What Is Austerity?

What Is Austerity?

Austerity policies are nothing new. But talk about them in the news has recently escalated. In response to its ongoing debt crisis, the Greek government is preparing to implement austerity measures aimed at helping the country regain its financial footing. If you didn’t major in economics or you have no clue what austerity means, read on to find out how this fiscal program works.

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Austerity: A Definition

Trust us, austerity isn’t as complicated as it sounds. Austerity is a type of economic policy that governments use to deal with budget deficits. A country faces a deficit whenever it’s using more money than it’s earning from tax dollars.

By taking on an austerity package, a government hopes to reign in its spending, improve the status of its economy and avoid defaulting on its unpaid debt. Governments usually take on austerity measures in order to appease their creditors. In exchange, these lenders agree to bail out countries and allow them to borrow more money.

If you look up the word austere in the dictionary, you’ll see that it means severe, grave, hard, solemn and serious. Indeed, austerity is nothing to joke about.

Austerity Measures

What Is Austerity?

Austerity plans normally involve increases in different taxes, (property taxes, income taxes, etc.) budget cuts or a push to incorporate both. Government workers could lose their jobs or see their wages and benefits either decline or become stagnant. Hiking up interest rates, adding travel bans and keeping prices at a fixed level could be other strategies put in place to reduce spending.

Naturally, austerity measures typically aren’t viewed in the best light because they mean that there might be fewer government programs available to the public. Aid for veterans and low-income families, healthcare coverage and pensions are some of the benefits that normally take a hit when a country’s using an austerity package. Government services that aren’t eliminated might not be as comprehensive or as beneficial as they once were.

As you can see, in an austere environment, conditions are tighter overall. Historically, austerity has been implemented in the US during tough times including World War I, World War II and the Great Recession of 2008.

Greece’s new austerity package – which government lawmakers finally accepted in July 2015 – will feature less government funding, higher taxes and cuts to pension plans. As a result of this deal, the country was allowed to begin talks with its creditors about a third bailout.

Related Article: All About the Greek Debt Crisis

The Problems With Government Austerity 

Experts on the economy tend to go back and forth about how effective austerity can be. Some believe that instead of turning to austerity, the government should pump out more money and borrow as much as possible if an economy is on the rocks.

From a political standpoint, austerity is often controversial and results in riots and demonstrations. Anti-austerity protests erupted in Greece, where quite a few folks say that past austerity programs have only made social and economic conditions worse.

Beyond slowing down the economy, an austerity bill can cause a country to remain in its debt crisis, particularly if it’s in the midst of a recession. As fiscal austerity decreases spending, GDP can go down while unemployment goes up. Consumers can get nervous and stop spending and investing their own money.

In short, austerity policies can make life even more difficult for people who are already struggling. That’s why governments tend to turn to them as a last resort if other strategies aren’t working.

Why Austerity Might Not Be So Bad

What Is Austerity?

Notable European creditors have argued that austerity can be beneficial to a country’s long-term economic state. For instance, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has previously reported that austerity has done more damage than anticipated. But the European Central Bank released a paper saying that austerity has been helpful, at least for some of the weaker eurozone countries.

In fact, austerity has helped strengthen the economies in European countries like Latvia and Iceland. Although Spain’s unemployment remains high, its economy is in better shape overall. Ireland has made considerable progress as well toward rebuilding its economy.

Proponents of austerity policies say that they can make investors feel more optimistic when a country is being run more responsibly. Austerity has the potential to bring a shrinking economy back to life as everyday citizens invest in the private sector instead of relying on support from the federal government.

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The US used austerity measures between 2010 and 2014. Not only were our policies harsher than those employed by the governments in the UK and other European nations, but our economy fared better than theirs.

The Takeaway

The point of austerity is to tighten the government’s belt, bring a country’s debt back down to a more manageable level and stimulate an economy that has stopped growing. Countries generally try to meet these goals by cutting spending and raising taxes.

The debate over whether austerity works continues but one common theme has emerged. Timing matters. Some critics suggest that cutting too much too quickly during a recession can be painful. When introduced more slowly, however, (or when the economy is doing very well,) austerity measures can turn things around.

Photo credit: Â©iStock.com/Eltoddo, ©iStock.com/DNY59, ©iStock.com/Peter Booth

The post What Is Austerity? appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

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What credit card should I get?

One of the questions I’m asked the most is, “Which credit card should I get?”

There’s not a one-size-fits-all answer, but here’s how to narrow it down:

Which credit card to choose if you carry a balance 

If you’re in credit card debt, then you need to prioritize your interest rate over rewards. The average credit card charges 16.05%. It doesn’t make sense to pay interest just to earn 1%, 2% or 3% in cash back or travel points.

