Crypto And Digital Asset Platform Bakkt Releases First Earnings, Lays Out Bold Partnership Strategy To Growth

Today Bakkt, a mobile wallet provider and digital asset platform founded in 2018 released its first earnings as a public company. The firm began trading on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on October 18th following a SPAC merger with VPC Impact Acquisition Holdings (VIH).

Casual observers may find the results underwhelming. After all, the company, whose backers include NYSE parent firm Intercontinental Exchange, and which had completed a $300 million Series B round of funding in March 2020 brought in just $9.1 million in revenue this quarter.

Granted it is up 7% from Q2 and 38% year over year, and the company reports having 1.7 million transacting accounts, but the firm still had a net loss of $28.8 million. In contrast, cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase earned $1.2 billion in revenue and Square’s Cash App, which offers an easy way for users to buy bitcoin, brought in $1.87 billion in crypto revenue and $42 million in gross profit. PayPal, which offers a simple interface for users to buy and make purchases with Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and Bitcoin cash opened 13.3 million accounts last quarter despite disappointing revenues.

However, according to Bakkt CEO Gavin Michael, who spoke exclusively to Forbes prior to the earnings release, this is all part of his plan for the company that has evolved from primarily being a bitcoin custodian and futures exchange to a much more comprehensive platform. Michael, who previously served as a technology executive for banks such as Citi, JPMorgan and Lloyds, intends for Bakkt to become the hub of an extensive ecosystem of business to business and consumer retail activity, with loyalty points and digital assets such as Bitcoin and Ethereum in the center of it all.

“We see businesses leveraging our platform to drive loyalty, and to deepen their customer relationships…they’re also able to innovate with crypto services and crypto rewards, appealing to a growing segment of digitally savvy customers.”The company’s merger also brought in a war chest of more than $480 million to use for future partnerships and acquisitions.

Also not reflected in these numbers is the steady stream of brand-name partnerships brought onto the platform, starting with Starbucks this past March and growing to include Choice Hotels, Fiserv, Finastra, Wells Fargo, United Airlines and Mastercard. These tie-ups are intended to do everything from helping community banks and credit union clients invest in crypto to allow merchants on the Mastercard network to offer crypto rewards to users.

“We enable these companies to really deliver consumer choice, [offer] convenience with alternate payment methods that allow consumers to spend the value of their digital assets across merchants and enable businesses to gain access to this increased spending power.”

The market responded particularly well to the MasterCard partnership, announced on October 25th. The firm’s stock rose 400% in a week. It has since surrendered over half of those gains, but it remains up over 160% since the merger was finalized.

In addition, the firm is looking to onboard more digital assets, though Michael says that given the platform’s comparatively conservative nature compared to traditional cryptocurrency exchanges,  “It’s fair to say that we are probably a platform that will have several, rather than several 100.” Regarding stablecoins and central bank digital currencies (CBDCs), which are increasingly becoming a focal point for regulators and entwined in global commerce and trading, Michael noted “We’re obviously watching closely what happens with stablecoins and CBDCs, because we’re an obvious choice, particularly with the partners that we’re working with…to really bring them to life.” Bakkt does not support any at this time.

With those integrations likely to wait until 2022 at the earliest, Q4 is shaping up to be an early test for Bakkt’s future. Unlike exchanges such as Coinbase, whose fortunes are highly dependent on the volatile nature of cryptocurrency prices to drive trading fees, Bakkt is more dependent upon retail spending to facilitate user growth and engagement on the platform. Q42020 was its most lucrative from a revenue standpoint in the company’s brief history, which Michael attributed in the interview to the seasonality of retail commercial activity, stating that he expects a similar trend again this year.

However, this trend could be upended, to some degree, by today’s challenging economic climate. Already retail establishments are reporting issues finding temporary staff for the holiday season, and October’s inflation numbers, which saw a 6.2% increase from a year ago, the highest jump in 31 years, may limit customer purchasing power over the next couple of months. More worrying is a growing belief among consumers and policymakers that inflation remains stickier than they would like, even if they still believe it is transitory.

