FDIC chair to resign in February, giving Biden more say in bank regulation

Jelena McWilliams, chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), during a Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021.

Al Drago | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Jelena McWilliams, the head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and a holdover Trump appointee, said Friday she intends to leave her position in early 2022.

In a surprise announcement, McWilliams said she is resigning effective Feb. 4.

The move gives President Joe Biden another opportunity to strengthen his hand over bank regulation. McWilliams has been with the FDIC since 2018 and recently sparred with congressional Democrats over proposed changes to how the agency handles bank mergers.

Democrats hold a majority on the board, and with Vice Chairman Martin Gruenberg now set to take over as acting chair, they have sway at the top. Gruenberg has spoken out against the deregulatory actions taken over the past several years at the Federal Reserve that also have drawn sharp criticism from firebrand Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

McWilliams did not include a reason for her resignation, saying only that it was a “tremendous honor” to serve at the FDIC, the Fed and the Senate, where she held a variety of roles including chief counsel and deputy staff director for the upper chamber’s banking committee.

“Throughout my tenure, the agency has focused on its fundamental mission to maintain and instill confidence in our banking system while at the same time promoting innovation, strengthening financial inclusion, improving transparency, and supporting community banks and minority depository institutions, including through the creation of the Mission Driven Bank Fund,” she said in a statement.

“Today, banks continue to maintain robust capital and liquidity levels to support lending and protect against potential losses,” she added.

The move comes as Biden looks to fill another key regulatory post, the Fed’s vice chairman for supervision, who oversees the financial system. Recent reports have indicated Biden is likely to nominate former Fed Governor Sarah Bloom Raskin for the position.

Stocks could ride the 2021 tailwind into the new year, but the jobs report and Fed will be in focus

A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) December 9, 2021.

Brendan McDermid | Reuters

It’s back to business in the week ahead with a busy economic calendar to start the new year, including the always important monthly jobs report.

After a stellar 2021, stocks head into the 2022 with a tailwind, but the course of the market in the new year will depend more on solid earnings growth and a strong economy than a super easy Federal Reserve.

The S&P 500 rose 27% to 4,766 in a banner year, notching 70 record closing highs. The benchmark outpaced the 19% gain in the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the 21% rise in the Nasdaq Composite.

With Monday’s opening bell, the clock starts ticking on a quarter that could see the first Fed rate hike since 2018. In the bond market, worries about the latest omicron Covid-19 variant could give way to an investment community more intent on a reset of expectations for where interest rates are heading over the course of 2022.

The employment report is the most important data on a calendar that also includes the ISM manufacturing survey data and auto sales, both slated for Tuesday. International trade data is released Thursday.

According to Dow Jones, economists expect 405,000 jobs were added in the final month of 2021, up from 210,000 in November. The unemployment rate is expected to slide to 4.1% from 4.2%.

“It’s the start of a new year. History would tell you we should kick it off in a pretty strong way, especially considering we’ve seen this kind of rolling correction,” said Sameer Samana, senior global equities strategist at Wells Fargo Investment Institute. “We appreciate the fact the S&P has been making new highs, but when you look at the average stock or small cap stocks, they’ve had a very different experience.”

The 2021 market was bifurcated with an initial surge in some high flying growth stocks, but then many of those names fell hard, and some of the big-cap names in the S&P 500 turned in super-charged performances.

Microsoft was up 51% for the year, while Apple gained 34%. Home Depot was up 56%, and American Express gained 35%. Ford was up 136%.

The ARK Innovation ETF, a high flying collection of growth stocks in 2020, was down 24% for the year.

Fed ahead

On Wednesday, the Fed will release minutes from its December meeting. Following that meeting, the central bank announced it would speed up the tapering of its once $120 billion a month bond buying program — now ending it by March instead of June. The March meeting is now viewed as the first opportunity for the Fed to move on a rate hike. The Fed has forecast three for 2022.

“I think next week people start to shift to this changing monetary landscape. It’s such a big deal,” said Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group. “The liquidity flows over the past two years has been nothing we’ve ever seen before.”

Strategists expect 2022 to be choppier for the stock market, as the Fed ends its bond purchases and moves to raise interest rates from zero. Stock strategists have a median target of 5,050 for the S&P 500, according to CNBC’s Strategist Survey.

