All in all, 2019 was a pretty strong year for the economy.
Job growth was brisk, with both inflation and interest rates low. Economic growth was decent as recessionary fears have abated. Consumers remain confident, highlighted by solid holiday sales.
But this doesn’t mean everyone is prospering. Here are some money and finance trends to watch for in the coming year:
Continuing debt overhang
Now 10 years into the economic recovery, plenty of Americans are only treading water. Pay raises have been spotty, and many people continue to live paycheck to paycheck. Too many households still lack emergency funds, let alone long-term investments.
Some 82% of people who participated in a survey released this month by Fidelity Investments said they’re in a similar or better financial position compared to last year. Yet in the same poll, respondents revealed continuing anxiety about making ends meet and keeping debts under control.
Dealing with unexpected expenses was the top concern among respondents heading into the new year. Another was keeping a lid on debts. The top three New Year’s resolutions cited by respondents are to save more, pay down debt and spend less.
Many individuals still aren’t prepared to meet unforeseen money pressures.
“A large portion of the people I talk to in a given year find that their financial troubles come in steps that cause significant hardship: medical debt, a job loss, a major car repair, a family emergency,” said Jonathan Walker, executive director of the debt-focused Elevate Center for the New Middle Class in Fort Worth, Texas.
Yet many people just keep adding debt until the hurdles eventually become too high, with unexpected challenges finally pushing them over the edge, he said.
Retirement help coming
Plenty of Americans are unprepared for retirement. Reasons include not saving enough, making premature withdrawals and not having access to 401(k) plans through work.
That could start to change now that the SECURE Act, with broad bipartisan support, was passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate this month as part of a federal spending bill.
Among other things, the legislation would expand access to retirement-savings programs for part-time workers and people employed by small businesses, by providing employer incentives and making it easier for small businesses to band together to create 401(k) plans and benefit from economies of scale.
In addition, it would make annuities available in workplace 401(k) plans, providing investors with a way to lock in guaranteed income for life.
The legislation also would tweak Individual Retirement Accounts. Seniors with traditional IRAs who don’t need to spend their money immediately could delay required minimum distributions until age 72, up from 70½ currently. Also, older workers could continue to sock away money into IRAs. Currently, contributions must stop after age 70½.
The IRA changes reflect “the reality that people are living longer today,” said Paul Schott Stevens, president and CEO of the Investment Company Institute.
Good investment results still likely
It might be hard for the stock market to repeat a year like 2019, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average and other barometers up more than 25% through mid-December. But solid economic growth, low interest rates and other factors create a backdrop where the market’s positive momentum could persist.
“The remarkable longevity of the (economic) expansion and a continuation of low inflation and unemployment are all significant positives,” said J.P. Morgan’s markets insight team in a December forecast.
A possible slowdown ahead in economic growth, and rising wages, could put pressure on corporate profits, which could hamper stock prices, the forecast added. So could the threat of higher taxes, more trade tensions and a bloated federal budget deficit expected to top $1 trillion in the current fiscal year.
But while J.P. Morgan sees risks rising, it still expects the stock market to “grind higher” in 2020.
Incidentally, years when presidential elections are held tend to be favorable for stocks, and 2020 falls into that category. The broad market as represented by the Standard & Poor’s 500 has advanced in 19 of the past 23 presidential-election years, dating to the 1920s.
The country might be sharply divided when it comes to politics, but elections also tend to bring a lot of excitement and even optimism.
Rhetoric but little action on taxes
It’s unlikely that we’ll see passage of a major federal tax bill in the coming year — not with a deeply divided Congress in an election year. But Americans will be hearing a lot more about tax proposals as the campaign swings into high gear.
Most proposed changes are coming from Democratic presidential contenders. These include calls to raise tax rates for the highest-earning Americans, expand the earned income tax credit, boost the amount of personal income subject to Social Security taxes (from a current cap at $132,900) and jack up tax rates on dividends and capital gains.
Most radical are the proposals to tax the wealthiest Americans on their net worth, as advanced by Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and others.
To help people keep track of these ideas, the Tax Foundation has compiled a tax-plan summary for the leading presidential contenders here or at taxfoundation.org.
Could these proposals become law after the election? it would be a stretch for the most extreme changes, but you never know.
Most respondents in a December survey by the Pew Research Center said they felt today’s economy has mainly benefited the wealthy. A majority of respondents cited poor people, those lacking college degrees, the elderly, young adults and the middle class as groups now being hurt.
Broader help from employers
Workers — especially those at larger corporations — probably can look forward to more benefits and perks in the coming year beyond just paychecks, vacation/sick days, health insurance and perhaps a 401(k) savings plan.