That said, the silver lining could be that two industry segments not experiencing massive inflation are travel and lodging, which Bakkt supports through its partnerships with United Airlines and Choice Hotels. Airline fares actually fell 0.7% on the month and is down 4.6% year on year. The index for lodging away from home increased just 1.4%. As more of the world becomes vaccinated, travel restrictions loosen, and cross-border commerce recovers to pre-pandemic levels, Bakkt could see more engagement with its platform.

One final challenge will be convincing clients to part with their bitcoin and ethereum in exchange for goods and services. Both cryptocurrencies, which each hit new all-time highs on November 10th of $68,721 and $4,851 respectively, are seeing reductions in their circulating supply.

This trend is due to multiple factors, pre-eminent among them is the fear of someone finding in the future that they bought a $1000 cup of coffee in 2021 when they needed a quick boost. Of course, when asked about this challenge, Michael and the team are quick to point out that Bakkt is not necessarily a crypto platform, but a universal ecosystem for all digital assets.

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

I am director of research for digital assets at Forbes. I was recently the Social Media/Copy Lead at Kraken, a cryptocurrency exchange based in the United States. Before joining Kraken I

Source: Crypto And Digital Asset Platform Bakkt Releases First Earnings, Lays Out Bold Partnership Strategy To Growth

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Reopening Stocks Lead The Market Higher After Strong Jobs Report, Pfizer Announcement

The stock market rallied to record levels yet again on Friday after a better than expected October jobs report, a big announcement from Pfizer and a slew of strong corporate earnings results all helped boost investor optimism about America’s economic recovery.

Key Facts

All three major averages touched new highs: The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.6%, over 200 points, while the S&P 500 gained 0.4% and the tech heavy Nasdaq Composite increased 0.2%.

The United States added back 531,000 jobs in October—better than the 450,000 expected by economists, according to data released by the Labor Department on Friday.

The long-struggling labor market is showing signs of improvement, notching its best monthly showing since July, while the unemployment rate ticked down to 4.6%—its lowest level in more than a year.

A major announcement on Friday from vaccine maker Pfizer also helped boost stocks tied to the reopening of the economy: The company said it will seek FDA approval for its antiviral pill, which reduces the risk of hospitalization and death from Covid-19 by 89%.

Although the Pfizer announcement caused shares of other vaccine makers such as Moderna, BioNTech and Merck to plunge, travel and leisure stocks widely rallied on the news and led the market’s gains on Friday.

Solid earnings also helped drive optimism, including from the likes of Uber, which reported its first-ever adjusted quarterly profit as demand for ride-sharing recovered, and Airbnb, which had its “strongest quarter ever” as travel continued to rebound.

What To Watch For:

While reopening stocks have performed well recently, several pandemic favorites have struggled. Shares of at-home fitness equipment maker Peloton plunged over 30% on Friday after reporting dismal quarterly earnings—making CEO John Foley no longer a billionaire. Other companies have also seen their businesses take a hit from the reopening of the economy: Smart TV company Roku and online education company Chegg both reported lackluster earnings this week.

Tangent:

The Federal Reserve said on Wednesday that despite labor shortages, supply chain constraints and inflation fears, the U.S. economy was recovering well. The central bank announced that it would begin reducing the historic level of stimulus it has been providing markets since the Covid-19 pandemic began. Fed chairman Jerome Powell also clarified his stance on high inflation, saying it was “expected to be transitory.” Markets have since rallied on the news.

Key Background:

The stock market has continued to hit fresh highs in recent weeks: The S&P 500 rose over 5% in October for its best month so far in 2021 and is up nearly 2% so far in November. Optimism around the reopening of the U.S. economy has grown, in large part thanks to third-quarter corporate earnings that have proved resilient despite higher costs and inflation fears. Of the 445 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported results so far, nearly 81% have beaten expectations, according to Refinitiv.

