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Banking

Savings Solutions for Dynamic Pricing

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

The old marketing catchphrase “everyday low prices” could soon be cast into the dustbin of history thanks to dynamic pricing. With dynamic pricing, online retailers are using big data to change prices listed online frequently, using a wide variety of criteria.

Imagine an airline ticket to the Bahamas during spring break — nobody should be surprised that it’s more expensive than an airline ticket to the Bahamas in September. But what about the price of a microwave oven? Shouldn’t the price of a given make and model of microwave remain the same no matter when you shop for it?

With dynamic pricing, retailers can constantly fluctuate the cost of a microwave in order to maximize the price they get when you finally decide to buy. One 2012 academic study found that Amazon.com changed the price of a GE microwave model nine times in just one day.

What is dynamic pricing?

Dynamic pricing is when retailers use data-driven analytical tools to manipulate prices with the ultimate goal of maximizing profits. You probably learned in high school economics class that supply and demand can affect a product’s price, but dynamic pricing goes well beyond supply and demand.

For example, some retailers use ZIP codes to set prices, charging a higher price to people who live in a more affluent area. You may pay more for a sporting event ticket if the weather is nice, as ticket sellers adjust prices based on the weather. And the type of device you’re using to shop could even impact what you pay. The Wall Street Journal reported that a travel site directed people using a Mac to costlier options.

Dynamic pricing can be based on any criteria, and it starts with cookies, small tracking files saved on your web browser while you’re on the internet. Once installed on your computer, websites use cookies to learn about your online behavior. For example, cookies can track which sites you visit, how much time you spend on the site and how much money you spend.

Retailers use the information collected with cookies to make pricing decisions. Algorithms estimate how much you might be willing to pay for an item, and retailers can adjust their prices in real time — maybe even more than nine times a day.

Which retailers use dynamic pricing?

Dynamic pricing has been used in the travel industry by airlines and hotel chains for years, often closely tied to supply and demand. Dynamic pricing has also been adopted by car rental companies, tour operators, entertainment groups, and e-commerce websites, said Lewis Goldstein, founder of Blue Wind Marketing, an agency that helps its customers leverage dynamic pricing tactics.

“Rideshare companies use dynamic pricing, where it’s commonly referred to as surge pricing,” he said, which is why taking an Uber will probably be more expensive on New Year’s Eve. “Airbnb uses it; they call it ‘smart pricing.’”

The adoption of dynamic pricing has been referred to as the “Amazon effect.” One study noted that Amazon changes the price of some of its consumer products as many as 70 times per year.  To compete with the e-commerce giant, many retailers are adopting dynamic pricing software. The practice is even being used by the auto industry, generating an additional $1 billion in revenue for automakers over the past decade.

Dynamic pricing can lead to counterintuitive prices for some products, like tickets for concerts or sporting events. For example, ticket prices may decline sharply as the date of the event gets closer, because companies are trying to liquidate unsold inventory.

How can you beat dynamic pricing?

With big data technology working against you, dynamic pricing may seem unbeatable. There are steps you can take, however, to get your best prices in spite of dynamic pricing.

“Consumers have become more aware and price conscious over the years, knowing that retailers fluctuate prices often, both online and in the store,” said Andrea Woroch, a consumer and family finance expert. “However, retailers know shoppers are looking for bargains more than ever and will continue to change offers based on demand and to meet competitor sales.”

The following tactics can put you back in control of your spending and help you snag the best price on a purchase.

Clear your cookies

Since retailers use cookies to learn more about you, one way to beat dynamic pricing is to clear cookies from your web browser. Cookies can be useful, however, since they help you avoid entering your login information every time you check your bank statement—but they also feed information to retailers about your buying patterns across the web, providing insights on your purchasing behavior. Erasing cookies before your next online shopping task may provide better pricing.

