What a year Soldiers! It’s hard to believe that 2018 is almost over! There was plenty of action going on in personal and consumer finance. Let’s end the year by reviewing some highlights of 2018.
Credit Freezes Now Free
After the fallout from many security breaches including the infamous Equifax breach, Congress passed the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act. As of September 21, 2018, credit freezes are now free. What’s a credit freeze? A credit freeze allows you to restrict access to your credit report, making it difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. Before September 2018, you used to have to pay a fee (*depending on your state law) to the credit bureaus to freeze your credit.
Tax Bill Impact From 2017
President Trump signed into law a new tax bill back in 2017. 2018 will be the first year many of us see the impact of the changes to the tax code. Make sure you speak with a tax professional (CPA, EA) before you file your state and federal income taxes to maximize a positive outcome.
The Rise of Online Banking
The public scandals with Wells Fargo’s banking practices have caused many to rethink where to keep their deposits. Credit unions have always been a great alternative to banks due to their structure (membership based), customer service, and competitive rates (savings, loans). A third player has flexed its muscles as of late: online banks. They offer many of the same perks as credit unions, but they improve on them using technology. With no brick and mortar offices, they can push the envelope even further with phenomenal savings account rates, no fee checking accounts, and totally mobile banking capabilities. Two online banks you’ve probably heard of are Ally and Capital One 360, but there are many more that may be a good fit for your financial needs and lifestyle.
2018 saw certain debt types spike to record levels. In the first quarter of 2018, car payments reached an average all-time high of $523 per month (Experian). Also during Q1 2018, student loan debt surpassed $1.5 trillion for the first time (Federal Reserve). Yikes! Better to live debt free than to tread upon the land of borrowers.
More Financial Transparency
FinTech, an industry that uses technology to improve activities in finance, is on an unstoppable quest to empower consumers with information. Services such as Credit Karma and Credit Sesame continuously monitor credit scores and reports, giving people access to this information on demand. The ability to pay and track bills electronically is now almost universally offered by banks as well as third party apps (e.g. Prism). With the advent of mobile and online banking, budgeting has now been put at the fingertips of users with top apps like YNAB (You Need A Budget) and EveryDollar. Need help saving money? Look no further than Digit, which analyzes your spending and automatically saves money so you don’t have to. Have fears about the market? Robo-advisers such as Acorns, Betterment, and Wealthfront will help you get started investing. Perhaps the hottest app in FinTech, Personal Capital, provides an all-encompassing money management experience.
A lot of policy creation and innovation occurred in 2018. What upcoming announcements or financial trends are you looking forward to in 2019? Oorah!