Updated April 10, 2023
Bill Chen, CFA
The Piggy Bank
🎓 What Happens When Student Loan Payments Restart?
Leaning on Credit
From a financial perspective, the past year has been defined by record-high inflation and general economic uncertainty. The inflation rate peaked at 9.1% last June, and still hovers near 6%. This has led to a dramatic increase in the cost of everything from groceries to gas. Subsequently, more Americans have been leaning on credit cards just to pay for necessities.
Credit card debt in the US hit a record of $930.6 billion by the end of 2022, which was up 18.5% from 2021. The average outstanding balance for a credit card is a whopping $5,805.
Now, on top of all this, the return of student loan payments is just around the corner for almost 45 million Americans.
Student Loan Payments
Student loan payments are set to resume at the end of August. But this deadline could come even sooner if the Supreme Court announces its decision on President Biden’s student loan forgiveness program earlier than expected. Payments will restart 60 days after June 30, or the SCOTUS announcement, if it comes sooner.
Depending on the verdict, just under 14% of the US population may have to redirect hundreds of dollars from their monthly budgets toward paying down these loan payments.
According to data from the New York Fed, the average student loan payment is $393 per month. A couple hundred per month might not sound calamitous, but $400 each month paid by 45 million Americans would remove approximately $18 billion from the US economy each month. This could create a material slowdown in consumption that could have ripple effects throughout the economy.
How To Prepare
If you have student loans, it’s best to start preparing your budget for the restart now. Remember, the prices of everyday goods are drastically higher now than the last time that you were required to make a payment. Unless you’ve received a hefty raise since 2020, this means that it will naturally be harder to make your payments.
President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan is still being held up in court, but waiting on the verdict likely isn’t the best plan of action. Instead, it might be best to proceed as if the Supreme Court will rule against it, and get a jump-start on preparing for repayments.
A good rule of thumb is to start making loan payments now – but rather than putting them toward a debt that could possibly be erased, funnel them into a savings account instead. That way, you’ll be able to get a feel for what your spending power will look like when they resume officially, and you’ll be financially buffered by then, too.
So, if you have a monthly payment of $400, worst case scenario, you’ll have a $1,600 head start on paying down your debt. And, best case, you’ll have that much more in savings. (Psst... If you need a little help setting extra money aside you can enable Allio's round ups to save your spare change without you having to think about it.)
The timing might not be ideal. But there is still plenty of time to set yourself up for success so that, when student loan payments do restart, you’ll be ready
🐶 How Much Does a Pet Really Cost?
Americans’ Best Friends
The pandemic was a time of unprecedented isolation for just about everybody. And one of the most quintessentially human ways to offset feelings of loneliness is with a non-human friend.
In hindsight, it’s not too surprising then that pet product sales grew at a faster rate than the overall US economy in 2020.
As of 2022, roughly 1 in 4 American households own a dog or a cat – and those homes spent a collective $137 billion taking care of them.
Breaking Down the Costs
The cost of adopting a pet varies widely depending on the breed, size, and spoilage tolerance – or, in other words, how much you plan to pamper it.
According to a study of pet owners conducted by the pet-sitting company Rover, taking care of a dog can cost anywhere from $610 to $3,555 per year. The most common recurring expenses include dog food, flea prevention, treats, toys, and checkups. But this estimation doesn’t include the initial upfront costs such as the adoption fee, microchipping, and neutering or spaying.
Meanwhile, cat people can expect to pay $325 to $1,600 for yearly expenses associated with owning a cat. Cats are slightly cheaper companions since they tend to eat less and can usually take care of themselves if you leave them alone for a day or so.
Unfortunately, like with most costs, high inflation is driving the price of pet ownership up. In fact, 4 in 10 pet owners report cutting down their own grocery bills to pay for their pets. So, with this sacrifice in mind, is the high cost of owning a pet actually worth it?
Money Well Spent
Survey says… absolutely!
82% of pet owners said that, out of everything they spend money on, taking care of their pets brings them the most happiness.
If you’re contemplating adopting a new pet don’t think of it as adding another monthly expense to your budget. Instead, think of it as a fruitful investment – in both your pet’s happiness and yours.
Gen Z’s Already Over the Workplace
Gen Z, or those born from 1997 to 2012, just began entering the workforce a few years ago. But recent data shows they’re already feeling disenchanted with their jobs.
From 2019 to 2022, the percentage of people under 35 who reported feeling engaged with their job dropped to 33%. This marks the lowest reading since 2011.
The most obvious culprit for this generational pessimism is the pandemic. For the majority of their budding careers, Gen Z’s work experience has been unlike previous generations’, revolving around remote tools like Zoom, Slack, and Google Workplace. But even with the pandemic all but over, it doesn’t look like things are trending up.
It’s the Little Things
For Gen Z workers, there isn’t one main issue with the modern workplace. Instead, it’s a lot of little issues.
For example, thanks to remote culture, younger workers tend to feel their opinions at work don’t really matter. They also don’t receive the hands-on guidance from managers that other generations received. This can be another factor contributing to the feeling that their development is not prioritized.
On top of that, the workplace is usually one of the top sources for younger workers’ social lives. But, if you work remotely for a company whose employees are scattered around the country, it’s far harder to form real friendships with your coworkers.
What To Do?
If this sounds like just a Gen Z problem, upper management should think again. Low employee engagement almost always results in higher employee turnover and lower profit. In total, low engagement costs the global economy an estimated $7.8 trillion per year in lost productivity.
Interestingly, companies that have tried to enforce strict “back to the office” policies post-pandemic received widespread backlash. This implies that simply reopening the office and pretending things are back to normal won’t be enough.
Instead, upper managers should consider going above and beyond to improve the workplace experience. This includes perks like 1-on-1 management, reorganized workspaces, and giving younger employees a more meaningful say in the company.
The companies already doing so have found the old adage rings true: happy employee, happy employer.
46% of Americans reported that they don’t take their full number of days off. This likely has to do with concerns of being replaced or falling behind their coworkers
On average, it will cost $611 to attend a wedding this year. A few of the average costs for wedding-goers include $287 on traveling and hotels, $180 on gifts, and $144 on attire.
Bitcoin’s price movements have been less correlated with the value of the S&P 500 since the start of 2023. This break is mainly the result of investors rediscovering Bitcoin’s potential as an alternative banking system.
Fewer sellers are entering the housing market, even as interest rates dip slightly and inventory remains scarce. In March, new listings were down 20% year-over-year and nearly 30% below pre-pandemic levels.
The smallest expenses tend to add up the fastest. A few examples of where to watch your spending include daily lunches, banking fees, and free trials that automatically swipe your card when they end.
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