Published in Redbook Magazine in January and February of 1926, as the fortunes of the Roaring Twenties bubbled along, Fitzgerald’s short story “The Rich Boy” mused about the influence of wealth on personal character. Written in Capri and revised in Paris in 1925, Fitzgerald was enjoying his own period of disposable income, mixing his literary work with leisure, pleasure, and the seemingly endless parties of the expats. Although born into an upper-middle class family and received of an Ivy League education at Princeton, Fitzgerald seemed always to feel himself apart from his often even wealthier classmates. He lived alternately in fear and denial of the transitory nature of money, continued to grapple with it in writing, and struck a chord with readers simultaneously striving for their piece of the pie and wondering how they might handle it themselves. We strive and wonder still, nearly a century later.
With the dawning of a new year and the Twenties having come round again, financial advisors and publications of every sort are weighing in with their forecasts of the prevailing money and investing trends of 2020 and beyond. As one might imagine, technology and artificial intelligence will continue to influence the way we transact our personal and business finances. Liabilities such as lack of personal finance education and crushing student loan debt are forcing institutions to take a hard look at ways to mitigate the hardships that result. Our government is legislating changes, incentives, and programs that affect our financial future. Stock market expansion has added unprecedented wealth, along with the argument that these corporate windfalls are distributed unfairly and undertaxed. On the other hand, many companies are adding financial benefits and perks beyond the paycheck to assist employees in guarding their earning potential and future finances.
With the use of technologies and applications such as Apple Pay, Venmo, and Zelle becoming ever more ubiquitous, the phone is quickly replacing the wallet. Online banking has been around for a quarter of a century now, but it has long since moved from the desktop to the palm of the hand. Additionally, artificial intelligence is advancing to help contain the rise of fraud and identity theft and to keep consumers informed in real time about possible breaches to their accounts. Online marketing is changing spending habits and creating entirely new streams of income for creators and influencers. Banks and other financial institutions, becoming more accountable for credit exploitation, are beginning to understand that helping to secure their customers’ financial futures can also benefit them in the long run. And so, they are providing more services geared to personal finance education and financial wellness.
Congress passed, and the President has signed into law, the SECURE Act, “Setting Up Every Community for Retirement Enhancement” by intending to strengthen the security of retirement strategies and accounts. The plan offers small business incentives to set up retirement accounts for employees and eliminates the age cap on contributions. The Act also now allows for annuity options within individual retirement accounts and provides tax credits to businesses for auto-enrolling their employees in retirement plans. Taking retirement accounts from an opt-in to an opt-out proposition will result in greater participation in retirement savings.
Fiscal responsibility, financial stewardship, and personal finance education will continue to influence money-making decisions as younger generations seek to pay down debt and still somehow save for the future. The rich are different. They have more money. Hard work and smart money moves in 2020.
“Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different than you and me.”
– from “The Rich Boy” by F. Scott Fitzgerald