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Reading Rates

Mike Zaccardi

Mike is a freelance writer for financial advisors and investment firms. He's a CFA® charterholder and Chartered Market Technician®, and has passed the coursework for the Certified Financial Planner program. Mike has also taught as a finance instructor at the University of North Florida. He's written more than 100 articles and blog posts for HumbleDollar.

Reading Rates

Mike Zaccardi  |  Dec 12, 2021

THE MARKET SEEMS to have found its footing when it comes to inflation. Friday’s Consumer Price Index report was roughly in line with expectations. Recently, there haven’t been any major shifts in the experts’ inflation forecasts. The bond market has also calmed down. Just a few weeks ago, the 10-year Treasury yield neared 1.7%. It settled at 1.49% on Friday.
Volatility could reemerge later this week, however. Data on producer prices post on Tuesday,

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Home Alone

Mike Zaccardi  |  Dec 10, 2021

MY YEAR BEGAN WITH a fulltime job at an energy trading company. But I knew my days were numbered. I’d spent six years trading, working with clients and helping to manage risk, all while being surrounded by smart and fun people. But as side gigs, I’d also spent several years writing about finance and teaching as an adjunct professor. Writing became my passion—one that didn’t mesh well with my day job.
That’s how, in January,

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Sentiment Sours

Mike Zaccardi  |  Dec 5, 2021

FINANCIAL MARKETS had a lot to digest in recent days: Retail analysts are keeping a close eye on holiday spending, economists got their latest dose of employment data—and traders are coming to grips with the current bout of volatility.
The VIX, the S&P 500 Volatility Index or “fear gauge,” surged above 30 on Friday. That was the highest end-of-week close since January. For perspective, the VIX climbed to 80 during 2020’s COVID-19 stock market crash.

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Quitting Retirement

Mike Zaccardi  |  Dec 1, 2021

DRIVING PART of the nation’s labor shortage is a wave of early retirements dubbed the “Great Resignation.” A red-hot housing market and booming stock market have made it financially easier for many to quit traditional nine-to-five employment, as has employers’ embrace of part-time, work-from-home positions. Add to that virus concerns and parents’ difficulty finding child care, and you’ve had a perfect storm for the labor market.
According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal,

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Black Friday

Mike Zaccardi  |  Nov 28, 2021

COVID STRIKES AGAIN. The new Omicron variant found in parts of southern Africa was the reason cited for Friday’s stock market freefall. It was the worst day for the S&P 500 since late February. So far this year, the U.S. stock market has endured a 2% one-day drop on six occasions.
This most recent market plunge felt similar to declines in February and March 2020, making investors extra jittery and prompting traders to reopen their playbook from 22 months ago.

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Hopping Around

Mike Zaccardi  |  Nov 24, 2021

THERE’S BEEN MUCH talk in 2021 about the future of work, with a big focus on remote and hybrid office arrangements. But I’m more intrigued by another major trend: job hopping. Each month, labor economists get a fresh read on the pace of hirings, firings and quits. In fact, the “quit rate” has become a household term in 2021, as workers change jobs to snag higher pay.
That got me thinking about conventional personal finance wisdom,

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Beware of Bears

Mike Zaccardi  |  Nov 22, 2021

THE BOND MARKET has had a turbulent year. Interest rates, which move in the opposite direction of bond prices, spiked in early 2021 on hopes of an economic reopening. The 10-year Treasury yield, which started the year under 1%, surged above 1.75% in March, before subsiding in the second quarter and the third quarter’s initial weeks.
Today, 10-year Treasury buyers can earn a smidgen more than 1.5%, far less than the 6.2% inflation rate.

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Cheap to Cheaper

Mike Zaccardi  |  Nov 21, 2021

BORED ONE WEEKEND, I took up actor Ryan Reynolds on his offer to switch cellphone carriers. Frugal guy that I am, I’d been a loyal Republic Wireless subscriber for several years before my recent change. My new plan is on the Mint Mobile platform.
Perhaps you’ve seen Mint’s commercials on NFL Sunday or when perusing YouTube videos, with its offer of four gigabytes of data with unlimited text and calls. This will cost me a measly $201 a year,

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Dabbling in Digital

Mike Zaccardi  |  Nov 17, 2021

IF YOU’RE LIKE ME, you want to stick with your long-term investment plan, while remaining open to new ideas. It’s a balancing act—to avoid missing a new, long-lasting trend, while not getting caught up in a bubble.
That’s how I feel about cryptocurrencies. Their market cap has swelled to $2.6 trillion. But what does that mean? Contrast that to the value of the global stock and bond markets: Each is about $125 trillion.
To me,

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Spending Nervously

Mike Zaccardi  |  Nov 14, 2021

IT’S CRUNCH TIME for retailers. Black Friday, it’s said, is the day many stores finally turn a profit for the year. While that’s a myth, there’s no doubt analysts will be watching closely to see how consumers spend the extra cash generated by stimulus checks and an improving economy.
Americans sure seem ready to spend. According to Creditcards.com, approximately four in 10 shoppers are willing to go into or add to debt for this year’s holiday spending.

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Ask and Receive

Mike Zaccardi  |  Nov 7, 2021

OCTOBER’S EMPLOYMENT report was impressive: 531,000 jobs were created, beating economists’ expectations. The unemployment rate ticked down to 4.6%, while average hourly earnings increased a solid 0.4% from September.
Across the board, the data from the U.S. labor market show the economy is humming along, with no signs of stagflation. I like to dig into the wage numbers to see which segments of the workforce are enjoying the best pay increases. Leisure and hospitality pay rose the most,

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Not Too Late

Mike Zaccardi  |  Nov 6, 2021

HEALTH SAVINGS accounts are frequently praised on HumbleDollar—with good reason. A lesser-known benefit: Health savings accounts, or HSAs, can be a boon for new employees, thanks to the last-month rule.
What’s that? If you have a qualifying high deductible health plan (HDHP) as of Dec. 1, you’re eligible to make a full-year HSA contribution, even if you only just bought an HDHP. On top of that, if you continue HDHP coverage,

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An Incentive to Help

Mike Zaccardi  |  Nov 2, 2021

THE 2017 TAX CUTS and Jobs Act doubled the standard deduction. It’s estimated that 90% of households took the standard deduction in 2018, rather than itemizing, up from 69% in 2017.
The tax-code overhaul essentially means it costs more to donate to your favorite qualifying charities—unless you’re among the 10% whose itemized deductions exceed their standard deduction. To be sure, we shouldn’t give to charity solely for the potential tax benefit. Even if you itemize and hence you can deduct your gift,

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Whither Cash?

Mike Zaccardi  |  Oct 31, 2021

IT WASN’T LONG AGO that a saver could make a few bucks in a money market fund. In late 2018, the Federal Reserve had hiked short-term interest rates. By early the next year, Vanguard Federal Money Market Fund (symbol: VMFXX) was sporting a yield near 2.5%.
While it might take years to see that sort of juicy risk-free rate again, market observers now believe the Fed will begin a tightening cycle that will lead to higher short-term interest rates.

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No Stagflation

Mike Zaccardi  |  Oct 27, 2021

WE SPEND TOO MUCH time worrying about stagflation. The term describes a period of high inflation with stagnant growth—a disastrous economic condition. It was seen at times during the worst of the mid-1970s recession, and again when inflation spiked in the early 1980s.
Do we see it today? No way.
Everyone over 60 surely recalls how difficult it was decades ago. Consumer prices were out of control. The unemployment rate jumped. Real wages were on the decline,

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