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    Post-pandemic, four years of college steadily loses its appeal

    Between the strong labor market and the rising cost of college, teenagers are choosing shorter, more affordable, career-connected pathways, according to a report.
    The likelihood of attending a four-year school sank from 71% to 51% in the past two years, ECMC Group found. 
    Nationwide, fewer students went back to college this year, dragging down undergraduate enrollment 3.1% from last year, according to a separate study.

    Xander Miller, 18, will graduate from Hastings High School in Hastings, Minnesota, this June, and he has big plans for his future.
    Rather than attend Minnesota State or get a liberal arts degree like his older brother, Miller is enrolled in Dakota County Technical College with a guaranteed job through Waste Management’s apprentice program.

    “I did have plans to go to a four-year school,” he said. However, “it didn’t seem valuable enough to me to offset the cost.”
    Miller will instead start as a part-time technician and then transition into a full-time employee complete with tools and a tuition reimbursement.

    Xander Miller, right, with his brother Andrew and mother Lisa.
    Source: Xander Miller

    More than two years into the pandemic, nearly three-quarters, or 73%, of high schoolers think a direct path to a career is essential in postsecondary education, according to a survey of high school students.
    The likelihood of attending a four-year school sank from 71% to 51% in the past two years, ECMC Group found. 
    High schoolers are putting more emphasis on career training and post-college employment, the report said. ECMC Group, a nonprofit aimed at helping students find success, polled more than 5,300 high school students five times since February 2020.

    More from Personal Finance:More Americans living paycheck to paycheck as inflation climbsWhere consumers plan to cut spending amid record-high pricesAmericans say inflation has ‘negative impact’ on goals
    Now, some 42% say their ideal postsecondary plans would require three years of college or less, while 31% said it should last two years or less.
    Even before the pandemic, students were starting to consider more affordable, direct-to-career alternatives to a four-year degree, said Jeremy Wheaton, ECMC Group’s president and CEO.
    The rising cost of college and ballooning student loan balances have played a large role in the changing views, but “they [students] are more savvy than we give them credit for,” Wheaton said. “They are aware of the jobs that are in high demand.”

    Still, most respondents said they feel pressure, mainly from their parents and society, to pursue a four-year degree — even though community college or career and technical training may make more sense for them.
    During the pandemic, increases in tuition and fees were very low by historic standards, according to a report by the College Board, which tracks trends in college pricing and student aid.
    For the 2021-22 academic year, average tuition and fees rose by 1.3% to $3,800 for students at two-year schools; 1.6% for in-state students at four-year public colleges, reaching $10,740; and 2.1% for students at four-year private institutions, to $38,070.

    Arrows pointing outwards

    Now, some colleges are hiking tuition as much as 5%, citing inflation and other pressures.
    “We have increased undergraduate tuition 4.25% for the coming academic year, our largest increase in 14 years,” Boston University’s President Robert Brown recently said in a letter to the community.
    “We are caught in an inflationary vise between the institutional pressures and the impact on our students and their families,” he wrote.

    The more change that you put into the system, the more folks pull back.

    Jeremy Wheaton
    ECMC Group’s president and CEO

    “Students now have to take into account that it’s going to cost more and the wild card of loan forgiveness,” Wheaton said. “The more change that you put into the system, the more folks pull back.”
    Nationwide, fewer students went back to college this year, dragging down undergraduate enrollment 3.1% from last year, according to a report by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center based on data from colleges. 
    Enrollment is now down 6.6% compared to two years ago — a loss of more than 1 million students.
    An additional 17% of current students said they will not go back to college next year, and 19% are unsure about their plans, according to a separate survey by Intelligent.com, which polled 1,250 undergraduates in April.
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    Here’s how young women are deciding how much to save for retirement

    Empowered Investor

    When it comes to saving for retirement, earlier is generally better, but several factors affect how much young women are setting aside, according to experts from CNBC’s Financial Advisor Council.
    “It’s really cash flow and goals driven,” said Lazetta Braxton, co-founder and co-CEO of 2050 Wealth Partners.

