Feature

Dealers spy on your driving

And more of the week's best financial insight

Here are three of the week's top pieces of financial insight, gathered from around the web:

House-flipping blackmail
In hot real-estate markets, cash investors are turning to unsavory pressure tactics to get homeowners to sell, said Nick Keppler at CityLab. Thanks to an influx of tech jobs pushing up home prices in Pittsburgh, investors are buying up old properties to resell for a quick profit, giving the Steel City "one of the highest flip rates in the country." The flippers find code violations and scour "permits for additions and renovations." They've "weaponized tip lines like the city's 311 nonemergency service," anonymously reporting minor building violations such as chipped paint or a broken window frame. One homeowner traced a fine to a developer who'd asked to survey his property, made an offer, then turned around and reported violations to the city when the offer was rejected. The aim is "to create a hassle that will incentivize homeowners to sell."

Dealers spy on your driving
Big Brother has taken a seat in your car, said David Lazarus at the Los Angeles Times, as dealers and repair shops increasingly collect data about your vehicle and pass it on to insurers. One California car owner "was supposed to drive fewer than 5,000 miles a year" to get State Farm's low-mileage discount, saving around 15 percent. But the insurance company nixed the discount, saying his 2015 Infiniti had racked up 5,700 miles. How would State Farm know? "It's common for dealers to sell odometer reading counts to insurers and their proxies." Another source for insurers is data broker LexisNexis, which offers them a service detailing accidents and shop visits. "Keep this in mind next time you hit the road — especially if you're driving a newer car with sensors, micro­phones, and other so-called telematics."

Slacking on retirement
Generation X is falling behind on retirement savings, said Catey Hill in MarketWatch. According to a new survey from Fidelity Investments, savers between the ages of 39 and 54 "only have 80 percent of the income they need to retire." That's down from 83 percent in 2018, making Gen X the only group less prepared for retirement since Fidelity's last survey. Gen Xers say they have the highest levels of mortgage debt, and more personal debt than Baby Boomers or Millennials. Though they have less time to save before retirement, the Fidelity study shows them banking about the same share of their income as ­Millennials — and other studies show them saving even less.

This article was first published in the latest issue of The Week magazine. If you want to read more like it, try the magazine for a month here.

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