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Everyone Can Now Freeze Their Credit Reports for Free

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If you have been holding off on freezing your credit report because you’d have to pay a fee, wait no longer. Today — one year and 14 days since Equifax originally announced hackers had exposed the sensitive information of more than 146 million consumers — a federal law making it free for consumers to freeze and thaw their credit reports goes into effect.

The provision rolled into the federal Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act makes it free to place, lift and permanently remove a freeze on your credit report with credit reporting agencies, regardless of the state you live in.

How will the new law affect me?

Before the law went into effect, it cost consumers anywhere from $2 to $12 to freeze, thaw or permanently remove a freeze a credit report depending on the law in the state they lived in. Only three states (Indiana, Maine and South Carolina) allowed free credit freezes.

Barring protected consumer status or proven identity theft, a consumer generally needed to pay a fee to each of the three major credit reporting bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — to complete each credit freeze-related action. For example, it could have cost someone living in Colorado $30 to simply freeze their credit reports (paying $10 to each reporting bureau) and another $36 to thaw or permanently lift the credit freeze on each report.

Now, the big three credit reporting bureaus and other smaller credit reporting agencies are required by federal law to allow all consumers to freeze, thaw and permanently unfreeze their credit reports, free of charge.

Under the law, a reporting agency must notify a consumer of the placement or removal of a credit freeze within one business day if the request was made online or over the phone and within three business days if the request was made by mail.

The new law also applies the following changes:

  • The credit reporting bureaus must also provide a webpage that allows consumers to request a credit freeze or place a yearlong fraud alert on their credit report. Prior to the law, initial fraud alerts lasted 90 days.
  • The webpage must also allow a user to opt out of sharing their information with companies for the purpose of advertising credit or insurance.
  • The Federal Trade Commission must also set up a webpage that will list the links to the credit freeze pages for each credit reporting agency.
  • The law requires credit reporting agencies to provide free electronic credit monitoring to all active duty members of the U.S. military.

What is a credit freeze?

A credit freeze, or security freeze, restricts access to a consumer’s credit report. This prevents others from using your information to commit financial fraud.

Neither you nor fraudsters will be able to open new accounts in your name while the credit freeze is in effect. If you are applying for new credit, you can temporarily lift the freeze from your credit report, which is also referred to as thawing the freeze.

A credit freeze does not affect your existing creditors’ access to your credit report if the creditor is conducting account activities like credit monitoring and credit line increases or if they need to place the account in collections.

A warning: The credit freeze doesn’t prevent thieves from using your information to commit all forms of identity theft. The credit freeze only protects against forms of fraud that require access to your credit report.

The credit freeze also won’t stop you from getting prescreened credit offers. However, the new law requires reporting agencies to allow you to opt out of sharing information with companies for the purpose of advertising credit or insurance to you.

How to freeze your credit report

To freeze, thaw or permanently unfreeze your credit report you need to notify each of the three major credit reporting agencies separately. You can contact each bureau online, via phone or by mail.

Online

Equifax
Experian
TransUnion

Phone

Equifax: 1-800-685-1111 (1-800-349-9960 for New York residents)
Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (1-888-397-3742). Press 2.
TransUnion: 1-888-909-8872

Mail

Send a letter to each credit bureau by certified mail requesting the freeze. Here are the addresses.

Equifax: Equifax Security Freeze/P.O. Box 105788/Atlanta, GA 30348
Experian: Experian Security Freeze/P.O. Box 9554/Allen, TX 75013
TransUnion: TransUnion LLC/P.O. Box 2000/Chester, PA 19016

Mobile app options exist to put restrictions on consumer’s credit report information, as well:

Note: A credit report lock isn’t exactly the same thing as a credit freeze, though they serve the same purpose. Freezing your credit reports can only be done by phone, mail or the online portals above. Lock/unlock services allow you briefly grant or prohibit access to your credit report using online and mobile apps.

TrueIdentity app by TransUnion — Allows those enrolled in free True Identity service to instantly lock and unlock credit reports.

Lock & Alert by Equifax — Allows consumers to lock and unlock credit reports for free.

IdentityWorks by Experian — Allows those enrolled in IdentityWorks Plus or IdentityWorks Premium services to lock and unlock credit reports. The IdentityWorks Plus and CreditWorks Premium services charge fees.

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.

Brittney Laryea
Brittney Laryea |

Brittney Laryea is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brittney at [email protected]

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Study: More Men Received Pay Raises, Promotions Than Women Last Year

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 2018 household income growth numbers released by the United States Census Bureau revealed that the median earnings of all workers grew over 3% last year. Sounds like a win, right? But the research also revealed that the 2018 median earnings of men was $55,291. Women, on the other hand, only made a median of $45,097.

