With credit card debt balances in the U.S. climbing, you might want to rethink your credit card strategy ahead of a possible recession.
That’s because credit card debt is up 13% since last year, and that debt will only get more expensive as more interest rate hikes are expected later this year. Here’s a look at what you can do, as recommended to CNBC Make It by certified financial planners:
“This should be a top priority regardless of where we are in an economic cycle, but very important in times of high inflation and potential economic downturns,” says Kendall Clayborne, certified financial planner at SoFi.
That’s because outstanding balances tend to rise with interest rate hikes. Over the past few months, credit card interest rates have climbed from just over 16% to 17.42%, but that could be closer to 19% by the end of the year, according to Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst at Bankrate.com.
One of the easiest ways to lower credit card costs is to simply call up your credit card provider and ask for a lower interest rate. They might say no, but if you’ve been a loyal client with an improving credit score, they might say yes.
To help your case, quote credit card offers from competing companies if they come with lower interest rates than what you pay on your existing card. You can also ask them to waive your annual fee, too.
A balance transfer is when you move debt from one credit card account to another for a lower interest rate.
Credit card companies typically offer 0% interest for an introductory period of up to 21 months. This means lower payments, at least for a while. But you’ll still need to make regular payments after the 0% introductory period expires.
Lately there are fewer offers of 0% for 21 months, but they can still be found. Just note that you typically need a good or excellent credit score to qualify, and that you might have to pay a balance transfer fee of about 3% – 5% of the total debt transferred.
The rewards for travel cards typically have good redemption rates, but that might not be worth it if you don’t plan to travel much in the next year. Plus, they typically come with annual fees.
If you’re focused on making ends meet, a cash-back rewards card might be a better option. These cards don’t have a lot of perks, but they typically offer 2% – 5% cash-back on spending on essential shopping categories like groceries or gas. These cards are a great way to offset some of the costs of inflation.
George Clooney, Gladys Knight among Kennedy Center honorees
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, second from left, and his wife, Evan Ryan, left, join 2022 Kennedy Center Honorees, front row from left, Amy Grant, Gladys Knight, George Clooney, Tania León, and Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter, back row from left, Kennedy Center Chairman David Rubenstein, along with fellow 2022 Honorees Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr., The Edge, and Bono for a group photo at the State Department following the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022, in Washington.
Kevin Wolf | AP Photo
Performers such as Gladys Knight or the Irish band U2 usually would be headlining a concert for thousands but at Sunday’s Kennedy Center Honors the tables will be turned as they and other artists will be the ones feted for their lifetime of artistic contributions.
Actor, director, producer and human rights activist George Clooney, groundbreaking composer and conductor Tania León, and contemporary Christian singer Amy Grant will join Knight and the entire crew of U2 in being honored by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
The organization honors a select group of people every year for their artistic influences on American culture. President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and their respective spouses are slated to attend.
The 61-year-old Clooney — the actor among this year’s musically leaning group of honorees — has television credits going back into the late 1970s but became a household name with the role of Doug Ross on the television show “ER.” conductor Tania León, and
From there he starred in movies such as “Three Kings,” “Ocean’s Eleven” (and “Twelve” and “Thirteen”), “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” and his most recent film, “Ticket to Paradise.” He also has extensive directing and producing credits including “Good Night, and Good Luck.” He and his wife, humanitarian rights lawyer Amal Clooney, created the Clooney Foundation for Justice, and he’s produced telethons to raise money for various causes.
“To be mentioned in the same breath with the rest of these incredible artists is an honor. This is a genuinely exciting surprise for the whole Clooney family,” said Clooney in a statement on the Center’s website.
Knight, 78, said in a statement that she was “humbled beyond words” at receiving the Kennedy honor. The Georgia-born Knight began singing gospel music at the age of 4 and went on to a career that has spanned decades.
Knight and family members started a band that would later be known as Gladys Knight & The Pips and produced their first album in 1960 when Knight was just 16. Since then she’s recorded dozens of albums with such classic hits as “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “Midnight Train to Georgia.” Along the way she’s acted in television shows and movies. When Knight and the band were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Mariah Carey described Knight as “a textbook you learn from.”
Sometimes the Kennedy Center honors not just individuals but groups; “Sesame Street” once got the nod.
This year it’s the band U2. The group’s strong connection to America goes back decades. They performed in Washington during their first trip to America in 1980. In a statement the band — made up of Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. — said they originally came to America with big dreams “fueled in part by the commonly held belief at home that America smiles on Ireland.”
“And it turned out to be true, yet again,” read the statement. “It has been a four-decade love affair with the country and its people, its artists, and culture.”
U2 has sold 170 million albums and been honored with 22 Grammys. The band’s epic singles include “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” “Pride (In the Name of Love)” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” Lead singer Bono has also become known for his philanthropic work to eradicate poverty and to raise awareness about AIDS.
Christian music performed Amy Grant said in an interview with The Associated Press that she’d never even been to the Kennedy Center Honors even though her husband, country musician Vince Gill, has performed during previous ceremonies. Grammy winner Grant is well known for crossover pop hits like “Baby, Baby,” “Every Heartbeat” and “That’s What Love is For.” She’s sold more than 30 million albums, including her 1991 record “Heart in Motion,” which introduced her to a larger pop audience.