Boockvar said the impact of tightening policy will be felt globally, as other central banks also reduce their asset purchase programs and move toward raising interest rates.

“That liquidity flow is slowing down, and we know how much of a help it’s been,” Boockvar said. “You can’t separate a Fed tightening cycle from the stock market. You can’t separate the market. They’re all connected. There’s no such thing that you can avoid the tightening of financial conditions.”

Wells’ Samana said he is focused on quality in big-cap U.S. stocks for the new year. “You’ve got to take what the market gives you and what it’s giving you now is there’s not a lot of reasons to step away from U.S. large cap,” he said. “We like tech, we like communications services. We like financials, and we like industrials. Two growth sectors and two cyclical sectors. We’ve been boiling it down to anything but defensives.”

Samana said Wells strategists downgraded the materials and energy sectors. At the same time, they upgraded tech. “We want to have a much more balanced position going into 2022, we just don’t know what opportunities will present themselves.”

Energy was the top performer of the major sectors in 2021, up 48%, its best increase ever. It was followed by real estate, which jumped 42%. Technology was up 33%, and financials also gained 33%.

Matt Maley of Miller Tabak pointed out the Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR Fund has outperformed tech and semiconductors in December. The fund was up nearly 10%, while the Technology Select Sector SPDR Fund gained 3% for the month.

“In other words, that action in the stock market over the past several weeks has been a lot different than it has seemed to a lot of people.  We have not seen a melt-up … and the tech stocks have not done as well as most people think,” Maley wrote in a note. “More importantly, one of the most defensive groups in the marketplace has been the one that has been rallying nicely.  In our opinion, this tells us that investors are quite worried about the effect that the Fed’s new (more aggressive) tightening cycle could have on the stock market next year.”

What else to watch

Biden, Zelenskyy to speak as Russia builds up military at Ukraine border

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks by phone with U.S. President Joe Biden in Kyiv, Ukraine December 9, 2021.

Ukrainian Presidential Press Service | Handout | via Reuters

President Joe Biden plans to speak with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Sunday to express support for Ukraine’s sovereignty as Russian military forces pile up near the countries’ shared border, a White House official said Friday.

Biden also intends to review plans for diplomatic moves aimed “to help de-escalate the situation in the region,” the official said.

“I’m not going to negotiate here in public,” Biden told reporters in Delaware on Friday afternoon. “But we made it clear he cannot, I’ll emphasize, cannot invade Ukraine.”

U.S. and Russian officials are set to hold security talks on Jan. 10 to discuss the Russia-Ukraine tensions and other issues.

On Thursday, Biden in a 50-minute phone call urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to lower those tensions. He warned that the U.S. was prepared to “respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks to the media as he and first lady Jill Biden depart after a New Year’s Eve lunch at a seafood market in Wilmington, Delaware, December 31, 2021.

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

“I made it clear to President Putin that we will have severe sanctions, we will increase our presence in Europe, with NATO allies,” Biden said on Friday.

Asked if he sensed that Putin was less likely to invade Ukraine after their talk, Biden said, “Well, [what] I got the sense of is that he’s agreed that we would have three major conferences in Europe” next month.

“He laid out some of his concerns about NATO and the United States and Europe, we laid out ours,” Biden said. “I made it clear that they only could work if he deescalated.”

“I always expect to negotiate and make progress,” Biden added.

A Kremlin aide reportedly said after the phone call with Biden that Putin “outlined in detail the basic principles laid down by Russia in the security proposals and emphasized that we will seek to ensure Russia’s security.”

Ukraine for months has sounded alarms about the buildup of thousands of troops along its eastern border with Russia. Putin has previously insisted that, despite the military deployment, Moscow is not preparing to invade. Pro-Russian separatists, meanwhile, have pushed into swaths of eastern Ukraine.

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But Putin has also opposed the prospect of Ukraine joining NATO, the 30-nation intercontinental military alliance where an attack on one member is considered an attack on all. Ukraine has attempted to join NATO for years.

In late November, Putin suggested Russia would retaliate if western governments supplied Ukraine with certain weapons systems. He has called the expansion of NATO’s military power into other eastern European nations a threat.

Russia in 2014 annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. Putin has argued that Ukraine is essentially a part of Russia.

