The Scary Cost of Halloween

by Andrew Schreiber 25. October 2013

HalloweenFall is upon us and so is the holiday of Halloween. Costumes are not the only thing to be frightened of this holiday but also the cost that is associated with the holiday. According to a survey done by Prosper Insights & Analytics, nearly 158 million people will celebrate Halloween this year. People will celebrate the holiday in many ways, including attending Halloween parties and haunted houses, pumpkin carving, and trick-or-treating. It is safe to say that Halloween is no longer celebrated one night a year.

We’ve all known that Halloween is a big business holiday for candy companies, but it has grown beyond that. This year it is estimated that over $2 billion will be spent on candy. Costume companies will also be happy to know that an estimated total of $2.6 billion will be spent on Halloween costumes in 2013. Costumes are not limited to children. Adults will spend $1.22 billion on costumes for themselves and $330 million on costumes for pets. Halloween decorations account for $1.96 billion that people will spend this time of the year. This holiday is gradually becoming one of the more expensive holidays for consumers.

Another industry that is sharing in the Halloween spirit is beer companies. We are seeing more and more seasonally flavored beers being offered by companies. You have to serve your guests something when they show up to your Halloween party - why not serve a beer that fits the theme? This is an interesting way to capitalize off the celebration of Halloween.

Americans will spend an estimated $6.9 billion total on Halloween this year, according to the National Retail Federation (excluding cost of seasonal beer). Whether you have kids that are trick-or-treating or you plan on attending a Halloween party, this holiday is becoming a bigger deal on your finances.

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Unrealized Potential: A Glance at Our Economy

by Anirban Basu 21. October 2013

Anirban Basu

Despite a growth rate that has averaged more than 3 percent over the past 25 years and an unmatched capacity to create and support a host of powerful companies ranging from Google and Coca-Cola to Boeing and Caterpillar, the U.S. economy has been stuck at 2 percent growth for several years. Imagine a sports car with incredible get up and go that has had to continuously negotiate a series of speed bumps. Economically, these take the form of higher tax rates, sequestration, rising interest rates, a recently resolved federal shut down, and the uncertainties associated with healthcare reform. The upshot – 2013 will go down as yet another disappointing year for the U.S. economy.

While the government reached a deal to reopen the government, the 16-day shutdown and a standoff regarding the federal debt limit, cost the nation’s economy $24 billion according to an S&P estimate. Furthermore, according to the Conference Board, the economy is set to expand at just 1.7 percent on an annualized basis during the fourth quarter. In other words, the economy may not be entering 2014 with much momentum.

U.S. equity markets, however, have generally continued to surge higher. As of October 10, 2013, the Dow was up nearly five percent since the onset of the third quarter and up nearly 16 percent year-to-date. The Nasdaq Composite was up nearly 21 percent year-to-date as of October 10th, which happened to be 10 days into the federal government shutdown.

The rebound in equity markets is attributable to numerous factors. One is a still expanding, though somewhat disappointing U.S. economy. Corporate profitability and ongoing injections of liquidity into the economy by the U.S. Federal Reserve have also contributed to appreciating share prices.

Of course, Federal Reserve policy influences more than stock prices. Consumers have leveraged low interest rates, including through the purchase of new cars and light trucks. Sales of new vehicles in the U.S. are on pace to exceed 15 million in 2013.

The Federal Reserve will continue to focus on accelerating economic growth as long as inflation remains tame. For now, inflation is not a major issues. Consumer prices rose just 0.1 percent in August after climbing a similarly benign 0.2 percent in July. Despite large jumps in February and June (0.7 and 0.5 percent, respectively), trend inflation remains well within the Federal Reserve’s comfort zone.

Labor market performance remains mixed. While it is true that unemployment fell to 7.3 percent in August, the lowest rate recorded since December 2008, the decline was primarily attributable to the 312,000 people who left the labor force. Only 63.2 percent of Americans presently participate in the labor force, the lowest proportion since August 1978.

Maryland's economy added 43,300 jobs or 1.7 percent to aggregate nonfarm payrolls. Because Maryland is a wealthy state, it is likely that consumers here benefit more on average from the stock market’s rally. This may help explain some of the state’s demonstrated capacity to withstand federally-induced headwinds. According to the most recently available data, statewide nonfarm employment stands at 2,616,200 jobs, a record high.

