Proprietary Data Insights
Top U.S. Specialty Retail Stock Searches This Month
You Gotta Love Today’s Stock Market
Source: Google Finance
Nothing like ringing in the new year with a meme-stock rally. Leading it is beleaguered and borderline bankrupt Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY). Investor interest in BBBY surged 521% over the past week, according to Trackstar, our proprietary sentiment indicator.
At The Juice, we’re not sad about Bed Bath & Beyond’s problems. Maybe one day those oversized blue postcard coupons the company inundated us with will be nostalgic. But probably not. There’s scant goodwill. Now BBBY annoys us with incessant text messages rather than floppy pieces of 20%-off cardboard.
A couple big retail bankruptcies over the last few years stand out.
In particular, Sears. In October 2018, it filed with nearly $11 billion in liabilities compared to roughly $7.3 billion in assets.
This one brings back fond memories.
If you’re under 40, ask somebody about the Sears catalog. The telephone-book-size catalog (ask what a telephone book is while you’re at it!) used to hit mailboxes (or front porches) annually. A few days or weeks after placing an order on the phone or through the mail (yep!), you’d head to the Sears catalog department to retrieve your order. Nostalgia!
Then, there’s JCPenney. JCP filed in May 2020 with almost $7.2 billion in liabilities versus just shy of $8 billion in assets. We recall this one because the guy who was in charge of Apple (AAPL)’s retail stores was supposed to be JCPenney’s savior. But JCP got it wrong. Ron Johnson wasn’t Apple’s retail mastermind. Steve Jobs was.
Pay attention to assets and liabilities in your own life. A basic personal finance principle that’s easy to mess up, even if you’re doing well with money.
Don’t panic, though. The Juice is starting 2023 by going back to money basics. Scroll with us as we discuss how debt can sneak up on you even if you have a high net worth and cash in the bank.
Not Just the Cash-Strapped Are in Debt
Here’s where we are on credit card debt as we commence 2023:
Now, with credit card interest rates averaging an all-time high of 19.6%, an increasing number of consumers are carrying balances.
According to Bankrate, 35% of adults carry credit card debt from month to month. That’s up from 29% last year. Roughly 46% carry over a balance on at least one credit card. Up from 39% last year.
Run the numbers on the average credit card balance of $5,474 at 19.6% interest, and it’ll take you nearly 17 years to pay off by making the minimum payment.
The drum The Juice beat throughout 2022 continues to get louder. With inflation hitting some households (much) harder than others and pandemic savings running low (or out), consumers continue to turn to credit cards to make ends meet. And, in some cases, fund discretionary spending.
But not only the cash-strapped run into debt problems.
It’s one of the dirty little secrets personal finance scribes love to ignore. Some people doing relatively well financially have trouble parting with checking and savings account balances.
At the register in a retail store. In a restaurant. While booking travel. You have to decide whether to pay cash via a debit card or put it on a credit card. Some people with more than enough cash on hand to pay the expenses still turn to credit cards.
Having a cash balance to stare at makes them feel cash-secure. Parting with it to make a big purchase (even if it’s only, say, $100) makes them feel cash-insecure. So they tell themselves they’ll charge it and pay the balance in full within 30 days. After they get paid. Often, this full payoff doesn’t happen, and credit card debt piles up.
But what’s the point of having ample savings if you have copious high-interest debt?
Consider this strategy: Pay cash from your checking or savings. Then, replenish it over a reasonable time frame to pay yourself back. This way, you don’t accumulate debt, and you’re back to being comfortable and cash-secure in no time.
Same goes for investing.
Lots of us love buying stocks, but if you’re investing alongside a heavy high-interest debt load, the math simply doesn’t work out. If you’re investing on margin, even worse.
So eliminate debt and resist the urge to take it on when you’re doing well with money. Pay cash, and if you swipe or tap plastic, make sure it’s a debit card that draws money straight from your checking account.
The Bottom Line: Companies often go bankrupt for the same reasons individuals do. Frivolous spending. Or spending without much forward-looking thought or prudent oversight. Don’t be Bed Bath & Beyond. Or Sears. Or JCPenney.
And if you’re going to take a chance on a busted meme stock such as BBBY, make sure you’re doing it from a position of financial strength. Not in an attempt to land a windfall to pay down credit card debt.
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