    Drakula & Co. | Moment | Getty Images

    When it comes to retirement planning, earlier is generally better, but several factors affect how much young women are saving, according to financial experts.
    For retirement planning purposes, the demographic termed “younger women” may include Gen Zers, millennials and some Gen Xers with 20 years or more before leaving the workforce, said New York-based certified financial planner Lazetta Braxton, co-founder and co-CEO of 2050 Wealth Partners and a member of CNBC’s Financial Advisor Council.

    But despite the age differences among these women, experts can offer them cross-generational threads of financial advice for building wealth.
    “A lot of people want to start with setting money aside for retirement,” Braxton said. “But that really is contingent upon what you’re earning and how you spend it.”

    More from Empowered Investor:

    Here are more stories touching on divorce, widowhood, earnings equality and other issues related to women’s investment habits and retirement needs.

    Young women need to focus on earning what they’re worth, considering the pay gap’s intersection of gender and race to assess income potential, she said. Then she suggests “filling the buckets,” referring to categories such as retirement savings, a cushion fund and brokerage account.
    While the first retirement savings goal should be contributing enough to your workplace 401(k) or 403(b) plan to receive the full employer match, you can aim to actually reach your annual deferral limit for such plans she said, which is $20,500 for 2022.
    An estimated 12% of employees maxed out 401(k) plans in 2020, according to Vanguard. But “it’s really cash flow and goals driven,” Braxton said.

    It’s really cash flow and goals driven.

    Lazetta Braxton
    Co-founder and co-CEO of 2050 Wealth Partners

    Her clients also focus on a “cushion account” of six to 12 months of expenses in cash for emergencies or other priorities, such as career changes or starting a business, because “younger generations want flexibility.”
    Another bucket may include a Roth individual retirement account, a savvy option to max out in lower-earning years, with a $6,000 limit for 2022, she said.
    And taxable brokerage accounts offer added versatility without a penalty to tap the money before age 59½.
    On average, younger women, defined as ages 18 to 35, start investing in a brokerage account at age 21, compared to age 30 for women 36 and older, according to Fidelity.
    Braxton likes to see progress in all the buckets, and she tailors clients’ percentages for each one.

    Major life milestones, such as entrepreneurship, getting married, having children or caring for older relatives may also affect how much young women are saving for retirement.
    Lauryn Williams, a Dallas-based CFP, founder of firm Worth Winning and a member of CNBC’s Financial Advisor Council, said her clients are often juggling multiple priorities. 
    “I make everything a conversation,” she said. “And I think that benchmarks play a role in helping us understand overall where we need to be.”
    For example, someone may temporarily reduce retirement savings to pay for fertility treatments or to start a business. However, they may need to boost future savings to achieve their original goals.
    “It’s putting all the options on the table and then letting the client make the decision,” Williams said. “But realizing there’s not a right or wrong answer to being able to achieve it.” More

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    Americans can expect to pay a lot more for medical care in retirement

    A 65-year-old couple retiring in 2022 will spend an average $315,000 in health-care and medical expenses in their retirement, according to Fidelity Investments. That’s 5% higher than last year.
    Fidelity also has found that most Americans have underestimated what health-care costs will be in retirement.
    Here are some ways to start saving now for higher health expenses later.

    Lisafx | Istock | Getty Images

    A 65-year-old couple retiring this year can expect to spend an average of $315,000 in health-care and medical expenses in their retirement, according to a new estimate by Fidelity Investments. That’s 5% higher than last year’s estimate.
    While much of the increase this year came from higher Medicare Part B premiums for Americans 65 and older, health-care costs are expected to remain elevated. 

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    “There’s a lot of upward cost pressure in the health-care system right now, due to investments that providers need to make to get ready for the next pandemic, due to issues around labor, particularly hospital nurses,” said Hope Manion, senior vice president and chief health and welfare actuary at Fidelity Investments.
    Fidelity also found that most Americans have underestimated what health-care expenses will be in retirement, with the average person expecting costs to be $41,000 — a $274,000 shortfall from its estimate. 

    The most important thing is that you start saving and you start saving early.

    Paul Fronstin
    director of health benefits research at EBRI

    “People do not realize that once they get on Medicare, they’re still going to be on the hook for some number of bills,” said Manion, adding that retirees must pay for premiums, over-the-counter and prescription drugs and some medical devices.  

    Elevated inflation will add up over time

    If health-care costs grow at just 2% above consumer inflation for the next two years, a healthy 55-year-old couple could face $267,000 in additional medical costs when they retire at age 65, according to an analysis by HealthView Services. 

