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Will the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau die under Trump?

(FINANCE NEWS) The CFPB has been making great strides in protecting consumers from big banks and foreclosure. With a new president, will all this change, or will the CFPB be able to continue their work?

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Waiting and speculation

With a new president elected, many citizens are expressing growing concern over a multitude of issues, from housing, to equal pay, and everything in between. While it seems to be a bit more prominent with President-elect Trump, this has certainly happened with every newly elected president. The American people want to see just what the new president will do: will he introduce reform? Will things stay the same? Right now, we’re all playing the waiting game, but there is one area in which we have a bit more concern: housing, more specifically the CFPB.

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We have long covered the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the different policy changes and reforms that have come down the road along the way. On the campaign trail, President-elect Trump vocally shared his dissatisfaction for the Dodd-Frank financial reforms. This makes us wonder what this could mean for the CFPB.

Is the CFPB in danger of being dissolved?

Of course, people opposing the CFPB is nothing new, but it has been making great strides in helping consumers fight back against banks. However, the threat to the CFPB doesn’t reside with President-elect Trump, but rather with the anti-CFPB legislators and the courts.

According to the Consumerist, anti-CFPB legislators have called for Congress to dismantle the agency entirely, but this would prove difficult, as it would likely require legislation that wouldn’t survive a Democratic filibuster in the Senate.

The Consumerist goes on to state that Ed Mierzwinski, of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, noted anti-CFPB lawmakers would navigate around the possible filibuster by introducing smaller legislative efforts to slowly undermine the Bureau’s authority and its ability to enforce rules that have been deemed “too-restrictive” on the very banks foreclosing on consumers. The only difference now is that these lawmakers no longer, in theory, fear a presidential veto from President-elect Trump. A veto was a concern, along with a lack of majority numbers in the Senate, from President Obama.

Big banks take aim at CFPB

One of the most vocal opponents to the CFPB has been the Chairman of the House Financial Committee, Rep. Jeb Hensarling from Texas. Hensarling is also a potential nominee for Treasury Secretary in President-elect Trump’s administration. This could be detrimental to the CFPB.

Again, according to the Consumerist, Hensarling is also one of the most bank-backed members of Congress, second only to Paul Ryan, whose campaign received more contributions from commercial banks than any other House member.

Keep this is mind: Hensarling’s campaign and leadership PAC received around $1.9 million from the financial and real estate industries in the most recent election.

This accounts for nearly two-thirds of all money raised for the Congressman. This is pretty astounding, and it definitely explains why there is some worry regarding the dissolution of the CFPB.

The courts aren’t happy either

But as I previously stated, the major issues really aren’t with President-elect Trump or Hensarling; rather the big threat could be the courts.

The Director of the CFPB, Richard Cordray, has been a controversial figure since President Obama appointed him (after some protesting from Hensarling and others). As he was appointed for five years in 2013, he could remain Director while President-elect Trump is in office. However, there was a recent federal appeals court ruling that could undermine his position.

The Director of the CFPB is unique in that they cannot be dismissed at will by the president, unlike other agencies where there is either a multi-commissioner panel, or the authority to be removed by the president.

While this may seem unusual, it was put in place to prevent the pressure that regulated parties might try to exercise on the legislative or executive branches of government to get the Director of the CFPB removed.

The federal appeals court recently concluded that the CFPB’s structure is in fact unconstitutional because it gives one person too much authority, and said person is not directly answerable to the president. This could mean Director Cordray will be on the way out in January. If this happens, the law allows for his Deputy Director to assume the position.

However, it is more likely that the Trump administration will have a replacement in mind, and therein lies the problem and worry.

There is one more potential change to keep in mind: Congress wants to make the CFPB more accountable to lawmakers by having funds come through Congress, rather than independently from the Federal Reserve. This has been proposed before, but the potential for it to pass has never been greater than with this administration.

What will happen?

As of right now, the CFPB has paused all pending legislation in response to Trump’s victory.

Bank-backed lawmakers have tried to reform the CFPB before, but have not, by and large, been successful. Some long-awaited regulations, like arbitration rules, are still pending and will likely be dissolved if Cordray is removed from office.

The Hill reports that President-elect Trump has pledged to put a moratorium on new agency rule-makings once he takes office, which could prevent any pending regulations from getting passed.

