You May Have Always Known Women Are Good With Money , Now Research Confirms It

A growing number of women are increasing their investing prowess and financial education, research shows. The ladies are stepping it up. I love this kind of news.

I admit I am a sucker for a study that shines the light on women and money in a positive way. And the key findings from Fidelity Investments “2021 Women and Investing Study” do just that.

I know, I just did this happy dance with the MIT “Freak Out” report, but more to enjoy here.

The bold headline: two-thirds (67%) of women are now investing savings they have outside of retirement accounts and emergency funds in the stock market, which represents a 50% increase from 2018, according to the research. What’s more, 52% are planning to create a financial plan to help them reach their goals within the next year.

This is noteworthy since women typically get the bad rap of being nervous and cautious investors, who probably would find investing in stocks uncomfortable. Women are also notorious for saying financial planning is boring, or they aren’t good with numbers. Neither which is true, but an excuse for not understanding investing terminology perhaps and being intimidated by the seemingly macho world of Wall Street.

Where are they putting those extra savings funds besides individual stocks and bonds? The study found that women also socked money away in mutual funds and ETFs (63%) and money-market funds or CDs (50%): ESG/sustainable investments (24%) and get this: 23% in cryptocurrencies. I had to look at that last statistic twice, but that’s what the report says.

The age brackets by generation for those investing outside of retirement account–a whopping 71% of female millennials—ages 25 to 40; 67% of Generation X—ages 41 to 56 and 62% of boomer women ages 57 to 75. All good numbers.

But as anyone who has been reading my column knows, this is the nugget that made a smile spread across my face: When women do invest, they see results: new scrutiny of more than 5 million Fidelity customers over the last 10 years finds that, on average, women outperformed their male counterparts by 40 basis points, or 0.4%. That’s not a heap mind you, but a win is a win.

I’ll take it.

“Over the last few years, we were already seeing an increasing number of women investing outside of retirement to grow their savings, but the pandemic really lit a fire under that momentum,” Kathleen Murphy, president of Personal Investing at Fidelity Investments, told me.

“It’s driven many to reflect and re-prioritize what’s most important and focus on making greater progress toward those goals. We’re seeing that motivation in the record numbers of women reaching out for financial planning help and opening new brokerage accounts, as well as advisory accounts.”

The data was drawn from a nationwide survey of 2,400 American adults (1,200 women and 1,200 men). All respondents were 21 years of age or older, had a personal income of at least $50,000 and were actively contributing to a workplace retirement savings plan, like a 401(k) or 403b. This survey was conducted in July 2021 by CMI Research, an independent research firm.

The overall findings are certainly promising.

Yet when you get into the weeds you find that only a third of women canvassed see themselves as investors, according to the study. Only 42% feel confident in their ability to save for retirement and a mere 33% say they feel confident in their ability to make investment decisions.

Most women (64%) say they would like to be “more active in their financial life, including making investing decisions,” but 70% believe they would have to learn about “picking individual stocks” to get started.

I like that awareness of the need to get educated. (One of my favorite authors for this topic is Jonathan Clements, the founder and editor of HumbleDollar and the author of many personal finance books, including From Here to Financial Happiness and How to Think About Money.)

As Fidelity’s Murphy mentioned: Half of the women say they are more interested in investing than they were at the start of the pandemic and want to learn more — not just about how to start investing — but how to evaluate and select different types of investments to align with specific goals, and how to manage an existing portfolio to ensure they are on track.

These findings are in step with what Catherine Collinson, chief executive and president of the nonprofit Transamerica Institute and Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies told me when I interviewed her for this column: What’s Behind the Surprising Gender Split for Boomers’ Retirement Saving?

Her firm also found that “early indicators are that the pandemic has prompted both men and women to engage in their finances and pore over their financial situation to a degree that they may not have previously.”

Finally, here’s the nagging fear many of us (me too) can relate to: 32% of women say not earning enough money keeps them up at night, according to the research. For 37%, it’s managing debt that’s their night sweat. And more than half of women say it’s worries about long-term finances that has them tossing and turning.

Age is an indicator of whether money woes keep us up at night, but not the way you might expect, or at least what I did. Overall, it’s the millennial women who are the most troubled when the light goes out: 77% say finances have kept them up at night as compared to 73% of Generation X and 59% of boomers.

Here’s to sweeter dreams ahead.

By: Kerry Hannon

Kerry Hannon is a leading expert and strategist on work and jobs, entrepreneurship, personal finance and retirement. Kerry is the author of more than a dozen books, including “Never Too Old to Get Rich,” “Great Jobs for Everyone 50+,” and “Great Pajama Jobs: Your Complete Guide to Working From Home.” Follow her on Twitter @kerryhannon.

Source: You may have always known women are good with money — now research confirms it – MarketWatch

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When The Pandemic Forced Young Adults To Move Back Home, They Got a Financial Education

“When we face a stressor, we tend to think more about the future,” says Brad Koontz, a financial psychologist and professor at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. Young adults’ growing openness to discuss finances with their parents and peers, they say, reflects a kind of tribal response among people to the stress of the pandemic.

Here’s a look at what the adult children and parents of three families learned about money — and themselves — in their time of pandemic together. When the pandemic forced 23-year-old Hannah Froling to move into her parents’ townhouse in Southampton, NY in March 2020 to remotely finish her final semester of college, the financial clock began to tick.

Ms Frohling’s parents, Jennifer Schlueter and Matthew Froehling, set to move to their winter home in Florida during the fall of 2020, told her they would need to begin helping support the household in their absence. That means monthly payments of $500 for rent and $250 for family car use. They also set a deadline for Memorial Day 2022 for her to be out of the house. Ms Schlueter says she wanted to provide her daughter with a “soft landing” after the shocking experience of graduating in the middle of a pandemic. But she also wanted Ms Froling to transition to living independently, so the transfer deadline passed.

So, Ms. Froling got two waitress jobs and eventually began to rely on the savings lessons her parents took as they grew up. She has two income streams—cash tips and a regular paycheck that includes her hourly rate and credit card tips. She keeps the cash tips in a savings account and splits the paycheck between a checking account and an investment account linked to an S&P 500 index fund. She has saved about $10,000 since moving back home and started looking for apartments to rent on Long Island.

Saving and managing money doesn’t always come easily to Ms. Froling. While in college, he received an allowance from his parents at the beginning of each semester. “As a freshman, I’ll blow it in the first two months,” she says. So her parents, who both work in finance, seated her and helped her budget by outlining the necessities and luxuries in her spending habits.

But it’s been the past 18 months at home, and the closeness to her parents, which has allowed Ms Froling to be more proactive about her savings and investments, and to put all those lessons into practice. She says many of her money talks happen on family road trips. Her father helps her stay on top of the latest trends in investing and her mother shares strategies for how Ms. Froling can increase her savings and continue to build a foundation for moving out of the family home. Ms. Froling is taking it further by sharing these tips with her coworkers and encouraging some of them to open their own investment accounts.

