You may not realize it, but behind the scenes the Federal Reserve is quietly influencing your everyday life when it comes to borrowing, saving and even spending. Serving as the central bank of the United States, the Federal Reserve, or Fed, is responsible for managing the country’s monetary policy. A big part of its job is adjusting the federal funds rateâthe short-term interest rate banks charge each other to lend funds overnight. The Fed decides whether or not to raise or lower this benchmark interest rate in order to reach maximum employment and stable inflation.
OK, wait. Policymakers, the economics behind employment and inflation, overnight lending between banks… so how does a change in interest rate affect your decision to spend or save, you ask? To borrow from a popular saying: âSo goes the federal funds rate, so goes consumer interest rates,” says Riley Adams, a certified public accountant and founder of personal finance website Young and the Invested. Whether it goes up or down, a change to the federal funds rate could have a ripple effect in the same direction for borrowers, savers and spendersâan important proof point for why the federal funds rate matters for consumers.
If this is news to you and the federal funds rate hasn’t really been on your radar, have no fear. What follows will help you more fully answer the question: How does the Federal Reserve interest rate affect me? Then you’ll be on your way to making the best money management decisions for your financial goals and the current interest rate environment.
A low interest rate environment makes borrowing more attractive
The answer to “how does the Federal Reserve interest rate affect me?” can be very beneficial in a low-rate environment if you have debt or are looking for new borrowing opportunities. When the Fed cuts rates, borrowing money tends to become less expensive since banks and lenders also typically lower rates on their credit products.
In a low-rate environment, for example, you could see lower rates on:
Private student loans
Home equity lines of credit
Why the federal funds rate matters for consumers and the credit cards in your wallet has to do with minimum payments and interest charges. A Federal Reserve rate cut could translate to a lower minimum payment on credit cards and a lower cost to carry a balance from one month to the next. For loans, a Fed rate cut could mean lower monthly payments and less interest paid out over the life of the loan. Lower borrowing costs can add money back to your budget that you could use to spend, save or apply to your financial goal of choice.
How does the Federal Reserve interest rate affect me when it comes to homeownership, you ask? There’s good news there, too. When the Fed lowers rates, homeowners with an adjustable-rate mortgage or homebuyers shopping for one may experience a rate reduction, since the rates for this type of mortgage typically track with the prime rate, which is in turn influenced by the federal funds rate. The lower your mortgage rate, the lower your monthly payment and the more home you might be able to afford. Good deal. Note that fixed-rate mortgages are less directly impacted by a Fed rate cut.
Chad Rixse, director of financial planning at Forefront Wealth Partners, says that when rates are falling, it may be a good time to consider refinancing or consolidating existing debt, such as private student loans, home loans and car loans. (Definitions: Refinancing means replacing your existing loan with a new one at a lower rate. Consolidating means paying off multiple loans with a single new loan.)
When analyzing “how does the Federal Reserve interest rate affect me?” Adams adds that consumers should be mindful of how much rates have dropped to determine the value of refinancing or consolidating. Using mortgages as an example: “They should not consider refinancing a mortgage after a 25 basis point (0.25%) cut in the rates because the associated costs and fees will outweigh any interest savings,” Adams says. “If rates move meaningfully lower (1.00%+), they should be on the lookout for refinancing offers, assuming they have significant time remaining on their mortgage and can benefit from lower interest costs.”
âSo goes the federal funds rate, so goes consumer interest rates.”
When rates rise, savers reap the benefits
How does the Federal Reserve interest rate affect me when rates go up? In a higher interest rate environment, your savings may actually be able to get a little more love.
“If interest rates rise, this benefits savers by possibly earning more interest on their bank deposits, assuming their bank indexes interest rates on deposits to remain competitive against other banks,” Adams says.
For your list of “ways the Fed interest rate affects me,” consider that these savings vehicles could earn more interest when rates rise:
Certificates of deposit (CDs)
Money market accounts
Interest-bearing checking accounts
You can take advantage of higher savings interest rates and get the most from your savings efforts by increasing the amount of money stashed in your interest-earning savings accounts. The higher the balance, the more you will earn.