Financial and health wellness programs continue to gain appeal, said Fidelity Investments in a recent review of workplace benefits. These include programs to help with mental and substance abuse as well as deal with student loans, budgeting and other financial pressures.
In part, these efforts address productivity and absenteeism: If companies can help their employees deal with personal problems, they could develop into more reliable and productive workers.
Fidelity also sees a trend toward greater social responsibility in the workplace including more company subsidies for charitable giving and volunteering, with more flexible work schedules and work spaces.
As for older workers, Fidelity expects to see more companies assist their employees and recent retirees in making retirement-plan withdrawals.
Until now, the focus has been in helping workers accumulate savings in 401(k)-type programs. Now, more employers apparently feel responsible for helping them pull out assets in a smart, efficient manner.
Upbeat entrepreneurs signal improved investment intentions for 2021: Survey – OrilliaMatters
MONTREAL — A growing number of Canadian entrepreneurs say they plan to invest more in 2021 than they did last year as the vaccine rollout, improving cash flow and a quick rebound in some sectors buoys optimism for the year ahead.
The findings of the Business Development Bank of Canada’s quarterly survey of 1,000 entrepreneurs released in a new report today are the most upbeat since the pandemic began.
Pierre Cleroux, chief economist of the Montreal-based bank, says the more positive results bode well for the country’s economic recovery.
He says investment intentions are improving, with technology emerging as the biggest focus of spending.
The bank’s survey found that the key reasons for investing in technology included improving processes to reduce costs, boosting a company’s online presence and investing in remote working.
Cleroux says while many entrepreneurs were wary about allowing employees to work from home before the pandemic, he says the last 10 months have shown it can benefit a business.
“The pandemic has changed the game,” he said. “It changed the perception of working from home.”
Cleroux said remote work can improve productivity, increase worker motivation and spur innovation.
“It can also reduce costs,” he said, noting that 18 per cent of business owners surveyed by the bank said they plan to reduce their office space.
Despite an increase in COVID-19 cases across much of the country, Cleroux said the optimism uncovered by the survey is unlikely to change.
Businesses understand that once restrictions are lifted, the economy will rebound much faster than with other recessions, he said.
“This optimism we’re seeing will likely survive the second wave of the virus because we all believe the vaccine is going to improve drastically the situation of the economy,” Cleroux said.
Still, while business confidence has improved for the first time since the pandemic began, the study found that investment intentions compared to previous years are still relatively weak.
Across Canada, business investment intentions for the next 12 months are down three per cent compared with last winter, for example, but have improved significantly from last spring’s rock bottom decrease of 32 per cent, according to the bank’s report.
Investment intentions is the difference between negative and positive business sentiment.
Of note are the investment intentions of small- and medium-sized enterprises in Atlantic Canada and Quebec, which at one per cent and four per cent, respectively, are the only positive results on investment intentions in the survey.
Meanwhile, investment intentions in B.C. are down three per cent, Ontario came in at four per cent lower, while the Prairie provinces were the lowest at a 13 per cent decline.
The online survey of business owners was completed between Dec. 3 and Dec. 18, 2020. The poll measures the confidence of entrepreneurs in the economy, business and hiring outlooks, as well as investment plans over the next 12 months.
According to the polling industry’s generally accepted standards, online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2021.
The Canadian Press
MMJ Group to broaden investment portfolio beyond cannabis sector – Proactive Investors USA & Canada
MMJ Group Holdings Ltd (ASX:MMJ) OTCMKTS:MMJFF) (FRA:2P9) will broaden its existing investment mandate to include strategic investments in sectors outside cannabis as approved at the company’s annual general meeting held in November 2020.
These sectors include, but are not limited to natural resources, pharmaceuticals and software services technology, which will comprise no more than 25% of MMJ’s total consolidated assets at the time the investments are made.
Increased flexibility to create growth
The diversification provides MMJ with increased flexibility to create growth and greater returns for shareholders and thereby allows MMJ to lower its investment risk and reduce the impact of market volatility from the cannabis sector to ultimately benefit shareholders.
This month, the investment manager of MMJ’s investments, Embark Ventures Inc, changed its name to Parallax Ventures Inc.
Parallax has been engaged by MMJ in this role assets since June 1, 2019. There have been no other changes to personnel or operations of Parallax.
Under the amended investment manager agreement, Parallax continues to be responsible for the identification, transacting and review of possible investment opportunities in the cannabis and now the non-cannabis sector.
Portfolio of investments
MMJ owns a portfolio of minority investments and was initially established to seek investments across the full range of emerging cannabis-related sectors including healthcare, technology, infrastructure, logistics, processing, cultivation, equipment, and retail.