MagnifyMoney by LendingTree wanted to investigate this pay disparity further. They conducted a survey of Americans who work at least 30 hours a week about their pay raises, promotions and career moves.

Key findings:

  • 59% of working Americans received a pay raise within the last year. Of those who got a bump in salary, about half said the raise came with a promotion, too. Additionally, 36% said the boost in pay resulted from a new job.

  • More men received pay increases and promotions than women: 64% of men reported a raise, compared to just 52% of women. To make matters worse, 54% of men said their raise came with a promotion, versus 37% of women.
  • Millennials reported more raises than older generations: 64% of millennials received a raise, compared to 61% of Gen Xers and 47% of baby boomers. Millennials were also more likely than other age groups to say their raise came with a promotion.
  • Approximatly 62% of those whose earnings increased also raised their retirement savings contributions. Men were more likely than women to increase their savings level.
  • Around 47% of working Americans think they’ll receive a raise next year.
  • Women are more likely than men to say they probably won’t get a raise next year: 21% of women doubt their pay will increase within the next 12 months, compared to just 8% of men. The more respondents made, the more likely they were to think they would receive a pay raise next year.

Gender pay gaps

You know the old saying: Men are from Mars, women are from Venus. We know it’s not true, so why are women and men being paid like they live on different planets? In the past year, 12% more men reported receiving pay increases and promotions than women. Even more disappointing news: 17% more men than women picked up a promotion with their raise.

These figures strongly suggest that women had fewer opportunities for financial and career growth than men in the last year. These occurrences have a ripple effect. Men were 21% more likely than women to increase their retirement savings after they got a pay raise. It makes you wonder whether men are receiving larger pay raises than their female counterparts, considering women have been found to save a higher percentage of their money than men.

This difference in retirement saving contributes to a worrying trend. A 2018 study by Prudential found that on average, women save 43% less for retirement than men. And almost half of the women surveyed admitted to having no retirement savings at all.

Generational pay gaps

Gender may not be the only divide in the workplace. Millennials get a lot of flak, but they’re moving up in the workplace. Millennials reported earning more raises last year than Gen Xers and baby boomers.

While Millennials are more likely to be in the growth stage of their career, it’s also worth noting that in 2016, Millennials became the largest generation in the workforce. Millennials were also the most likely of any generation to report that their raise came with a promotion. Not bad for the generation everyone likes to laugh at for being “lazy.” To top it off, they were also the generation most likely to increase their retirement savings after receiving a raise.

How Outlook Varies

It’s fair to assume that the life and work experiences of each individual surveyed mold their view of the world around them. Because the women surveyed reported receiving fewer raises than men, it’s clear why they would be more pessimistic about their odds of receiving future raises.

While 47% of working Americans believe they’ll receive a raise next year, more of those Americans are men than women. Twenty-one percent of women doubt their pay will increase within the next 12 months, whereas only 8% of men feel that way.

Confidence seems to come easier to those with higher incomes. The more the survey respondents made in wages, the more likely they were to think they would be getting a pay raise in the next year. In their defense, the group with the highest income did in fact receive the most pay raises in the past year.

Tips on asking for a raise

When it comes time to ask for a raise, prepare yourself by following these steps. Coming to your boss with evidence regarding why you deserve a raise and how you will increase your contributions to the company will help you work toward your professional and financial goals.

State the facts

Even though you think your boss has a pretty good idea of your accomplishments, they don’t know them as well as you do. A successful request for a raise can take lots of prep work. Keeping track of your accomplishments, tasks and the changes in your role throughout the year will help you remember the triumphs you’re likely to forget a few months later.

Did a thrilled client sing your praises in an email? Flag it. Did the CEO comment on how impressed he was with your presentation? Write down his feedback. If you helped make your team more productive by introducing a new software, saved your department money or increased sales, keep notes of those occurrences somewhere you can easily reference them.

When the time comes to ask for a raise, you’ll have plenty of solid evidence at your fingertips as to why you deserve it. And remember, the more cold hard proof you have of your success (like web analytics or sales growth), the better.

Be strategic

Your boss shouldn’t feel blindsided when you ask for a raise. It’s important to give them notice that you want to speak to them about something important. Ask to schedule a meeting with your manager. Generally, they won’t be able to give you a firm yes or no during this meeting — that’s okay, they also have a boss to report to.

Make sure you set a meeting to follow up on your conversation. This holds your manager responsible for following through and tempers your expectations so you aren’t on pins and needles until you get an answer.

