February Financial Check-In: What You Should Know About Your Money This Month

February Financial Check-In: What You Should Know About Your Money This Month

Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of snowy, windy winter.

Bummer? Or a good excuse to stay toasty inside and bone up on the latest financial happenings? We vote for the latter.

So without further ado, catch up on your money know-how—from why you should be gunning for even small salary hikes to what's really going on with Greece's economy.

Everyone's Talking About ...

Are interest rate hikes hitting sooner than expected? 
"We're not raising rates yet" was the Federal Reserve's overall announcement at its meeting late last month—but the central bank did indicate that the hike could come "sooner than currently anticipated," in light of a strengthening economy.

Cue the opinions: Everyone from Warren Buffet to Mohamed El-Erian started debating the pros and cons of a rate hike for the markets.

President Obama's SOTU economic to-do list
Contending with a Republican-majority Congress didn't seem to deter the President from unveiling ambitious proposals during his State of the Union address, including raising the minimum wage, offering two free years of community college, and making the tax code simpler to ease the burden on middle-class families.

Already off his radar from said SOTU? Plans to eliminate some of the tax benefits of 529 plans. Following protests from both sides of the political aisle, the President dropped his proposal to eliminate tax-free withdrawals from the popular college-savings vehicle.

More evidence that the 1% is only getting richer
Just in time for the World Economic Forum, Oxfam reported that, by 2016, the richest 1% will control more than half of the world’s wealth. The takeaway? Unless there's more support to tackle poverty, income inequality will only get worse.

Money Luminary of the Month: Burton Malkiel

In 1973, Malkiel, a noted economist, published the first edition of his famous investing primer, "A Random Walk Down Wall Street"—much to the chagrin of, well, Wall Street.

That's because he pushed the notion that investors who held an index fund for the long haul could potentially outperform expensive fund managers who were paid to pick stocks—and with that assertion, he helped bring low-cost investing to the people.

His advice is so timeless, in fact, that he recently released the eleventh edition of his classic tome, which has sold more than 1.5 million copies worldwide to date.

At 82, Malkiel is still sought-after for his investing pearls of wisdom, which haven't changed much in over 40 years. As he recently told Bloomberg: "There isn’t anybody who can tell you what’s the best asset class for 2015. Nobody. I’ve never known anybody who can time the market. I’ve never known anybody who knows anybody who can consistently time the market."

They Said What?!

"Teams with more women outperformed teams with more men. Indeed, it appeared that it was not 'diversity' (having equal numbers of men and women) that mattered for a team’s intelligence, but simply having more women."
—Anita Woolley, Thomas W. Malone and Christopher F. Chabris, academic researchers, commenting on the characteristics that make some teams collectively smarter than others

Spanning the Globe: Greece Is the Word

Looks like the Greeks were tired of being told to cut back. Late last month the left-wing Syriza party—which opposes the austerity measures imposed on Greece by the European Union—won the country's national elections.

First on the new party's agenda? Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced controversial promises to undo some of the economic policies that the previous government adopted in exchange for an international bailout package. Instead, he promised to raise the minimum wage, rehire public workers, and get rid of a recently introduced property tax.

The problem? Tsipras' moves could mean Greece will have to leave the Eurozone if it can't pay its bills, or come up with an economic plan that pleases creditors—which could spell darker days ahead for the already embattled country.

Numbers You Should Know

• In 2014 94% of the most financially secure Americans were registered to vote, while just 54% of the least financially secure were, according to a Pew Research Center analysis.
• Credit.com has found that, over the course of a lifetime, the average American shells out $280,000 in interest payments.
• Workers who negotiate even small salary bumps every three years earn an extra $1 million over the course of their careers, compared to those who don’t, says a Salary.com survey.

LearnVest Planning Services is a registered investment adviser and subsidiary of LearnVest, Inc., that provides financial plans for its clients. Information shown is for illustrative purposes only and is not intended as investment, legal or tax planning advice. Please consult a financial adviser, attorney or tax specialist for advice specific to your financial situation. Unless specifically identified as such, the individuals interviewed or quoted in this piece are neither clients, employees nor affiliates of LearnVest Planning Services, and the views expressed are their own. LearnVest Planning Services and any third parties listed, linked to or otherwise appearing in this message are separate and unaffiliated and are not responsible for each other’s products, services or policies.

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