Good News for Shoppers, Bad News for 4 Million Workers


Number of the Week: $3.45 billion

Retailers set this new record for sales on Cyber Monday, beating Black Friday sales by about $110 million. And millions of shoppers successfully avoided  standing in line. 

Shoppers (and Investors) Score Big

Retailers are giving thanks for the busiest shopping season of the year, which, for investors, kicked off days before Thanksgiving. The Standard & Poor’s 1500 Retail Index rose 8 percent in the month of November.

So, what? Retailers can be just as competitive as shoppers this time of year, which translates to great deals for customers. In fact, over Thanksgiving weekend, the average person spent less than last year ($289 versus nearly $300), according to the National Retail Federation.

“It was a strong weekend for retailers, but an even better weekend for consumers,” NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement. “Over one-third of shoppers said 100 percent of their purchases were on sale.”

Bottom line: Take advantage of the competition and shop around for the best bargains. Black Friday and Cyber Monday may be behind us, but Green Monday’s just around the corner, and Free Shipping Day is Dec. 16.

‘Tis the Season for … Credit Card Debt

Of course, all those discounted holiday purchases could wind up costing more than you think—if you charge them and delay paying the balance in full. That’s what 26 percent of Americans plan to do, according to a survey by MagnifyMoney. Among them, 66 percent expect to take at least three months to clear away that holiday red.

So, what? Interest charges can quickly negate any savings for holiday shoppers, especially since rates are likely to bump up in December. If you have a credit card with an average 16 percent APR and pay only a $25 month, it would cost you around $500 in interest to pay off $1,073 (the average debt for holiday shoppers in 2015). And it’d take you more than five years to do it!

Bottom line: Try to resist the temptation to spend now, pay later. Stick to a holiday budget and shop deals to keep costs down. And if you do wind up overspending, try these four tactics to pay down debt quickly.

Bad New for Millions Expecting a Pay Bump

On Tuesday, Nov. 22, U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant blocked a rule issued by the Department of Labor that intends to extend mandatory overtime pay to more than 4 million salaried workers. It would have taken effect on December 1 and doubled the maximum annual salary a worker can earn before they no longer qualify for overtime from $23,660 to $47,476.

So, what? President Obama meant for this rule to boost wages across industries, especially retail and food service, by requiring more workers be eligible for time-and-a-half pay. Those opposing the rule, including the National Federation of Independent Business and the National Retail Federation, argue it’s a costly burden to small businesses.

Bottom line: Don’t expect a reversal anytime soon. President-elect Donald Trump had already expressed his desire to roll back the overtime regulation—and other regulations, too. In a video posted on his Transition YouTube channel, he pledged to “formulate a rule that says that for every one new regulation, two old regulations must be eliminated.”

So far, the markets have reacted positively to this promise of smaller government, though the long-term effects are less certain.

In our weekly series, we break down the latest financial news—and what it all means for your money.