“The lesson we want to teach her is that she can do this,” says Ms Schlueter, referencing the financial wisdom she is sharing with her daughter rather than just talking to her from being together during the pandemic. got the opportunity to do. via phone or text. That includes discussing expenses such as health and car insurance after Ms. Froling leaves home again.

Ms Froling says, while she often feels like her parents bother her about how much she’s saving, in the end she knows it’s best: “They don’t want me when I If I get out of here, it will fall flat on my face.”

breaking the money taboo

In November 2020, 27-year-old Rogelio Meza left his $1,500-a-month apartment in Austin, Texas, to move into his parents’ home in Laredo.

The move helped him work towards his goal of saving money and becoming a homeowner, says Mr. Meja, who works as a customer-experience manager for a solar-power company. It also allowed him to help his parents, who were battling the financial stress of the pandemic.

When the pandemic struck, her mother, Eudoxia Meja, who works as a cook, noticed that her hours had been cut in half. His father Juan Meja is handicapped and unable to work. Since living with his parents, little Mr. Majora has helped with grocery and utility bills, paying about $700 a month, which still allows him to take out money for a home down-payment. Is.

When he was growing up, Mr. Meja says, his family never talked about money. “Nobody really taught me how to save, nobody taught me about stock options or investment accounts, good versus bad debt.” He relied on friends who worked in finance to teach him about these things, and the conversation helped him understand where his money was going. Now, he says, he has passed on some of this knowledge to his parents.

One day, when an unusually large and overdue utility bill arrived in the mail, Mr. Majora turned it into an opportunity to start sharing his financial wisdom with his family.

“I was like, ‘Okay, let’s talk about it,’” he says, describing what led to several candid conversations about money with his parents. Indeed, after that initial exchange, he basically became the family financial advisor. Mr. Meja helped his parents calculate how much they were spending on groceries and how much they actually needed each month. He also discovered that he had $3,000 in credit-card debt and advised him to use his stimulus money to aggressively pay it off. Using a combination of direct payments from their mother’s wages, incentives and unemployment benefits, they were able to pay off their utility bills and credit-card debt in just a few weeks.

Thereafter, Mr. Meja set up a savings account for her mother and advised her to put forward 20% of her salary into the account. He also plans to help his parents open an investment account and teach them how to grow their money over time. He says being able to pay off his debt gave his parents a new starting point.

Mr. Meja has learned a few things during his stint at home as well. He says that the time he spent with his parents opened his eyes to how little he needed to be happy. For example, before reuniting with his mother and father, he often ordered takeout for lunch and dinner. But the home-cooked food he eats at home, he says, especially his mother’s enchiladas has inspired him to start cooking for himself.

As far as his parents are concerned, they say that talking about money is no longer a taboo in their family, and they will continue to seek financial advice from their son. He plans to move back to Austin in November and complete the purchase of an apartment in the city at that time.

a new perspective

Edgar Mendoza was living the high life in Chicago. The 41-year-old was paying about $3,000 a month for a downtown apartment. He often dined out and had courtside seats at basketball games.

But when the lockdown began, he began to re-evaluate his habits, limiting his activities and his spending. “What Covid taught me is no, I don’t need all that,” says Mr. Mendoza, who deals in sales and invests in startups. In January, he packed his belongings and moved to McAllister, Mont., to be with his mother and stepfather. And he doesn’t plan to leave anytime soon.

Living in Montana with his family, Mr. Mendoza says, he has reinforced the frugal lifestyle he grew up with. When he was young, he says, his mother, Maria Platt, used to tell him to “watch his money.” Now, he saves his money and invests it in places where it can grow.

Ms Platt says she is proud of the progress she has seen in her son and how she has embraced the lessons she has taught him. The family cooks together and they rarely eat out. Mr Mendoza says he is not being asked to pay the rent, but he buys all the groceries.

“He’s changed a lot,” Ms Pratt says of her son. “He used to spend money like crazy. I would talk to him and he’s like, ‘Mom, you’re right about this and you’re right about that.’ Now, in his view, he is motivated to support the family in the long run, and this has prompted him to refocus on his spending habits.

Mr. Mendoza says seeing his mother come home exhausted from work and budgeting his Social Security benefits has made him see his financial future in a new light. It has forced him to think more realistically about what retirement can be like. “When you see that you love someone… it hits you really hard,” he says. “I don’t want it to be me.”

Ms Pratt says her son still has to work on his financial habits. They sometimes forget to buy their groceries and eat food already in the family’s fridge, she says. She would also like to watch him learn to cook.

“I told him that if you make good money, save it,” she says. “I’m not going to live forever…….

By: Taylor Nakagawa

Taylor Nakagawa hails from Chicago, Illinois and earned a master’s degree from the Missouri School of Journalism in 2017. As part of the Audience Voice team, Taylor is focused on experimenting with new story formats to create a healthy environment for community engagement.

Source: When the Pandemic Forced Young Adults to Move Back Home, They Got a Financial Education – WSJ

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The Hottest Perk of the Pandemic? Financial Wellness Tools

In the midst of the Great Resignation, with employers scrambling for ways to hang on to experienced staff, financial wellness programs might be an attractive addition to the benefits bag.

That was a key finding from PwC’s annual Employee Financial Wellness Survey, which was conducted in January 2021 and released in April. Among those polled, 72 percent of workers who reported facing increased financial setbacks during the pandemic said they would be more attracted to another company that cared more about financial well-being than their current employer. About 57 percent of workers who hadn’t yet faced increased financial stress said the same thing.

Financial stress doesn’t just affect worker retention; it also has an impact on productivity. PwC’s survey showed that 45 percent of workers experiencing financial setbacks have been distracted at work by their money problems. The menu of financial wellness tools employers might elect include educational tools for personal finances, one-on-one financial coaching, and even access to rainy day funds.

It’s a growing business sector, too. HoneyBee, a B2B financial wellness startup, recently closed a round of funding with $5.7 million in equity, TechCrunch reported. The financial technology company grew 225 percent during the pandemic and saw a 175 percent increase in usage for its on-demand financial therapy tools. Origin also recently announced that it raised $56 million in its Series B funding round, which it will use for customer expansion, as it saw increased demand for financial planning services during the pandemic, Business Wire notes.

Although one in five workers waits until they experience a financial setback to seek guidance, when they are offered continual support, employees are more likely to be proactive with their finances. According to the PwC survey, 88 percent of workers who are provided financial wellness services by their employers take advantage of them.

By Rebecca Deczynski, Staff reporter, Inc.@rebecca_decz

Source: The Hottest Perk of the Pandemic? Financial Wellness Tools | Inc.com

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Critics:

Making money is definitely the cornerstone of financial wellness and increasing your income can help you obtain your goals. You do not need to be a millionaire, but it’s important to obtain some level of income stability. Being financially well starts with having a reliable income and knowing at a consistent time, you will expect to be paid a certain amount. Steady and reliable income is one of the cornerstones of financial wellness.