While this is all still speculation, it seems quite likely that there will be some reform in the CFPB with a Trump presidency, but how much, or to what extent remains to be see for certain. With any luck, once President-elect Trump takes office, he’ll allow the pending regulations to pass, or at least examine them and the strides the CFPB has been making before disallowing them, or completely dissolving the CFPB all together.

What do you think? Will this be the beginning of the end for the CFPB?

#CFPB

Jennifer Walpole is a Senior Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a Master's degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. She is a science fiction fanatic and enjoys writing way more than she should. She dreams of being a screenwriter and seeing her work on the big screen in Hollywood one day.

Business Finance

Succession planning: Your options when not allocating to dependents

(ENTREPRENEUR) We’ve all heard the phrase “You can’t take it with you,” but succession planning provides peace-of-mind when leaving behind personal assets.

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Succession planning is a forward-looking strategy to ensure the “next in line” is prepped for what is to come. Within an organization, executives or management create a blueprint in hopes of a seamless transition of operations to “partners, future generations, or successor owners,” as Patrick Hicks, the Head of Legal at Trust & Will, states.

Succession planning can be useful in both professional and personal environments, including handing off entrepreneurial businesses or assets of any value. It’s important to create an Estate Plan for whom you plan to replace you in regard to property ownership.

Hicks says that, “Property rights are the cornerstone of modern society.” Property rights include the authority to determine how a resource is used or disposed of after death. This can include giving in a neighbor, a charity, or the most common choice, your family.

“Giving it all to family is typical but giving it all to non-relatives gets second looks. An estate plan is the manifestation of your wishes. It doesn’t matter if anyone else approves.”

It can come as a shock to hear if your assets are undesired by family- or even worse- if it comes as a surprise to them after a loved one’s death. Some choose not to communicate succession plans during one’s lifetime as it could damage familial relationships, but on the other hand, it could also provide a smoother transition. If an heir does not wish to take on the property, there is a chance for contest or litigation that could reduce the benefits of having a succession plan in the first place.

Another scenario is if your dependents do want a hand in property assets after death, but your wishes are to relinquish it elsewhere. Hicks says, “Typically, children do not have a right to claim their inheritance, unless some special rule applies.”

An example is if you leave behind a minor child or surviving spouse, where in that case, they may be entitled to receive support. This could include at least of share of property if no estate plan was in place. However, the necessary support can also be provided by the dearly departed through life insurance or another means.

“When it comes to estate planning, there are societal norms and bounds,” Hicks says, but ultimately, no matter the wishes, having a succession plan can provide peace-of-mind when thinking of the future.

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Business Finance

Tips on setting a more accurate freelance rate

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Setting a freelance rate can be difficult given that any industry has conflicting norms regarding an appropriate billing amount – a fact made more difficult by about a billion other factors such as experience, location, and so on. Whether you prefer to determine your rate the long-form way or you just want a calculator to point you in the correct direction, here are some tips for figuring out how much you should be charging.

Jennifer Bourn, business guru and freelancer extraordinaire, eschews the general “start with the salary you want and work backward” approach. Under this model, you would theoretically determine the amount of money you want in a year, divide that number by the number of hours you plan on working in a year, and charge whatever the quotient is (for example, $100,000 divided by 2080–which is 40 hours per week times 52 weeks in a year–is roughly $50 per hour).

The problem with this model, Bourn posits, is that it doesn’t actually get you what you want to earn. Once you take into account things like your overhead spending, vacation time, insurance, profit margin goals, and actual billable time versus the time you need to do administrative things, you’re looking at a substantially smaller figure at the end of the year.

Bourn’s solution is to start with the salary you want, add all of your expenses, multiply that result by your desired profit margin (e.g., 1.10 for a margin of 10 percent), and then divide by a realistic look at your billable hours for the year–not just the standard 2080 work days in a year (which is already problematic due to the aforementioned vacation time and potential for sick leave).

If all of that sounds like way too much effort, there are a myriad of rate calculators that you could use instead. Each of our following picks has a variety of applications:

  1. Clockify is a simple, straightforward calculator that looks at your industry, location, and experience level to generate an average hourly figure.
  2. Nation 1099starts with your desired salary and then gives you an hourly rate and a daily rate based on many of the factors espoused by Bourn.
  3. Your Rate asks for your desired annual income, your number of weekly billable hours, and your anticipated time off per year to come up with a set of rough figures for weekly, daily, and hourly rates.
  4. Freelance Rate Calculator is a Google Sheets template that takes into account your goals, expenses, billable hours, and more.
  5. All Freelance Writing is a more intensive calculator with an advanced option to determine all of your costs, goals, billable hours, time off, and so on, making it a pleasant option somewhere between Bourn’s long-form calculations and something like Clockify.