    That same couple could expect to spend more than $1 million on health-care expenses in their lifetime — nearly the same amount as they could expect to collect in Social Security benefits. 

    “Whether you’re affluent or you’re the average person … when you look at your Social Security check, you’re paying for health care,” said HealthView Services CEO Ron Mastrogiovanni. 

    It pays to plan

    After paying the premiums, Medicare covers about two-thirds of the cost of health-care services, with out-of-pocket spending making up about 12%, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI).  
    “Other than housing, food and transportation, [health care is] probably the most expensive item we’re going to face in retirement,” Mastrogiovanni said. “Know what it is. Be prepared.”

    Staying healthy 

    Jose Luis Pelaez Inc | Digitalvision | Getty Images

    While physical fitness may help control some health-care costs, experts say planning ahead for medical expenses over a longer life should also be factored into the equation. 

    Use tax-advantaged health savings accounts

    Health savings accounts are one way to save for future health-care costs, but those require a high-deductible plan and have annual contribution limits.
    For 2022, the limit is $3,650 for the single insured and $7,300 for families. For people over 55 years old, each of those limits increase by $1,000 with “catch-up” contributions.

    Increase savings through retirement plans

    Increasing savings now can add to security later. Experts say consider adding more money to your 401(k) plan or a Roth individual retirement account, if you qualify.
    “The most important thing is that you start saving and you start saving early,” said Paul Fronstin, director of health benefits research at EBRI. “The earlier you do, the better prepared you’re going to be.”

    Don’t count on employer coverage

    There was a time when employers offered health benefits to retirees, but EBRI found only about 4% of companies have those benefits. That’s down from about 45% before an accounting rule change in the late 1980s required firms to put the liability on their balance sheets.
    “When they had to do that, it just didn’t look good on the balance sheet, so they started cutting back on the benefit to the point where very few workers are going to be eligible for this kind of benefit in the future,” Fronstin said. More

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    As more states take up paid family leave, here's where the push for a national policy stands

    Efforts to put a federal paid family and medical leave policy in place have stalled with Build Back Better.
    Now individual states, including Delaware and Maryland, are adding their own policies.
    Proponents for a national plan say that is not enough. Here’s what could happen next in the fight to get something passed on Capitol Hill.

    Families, parents and caregivers call on Congress to include paid family and medical leave in the Build Back Better legislative package during an all-day Nov. 2, 2021 vigil in Washington, D.C.
    Paul Morigi | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

    When Delaware Gov. John Carney, a Democrat, signed new paid family and medical leave legislation into law last week, the “First State” became the 11th in the nation with such a policy.
    Yet the fate of federal paid family leave, which has been championed by leading Democrats on Capitol Hill, is still uncertain.

    Paid family and medical leave was among the issues Democrats had hoped to address through the Build Back Better package, which they tried to pass through a simple majority this year.
    But dissention among party members made it impossible to move the legislation forward.
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    With that, the party lost one window of opportunity to move on family leave, an issue largely untouched by Congress since the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, which gives some workers the ability to take unpaid time off for family or medical reasons.
    “At the current moment, federal efforts around a bold paid leave program are stalled,” said Adrienne Schweer, head of the paid family leave task force at the Bipartisan Policy Center.

    Delaware and Maryland are the latest states to add paid family and medical leave policies.
    Other states with laws in place include Rhode Island, California, New Jersey, New York, Washington, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Oregon and Colorado, as well as Washington, D.C.

    In response to the recent state moves, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., last week reupped calls for a national policy.
    While the state actions are “encouraging,” a “patchwork of policies” could exacerbate inequalities among women, people of color and low-wage workers, Neal said in a statement Thursday. Moreover, the policies will present challenges for employers operating in multiple regions.
    “I remain committed to achieving universal, federal paid leave, and will keep pushing for the Senate to act on the House-passed paid leave measure we crafted in the Ways and Means Committee last year,” Neal said.
    With that proposal, Democrats had pushed for up to 12 weeks leave for eligible workers. As Build Back Better negotiations evolved, that was whittled down to four weeks. Discussions also turned to just including new parents in order to keep costs down.

    You’ll see more candidates talking about the issue on both sides of the aisle this fall.

