Our recent polling in @USATODAY discusses how this 'Life-changing event' of COVID-19 could alter how we work, spend and retire https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2020/05/28/coronavirus-pandemic-could-change-how-americans-work-spend-invest/5198313002/
According to our #COVID19 tracker, 79% don’t consider subways safe; 72% said that of airplanes, 70% of taxis and 65% of ridesharing services. Even 58% feel ride sharing bikes aren’t safe. By comparison, 91% felt it was safe or somewhat safe to take a car. https://bit.ly/HarrisTrackerC-19
Video tours? Suburbs vs cities? Buying, selling a home to look different after COVID-19. Take a look at our newest data featured by @usatoday https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2020/05/28/video-tours-suburbs-coronavirus-changes-how-where-we-buy-homes/5197610002/
Wynne Beckmann has worked in retail for 13 years, through the upheaval of the Great Recession a decade ago. But getting furloughed from her job at a Westchester, New York, mall in March felt different.
"This is an eye-opener. I don't know how much longer I can do retail," says Beckmann, a 32-year-old assistant manager at LOFT, a women’s clothing store. "If things don't change, I'll have to take my marketing degree somewhere else. Maybe Amazon or Glossier, somewhere that puts e-commerce first."
Long after the public health threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic eases, the crisis could spur lasting changes in how Americans work, spend, save and invest, experts say.
Many like Beckmann are grappling with a future that may mean fewer jobs at stores and restaurants and more technology positions. It's a future in which a generation of shaken young Americans may pull back on spending and older workers may put off retirement to replenish depleted nest eggs. And it's a world in which an entire industry, business travel, could shrivel.
“I think this is a life-changing event,” says Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics. “People are shell-shocked.”
In March, most states issued stay-at-home orders and shut down nonessential businesses to curb the spread of the virus, largely shuttering restaurants, malls, theaters and factories. The ripple effects resulted in a record 20.5 million layoffs in April and a 14.7% unemployment rate, highest since the Great Depression and up from a half-century low of 3.5% in February.
As many as 10 million more job cuts are expected in May, pushing unemployment to about 20%, before the economy possibly begins to recover as early as June as states allow businesses to gradually reopen.
But the rebound is likely to be halting. Many Americans remain fearful of contracting the virus until a vaccine is widely available, possibly by the second half of next year. They’re expected to return to restaurants and other gathering spots warily.
The crisis could leave enduring damage. Although about 90% of unemployed workers in April said they were on temporary layoff, some economists worry that many won’t be called back. Small businesses have closed despite a federal program offering them forgivable loans. And many jobless Americans are slashing their spending, compounding the pain for businesses trying to mount a comeback.
After contracting at a 4.8% annual rate in the first quarter, the U.S. economy is forecast to shrink 32.7% in the current one, Moody’s estimates, the worst performance in modern history. Zandi expects the economy to recoup about half of that in the third quarter as the nation climbs out of recession, but then just tread water until it musters a stronger comeback late next year. Still, Zandi doesn’t expect the nation’s gross domestic product, or output, to top its pre-pandemic peak until the second half of 2022.
Here’s what that means for Americans' personal finances:
Spending and saving
American households have significantly cut their spending and increased their savings during the crisis. They socked away 13.1% of their income in March, up from 8% in February and highest since 1981, government figures show. In April, sales fell 79% at clothing stores, 61% at electronics and appliance stores, and 59% at furniture outlets. Auto sales are a third lower than a year ago.
Much of the drop-off isn’t surprising considering most restaurants and stores were closed. But with 39 million Americans laid off, furloughed or forced to work fewer hours, 30% of adults have seen their household income fall, according to a recent Bankrate survey. Despite squirreling away more of their income, nearly one in five adults have less in emergency savings than before the pandemic. Sixteen percent have taken on more debt.