Shop covertly

For some shoppers, clearing cookies from their web browsers could negatively impact pricing. A study about price discrimination from Northeastern University in Boston revealed registered users of sites like Orbitz were sometimes presented with better deals than non-registered users. Since deleting cookies logs you out of sites where you are a registered user, a good strategy is to shop these sites covertly first. Use Chrome’s Incognito mode or Firefox’s Private tab to search for prices, and then compare them to regular browsing when you’re logged in to make sure you’re getting the best price possible.

Compare and track prices

Whenever you’re shopping for any type of product, it’s important to do your homework. Comparing and tracking prices for the same product across different sites is one of the most effective ways to beat dynamic pricing.

“Begin researching prices across several retailers to see who is selling it for less,” Woroch said. “Sites like CamelCamelCamel will give you price history of products sold on Amazon which you can use as a benchmark to compare prices across other sites.”

Don’t always default to Amazon when you research products, though.

“Amazon isn’t always the cheapest place to buy an item,” said Goldstein. “It’s always good to first shop around. You may come across websites that offer lower prices because they focus on carrying items specific to that industry. They may have better arrangements with manufacturers over sites like Amazon, where the fees may be higher.”

Use savings tools

There are tons of shopping apps available to help you compare prices and save money. One of our favorites is Honey, a shopping app that you add to your browser. With Honey’s Droplist feature you enter the products you want to buy and the app monitors sites where they are sold. When prices online fall below a pre-selected level, the app sends you an alert.

“Droplist monitors the price of an item for 30, 60, or 90 days, and automatically sends an email when the price drops to the amount you set,” Woroch said. “Honey also searches for coupons and automatically applies applicable deals to your online cart to help you get a lower price.”

Set up sale alerts

Set up sale alerts to learn when a product’s price drops due to a promotion or available coupon. Pinterest has a setting to alert you when something you’ve saved from a retail website drops in price.

You can also use SnapUp, an app that organizes your mobile screenshots of products into a database and lets you organize by category, and sends you an email when product prices drop.

Goldstein recommends setting up an alert using Google Flights when you’re looking to fly. “Google Flights will, similarly to Honey, keep track of when prices go up and down, so you can buy a ticket at the best time,” he said.

Talk to your retailer of choice

You can bypass the retailer’s tools by picking up the phone or opening a chat window.

“I also find that simply asking a customer (representative) whether in store or online via chat or by calling customer service is a great way to see if there are any discounts available that you may not know about,” Woroch said. “I’ve even had success asking for free shipping even when a specific coupon wasn’t available. So, just ask — it can’t hurt.”

If you’re already made a purchase and you notice the product went on sale later, ask the retailer if they can give you a refund for the price difference. “Many retailers offer price adjustments but may have different requirements on how to qualify, depending on how soon after you bought something it goes on sale,” Woroch said.

Use coupons

This sounds obvious, but it’s easily overlooked if you’re making a quick purchase. If a checkout page has a field for a promo code, take a moment to look for one before you proceed. Search the name of the retailer plus “coupon code.” You can also visit popular coupon websites, such as RetailMeNot or CouponCabin.

If you don’t need the item right away, another good way to score a coupon code is to abandon your cart. Some online retailers will use email marketing software that delivers discounts to your inbox if you don’t complete a purchase.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Stephanie Vozza
Stephanie Vozza |

Stephanie Vozza is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Stephanie here

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Investing

Great Financial Planning Networks for Millennials

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone and is not intended to be a source of investment advice. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

The youngest millennials turn 24 in 2020, and most of this generation has already entered the workforce. Whether it’s to evaluate retirement plans or simply to start budgeting more effectively, many millennials are seeking out the help of a financial advisor.

Financial planning is a great way to improve the health of your personal finances. However, just grabbing the first financial planning professional you come across is not an effective option. You need to take thoughtful, deliberate steps to evaluate your options and choose the right advisor.

Check out our advice for pursuing your own search for a millennial money advisory that measures up to your own expectations. In addition, we’ve provided brief profiles of five financial planners tailored to the unique needs of millennials.