Even if you don’t like budgeting or planning, it’s good to set goals for yourself. You are more likely to stick with it when you have goals to reach and can see progress. By creating a plan, you are visualizing the what, why, and how you will get there. If you don’t already have a household budget, grab your most recent bank statement and look at the total amount of money you have coming into your household each month. Then, factor in fixed, required expenses – things like rent or mortgage payments, utilities, insurance, and more.

f you do not have an emergency fund, now is the time to start building it. The goal of an emergency fund is to have available funds for when you are dealing with unemployment or you have an unforeseen cost. You won’t stress about the money because you have a nice cash reserve that you can access quickly. Finance experts often say that you should have at least three to six months’ worth of expenses in your emergency fund. If you have nothing in savings, putting away just $25, $50, or $100 a month is an amazing start. Ultimately, it’s what you feel comfortable with. You can also consider putting it in a high savings investment such as CIT Bank’s Savings Builder, which helps put your savings to work with very little risk.

Once you get a handle on your finances, you can start to map out life events and large purchases, so you can begin saving! Planning ahead is always helpful, and once you get a handle on your current financial plan, set some goals for what comes next. By building a plan, you have a road map to help guide you through the rest of your story. Putting even a small amount into savings on a consistent basis is one of the best ways to get your savings to grow so you can meet your goals, small or large. Set your own personal savings rule to live by and make a plan on how to achieve it. Prepare for life events and large purchases by planning ahead.

Your credit score is another critical part of your financial health. Things like late payments, too much debt or high balances negatively affect your credit score. Keep watch over your credit report and credit score with a free credit report from places like Credit Karma. A higher credit score tells banks and lenders that you’re a reliable and less risky borrower. 

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How Financially Literate Are You? 3 Things You Should Know About Your Money

Most of us received little guidance or instruction on how to handle money when we were growing up. That’s OK — we can learn now, a little bit at a time. Let’s start with the basics.

How do most of us learn how to use our money wisely and well? When we’re growing up, we’re given special instruction in important subjects — swimming, driving, sex — to arm us with info and keep us from harm.

Yet when it comes to managing our money — an activity that every one of us needs to do, every day — we receive surprisingly little preparation. We’re not taught much about it in school, because education systems leave it to us to learn from our families and friends. However, those people often don’t fill in the gaps because money can be such a loaded or taboo topic.

Natalie Torres-Haddad, who grew up in southern California, saw many people around her struggling with debt and financial instability. She was determined to be the exception, and she purchased her first rental property in her early 20s and earned an MPA in Finance & International Business. In the process, however, she became buried in debt. Only by teaching herself the basics of money — basics that she’d never learned — was she able to steady herself and her finances.

Today she leads workshops and sessions to prevent others from falling into the money pit. (She’s also the author of the self-published Financially Savvy in 20 Minutes ). She’s found that even among the college-educated people she meets, “the majority feel confused and overwhelmed about balancing their income and expenses,” she says. The stats show they’re not alone. A 2015 Ohio State University study reported nearly 70 percent of college graduates in the US say they don’t feel equipped to manage money and deal with their debt.

Not only must we get up to speed on the basics, we also need to start having honest conversations with each other about money, says Torres-Haddad. In the same way we’d tell family and friends that we’re cutting out refined sugar from our diets or practicing yoga to increase our flexibility, we should be open with them about the steps we’re taking to boost our financial health. That way, we can get advice and support. This transparency, she adds, can also make us less susceptible to peer pressure-related spending. How many of us have agreed to a pricey meal or weekend trip because we didn’t want to come clean about our money concerns?

Becoming financially literate does not require a huge time investment. Torres-Haddad believes we can start by dedicating 15 – 20 minutes a day to developing our skills and knowledge by learning new terms and resources. Just like attaining literacy in a foreign language, she says, “it’s an ongoing education.” Here are three things you need to know about your money.

1. Know How Much Money You’re Bringing in Every Month vs. How Much You’re Spending

Most of us can rattle off our salaries in our sleep, but could you do the same for your monthly after-tax income and where you’re spending your money every month? If you can’t, that’s normal. But now is the time to learn your actual take-home pay and your actual expenses (and not just ballpark figures or estimates).

For your income, look at your physical or online pay stubs, and start keeping a record of the after-tax amounts. If you’re a salaried employee, that number should be fairly steady; if you’re not, those numbers will vary.

For your monthly expenses, Torres-Haddad suggests writing down — whether it’s in a physical or online notebook — every single daily purchase (coffee, take-out, Uber, online shopping, etc) you make and every single ongoing payment you make through autopay or credit cards (Netflix, gym membership, car insurance, utilities, etc.).

If you’ve never done this before, you may find this uncomfortable — even painful — but it will force you to face up to your spending habits. It will also make these purchases visible. Often, our regular outlays (such as Netflix, Hulu, etc.) can go unnoticed or unquestioned, and our daily spends — especially if we pay by debit card so the funds are instantly drawn from our bank accounts — can go forgotten. Torres-Haddad calls the latter “runaway spending” — “when the little things that you thought cost only a few dollars actually cost much more” in the long run. Take a daily $5 green smoothie. By making them at home, you could save yourself a few hundred dollars in a month.

After you have a fundamental understanding of income and expenses, you can download an app to help you track these categories; see your bank account, credit-card and loan balances; and organize your purchases into buckets so you can identify areas where you might cut back. Two free apps to try are Mint or Charlie, says Torres-Haddad. But, she cautions, apps can be a little “out of sight, out of mind,” meaning if you need extra help to be aware of your spending, stick with the pen-and-pad (or fingers-and-keyboard) method a while longer.

2. Know Your FICO Score and Your Other Credit Scores

While you don’t need to have a good credit score to be financially literate, you must know what it is. ( Note: Most of the information in this section applies to people living in the US.) In the US, FICO was the first company to offer a three-digit credit-risk score for lenders to use when deciding whether or not to approve a loan or line of credit, a credit limit, and an interest rate. There are three other national credit reporting bureaus — Experian, Equifax and Transunion — which also keep track of all your loans (student, auto, personal, etc.) and your balances and histories for all your credit cards (whether issued by banks, stores or businesses).

However, the FICO score is the one most frequently used when you apply for credit cards, mortgages and most types of loans; rent an apartment; or sign up for utilities. FICO scores range from 300 to 850; 670 and up is seen as a good score and 800 and up is excellent. While the FICO score is calculated with a proprietary algorithm, the primary factors that go into it are your repayment history (do you pay your credit-card bills on time? how late are you?), how much debt you’re carrying on cards and loans, how long you’ve successfully held a credit card or loan for; and whether you’ve managed to hold a mix of different kinds of credit.

Most banks and credit cards offer free access to your FICO score on their mobile apps and websites ( here’s a list of the ones that do). If you don’t use one of these companies, you can also find out how to access your score on FICO’s helpful FAQ, including a chart showing where your score falls between “Poor” and “Exceptional.”

