Your Financial News Roundup
October 4, 2023
1. Economy: Fed Chair Jerome Powell solicited feedback on the economy from small business owners; while pharma companies commit to prescription drug price negotiations with Medicare.
2. Tech: Intel plans to spin off its programmable chip unit and produce them in the U.S.; meanwhile, TikTok’s owner ByteDance will buy back at least $300M in shares from its U.S. employees.
3. World: Kevin McCarthy was fired as Speaker of the House; and Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy gets roasted by TikTok users.
Personal Finance Concept [Part 10/10]: Debt Detox — Debt Consolidation and Refinancing
🥊 Feuding with the Fed: Typically advised by elite economists in Washington D.C., the Fed doesn’t usually hear from regular Americans. While visiting Philadelphia on Monday, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell and the city’s Federal Reserve lead, Patrick Harker, spoke with small business owners. Their top concerns include inflation, rising interest rates, staffing shortages, and economic unpredictability. The Fed expects to keep rates above 5% in 2024 and predicts inflation will fall to 2.6% by the end of next year. (Yahoo! Finance)
Our Take: Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, employing nearly half of all U.S. employees. With labor and inventory representing the 2 biggest costs for small businesses, inflation and high interest rates make it difficult for them to weather through tough times.
💲The Price is Not Right: Major drug makers, such as J&J, AstraZeneca, and Merck, have begrudgingly agreed to negotiate with the federal government on Medicare drug prices. Earlier this summer, Merck and several other pharmaceutical companies sued the government for the new drug price negotiation program included in the Inflation Reduction Act. According to the drug makers, they had no other options as they would have to pay hefty fines and taxes otherwise. Final prices aren’t expected until 2024 and its effects won’t be felt until 2026. (NBC)
Our Take: Other developed nations have universal healthcare systems that negotiate with drug suppliers to set prices. In contrast, Americans pay twice as much for the same prescription drugs. With the Inflation Reduction Act, Medicare can negotiate with drug makers over drug prices and combat their high cost burden on elderly Americans.
💻 We Have Chips at Home: American chipmaker Intel plans to spin off its programmable chip unit in January and hold a public offering for stock in the future. Programmable chips are used for tasks like encrypting data, powering fighter jets, and building 5G tech. The new company will be led by Sandra Rivera, who currently heads the company’s data center and AI chip business. The unit will use Intel’s factories in the U.S. rather than those in Taiwan. (Reuters)
Our Take: After layoffs earlier this year and last year, the chipmaker is raising capital to better compete against rivals like Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co, generate more value for investors, and focus on core competencies.
🎶 The Money Ain’t Flowing: TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, saw its valuation drop by 26% to $223.5B after initiating a stock buyback from U.S. employees. ByteDance seeks to buy at least $300M in stock from its current and ex-employees amid demands from U.S. lawmakers for a nationwide ban of the hit app. Lawmakers previously accused TikTok of being influenced by the Chinese Communist Party, though ByteDance has repeatedly refuted this. ByteDance turned a ~$6B profit in Q1 of this year, a ~2x from last year. (SCMP)
Our Take: Many startups have had to take a haircut to their valuation recently, including Instacart, Stripe, and Klarna. With venture capital funding drying up, early-stage startups have struggled to fundraise while late-stage companies have resorted to down rounds.
🙅♂️ Republican Leader Fired: Yesterday, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was fired in a vote forced by Florida Republican Matt Gaetz, a member of the hard-right Freedom Caucus and Trump ally. In a narrow 216-210 vote, 8 Republican dissenters joined the Democrats to push McCarthy out. He welcomed the consequences after making a last-minute deal that kept the government open. The Republicans who ousted him argue that he lost the party’s trust and made a secret deal with the White House. (BBC)
Our Take: Internal division within the GOP by its hardliners has put power in the hands of the minority, damaging the fulfillment of their broader agenda and punishing bipartisanship. This rare firing without a clear replacement creates ambiguity around key decisions, such as a budget bill.
📱 TikTokers Troll Ramaswamy: Republican presidential contender, Vivek Ramaswamy, partnered with YouTuber turned boxer Jake Paul to reach Gen Zers and Millennials on TikTok. Ramaswamy is one of the few Republican politicians using social media to connect with younger voters, who lean Democratic. However, his social media presence has largely flopped and he’s failed to mimic the success of Democratic politicians like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. His use of TikTok conflicts with his labelling of the app as “digital fentanyl.” (TechCrunch)
Our Take: Ironically, Vivek has floated bumping the voting age to 25 and accused TikTok of being a threat to national security. Democrats are generally more adept at using social media to connect with young people and drive engagement — explaining the stronger alignment.
Finance Concept of the Week
Debt Detox [Part 10/10]: Debt Consolidation and Refinancing
Common types of debt and how to best tackle them
If your debt is spiraling out of control and you’re having trouble paying off your bills, there are several ways you can alleviate the situation. Debt consolidation and refinancing are 2 popular options to regain control over your finances and reduce your expenses.
How Debt Consolidation and Refinancing Works
With loan consolidation, you bundle all your existing loans in one loan. So, instead of dealing with multiple monthly payments and interest rates, you’ll get one predictable loan payment each month. Ideally, the new interest rate is lower than what you’re currently paying.
