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Friday Financial Five – March 11, 2016

Friday, March 11, 2016

 

More stimulus from the ECB

The European Central Bank initiated more measures in hopes of stimulating growth, delving deeper into negative interest rates. The ECB will also continue its bond buying program. However, president Mario Draghi definitely stated they wouldn’t drive rates down any lower while lowering growth forecasts. This was a clear indication that the ECB is concerned about the ability of Eurozone banks to thrive in the current interest rate environment. While markets initially cheered the prospect of more stimulus, the ECB president’s cautious statements led to largely flat domestic markets for the day.

Study focuses on driver of increased wealth inequality

Central bank influence may be linked to the increase in wealth inequality across the globe, according to a report  by the Bank for International Settlements. The thesis is that the ultra-low interest environment since the financial crisis created a situation where those who were already wealthy benefitted from a zero interest rate environment and inflated stock prices. Those with lower wealth, mostly tied to their homes, saw a significant decrease in home related equity followed by a recovery. The difference in growth between the wealthy’s stock and the less wealthy homeowner’s real estate equity resulted in an increasing gap in the wealth equation between haves and have-nots.

Reviewing credit card rewards programs

Credit cards make spending easy but to really maximize their use, consumers should capture spending data to track monthly expenses and pre-screen a card that will allow maximum cash back privileges. Nextadvisor provides one such comparative chart of cards that offer rewards, including providers such as American Express, Chase, and Discover. American Express tops the chart with the recently launch Blue Case Preferred®, where users can earn 6% cash back up to a cap at US supermarkets and unlimited 3% at select gas stations and department stores. Chase’s Freedom® and the Citi® Double Cash cards are also highly ranked.

401(k) plans are in favor

The number of people with a favorable opinion of the 401(k) plan increased again in 2015, according to the Investment Company Institute’s latest review. Almost three quarters of the households responding feel positively about the defined contribution plan. While that’s good news for the employers that offer the plans, it may also mean workers still aren’t entirely comfortable with the difference between defined contribution and defined benefit plans. That’s made it easier for companies to transition from one type of plan to the other, while substituting a less expensive match of employee contributions for the lifetime of income owed in the traditional pension structure.

Own a piece of the Yankees

A 1% ownership in the Yankees may be available, complete with limited input in any of the team’s operations. The asking price is based on a roughly $3 billion valuation, meaning a purchase price of roughly $24 million. The team is widely considered to be the most valuable sports team in the country, despite currently having a more closers than openers. Any transaction would have to be approved by the MLB and the Yankees. 

 

Dan Forbes, a CFP Board Ambassador, is a regular contributor on financial issues. He leads the firm Forbes Financial Planning, Inc in East Greenwich, RI and can be reached at [email protected]

 

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