Besides checking your FICO score every year, do an annual check of the reports issued by Experian, Equifax and Transunion. This is so you can verify that they’re correct, make sure no one has opened up a line of credit in your name, and see where you might improve. You are entitled to a free copy of a credit report from each bureau once a year. Beware: Many sites will charge you a fee, so use the federally approved and secure Annual Credit Report site.

If it’s your first time checking or you’re about to make a big purchase (such as a car or a home), Torres-Haddad suggests getting all three reports at once. After that, she recommends spacing them out throughout the year. That way, you can quickly catch any errors, fraud, identity theft or any other actions that could hurt your credit history. Mark your calendar so you know when you can request your next free credit report.

3. Know How Much Credit Card Debt You’re Carrying

Knowing how much credit-card debt you’re carrying — and how quickly it’s increasing due to interest — is critical to your financial literacy. Make a list (on paper or on a computer) of each of your credit cards, their current balances, and their current interest rate. Then, put them in order from highest interest rate to lowest.

In general, says Torres-Haddad, this should be how you should prioritize paying them off, paying as much as you can towards the card with the highest interest rate while paying the minimum on the other cards. Called the “ debt-snowball method,” this was popularized by money expert Dave Ramsey.

If you have any cards that offered a 0% APR as a promotion when you signed up, mark down the date on which the promotional rate expires because that’s when you can expect your debt to accumulate at a high interest rate (20% or more). Try to budget your monthly payments so that this card will have little to no balance when that expiration date arrives.

Believe it or not, having a credit card can be a great thing for a person’s FICO and credit scores — if you use it responsibly. Of course, carrying no debt on your cards is best. Otherwise, Torres-Haddad recommends using no more than 30 percent of your available credit limit. So if you have two credit cards with limits of $6K apiece, totalling $12K in available credit, make sure the total balances you’re carrying do not exceed $4K.

If you’ve managed to pay off a credit card, congratulations. But while you may be tempted to close it, Torres-Haddad advises against it. Why? Closing the account will shrink your total amount of available credit and cause your credit score to dip. Instead, delete the card number from any online shopping accounts, cancel any auto-pays billed to it, and freeze the card in ice. It may sound silly but it means that if you want to use it, you’ll be forced to wait for it to defrost — and forced to take a little time to think about your purchase.

When choosing a new credit card, look for ones that offer incentives — such as travel points or cash back — which could help you and your finances. Torres-Haddad recommends going to nerdwallet.com and bankrate.com to compare credit card offers.

Obviously, these three points represent just a small part of financial literacy. That’s why Torres-Haddad urges people to be patient and to learn gradually. Two books she recommends are Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich!  and Robert T. Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad. For those who like to get information through listening, she suggests the “Popcorn Finance” and “Her Dinero Matters” podcasts.

When you can, supplement your research with an in-person workshop, adds Torres-Haddad. “Even going to one financial literacy workshop can have a life-changing effect,” she says. A good time to find free workshops is April, which is Financial Literacy Month in the US. One of the best investments you can make in your life is to educate yourself about money, says Torres-Haddad. “It can really give you a lot of peace of mind.”

By: Erin McReynolds

Source: How Financially Literate Are You? 3 Things You Should Know About Your Money

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The IRS Goes Undercover As A Bitcoin Trader In $180,000 Sting

On the hunt for tax cheats, fraudsters, money launderers and dark web drug dealers, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has sent an undercover agent to work on a market for trading bitcoin, ether and other cryptocurrency.

In a search warrant reviewed by Forbes, the undercover IRS agent went by the name of “Mr. Coins” on LocalCryptos.com, a platform exchanging cryptocurrency for dollars and other fiat currencies. Mr. Coins’ profile, still live at the time of publication, had 100% positive feedback after shifting up to $200,000 in digital money.

But his biggest success may have been to take down an alleged dark web drug dealer, tricking him into sending more than $180,000 in cash to the IRS in exchange for cryptocurrencies, according to the warrant.

In June of last year, Mr. Coins put up an advertisement offering to buy bitcoin via cash by mail and above market prices. All sellers had to do was get in touch over encrypted messaging apps Wickr or WhatsApp.

Shortly afterward, a person going by the name “Lucifallen21” got in touch to inquire about the ad, according to the search warrant. The IRS, without saying how, determined that Lucifallen21 was actually Evansville, Indiana, resident Chase Hite. By July, he’d agreed to buy from Mr. Coins, wrapping up $15,040 in cash in clothes, putting the money in a box and posting it to the agent in exchange for approximately 1.59 bitcoin, according to the government’s account.

More payments came in, with nearly $20,000 posted in August, in exchange for approximately 1.34 bitcoin and 45.2 monero, another cryptocurrency that promises better privacy protections than its rivals, the government said, adding that nearly $65,000 was sent to the agent over following months.

Come March this year, investigators were getting ready to home in on the conclusion to the sting operation. A $28,000 cash package from Hite was intercepted and marked as lost by the Postal Service, according to the IRS, which then monitored calls to the post office, waiting for the suspect to call and complain. Investigators linked this call with a phone number that was paid for by Hite.

Further messages over Wickr indicated Hite was involved in dark web drug sales, claiming to sell “pills and opioids,” as well as cocaine and marijuana, the IRS claimed. As they deepened their relationship, the undercover officer agreed to provide Hite with a loan, by which the suspect would send $54,000 in cash and get $79,000 worth of cryptocurrency in return, according to the search warrant. When that last package arrived, forensics took fingerprints and linked them to Hite, the government added.

Hite was arrested in July and has not yet filed a plea. The charges were filed in the Eastern District of New York. His lawyer declined to comment. LocalCryptos hadn’t responded to requests for comment. The IRS declined to provide more information than what had been filed in court.

The tax collecting agency has a track record of going undercover to snare cryptocurrency-using criminals. Earlier this year, it was revealed that the agency had organized a payment to a service called Bitcoin Fog, which offered to launder money.

The agents said they wanted to launder cryptocurrency they’d earned by selling Ecstasy, according to a criminal complaint, first reported by Wired, in which a Russian-Swedish administrator was charged. And in March, the IRS pretended to be a seller of counterfeit Gucci products sourced from China, asking the defendant in that case to convert bitcoin that they claimed to have acquired in selling the merchandise.

But this latest sting is a rare case where the IRS set up a profile on a cryptocurrency trading platform and created what amounts to a watering hole, with agents just waiting for criminals to dive in.

This story is part of The Wire IRL feature in my newsletter, The Wiretap. Out every Monday, it’s a mix of strange true crime and real-world surveillance, with all the relevant search warrants and court documents for you to pore over. There’s also all the cybersecurity and privacy news you need to read. Sign up here.

Follow me on Twitter. Check out my website. Send me a secure tip.