Biden held separate calls earlier in December with both Putin and Zelenskyy. Biden and Zelenskyy met face-to-face at the White House in September.

Sweetgreen stock is one to watch in 2022 after this year’s IPO

Jonathan Neman, Nicolas Jammet, and Nathaniel Ru, Sweetgreen at the NYSE, November 18, 2021

Source: NYSE

In a year that was hot for restaurant IPO stocks, one of the late entries may have a more exciting year ahead, building a new category and showing the power of tech investments.

After a rough 2020, restaurant stocks performed better this year as vaccinations and loosened restrictions lifted investors’ confidence in the segment. Swept up in that optimism, five restaurant companies, including Krispy Kreme and Dutch Bros, chose to go public through initial public offerings with mixed results.

Sweetgreen only debuted in mid-November, and it hasn’t even had the chance to report quarterly earnings yet. The salad chain priced its initial public offering at $28 a share. The stock soared 76% in its first day of trading but has since fallen 35% amid fears over the omicron variant. Still, some are excited about the stock and its future.

“Sweetgreen is in the early stages of creating a new category in the restaurant industry, an opportunity that comes along roughly once every decade following the IPO’s of [Starbucks] in 1992, [Chipotle Mexican Grill] in 2006 and [Wingstop] in 2015,” Cowen analyst Andrew Charles wrote in a note to clients on Dec. 13.

Sweetgreen is the first fast-casual salad chain to go public, but it likely won’t be the last. A flurry of other competitors, like Chop’t, Just Salad and Dig, wait in the wings with millions of dollars from fundraising.

Charles also said that the salad chain is the restaurant company that best ties together two industry-wide trends: consumer-facing technology and transparent food sourcing.

Goldman Sachs analyst Jared Garber initiated the stock as a buy with a $48 per share price target, saying that the company is at the forefront of technological innovation and integration in the restaurant industry, despite its small size. More than two-thirds of Sweetgreen’s sales come from digital transactions, and the company bought robotics company Spyce earlier this year.

For Sweetgreen investors, the main question is whether the company can expand outside its core coastal urban markets into the suburbs before its rivals become a larger threat to its market share. Morgan Stanley analyst John Glass also wrote in a note to clients that Sweetgreen’s unprofitability could be a concern for some investors, given that the majority of publicly traded restaurants are profitable.

In 2021, Sweetgreen rebounded from pandemic lows, narrowing loses to $86.9 million from a loss of $100.2 million, as of Sept. 26. Same-store sales have risen 21%, in the year-ago period.

It’s expected that 2022 will bring more exciting IPOs for the restaurant industry. P.F. Chang’s was reportedly in talks to go public, and Panera Bread said in November that it’s planning to return to the public markets.

Here’s what to know about your 2022 Medicare costs

Phynart Studio | E+ | Getty Images

When the calendar flips to 2022, certain Medicare costs will creep higher.

For the program’s 63.6 million beneficiaries — most of whom are 65 or older — annual adjustments can affect premiums, deductibles and other cost-sharing aspects of Medicare. While each change doesn’t necessarily involve a huge dollar amount, experts say it’s important to consider how any increases will affect your household budget.

“This year, it is especially important to be aware of the increasing costs of Medicare because it’s happening at a time where we are also experiencing inflation,” said Danielle Roberts, co-founder of insurance firm Boomer Benefits. “Planning ahead for ways to reduce your expenses may make a bigger impact this year.”

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Overall, your coverage choices can affect how much you pay in premiums, deductibles and copays or coinsurance. And, of course, how often you use the health-care system can contribute to your costs.

Your income also is a determining factor. Beneficiaries with limited income may qualify for Medicaid or other programs that help defray out-of-pocket costs. On the other hand, higher-income beneficiaries pay more for certain parts of coverage.

Basic Medicare consists of Part A (hospital coverage) and Part B (outpatient care). About 42% of beneficiaries choose to get those benefits delivered through Advantage Plans, which are offered by private insurers.

Those plans usually include Part D (prescription drug coverage), as well as extras such as dental or vision. Unlike basic Medicare, they also come with out-of-pocket maximums.

Other beneficiaries stick with basic Medicare and often pair it with a standalone Part D plan. Some also purchase a supplement plan — aka “Medigap” — which picks up some of the costs that come with basic Medicare, such as coinsurance or copays. You cannot have both an Advantage Plan and Medigap.