Further Reading:

Peloton Shares Plunge Over 30%—And CEO John Foley Is No Longer A Billionaire (Forbes)

Stocks Hit Fresh Records After Fed Says It Will Taper Pandemic Stimulus (Forbes)

U.S. Economy Added 531,000 Jobs Last Month—But 7.4 Million Americans Are Still Unemployed (Forbes)

Billions Wiped From Covid Pharma Heavyweights—Including Moderna, Regeneron, Merck—As Pfizer’s Antiviral Pill Triggers Selloff (Forbes)

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Send me a secure tip.

I am a New York-based reporter covering billionaires and their wealth for Forbes. Previously, I worked on the breaking news team at Forbes covering money and markets.

Source: Reopening Stocks Lead The Market Higher After Strong Jobs Report, Pfizer Announcement

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Murphy, Richard McGill (1 July 2014). “Is Asia the next financial center of the world?B
EATTIE, ANDREW (13 December 2017). “What Was the First Company to Issue Stock?”. Investopedia.

“History of the NY Stock Exchange”. Library of Congress. May 2004.

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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How To Intervene When a Manager Is Gaslighting Their Employees

Summary

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse where an individual tries to gain power and control over you by instilling self-doubt. Allowing managers who continue to gaslight to thrive in your company will only drive good employees away. Leadership training is only part of the solution — leaders must act and hold the managers who report to them accountable when they see gaslighting in action. The author presents five things leaders can do when they suspect their managers are gaslighting employees.

“We missed you at the leadership team meeting,” our executive vice president messaged me. “Your manager shared an excellent proposal. He said you weren’t available to present. Look forward to connecting soon.”

In our last one-on-one meeting, my manager had enthusiastically said that I, of course, should present the proposal I had labored over for weeks. I double-checked my inbox and texts for my requests to have that meeting invite sent to me. He had never responded. He went on to present the proposal without me.

Excluding me from meetings, keeping me off the list for company leadership programs, and telling me I was on track for a promotion — all while speaking negatively about my performance to his peers and senior leadership — were all red flags in my relationship with this manager. The gaslighting continued and intensified until the day I finally resigned.

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse where an individual tries to gain power and control over you. They will lie to you and intentionally set you up to fail. They will say and do things and later deny they ever happened. They will undermine you, manipulate you, and convince you that you are the problem. As in my case, at work, the “they” is often a manager who will abuse their position of power to gaslight their employees.

Organizations of all sizes are racing to develop their leaders, spending over $370 billion a year globally on leadership training. Yet research shows that almost 30% of bosses are toxic. Leadership training is only part of the solution — we need leaders to act and hold the managers who report to them accountable when they see gaslighting in action. Here are five things leaders can do when they suspect their managers are gaslighting employees.

Believe employees when they share what’s happening.

The point of gaslighting is to instill self-doubt, so when an employee has the courage to come forward to share their experiences, leaders must start by actively listening and believing them. The employee may be coming to you because they feel safe with you. Their manager might be skilled at managing up, presenting themselves as an inclusive leader while verbally abusing employees. Or they may be coming to you because they feel they’ve exhausted all other options.

Do not minimize, deny, or invalidate what they tell you. Thank them for trusting you enough to share their experiences. Ask them how you can support them moving forward.

Be on the lookout for signs of gaslighting.

“When high performers become quiet and disinterested and are then labeled as low performers, we as leaders of our organizations must understand why,” says Lan Phan, founder and CEO of community of SEVEN, who coaches executives in her curated core community groups. “Being gaslighted by their manager can be a key driver of why someone’s performance is suddenly declining. Over time, gaslighting will slowly erode their sense of confidence and self-worth.”

As a leader, while you won’t always be present to witness gaslighting occurring on your team, you can still look for signs. If an employee has shared their experiences, you can be on high alert to catch subtle signals. Watch for patterns of gaslighting occurring during conversations, in written communication, and activities outside of work hours.