If you have credit card debt, forget about rewards for now. You can avoid interest for up to 18 months with the right balance transfer card. And some card issuers (especially credit unions) charge ongoing (non-promotional) rates as low as the 6%-9% range. Don’t chase rewards if you’re revolving a balance.

If you have credit card debt, I recommend these cards:

  • Citi Simplicity® Card*: 18-month 0% intro balance transfer offer; transfers must be completed in the first four months; 3% balance transfer fee ($5 minimum); 0% introductory purchase APR for 18 months; regular variable APR of 14.74%-24.74%
  • Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card: 15-month 0% intro balance transfer offer; intro balance transfer fee of 3% or $5 (whichever is greater); transfers must be made within 120 days to qualify for intro offer; 0% intro purchase APR for 15 months; regular variable APR of 14.49%-24.99%; regular balance transfer fee of 5% or $5 (whichever is greater)
  • BankAmericard® credit card: 12-billing-cycle 0% intro APR balance transfer offer; must complete the transfer within 60 days of opening the account; 3% or $10 transfer fee, whichever is greater; introductory 0% purchase APR for 12 billing cycles; regular variable APR of 12.99-22.99% on purchases and balance transfers

See related: Balance transfer cards with no transfer fee

Which card to pick if you don’t have any credit card debt 

Now we’re on to the fun stuff! The key questions at this juncture focus on how much effort you want to put in, how you spend your money and what you want to get out of your rewards.

Some people treat credit card rewards like a game. It’s fun for them, and they spend time looking for the best deals and juggling multiple cards. Yet about three-quarters of credit card holders prefer simplicity and would rather use the same card or two as widely as possible, we found in an August 2019 survey.

You won’t get the best rewards with that approach, but you can still do pretty well. Here are my favorite flat-rate cash back cards:

  • Alliant Visa Signature Card: 2.5% cash back on every purchase with a $99 annual fee; in your first year (waived your first year)
  • Citi® Double Cash Card: Essentially 2% cash back on everything (technically 1% when you buy and 1% when you pay it off); no annual fee

If you make more than $20,000 in credit card charges in a typical year, the Alliant Credit Union Visa Signature is a better bet despite the annual fee.

Which card to pick if you’re willing to put in a little work to earn better rewards 

Dividing your spending among multiple cards is the best way to reap higher returns. At this stage, you need to consider how you spend your money. Different cards incentivize different types of spending (e.g., travel, restaurants, groceries, entertainment).

You also need to think about your desired redemption. Cash back has the broadest appeal (after all, who couldn’t use a little more cash?), although travel rewards are usually the most valuable. Some 49% of U.S. adults have at least one cash back card, 20% have an airline or hotel rewards card and 19% have a general travel rewards card, our research shows.

Chase Sapphire Reserve, the American Express® Gold Card, the Citi Premier® Card and the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card).

Each of these issuers has more than a dozen airline and hotel transfer partners, plus you can book an even wider variety of flights and hotels directly through the card companies. These programs provide tons of flexibility, and in terms of cents per point, they generally offer higher returns than cash back cards.

Parting advice

As you can see, picking the right credit card for you is an individual decision. I’ll leave you with two more thoughts:

You’re doing well as long as you’re avoiding credit card debt and redeeming rewards for something that’s valuable to you.

Not everyone wants to fly to the Maldives in first-class and stay in an overwater bungalow. Even if it yields fewer cents per point, a free flight to grandma’s house or cash back on everyday purchases could make more sense for your particular situation.

You should absolutely consider sign-up bonuses when evaluating credit cards, but don’t lose sight of the fact that your credit card strategy should be a long-term pursuit. Especially if you’re new to credit, focus on ongoing value rather than card churning.

* Information about Citi Simplicity has been collected independently by CreditCards.com. The issuers did not provide the details, nor are they responsible for their accuracy.

Source: creditcards.com

Detroit Pistons Star Blake Griffin Scores a Sweet Deal in Brentwood

Blake Griffin Brentwood houseNoel Kleinman, courtesy of Compass, Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

The NBA All-Star Blake Griffin has scored a mansion in L.A.‘s Brentwood neighborhood for $5,876,000. Ron Smith and David Berg of Smith & Berg Partners at Compass represented Griffin in the transaction. Jordana Leigh with Rodeo Realty represented the seller.

Despite a move from the L.A. Clippers to the Detroit Pistons, the big man is still going hard in the paint when it comes to L.A. real estate.