I’m associate editor for Forbes, covering security, surveillance and privacy. I’m also the editor of The Wiretap newsletter, which has exclusive stories on real-world

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Cryptocurrencies Are Coming Back From the Brink. Here’s Why

After months languishing in the doldrums, cryptocurrencies are surging. On Monday, Bitcoin breached the $50,000 mark for the first time since May. Other coins — including Ethereum, Cardano’s ADA and Dogecoin — also edged higher.

And it was only a few weeks ago that some strategists were eyeing a possible drop to $20,000 for Bitcoin, months after it had hit an all-time high near $65,000 in April.

Instead, sentiment is rising across the board. Crypto’s latest swings are a sign that Bitcoin miners are back in business after a recent Chinese crackdown. At the same time, there is continued evidence of more mainstream acceptance. All of this is happening as the delta variant’s surge has muddied the timeline for a normalization of interest rate policy.

“There’s been an accelerating background of accumulation of crypto assets in the past couple months,” Jonathan Cheesman, head of over-the-counter and institutional sales at crypto derivatives exchange FTX, wrote in an email Monday. “Institutional flows in Bitcoin and Ether as well as a lot of retail activity in NFTs and gaming” are likely contributing, he added.

Here is a look at what is driving the increase — and what could come next:

A Shift in Sentiment

The cryptocurrency world is populated by a cast of characters whose voices can really influence prices. Lately, bullish noises have been boosting sentiment.

Take Elon Musk. Earlier this year, the billionaire caused heads to spin — and helped prices to boost and then plummet — when he said in March that Tesla Inc. would accept payment for its electric vehicles in Bitcoin but backtracked in May. He made his reversal on environmental grounds, expressing concern about the use of fossil fuels for cryptocurrency mining. Following those comments, Bitcoin lost about a quarter of its value in a week.

But here’s the latest twist: Over the past few weeks, Musk has been striking a more supportive tone. In late July he said he personally owns Bitcoin, Ethereum and Dogecoin and would like to see crypto succeed.

Superstar investment manager Cathie Wood is another influential voice in this space. A noted crypto bull, she told Bloomberg TV in May that she could see Bitcoin reaching a price of $500,000. More recently, she said she thinks corporations should consider adding Bitcoin to their balance sheets.

Hash Rate Signals

About a month ago, all the talk in the cryptocurrency world was of a Chinese crackdown. A ban on Bitcoin mining meant the abrupt shuttering of millions of computers that had been processing the transactions necessary to keep the crypto currency humming. Before the ban, around 65% of the world’s Bitcoin mining took place in China.

As computers went offline, the hash rate — a measure of the computing power used in mining and processing — halved in just two and half weeks.

As well as the practical implications, the aggressive moves by China laid bare the fact that the decentralized currency is still at the mercy of governments, which hit sentiment. Bobby Lee, one of the country’s first Bitcoin moguls, even said that China’s crackdown on cryptocurrencies will probably intensify and may even lead to an outright ban on holding the tokens. And in the U.S., a recent congressional debate over crypto rules added to the uncertainty.

However, the hash rate has rebounded and is up from its July nadir, according to data from Blockchain.com.

That recovery has helped restore confidence in the market that cryptocurrencies can flourish even in the face of opposition from legislators around the world.

Keep Your Eye on Jackson Hole

Prices of cryptocurrencies, like gold, tend to suffer when there is the prospect of interest rate hikes. The emergence of Covid’s delta variant may scramble plans to remove crisis-level monetary policy.

If Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell were to strike a dovish note in his speech at the Jackson Hole conference this Friday, that could boost the currency, Oanda analyst Edward Moya said in a note.

The Kansas City Federal Reserve’s annual event, being held virtually again, is traditionally scrutinized for hints on upcoming changes in stance. Some Fed leaders have used it as a platform to explain new initiatives, as Powell did last year in unveiling a new monetary policy framework.

Even More Mainstream — and Main Street — Interest

Huge financial and consumer firms over the past year have increasingly been embracing crypto, giving the asset more legitimacy and driving up the price. Banks, brokerages and securities exchanges have been gearing up to meet demand. A watershed moment came in April with the U.S. stock market debut of Coinbase Global Inc., a crypto trading venue that’s shooting to establish a digital-money ecosystem.

This summer, there has been growing speculation that Amazon.com Inc. may become involved in the cryptocurrency sector. An Amazon job posting published online in July said the firm was seeking a “Digital Currency and Blockchain Product Lead.” After people found out about the post, Bitcoin surged to about $40,000. Amazon shares gained about 1% in New York. The company went on to say that the “speculation” about its “specific plan for cryptocurrencies is not true,” but the fact that the world’s largest retailer is exploring crypto has big implications for the shadowy and often hard-to-access market.

Walmart Inc. revealed it, too, was looking for some crypto help, with a job posting on Aug. 15 with responsibilities that would include “developing the digital currency strategy and product roadmap” and identifying “crypto-related investment and partnerships.” (As of Monday morning, visitors to the website were given a 404 error message.)

So… Where to From Here?

In these final days of summer, it’s now back in vogue to make $100,000 predictions.

As with any investment — or anything, really — it’s impossible to predict the future. But analysts do have a few estimations on how breaching $50,000 has changed Bitcoin’s prospects, at least in the short term.

Bitcoin is “getting nearer the higher end of what I expect as a new trading range in the low-$40,000s to low-$50,000s,” said Rick Bensignor, chief executive officer at Bensignor Investment Strategies.

Daniela Hathorn, an analyst at DailyFx.com, thinks that it may be a while before we see any further bullish momentum because $50,000 is a key psychological level for the currency.

“A pullback towards the $48,000 area would be the first sign of trouble,” she wrote in a note on Monday. “But the positive trend isn’t in any trouble as long as Bitcoin stays above its 200-day moving average at $45,750. Looking ahead, the key challenge for buyers will be to cement further gains towards $55,000 without losing momentum along the way.”

By: Emily Cadman / Charlie Wells / Joanna Ossinger

Source: https://www.bloombergquint.com/wealth/bitcoin-price-surge-reasons-why-ethereum-cryptocurrencies-are-rising
Copyright © BloombergQuint

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New SEC Boss Wants More Crypto Oversight to Protect Investors

It’s become a parlor game in Washington, on Wall Street, and in Silicon Valley to figure out where U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Gary Gensler stands on cryptocurrencies. Industry lobbyists tune in when he testifies before Congress. Lawyers parse his speeches. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. wealth advisers recently boasted in a research report about looking for clues in 29 hours of the Blockchain and Money course he developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

That’s an arduous but perhaps not novel undertaking, since videos of the classes have garnered millions of views online, something that amazes even Gensler. In his first extensive interview about the digital money craze, Gensler signaled that his deep interest in the subject doesn’t mean he’s simpatico with the hands-off oversight approach that many enthusiasts would like to see.

