Us treasury yield hit a incredibly low level years ago and they have continued to fall further. Granted this is mainly due to the bailout of the economy necessitated by the politicians favors to the too-big-too-fail financial institutions that have given those politicians so much cash over the years. Other factors are at play but the extent of the excessive punishment of savers is mainly due to political bailouts of bankers and bailouts of the economy caused by the bankers actions.
This extremely low rate environment is crippling to many retirees. The small percentage that actually did what they were told to have been blindsided by years of artificially low rates (and it is likely to continue for years). This has pushed some that would have been comfortable in retirement into an uncomfortable one an has pushed some from a challenging balancing act to essentially having to eliminate every possible expense (and even that may not be enough).
I can’t believe long term bonds are a sensible investment now. Of course I haven’t thought they were for 10 years, but they are even worse now. Bonds of “strong” governments (USA, Germany, Japan) are paying less than inflation (sometimes even less than 0 nominally – I think this has just been for short term issues so far).
I cannot see putting more than token amounts into long term bonds at these rates. Corporate bonds are not much better. The economic damaged caused by out of control too-big-too-fail institution is huge and continuing. And the politicians that have been paid lots of cash by those too-big-too-fail institutions continue to treat the too-big-too-fail players are favored friends. The yields are corporate bonds are not good for companies that are strong.
The alternatives are not great. But real assets, strong dividend stocks, strong company stocks, and short term bonds seem like better options to me in many cases. And hope we elect people that will put the economic interest of the country ahead of a few well paid friends at too-big-too-fail institution. They also need to eliminate the captured “regulators” that have facilitated the continued wrecking of the global economy. I don’t hold out much hope for this though. We keep re-electing those given lots of cash by the too-big-too-fail crowd and they continue giving them favors. We are getting what we deserve given this poor performance on our part but it is pretty annoying having to watch us vote ourselves into economic calamity.
Sadly, Congress refused to allow the person that should have headed to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to do so: Elizabeth Warren. If we are lucky she will be joining congress as the new senator from Massachusetts to reduce the amount of big donnor favoritism that prevails there now. That attitude will still prevail, she will just be one voice standing against the many bought and paid for politicians we keep sending back to Washington (there are a couple now, but they are vastly outnumbered).
Even with congressional attempts to stop the CFPB from being able to enforce laws against their big donnors, the CFPB has announced their first public enforcement action: an order requiring Capital One Bank to refund approximately $140 million to two million customers and pay an additional $25 million penalty. This is a good, small step that is helping creating a rule of law instead of a rule of those capturing regulators and giving lots of cash to politicians. But it is a very small step. The system is still mainly about captured regulators and giving lots of cash to politicians.
This action results from a CFPB examination that identified deceptive marketing tactics used by Capital One’s vendors to pressure or mislead consumers into paying for add-on products such as payment protection and credit monitoring when they activated their credit cards.
“Today’s action puts $140 million back in the pockets of two million Capital One customers who were pressured or misled into buying credit card products they didn’t understand, didn’t want, or in some cases, couldn’t even use,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “We are putting companies on notice that these deceptive practices are against the law and will not be tolerated.”
Consumers with low credit scores or low credit limits were offered these products by Capital One’s call-center vendors when they called to have their new credit cards activated. As part of the high-pressure tactics Capital One representatives used to sell these add-on products, consumers were:
- Misled about the benefits of the products: Consumers were sometimes led to believe that the product would improve their credit scores and help them increase the credit limit on their Capital One credit card.
- Deceived about the nature of the products: Consumers were not always told that buying the products was optional. In other cases, consumers were wrongly told they were required to purchase the product in order to receive full information about it, but that they could cancel the product if they were not satisfied. Many of these consumers later had difficulty canceling when they called to do so.
- Misinformed about cost of the products: Consumers were sometimes led to believe that they would be enrolling in a free product rather than making a purchase.
- Enrolled without their consent: Some call center vendors processed the add-on product purchases without the consumer’s consent. Consumers were then automatically billed for the product and often had trouble cancelling the product when they called to do so.
One of the less obvious costs of a poor credit rating these days is large companies see you as someone to take advantage of. They often target those with poor credit for extremely lousy deals that they wouldn’t try to sell to those with good credit. The presumption, I would imagine, is someone able to maintain a good credit rating is much less likely fall for our lousy deals.
Related: Protect Yourself from Credit Card Fraud (facilitated by financial institutions) – Anti-Market Policies from Our Talking Head and Political Class – Banks Hope they Paid Politicians Enough to Protect Billions in Excessive Fees
The Curious Cat Investing, Economics and Personal Finance Carnival is published twice each month with links to new, related, interesting content online. Also see related books and articles.
- A Nation of Public Housing by Neal Peirce – “One government agency manages 80 percent of the housing stock — all called public housing. It checks your age and whether you’re married to decide whether and when you’re eligible for an apartment.” Racial quotas are used, unmarried people can’t apply until they turn 35. Any guess on what country this is? The same country is ranked as the easiest, or close to it, country run business in the world.
- China’s end game:the dark side of a great deleveraging by Dee Woo – “The dilemma is that business entities will need more and more credit to achieve the same economic result, therefore will be more and more leveraged, less and less able to service the debt, more and more prone to insolvency and bankruptcy. It will reach a turning point when the increasing number of insolvencies and bankruptcies initiate an accelerating downward spiral for underling assets prices and drive up the non-performing loan ratio for the banks. And then the over-stretched banking system will implode. A full blown economic crisis will come in full force. The chain of reaction is clearly set in the motion now.