Looking Ahead

As of this writing, America’s government has been reopened for less than 24 hours. Although the nation was not foolish enough to tempt fate through default, the government could again close on January 15th, less than three months from now. This means that Washington, D.C. will continue to be a source of fixation and uncertainty among the nation’s business decision-makers. That uncertainly will likely prevent the economy from accelerating to 3 percent growth next year. Another 2 percent year is quite possible.

Anirban Basu, Economist, Sage Policy Group, Inc. & First Mariner Bank Board Member

Anirban Basu is Chairman & CEO of Sage Policy Group, Inc., an economic and policy consulting firm in Baltimore, Maryland. Basu is one of the Mid-Atlantic region's most recognizable economists, in part because of his consulting work on behalf of numerous clients, including prominent developers, bankers, brokerage houses, energy suppliers and law firms. On behalf of government agencies and non-profit organizations, Basu has written several high-profile economic development strategies, including co-authoring Baltimore City's economic growth strategy. His opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of 1st Mariner Bank.

Establishing Credit for Beginners

by Sara Seeger 20. September 2013

Credit Cards






Maintaining a strong credit history can be one of the most difficult lifetime challenges for people; especially young people just starting out. The paradox most people face is being able to establish credit without established credit! A good first step is to apply for a credit card with requirements that are easy to meet. Credit cards are useful financial tools and a great way to establish credit – but used improperly, they can be an easy way to rack up a lot of debt. Before you dive in to the world of credit cards, it’s important to understand credit-related terms, what they mean and how they help or hinder a person’s individual situation.

What is Credit?

Credit is referred to as a specific amount of money that is made available to be borrowed by an individual. Credit must be paid back to the lender (in this case, the bank) sometime in the future. In short, credit allows an individual to purchase goods or services without having to have “actual” money at the time of purchase. The amount of credit a bank will grant a person varies, depending on individual circumstances like credit history/score, existing debt (credit card balances, school and other types of loans, etc.) and reliable employment, to name a few.

Lesson: Establishing credit is necessary and should be handled as carefully as one’s reputation.

What is an Interest Rate?

An An interest rate is quite simply a fee paid by the credit card holder, for the privilege of borrowing money that would otherwise take time to accrue. Many banks offer an interest-free period for new credit card holders (usually 12 or 18 months) that give the borrower a bit of relief on the balance. After that time, interest will start to accrue on the credit card balance unless the balance is paid off in full every month.

Lesson: Look for promotional, interest-free offers, but keep the potential accumulation of interest costs top-of-mind, especially during this interest-free period, to avoid unpleasant surprises and unplanned expenses.

What Determines the Interest Rate on Your Credit Card?

Many banks have a range of interest rates that are assigned to a specific borrower. The primary factor banks use to determine the interest rate that is assigned to a credit card is an individual’s credit score. What’s in a number? Well, a lot, actually. A credit score tells the bank a lot about a person; for instance how much debt already exists, how timely payments are made, if the person has ever defaulted on an obligation or filed for bankruptcy, how much credit is available to the borrower already, etc. In simplistic terms, the lower the credit score, the higher the interest rate and vice-versa.

Lesson: The decision to default on a school loan or to make late payments on credit card balances or other financial obligations can haunt you for years. Think twice before you decide to take the trip to the Bahamas instead of taking care of financial obligations.

How do credit cards work?

A credit card is used as a form of payment and should NOT be thought of as free money. Each time a credit card is used, an individual is borrowing money, which must be repaid in the future. Most bank credit cards require only a minimum payment of the total balance to be paid monthly; however, unless there is an “interest free” period, interest will accumulate on the balance due.

Lesson: In order to obtain and maintain a strong credit profile, it is important to always pay credit card balances on time and to not over-extend credit limits.

Buying a home, purchasing a car, attending college, preparing for a wedding, and even taking a vacation may require credit. Establishing credit is necessary for most people and provides the flexibility needed to attain goals. The lesson to remember is that our actions and choices impact and shape our credit future.

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