Policymakers have struggled with how to respond to the mostly unregulated $1.6 trillion market, which has seen explosive growth and wild price swings. Gensler is contemplating a robust oversight regime, centered on establishing safeguards for the millions of investors who’ve been stocking their portfolios with tokens. “While I’m neutral on the technology, even intrigued—I spent three years teaching it, leaning into it—I’m not neutral about investor protection,” says Gensler, who on Tuesday will give a speech about crypto at the Aspen Security Forum.

“If somebody wants to speculate, that’s their choice, but we have a role as a nation to protect those investors against fraud.” Gensler has asked Congress to pass a law that could give the agency the legal authority to monitor crypto exchanges, but he says the SEC’s powers are already broad. There’s been much discussion over the years about which kinds of digital assets fall under the SEC’s purview.

Some such as Bitcoin that act like currencies are considered commodities, not securities. But there are thousands of other coins, and Gensler believes most are unregistered securities that must comply with SEC rules. Broadly he noted that technology has sparked economic progress throughout human history, and he sees a similar boost from digital assets. That may only come, however, with strong and thoughtful regulation.

As an analogy, he says the automobile industry didn’t fully take off until governments laid out driving rules. Speed limits and traffic lights provided public safety but also helped cars become mainstream. “It’s only with bringing things inside—and sort of clearly within our public policy goals—that a technology has a chance of broader adoption,” he says.

Hester Peirce, a Republican commissioner on the SEC known for her advocacy of light-touch regulation of digital assets, says she’s eager to work with Gensler. “A lot people just want more clarity,” she says. “I come from a perspective that people should have the maximum freedom to engage in transactions they want to engage in voluntarily. Society needs to have that discussion about what is the right regulatory framework.”

Gensler didn’t give a timeline for any SEC action. He has a to-do list that includes 49 non-crypto policy reviews that could slow progress on cryptocurrencies. Many are high-profile and time-consuming efforts, like responding to the GameStop Corp. trading frenzy and the blow-up of the Archegos family office. The SEC is also working to impose new rules that would require companies to disclose carbon emissions and other environmental risks, a Biden administration priority.

Nor would Gensler comment on the potential for approving a Bitcoin exchange-traded fund, a decision that many in the crypto world are eagerly awaiting, because it would provide an easy on-ramp for investors. A Bitcoin ETF would invest in the cryptocurrency and then trade its shares on the stock market. So far the SEC has balked at permitting such funds, citing concerns about the risk of fraud and manipulation in the Bitcoin market.

Gensler has spoken positively about the ETFs during his days at MIT, giving advocates hope that he’s a supporter. Peirce says it’s “high time” the SEC approved a crypto ETF. Behind the scenes, Gensler has pushed the agency’s staff members to take a look at an array of potential policy changes. He says there are at least seven SEC initiatives looking at different crypto issues: initial coin offerings, trading venues, lending platforms, decentralized finance, stable value coins, custody, and ETFs and other coin funds. “I’ve asked the staff to use all of our authorities anywhere we can,” he says.

Gensler says he thinks regulating crypto exchanges is perhaps the easiest way for the government to get a quick handle on digital token trading. But he’s also concerned about new ways people are getting into crypto, such as peer-to-peer lending on so-called decentralized finance, or DeFi, platforms. If firms are advertising a specific interest-rate return on a crypto asset, Gensler says, that could bring the loans under SEC oversight. Platforms that pool digital assets could be seen as akin to mutual funds, potentially allowing the SEC to regulate them.

Gensler was chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) during the Obama administration, where he was responsible for bringing federal oversight to the huge market for derivatives known as swaps after the financial crisis. Patrick McCarty, who teaches a class on cryptocurrencies at Georgetown University’s law school, says Gensler’s understanding of digital assets means he will give the industry a “fair hearing,” though he will likely disappoint many proponents.

“When the crypto people say they want legal certainty, they don’t mean that—they want to be unregulated,” McCarty says. “That’s never been Gary’s point of view.” Christine Trent Parker, who focuses on crypto assets as a law partner at Reed Smith in New York, says that although new SEC rules would bring more certainty to the industry, they also could divide the policing of the market more starkly—with the CFTC focused on markets linked to virtual currencies such as Bitcoin and the SEC handling much of the rest.

“Right now the lines are fuzzy because we have speeches and enforcement and court orders,” instead of bright-line regulation, she says. “If the SEC has sort of a broad framework that pulls in all of the other digital assets, then you have this bifurcated marketplace.” Others have argued that new token developers need some regulatory flexibility to encourage innovation.

Gensler also sits on the Treasury-led Financial Stability Oversight Council and the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets, which recently held a meeting on the impact of stablecoins. These are crypto tokens that are supposed to be backed by traditional currencies such as the U.S. dollar, and they’ve become a huge part of the crypto trading system. Regulators worry about what could happen if some stablecoin didn’t turn out to be worth what it was supposed to be—prompting an exodus akin to a run on a bank or a money-market fund.

Gensler’s views on the panels carry weight, people who follow the issue note, because unlike, say, the Treasury secretary or Federal Reserve chairman, he has real crypto cred. His understanding of blockchain and digital assets comes largely from the several years he spent at MIT. Along with creating the cryptocurrency course, he’s been a frequent guest at industry conferences—sometimes speaking 30 to 50 times a year—mixing with deep thinkers and entrepreneurs.

He quotes writings of Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous creator of Bitcoin, from memory and knew some of the core developers of the digital currency. The 63-year-old former Goldman Sachs partner traveled an unlikely path to becoming one of the government’s foremost cryptocurrency experts. It started in 2017, when as chief financial officer of Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential campaign he had the lonely job of closing up shop, paying off the final bills, and deciding what to do with the abandoned computers and office supplies.

Like many of his shell-shocked former colleagues, Gensler was looking for something to do—and somewhere to sit out Donald Trump’s presidency. The answer came from economist Simon Johnson, an MIT professor who encouraged Gensler to come to Cambridge, Mass., and teach. Looking to nurture a long-held interest in the intersection of technology and finance, Gensler jumped at the opportunity.

Although he didn’t know much about digital tokens, he connected with people who were part of the university’s burgeoning Digital Currency Initiative and even audited a course in crypto programming. When he suggested MIT teach more about finance and digital money, he was given the job. Little did he know that in a few years he’d have a chance to put his academic studies to real-world use. “Life sometimes is a bit of serendipity,’’ he says.

By: Robert Schmidt

Source: Will Government Regulate Crypto? SEC Chair Gary Gensler on Bitcoin and Oversight – Bloomberg

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How To Follow The 50-30-20 Budgeting Strategy

This story is part of CNBC Make It’s One-Minute Money Hacks series, which provides easy, straightforward tips and tricks to help you understand your finances and take control of your money.

Managing your finances and setting a monthly budget can be challenging. But if you’re overwhelmed with where to start, the 50-30-20 strategy can simplify the process. The plan divides your income into three broad categories: necessities, wants, and savings and investments. Here’s a closer look at each.

