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Traveling in 2021

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  After more than a year of quarantine and ever-changing restrictions, Americans are ready to take that long-awaited summer vacation. Though travel is on the rise, permanent changes stemming from the pandemic are likely to affect how we travel here on in. While vacationing might look a bit different in a post-pandemic world, all forms of travel are making a strong comeback. According to a recent survey conducted by The Vacationer , 68 percent of the 535 respondents polled over the age of 18 plan to travel this summer. 58 percent are planning to travel just as much as they did before the pandemic. Though the stats may appear high for just coming out of a global pandemic, many Americans are opting to adopt pandemic-induced travel behaviors like embarking on more road trips, centering their vacations around the great outdoors, and even taking Flexcations; a longer stay that accommodates both business and pleasure. 67 percent of the more than 8,000 people polled in a 2021 VRBO travel

Housing Market Changes

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Big changes in the housing market last year provided good news to existing homeowners while presenting a challenge to consumers in the housing market. According to a Washington Post interview with the National Association of Realtors (NAR) , home sales set records last year, due in part to the pandemic. From small apartments in the city primarily used to offer respite from the hustle and bustle to condos positioned in multi-family buildings, folks are now seeking single-family homes to accommodate the lifestyle changes brought on by the pandemic. Final data for 2020 is still pending, but the trade association for real estate agents estimates new home sales rose 20 percent over 2019, and NAR predicts new home sales will increase by 21 percent in 2021. The increase in consumers looking to purchase a home means a decrease in the supply of houses available to sell. At the same time, rates on mortgage loans reached historical lows in 2020. Those two factors combined to cause a rise in t

Resurgence of Travel Spending

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  As vaccinations become more readily available across the country and the light at the end of the tunnel grows stronger and closer, Americans once again find themselves getting bitten by the travel bug and will likely resume spending money on travel. Getting back to business as usual, or some sense of normalcy, is what we all want but at what cost to our wallet? Eaton Family Credit Union CFO, Kelly Slocum, notes, “Whether by plane, train, boat, or automobile, Americans are eager to experience a vacation beyond their backyard. And, with the renewed urge to travel, American’s wallets may feel a familiar strain.”   According to ValuePenguin , people spend an average of about $581 to go away for about four nights within the U.S. and approximately $3,250 for a nearly two-week trip abroad. The United States brought in $972 billion alone from a typically lucrative domestic travel industry in 2019, according to the most recent statistics from Statista. In 2020, Statista estimates that to

Improving Financial Literacy

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Each year, the National Financial Educators Council releases a National Financial Literacy Test , which is taken by Americans of all ages, financial positions, and backgrounds. The test measures participants’ knowledge as it pertains to earning, saving, and growing their money.   As of 2020, the average score of 15- to 18-year-olds who took the test stood at 68 percent, just shy of a passing score. In fact, of the 60,813 people who have taken the test since it began in 2015, only 59 percent received a passing score of 70 percent or higher. Additionally, the National Financial Educators Council also released results that found that poor financial literacy contributed to Americans losing an average of $1,634 each in 2020. That is a cost of about $415 billion to the country at large.   Those numbers may seem a tad apocalyptic, but there is a silver lining. Younger generations of Americans appear willing and able to learn more about financial literacy. The National Financial Educ

Paying Taxes

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Since 1913, Americans have been paying taxes to the federal government with states adopting similar tax programs in 1930. Though this annual process has continued for decades, many Americans have been feeling anxious about taxes in recent years. According to a 2019 Nerd Wallet Report on taxes, 26 percent of Americans feel stressed or anxious about filing their taxes. Part of that negative outlook may come from the perception that they may end up needing to pay the government. Only 51 percent of those filing in 2019 expected an income tax refund, compared with 86 percent in 2018. A larger part of that unease likely comes from fear of the unknown surrounding the IRS and its functions. According to the NerdWallet report, about 21 percent of 2019 federal filers said they feared getting audited if they discovered they filed their income taxes incorrectly. Slightly more, or 27 percent, said they are most worried about having to pay more if they filed incorrectly. But Americans’ negati

Five Hidden Ways to Boost Your Tax Refund

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Wouldn’t a big fat tax refund come in handy? Well, here are steps you can take now to boost your tax refund when you file after the first of the year.   Itemize your deductions.  The standard deduction is $12,400, so it’s tempting to claim it rather than tracking down receipts and tax forms so you can itemize your deductions. But itemizing might be worth it if you are a homeowner with a sizeable mortgage, gave money and “stuff” to charity, or paid points when you took out your mortgage. If you are an educator, you can deduct up to $250 of school supplies even if you don’t itemize deductions. Start gathering information right away so you’ll have everything ready at tax time. Claim education expenses.  If you are paying college expenses for yourself, your spouse or a child, two education credits can help defray those costs, the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) and the Lifetime Learning Credit (LLC). The AOTC is a partly reimbursable credit for 100% of the first $2,000 of education

Financially Recovering from Job Loss

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  Many Americans have spent the last several months getting back into the workforce after being laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Recovering from the financial fallout can bring turmoil, but there are also silver linings. American workers became familiar with stories of job loss and salary cuts as the pandemic ravaged through 2020. According to Charles Schwab’s 2020 Modern Wealth Survey , 25 percent of Americans said either they or a family member have been furloughed or laid off during the pandemic. Another 30 percent of respondents said they or a family member have experienced a salary cut or reduced work hours. Unfortunately, in many cases, these COVID hardships are stacked on top of existing financial woes for U.S. consumers. Even before the pandemic hit, a majority of Americans, or 59 percent, were living paycheck to paycheck, according to Charles Schwab’s 2019 Modern Wealth Survey. On top of that, the 2020 Modern Wealth survey found that Americans are nearly 15% more fi