Millennial financial planning: How to find the right advisor

With a variety of financial planning services designed to appeal to their generation, millennial clients should explore their options before choosing an advisor. It’s important to find the person who will be a match for your unique personality and needs. The planner you choose to hire will depend on a variety of criteria, and before you sign on the dotted line, take these five steps to find the right fit.

Look for the CFP designation

When choosing an advisor, check if they’ve received a CFP designation. “This means the person has completed extensive education and experience requirements and are held to high ethical standards,” said Lindsay Martinez, certified financial planner with Xennial Planning in Oceanside, Calif.

CFP professionals have to pass a comprehensive certification that test their abilities to apply financial planning knowledge to real-life situations. The exam covers the financial planning process, tax planning, employee benefits and retirement planning, estate planning, investment management and insurance, to ensure the planner understands the complexities of the changing financial climate and know how to make recommendations in your best interest.

Get referrals, do background checks

Ask family, friends and professional colleagues if they use a financial planner and if they’re satisfied with their services. While your needs may vary depending on your life situation, it can help to hear about the experiences of others.

Whether your advisor candidates come from referrals or your own search, you should also do a background check on your advisors. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is not-for-profit industry group that oversees all entities in the United States that sell securities products. FINRA offers BrokerCheck, a website where you can research the background and experience of securities brokers and dealers.

Another place to find information is through the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). As it applies to the public, the mission of the SEC is to protect investors and maintain fair, orderly and efficient markets. The SEC helps you check an advisor’s background with search features on investor.gov.

If the financial planner claims to be a certified financial planner, take the extra step to verify their credentials by checking the CFP website. And you can also check for reviews of financial advisors at the Better Business Bureau.

Schedule a consultation

Don’t underestimate the importance of finding an advisor that fits your personality. An advisor may be smart and savvy, but if you don’t feel like they’re a partner who wants to take time to make sure you understand and feel good about your choices, the relationship could end badly.

Financial planning networks for millennials ditch the suit-and-tie meetings and offer a more relaxed way to interact and share ideas, via phone or web-based consultations.

“Since many planners provide complimentary getting-to-know-you-style consultations, take advantage of the offer to see whether they’re a good fit for you,” said Sarah L. Carlson, certified financial planner and founder of Fulcrum Financial Group in Spokane, Wash. “Do they talk to you or talk down to you? They need to speak in terms you understand.”

Carlson recommends looking for an advisor who has been in the business for at least five years. “Anyone who can pass the tests can come into the business,” she said. “Only advisors who are successful at helping people can stay in the business more than five years.”

Know the right questions to ask an advisor

Millennials should be asking the right questions, said Janice Cackowski, a certified financial planner with Providence Wealth Partners, in Rocky River, Ohio.

Cackowski suggests asking whether an advisor works with other people in your age bracket. Do they have account minimums or a minimum annual fee? How are they paid? Do they offer tax planning?

“In my opinion, [tax planning] is the most important part of planning for young people,” Cackowski said.

Kashif A. Ahmed, president of American Private Wealth in Bedford, Mass., adds two more questions: Is the planner a fiduciary? And can the planner be compensated by being paid for their time and advice instead of being required to purchase a product directly from them?

Advisors who are fiduciaries hold themselves to a standard where they put your financial interests above their own. “If they hesitate or say ‘no’ to either of these, run away,” Ahmed said.

Understand your advisor’s fee structure

Millennials are known to be impervious to sales pitches and are highly cognizant of hidden costs. They want to know exactly how much they’re paying and what they’re getting in return. For this reason, many find that they prefer a fee-only financial service. It’s important to understand the difference between fee-only and fee-based.

“‘Fee-only’ indicates the advisor does not sell products or work on commissions, so there are inherently fewer conflicts of interest,” said Martinez. “These folks have a fiduciary responsibility to act in their client’s best interest.”