Don’t take no as a final answer

You won’t walk away from every request for a raise successfully, that’s just a fact of life. But it’s important to remember that getting a no now doesn’t mean no forever.

Ask your manager to elaborate on why they said no and how you can work towards a goal of a raise. Maybe there is an area of your performance you really do need to improve upon. Or perhaps your company doesn’t have the money for a raise in their budget. Agree on a time to circle back to this conversation later in the year, and in the meantime, take your manager’s feedback to heart. If they don’t give you a clear path for working toward a raise, it may be time to move on.

Methodology

MagnifyMoney by LendingTree commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 543 Americans who work at least 30 hours per week. The survey was fielded September 5-9, 2019.

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.

Jacqueline DeMarco
Jacqueline DeMarco |

Jacqueline DeMarco is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Jacqueline here

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How Much Does the Average American Have in Savings?

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 average American household has $183,200 worth of savings in bank accounts and retirement savings accounts as of June 2019.
  • The median American household currently holds about $12,330 across these same types of accounts.
  • The top 1% of households (as measured by income) have an average of $2,630,760 in these various saving accounts. The bottom 20% have an average of $9,190.
  • Roughly 83% of savings are in located in retirement accounts like IRAs and workplace-sponsored retirement savings plans like 401(k)s.
  • Millennials, who have just started their savings journey, have currently socked away an average of $24,570 retirement savings. Gen Xers have $127,550 in retirement savings. Baby boomers and those born before 1946 have an average of $279,250.
  • 29% of households have less than $1,000 in savings.
  • 30% of Americans deplete their savings an average of $14,230 every year.

You often read or hear stories about how Americans aren’t saving enough for college, for retirement, for a rainy day — for anything, really. But how much do they currently have in their bank, credit union or online brokerage?

MagnifyMoney used data from the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) to estimate the average and median household balances in various types of banking and retirement savings accounts. 2016 household data from the Fed’s Survey of Consumer Finances was adjusted to 2019 levels by using March 2019 market values and fund flows.

Of course, these are very broad numbers, and very few of the 127 million U.S. households will be average. As of 2016, about 78% of households had at least one of the following: a savings account, a retirement savings account, a money market deposit account or certificates of deposit.

Average account balances

As of June 2019, among all households (including those with no account):

  • The average American household savings account balance is $17,750
  • The average American household has $6,220 in certificates of deposits (CDs)
  • The average American household has $9,430 in money market deposit accounts
  • The average American household has $9,820 in checking accounts
  • The average American household has $149,790 in one or more retirement savings accounts, including individual retirement accounts (IRAs), 401(k)s and other types of retirement accounts

Note that all households won’t necessarily own each type of savings account. For example, only about 7% of households currently have savings in some type of CD, meaning that the 93% without one will necessarily drive down the average.

Here are the average balances among savers, regardless of the kinds of savings vehicles they use. The averages below only exclude the 22% of households without any of these savings accounts. Households that have some savings vehicles but not necessarily all of the savings vehicles below were factored into each average.

Across all “saver” households:

  • The average savings account balance is $24,290
  • The average money market deposit account balance is $12,210
  • The average amount held in one or more CDs is $8,520
  • The average balance of all retirement accounts is $205,020
  • The average checking account balance is $11,970

 

When you look at the average balances of those who own the particular account, the averages are even higher:

  • 51% of American households have a savings account, and the average balance among them is $34,730
  • 18% have money market deposit accounts, and the average balance is $74,970
  • 7% have one or more CDs with an average toal value of $95,600
  • 52% have one or more retirement accounts, and the total average balance is $287,736
  • 83% have checking accounts and the average balance is $11,970

 

Median account balances

Median balances are considerably lower than the averages. For example, the median savings account balance (among those with savings accounts) is $4,960, significantly lower than the $34,730 average American savings account balance. Fifty percent of households have more than $4,960 in those types of accounts, while 50% have less. (The median figures below only include households that have that type of account.)

  • The median American household savings account balance is $4,960
  • The median American household money market deposit account balance is $12,680
  • The median American household amount in one or more CDs is $25,280
  • The median retirement account size in American households is $75,480
  • The median American household checking account balance is $2,480

 

Demographics and savings

Who are the above-average saving households? Wealthier households comprise most of them, but less-well heeled households can have healthy levels of savings as well. When you look at households who have saved more than the national average of $183,200, 59 percent of them are top income earners– those households in the top 20 percent of annual income. But 41 percent of above average savers are in the bottom 80% by income.

    • Millennial households have saved an average of less than $25,000, Gen Xers have about $128,000 saved, while baby boomers have saved nearly $280,000.
    • Regardless of income or age, 29% of households have less than $1,000 saved.