The biggest problem for China is the state, central enterprises and crony capitalists wield too much power over national economy, have too much monopoly power over wealth creation and income distribution, and much of the GDP growth and vested interest groups’ economic progress are made on the expanse of average consumers stuck in deteriorating relative poverty.”
- Challenges faced by middle-class L.A. families by Meg Sullivan – “Managing the volume of possessions was such a crushing problem in many homes that it actually elevated levels of stress hormones for mothers. Only 25 percent of garages could be used to store cars because they were so packed with stuff.” (read the book: Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century)
- USA Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) by John Hunter – Benefits have a maximum of $2,346/month (in 2011). The average benefit payment now is $1,111. More than 8.7 million people are received disability benefits currently (partially disabilities are not eligible for SSDI.
I do think there is merit to reducing yearly hours worked in the USA. The problem is this is all within a larger system. The USA’s broken health care system makes it extremely expensive to hire workers. One way to deal with the health care system failure is maximizing hours worked to spread out the massively expensive USA health care costs.
Also the USA standard of living is partially based on long hours (it is but one factor). We also have to work quite a few hours (about 5% of the total hours) to just bring us equal with other rich countries, in order to pay for our broken health care system.
Still reducing our purchases by cutting out some fancy coffee, a few pairs or shoes, a few cable channels (or all of them), text messages from overcharging phone companies… in order to have a couple more weeks of vacation would be a great tradeoff in my opinion. And one I have made with my career.
I have changed to part time in 2 of my full time jobs (to make my own sensible yearly hour model even if the bigger system can’t. Another time I bargained for more vacation time over more $. It isn’t easy to do though, most organizations are not willing to think and accommodate employees (hard to believe they respect people in this case, right?). The system is not setup to allow people to adjust total hours to maximize their well being.
Another option in the USA is to live within your means and then make your own sabbaticals during your career. Take a year off and travel the world, or hike the Appalachian Trail, or read trashy novels, or whatever you want.
Studies show that a 20 year old has a 30% chance of becoming disabled before reaching retirement age. In the USA, the Social Security Administration provides disability benefits for total disabilities. You still want to get your own long term disability insurance (this can cover for partial disabilities), but here is some information on the SSA disability coverage.
To qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you must first have worked in jobs covered by Social Security. Then you must have a medical condition that meets Social Security’s definition of disability. In general, they pay monthly cash benefits to people who are unable to work for a year or more because of a disability.
Benefits usually continue until you are able to work again on a regular basis. There are also a number of special rules, called “work incentives,” that provide continued benefits and health care coverage to help you make the transition back to work.
If you are receiving Social Security disability benefits when you reach full retirement age, your disability benefits automatically convert to retirement benefits, but the amount remains the same.
Generally, you need 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years ending with the year you become disabled. You earn essentially 4 credit each year you work. There are reduced requirements if you are young and haven’t had a chance to earn 10 years worth of credit. So essentially you have to have worked 10 years (and 5 years in the last 10 years) paying social security tax.
The definition of disability under Social Security is different than other programs. Social Security pays only for total disability. No benefits are payable for partial disability or for short-term disability.
“Disability” under Social Security is based on your inability to work. The Social Security Administration consider you disabled under Social Security rules if:
- You cannot do work that you did before;
- We decide that you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s); and
- Your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.
This is a strict definition of disability. Social Security program rules assume that working families have access to other resources to provide support during periods of short-term disabilities, including workers’ compensation, insurance, savings and investments.
The benefit amount is calculated based on your average annual earnings and is subject to a maximum of $2,346/month (in 2011). The average benefit payment, last month, was $1,111. Minor, dependent, children are also eligible for a small monthly payment.
In June 2012, 8.7 million people received disability benefits. Theoretically the number of recipients shouldn’t increase just because there is a recession, but they generally do increase in recessions.
There is no means testing on receiving the disability payment from the SSA. It is based on your income and disability. There are other Social Security programs (SSI, Medicare) where you must show you have very few assets before you are eligible for benefits.
Welcome to the Curious Cat Investing, Economics and Personal Finance Carnival. This carnival is different than many blog carnivals: I select posts on those topics from what I read (instead of posting those that submit to the carnival as many carnivals do). If you would like to host the carnival add a comment below.
- The U.S. Content of “Made in China” by Galina Hale and Bart Hobijn (SF Federal Reserve) – “Goods and services from China accounted for only 2.7% of U.S. personal consumption expenditures in 2010, of which less than half reflected the actual costs of Chinese imports. The rest went to U.S. businesses and workers transporting, selling, and marketing goods carrying the “Made in China” label.”
- 7 equations to build a secure retirement by Robert Powell – the equations are not complex but might scare those that don’t like math. Even without really understanding the equations the text is useful.
- Stock Market Capitalization by Country from 1990 to 2010 by John Hunter – The USA was 32.5% of the total stock market capitalization of the global stock markets in 1990. The USA grew to 46.9% as the tech, finance and housing bubbles were all underway (also Japan was stagnating and the Chinese stock market hadn’t started booming to a significant extent) in 2000. By 2010 the USA was back down to 31.4%.
- 5 stages of retirement crisis–and what to do about yours by Jim Jubak – “Certainly you weren’t planning for three-month Treasury bills to be paying you 0.08% or 10-year Treasuries 1.61%. And you’re worried by projections that say the real return on stocks going forward is going to be more like 5% (if we’re lucky) than the 7.5% real return that has been the assumption of choice recently. (That assumption replaces the 10% assumption that was the common wisdom in the years before the 2000 bear market.)