Current Affairs

Price of Free Trial Subscriptions

There is a price of free trial subscriptions.

Subscription services are everywhere – from streaming on our electronics to groceries at our doorsteps. They’re convenient. They give us stuff we want, usually with a free trial. Who doesn’t like free? Of course, there is a price of free trial subscriptions. Because a credit or debit card is required to sign up, Americans lose a surprising amount of money to free trials. That’s the hook.

“[It’s] convenient if you actually enjoy the service and plan on using it again in the future,” said Courtney Moore in a recent report for Fox Business. “But a number of Americans get trapped and lose money to auto-renewing subscriptions when these trials expire.”

About 46 percent of us subscribe to at least one online streaming-media service (i.e. Netflix, Hulu, Sling), according to consulting firm McKinsey & Company. About 15 percent of online shoppers subscribed to an e-commerce service in the past year, mainly subscription boxes (i.e. Ipsy, Dollar Shave Club, BarkBox); 35 percent have three or more. The monthly fee for popular subscription services is about $10 or less, which seems reasonable (by design). But that adds up over time and with multiple services. People get busy and often forget to cancel the subscriptions they no longer use. When they do remember, the process for cancellation can be cumbersome or even deceptive.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns: Some dishonest businesses make it tough to cancel, hiding the terms and conditions of their offers in teensy type, using pre-checked sign-up boxes as the default setting, and putting conditions on returns/cancellations that are so strict it could be next to impossible to stop deliveries and billing.

A recent Bankrate report found that nearly 60 percent of consumers had been charged against their wishes for a subscription service. If you’ve been wrongly charged, or if a provider refuses to cancel your subscription, report it to the FTC and file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.

 

By |2019-12-03T13:36:20-07:00December 2nd, 2019|Current Affairs, Financial Planning|

Your Digital Legacy

your digital legacyDoes anyone truly die in the 21st century? The Internet is an integral part of our lives. Online banking, social media, a digital library of movies, books and music, email, photos stored in the Cloud – we all have accounts and an Internet presence that we don’t think much about unless we are hacked. When people die, pieces of them and their digital assets remain online. Your digital legacy adds yet another layer to your estate planning.

In this new reality where online life and the physical world blur together, it’s important to think about how your digital assets and legacy will be handled when you pass away. With most websites requiring a password change every few months for security, even a written record can become obsolete and make it difficult to access investments and outstanding bills. When it comes to social media, accounts are not owned by the user and cannot be passed down in a will. Still, there are a couple steps you can take to help simplify the process.

Protect Your Digital Legacy

Learn About Social Media Options: Every social media site handles a user’s death a little differently. Facebook has a legacy option, in which you can designate someone with the power to leave a final message to friends and family, archive photos, and provide updates. Instagram’s legacy feature does not allow changes to be made, however, the account will no longer appear in public searches. Pinterest, Snapchat, Twitter and LinkedIn will delete an account if provided proof of death by a family member.

Designate a Digital Manager: As part of your estate planning documents, designate someone you trust to manage your digital estate. Maintain an up-to-date a list of important online accounts, digital libraries and electronic devices, as well as your login information for each. Also provide your digital manager with the email address associated with them, which can help him or her gain access if passwords have changed.

Written by Alicia Vallee, a Phoenix-based freelance writer.
By |2019-08-19T10:05:48-07:00August 28th, 2019|Current Affairs, Estate Planning|

Create Long-Term Investment Plan

create a long-term investment planAs sure as summers will be hot here in Arizona, the stock market will serve up a scare every six months or so. The recent global stock market slump illustrates that. Times like this are why we ask questions such as, “Why am I investing?” It’s a reminder that we need an up-to-date, written, long-term investment plan which links up with the answer. A solid plan helps us resist the urge to react to inevitable short-term moves.