50% of your paycheck should go toward things you need

This category includes all of your essential costs, such as rent, mortgage payments, food, utilities, health insurance, debt payments and car payments. If your necessary expenses take up more than half of your income, you may need to cut costs or dip into your wants fund.

20% of your paycheck should go toward savings and investments

This category includes liquid savings, like an emergency fund; retirement savings, such as a 401(k) or Roth IRA; and any other investments, such as a brokerage account. Experts typically recommend aiming to have enough cash in your emergency fund to cover between three and six months worth of living expenses.

Some also suggest building up your emergency savings first, then concentrating on long-term investments. And if you have access to a 401(k) account through your employer, it can be a great way to save a portion of your income pre-tax.

30% of your paycheck should go toward things you want

This final category includes anything that isn’t considered an essential cost, such as travel, subscriptions, dining out, shopping and fun. This category can also include luxury upgrades: If you purchase a nicer car instead of a less expensive one, for example, that dips into your wants category.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to money management, but the 50-30-20 plan can be a good place to start if you’re new to budgeting and are wondering how to divide up your income.

Nadine El-Bawab

By: Nadine El-Bawab / @nadineelbawab

Source: How to follow the 50-30-20 budgeting strategy

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Critics:

While that may not be realistic, there are some simple things you can do right now to improve your money situation. Try these five steps for successfully managing your personal finances. Another bonus? If you stick to these five tips, your financial problems may start to diminish, and you can start reaping the rewards of lower debt, saving for the future, and a solid credit score.

Take some time to write specific, long-term financial goals. You may want to take a month-long trip to Europe, buy an investment property, or retire early. All of these goals will affect how you plan your finances. For example, your goal to retire early is dependent on how well you save your money now. Other goals, including home ownership, starting a family, moving, or changing careers, will all be affected by how you manage your finances.

Once you have written down your financial goals, prioritize them. This organizational process ensures that you are paying the most attention to the ones that are of the highest importance to you. You can also list them in the order you want to achieve them, but a long-term goal like saving for retirement requires you to work towards it while also working on your other goals.

Below are some tips on how to get clear on your financial goals:

  • Set long-term goals like getting out of debt, buying a home, or retiring early. These goals are separate from your short-term goals such as saving for a nice date night.
  • Set short-term goals, like following a budget, decreasing your spending, paying down, or not using your credit cards.
  • Prioritize your goals to help you create a financial plan.

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Wall Street Seeks To Make Up For Long Hours With High Salaries

(Bloomberg) – Rooms at the Fairmont Royal Pavilion, located on Barbados’ platinum beaches, can cost more than $ 1,000 a night. In the morning, you can enjoy the catamaran snorkeling cruise and return ashore in time for afternoon tea.

For some Houlihan Lokey Inc. employees, this offer is now on the table: a five-night stay at this Caribbean haven, with money from the investment bank, as a reward for a year of record earnings. The offer is also a subtle plea to the company’s younger employees: please don’t quit.

That last phrase echoes across Wall Street, where turnover and burnout rates among young workers are accelerating. Banks have tried to turn the tide with raises, bonuses, vacations, and even free sports equipment. For all that, being a young banker in America has never been more lucrative.

However, the problem is that it has also never been more lucrative for aspiring workers to work outside the golden world of finance, as the gap between banks and other employers such as technology companies has narrowed.

“In terms of making money, is this the best time to be a banker? Sure, ”says executive recruiter Dan Miller of True Search. “Now, in terms of lifestyle, is this a terrible time? Absolutely”.

A presentation prepared by 13 first-year analysts at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. earlier this year prompted a reckoning on Wall Street after it highlighted the working conditions of junior bankers – some of them working 100 hours a day. the week while his physical activities and mental health suffered. Goldman responded by cutting weekend hours and promising to increase staff at its busiest businesses.

Earlier this year, a presentation prepared by 13 first-year analysts at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. prompted a reckoning on Wall Street after it highlighted working conditions for junior bankers – some of them working hundreds of hours a day. the week as his physical activities and mental health suffered. Goldman responded by cutting weekend hours and promising to increase staff at its busiest businesses.

However, some industry veterans have made harsh statements against those who complain about the workload. Cantor Fitzgerald’s Howard Lutnick suggested that some of the young workers considering leaving finance may simply not be ready for it. “Those young bankers who decide they are working too hard, choose another way of life,” he told Bloomberg TV earlier this month.

Furthermore, the exhausting workload of bank analysts has continued and, in some cases, worsened. When COVID-19 took over the nation last year, the “work hard, play hard” mantra became “work hard, sit on your couch,” all while the economy accelerated and deals proliferated.

Frustrated and overworked, many of them turned to the anonymous ex-banker behind the popular “Litquidity” financial meme account for support. In an interview, he said he was inundated with messages on Twitter and Instagram from young industry colleagues feeling fed up and weighing whether the work was worth it.

Lit, as he calls himself, was at the time a senior associate in investment banking and knew very well what they were going through. He too felt exhausted and stressed, and at one point he went to see a doctor to have his heart palpitations checked.

“Do you know the feeling when your stomach just sinks in? I felt it in my heart, “he said by phone from New York’s Central Park. The doctor concluded that his symptom was probably related to stress. Last winter, Lit quit her job to focus on growing the Litquidity brand and writing a daily newsletter. He says he is also working to launch a venture capital fund.

It is not only in finance where workers are becoming more demanding, a similar scenario that occurs throughout the country. Companies from McDonald’s Corp. to country clubs in Nashville, Tennessee, have raised wages and offered hiring bonuses to attract new workers. From March to May, the rate of American workers who voluntarily quit their jobs rose to its highest level in at least two decades. In Washington, lawmakers are arguing about raising the minimum wage to $ 15 an hour.

Of course, the isolated world of finance and some other professional services operate on a significantly higher plane in terms of pay. Last month, dozens of the nation’s top law firms raised first-year salaries to $ 202,500, roughly a couple thousand. They also offer multiple annual bonuses and additional time off as they struggle to retain talent and their workers face burnout.

Miller, who co-leads True Search’s financial services practice, says today’s young bankers have far more options than their peers previously had. Banks and consulting firms have long been a source of recruiting for private equity and, more recently, venture capital, technology, and fintech. These days, with many of those industries hiring at a record rate, many young bankers no longer have to hold out for two years. They can leave earlier or skip the stay in finance altogether.

Some bank bosses have promised to ease the pressure. After the junior analysts’ presentation, Goldman CEO David Solomon promised to better enforce the rule that they should have Saturdays off. But the sentiments carved in stone in banking culture for decades do not change easily. Additionally, Lit noted that Goldman’s policy of not working on Saturdays has been in effect since 2013.

“There has to be a way to make it stick,” he said. “What’s the use of earning half a million if you work 20 hours a day?