    Adrienne Schweer
    head of the paid family leave task force at the Bipartisan Policy Center

    Now that negotiations have stopped, workers are left with uncertainty.
    “What we’ve heard from a lot of our advocates in the wake of the Delaware and Maryland wins is rage” as to why policies do not exist in their own state or at the federal level, said Molly Day, executive director at Paid Leave for the United States.  
    “People really see the inequity and it’s increasingly going to be a problem for businesses,” Day said.
    Yet what happens next on Capitol Hill is still up in the air, according to Schweer at the Bipartisan Policy Center.

    Democrats are working on another reconciliation package, however it’s not clear exactly what is included.
    Once a September deadline for that passes, that could pave the way for more robust bipartisan discussions around the issue in October, Schweer said.
    Because the issue polls well with Republican and independent voters, it may come up during campaign season.
    “You’ll see more candidates talking about the issue on both sides of the aisle this fall,” Scheer said. “Hopefully there’s a call to action next Congress.”

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    She's been pushing for student loan forgiveness for a decade. Now it could happen

    Astra Taylor co-founded Debt Collective, the first union for debtors, nearly a decade ago.
    Broad student loan forgiveness could be the union’s biggest win.
    CNBC asked Taylor about what it’s like to finally see something you’ve been fighting for for so long on the horizon.

    Astra Taylor
    Source: Isabella De Maddalena

    Astra Taylor took out her first student loan at 17. She attended Brown University and The New School, and owed tens of thousands of dollars when she defaulted on her debt during the 2008 financial crisis.
    “Overnight, they added 19% to my principal,” Taylor, 42, said. “Like millions of others, I was caught in a debt trap.”

    By luck, her partner, Jeff Mangum, a musician who founded the band Neutral Milk Hotel, offered to pay off her loans in 2012. In almost every way, her life changed.
    “It saved me decades of payments,” she said. Without worrying about meeting her monthly student loan bill, she was able to focus on her passion of making documentaries and writing books.
    Around the same time, in 2014, she helped to found Debt Collective, the first union for debtors.
    “The experience of having the weight of my student loans lifted is part of why I am doing this work,” Taylor said. “I want the same relief and opportunity for other people.”
    President Joe Biden recently said he’d be making an announcement on student loan forgiveness within weeks. CNBC interviewed Taylor about what it’s like to finally see something you’ve been fighting for for so long on the horizon.

    Annie Nova: Beyond your personal experience, what made you want to make one of your life’s mission fighting for people in debt?
    Astra Taylor: When wages aren’t high enough to cover the essentials of life, poor and working people have no choice but to take on debt to survive. In this sense, we are robbed twice, first by bosses who underpay us, and then by lenders who charge interest and fees when we borrow to cover the gap. Contrary to stereotypes, a lot of credit card debt is for basic necessities — things like rent, food and medical care. In this country, most working people aren’t living beyond their means, they are being denied the means to live. Exploding household debt is the result.
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    AN: Why do people with debt, in your opinion, need a union?
    AT: The financial sector is incredibly well organized. They are lobbying around the clock and have been able to repeal usury protections, deregulate the banking industry and grow their business, and we’re all paying the price. That’s why we need to band together to fight for fairer terms, debt relief and policy shifts that will ensure we don’t have to take on debt to survive.
    AN: Outstanding student loan debt has been rising for decades. What do you see as some of the earliest roots of the crisis?
    AT: We used to have a model of adequately funding public higher education. That began to change in the 1960s, when Ronald Reagan was governor of California. He dismantled the University of California Master Plan, which provided free college to everyone, and demanded that the system start charging students. This was part of his strategy to quiet down student protests for civil rights and free speech. The idea was that if people had to go into debt to go to school, they’d think twice about paying to carry a picket sign. His actions were part of the broader right-wing push to dismantle government services and turn as many public institutions as possible over to private actors looking for new ways to profit.
    AN: You have an issue with the term “student loan forgiveness.” Can you explain why?
    AT: Millions of debtors have paid off the original amount they borrowed, and yet are still in debt thanks to compounding interest, and many of them somehow owe more than their original balances. That’s the classic definition of a debt trap. It doesn’t make sense to say these people are asking for “forgiveness.” That word makes it seem like debtors have done something wrong. We are talking about a system-level problem — not an individual moral failing.

