Freedom Debt Relief: What’s New in Finance

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Given the dizzying speed of financial trends these days, it can be difficult to stay current. But it’s the latest news that helps consumers stay informed and gives entrepreneurs an edge over their competition. To help make it easier for everyone to stay in the know, Freedom Debt Relief put together this list of current financial trends:

 

 

Financial Effect of Hurricane Harvey

Texas Governor Greg Abbot estimated that the total damage from Hurricane Harvey could end up costing between $150 and $180 billion dollars. Unfortunately for homeowners, insurance companies will not be paying out most of that money.

The majority of the damage was inflicted by flood water. Standard homeowner’s insurance covers hurricane damage from the wind, but not damage from flooding. The Federal Emergency Management Agency does require homeowners in certain high-risk areas to purchase flood insurance. Unfortunately, having the insurance is not strictly enforced and FEMA estimates only 15% of homes in Harris County, which includes Houston, have flood insurance.

Government assistance can help, but homeowners will bear the brunt of the financial burden. FEMA grants that have been designated to help with home damage max out at $33,000. This increased burden will lead to many residents experiencing serious financial hardships.

Since the president made a disaster declaration, no homes can be foreclosed on in the next 90 days. This will provide some relief for homeowners, but if a homeowner doesn’t have a large nest egg saved up, this hit will be hard to withstand. Foreclosures are expected to rise after the 90-day period. Credit scores will also likely decline in the Houston area.

Hiring Slows Down

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employers added only 156,000 jobs this August. This means that the fervent pace of hiring is beginning to slow down. Prior in 2017, the average jobs added per month had been 176,000. Unemployment also rose .1% to 4.4%, but this rate is still very low historically in the United States.

The report also noted that over the past 12 months wages have increased by 2.5%.

The labor market is strong, despite the recent slowdown. High employment coupled with wage increases has given consumers more confidence. Consumers surveyed were more likely to review jobs as “plentiful” rather than “hard to get.” Consumers also said that they expected income to increase in the next six months.

Many people are wondering what effect Hurricane Harvey’s damage will have on the country’s economy. Houston has a large economy that accounts for about 3% of the total Gross Domestic Product. Obviously, an economy of that size undergoing a natural disaster so large will lead to changes in economic data.

Further complicating the situation in Houston is the fact that southeastern Texas accounts for a huge portion of oil production in the United States. It’s more likely than not that the impact from Harvey will affect the U.S. GDP for 2017.

 

The latest report does not include any of the effects from Hurricanes Harvey or Irma, as data was collected before these storms.

Trends in the Banking Industry

With entrepreneurs facing less regulation than traditional banks, a whole slew of fintech innovations have become available to consumers. Banks, meanwhile, must innovate quickly if they want to keep a handle on their market share. Freedom Debt Relief has the details:

Simple Money Transfers

Transferring money from your bank account to another account using the bank’s technology is not a quick and easy process. Entrepreneurs recognized this, and created new services and apps designed to fill the void. Paypal, Venmo, and others have streamlined the process of person-to-person and person-to-business payment.

However, banks and credit unions aren’t taking the loss of business in the payments sector lying down. A new mobile banking app called Zelle is being put forth in conjunction with banks and credit unions to get traditional banks back in the mix. Zelle offers a safe and easy way to transfer money from your bank account to another bank account.

Bank of America, Capital One, Chase and many other banks and credit unions have partnered with the brand. Time will tell if it can overtake the more established Venmo and Paypal.

Mobile Device Payments

Many of the bigger chain stores have begun to accept payment straight from smartphones. Technology like Apple Pay or Android Pay allows consumers who appreciate being able to leave their wallets behind to simply connect a credit card or debit card to their smartphone.

Banks would be wise to keep this new development in mind. Consumers expect quick and easy solutions to their needs.

Financial Management

Freedom Debt Relief knows how important financial literacy is. In the past, those who lacked financial literacy were quick to rely on banks to help them manage their wealth and investments.

For banks, this meant direct access to the opportunity to sell customers investment products, perhaps even unnecessary ones. New services have emerged that can help someone take more direct control of their finances and increase their financial literacy.

Mint, for example, tells consumers that they can help people master their money and improve their lives.  Another example is Betterment, which allows consumers to manage their investing from any device with an internet connection.

By bringing all a consumer’s financial information into one place, these services help people progress towards their financial goals more efficiently. Traditional banks need to be sure that they offer tools that can benefit the consumer in the same way.

Our Take

While new innovations are rapidly changing the face of finance, some things don’t change.

Freedom Debt Relief wants consumers to be educated, financially literate, and confident about their abilities to handle the changes that are coming their way. There are more products and services being offered than ever before. And while choice is great, it also presents the new problem of deciding which services are worthwhile and which are not.

Spending less than you earn and investing your money will always be important. Any consumer who also knows the fundamentals of finance should be in the best position to create a brighter future of long term wealth.