Fee-based planners, however, collect money from clients as well as other sources, such as commissions from companies whose products they sell. Both fee-only and fee-based advisors can give a client investment and financial planning; however, the input you receive from a fee-based advisor might be different from a fee-only advisor due to how they get paid. In some cases, this can create a conflict of interest.

5 financial planning options for millennials

From networks to solo practitioners, financial planners designed specifically for millennials are making waves in the marketplace. These five financial planners and planning networks have business models geared to millennials. They offer digital platforms not tied to any one location, no minimum deposits and fee-only services.

XY Planning Network

XY Planning Network The  XY Planning Network includes more than 500 certified financial planners (CFPs) who specialize in financial planning for millennials. Advisors in the XY Planning Network are fee-only, which means they do not accept commissions, referral fees, or kickbacks. There are no minimums required to get started as a client.

These advisors offer comprehensive financial planning help, including debt management, estate, insurance and retirement planning, real estate analysis, and investment advice and management. Advisors are available to work with clients either in person or online.

Garrett Planning Network

Garrett Planning Network Garrett Planning Network is a network of nearly 300 financial planners who check many key boxes for millennials. Members charge for their services by the hour on a fee-only basis. It does not accept commissions, and clients pay only for the time spent working with their adviser.

Members of the Garrett Planning Network requires no income thresholds or investment account minimums to access its hourly services. Garrett Planning Network advisors help clients with cash flow issues, investment management questions, tax preparation, pensions and retirement plans, estate planning, insurance issues and savings opportunities. Members must either already have their CFP designation or agree to become certified within five years. Clients can set up an in-person meeting or work with a member by phone or online.

Millennial Wealth

Millennial Wealth Millennial Wealth is a small fee-only financial advising firm that specializes in planning and investing for millennials by millennials. Planners are not compensated with commissions or kickbacks. Located in Seattle, customers can also meet virtually via meeting software or other technology.

Millennial Wealth doesn’t have account minimums, and it has designed its fee structure to work primarily with young professionals just starting out and wanting to build a solid foundation to achieve financial goals.

Gen Y Planning

Gen Y Planning Gen Y Planning is run by certified financial planner Sophia Bera and specializes in clients in their 20s, 30s and 40s who have high incomes but haven’t had time to do proper financial planning. Gen Y Planning offers help and advice for the life stages millennials are likely facing, such as navigating new jobs, purchasing a first home, getting married and starting a family.

The team works with clients across the country online. Gen Y Planning offers fee-only services, with an up front planning fee followed by a monthly retainer. The CFP also offers a robo-advisor for investment advice as an add on service for 0.70% annual management fee. Gen Y Planning does not require account minimums.

Grow

Grow Grow is a millennial-owned service that focuses on serving other millennials. The company takes a holistic approach by offering solutions that improve its clients’ lives and finances with financial planning, investment management and personal growth coaching.

Grow is a fee-only advisor that receives no commissions. Clients do not have minimum account requirements, and Grow doesn’t charge a fee for managing assets under $10,000; instead the balance is left in cash or market ETFs until increases.

The bottom line on millennial financial planning

When you’re in your 20s or early 30s, long-term goals like retirement or purchasing a new home may feel far off. However, it’s never too soon to start working with a financial planner. When it comes to your money, take your time to find the right person to help you.

“I’ve found the millennials I work with to be hard-working and extremely conscientious about their finances,” Cackowski said. “They want to get set up to save appropriately and make better financial decisions than their parents’ generation.”

Finding a financial planner who can help meet all of your needs and work toward reaching your goals is an investment in yourself and your future. You want to hire someone who is not only knowledgeable; you want a coach and partner you can trust to grow along with you and your account balance.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Stephanie Vozza
Stephanie Vozza |

Stephanie Vozza is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Stephanie here

Advertiser Disclosure

Banking

Average Savings by Age: How Much You’ve Saved vs What You Need

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

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The average American household has $183,200 tucked away in savings, with about 83% of that in retirement accounts. That leaves an average of about $31,000 for emergencies and non-retirement savings goals, such as buying a house or car, going on vacation or putting money away for college tuition.