    AN: What role do you think student debt cancellation could have on the midterm elections?
    AT: Nearly 1 in 5 Trump voters said they would consider voting for a Democrat if Democrats canceled all student debt. Another poll determined that 40% of Black voters would consider staying home for the next election if there’s no action on student loan debt. It could make or break the Democrats in battleground states.
    AN: It remains uncertain how much student debt will be canceled, if any. Biden has said he’s not considering wiping out $50,000 per borrower, suggesting he might decide on a smaller figure. You believe all $1.7 trillion in outstanding student debt should be canceled. Why?
    AT: For millions of borrowers stuck in a debt trap, … $10,000 or $20,000 barely provides a dent in the amount they owe. For 83% of Black borrowers, canceling $10,000 of debt still leaves them with a balance higher than their original amount. That is unacceptable.
    AN: One of the leading arguments against student loan cancellation is that it directs resources to people who are better off, since they attended college. What are your thoughts on this?
    AT: Truly rich people do not have student debt, because they or their parents could cover the costs. Also, the well off get lots of financial assistance they don’t acknowledge. Mortgage holders have been able to take advantage of historically low interest rates, and they also get to deduct their mortgage interest on their taxes. Credit card debtors, who are more likely to be struggling, aren’t getting a 3% interest rate they can write off. Our financial system is riddled with these kinds of double standards and it’s rigged against poor and working people.
    AN: Student debt cancellation could be imminent. How does that feel?
    AT: It’s amazing to see something you’ve been working on for so long become mainstream and to hear people like Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and others echo our talking points. We first protested student debt in 2012, when it surpassed $1 trillion. Ten years later, it’s racing toward $2 trillion and even more borrowers are suffering. The problem has gotten a lot worse, but at least we’re finally hearing politicians acknowledge that the only sensible solution is for the debt to be erased.

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    Top Wall Street analysts say these stocks are extremely undervalued

    Megan Leonhardt | CNBC

    Friday’s rally gave investors a bit of respite from the latest bout of stock market tumult, but more volatility is likely ahead.
    It doesn’t help that inflation continues to bite, and the Federal Reserve’s move to raise rates has created further uncertainty.

    Wall Street’s top pros are reminding investors to look past the turbulence and set their sights on long-term investing. Analysts are picking out their favorite stocks to weather the storm, according to TipRanks, which ranks the best-performing Wall Street professionals.
    Here are five stocks that analysts are highlighting this week.

    Coursera

    Coursera (COUR) provides online courses covering a broad range of disciplines and qualification levels, including degree programs. It targets individuals and enterprises, including companies that seek to upskill their workforce.
    Coursera partners with industry experts and universities to provide the course content. Customers can purchase individual course certificates or buy a subscription plan. Coursera’s revenue rose 36% year-over-year to $120.4 million in the first quarter of 2022, beating the consensus estimate of $116.7 million. (See Coursera’s Blogger Sentiment on TipRanks)
    Coursera could not avoid the sell-off that has hit stocks across the board. Yet, those buying the dip may be getting a great deal. Needham’s Ryan MacDonald attended Coursera’s recent annual conference and came away convinced that the stock presents a great long-term investment opportunity. In a recent report, the analyst pointed out that the conference discussions provided an outlook that implies growing opportunities across Coursera’s segments.

    MacDonald rated the stock a buy with a price target of $32.
    In the consumer segment, Coursera is expanding professional certificate offerings with a high gross margin. This strategy will support revenue growth and margin expansion, the analyst said. According to MacDonald, in the enterprise segment, Coursera is introducing innovative offerings and freebie add-ons that should help it win new customers while also expanding its wallet share.
    Out of the nearly 8,000 analysts in the TipRanks database, MacDonald is ranked at No. 545. His success rate stands at 47%, with an average return of 12.5% per rating.