You should test your salary calculations in a variety of spaces if you have the time. This will ensure that you end up with a solid, well-corroborated result that you can quote to clients rather than having to fall back on one website’s opinion. Whichever option you choose, though, remember that you deserve to be paid what you’re worth–not just what your services are worth.

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Business Finance

How should freelancers be saving for retirement (is it even possible)?

(FINANCE) Adulting is hard, but retirement looms no matter your age – here are some ways to start squirreling money away so it’s less stressful later.

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Freelancing is a tenuous approach to employment, made all the more so by a profound lack of amenities usually offered by more stable arrangements – chief among which is a retirement fund. It can feel impossible, especially when your business suffers amidst a pandemic, so some of what follows can be ignored until the ship isn’t sinking, but don’t wait a minute longer than that – deal?

So there are several schools of thought regarding the best way to start saving and where you should put your money, but the bottom line is that, if you’re a freelancer, you should be allocating your own retirement funds. Here are some ways to do just that.

Before you can even get into the weeds of how to invest in retirement, you should have a parachute in case things go sideways. My Bank Tracker suggests starting with an emergency fund of $1,000, adding to it as you can until you have anywhere from 3 to 12 months of expenses covered.

This serves two purposes: ensuring that you’ll have the luxury of time if you need to perform an abrupt job hunt, and establishing how much you can safely put away each month without jeopardizing your business or standard of living (within reason).

Having a relatively large sum of money on hand for emergencies is always good, and if you never have to use it for the purpose for which you set it aside, it can supplement your retirement whenever you decide it’s time to cash in.

My Bank Tracker also suggests storing your emergency fund using a “high-yield” bank account, such as an online savings account, rather than sticking with traditional, low-interest savings options.

You also need to plan for taxes, which in addition to whatever your tax bracket percentage is, includes allocating 15 percent of your income to pay Social Security and Medicare. This means that you’re probably putting aside a pretty hefty sum (at least 30%) each month.

Once you’ve established your emergency fund and planned for taxes, you should have a general idea of what your wiggle room looks like vis-a-vis saving for retirement.

The actual saving part of retirement entails investment in a retirement account such as an IRA, Roth IRA, a 401(k), or a pension plan (referred to as a “defined benefit plan”).

Each of these account types has benefits and drawbacks depending on your situation.

  • A Roth IRA will allow you to contribute a certain amount each year, and you can usually set up an account quickly from a variety of online locations. The money that goes into a Roth IRA is post-tax, meaning you don’t have to pay tax on the retirement funds you pull out. Your income, however, can disqualify you from investing – if you earn above a certain threshold ($140,000 in 2021), you won’t be able to use a Roth IRA.
  • Other IRA options exist as well, each with a cap on how much you can contribute per year and varying tax requirements. For example, a traditional IRA account requires you to pay taxes when you withdraw the money, and there’s an upper limit on how much you can contribute.
  • A SEP IRA is similar, but the upper limit on investment is substantially higher – and you need to be self-employed (or an employer) to have one.

Nerd Wallet also points out that a 401(k) is a reasonable option for self-employed people who don’t employ anyone else, especially if you plan on saving “a lot in some years — say, when business is flush — and less in others.” 401(k) accounts allow you to put up to a certain amount ($58,000 in 2021) in each year pre-tax, and you pay taxes on withdrawals whenever you start pulling out money.

More eccentric retirement options exist as well. Taxable Brokerage Accounts let you invest in stocks and securities through a brokerage, and you’re able to use the money whenever you please – but you’ll have to pay taxes on your gains each year, which can become expensive in the long run.

And defined benefit plans are expensive and entail high fees, but they allow you to set up a pension with high investment opportunities as opposed to some of the lower-investment options.

Whichever option (or options – you can always invest in multiple accounts) you choose, make sure you’re saving for retirement in some capacity. And remember that these accounts represent exponential growth, meaning that the sooner you start saving, the better off you’ll be when you begin your retirement journey.

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