As we dive into the celebrations this month, we hope your time with loved ones is filled with laughter, and that all your dreams of peace and harmony light up your days. Cheers to a season of joy and happy moments!
REACH YOUR GOALS
Financial Goals For 2024
A recent survey found that most Americans have already set some financial goals for next year. The first two aren't any surprise: many of us want to save more money and pay down credit card debt.
The top savings goal was to add to a rainy-day fund, while goals like funding retirement and saving for children's education were close behind.
Another key finding is that almost all respondents to recent surveys linked financial health to their overall happiness. When comparing age groups, 97% of Generation Zers (aged 18 to 26) and 90% of millennials (aged 27 to 42) agreed that financial health is vital to overall health.
A more surprising survey result: consumers are much more optimistic than recently portrayed in popular press. Currently, over 80% of Americans responded feeling positive about the U.S. economy going into 2024, while almost as many are optimistic about their own finances. However, fears of an economic recession are still alive and well, as well as the return of inflation and higher interest rates.1
Why Selling in December Can Be a Good Idea
The thought of selling during a holiday month may seem daunting, as it's easy to assume that nobody else is making a move and you'll only receive low offers. But the relatively slow December market offers benefits to sellers and buyers alike.
Something to keep in mind is that there will always be motivated buyers, often with the same reasons to move as yours. These can be career relocations, or changes in their financial situation or family needs. Or perhaps a local homeowner has had their eye on your home for a long time, waiting and hoping for a chance to buy it.
You'll also have less competition from other sellers. With fewer homes on the market in winter, buyers will be making their choices from a limited inventory of property listings. Dealing with fewer showings can also be less stressful.
People also tend to take extra time off work during the holiday season, especially if their job benefits include paid time off that will expire at the end of the year. You'll be able to arrange more showings, and your agent can host an open house with the bonus of holiday decorations.
Are Your Credit Card Rewards at Risk?
If you've never heard of The Credit Card Competition Act, you're not alone, as other Congressional news has pushed it to the back pages. But if you're earning rewards or points through a Visa® or Mastercard® program, this Act may affect it.
Here's a Cliff Notes version of the potential pros and cons of the Act.
- Supporters claim it will help retailers by lowering their operating costs, which will result in lower prices for consumers.
- Opponents claim that retailers won't reduce consumer prices, and that credit card companies will cancel or reduce their rewards programs to make up for lost revenue.
The Credit Card Competition Act was authored by several Congress members determined to rein in the rising costs of using Visa and Mastercard. These two cards control over 80% of the American credit card market and using them creates fees. One example: swipe fees charged by banks that cost retailers 2-3% of every charge. These costs are usually passed on to consumers. The Act would require banks to offer more transaction choices to their retailers, breaking up the Visa-Mastercard duopoly and lowering transaction fees.
The potential catch seen by many of the Act's opponents is the death of credit-related rewards programs. Consumers can earn everything from free airline flights to haircuts, depending on their card's issuer. Other credit cards offer "cash back" rewards to increase their appeal. So, instead of lowering costs for consumers, the Act could result in rewards programs losing value.
If the Act passes, consumers will have to wait and see if they're rewarded with lower retail prices...or punished by watching their reward programs lose value or even disappear.
DID YOU KNOW?
Luxury Artisans Escape the Digital World
Whether you buy luxury items or simply admire their workmanship, you may not be aware that many of these items are hand-made, using techniques from decades past. Furthermore, there are growing shortages of the artisans who create them.
The French conglomerate that owns Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Tiffany and other luxury brands have recognized that there's a growing shortage of trained artisans to produce coveted items such as a Loewe handbag or a Hublot watch. Recently, the company forecast a deficit of over 7,000 craftspeople by the end of 2025.
While a few applicants for these jobs have appropriate experience, an apprenticeship would probably be required. For example, Swiss luxury shoe company Bally is famous for footwear that take weeks to complete, as artisans go through as many as 250 steps to create a single pair. Bally's CEO admits that he is always short of cobbler artisans. Italian suitmaker Raffaele Caruso's CEO describes his company's situation as "desperate", as a suit can require nine hours to create.
Fortunately, interest in traditional artisan jobs is increasing. Luxury manufacturers are sending recruiters to American and French high schools, while others are hiring apprentices aged 40 or older, with many seeking a lifestyle outside the digital world.
Other positive factors: apprenticeships don't require a college degree, and hiring is not limited to a certain demographic. The main challenge is to find one or more apprenticeship programs, as they've been limited to Europe until recently. However, some European countries already offer apprentice visas to Americans.
Are You Doom Spending?
Although inflation is waning and the job market's healthy, almost everyone is concerned about the state of the American economy. This has contributed to over 25% of the population opting to spend more freely than usual, which has been nicknamed "doom spending".
In particular, Generation Z and millennial shoppers are soothing their concerns about the future of the economy, global conflicts and other geopolitical concerns. This has resulted in a new high in credit card debt, which has just reached the $1 trillion mark.
So what's behind the doom spending mindset? According to a recent study, Generation Zers are saying that they prefer to live in the moment, and that they feel discouraged about the high cost of living. Unfortunately, Gen Z workers tend to be non-savers.
Instead of spending for emotional reasons, industry analysts suggest that stressed consumers create monthly budgets that automate their savings while allowing for some discretionary spending. This helps keep long-term financial goals on track while minimizing the use of high-interest credit cards.
No matter what you're celebrating this month, it's always fun to cook up something that children can help with. These easy Reindeer Cookies don't need hours of preparation as you can use your favorite peanut butter cookie mix.
REAL ESTATE TRENDS
Light Up Your Home Like a Pro
Even if you've already begun decorating your home's exterior for the holidays, it's not too late to organize your inventory and improve your layout so you light up the block. Here are six tips to follow.
1. Take inventory. Find every string of outdoor lights from previous years and test them. If you have a mixture of lights, such as some incandescent and some LED strings, you may want to stick to a single type.
2. Measure your home's perimeters, including roof edges and fences. If you're planning to add lights to window and door frames, don't forget to measure these as well. This is also a good time to locate and make note of your exterior power sources.
3. Make a plan. Take photos of your house from the street and decide where your lights will look best. You may also want to branch out and add lights to any pathways, lamp posts or trees in your front yard. And don't forget the back yard, especially if you spend a lot of time in a room that faces it.
4. Make a shopping list. This is when your measurements and master plan help you save time in crowded stores. Be sure to pick up extension cords that will help prevent overheating and overloads, or go for a power stake that only requires one cable.
5. Avoid using nails. Instead, use plastic holiday light clips. They won't rust or damage your home's woodwork, gutters or soffits.
6. Don't work alone. Even if you don't need help with a ladder, a partner can hand lights up to you as you work. A second pair of eyes can also help ensure you don't connect different types of lights to the same circuit, or decorate a tree close to a power line.