Here are some potential warning signs: A manager who is gaslighting may exclude their employees from meetings. They may deny them opportunities to present their own work. They may exclude them from networking opportunities, work events, and leadership and development programs. They may gossip or joke about them. Finally, they may create a negative narrative of their performance, seeding it with their peers and senior leaders in private and public forums.

Intervene in the moments that matter.

“Intervening in those moments when gaslighting occurs is critical,” says Dee C. Marshall, CEO of Diverse & Engaged LLC, who advises Fortune 100 companies on diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies. “As a leader, you can use your position of power to destabilize the manager who is gaslighting. By doing so, you signal to the gaslighter that you are watching and aware of their actions, and putting them on notice.”

If you see that a manager has excluded one of their employees from a meeting, make sure to invite them and be clear that you extended the invitation. If a manager is creating a negative narrative of an employee’s performance in talent planning sessions, speak up in the moment and ask them for evidence-based examples. Enlist the help of others who have examples of their strong performance. Document what you’re observing on behalf of the employee who is the target of gaslighting.

Isolate the manager who is gaslighting.

If this manager is gaslighting now, this likely isn’t their first time. Enlist the help of human resources and have them review the manager’s team’s attrition rates and exit interview data. Support the employee who is experiencing gaslighting when they share their experiences with HR, including providing your own documentation.

In smaller, more nimble organizations, restructuring happens often and is necessary to scale and respond to the market. Use restructuring as an opportunity to isolate the manager by decreasing their span of control and ultimately making them an individual contributor with no oversight of employees. Ensure that their performance review reflects the themes you and others have documented (and make any feedback from others anonymous). The manager may eventually leave on their own as their responsibilities decrease and their span of control is minimized. In parallel, work with human resources to develop an exit plan for the manager.

Assist employees in finding a new opportunity.

In the meantime, help the targeted employee find a new opportunity. Start with using your social and political capital to endorse them for opportunities on other teams. In my case, the manager gaslighting me had a significant span of control, and my options to leave his team were limited. He blocked me from leaving to go work for other managers when I applied for internal roles. I didn’t have any leaders who could advocate for me and move me to another team. I was ultimately forced to leave the company.

In some cases, even if you can find an internal opportunity for the employee, they won’t stay. They will take an external opportunity to have a fresh start and heal from the gaslighting they experienced from their manager. Stay in touch and be open to rehiring them when the timing is right for them. If you rehire them in the future, make sure that this time they work for a manager who will not only nurture and develop their careers, but one who will treat them with the kindness they deserve.

During the “Great Resignation,” people have had the time and space to think about what’s important to them. Allowing managers who continue to gaslight to thrive in your company will only drive your employees away. They’ll choose to work for organizations that not only value their contributions, but that also respect them as individuals.

By: Mita Mallick

Mita Mallick is the head of inclusion, equity, and impact at Carta. She is a columnist for SWAAY and her writing has been published in Harvard Business Review, The New York Post, and Business Insider.

Source: How to Intervene When a Manager Is Gaslighting Their Employees

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What The New Outlook For Social Security Means For You

Whew! The pandemic had a smaller impact on the Social Security trust funds — that is, Social Security’s solvency — than many feared during the depths of the pandemic downturn.

According to the new 2021 annual report from the Social Security Trustees, the depletion date for the combined trust funds —retirement and disability — is 2033 without any changes to program benefits. That would be when today’s 54-year-olds reach Social Security’s Full Retirement Age. Still, that’s one year earlier than last year’s 2034 estimate.

Depletion date or insolvency doesn’t mean bankruptcy — far from it. Funding from payroll tax receipts will be enough to pay 78% of promised benefits after the combined Social Security trust funds depletion date is reached.

“The trust fund report should be seen as a strength,” says Eric Kingson, professor of social work and public administration at Syracuse University and co-author with Nancy Altman of “Social Security Works for Everyone: Protecting and Expanding the Insurance Americans Love and Count On.”