Michelle Liu, a sales associate at Dillard's department store in Charlotte, North Carolina, saw her hours cut in mid-March when the pandemic hit. Then the 36-year-old, who works at the SouthPark shopping mall, was furloughed within a matter of weeks.
Liu, who had been stashing money away for school and dental work, struggled to receive unemployment checks for over a month and was forced to pull from her savings to help pay insurance premiums, along with groceries and car repairs for her father.
“It’s been hard. My savings have completely dropped,” Liu says. “Now I have to start from scratch.”
Liu, who was initially furloughed until at least July, has now been asked to return to work. But she's anxious. “I’m worried about being in contact with people," she says. "Anyone could have the virus.”
The financial blow from job losses like Liu's could spawn a more cautious mindset, especially for college grads as well as millennials whose careers were detoured when they entered the workforce during the Great Recession and now face another setback.
“Saving and risk-taking will probably change for a whole generation,” says Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist of Glassdoor, the job posting site. “Young people’s experience of this will be similar to what happened after the Great Depression,” when widespread poverty led to a lifetime of frugalityamong Americans who experienced the hardship.
Baby boomers will also likely rein in spending because many are fast approaching retirement and their 401(k)s have been hurt by the market sell-off since February.
“Boomers are going to have to save a lot more and spend a lot less,” Zandi says. Each $1 drop in their investments on average translates into a 4.5% decrease in spending, he adds.
Consumers also seem leery about venturing back to gathering places, a Harris Poll survey shows. The share of Americans saying they’ll wait a year or more before resuming certain activities is substantial: 27% say they’ll hold off on flying; 18%, going to the movies; and 11%, going out to dinner.
Lilly Rodzen, 31, doesn’t plan to attend movie theaters, malls or gyms anytime soon.
The Enfield, Connecticut resident, who works as a family support navigator at the Department of Developmental Services in Massachusetts, used to be an avid moviegoer with her husband. Now they opt to spend their free time at drive-in theaters or stream movies at home to socially distance themselves from others.
“At first, it felt sad because going to the movies was something we loved,” Rodzen says. “Then we figured out we could just rent the same movies at home. It was much easier and cheaper.”
She plans to keep shopping online instead of going to malls once more businesses reopen. And she doesn’t envision participating in group workout classes in the immediate future.
“I’m definitely canceling my gym membership. I witnessed people not wiping down equipment even before the pandemic,” Rodzen says. “People are sweating and breathing hard ... I wasn’t thinking about this before, but I am now.”
The recent surge in online deliveries of groceries and other items will ease as the economy reopens, but the longer-term shift from physical stores will accelerate, says Inna Kuznetsova, interim CEO of 1010data, a research and consulting firm.
The work-at-home movement that has gained traction during the pandemic will convince companies to encourage the practice longer-term as they stagger office hours to avoid contagion, experts say. That means fewer purchases of fancy suits and more casual clothing sales, says Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for NPD Group.
Both restaurants and theaters could see fewer patrons because of less demand and more spacing requirements between tables or seats. Kuznetsova expects growth in dine-in movie theaters, perhaps with some restaurants and theaters merging. That will mean fewer jobs over the long term. At the same time, she foresees a possible renaissance in drive-in movie theaters, providing new jobs.
Zandi expects retailers to install ordering kiosks and other automated systems to increase productivity and better withstand another downturn, a strategy that would further reduce jobs. McKinsey predicts a faster spread of labor-saving automation throughout the economy.
The move to online banking during the shutdown is also likely to endure to some extent, requiring fewer employees at bank branches, a McKinsey study says.
And the business travel industry is likely to shrink now that companies have replaced jam-packed conferences and other events with videoconferencing, says Jed Kolko, chief economist at Indeed, the job search site. That means fewer jobs at airlines, hotels and event planning firms.
Where will jobs grow? Technology positions that make possible the home-based digital and online services, as well as health care as the virus remains a threat and the population ages, Kolko says. Amazon and grocery delivery services will continue as a jobs engine.
