Daily Skimm: Got my mind on my money, and I'm not goin' away

2021 was supposed to be better than 2020. Jury’s still out on that one. But this much we know: We’re there for you when it comes to breaking down what happened in the last day, week, month, or even the year. So here’s this year in...Money.
December 28, 2021
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Daily Skimm

2021 was supposed to be better than 2020. Jury’s still out on that one. But this much we know: We’re there for you when it comes to breaking down what happened in the last day, week, month, or even the year. So here’s this year in...Money.

Mo' Money Problems

Vanessa Lovegrove

The Story

The economic recovery is real, but we're not out of the woods yet.

Go on.

America hoped for a quick return to normal in 2021. But turns out, bouncing back from a global health catastrophe isn't easy. New COVID-19 variants haven't helped. While the US continues getting back on its feet, here are some of the money issues that still need work.

The cost of the cure: In January, President Joe Biden picked up where the Trump admin left off, propping up the economy with relief measures. Think: extra unemployment benefits, a pause on evictions and federal student loan bills, an expanded child tax credit, near-zero interest rates, and stimulus payments. Stimmies worked to keep many Americans out of poverty and fueled others' interest in investing manias (more on that later). But not everyone was included in the economic recovery. Plus, all that extra financial aid contributed to massive federal deficit levels and...

Drama on the Hill: After dropping nearly $2 trillion on another pandemic relief package, some lawmakers were resistant to more government spending. Even to avoid a shutdown or hitting the debt ceiling — although both crises were averted. Twice. That threw a wrench in Biden’s plans to build up the nation’s infrastructure. His OG proposal included investing in health care, education, curbing climate change, and advancing racial equity...for the low, low price of $6 trillion. Republicans (and some Dems) said 'think again,' and Congress spent most of the year negotiating. The infrastructure bill Biden ultimately signed into law in November cost about $1 trillion. Much of the eliminated social investments (hi, paid leave) were meant to go into a second spending bill…that may be DOA (bye, paid leave?).

Supply got low, low, low, low, low: TP was back on the shelves, but 2021 had plenty of its own shortages. Including ketchup packets, furniture foam, cars, smartphones, fuel, workers, and more. Why? Pandemic-era shutdowns put a halt to production and shipping, even as Americans continued clicking ‘add to cart.’ And supply-chain disruptions (including ransomware attacks) continued to ripple through this year. That all led to...

Prices headed higher and higher: Along with shortages and stimmies, "revenge spending" (aka splurging to make up for lost time) fueled inflation. Making just about everything — from airfare and food to gas and cars — more expensive. Or just a little worse than it was before. The Federal Reserve says some inflation, around 2%, signals a healthy economy. But in November, the Consumer Price Index (which measures the average prices of groceries, housing, and other necessities) rose 6.8%, the biggest annual jump since 1982. Experts think inflation issues will continue well into 2022 (despite shoppers' "inflation denial"). To help, the Fed is planning a big policy shift — from focusing on measures that help boost the economy to ones that cool things off and curb rising prices. On the agenda: raise interest rates at least three times next year and speed up plans to “taper” its bond-buying program.

theSkimm

COVID-19 relief efforts may be winding down. But the effects of the pandemic — and all that gov spending and support — will likely have a lasting ripple effect. Read: higher prices, slower economic growth, and maybe a new vocab word for 2022: “stagflation.”

Well, That’s New

Vanessa Lovegrove

More than a year of unprecedented times was bound to create new trends — like these big ones from 2021: 

What investors couldn't (Game)stop obsessing over…

Investing manias. Think: meme stocks, NFTs, and crypto (oh my). In January, amateur traders — who had the time, boredom, and stimulus money to consider new ways to invest — coordinated using social media and forums like Reddit to send certain stocks' prices "to the moon." And try to force the hedge funds that bet against them to lose a lot of money. Some fan faves: AMC, Blackberry, and yep, GameStop. Shares of the video game retailer were below $5 in 2020 and driven as high as $483 this year. Trading got so wild at some points that Robinhood and other brokers cut it off, a move some thought unfairly protected hedge funds from losses. But the SEC later said that everything was quite all right.

Who went crazy about crypto

Just about everyone, including Redditors, TikTok influencers, and VIPs like Mark Cuban, Lindsay Lohan, Snoop Dogg, and Elon Musk. Even El Salvador got in on the crypto craze, officially making Bitcoin a national currency and planning to build the first "Bitcoin City." (Not legit: this "Squid Game" crypto.) China, on the other hand, said ‘no more’ and declared all mining and transactions illegal. Which made the US chant 'we're number 1' in bitcoin mining hubs.

Who was cheering, ‘b-e aggressive’…

Homebuyers. The pandemic created a high demand for a change of scenery and more space at home — the hottest (only) place to be in 2020. Record-low mortgage rates made homeownership feel more attainable. But lumber shortages and skyrocketing construction costs kept the supply of new homes low. Enter: an ultra-competitive housing market with inflated asking prices, bidding wars, and all-cash offers. Things appear to be cooling off. Partly because many who haven’t bought yet either can’t afford it or are tired of trying.