Part A costs

Most Medicare beneficiaries pay no premium for Part A because they have enough of a work history — at least 10 years — of paying into the system through payroll taxes to qualify for it premium-free.

If you don’t meet the minimum requirement, though, monthly premiums could be as much as $499 a month next year, depending on whether you’ve paid any taxes into the Medicare system at all. That maximum is up from $471 in 2021.

Regardless of whether you pay a premium, there are cost-sharing aspects that go with Part A.

For those who don’t have additional coverage beyond basic Medicare, the amount you’d pay when admitted to the hospital will be $1,556 next year, up from $1,484 in 2021. That covers the first 60 days of inpatient hospital care in a benefit period.

For the 61st through 90th days of a hospitalization, beneficiaries will pay $389 per day, up from $371 in 2021, and then $778 per day for 60 “lifetime reserve” days, up from $742.

Part B costs

“Medicare beneficiaries will definitely want to appeal their Part B premiums in January if they believe they had a significant change in income that would place them in a lower Part B bracket,” said Elizabeth Gavino, founder of Lewin & Gavino and an independent broker and general agent for Medicare plans.

The annual deductible for Part B will rise to $233, up from $203. Once you meet that deductible, you typically pay 20% of covered services. Keep in mind that beneficiaries in Advantage Plans might pay a different amount through copays, and Medigap policies either fully or partially cover that coinsurance.

Also, while Advantage Plan premiums vary among plans — the average for 2022 is $19 monthly, down from about $21 this year — any charge would be on top of your Part B premium. And, some of those options either have no monthly charge or will pay your Part B premium. (If you don’t like your Advantage Plan, you can switch or drop it in the first three months of the year.)

The maximum out-of-pocket limit for Advantage Plans can reach up to $7,550 in 2022 for in-network services. For out-of-network, that cap would be $11,300.

Part D

The average monthly premium for Part coverage in 2022 will be $33, up from $31.47 this year. As with Part B premiums, higher earners pay extra (see chart below).

While not everyone pays a deductible for Part D coverage — some plans don’t have one — the maximum it can be is $480 in 2022 up from $445.

Financial help can lead to happiness. How to find the right professional

Ariel Skelley | DigitalVision | Getty Images

Looking to be happier with your life and finances in 2022?

The answer may be finding professional help.

People who worked with a financial advisor were found to be nearly three times happier than those who didn’t, according to a study by Herbers & Company. Predictors of happiness such as feeling fulfilled, intentional, impactful and grateful were boosted in 66% of those who worked with a financial advisor, the study found.

In addition, those who sought professional help managing their money were happier in their relationships and communication, according to the study.

Those who want to get help with money management in the new year have many options when it comes to personal finance experts, including financial advisors, including coaches, therapists and more.

Some of these names for individual financial professions signal different types of education and regulatory oversight, while others may just be branding. This makes it important for consumers to know the difference.

“The demand and the number of people that are providing personal financial advice has just skyrocketed, as has the number of designations and certifications that exist out there,” said Martin Seay, a certified financial planner and department head and associate professor of personal financial planning at Kansas State University

Here’s what you need to know.

Names and titles

There are a few professional financial organizations offering certifications that hold individuals to a high level of training, testing, ongoing education and ethics.

CFP: One of the most well-known is certified financial planner, offered by the CFP Board. It’s considered a gold standard, as it includes rigorous education and testing about many areas of financial planning such as retirement, investing, taxes, insurance and education. CFPs are fiduciaries, meaning they must act in their clients’ best interest.

Working with a CFP is best for individuals with a solid financial foundation who are looking to build wealth, need life insurance or other products or are seeking investment advice. Many CFPs are also registered investment advisors, who can advise on investments and manage client assets.

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“You wouldn’t be able to give any investment advice if they don’t have that [RIA] designation,” said Ashley Dixon, CFP and lead planner at Gen Y Planning, an Austin, Texas-based firm that works mainly with millennials, offering financial advice and managing some client assets.

AFC/ FFC: A certification that’s growing in popularity is the accredited financial counselor, offered by the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education. Some AFCs are also financial fitness coaches, a certification that provides additional coaching skill-building. The AFC program includes personal finance education, testing, ongoing education and ethics requirements.