Many furloughed restaurant workers could leave the industry before they’re laid off. Since the crisis began, the number of restaurant servers seeking positions in other sectors has topped those looking for food service positions, Glassdoor data show. Their searches have increased sevenfold for jobs at Amazon and fivefold for data entry positions while tripling for warehouse jobs.
Overall, the labor market will be far less favorable to workers than it was before the pandemic, when job openings hovered near record highs and there were more vacancies than workers, Kolko says. That pushed average annual wage gains to about 3%, and gave job candidates, who often juggled multiple offers, more leverage in negotiating salaries. Suddenly, there’s a surplus of workers and that’s likely to limit pay increases, Kolko says.
Many workers’ retirement savings plans have taken a hit since the crisis began. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index is about 10% below its Feb. 19 peak. In late March, 63% of workers were confident about having enough money to live comfortably in retirement, down from 69% in January, according to a survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute.
Among those laid off or furloughed — or who expected to be in the next six months — just 47% said they were confident in their retirement finances.
Amtrak, La-Z-Boy and Marriott are among companies that have suspended or reduced contributions to retirement plans to conserve cash during the crisis. About 55% of Americans plan to make changes to their retirement contributions, with most intending to set aside less, Mass Mutual says. And 20% have dipped into their retirement savings because of the effects of COVID-19, according to a Harris Poll survey conducted in mid-May for USA TODAY.
U.S. workers have a median $50,000 in retirement accounts, according to a study by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies released late last year.
“Retirement preparation was not good before the crisis,” says Richard Johnson, director of the Program on Retirement Policy for the Urban Institute. “It’s certainly worse today.”
Johnson believes many workers will postpone retirement. Even just a one-year delay can yield significant gains in retirement balances and annual increases in Social Security benefits, he says. Forty percent of adults who were planning to retire or reduce hours over the next decade now plan to delay retirement, the Harris Poll survey shows.
At the same time, he says, most workers over 62 who have lost jobs during the crisis will retire.
“Older people have a very difficult time being re-employed,” Johnson says.
The stock market and the broader economy have been at odds with each other since April. While stocks have rebounded more than 35%from their March low, unemployment has soared, ending the longest U.S. expansion on record.
“I’m dumbfounded by the way the stock market is trading relative to the dire economic data,” says Patrick Healey, founder and president of Caliber Financial Partners. “Everyone is rooting for a vaccine, but it's awfully early to be this optimistic when large parts of the country remain shutdown.”
More than two-thirds of professional investors are skeptical the stock market’s recent gains will last, according to the Bank of America Global Research Fund Manager Survey for May.
In a sign that investors are avoiding riskier assets like stocks, investment money has continued to flow into money-market and bond funds.
Goldman Sachs expects the S&P 500 index, which is the benchmark for most mutual funds, to reach 3,000 by the end of 2020 compared with 3,036 on May 27 and its low-point of 2,237 during the market sell-off in March. But the broad index could drop nearly 20% from current levels as infection rates outside of New York continue to grow and political uncertainty looms ahead of the U.S. presidential election.
The pandemic is poised to change how consumers bank, with mobile and no-touch purchasing accelerating.
More than 45% of Americans with bank accounts have permanently changed how they interact with their financial institution since the pandemic began, according to an annual study from FIS, a provider of financial services technology. About 46% of baby boomers, 39% of Gen Xers and 35% of millennials say they are using new options such as online and mobile to do their banking, the survey showed.
"This crisis is proving that digital banking was a necessity. It makes a big difference if you needed emergency stimulus and had to wait around for a paper check,” says Mladen Vladic, general manager of loyalty at FIS. “We’ll likely see mobile providers and financial institutions work either together or separately to make it more affordable so that smartphones are in the hands of the broader population.”
Meanwhile, about 24% of customers plan to use branches less, or stop visiting completely because of pandemic fears, according to a recent study released by Boston Consulting Group, a global management consulting firm.