What struggled to make the perfect match…

The job market. A record number of people have been quitting their jobs, and women are leading the way. More than 2 million have left the workforce this year alone. That's even as employers are desperately trying to fill a record number of job openings, especially in food services, entertainment, finance, and health care. Some hiring managers say the mismatch is because applicants don't have the right skills. Workers say the available jobs aren't offering the right wages, benefits (hi again, paid leave), and overall quality of life.

Make Good (Money) Choices in 2022

Vanessa Lovegrove

Next year's financial forecast: things will stay interesting. Being proactive can put you in the best possible position.

  • Remember student loan payments. The pandemic pause on federal student loans has been extended (for the fifth time) until May. Make a plan to use the extra time wisely and pay off the debt (eventually). Oh, and hit up your (possibly new) loan servicer to make sure your contact and loan info are correct.

  • Go long. Despite *all this,* the stock market hit many record highs this year. Some experts think it could reverse course soon. Don't give up on your investments if it does. Down days (and even years) are normal, and, historically, overall stock prices have shaken them off and continued heading up. If you're a long-term investor, it can pay to do nothing. Or if you're feeling spicy, you could shop for stocks "on sale." Psst...investing can help you overcome the many financial obstacles facing women, including needing more money in retirement.

PS: For money news and tips in your inbox every Friday all year round, sign up for our Skimm Money newsletter.

Person To Know

Vanessa Lovegrove

Janet Yellen

The money world's triple threat, who's gone where no man has gone before. On top of being the first woman to serve in her current role as Treasury Secretary, she was also the first female Fed boss and head of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Making her the first person to hold the US’s top three economic jobs. A few highlights from her 2021 resume: urging Congress to increase pandemic relief measures like the expanded child tax credit, winning support for a global minimum tax, and lobbying to raise the debt ceiling. Missions accomplished.

Keep Calm and Invest On

If this year’s investing news inspired you to get more involved in your portfolio, you’re not alone. One thing to keep in mind? Try to check your emotions at the door. 

Even though it may feel extra easy to make reactive choices these days, it’s important to take a beat before you make any decisions. Oh, and keep your long-term plans in mind. Enter: Fidelity. You can trade right from your phone (in the same place where you manage your goals) with their free Spire® app. Looking to be more hands-off? They’ve also got a robo-advisory service. And there’s no minimum to open an account. Learn more about Fidelity Go® here.

Skimm Faves: Your Favorite Finds Under $25

Photos: Uncommon Goods, Target, Amazon | Design: theSkimm

Things with small price tags that make a big difference? We’re huge fans. And apparently so are you. So today, we’re revealing the most popular products under $25 Skimm’rs couldn’t get enough of this year. From items that solve everyday problems — like a holder for your vax card or stickers that dim electronics at night — to stuff that makes caring for pets and plants easier. 

Psst...peep the rest of this year’s Skimm Faves here. We’ve got self-care products, page-turning reads, and much more.

Skimm Picks

Here are today’s recs to help you live a smarter life…

1. Something to help you de-stress and sleep better. We'll take 100, please. This wearable device calms your body and clears your mind. So you can relax, focus, sleep better, and feel better. PS: Skimm’rs get 10% off. Here you go.*

2. The best end-of-year sales to shop right now. 2021 is almost over, but the savings aren't stopping anytime soon. We rounded up some of the top deals from brands like Girlfriend Collective, Wayfair, and Nordstrom. Get to it.

3. Must-have product recs from our Skimm Her Life guest series. We've had the privilege of chatting with some amazing women this year. Now we're looking back at the items they can't live without. Entering the chat: Cynthia Erivo, Padma Lakshmi, Brie Larson, and others.

*PS: This is a sponsored post.

Skimm'rs

We like to celebrate the wins, big and small. Let us know how your friends, neighbors, coworkers (and yes, even you) are making career moves, checking off goals, or making an impact in the community.

A helping hand...Avery M (TX). She works at the University of Texas at Dallas Office of Sustainability. They just launched a new farm that will donate all of its food to food insecure communities. And they're trying to build an apiary (collection of bee hives) on the farm to pollinate the crops, while helping students learn about beekeeping and grow as leaders. Buzz here.

Adding to queue...Brit K (CA). She recently launched a podcast with a friend and colleague called the "Perfect Cents Podcast." It's all about financial wellness and meaningful community involvement. Listen here.

(Some) Birthdays...Tucker Haves Bayer (NY), Henry Kelrick (CA), Bob Pittman (NY), Allison Holzman (NJ), Emily Chrysler (MO), Madison Barlow (NC), Lisa Kwit (IL), Blake Acquarulo (CT), Kimberly Sons (TN), Joel Marie Payne (IL), Francesca Johnson (IA), Brittany Staub Zeltser (TX), Sophia Chrysler (MO), Roz Lueck-Mammen (WA), Megan Kelley (OH), Amanda Zapp (CO) *Paging all members of theSkimm. Reach out here for a chance to be featured.

Skimm More

theSkimm is hiring. Interested in joining our team? Check out our career page for open roles.

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Skimm’d by Casey Bond, Liz Knueven, Kamaron McNair, Stacy Rapacon, and Elyse Steinhaus

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