An AFC can help with budgeting, paying off debt, managing lines of credit or preparing for a financial goal like buying a house, making it a great fit for beginners.

“An AFC is kind of like a coach – we are going to meet you where you are right now,” said Cait Howerton, an AFC, CFP and lead planner at Facet Wealth, a registered investment advisor in Baltimore.

Working with an AFC was a huge help for Madi Ciampi, 27, and her fiancé Andrew Papineau, 27, of Providence, Rhode Island. This year, they took a hard look at their finances and realized that they had some savings but weren’t sure how to make their goals a reality.

Andrew Papineau, 27, and Madi Ciampi, 27 bought their first house this year in Providence, Rhode Island, with the help of an accredited financial counselor.

In addition, Ciampi grew up around a lot of bad financial habits, she said, and neither received any personal finance education in school.

Through her job at a nonprofit, Ciampi met Susan Greenhalgh, an accredited financial counselor who runs Mind Your Money in Rhode Island.

Greenhalgh helped the couple lay out structured, clear, easy-to-manage goals, and filled in knowledge gaps they had, according to Ciampi. By working together, the couple was able to buy a house in November, three months ahead of schedule.

“There’s no way we would have bought a house without someone walking us through the process,” Ciampi said, adding that Greenhalgh was a rock star in helping the couple understand where they were coming from financially, how that impacted their goals and how to think long-term.

An AFC is kind of like a coach – we are going to meet you where you are right now.

Cait Howerton

AFC, CFP and lead planner at Facet Wealth

CFT: A certified financial therapist, or CFT, is trained by the Financial Therapy Association. Financial therapy weds mental health with personal finance, making it best for people that have behavioral or emotional hurdles that are impacting the way they use or manage money.

“It’s not so much about technical advice as helping people get healthy with how they’re thinking about money,” said Seay.

Finding the right fit for your needs

To be sure, there are some people who will give personal finance advice or call themselves a planner or coach without having any training. Regardless of what title someone uses, it’s important to ask about and look up their education, background and any registrations or certifications they hold.

“We do encourage consumers to look for someone who is committed enough to the profession that they get a designation,” said Alan Moore, CFP and co-founder of the XY Planning Network located in Bozeman, Montana.

There are also limitations associated with different certifications; for example, a CFT, AFC or FFC can’t give investment advice unless they’re also a registered investment advisor.

Equifax is adding buy now, pay later payments to credit reports

Payments on buy now, pay later (BNPL) loans will be added to credit reports in the coming year. That’s good news for some good consumers, but others should be careful.

The loans, which typically allow customers to pay for purchases in four equal installments rather than all at once, have exploded in popularity over the past few years, and are expected to keep growing. Equifax, one of the three main U.S. credit bureaus, announced earlier this month that it will begin recording these installment plans on reports in early 2022.

Currently, some BNPL companies do report some loan information to certain credit bureaus. Affirm, for example, reports some loans to Experian. But Equifax will add BNPL information for the first time.

The bureau says this will give lenders “a fuller picture of people’s financial commitments, like how much they owe on these plans,” and it notes that including on-time BNPL loan payments on a credit report could potentially increase consumers’ credit scores.

But by the same token, missing these payments would also potentially lower a consumer’s credit score, just like missing a credit card payment does now.

BNPL loans, also called point-of-sale loans because they are typically offered at checkout, are relatively easy to qualify for, and they don’t typically require a hard credit pull. That makes them especially popular among younger consumers, who either don’t have a credit history or are distrustful of the credit industry.

That’s one reason Equifax says including on-time payments in credit reports could help those younger consumers, who have easier access to BNPL loans than other types of credit, build their credit history.

But there are a few issues credit agencies and BNPL companies like Affirm and Afterpay will have to work out. These types of loans are typically short — repaid within a few weeks — and consumers can open and close multiple BNPL loans at the same time. That could be a potential problem, given that the average age of accounts and how long it’s been since you opened a new account are part of a credit score’s calculation.

Additionally, there is often a lag between when people open an account and when it appears on their credit report, so consumers could repay something before it appears.

That said, if paid off on time, BNPL payments added to credit reports could boost scores for those with thin credit histories.

