works!
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