    ZoomInfo Technologies

    ZoomInfo (ZI) sells access to valuable database information that companies rely on for marketing and talent hiring. Its TalentOS platform, for instance, enables companies to recruit more efficiently.
    In the first quarter, ZoomInfo beat consensus estimates on its top and bottom lines. The company went on to provide an upbeat outlook for the second quarter and the full year. (See ZoomInfo Earnings Data on TipRanks)
    Despite the strong quarterly results and upbeat guidance, ZoomInfo’s stock has been caught in a downturn. According to Raymond James analyst Brian Peterson, the sell-off in ZoomInfo is a blessing in disguise for investors with a long-term view since they can buy the stock cheaply. In a recent report, the analyst said that ZoomInfo has more room to grow profitably, citing the company’s introduction of new products, acquisitions and international expansion drive.
    Peterson rated the stock a buy with a price target of $65.
    Amid strong demand, ZoomInfo is accelerating its international expansion. The company is increasing its headcount in London, and it has also recently opened its first physical office in India.
    At the same time, ZoomInfo is continuing with strategic acquisitions. It recently acquired Comparably and Dogpatch Advisors to bolster its recruitment and sales solutions, respectively. As it expands overseas and enhances its solutions with acquisitions, ZoomInfo is winning more business from existing customers. For example, it recently had a deal expansion with Google-parent Alphabet (GOOGL), the analyst said.
    Peterson is ranked at No. 100 out of the nearly 8,000 analysts in the TipRanks database. His stock ratings have been right 59% of the time, with an average return of 19.2% per rating.

    Costco

    Big-box retailer Costco (COST) currently operates a network of about 830 stores and plans to open shops in 30 additional locations in 2022. The move could boost its sales. (See Costco Stock Charts on TipRanks).
    In its latest quarterly report, Costco posted revenue and profit that surpassed consensus estimates. However, Costco stock has continued to trade below where it began the year. Oppenheimer analyst Rupesh Parikh believes that Costco remains a great investment and that the discount in the stock is a great opportunity to buy it at a lower price. In a recent report, the analyst highlighted Costco’s strong management team and good track record of shareholder returns.
    Parikh rated the stock a buy with a price target of $645.
    In terms of shareholder returns, Costco has a long history of dividend payments. It recently boosted the payout to $3.60 per share on an annualized basis. Parikh sees prospects for a special dividend. The analyst also noted Costco’s strong April sales despite the many headwinds that retailers across the board are grappling with. The analyst also sees Costco as having a strong competitive position, which should enable it to continue to gain market share.
    Parikh is ranked at No. 352 out of about 8,000 analysts in the TipRanks database. The analyst has been accurate 62% of the time in his stock ratings, with an average return of 10.5% per rating.

    Green Dot

    Fintech company Green Dot (GDOT) offers prepaid debit cards, checking accounts, and consumer cash processing services. It also helps with wage disbursements and the processing of tax refunds.
    The company delivered strong first-quarter results, as revenue and profit both improved from the same quarter the previous year and exceeded consensus estimates. Green Dot went on to issue upbeat guidance for the second quarter and the full year. The company has also launched a $100 million share repurchase program. (See Green Dot Risk Analysis on TipRanks)
    However, Green Dot stock has remained under pressure amid the broader market sell-off. According to Needham analyst Mayank Tandon, GDOT has bright prospects and the current pullback presents a bargain opportunity.
    Tandon rated GDOT a buy with a price target of $35.
    The analyst noted that the pandemic has accelerated adoption of digital banking and payments, adding that the trend plays into GDOT’s core focus areas. Tandon also noted that GDOT’s management continues to invest in driving future long-term growth. The investments, coupled with share repurchases, could drive double-digit per-share earnings growth in 2023 and beyond.
    Out of the nearly 8,000 analysts in the TipRanks database, Tandon is ranked at No. 573. The analyst’s calls have been correct 48% of the time, with an average return of 10% per rating.

    Cigna

    Health insurance company Cigna (CI) is bucking the broader market sell-off. Investors have continued to flock into Cigna stock after the company reported strong quarterly results and issued upbeat guidance for the full year. Mizuho Securities analyst Ann Hynes believes that is the right thing to do now.
    In a recent report, the analyst notes that Cigna’s prospects remain bright. The company recently launched a provider consult service that it says is designed to deliver better outcomes for cancer patients. The service is powered by Evernorth Health Services. In a community pilot, Cigna said results showed that 40% of the patients benefited from updated therapy guidance, thanks to the provider consult service. According to Hynes, the Evernorth business performed well in the first quarter and it remains well positioned for growth in 2023. (See Cigna Dividend Data on TipRanks)
    Hynes rated the stock a buy with a price target of $291.
    According to Hynes, Cigna’s Evernorth unit is benefiting from new business wins and strong renewal rates. The analyst further noted that there is a great cross-selling opportunity for Cigna between its health-care segment and the Evernorth unit.
    Of the nearly 8,000 analysts in the TipRanks database, Hynes is ranked No. 568. The analyst’s calls have been right 57% of the time, with an average return of 8.9% per rating.