If you’re focused on saving and there’s a chance rates could drop in the near term, you may want to lock in a higher rate while you can with a long-term, fixed-rate CD. That way, you can continue to earn a higher rate throughout the CD’s term even if the Fed cuts the federal funds rate and rates start to drop on deposit accounts.
A simple way to reach your goals.
Watch your savings grow with aÂ CD.
Lock in Your Rate
Certificate of Deposit
Discover Bank, Member FDIC
Interest rates can affect spending habits
Why the federal funds rate matters for consumers even extends into purchasing power and everyday spending.
âBy raising the federal funds rate, the Fed makes it more attractive for banks to hold extra capital,” says James McGrath, a housing market expert and licensed real estate broker at New York-based real estate firm Yoreevo. âWhen more money is locked away in vaults, there is less available to make loans and buy things, which slows growth and inflation.”
If inflation is kept to a minimum by the Fed’s benchmark interest rate, prices for things you buy every dayâthink groceries or personal care itemsâhave less room to increase. If a Fed rate change keeps those everyday prices low, you can put more of your money toward savings or paying off high-interest debt.
On the flip side, McGrath says the Fed can lower rates to spur spending. That puts more money into the economy, but it does open up the potential for prices to rise, he says. If you’re wondering “what ways the Fed interest rate affects me?” consider that higher prices could mean that your money has to stretch further to buy the same things.
How to handle interest rate changes
By now, you should have a better understanding of why the federal funds rate matters for consumers. While there’s nothing you can do to control the Federal Reserve’s rate changes, you can control how you react to rising or falling rates.
Look at your overall financial situation against the backdrop of what’s happening with rates. Your list of ways the Fed interest rate affects me might be different than someone else’s. Ask yourself how you can take advantage of rising or falling rates for maximum financial benefit when it comes to your borrowing, saving and spending priorities. For example, if the Fed hikes rates and you’ve been building up a college savings fund for your children, you may be motivated to put more into savings to take advantage of higher returns. If rates are cut and you’ve been in the market for a loan for some time, now could be the time to jump on it.
Note that the ways the Fed interest rate affects me may also depend on more than just one Fed rate change. “Small changes don’t amount to significant differences over time,” Adams says. “It’s when a long-term rate increase or decrease path becomes the norm that consumers should pay more attention,” he adds.
Above all, remember that rate increases and decreases are a normal part of what the Fed does. âRemain calm and carry on,” Rixse suggests. âDon’t let panic or negative emotions guide your decision-making.”
The post How Does the Federal Reserve Interest Rate Affect Me? appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.
Savings bonds can be a safe way to save money for the long term while earning interest. You might use savings bonds to help pay for your childâs college, for example, or to set aside money for your grandchildren. Once you redeem them, you can collect the face value of the bond along with any interest earned. Itâs important to realize, however, that interest on savings bonds can be taxed. If youâre wondering, how you can avoid paying taxes on savings bonds there are a few things to keep in mind. Of course, one key thing to keep in mind is that a financial advisor can be immensely helpful in minimizing your taxes.
How Savings Bonds Work
Savings bonds are issued by the U.S. Treasury. The most common savings bonds issued are Series EE bonds. These electronically issued bonds earn interest if you hold them for 30 years. Depending on when you purchased Series EE bonds, they may earn either a fixed or variable interest rate.
You can buy up to $10,000 in savings bonds per year if you file taxes as a single person. The cap doubles to $20,000 for married couples who file a joint return. If you decide you want to use some or all of your tax refund money to purchase savings bonds, you can earmark an additional $5,000 for Series I bonds. These are paper bonds, not electronic ones.
When Do You Pay Taxes on Savings Bond Interest?
When youâll have to pay taxes on Treasury-issued savings bonds typically depends on the type of bond involved and how long you hold the bond. The Treasury gives you two options:
Report interest each year and pay taxes on it annually
Defer reporting interest until you redeem the bonds or give up ownership of the bond and itâs reissued or the bond is no longer earning interest because itâs matured
According to the Treasury Department, itâs typical to defer reporting interest until you redeem bonds at maturity. With electronic Series EE bonds, the redemption process is automatic and interest is reported to the IRS. Interest earnings on bonds are reported on IRS Form 1099-INT.