To know if you’re on track to meet your savings and retirement goals, it helps to compare your progress with the average savings by age.

The average savings account balance by age

As your age increases, so should your bank balance (until a certain age). Let’s break down the findings by age group.

Average savings: Younger than 35

The average non-retirement savings for someone younger than 35 is $8,362, according to calculations by ValuePenguin, which, like MagnifyMoney, is owned by LendingTree.

While this number is low, money may be tight at this stage of life. People in this age group could be just over a decade into their careers, which can put them on the lower end of salary ranges.

The median earnings for Americans ages 25 to 34 are $837 a week, or $43,524 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Expenses such as housing, transportation and student loans can consume a good amount of income.

Keep in mind that the average age of a millennial homebuyer is 30.5, so mortgage down payments could be lowering the average savings.

Average savings: Ages 35-44

Between the ages of 35 and 44, the average non-retirement savings balance is $20,839.

During this decade, earnings grow. The median earnings are $1,022 a week, or $53,144 a year.

At this stage, more people are homeowners and parents of young children. The average cost of raising a child to the age of 18 is $233,610, or about $14,000 a year.

Average savings: Ages 45-54

Once you’re between the ages of 45 and 54, the average non-retirement balance is $30,441.

Retirement could be coming closer into view. And since more couples are delaying parenthood until their 30s, college tuition bills could be looming. Tuition and fees at a four-year public school average about $10,000 a year, but that doesn’t include room and board.

Fortunately, this decade is where Americans average the most earnings. The median earnings are $1,025 a week — or $53,300 per year — giving you a greater ability to save for emergencies, goals and retirement.

Average savings: Ages 55-64

Between the ages of 55 and 64, the average non-retirement savings account is $45,133. This could be a time when you start winding down your career and make your last push for retirement savings.

The median earnings in this age group fall slightly to $1,009 a week, or $52,468 a year. You should max out your retirement contributions and meet with a professional to see if you’re on track.

Of note, 47% of people opt to start taking Social Security benefits between the ages of 62 and 64. If you purchased a home at the average age of 30.5 on a 30-year mortgage, this is when you could pay off your mortgage if you didn’t refinance or sell the home. This helps to reduce your expenses and free up available funds for saving.

Average savings: Ages 65-74

Between the ages of 65 and 74, the average non-retirement savings balance is $54,089. More than 1 in 6 seniors work past age 65, according to ValuePenguin.

The median earnings for Americans older than 65 are $949 a week, or $49,348 a year. (Note that the BLS doesn’t track specific earning data between the ages of 65 and 74. Median earnings are estimated for those age 65 and older.)

Expenses should fall during this decade with child rearing most likely done.

Average savings: Age 75 and older

Once you reach age 75, the average non-retirement savings balance is $42,291.

The amount declines for the first time because you’re likely withdrawing some of your money for living expenses. And your ability to add to your savings also declines as many Americans have left the workforce by this age, even though the labor force participation rate for the 75-plus age group has nearly doubled in the past 20 years.

As we noted in the ages 65 to 74 section, the BLS doesn’t break down earnings’ estimates beyond 65 and older, so we’re looking at the same figures: $949 a week, or $49,348 a year.

How much you should have saved at each age

Your savings will likely have a purpose, such as emergencies, goals or retirement. To know if you are putting enough money away, it helps to follow these rules of thumb.

An emergency fund should contain three to six months’ worth of expenses, which will vary depending on your lifestyle and expenses.

Based on 2018 average annual expenditures from the BLS, we’ll provide emergency fund savings goals by age group. The low end includes three months’ worth of expenses, while the high end includes six months.

Let’s switch the focus to retirement savings. The average millennial has $24,570 in retirement savings, while the average baby boomer has $279,250.