Source: Wall Street seeks to make up for long hours with high salaries – Explica .co

Fintechs Are Zeroing in on Everything Big Banks Aren’t

My north star(s) for philosophy, management, and politics are Star Wars, The Sopranos, and Game of Thrones, respectively. The Iron Bank (GoT) is a metaphor for today’s financial institutions, if present-day banks didn’t need bailouts or to invent fake accounts to juice compensation. Regardless, it was well known throughout Braavos that The Iron Bank will have its due.

If you failed to repay, they’d fund your enemies. So today’s Iron Bankers are the venture capitalists funding (any) incumbents’ enemies. If this makes VCs sound interesting/cool, don’t trust your instincts.

Lately, I’ve spent a decent amount of time on the phone with my bank in an attempt to get a home equity line, as I want to load up on Dogecoin. (Note: kidding.) (Note: mostly.) If Opendoor and Zillow can use algorithms and Google Maps to get an offer on my house in 24 hours, why does it take my bank — which underwrote the original mortgage — so much longer?

How ripe a sector is for disruption is a function of several factors. One (relatively) easy proxy is the delta between price increases and inflation, and if the innovation in the sector justifies the delta. Think of the $200 cable bill, or a $5.6 million 60-second Super Bowl spot, as canaries in the ad-supported media coal mine.

Another, easier (and more fun) indicator of ripeness is the eighties test. Put yourself smack dab in the center of the store/product/service, close your eyes, spin around three times, open your eyes, and ask if you’d know within 5 seconds that you were not in 1985. Theaters, grocery stores, gas stations, dry cleaners, university classes, doctor’s offices, and banks still feel as if you could run into Ally Sheedy or The Bangles.

It’s hard to imagine an industry more ripe for disruption than the business of money.

Let’s start with this: 25% of U.S. households are either unbanked or underbanked. Half of the nation’s unbanked households say they don’t have enough money to meet the minimum balance requirements. 34% say bank fees are too high. And, if you’re trying to get a mortgage, you’d better hope the house isn’t cheap.

Inequity is a breeding ground for disruption, leaving underserved markets for insurgents to seize and launch an attack on incumbents from below. We have good reason to believe that’s happening in banking.

Insurgents

A herd of unicorns is at the stable door, looking to trample Wells Fargo and Chase. Fintech is responsible for roughly one in five (17%) of the world’s unicorns, more than any other sector. In addition, there are already several megalodons worth more than financial institutions that have spent generations building (mis)trust.

How did this happen? The fintechs are zeroing in on everything big banks aren’t.

Example #1: Innovation. Over the past five years, PayPal has issued 26x more patents than Goldman Sachs.

Example #2: Cost-cutting. “Neobanks” offer the basic services of a bank, with one less expensive and cumbersome feature: the branch. A traditional bank branch needs $50 million in deposits to generate an adequate return. Yet nearly half (48%) of branches in the U.S. are below that threshold. Neobanks don’t have that problem, and there are now at least 177 of them. Founders frame these offerings as more progressive, less corporate. Dave, a new banking app, offers a Founding Story on its website (illustrated with cartoon bears) about three friends “fed up” with their banking experience, often incurring $38 overdraft fees. Fed up no longer: Dave provides free overdraft protection and has 10 million customers.

Example #3: Less inequity. NYU Professor of Finance Sabrina Howell’s research found fintech lenders gave 18% of PPP loans to Black-owned businesses, while small to medium-sized banks provided just 2%. Among all loans to Black-owned firms, Professor Howell found 54% were from fintech startups. Racial discrimination is the most likely explanation, as lenders faced zero credit risk.

Example #4: Serving the underserved. Unequal access to banking is a global botheration. Almost a third of the world’s adults, 1.7 billion, are unbanked. In Argentina, Colombia, Nigeria, and other countries, more than 50% of adults are unbanked.

But innovation is already on the horizon: Take Argentine fintech Ualá, whose CEO Pierpaolo Barbieri I spoke with on the Pod last week. In just 4 years, more than 3 million people have opened an account with his company — about 9% of the country — and over 25% of 18 to 25-year-olds now have a tarjeta Ualá (online wallet). Ualá recently launched in Mexico, where, as of 2017, only 2.6% of the poorest 40% had a credit card. This is more than an economic issue — it’s a societal issue, as financial inclusion bolsters the middle class and forms a solid base for democracy.

Interest(ed)

Chase savings accounts are offering, no joke, 0.01% interest. Wells Fargo? The same, though if you keep your investment portfolio with Wells, they’ll double that rate to 0.02%. Meanwhile, neobanks including Ally and Chime offer 0.5% — 50 times the competition.

There is also blood in the water for fintech unicorns that have created a debit, vs. credit, generation: The buy-now-pay-later fintech Afterpay has more than 5 million U.S. customers — just two years after launching in the country. As of February, its competitor Affirm has 4.5 million customers.

Unicorns are also coming for payments. The megasaurus in this space is PayPal, which has built the first global payments platform outside the credit card model and is second only to Visa in payment volume and revenue. Square’s Cash app is capturing share, and Apple Cash is also a player, as it’s … Apple.

Square, Apple, and a host of other companies are taking the “partnership” approach, bolting new services onto the existing transaction infrastructure. Square’s little white box is a low-upfront-cost way for a small merchant to accept credit cards. It’s particularly interesting that Apple teamed up with Goldman Sachs instead of a traditional bank. Goldman is looking to get into the consumer space (see Marcus), and Apple is looking to get into the payments space — this alliance could be the unsullied fighting with air cover from dragons. It should make Wells and BofA anxious.

The Big Four credit card system operators (Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express) are still the dominant payment players, and they have deep moats. Their brands are global, their networks robust. Visa can handle 76,000 transactions per second in 160 currencies, and as of this week it had settled $1 billion in cryptocurrency transactions.

Still, even the king of payments sees dead people. In 2020, Visa tried to buy Plaid for $5.3 billion. Plaid currently helps connect existing payments providers (i.e. banks) to finance software such as Quicken and Mint. But it plans to expand from that beachhead into offering a full-fledged payments system. Visa CEO Al Kelly initially described the deal as an “insurance policy” to neutralize a “threat to our important U.S. debit business.” In an encouraging sign that American antitrust authorities are stirring, the Department of Justice filed suit to block the merger, and Visa walked.

Beyond Banking

Fintech is also coming for investing with online trading apps (Robinhood, Webull, Public, and several of the neobanks) and through the crypto side door (Coinbase, Gemini, Binance). Insurance is under threat from companies like Lemonade (home), Ladder (life), and Root (auto).

In sum, fintech is likely as underhyped as space is overhyped. Why? The ROI on your professional efforts and investing are inversely proportional to how sexy the industry/investment is, and fintech is … boring. Except for the immense opportunity and value creation — for multiple stakeholders. “Half the world is unbanked, but we need to colonize Mars,” said no rational investor ever.

Re: investing in fintech: What has, and will always be, a good rap? The guy/gal who owns the bank.

Life is so rich,

By: Scott Galloway

Source: Fintechs Are Zeroing in on Everything Big Banks Aren’t | by Scott Galloway | Jul, 2021 | Marker

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