If you’re taking out a BNPL loan, make sure you can pay it back.

“Just because you qualify for BNPL, or any other credit product, doesn’t mean you should use it,” says the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

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Where Americans want to travel abroad and where they’ve lost interest

Gaviota Azul beach in Cancun, Mexico.

Getty Images

Just as countries have started to lift pandemic travel bans and Americans begin to at least think about booking vacations abroad, the spread of the delta and omicron variants of Covid-19 has thrown the tourism industry’s fortunes to the wind again.

That said, hope springs eternal and U.S. travelers have been busy researching the long-delayed foreign trips they’d like to take once they can. Travel site ParkSleepFly has tracked where they want to go.

Researchers at ParkSleepFly analyzed data on Google searches from April to September by Americans on 168 foreign or overseas destinations in terms of flights, vacations and hotels, totaling them to determine rankings in categories such as the most in-demand countries, most in-demand cities and regions, countries increasing in travel popularity and countries seeing a decrease in interest from Americans.

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The No. 1 overseas destination that Americans are searching is Puerto Rico — technically a U.S. territory but still a flight or cruise away for those on the mainland. ParkSleepFly tracked nearly 1.69 million searches for the island. Rounding out the top five spots were the Maldives, with 491,200 searches; Costa Rica, at 384,600; Aruba, at 379,600; and Mexico, at 361,300.

The website also ranked the cities and regions attracting the most interest; the top 10 are listed in the box below.

Top In-Demand Cities & Regions by Google Search

Travel site ParkSleepFly analyzed Google search data for flights, vacations and hotels by Americans for destinations worldwide to determine the most sought-after holiday spots as we head into 2022. Here’s a look at the top 10 urban and regional spots and the total number of searches in the past six months.

  1. Cancun, Mexico — 638,230
  2. Bali, Indonesia — 448,100
  3. Dubai, United Arab Emirates — 446,100
  4. Bora Bora, French Polynesia — 408,200
  5. Panama City, Panama — 299,210
  6. Paris — 265,400
  7. Cabo San Lucas, Mexico — 252,780
  8. San Jose, Dominican Republic — 225,690
  9. Toronto — 224,130
  10. Rio de Janeiro — 202,550

Source: ParkSleepFly

ParkSleepFly also looked at which countries are falling or rising and in popularity among U.S. travelers. Searches for China travel have plummeted 75% — perhaps not surprisingly, given media coverage of coronavirus, along with current geopolitical tensions. “Following the emergence of Covid-19, China imposed strict border policy and suspended all visas on arrival, so it’s not surprising to see a decline in popularity,” the site wrote in its blog.

In second place for less interest from Americans is Italy, with a 59% drop-off, which ParkSleepFly attributed to the country’s numerous Covid lockdowns this year. At No. 3, Hong Kong — with some of the world’s strictest pandemic border restrictions — saw a 54% fall.

On the bright side, searches increased significantly for overseas or foreign destinations such as the U.S. Virgin Islands, up 98%; the Maldives, up 72%; and Indonesia, with 61% growth. Overseas or foreign cities and regions seeing the highest growth in interest include Saint Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, up 77%; Toronto, up 45%; and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, up 41%.

For more on the study, and its methodology, go to ParkSleepFly’s website.

4 ways to lower your grocery bill as food prices soar

d3sign | Moment | Getty Images

Has your grocery bill been making you do a double take?

You’re not to blame. Inflation is.

Rising prices are hitting almost every aisle in supermarkets across the U.S. The cost of steaks swelled by 25% between November 2020 and November 2021. Eggs and fish were up 8%, to cite just a few unfortunate examples.

If the increased costs have you worried, here are some money-saving tips for feeding you and your family.

1. Plan ahead

Don’t show up to the supermarket without a grocery list and some ideas of what you’ll be cooking for the week, experts say.

“Meal planning definitely reduces costs,” said Leanne Brown, author of Good Enough, a self-care cookbook. “If you stick to it, you don’t waste food that you bought without a plan.”

While you map out your dishes for the week, try to think of recipes that are easily repurposed, Brown said. That will make you able to buy less.

For example, a pot of chili can later be used to fill burritos or as nacho toppings.

Eating certain foods on repeat can seem sad or monotonous — or, like so much else with life — you can choose to look at it more positively.