Itâs important to keep in mind that savings bond interest is subject to more than one type of tax. If you hold savings bonds and redeem them with interest earned, that interest is subject to federal income tax and federal gift taxes. You wonât pay state or local income tax on interest earnings but you may pay state or inheritance taxes if those apply where you live.
How Can I Avoid Paying Taxes on Savings Bonds?
Whether you have to pay taxes on savings bonds depends on who owns it. Generally, taxes are owed on interest earned if youâre the only bond owner or you use your own funds to buy a bond that you co-own with someone else.
If you buy a bond but someone else is named as its only owner, they would be responsible for the taxes due. When you co-own a bond with someone else and share in funding it, or if you live in a community property state, youâd also share responsibility for the taxes owed with your co-owner or spouse.
Use the Education Exclusion
With that in mind, you have one option for avoiding taxes on savings bonds: the education exclusion. You can skip paying taxes on interest earned with Series EE and Series I savings bonds if youâre using the money to pay for qualified higher education costs. That includes expenses you pay for yourself, your spouse or a qualified dependent. Only certain qualified higher education costs are covered, including:
Equipment, such as a computer
You can still use savings bonds to pay for other education expenses, such as room and board or activity fees, but you wouldnât be able to avoid paying taxes on interest.
Additionally, there are a few other rules that apply when using savings bonds to pay for higher education:
Bonds must have been issued after 1989
Bond owners must have been at least 24 years of age at the time the bonds were issued
Education costs must be paid using bond funds in the year the bonds are redeemed
Funds can only be used to pay for expenses at a school thatâs eligible to participate in federal student aid programs
If youâre married you and your spouse have to file a joint return to take advantage of the education exclusion. And any money from a savings bond redemption that doesnât go toward higher education expenses can still be taxed at a prorated amount.
There are also income thresholds you need to observe. For 2020, single tax filers can earn up to $82,350 and benefit from the full exclusion. Married couples filing jointly can do so with up to $123,550 in income. Once your income passes those limits, the amount of interest you can exclude is reduced until it eventually phases out altogether.
Roll Savings Bonds Into a College Savings Account
Another strategy for how to avoid taxes on savings bond interest involves rolling the money into a college savings account. You can roll savings bonds into a 529 college savings plan or a Coverdell Education Savings Account (ESA) to avoid taxes.
There are some advantages to either approach. With a 529 college savings plan, you can continue saving money on a tax-advantaged basis for higher education. You wonât pay any taxes on money thatâs withdrawn for qualified education expenses. And if you have multiple children, you can reassign the account to a different beneficiary if one child decides he or she doesnât want to go to college or doesnât use up all the money in the account.
Contributions to 529 college savings accounts arenât tax-deductible at the federal level, though some states do allow you to deduct contributions. You donât have to live in any particular state to invest in that stateâs 529 and plans can have very generous lifetime contribution limits. Keep in mind that gift tax exclusion limits still apply to any money you add to a 529 on a yearly basis.
Coverdell ESAs have lower annual contribution limits, capped at $2,000 per child. You can only contribute to one of these accounts on behalf of a child up to their 18th birthday. Withdrawals are tax-free when the money is used for qualified education expenses. But you have to withdraw all the funds by age 30 to avoid a tax penalty.
The Bottom Line
Savings bonds typically offer a lower rate of return compared to stocks, mutual funds or other higher-risk securities. But they can be a good savings option if you want something that can earn interest over the long term. Minimizing the taxes you pay on that interest may be possible if you have children and you plan to use some or all of your savings bonds to help pay for college. Talking to a tax professional can also help with finding other college tax savings strategies.
Tips for Investing
Consider talking to a financial advisor about the best ways to manage savings bonds in your portfolio. If you donât have a financial advisor yet, finding one doesnât have to be difficult. SmartAssetâs financial advisor matching tool can make it easy to connect with professional advisors locally in just minutes. If youâre ready, get started now.
Savings bonds purchased on behalf of grandchildren donât receive the same tax treatment for higher education purposes. Generally, the education exclusion only applies if the grandparent is claiming a grandchild on their taxes as a dependent. If your parents are interested in helping pay for your childâs college expenses, you may encourage them to open a 529 college savings account instead, then roll the bonds into it to avoid paying taxes on interest earned.
