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Congress may make it easier to set money aside for emergency expenses

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Thomas Barwick | Digitalvision | Getty Images

Many families struggle to come up with the cash when faced with an unexpected $400 expense.

That lack of emergency savings may force them to borrow money at high interest rates to pay for the surprise expense, putting their financial security at risk.

Now Congress has a window to address that issue by paving the way for new emergency savings plans in the lame duck session.

Three emergency savings proposals may be included in a legislative package known as Secure 2.0, which is set to amplify changes to the retirement system brought by the Secure Act in 2019.

“We’re on the cusp of a significant shift in how people save for emergencies in this country, thanks to public policy and private sector innovation,” said Shai Akabas, director of economic policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center, during a recent web panel hosted by the Washington, D.C., think tank.

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The panel discussion coincided with an open letter from the Bipartisan Policy Center Action with 40 organizations to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., as well as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

The letter called for the inclusion of three bills that would amplify emergency savings in the pending retirement package.

“We firmly believe emergency savings policy aligns with the goals of the U.S. retirement system and will help boost financial resiliency for American households,” they wrote.

Why emergency savings falls short

Anti-eviction banners are displayed on a rent-controlled building in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 9, 2020.

Eric Baradat | AFP | Getty Images

The Covid-19 pandemic was a stress test for many Americans’ finances.

As many parts of the economy shut down, many individuals and families found their incomes were reduced or eliminated altogether.

The federal government stepped in and sent unprecedented amounts of aid through three rounds of stimulus checks, enhanced federal unemployment benefits, direct monthly child tax credit payments to parents and other policies.

Yet the pandemic still led some workers to withdraw funds from their 401(k) or other retirement savings accounts, putting their long-term financial futures at risk.

How employers are enticing workers with emergency savings plans

Those that had at least $1,000 in emergency savings at the height of the pandemic were half as likely to withdraw from their retirement savings accounts, according to the Aspen Institute.

“As people face that crisis, you need that liquid savings to protect your long-term investments and make sure you have a secure retirement and build wealth,” Tim Shaw, associate director of policy at the Aspen Financial Security Program, said during the Bipartisan Policy Center panel.

Covid relief measures helped push the share of families who could cover an unexpected $400 expense with cash or an equivalent method to 68% in 2021, a 4-percentage point increase from 2020. It also marks the highest level since the Federal Reserve began the survey in 2013.

Still, 1 in 3 households would need to borrow money to cover a $400 emergency, which is still “far too many,” Shaw noted.

How 3 proposals may encourage savings

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Advocates are hoping three proposals that could help encourage emergency savings will be included in Secure 2.0.

That includes two bills proposed by Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Todd Young, R-Ind., as well as a third created by Sens. James Lankford, R-Okla., and Michael Bennet, D-Colorado.

One proposal from Booker and Young would enable employers to provide emergency savings accounts to workers in addition to their retirement savings accounts. Employees would be able to set aside up to $2,500 automatically that they could access at any time in case of an emergency.

The second proposal from Booker and Young would allow for separate standalone plans outside of retirement accounts, which would be “really important” for employees who don’t currently have retirement plans through their employer, Akabas noted.

A third, the Lankford-Bennet plan, would allow workers to take out up to $1,000 from their retirement accounts penalty-free in case of an emergency. Those withdrawals would only be allowed once per year; additional contributions would be required before making another withdrawal.

Chantel Sheaks, executive director of retirement policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said she has “fingers crossed” that all three proposals will make it into Secure 2.0 and that the legislation will pass.

From an employer’s viewpoint, we need choice,” Sheaks said.

What may work for one employer may not work for another, she noted. The three proposals would allow for more options, including possibly encouraging employers who do not current have retirement plans to think about adopting them, Sheaks said.

Moreover, because hardship withdrawals can reduce workers’ retirement security, these emergency savings options can help prevent those stumbling blocks to building wealth.

“People have emergency needs today, and we can’t forget about those emergency needs,” Sheaks said. “We need to find a way to balance today’s needs with tomorrow’s needs.”

 



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U.S. is behind on supply chain independence from China

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'We have to make sure we have a diversified supply chain': Biden presidential coordinator

The U.S. has some rapid catching up to do if it is to secure the reliability of its supply chain and its independence from competitors like China, a top White House advisor admitted this week.

“Look, this is a major concern for the U.S. and I think for the rest of the world. As we are going into a cleaner, greener, an entirely new energy system, we have to make sure we have a diversified supply chain,” Special Presidential Coordinator Amos Hochstein told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble on Monday.

“We can’t have a supply chain that is concentrated in any country, doesn’t matter which country that is,” he said. “We have to make sure from the mining and refining process to the building of the batteries and wind turbines that we have a diversified system that we can be well supplied for. That is the only way this will work from an economy perspective.”

Asked if the U.S. was behind in this endeavor, Hochstein, who also served in the Obama administration as chief energy envoy, replied: “Absolutely we’re behind.” But, he added, “It doesn’t mean that we’re out.”

