March Financial Check-In: What You Should Know About Your Money This Month
March has arrived, which means it’s time to come out of hibernation mode.
For some of us, this means rolling up our sleeves for spring cleaning. For others, it involves a mad rush to get everything in order for Tax Day.
And for yet others, it’s finally getting caught up on current events that don’t have to do with record-breaking snowfalls and subzero temperatures.
While we can’t scrub your floors or find your W-2′s, we can help you get up to speed on the latest money news. So read on for a roundup of some of the biggest financial headlines that hit while you were in your winter slumber.
Everyone’s Talking About…
Obama’s Ambitious 2016 Budget
Think it’s hard getting your personal finances in order? Try balancing the checkbook for an entire country.
Last month, Obama unveiled his $4 trillion annual budget—and, naturally, there were line items that the Republican-controlled Congress was none too happy about.
Topping the list? Proposals to raise the capital gains tax, limit corporate tax deductions, and impose more taxes on big banks—all in an effort to help reduce the tax burden for the poor and the middle class.
Congress has until October 1 to decide on the proposal, but many pundits believe the budget will never pass, saying that it’s more of a political statement to set the stage for the 2016 election.
The Mother of All Hacks
These days, bank security breaches have become all too common—but last month’s discovery that international hackers made off with up to $1 billion was truly jaw-dropping.
According to a report by Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab, more than 100 banks in 30 countries were infected with malware that enabled thieves to dispense cash from ATMs. Although most of the targets were in Russia, banks in the U.S., India, China, and the U.K. were among those infected.
It’s unclear exactly who’s behind the hacks, but it appears that they’re likely concentrated in Russia, China, and Eastern Europe—and they have an impressive success rate. One bank lost $7.3 million in ATM withdrawals.
FICO Unveils Once-Secret Mortgage Scores
Turns out the FICO score that’s reported by the three major credit bureaus isn’t the only score of yours on file.
You may actually have dozens of scores, and, until recently, would-be homeowners had no idea which one mortgage lenders were using to determine the type of loan to offer them.
Well, that all changed last month, when Fair Isaac Corp. announced that before consumers actually apply for a mortgage, they can see the specific score lenders use—although that information doesn’t come for free.
The knowledge, however, can make a huge difference for borrowers, who can now decide whether to try to improve their scores before securing financing—or shop around for better deals offered to people in their credit range.
They Said What?!
“Both the board and I believe we now have the right person to succeed me as C.E.O.—a successor ready to assume the job the day after I die or step down. In certain important respects, this person will do a better job than I am doing.”
—Berkshire Hathaway C.E.O. Warren Buffett in his annual letter to shareholders. The 84-year-old billionaire, often referred to as the “Oracle of Omaha,” was mum on who exactly that would be.
Spanning the Globe: The U.K.’s Big-Bank Controversy
London-based HSBC is under investigation after leaked documents pertaining to nearly $120 billion in assets revealed that its Swiss branch helped wealthy clients routinely evade taxes.
But the latest controversy is just one in a string of recent scandals for Europe’s largest bank—it had previously been in hot water for laundering drug money, as well as letting wealthy clients withdraw huge sums of cash, no questions asked.
Not only has the revelation damaged the banking behemoth’s reputation, but it has also drawn the ire of British actress Emma Thompson, who has stated she won’t pay taxes until those involved in the scandal are sent to prison.
Some (Financial) Food for Thought …
• According to the American Psychological Association, 64% of people say money is a source of stress for them.
• In a recent TIAA-CREF survey report, 39% of Americans say they have no idea exactly what investment options are available to them in their retirement accounts.
• Despite being buried with high student loan debt, it turns out that 56% of Millennials are saving at least 5% of their income—compared with 52% of the general population, according to the Consumer Federation of America.
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.