Imagine this: You’ve gone to collegeâeven grad schoolâto pursue a career path you always thought you wanted. But after a few years and many tuition dollars spent, it suddenly hits you: If you have to write one more press release, it might push you over the edge. If this is the case, it’s time to prepare for a career change.
Transitioning careers is not unusual. In fact, according to a survey conducted by the American Staffing Association, 38 percent of working adults say they are likely to change careers within the next year. The only problem is, if you are unsure of how to make a career change and whether it will be financially sound, you might be hesitant to make the leap.
âNo one wants to change careers without knowing the chances of success,” says Mark Anthony Dyson, host of The Voice of Job Seekers podcast, a show designed to help those in career transition. “Adequate preparation can make all the difference.”
âPreparation in every formâfrom updating job skills to financial planning and really taking time to think about what you desire in a fulfilling careerâwill be a huge factor in your career-change success.â
“How do I make a big career change with this adequate preparation,” you ask?
Learning how to prepare for a career change financially and finding out which skills you’ll need in your new career are great places to start. Take these steps to understand your career intentions, then determine the best financial strategies for achieving them:
Figure out if a career change is right for you
Before preparing for a career change, start by doing an honest self-assessment on whether or not a switch is right for you. This is important, says Dyson, because you’ll want to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of changing careers versus exploring a job transition within your current field. Doing the latter might make more sense for you if you aren’t quite ready to go through a full-blown career transition. Either way, taking the time for self-reflection will help you get to your desired career path sooner.
When you are thinking about how to make a career change and if it’s the right time for you, Dyson suggests asking yourself these questions:
What are the professional and financial impacts if I stay on my current career path? A quick list of pros and cons might help your analysis.
Are there other opportunities in my current field that I haven’t yet considered? Talk to a human resources professional or research online to understand the qualifications, salaries and opportunities for advancement within your area of expertise.
What does my ideal career look like?
Do I currently have the skills and experience that can transfer to a new career?
What are the possible financial and professional outcomes if my new career doesn’t work out?
Kelan Kline, a jail deputy turned personal finance blogger for The Savvy Couple, felt stifled by his previous job and the limitations it imposed on his time. He believed that in order to achieve career growth and increase his money-making potential, he would have to change careers. “I knew I was done working for others altogether,” Kline adds.
You may not think you have the skills and experience necessary to transition into a new career, but a tip to prepare for a career change is to consider the skills that have led to your career success thus far. That’s what 10-year human resources veteran Lisa Cassella did when she decided a new career direction was in order and wanted to follow her passion for real estate.
“As hiring and program manager for a senior living facility, I met face-to-face with with people everyday,” says Cassella, now a licensed real estate salesperson for the brokerage firm Compass. “Sometimes you have to have some difficult conversations,” she continues. “It’s the same in real estate. But for the most part, you are helping peopleâwhich is what I enjoy and a strong connection between both careers.”
Sasha Korobov, a career and success strategist, agrees that a tip for preparing for a career change is to use your current skills as a foundation for a new career. Having undergone a career change herself, she advises people to âreally think about what you want to do next, and see if you can start getting those skills and experience in the job you’re already in.”
Once you understand your motives and capabilities, you’ll have the groundwork for what needs to come next: smart ways to financially support yourself through the transition.
Prepare yourself financially for making the switch
One of the best things you can do when figuring out how to make a career change is to have a financial plan. Depending on how you approach your career change, the steps that you take to move to a new industry could impact your finances in various ways.
For example, when you start out in a new industry, you might be taking a lower level position than what you had in your previous career. This may come with a dip in income, for which you will need to adjust your budget as you progress in your new career.
If you plan to take any time off before you make the switch, you may experience a gap in income. “You have to think about how many months of income you need to save to get over that hump,” Cassella says. Cassella planned in advance so that she had at least six months of income in the bank before she made the switch to her new career.