What the Social Security Trustees Said

The report, Kingson said, “provides information for Congress and the public on what needs to be done to maintain benefits.”

And Altman, president of Social Security Works, chair of the Strengthen Social Security Coalition and a rumored possible Biden appointee to run the Social Security Administration, said this when the Trustees report came out on Wednesday: “Today’s report shows that Social Security remains strong and continues to work well, despite a once-in-a-century pandemic. That this year’s projections are so similar to last year’s proves once again that our Social Security system is built to withstand times of crisis, providing a source of certainty in uncertain times.”

But the Social Security Trustees are strikingly cautious about their estimates involving the impact of the pandemic on the Social Security trust fund and its sister trust fund for Medicare, the federal health insurance program primarily for people 65 and older.

Despite the dry language of actuaries, the uncertainty is apparent.

Employment, earnings, interest rates and gross domestic product (GDP) dropped substantially in the second quarter of 2020, the worst economic period of the pandemic. As a result, the decline in payroll-tax receipts which pay for Social Security benefits eroded the trust funds, though the drop in payroll taxes was offset somewhat by higher mortality rates.

“Given the unprecedented level of uncertainty, the Trustees currently assume that the pandemic will have no net effect on the individual long range ultimate assumptions,” they write.

The Pandemic and Social Security Solvency

But, they add, “At this time, there is no consensus on what the lasting effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the long-term experience might be, if any.”

The Trustees say they “will continue to monitor developments and modify the projections in later reports.”

Translation: the status quo remains and the forecast for the pandemic’s effect on Social Security’s solvency is cloudy.

Odds are the coming Social Security financing shortfall won’t get sustained attention from either the Biden administration or Congress despite the need to take action before 2034.

The Trustees aren’t too happy about that.

Their report says: “The Trustees recommend that lawmakers address the projected trust fund shortfalls in a timely way in order to phase in necessary changes gradually and give workers and beneficiaries time to adjust to them. Implementing changes sooner rather than later would allow more generations to share in the needed revenue increases or reductions in scheduled benefits… With informed discussion, creative thinking, and timely legislative action, Social Security can continue to protect future generations.”

The Political Outlook for Social Security Reforms

But the Biden administration and its Congressional allies are instead focused on threading the political needle for an ambitious $3.5 trillion infrastructure spending package, while also dealing with the fallout from the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Leading Republican legislators have called for so-called entitlement reform (think Social Security benefit cuts), but that’s a tough sell in the current Democratically controlled Congress.

“Does the report mean the timetable argues for real concrete action on [addressing solvency issues of] Social Security? Probably not. Will it revive the rhetoric that the sky is falling? Sure,” says Robert Blancato, national coordinator of the Elder Justice Coalition advocacy group, president of Matz Blancato and Associates and a 2016 Next Avenue Influencer in Aging.

The issue over how best to restore financial solvency to Social Security isn’t going away. That’s because the program is fundamental to the economic security of retired Americans. Social Security currently pays benefits to 49 million retired workers and dependents of retired workers (as well as survivor benefits to six million younger people and 10 million disabled people).

However, the tenor of the longer-term solvency discussion has significantly changed in recent years.

To be sure, a number of leading Republicans still want to cut Social Security retirement benefits to reduce the impending shortfall. Their latest maneuver is what’s known as The TRUST Act, sponsored by Utah Sen. Mitt Romney.

It calls for closed-door meetings of congressionally appointed bipartisan committees to come up with legislation to restore solvency by June 1 of the following year. The TRUST act would also limit Congress to voting yes or no on the proposals. No amendments allowed.

What’s Different About Future Social Security Changes

AARP, responding to the Trustees report news, came out vehemently against The TRUST Act’s closed-door reform plan. “All members of Congress should be held accountable for any action on Social Security and Medicare,” AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins said.