“Having the same breakfast every day for a week can be really comforting and simplify things both wallet-wise and decision-making wise,” Brown said. “Then you can do something else the next week, so you don’t feel bored.”

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Meanwhile, shopping with a grocery list probably won’t prevent all your impulse buys, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use one.

“Even if you stick to them somewhat, that is great,” Brown said. “We don’t need to worry about perfection.”

As a treat, she purposefully plans to buy one or two things off her list.

2. Compare costs

Looking for sales, and buying items strategically at stores where they cost lower are other ways to save money on food, experts say. You can usually browse discounts on a supermarket’s website or app, or find them listed at the retailer.

Scan your grocery list before you decide where to do your buying, said Erin Clarke, author of The Well Plated Cookbook. Then, try to find the store that offers the best value on the particular items you’re looking for.

“If you’re doing a produce-heavy trip, look for a store with frequent produce sales,” Clarke said. “If you’re stocking up on shelf-stable goods, choose a store that has the best value for those, even if other items, like produce, cost more.”

Billy Vasquez, who runs the blog The 99 Cent Chef, said he picks up many of his non-perishable items, including mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, hot sauce, dried pasta, beans and tortilla chips, at his local dollar store.

Timing is everything with food, Vasquez added.

“Buy when fruit and veggies are in season,” he said. “They are often on sale.”

Every time you walk into the store, that’s an opportunity for impulse purchases to drive up the bill.

Around St. Patrick’s Day, Memorial Day and Independence Day, you can find steep discounts on items like corned beef, carrots, cabbage, turkey, duck, roasts, ham, boxed stuffing, hamburgers and hot dogs, many of which can be stored in the freezer for long periods, Vasquez said.

Year-round, generic and store-brands tend to be the cheaper varieties, Brown said, adding that, “buying more canned and frozen vegetables when many aren’t in season is another evergreen choice.”

3. Stock up on staples

Kentaroo Tryman | Maskot | Getty Images

Make sure your kitchen and pantry are always stocked with certain basics, experts say. Doing so will allow you to buy fewer new items each week.

Some of the most useful foods to have on hand include eggs, pasta, rice, bread, canned tomatoes, frozen vegetables and fruit, onions and potatoes, Brown said. Consider buying these products in large quantities, if you have the space, to cut costs over time.

Many meals can be made with these ingredients alone, and they serve as the foundation for countless more.

4. Pick wisely

Meat and dairy tend to be the more expensive items at the supermarket, and especially of late. In response, aim to make more meals that don’t rely on them as the central ingredient, Brown said.

“Using meat sparingly as flavor, like adding a bit of bacon to a mushroom risotto, is more economical,” she said. Consuming less meat also helps you to lower your environmental footprint, she added.

Buying foods with a longer shelf life can cut your trips to the supermarket all together. Even certain produce may be saved for more time than others.

“Cabbage, carrots, brussels sprouts and beets can last for two weeks or longer when stored in the crisper drawer,” Clarke said.

Delaying your return is always good for your wallet.

“Every time you walk into the store, that’s an opportunity for impulse purchases to drive up the bill,” Clarke said.

Getting people to spend money

A Hangzhou location of the Element Fresh chain, which entered the bankruptcy liquidation process in December 2021, as the coronavirus pandemic took its toll.

Costfoto | Future Publishing | Getty Images

BEIJING — Sluggish consumer spending has dragged down China’s economy since the pandemic, with little relief in sight for 2022.

Along with the property market, consumption is one of two areas economists are most concerned about in their China growth outlook. Consumer spending is also the sector that businesses and investors have bet on as they expect China’s middle class spending power to grow in coming years.

Top leaders in Beijing warned at an economic planning meeting this month that growth faces “triple pressure” from shrinking demand, supply shocks and weakening expectations.

“The core problem of these ‘triple pressures’ is still a weakening of demand or insufficient demand,” Wang Jun, chief economist at Zhongyuan Bank, said in Mandarin, translated by CNBC. “If demand improves, then expectations will improve.”

The main reason why economic development cannot be sustained is reflected in the weakening of demand, he said, noting in particular the negative impact of the pandemic on people’s incomes. He also pointed to drags on demand from reduced local government spending on infrastructure projects and regulation on after-school tutoring businesses that have affected employment.

