Skimm Money: Winter Storms, Bitcoin Prices, and Money Mistakes

Published on: Feb 22, 2021fb-roundtwitter-roundemail-round
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Hi. After last week's shecession special, we thought we'd start today's email with some uplifting news. On Monday, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was named the new director-general of the World Trade Organization. She's the first African and woman to fill the role. Speaking of Black women making history, we recently spoke with three financial educators about how they're fighting the racial wealth gap.

Aaand speaking of financial education...

Headlines, Skimm'd 

  • Winter storms devastated Texas. Millions lost power and access to clean water. And the state's power grid saw wholesale electricity prices soar more than 10,000%, raising concerns that many will struggle to pay their utility bills.

  • Robinhood exec: 'Don't hate the player.' Yesterday, CEO Vlad Tenev apologized in front of the House Financial Services Committee for restricting trading during last month's GameStop controversy. But defended the app's business model as one that benefits its customers.

  • Americans are buying it. January retail sales jumped 5.3% – well above the 1.2% economists predicted – suggesting people are spending (vs. saving) their stimulus money. And, perhaps, in better financial shape than previously thought. Expect to see that as an argument against more gov aid.

  • Bitcoin's huge week. The crypto's market value topped $1T today. And the first Bitcoin ETF in North America launched in Canada yesterday – giving hope to people waiting on a Bitcoin ETF in the US. If that's you, read this.

  • Meet Project Black. The new initiative JPMorgan is supporting with up to $200M. It aims to narrow corporate America's diversity gap by investing in minority-owned businesses and elevating BIPOC execs.

Make Good (Money) Choices

If it feels like winter's dragging on...

Get creative with at-home entertainment. Because you can only rewatch "The Queen's Gambit" so many times. Other ideas: online book clubs, virtual concerts or game nights (chess, anyone?). You can also try spicing up your Zoom life with multiplayer games and virtual mingling (remember small talk with strangers?).

If you added a family member or lost income in 2020...

File your tax return early. Never a bad idea, especially if you're expecting a refund and want it ASAP. This year's early-bird bonus: you could get a bigger stimulus check if a third round of relief goes out. Because the IRS will likely determine how much money you're eligible to receive based on the income and dependents listed on the tax return you filed last. So updating Uncle Sam on your life changes sooner rather than later could pay off. Oh, and another pro tip for new parents: claim these credits.

If your health insurance needs an update…

Check out healthcare.gov. A special enrollment period started Monday, thanks to one of President Joe Biden's executive actions meant to help the 15 million uninsured Americans get coverage (and anyone else who could use a change). Here's how to choose the right insurance plan.

If you've regretted a money mistake…

Feel Citigroup's pain. An accidental overpayment just cost them nearly $500M. If you're trying to recover from your own (hopefully much less expensive) mess-up, act fast. Example: if you missed a credit card payment, send at least the minimum ASAP. Talk to your card issuer to try and get the late fee waived. (You're more likely to have luck if this is your first late payment.) And avoid making the same mistake by creating calendar reminders or setting up autopay.

One Thing You've Been Putting Off

Rolling over your 401(k). If you have one from a previous job, follow these steps to leave no retirement cash behind:

1. Remind yourself why it may be worth the effort.

2. Call your old plan admin (aka the financial institution that handles the account) and tell them to move your money. They can send it directly to your new plan admin or write you a check. 

2½. Warning: If you take the check, you usually have 60 days to deposit the money into your new account. Or risk paying taxes and penalties.

3. Celebrate one less thing on your to-do list.

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Skimm'd by: Ivana Pino, Stacy Rapacon, and Elyse Steinhaus