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    Tying the knot this year? Add ‘marriage tax penalty’ to the potential cost

    A record 2.5 million weddings are expected this year.
    It’s worth evaluating how your new status as a married couple will affect your tax situation.
    A “marriage penalty” can kick in when income thresholds, deductions and credits are not double for spouses what they are for singles.

    Gorodenkoff | Istock | Getty Images

    If you’re happily saying “I do” this year, be aware that the IRS can be a real buzzkill.
    While many couples end up paying less in taxes after tying the knot, some face a “marriage penalty” — meaning they end up paying more than if they had remained unmarried and filed as single taxpayers.

    The penalty can happen when tax-bracket thresholds, deductions and credits are not double the amount allowed for single filers — and that can hurt both high- and low-income households.
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    “It used to be more pervasive before the [2017] Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” said Garrett Watson, a senior policy analyst for the Tax Foundation. “It’s more common to have a marriage bonus than a penalty, but the details matter.”
    With a record 2.5 million weddings expected this year, newlyweds — especially those who earn similar amounts — may want to scrutinize how their married status will affect their tax situation.
    For marriages taking place at any point this year, spouses are required to file their 2022 tax returns (due April 2023) as a married couple, either jointly or separately. (However, filing separate returns is only financially beneficial for spouses in certain situations.)

    Here’s what to know:

    For higher-income couples

    A bigger tax bill can come from a few different sources for higher earners.
    For 2022, the top federal rate of 37% kicks in at taxable income of $$539,901 for single filers. Yet for married couples filing jointly, that rate gets applied to income of $647,851 and higher. 
    “All the [income] brackets are doubled except the very top bracket,” Watson said.

    For illustration: Two individuals who each have $500,000 in income would fall into the tax bracket with the second-highest rate (35%), if they filed as single taxpayers.
    However, as a married couple with joint income of $1 million, they would pay 37% on $352,149 of that (the difference between their income and the $647,851 threshold for the higher rate).
    Other parts of the tax code can also negatively affect higher earners when they marry.

    For instance, the regular Medicare tax on wages — 3.8%, which is split between employer and employee — applies to earnings up to $200,000 for single taxpayers. Anything above that is subject to an additional Medicare tax of 0.9%.
    For married couples, that extra tax kicks in at $250,000.
    Likewise, there’s a 3.8% investment-income tax that applies to singles with modified adjusted gross income above $200,000. Married couples must pay the levy if their income exceeds $250,000. (The tax applies to things such as interest, dividends, capital gains and rental or royalty income.)

    Additionally, the limit on the deduction for state and local taxes — also known as SALT — is not doubled for married couples. The $10,000 cap applies to both single filers and married filers. (Married couples filing separately get $5,000 each for the deduction). However, the write-off is available only to taxpayers who itemize.

    For lower earners

    For couples with lower income, a marriage penalty can arise from the earned income tax credit.
    The credit is available to working taxpayers with children, as long as they meet income limits and other requirements. Some low earners with no children also are eligible for it.
    However, the income limits that come with the tax break are not doubled for married couples. (Also be aware that the expanded version of the credit, in place for 2021, has not been extended for 2022.)
    For example, a single taxpayer with three or more children can qualify for a maximum $6,935 with income up to $53,057 for 2022. For married couples, that cap isn’t much higher: $59,187.

    Other things to check for

    Depending on where you live, there may be a marriage penalty built into your state’s marginal tax brackets. For example, Maryland’s top rate of 5.75% applies to income above $250,000 for single filers but above $300,000 for married couples.
    Some states allow married couples to file separately on the same return to avoid getting hit with a penalty and the loss of credits or exemptions, according to the Tax Foundation.