When savings is viewed through certain demographic prisms, like age, income and education, the average and median savings account balances start making more sense. For instance, it won’t surprise anyone that households with higher incomes save more than those of more modest means.

 

So although the average American household has saved roughly $180,000 in various types of savings accounts, only the top 10%-20% of earners will likely have savings levels approaching or exceeding that amount. Indeed, and as the chart above shows, the bottom 40% of American households are more likely than not to have any savings whatsoever. Conversely, the top 10% of the population by income is likely to have many times the national household savings average.

Similarly, millennials will have saved less than boomers, as the latter has had a 35-year head start, among other factors. Currently, the average boomer has roughly 11 times the amount saved as the average millennial.

 

How much does the average American have in savings for retirement?

Of course, many American households store much of their savings in retirement accounts, like 401(k) plans from their employers and IRAs, both of which are tax-advantaged accounts that can hold not only “liquid” savings but also investments like financial securities and, in some cases, other types of assets like real estate. Fifty-two percent of households have some sort of retirement account, according to a 2016 survey by the Federal Reserve.

Among all households (including those with no account), the average retirement savings account balance as of June 2019 is $149,800.

But among households with an account (about 52% of all households):

  • American households with a retirement account (accounts like employer-sponsored 401(k) plans and IRAs) have an average of $287,740 in such accounts.
  • The median household balance as of June 2018 is $75,480 among those with retirement accounts.

For those households with retirement accounts, here’s how retirement savings break out among the different generations:

  • Millennials have saved an average of $34,570
  • Gen Xers have an average of $168,480 in retirement savings.
  • Baby boomers and those born before 1946 have an average of $386,110 in retirement accounts.

Nearly one-third of Americans deplete their savings by an average of $14,230 every year

According to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, while nearly half of households grew their savings, 30% of households depleted their savings accounts at least once over the past five years. As might be expected, those with lower incomes (which may include working families as well as retirees) were more likely to draw down their savings an average of $14,230.

  • 49% of people with savings and investment accounts reported that they contributed to their balances over the course of the previous year, while 30% dipped into their savings, and 21% kept contributions and withdrawals even
  • Households with incomes of $25,000 averaged a net year-over-year withdrawal of $2,834. Net withdrawal for households between $25,001 and $50,000 was $792
  • 64% said they depleted their accounts to pay bills and 57% said they did to pay for general living expenses. (Respondents were allowed to choose more than cause.)
  • 15% said their voluntary decision to stop working was a cause, which suggests their savings were planned for that reason
  • 27% blamed reduced health and 16% said involuntary job loss was a factor
  • 24% of respondents said they didn’t have savings or investment accounts

Recent trends in deposit accounts

Here’s a closer look at how customers of banks and credit unions are allocating their deposits:

CDs are finally getting attention

The amount of savings in FDIC-insured banks have grown by nearly $4 trillion since the recession.

 

But until recently that deposit growth wasn’t going into CDs. Collectively there’s still less savings in CDs than ten years ago, while $2 trillion more have gone into savings accounts, and $2.2 trillion in Money Market Deposit Accounts (a type of savings account that typically allows checkwriting).

 

CD yields

As you may suspect, the primary culprit behind declining CD deposits are the accounts’ low yields. As illustrated in the chart below, the popularity of CDs has waned as banks paid relatively little interest for all CDs, even those with longer maturities. For much of the past decade, the average yield for locking up savings in 1-year CD barely exceeded the average yield on a money market account, which is more liquid than a CD.

 

Longer-term CDs haven’t been yielding much more, until recently. Although the Federal Reserve began its most recent series of short-term rate hikes in early 2017, CD yields only started to climb from rock bottom in spring 2018. And as you might expect, as the yields for CDs increased, the deposits from savers have followed. Over the past year CDs at commercial banks grew by 17%, to $1.86 trillion in June 2019.

 

Credit unions: A smaller pool with slightly better yields

While savings have also increased in the much smaller credit union universe, CD deposits have remained steady.

 

While there are multiple explanations for the steady share of CDs at credit unions, such as the institutions’ not-for-profit status (members are the shareholders), one obvious reason is the competitive rates they offer customers relative to banks. According to the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) quarterly survey, credit unions usually offer consistently higher rates on savings than commercial banks.

 

Fortunately, savers (or would-be savers) are not consigned to improving-but-still-meager average savings yields. The best yields for savings accounts,CDs and money market accounts well exceed the average APY by at least one percentage point and often more.

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.

Chris Horymski
Chris Horymski |

Chris Horymski is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Chris at [email protected]