Your target retirement balance can be calculated based on your income. By age 30, per Fidelity, you should have saved one times your income. By 50, that number grows to six times. And by 67, you should have saved 10 times your income.

According to the Census Bureau, the median household income in 2018 was $61,937. Based on these figures, here is a good general goal.

Tips for saving more money

While the average American household has a savings balance of $30,600, the median balance is $7,000. The average is the sum of all savings accounts divided by the number of account holders, while the median is the middle point in a number set.

The median amount offers a better representation of what most Americans have saved, since averages can be greatly impacted by outliers, such as high-income individuals with large deposit account balances.

If you are closer to the median than the average, It’s a good idea to address the gaps that exist by putting some savings strategies in place.

Follow the 50/30/20 budgeting rule

With the 50/30/20 rule, half of your income goes toward essential expenses (“needs”), such as housing, transportation, groceries and utilities. Thirty percent goes toward non-essential expenses (“wants”), such as dining out, clothes or cable TV. The remaining 20% of your income can go toward savings. Following this rule can help you avoid living paycheck to paycheck, as 78% of Americans do.

Pay down debt

One of the best ways to save money is to reduce expenses, such as high-interest credit card debt. The fewer bills you have, the more income you have available to sock away. You could use the debt snowball method, which pays off the lowest balance first to build motivation and momentum. Or consider the debt avalanche, which pays off the loans with the highest interest first. Whichever method you use, make it a priority to meet your savings goals. MagnifyMoney has a calculator than can help you decide between the two methods.

Save your tax refund

It can be tempting to spend a tax refund on something fun, such as a vacation, because it feels like a windfall. However, take advantage of the lump sum and put it toward your savings goals. The average tax refund for Americans in 2019 was $2,868, and saving it can put you well on your way to a higher bank balance.

Automate monthly savings

If you have to physically transfer money into savings, you’ll be less likely to do it. Instead, sign up for automatic savings deposits each pay period. You can divide it into non-retirement and retirement accounts. Chime Bank, for example, found that its members who signed up for automatic savings were able to put away more than three times as much money as members who didn’t.

Maximize interest rates

While it’s convenient to have your savings in the bank where you do your checking, the interest rates are often negligible, with the average savings account paying 0.09% APY, according to ValuePenguin. It’s possible to earn a much higher rate, so let your money work harder for you by choosing accounts that pay higher rates, such as high-interest savings accounts, certificates of deposit (CDs) or money market accounts.

Where you should keep your savings

The type of account you choose for your savings will depend on how you plan to use the money. Are you saving for a long-term or short-term goal? For some purposes, you’ll want an account that is more liquid than others.

For day-to-day expenses, you’ll want to use a checking account that allows you to make unlimited withdrawals each month. You can get an interest checking account, which pays an average of 0.06% APY.

For short-term goals, consider savings and money market accounts. Although, it’s important to know that most have restrictions on your number of withdrawals per month. The average savings account pays 0.09% APY, while the average money market account pays 0.16% APY.

You could place your emergency fund in a high-yield savings account, which keeps your money safe and pays a decent interest rate — often 2% or more.

If you don’t need your funds soon, you can choose an investment product such as a CD, which requires that you keep your money in place for a set period. Rates vary depending on the length of your CD term.

For retirement savings, you’ll need to put your money into an account designated for retirement savings, such as an individual retirement account (IRA), Roth IRA or a 401(k) plan offered by your employer.

To break it down, more than half of Americans have a savings account, 18% have money market deposit accounts, 7% have one or more CDs and 52% have at least one retirement account, according to MagnifyMoney research.

The bottom line

Many Americans aren’t saving enough for retirement or emergencies. In fact, only 48% of Americans have enough money to cover a $1,000 emergency, according to LendingTree.

By checking your milestones and comparing average savings by age group, you’ll have a better idea if you’re on track or if you’ve got some catching up to do.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Stephanie Vozza
Stephanie Vozza |

Stephanie Vozza is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Stephanie here