Composer and conductor León said during an interview when the honorees were announced that she wasn’t expecting “anything spectacular” when the Kennedy Center initially reached out to her. After all, she’s worked with the Kennedy Center numerous times over the years going back to 1980, when she was commissioned to compose music for a play.
But the 79-year-old Pulitzer Prize winner said she was stunned to learn that this time the ceremony was going to be for her.
León left Cuba as a refugee in 1967 and eventually settled in New York City. She’s a founding member of the Dance Theatre of Harlem and instituted the Brooklyn Philharmonic Community Concert Series.
Michigan couple teaches people how to start lucrative side hustles
In 2020, Jamie and Sarah McCauley filmed themselves ripping, repainting and restoring thrifted furniture. They resold the items, made more than $1,000 in profit and posted the results on YouTube.
Within a week, the video received 20,000 views. The McCauleys, who live off a variety of concurrently running side hustles, sensed opportunity. They started posting more videos about their other streams of income, which include rental properties, house flipping projects and reselling return pallets from Amazon and Target.
Teaching people how to build those types of hustles has proved lucrative: In the last year, the McCauleys made $102,000 from their YouTube and other social media channels, according to documents reviewed by CNBC Make It.
That averages out to $8,500 per month. During their best month of the year, they brought in $9,000.
“We started to realize: This is a great way for people to make extra money if they have bills, or they just aren’t able to pay their rent, or they want to go on a nice vacation with their family,” Sarah says. “Anyone can do it.”
But of all their income streams, Jamie says their YouTube and social media presence is the most stressful to manage.
Here’s how they built it, and what goes into maintaining it.
Jamie and Sarah knew the ins and outs of social media from years of running a successful wedding photography business, which at its height made $150,000 per year, Jamie says.
But after having two children, the couple realized they didn’t want to spend weekends away from their family. So they started buying, renovating and renting out properties around west Michigan, hoping for a more passive income stream that would encourage schedule flexibility.
It worked, and the extra time allowed them to embrace a variety of side hustles. They got the idea to post their furniture and property-flipping adventures on YouTube in 2019, and immediately found it challenging.
Initially, Jamie worked 30 hours per week on the YouTube project alone, with Sarah working an additional 10 — on top of their efforts to sell two flipped houses and manage their photography business.
It took them a full year to hit 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watch time, making them eligible for Google AdSense, a feature that allows creators to monetize their YouTube videos with advertisements.
“We weren’t really sure where home design or flipping or photography or YouTube would lead us,” Sarah says. “But we knew if we put ourselves out there, it would open more opportunities.”
There are a couple of clear-cut benefits to flipping and reselling furniture and home décor online, especially during times of economic uncertainty, Sarah says.
For instance, more people are willing to hunt for deals on eBay and Facebook Marketplace when times are tough, instead of frequenting their usual retail stores.
“When a recession hits, people don’t want to pay full price for things,” she says. “Thrift stores thrive during recessions, and I think resellers do, too, because people are trying to save money in any way they can.”
Unlike real estate, the gambles of buying and reselling furniture are minimal in both price and risk, the McCauleys say. There’s less of a financial investment, and Sarah says she’s broken even on every flip.
The couple says one of their best flips was a mid-century dresser they bought for $50 on Facebook Marketplace. All they had to do was stage and take a nice photo of the dresser before reselling it for $300.
Sometimes, after buying furniture, the couple realizes the items have more flaws than they expected. Usually, this means investing more time and money into fixing up the piece, which can affect the item’s eventual sale value, they say.
In those cases, “we just get our money back instead of gaining a huge profit, but we’ve never really lost money from it,” Sarah says.
Going a full year without making any money from YouTube was difficult, the McCauleys say. And simply qualifying for AdSense didn’t guarantee the big bucks.
“The slower growth and the inconsistency of it, it’s been more of a mental struggle to keep pushing and believing the process,” Jamie says. “Now, we’re in a better spot, but throughout that two-year period, it was a question of, ‘Is this what we should be doing? Is this going to work out?'”
In 2020, the couple felt a shift, they say. Their videos started going viral more regularly, and brands like Skillshare, Beyond Paint and HelloFresh reached out to them with partnership opportunities.
The sudden attention was overwhelming, and they didn’t immediately know which brands to trust. These days, the McCauleys work with an agency that vets the brands and sets up contracts for them, claiming an 18% from a number of those partnerships, they say.
Monetizing their YouTube presence allowed them to shut down their photography business, which significantly cut down their weekly workload.
But there’s still a mental struggle that comes with inconsistent income, Jamie says. When you’re reliant on advertising and brand partnerships, your earnings depend on viewership, and the algorithm often feels beyond their control.
“There are times of discouragement where there’s not a whole lot coming in,” Jamie says. “But there are also good months where a lot of money is coming in. It’s about the long game and trying to continue to push through. It’s perseverance.”
The couple says they have no plans to abandon their social media business. Collectively, their income streams help them make a good living while spending more time with their families than they would in standard 9-to-5 jobs.
“We want it to fit within our life, and that’s the reason we wanted non-traditional jobs,” Sarah says. “So that we can choose what we do.”
Want to earn more and work less? Register for the free CNBC Make It: Your Money virtual event on Dec. 13 at 12 p.m. ET to learn from money masters how you can increase your earning power.
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