“The concern seems to be they would look to cuts first, versus a more comprehensive approach,” says Blancato. A more comprehensive approach could include tax increases for the wealthy and technical changes to the Social Security system.

Something else that’s different is that liberals are no longer trying to simply stave off benefit cuts and preserve the program exactly as it is — the main tactic since Republican Newt Gingrich was House Majority Leader in the mid-1990s. That have bigger and bolder ideas.

Most Democratic members of Congress have co-sponsored legislation to expand Social Security or voted in support of incremental increases in benefits, such as providing more for the oldest old and a new minimum Social Security benefit equal to at least 125% of the poverty level (that translates to $16,100 for a household of one).

Addressing Social Security’s shortfall and paying for the new benefits, with the Democrats’ plans, would come from tax hikes, ranging from gradually raising the 6.2% payroll tax rate to hiking or eliminating the $142,800 limit on annual earnings subject to Social Security taxes to some combination of these.

But Social Security benefit cuts are off the negotiating table for the Democrats.

“Biden has made a commitment not to cut and to make modest improvements in benefits,” says Kingson. “He won’t back off that.”

The President has pushed for raising the Social Security payroll tax cap so people earning incomes over $400,000 would owe taxes on that money, too. He has also backed raising the minimum Social Security benefit to 125% of the poverty level.

The Good News for Social Security Beneficiaries

One more piece of Social Security news to keep in mind: Social Security recipients are likely to get a sizable cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to their benefits in 2022. The exact amount will be announced in October and estimates vary widely, from 3% to as high as 6%. A 6% increase would be the highest in 40 years.

But there’s a catch: Medicare Part B premiums for physician and outpatient services — a significant portion of Medicare’s funding —will also go up due to inflation. And those premium payments usually come right out of monthly Social Security checks.

The Trustees report says the estimated standard monthly Medicare Part B premium in 2022 will be $158.50, up about 7% from $148.50 in 2021 and a 9.6% total increase since 2020. (Monthly premiums are based on income, though, and can exceed $500 for high earners.)

The Trustees report says Medicare’s Hospital Insurance Trust Fund (HITF) has enough funds to pay scheduled benefits until 2026, unchanged from last year. Medicare’s finances stayed stable during the pandemic, with people over 65 largely avoiding elective care. The pandemic “is not expected to have a large effect on the financial status of the [Medicare] trust funds after 2024,” the Trustees report noted.

Like Social Security, the trust fund behind Medicare Part A (which pays for hospitals, nursing facilities, home health and hospice care) is primarily funded by payroll taxes. There will be enough tax income coming in to cover an estimated 91% of total scheduled benefits once the trust fund is insolvent.

Medicare Part D, which covers prescription drugs, is mostly funded by federal income taxes, premiums and state payments.

But the political story about Medicare is less about its projected 2026 shortfall and more about momentum toward expanding the program. The Biden administration has proposed adding hearing, visual and dental care to Medicare benefits, something also being pushed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) At this time, it’s unclear how those new benefits would be paid for, though they wouldn’t affect the trust fund.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

Next Avenue is public media’s first and only national journalism service for America’s booming older population. Our daily content delivers vital ideas, context and perspectives on issues that matter most as we age.

Source: What The New Outlook For Social Security Means For You

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Financial Report Fiscal Year 2014 of the United States Government

New ‘Hot Boss’ Fears High Courts: Laws So ‘Learned’ They Defeat Purpose

Request a Replacement Social Security Number (SSN) Card Online

Payments Resulting from Disability Insurance Actions Processed Via Manual Adjustment

Analysis of the Social Security System: Hearings Before a Subcommittee of the Committee on Ways and Means, House of Representatives

Supplemental Appropriation Bill for 1962: Hearings, Committee on Appropriations

A biz district is finding the road back

Social Security: Who Is Covered Under the Program

Understanding Supplemental Security Income SSI Eligibility Requirements

Social Protection & Labor Program

 

 

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