VIISA Hold Virtual Investment Day For The First Time – Yahoo Finance
HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam, Jan. 18, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — On 7 January 2021, VIISA organized Investment Day Batch 8 on its online platform, attracting more than 80 investors as well as corporations and startup community builders. This invite-only event also marked a new milestone for tech-startups Batch 8 in their 4-month journey with VIISA.
Taking place online for the first time, Investment Day Batch 8 solves the problem of geographical distance as well as difficulties in the global context of the COVID-19 pandemic, providing opportunities for startups and investors to share and exchange the latest updates about startup ideas. The event was divided into 2 sessions: live-streamed pitching shows from startups and networking activities between founders and investors with separate rooms for each startup team.
Opening the event, Mr. Vo Tran Dinh Hieu – Board Member and Program Director at VIISA, said: “Unlike any other, we want to preserve the excitement of live pitching, so this is not a recorded video, we have all the founders here with us and they are ready to go. So it is the first week 2021 and it seems like we will have another very eventful year. The UK announced 3rd lockdown, the Capitol Hill was taken yesterday. But still in Vietnam thousands of people gathered for fireworks shows on new year’s eve. I believe this tranquility in Vietnam represents what everyone has achieved in the last year. We all have sharpened our adaptability and agility to maintain the composure of our businesses. I hope we all will carry on this great attitude forward to 2021. We started this batch in June 2020 with 3 companies and only one succeeded to graduation. During this batch, we also continued supporting the alumni to recover from the covid situation.”
This year’s Investment Day is not only an opportunity for VIISA Batch 8 startups to demonstrate their maturity, but also a chance for alumni startups who have participated in previous courses to reconfirm their development and position in the startup ecosystem. Whether the startup model is about real estate, fashion, events, e-commerce, technology, and applicability factors are all of the program priorities. With the hope to help young Vietnamese startups build their global business, these are special features that VIISA always appreciates.
Pitching in the event are 5 startups:
CYHOME: CyHome is Vietnam’s leading Property management platform that has already served top-tier customers in the field of Property management (PM) such as CBRE, Proman (Novaland), Visaho, Blue Diamond, My House… With an affordable fee, PMs now can have a world-class ERP, and service providers can have a better way to serve customers. What the startup wants to bring to market is a new way of living and working in crowded cities: with no fee, the resident/tenant should have a premium experience.
DROBEBOX: Drobebox is a disruptive fashion tech startup that offers a clothing subscription service for women. Users could unlock their dream closet, which contains thousands of premium designs with a fixed monthly fee, and enjoy any items without buying, maintaining, or laundry. Starting at 30$ per month, members could explore and enjoy up to 30 new items every month that used to cost them 1000-3000$. Using state-of-art technology such as AI, Drobebox platform provides an “infinity” closet with a true personalization experience that helps dress best every day as simple as ordering food delivery.
WISEPASS: WisePass is a lifestyle app enabling its subscribers to access products, services, or events sponsored by brands. Starting from 239,000 VND per month, a subscriber gets 3 PASS a day to enjoy anything brands provide on the platform.
VDES: VDES is the very first marketplace of the event industry, which connects event venues & event suppliers to customers in the simplest way with advanced technology. During over 4 years of operation, VDES has been partners with more than 520 vendors and organized more than 2250 events for users (customers & cooperate). With technology solutions and event-ecosystem platform, VDES offer service to vendors to increase competitive advantage, increase business efficiency, and decrease operating costs by event management system, we will launch this SAAS in 2021.
ECOMEASY: EcomEasy Asia (ECE) is a dynamic ecommerce solution provider for consumer brands in Vietnam. ECE’s integrated capabilities encompass all aspects of the e-commerce value chain from SKU selection, sales and inventory management to on-site operations, logistics and fulfilment. ECE has generated billions of VND in sales and hundred thousands of orders on all 10 ecommerce platforms operating in Vietnam for a dozen of brands.
The representative from VIISA hopes that Investment Day will provide Vietnamese startup community with many opportunities to connect and exchange knowledge, which contribute to awakening the potential of domestic businesses and open up more opportunities to promote Vietnamese startups
At the end of Investment Day Batch 8, Mr. Hieu also called for startups to apply at www.viisa.vn to capture opportunities for companionship and support from VIISA.
Established in January 2017 by FPT Ventures and Dragon Capital, VIISA is an acceleration program and seed-stage fund that invests to build global-ready startups from Vietnam. After 7 batches, there have been 40 graduates, in which some startups have successfully called for US $5.5 million committed deals from investors.
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