Regarding the third pressure of supply shocks, he said they are primarily related to the pandemic and overly drastic measures for reducing carbon emissions, which have since been adjusted. Virus-related restrictions on return-to-work have contributed to disruptions in global supply chains, including a shortage in critical components like semiconductors.

Overall uncertainty about jobs and incomes reduces people’s willingness to spend. Beijing’s crackdown on real estate developers’ reliance on debt also affects household perceptions of wealth, as the majority is tied up in property.

“How consumption recovers next year will have a very great impact on the economy,” Jianguang Shen, chief economist at Chinese e-commerce company JD.com said in Mandarin, translated by CNBC.

Shen said authorities could boost consumption by following Hong Kong’s example in offering vouchers. That would force consumer spending on specific businesses like hotels, incentivized further by a tiered structure that wouldn’t unlock subsequent vouchers until the first one expired or was used up.

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Hong Kong’s retail sales had contracted in 2019 and 2020 as protests disrupted the local economy, even before the pandemic shut off the semi-autonomous region from foreign and mainland tourists. Local authorities launched the latest voucher program in August and retail sales for the year through October are up 8.45% from the same period in 2020.

Mainland China’s retail sales dropped last year despite the economy growing overall. Comparisons to that decline helped retail sales surge in the first quarter, but the pace of increase has slowed, especially since the summer. Retail sales for the first 11 months of the year still rose 13.7% from the same period in 2020.

By sector, consumers have picked up their spending more on food and clothing, rather than services such as education and entertainment, according to Goldman Sachs analysts’ estimates. They expect that divergence between goods and services to narrow slightly next year.

But even with their projections for 7% growth in real household consumption next year, it “would remain below its pre-Covid trend by the end of 2022,” the analysts said. They pointed to drags from China’s “zero tolerance” policy for controlling Covid and the downturn in the property sector.

The investment bank expects China’s GDP will slow to 4.8% growth next year, down from an expected 7.8% this year.

Real estate needs homebuyers

Troubles in China’s sprawling property market caught global investors’ attention this summer as indebted developers like Evergrande teetered on the edge of default, prompting contagion fears. Government efforts to rein in the industry’s high debt levels and surging home prices have resulted in tighter financing conditions for developers — and falling sales and prices.

Property poses “the biggest growth headwind in 2022,” Macquarie’s Chief China Economist Larry Hu said in his outlook report. He expects housing starts and floor space sold to fall at an even faster pace next year, and property investment to drop by 2%, after rising by an expected 4.8% this year.

“Property policy should shift from tightening to loosening sometime next year, as we expect policymakers to defend 5% GDP growth,” Hu said. “The risk is that they might react too late, given their reluctance in using property as the vehicle for stimulus.”

China’s top-level economic planning meeting this month did not signal much change in policy on real estate. Beijing maintained its position that “houses are for living in, not for speculation.”

It will likely take a few years to resolve the real estate industry’s problems, said Zhongyuan Bank’s Wang. In the meantime, he expects the central government will need to issue debt and spend more to help local governments weather the hit to their revenues.

Regional and local governments derive at least 20%, if not more, of their revenue from land sales to developers, according to Moody’s.

A challenge for policymakers is to reduce real estate-related debt levels while ensuring the property market doesn’t slow drastically.

“Weak market sentiment is also affecting residential home sales, as buyers postpone purchases in anticipation of further price reduction,” Fitch said in a report last week. The firm expects a 15% decline in home sales by value next year, which could cause five of 40 developers in its rating coverage to suffer a cash squeeze.

“We expect a reduction in real-estate construction activities to ripple through related sectors, such as steel, iron ore and coking coal, decelerate overall fixed-asset investments and even put a strain on financial institutions,” Fitch said.

For economic policy next year, Beijing has emphasized that stability is its priority. Authorities have also made it clear this year that quality of growth is increasingly more important than quantity.

Columbia University Earth Institute, China Center for International Economic Exchanges and Ali Research Institute have attempted to gauge such progress with a national sustainable development index. In addition to GDP, the index incorporates factors such as revenue of high tech businesses, and spending on education, social welfare and pollution treatment.

The index rose to 82.1 in 2019, from 59 in 2015, according to the latest release this month.