The use of paper checks for business-to-business payments has fallen from 60% a decade ago to 40% heading into this year as more companies adopted electronic payments, according to Josh Cyphers, vice president of product and strategy at Nvoicepay, an accounts payable software firm. Companies expect the use of paper checks to drop by an additional 7% in just the first month of shutdowns beginning in mid-March, or roughly a third of its decline in the past 10 years, he added.
Read the full story at USA TODAY.
Jessica Chamorro’s dream of owning her first home was upended in March after she was furloughed from her catering job at a hotel chain in Tampa, Florida.
She and her husband, who have three children, had just started their pre-approval process to purchase a home this summer when the pandemic hit. Now their plans have been put on hold after the hotel industry was battered by travel restrictions and lockdowns. They are currently stuck in a 1,000-square-foot rental that they had been staying in temporarily to stash money away for a down payment.
“I feel like the rug has been pulled out from under us,” Chamorro, 38, says. “Our goal was to get out. Now we’re stuck in this tiny house. It worries me because we were already living on top of each other to save money. I don’t know if I’ll even have a job to go back to.”
Like Chamorro, millennials and other younger Americans starting families and hitting their professional stride were poised this spring to achieve another milestone — buying their first home. Then the coronavirus hit, shuttering open houses, delaying deals, and causing would-be buyers to push pause as they worried about their health and the fate of their jobs.
Now, applications to buy a home are again on the rise as states lift orders to stay inside. But the pandemic has altered how residential property is bought and sold, changes that aren't likely to disappear any time soon and that could reshape the American dream long after the current crisis has passed.
A growing number of Americans are considering fleeing cities for the suburbs, to put more distance between themselves and their neighbors. Video home tours, a trend that was already increasing, may become routine.
And rather than gathering in a courthouse or office conference room, more and more buyers and sellers are signing documents remotely instead.
"All the technologies we've built for visualizing a home and virtualizing the closing process will just keep growing in importance," says Glenn Kelman, CEO of the national brokerage Redfin.
Online searches for housing in small towns are growing at nearly twice the rate as queries for major metropolitan areas, he says. "Prior to this pandemic, the housing affordability crisis was already driving people from large cities to small,'' Kelman says. "Now more permissive policies around remote work, and a rising wariness about close quarters will likely accelerate that trend."
The new reality will greet many of the buyers and sellers easing back into a thawing market.
Mortgage applications dropped 25% in April as compared to the month before, and were 12% below their total during the same month last year, as stay-at home mandates reached their peak, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.
But millennials remain eager to buy a place of their own, experts say. And with interest rates hovering at 3.41%, a near record low, a housing rebound could start as soon as this summer.
"You still have a lot of households at the point where they're interested in home buying,'' says Mike Fratantoni, chief economist for the MBA. "As some states have begun to reopen, we’ve seen a rapid pickup and ... very strong growth in purchase applications. And now we’re running only about 10% behind where we were last year.''
In Texas, North Carolina and Georgia, purchase applications have actually risen in comparison to 2019. And Fratantoni expects home sales for all of 2020 to be only 2% below where they were last year.
"It all depends on how the pandemic evolves from here,'' he says, but currently, the future of home sales is "looking really, surprisingly strong.''
The National Association of Realtors is slightly less optimistic about this year's forecast, predicting home sales will be 10% to 15% lower than 2019.
But “sales will be higher by 15% to 20% in 2021 because more listings will steadily appear as the state economies steadily reopen,'' says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist,
Head for the hills - or at least the suburbs
A growing number of those sales might be in less crowded communities.
A survey by NAR found that 5% of members said the coronavirus pandemic was causing their clients to shift their sights away from cities to the suburbs.
And 13% said the virus had made buyers prioritize a different home feature, such as a home office, or extra room where relatives could stay, as they considered what property to buy.