You would start by identifying all your existing debt, including credit card balances, personal loans, medical bills, and any other outstanding debts. Then, choose how you’d like to consolidate your debt, such as applying for a balance transfer credit card, home equity loan, or home equity line of credit (HELOC).
Once you’ve decided, complete the application for the chosen consolidation method. The lender will evaluate your creditworthiness to determine your eligibility and terms. After you get approved, the new loan can be used to pay off your existing balances and you’ll be left with a single loan to manage.
With refinancing, you replace an existing loan with a new one that has better terms, such as a lower interest rate or extended repayment period. Before refinancing, review your existing loan terms, interest rate, remaining balance, and monthly payments. Research and compare different offers from lenders, including banks, credit unions, online lenders, or mortgage brokers, to find the best option for you.
Like with debt consolidation, the lender will assess your financial stability before determining whether to approve your refinance application and the terms they can offer. If approved, you’ll receive a refinance offer with the new loan terms. After you accept the offer, the new loan will be used to pay off your existing loan and you will start the repayment process on the new loan.
Common Types of Debt Consolidation and Refinancing
- Balance Transfer Credit Card: This involves transferring high-interest credit card balances to a new card with a 0% introductory APR. During the promotional period, typically 12 to 18 months, you can pay off your debt without accruing additional interest.
- Home Equity Loan or Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC): If you are a homeowner, you can use the equity in your home as collateral to secure a loan or line of credit. Home equity loans and HELOCs typically come with lower interest rates compared to unsecured loans. However, if you default on your loan, the lender may seize your property.
- Personal Loan: Personal loans can be used for various purposes and are easily obtainable from a bank, credit union, or online lender. You can use the proceeds to pay off existing debt and then make fixed monthly payments on the personal loan.
- Mortgage Refinancing: If the current market conditions are favorable, you can replace an existing mortgage with a new one that has better terms. In 2021, the average 30-year mortgage hit an all-time low of 2.65%, allowing many homeowners to refinance and save a significant amount of money.
- Student Loan Refinancing: If the interest rates or monthly payments on your student loans are too high, you can refinance them. However, if you refinance from a federal loan to a private one, you may lose some of your benefits, such as income-repayment plan options or grace periods for repayment.
- Streamlined Payments: If you owe several lenders money, it can be hard to keep track of all your payment due dates. Consolidating your debt balances helps you minimize the likelihood of making a late payment or missing a payment.
- Lower Interest Rates: Generally, the main benefit of loan consolidation and refinancing is securing a lower interest rate. This can save you money from interest charges, which adds up over time.
- Fixed Repayment Schedule: Typically, when you consolidate debt or refinance, you’ll get a set payment schedule. That makes it easier to incorporate the payments into your budget since there won’t be any surprises regarding how much you owe every month.
- Improved Loan Terms: You can modify loan terms to better match your current financial situation. For example, switching from a high-interest credit card to a personal loan can cut your interest rate in half, making it easier to pay off your debt.
- Fees and Costs: You may need to pay application fees, closing costs, and other charges when you consolidate debt or refinance. That can offset potential savings, so do the math beforehand to figure out the costs.
- Risk of Accumulating More Debt: If you do not address the root causes of the debt, you risk accumulating more debt while paying off the consolidated loan. For example, if you are an impulsive shopper, that can make it difficult to pay off debt.
- Lengthened Repayment Term: While extending your repayment term allows you to make lower monthly payments, you will end up paying more in interest over time.
- Credit Impact: Whenever you apply for a new loan or refinance, the lender will pull a hard inquiry on your credit reports to review your information. Each hard inquiry temporarily dings your credit up to 5 points.
How to Manage Debt Consolidation and Refinancing
- Consider your goals. Do you want to reduce your monthly payments? Switch from an adjustable-rate to a fixed-rate loan? Shorten or lengthen the loan term? Understanding what you are trying to accomplish helps you find the best option for your financial circumstances.
- Budget and plan repayments. Create a detailed budget that accounts for all your monthly expenses, including the new consolidated or refinanced loan payments. Make sure the repayment plan fits into your budget and you can pay your bill on time and in full each month.
- Communicate with lenders. If you are facing financial difficulties, reach out to your lenders. They may offer temporary relief or adjust your payment plan to help you manage your debt.
- Focus on financial discipline. Build healthy financial habits, such as saving and investing, avoiding unnecessary expenses, and tracking your spending. The key to financial freedom is having a strong grasp of your finances.
What Else Is New?
- Redfin is leaving the National Association of Realtors (NAR) due to its restrictive policies and pattern of sexual harassment.
- U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California passed away at age 90 last week. She was the Senate’s oldest member and had served since 1992.
- Google Cloud technical director Ulku Rowe is suing the tech giant over its sexist pay discrimination practices. She alleges she was passed over for promotions and salary increases in retaliation for her complaints.
- Actors union SAG-AFTRA and major Hollywood studios are in negotiations over the use of AI and lagging wages. Even with the momentum from the WGA’s win, it’ll likely be several weeks before a deal is solidified.
Personal Finance Resources
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