    Meanwhile, if you’re already receiving your Social Security retirement benefits, getting married can have tax implications.
    For single filers, if the total of your adjusted gross income, nontaxable interest and half of your Social Security benefits is under $25,000, you won’t owe taxes on those benefits. However, for married couples filing a joint return, the threshold is $32,000 instead of double the amount for individuals.
    Additionally, if you or your new spouse contribute to traditional or Roth individual retirement accounts, pay attention to how much you put in those IRAs. There are limits that apply to deductions and contributions, and income from both spouses feeds the equation.

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    Want to buy more than $10,000 in nearly risk-free I bonds? Here are a few strategies

    Chris Ryan | Getty Images

    I bonds have surged in popularity as riskier assets slip.
    The bonds are backed by the federal government, the principal doesn’t lose value and the bonds earn monthly interest through two parts, a fixed rate and a variable rate. Currently, the variable component will pay a record 9.62% annual rate through October, the U.S. Department of Treasury announced in May. This rate changes every six months.

    “If you’re a person who is looking to get the highest yield possible right now without risk and you don’t need this money for a least over one year, this is an investment that you should absolutely make your No. 1 priority on your list,” said personal finance expert Suze Orman.
    Generally, the limit that a person can put into I bonds is $10,000 annually through Treasury Direct. But for those who want to sock away more than that, there are a few strategies available.
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    “These have turned out to be incredible investments during all the downturns that happened,” Orman said, in reference to the 2008 recession, 2018 market downturn and the pandemic recession.
    Here’s what to know:

    Tax refunds
    In addition to purchasing $10,000 in I bonds for yourself, people who expect to get a federal tax refund can elect to get up to $5,000 in paper I bonds.
    While receiving a paper bond is a bit of a hassle, it is possible to switch them to a digital version.

    “Once you receive the paper I bond, you can actually convert your paper I bonds into electronic I bonds through Treasury Direct,” said Ken Tumin, founder and editor of DepositAccounts.com.  
    Most people looking to purchase I bonds this year won’t be able to take advantage of this option, however. To receive a refund in paper I bonds, you had to have sent in an IRS Form 8888 with your tax return.
    Married couples and children
    The limit for purchasing I bonds is per person, so a married couple can each put up to $10,000 in the investment annually, or up to $15,000 each if they both also elect to get tax refunds in paper I bonds.
    Families with kids can also invest up to the annual limit on behalf of each child. To do so, the parent has to create a Treasury Direct custodial account for the child and then make the purchase.
    Of course, that money counts as a gift and must be used for the child’s benefit, said Christopher Flis, certified financial planner and founder of Resilient Asset Management in Memphis, Tennessee.

    A business or trust
    People who run businesses or have a living trust can also extend the I bond purchasing limit by buying the assets on behalf of the entity.
    “There are several entities that are allowed to buy I bonds,” said John Scherer, a CFP and founder of Trinity Financial Planning in Madison, Wisconsin, including LLCs, corporations and sole proprietorships.
    That means that even if you’re self-employed and file taxes on an IRS Schedule C as a small business, you can purchase up to $10,000 I bonds annually for that business. This purchasing power also applies to living trusts, through which people can purchase an additional $10,000 in I bonds per year.
    So, a married couple, each of whom own a business and have living trusts, could buy up to $60,000 in I bonds annually, as well as buying $5,000 per person in paper bonds, bringing their yearly total to $70,000. If that couple had two children, they could purchase an additional $20,000 of I bonds on their behalf.
    The administrative side

    Jose A. Bernat Bacete | Moment | Getty Images

    To be sure, purchasing I bonds for so many different people and entities can become complicated. Each person or entity that you purchase I bonds for will need to have a Treasury Direct account — they can’t be combined — so you’ll have to make sure to keep each login and password safe.
    Depending on when you buy I bonds, you’ll also have to keep track of when you’re able to access the money. You can’t take funds out of I bonds for one year, and if you touch the money before five years, you’ll miss out on the last three months of interest that accumulated on your principle just before the sale.
    In addition, many people may not want to or be able to put tens of thousands of dollars into I bonds, which they cannot touch for one year. Generally, I bonds make sense as part of one’s emergency fund, according to Flis.
    He thinks about it this way: Some of your emergency fund should be fully liquid, in cash, ready to deploy. But, if you have additional funds beyond what you need in cash, it makes sense to put some of that money in I bonds to outrun inflation with low risk.
    “It’s for the next tier of your emergency fund,” Flis said.
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