“Remote work will become more prevalent,’’ Yun said of the home buying landscape in the wake of COVID-19. "That means there is less need to be close to the job centers. Suburbs and exurbs (areas situated beyond the suburbs and in, or adjacent to, rural areas) will get a greater interest. In addition, a larger single-family home with extra elbow room will be desired, such as dedicated office space and a personal gym.”
Data from the Harris Poll found that almost a third of Americans are thinking about moving to less densely populated areas. And 43% of city dwellers had recently checked a real estate site for a house or apartment to rent or buy as compared to 26% of those in the suburbs, and 21% of those in rural areas.
But being able to afford a home, whether in the suburbs or downtown, may be a tall task for some millennials.
Despite an overall slip in home sales, the median home price has risen more than 5% as compared to last year, according to Yun, who noted that a shortage of available inventory has kept prices afloat.
And stricter lending standards also threaten to block many first-time buyers. JPMorgan Chase, for instance, now requires nearly all borrowers to put at least 20% down on a home, and it's raised the required minimum FICO credit score to 700 on purchase mortgages.
That's a steep climb for many buyers who typically put down between 3% to 5% on their first home, says Odeta Kushi, deputy chief economist at First American Financial Corporation.
General worries about the stuttering economy also could dash the hopes of some potential buyers.
“Low mortgage rates will bump up demand and make housing more affordable,” says Kushi. “The bigger issue is economic uncertainty. Many people feel insecure about their job stability.”
Buying online, using a virtual notary
Those who are able to buy a home may find that much, if not all, of the process has gone virtual.
Brokers have been able to use FaceTime and other platforms to give video tours of houses for years. But those tools became critical during the pandemic when sellers became reluctant to have strangers traipsing through their homes.
Among sellers with active listings, the NAR survey found 68% wanted prospective buyers to use hand sanitizer, to use coverings for their shoes and face, or to wash their hands before entering their homes. When it came to home inspectors, 53% of sellers wanted them to take similar safety measures.
Brokerages like Redfin, which has offices in more than 90 metro areas across the U.S. and Canada, canceled open houses as the coronavirus crisis escalated. And video walk-throughs became a common substitute for in-person visits.
Van Fletcher, a broker/realtor with Allen Tate Realtors in Raleigh, North Carolina, was able to continue taking his clients, Liz Stokley and Ryan Stephens, on virtual tours, even as the couple stayed put in Baltimore.
The married millennials, who intend to relocate to Raleigh, started their housing search in person in January. But they postponed a follow-up trip in March because they didn't want to fly in the midst of the pandemic.
"So we started doing video tours with Van,'' Stokley said. "We felt very lucky that he was willing to go into these houses.''
NAR's May survey found that among members who had a buyer put a contract on a home that week, 22% said the purchaser had only seen the property virtually.
Many buyers may continue conducting the bulk of their search via a computer screen.
“For many home buyers today, the home search process starts online,'' says Fratantoni. "Greater use of online resources, less driving around, I think that’s definitely the trend we’re on.’’
But live walk-throughs are not likely to disappear, says Scott Elwell, Douglas Elliman Real Estate’s regional vice president of sales for Westchester County, New York, and New England.
"Nothing will replace the experience of walking through a house and property,'' Elwell says. "I can see buyers looking at more houses online and weeding out what they don’t like, resulting in fewer in-person visits."
Buyers and sellers may also increasingly complete their transactions online.
While 24 states have legislation that allow documents to be notarized remotely, 19 more passed executive orders to enable online signings after the pandemic hit, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.
Georgia is among the states to at least temporarily allow notaries to review paperwork with buyers and sellers on platforms like Zoom. Documents are mailed in afterward to get the official stamp.
"This is an enhancement to the process that the industry has been working towards for several years,'' said Fratantoni. "It’s certainly needed in this kind of crisis but ... once people get used to the idea of not having to physically attend a closing, I think that might just become part of a new normal.''
Read the full story at USA TODAY.