Another consideration when you prepare for a career change is whether there is a cost investment required in moving to the new career you have chosen. For example, you might need to spend money on additional education, training, certifications and other measures before you can move into your new role. Your financial plan will have to consider dips in income that could occur if you need to reduce your hours or quit working in order to get the training and education your new career requires, Korobov says. Cassella had to get licensed before moving into real estate sales. She quit her job and took a two-week course, then immediately took the state test.
If your career change means starting your own business venture, you may have to prepare for all of the financial scenarios mentioned above. Your income might decrease as you establish your own business and gain traction, for instance. You might also have to pay for things that were once provided to you by an employer, such as supplies, computer equipment, software and health insurance.
Because of these potential challenges, having a savings plan is key when considering tips to prepare for a career change.
Fine-tune your savings to prepare for a career change
No matter which path you choose, preparing for a career change may present you with some financial risk. Therefore, it’s beneficial to have savings set aside to manage the transition. With just a few small lifestyle changes that will save you money, you can build the financial safety cushion you need to prepare for a career change, says finance blogger Kline.
Here are Kline’s tips to prepare for a career change and the areas he focused on most when he prepared for his professional move:
Reduce unnecessary expenses. As you work on how to make a career change, consider cutting back on discretionary spending such as eating out, entertainment and vacations, and set that money aside for your career change. Don’t already have a budget to track your expenses? Now is the perfect time to start one.
Pick the right type of savings account. You’ll want to put the money you save from reducing your expenses into the best type of account to support your career transition. A high-yield savings account, such as the Discover Online Savings Account, will help you grow your savings. For a long-term savings strategy, a Discover Certificate of Deposit might be a great fit.
You earned it. Now earn more withÂ it.
Online savings with no minimum balance.
Discover Bank, Member FDIC
Start an emergency fund. Similar to establishing a budget and picking a savings account, if you haven’t already started an emergency fund, now is the time to create one (or add to it if you already have some momentum with your rainy day savings). An emergency fund can help you prepare for unexpected expenses and the financial risks involved in changing careers. Experts suggest that you keep at least three to six months’ worth of living expenses in your emergency fund.
Pay down debt. If you are able to pay down debt, such as student loan and credit card debt, it will free up cash to save toward your career transition. Pay more than the monthly minimum to reduce or eliminate the debt altogether as you prepare for a career change.
With just a few small lifestyle changes that will save you money, you can build the financial safety cushion you need to prepare for a career change.
Approach your new career at a gradual pace
For some, a slower transition, with moonlighting or side hustling until they are ready to go full time, has proven effective. When Jeff Neal started his online retail site selling bait and live feeders, he was still a full-time project manager in e-commerce, but not passionate about his day-to-day. He was able to use his skills from this position to build his own online ventures.
Neal says he started his online business as a side hustle, with the intention of always having a full-time job keeping his household afloat. He has now been able to transition into being a full-time internet entrepreneur.
Korobov, the career and success strategist, also started to prepare for her career change with a part-time entrepreneurial venture that grew out of corporate coaching. “I wanted to go into business for myself as a career strategist for women, and I knew that having corporate coaching experience would fast-track my credibility with a lot of potential clients,” she says.
“I began offering workshops and brown-bag lunches at my office,” Korobov continues. This experience was a valuable lesson for Korobov in how to make a career change, helping her boost her confidence and allowing her to tweak her workshops as she got more experience.
One of Korobov’s biggest tips to prepare for a career change that she learned firsthand: “Your entrepreneurial ventures, even if done part-time, can make the transition into your career smoother, while giving you extra income to help with your financial preparation process.”
Ensure your path to career-change success
Making a career change can seem like a huge risk, since you don’t really know if it will work out in your favor. But with research and readiness, you can confidently prepare for a career change. Dyson, of The Voice of Job Seekers podcast, can’t emphasize enough that âpreparation in every formâfrom updating job skills to financial planning and really taking time to think about what you desire in a fulfilling careerâwill be a huge factor in your career-change success.”
Understanding your goals and expectationsâand trusting your gutâbefore you begin is a big step in the right direction. Says Cassella of her move into real estate: “It just made a lot of sense for me and my family. My expectations are that once I really get going, there is no limit to what I can make.”
The post Taking the Leap: How to Make a Career Change and Land on Your Feet appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.