The remodeled residence Griffin scored initially landed on the market in May for $6.7 million. Three months later, the price dropped to $6 million, before Griffin closed on the deal earlier this month.

Built in 1936, the updated estate in the exclusive enclave features five bedrooms and 5.5 bathrooms on 5,893 square feet. The layout includes formal living and dining rooms that border the foyer.

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Watch: Not a Slam Dunk: Why Won’t Michael Jordan’s Massive Mansion Sell?

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An upscale kitchen boasts Brazilian granite, custom cabinets, a Viking range, and a Sub-Zero fridge. The kitchen leads into the family room, with a fireplace and tall windows.

Off the living room, you’ll find a media room and a billiard-room. For entertaining with a seamless indoor-outdoor flow, the home wraps itself around a private terrace for dining outside, with covered seating and a fireplace. French doors from multiple living spaces give access to the outdoor space.

Interior details include hardwood floors and travertine and limestone finishes.

Upstairs, the massive master suite has a fireplace, three walk-in closets, and a bank of windows that offers extensive views. Other perks include a gym, wine cellar, and a guest suite with its own patio.

Set behind tall hedges, the gated grounds include over a half-acre of land, with waterfalls, pool, and spa.

Griffin apparently has plans to spend the off-season here in style. He apparently bought an adjoining, brand-new property earlier in the year for $19.1 million, in an off-market deal, Variety reported, suggesting that the player may be inclined to combine the two parcels to put together a compound on more than 1 acre.

In 2019, Griffin placed his previous property in the Pacific Palisades on the market for $11 million. He bought the 9,600-square-foot Cape Cod-style pad in 2014 for $9 million.

Now 31, the Oklahoma native starred for most of his career with the Clippers, from 2009 to 2018, when he was traded to the Detroit Pistons.

In 2019, he made his sixth All-Star team. He’s headed into what could be his last season in the Motor City. Griffin has the option to extend his contract by a single season at the conclusion of the 2020–21 season or to become a free agent.

The post Detroit Pistons Star Blake Griffin Scores a Sweet Deal in Brentwood appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

Trophy Apartment Once Owned by Composer Leonard Bernstein Asks $29.5 Million

An Upper East Side apartment that was once home to one of the most significant American cultural personalities of the 20th century has recently hit the market.

The Art Deco masterpiece at 895 Park Avenue was previously owned by famed composer and cultural icon Leonard Bernstein, whom music critics refer to as “one of the most prodigiously talented and successful musicians in American history”. In fact, this very property is where Bernstein — also a lifelong humanitarian, civil rights advocate, and peace activist — hosted an infamous “radical chic” party with and in support of the Black Panther Party back in 1970.

But its famous past owner is not the building’s only historical trait; built in 1929, it is designed in the classic Art Deco style, evoking New York City’s golden age glamour and sophistication. That, paired with its carefully preserved original architectural details (original wood-burning fireplaces and wide-plank wood floors) and panoramic Manhattan views make this residence a true gem.

perfect manhattan views from luxury apartment
Image credit: Warburg Realty

Clocking in at approximately 6,300 square feet, with an extra 700 square feet of private outdoor space, the 895 Park Avenue unit spans over two floors of the 21-story Upper East Side building. The entrance is through a private elevator landing which opens into a 34-foot grand gallery, further leading into the residence’s elegant formal living room, library, and dining room.

With 6 bedrooms and 6.5 bathrooms, the trophy apartment also comes with an enclosed solarium that’s bathed in sunlight and that, just like the rest of the rooms and outdoor spaces, opens up to picture-perfect views of the city.

beautiful solarium in Manhattan apartment
Image credit: Warburg Realty
Image credit: Warburg Realty
Image credit: Warburg Realty

A grand staircase leads to the lower level, which houses the 6 bedrooms, as well as a home office and laundry room. All but one of the bedrooms enjoys their own en-suite bathroom as well as significant storage space in the form of walk-in closets or dressing rooms.

Image credit: Warburg Realty

The building itself adds an extra note of sophistication and convenience; the full-service white glove co-op has a long list of amenities, including multiple doormen, an elevator attendant, health club, squash court, basketball court, and private storage units. Though location itself may be its biggest asset: 895 Park Avenue is located right in the heart of the Upper East Side, on the southeast corner of 79th street and Park Avenue, providing direct access to world-class dining and shopping.

Priced at $29.5 million, the elegant unit is listed with Bonnie Chajet, Allison Chiaramonte, and Tania Isacoff Friedland of Warburg Realty.

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Source: fancypantshomes.com