Most encouragingly, nearly a third are willing to pay (8%) surcharge to their tab and say it should apply to food and alcohol: Nearly three-quarters (72%) are willing to pay at least a surcharge of at least (1%) of their total bill, and 27% would be willing to pay as high as 8%. And a majority (54%) say the surcharge should apply to both food and alcohol!
What is the appropriate way for restaurants to raise prices? (41%) say notification before ordering that all menu items have increased in price, with (25%) suggesting an optional surcharge on the bill and (24%) encouraging higher than normal tips.
Who are the biggest tippers? Well, it turns out older Americans worry most about restaurants closing: (89%) of those 65+ say they are concerned vs (67%) Age 18-34. They also tend to be wealthier (80%) HHI $75k+ vs (73%) HHI <$50k and more right than left: (84%) Republicans vs (77%) Democrat. Similarly, support for surcharges is highest among seniors (71%) Age 65+ vs (61%) Age 18-34 and those more well off: (72%) HHI $75k+ vs (57%) HHI <$50k
This data reminds us of Panera’s experiment to pay what you can. Here perhaps credit card issuers could assign a line on the restaurant tab asking for a restaurant reopening tip on a sliding percentage of 1 to 10%. This would be not unlike a resort fee or state tax. Restaurants should capitalize on our collective goodwill and our cabin fever.
As if the travel industry needed more bad news, new research indicates that the vast majority of Americans will stay home this Memorial Day weekend.
In 2019, over 43 million Americans traveled for the three-day holiday, which is traditionally viewed as the kickoff to the summer travel season.
This year will be different due to the COVID-19 crisis, of course. According to the Harris Poll’s ongoing COVID-19 tracking survey, a whopping 95 percent of Americans are not planning to travel over Memorial Day weekend, with respondents citing the health risk to themselves (57%) or to others (40%) as reasons for staying home.
The findings align with the AAA’s announcement yesterday that it will not release a Memorial Day forecast for the first time in 20 years. The organization says the coronavirus pandemic has undermined the accuracy of its economic data.
Let’s do the math. If, as the Harris Poll suggests, only 5 percent of the 328 million Americans travel over Memorial Day this year, that would translate to roughly 16 million people.
That number would clobber the record for the lowest Memorial Day travel volume, currently held by 2009, when just under 31 million Americans traveled over the holiday weekend near the end of the Great Recession.
This year, we might be looking at just a bit more than half of that number.
The 2020 travel outlook
Looking beyond Memorial Day, only 22 percent of Harris Poll respondents said they plan to travel by the end of August. A slight majority (53%) even said they are putting off leisure travel until at least 2021, signaling that it may take more than a year for the travel industry to fully recover.
When asked what it would take to get them to travel this year, a significant majority of respondents said they would need to know that airlines and hotels are strictly enforcing sanitation (73%) and requiring that face masks are worn (66%).
Americans are split down the middle as to whether travel companies are doing enough to keep travelers safe, with 50 percent of those surveyed agreeing that airlines are doing enough and 53 percent agreeing that hotels are doing enough.
This implies that travel brands need to work harder to earn public trust during the pandemic. In recent weeks, major hotel chains and airlines have announced enhanced cleaning initiatives and other policies aimed at increasing social distancing and decreasing the number of touch points.
Questions have arisen, however, about how strictly these new policies are being enforced. Notably, the top three U.S. airlines have told their flight attendants to encourage, rather than force, passengers to comply with new policies requiring passengers to wear face coverings, according to Reuters.
Last weekend, United Airlines found itself in the eye of a social media storm after a passenger posted a selfie to Twitter showing a jam-packed air cabin, in apparent contradiction to the carrier’s pledge to block the middle seat on flights. Following an uproar, United announced that it will begin notifying passengers 24 hours in advance of flights that are full.
Read the full article in Forbes.
A holiday getaway is likely to be more a trickle this year. A Harris Poll found 95% said because of the pandemic, Memorial Day was too soon to travel. Kris Van Cleave reports.
View the news report at CBS News.