Trade with China has been highlighted as a “reason” for volatility. A big concern is that China will devalue its currency, the yuan. That would reduce the price in dollars for Chinese exports to the United States, offsetting the cost of proposed tariffs. However, China says it will not continue to devalue its currency, Forbes.com reports. Pressures on China from international currency markets to avoid doing so are enormous. Respected, non-partisan economist Gary Shilling notes, if there is a trade war with China, the United States will win.

“The buyer – America – inherently has the upper hand over the seller – China,” he says.

Another dark cloud has been the drumbeat of impending recession. We hear a chorus of

“The inverted yield curve!”

A normal yield curve is sloped up: short-term bonds, lower yields (interest rate); longer-term bonds, higher yields. As of today, that has flipped. The rate on the 2-year Treasury bond is a little higher than that of the 10-year bond. That has sometimes preceded a recession; however, the bond market eventually corrects itself. The longer-term bond “looks too expensive,” the price falls, and the yield increases. The Federal Reserve, with direct influence over short-term interest rates, has pledged to react swiftly by cutting rates if needed.

Current economic statistics speak for themselves: Retail sales and consumer confidence have surged well above economists’ expectations, “more than enough to keep the economy growing,” according to Marketwatch.com. Employment numbers are the best they have ever been in some cases, and in more than 50 years in other cases.

If you’re feeling the heat, take a moment to review your investment plan. Then pour yourself an icy sweet tea and stay cool as the summer and the markets boil.

 

By |2019-08-19T09:42:52-07:00August 19th, 2019|Current Affairs, Investing|

A Healthy Tortoise

U.S. economy like a healthy tortoise, with slow and steady growth.Earlier this year, JP Morgan Asset Management’s Chief Global Strategist David Kelley likened the current U.S. economic expansion to a healthy tortoise, “slow but steady.”

The United States has experienced slow and steady economic growth through corporate profits, job growth and wage increases. This month marks the 10th year of our current expansion; it ties the record for the nation’s longest expansion on record (120 months), which happened from March 1991 to March 2001.

There are a few complications on the horizon that could threaten the health of this tortoise, however. Jon Hilsenrath, Wall Street Journal chief economics correspondent, points to “tariff-driven trade wars with China, Mexico and others that damage business, household and investor confidence” as an area of concern. He also notes that a mistake by the Federal Reserve with interest rates could hinder the economy’s growth. The “country’s ballooning budget deficit” also compromises the government’s ability to enact meaningful fiscal policy (such as reduced spending or tax cuts) to aid the economy, according to Hilsenrath.

With all that said, there are plenty of examples around the world where economic expansions have lasted much longer than 10 years (see Economic Cycle Research Institute data in the chart at right).

A Healthy Tortoise

An American tortoise can live for 80 to 100 years. Who knows how long this healthy U.S. economic cycle can carry on?

By |2019-08-14T13:59:44-07:00June 17th, 2019|Current Affairs|

Should Millennials Rent or Buy?

Should Millennials buy or rent a home?When choosing between renting or buying a home, only 37 percent of Millennials today opt for ownership, according to a report from the Urban Institute. That’s 8 percentage points lower than the two previous generations at the same age (24-35 years). Reasons range from personal preference to economic reality, or a combination. Should Millennials rent or buy a home?

Personally, I am in my mid-twenties and am still building up savings. My husband also has a highly mobile job. Settling in one place for many years is not an option right now. We currently rent our home for those reasons.

For others our age, factors include delaying marriage, large student debt and a preference for living in high-cost urban areas. According to a report at housingwire.com, the average mortgage payment for the U.S. median home in 2018 was $1,578, compared to an average monthly rent of $1,267. When faced with these costs and the reasons listed above, renting is usually the option Millennials choose.

Should Millennials rent or buy a home? Ultimately, the decision depends on one’s current financial situation and readiness to make a long-term commitment in purchasing a home.

For those who can afford a down payment and closing costs, have a stable job in their location of choice, or are ready to start a family, buying can be a sound investment. People who need flexibility, aren’t sure where they want to put down roots, or have substantial debt, renting may be a better option. Working with a financial planner can help you figure it out.

Written by Alicia Vallee, a Phoenix-based freelance writer.