Here are three of the week's top pieces of financial insight, gathered from around the web:
Americans haven't raided their 401(k)s
Few Americans have taken advantage of a law that eases access to their retirement money during the pandemic, said Anne Tergesen and Corrie Driebusch at The Wall Street Journal. In March, Congress "loosened withdrawal rules" to allow savers to "pull as much as $100,000 from IRAs or 401(k)-type plans" without early withdrawal penalties as long as the money is repaid within three years. Despite the favorable terms, Fidelity, the country's largest 401(k) provider, said just 4.6 percent of clients have used this option, only slightly more than the percentage of people who take a hardship distribution in an ordinary year. Cash-outs and hardship withdrawals "reduce the wealth in U.S. retirement accounts by an estimated 25 percent when the lost annual savings are compounded over 30 years."
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How much are those miles really worth?
Airlines have been able to raise billions of dollars using the profits from their frequent-flier programs as collateral, said Ron Lieber at The New York Times. They can do that because financial markets recognize how "few customers do the math" before racking up card balances. In securities filings, Delta Air Lines admitted that the appeal of its program is "the fundamental aspiration of earning a free flight." Thanks to that hope, airlines "can raise the prices of trips and upgrades, in miles, at any time," doing away with the traditional award charts in favor of "dynamic pricing" that can change from day to day. A 2 percent cash-back card will net you $1,000 for $50,000 in annual spending. But if you accrue 50,000 airline miles, "can you exchange them for an airline freebie that would otherwise cost $1,000?" Most often, the answer is no.
Making remote hires work
Hiring great remote workers starts with "crafting a winning remote-job description," said Carol Cochran at Fast Company. "Many strategies have been shared around the importance of building healthy remote-company cultures." But as we move toward a future in which more people will work from home, successful hiring of remote workers becomes increasingly important. Start by identifying whether the job will be remote permanently, or only as needed to get through the pandemic. Same goes for defining "flexible," and whether staff must be "on" at certain hours. You should also address home-office setups since you might not want employees logging on to handle sensitive information from a coffee shop.
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