Workers transport soil containing rare earth elements for export at a port in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province, China October 31, 2010.

Stringer | Reuters

China controls roughly 60% of the world’s production of rare earth minerals and materials, according to a recent report by Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. Those resources include lithium, cobalt, nickel, graphite, manganese and other rare earth elements crucial for making things like electric vehicles, batteries, computers and household goods.

They’re also essential for renewable technology like solar panels and wind turbines, which are central in the U.S.’s attempt at an energy transition away from fossil fuels. As just one example, China refines 95% of the world’s manganese — a chemical element used in batteries and steel manufacturing — despite mining less than 10% of its global supply.

For the U.S., whose relations with China can currently be described as tense at best, this poses several security risks, were China to decide to weaponize that market dominance at any point. The Covid-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war have also highlighted the fragility of the global supply chain.

‘We have not invested’

The White House, in a Feb. 2022 fact sheet, wrote that “The U.S. is increasingly dependent on foreign sources for many of the processed versions of these minerals. Globally, China controls most of the market for processing and refining for cobalt, lithium, rare earths and other critical minerals.”

“We have to recognize that we have not invested, and that’s what the United States is trying to do now, is not only say the same old talk of we want to have partnerships,” Hochstein said. “We’re going to come to this table together with our G7 allies, we’re going to pool our resources, we’re going to make sure that the money is there.”

This includes dedicated financial and business incentives, Hochstein said. The Biden administration’s mammoth 2022 Inflation Reduction Act aims to invest heavily in the supply of and access to critical minerals in allied countries, and offers approximately $369 billion in funding and tax credits to boost renewable energy technology and critical mineral production.

“We’re giving the incentives, through the IRA, to tell companies ‘look, if you make sure you’re mining in the U.S. or in other countries and bring it to the U.S. for refining, processing and battery manufacturing, there’s going to be the kind of financial incentives there’,” he said.

U.S. is 'absolutely behind' on supply chain independence for crucial minerals: presidential adviser

Despite his warnings about supply chain risk, Hochstein rejected the idea that the U.S. was being held hostage to China.

“I don’t want to talk about being held hostage, at the end of the day China is doing what they think is right for them,” he said. “They’re trying to build an economic energy in the clean energy space and we all need to do the same.”

“We have to learn from what we went through in the oil and gas energy space, as we transition to a new energy market that relies still on natural resources,” he added.

“They may not be oil and gas, but they’re still natural resources — they’re not abundant everywhere in the world — so we have to make sure from the U.S. perspective that we have a supply chain for the United States, and that’s what the legislation that we passed in the United States is trying to do.”



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Boeing to slash about 2,000 white-collar jobs in finance and HR, report says

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Boeing expects to slash about 2,000 white-collar jobs this year in finance and human resources through a combination of attrition and layoffs, the planemaker confirmed to Seattle Times newspaper on Monday.

Last month, the Virginia-based company announced it would hire 10,000 workers in 2023, but some support positions would be cut.

Back then Boeing acknowledged it will “lower staffing within some support functions” – a move meant to enable it to better align resources to support current products and technology development.

“Over time, some of our corporate functions have grown quite large. And with that growth tends to come bureaucracy or disparate systems that are inefficient,” the newspaper quoted Mike Friedman, a senior director of communications at Boeing as saying. “So we’re streamlining.”

Boeing did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment. 

Last year, Boeing said it plans to cut about 150 finance jobs in the United States to simplify its corporate structure and focus more resources into manufacturing and product development.

Watch CNBC's full interview with Boeing's Dave Calhoun



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Trump appeals sanctions for ‘frivolous’ suit against Hillary Clinton

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presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton attend campaign rallies in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, October 10, 2016 and Manchester, New Hampshire U.S., October 24, 2016 in a combination of file photos.

Mike Segar | Carlos Barria | Reuters

Former President Donald Trump and one of his lawyers said Monday they are appealing nearly $1 million in sanctions imposed on them for what a federal judge called their “frivolous” lawsuit against Hillary Clinton and more than two dozen other defendants.

The court filing about the appeal came days after a lawyer for Trump and his attorney Alina Habba told the judge in the case they were willing to put up a bond of $1,031,788 to cover the costs of the sanctions while the federal Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit considered the matter.

In imposing those sanctions Jan. 19, Judge John Middlebrooks said in an order, “We are confronted with a lawsuit that should never have been filed, which was completely frivolous, both factually and legally, and which was brought in bad faith for an improper purpose.”

Trump’s suit, which sought $70 million in damages, accused Clinton, former FBI officials, the Democratic National Committee and others of conspiring to create a “false narrative” that Trump and his 2016 presidential campaign against Clinton were colluding with Russia to try to win the election that year.

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Middlebrooks in September dismissed the lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, and barred Trump from refiling the complaint.

He later ordered Trump and Habba to pay more than $937,000 in sanctions.

Middlebrooks in his sanctions order called Trump “a mastermind of strategic abuse of the judicial process,” and a “prolific and sophisticated litigant who is repeatedly using the courts to seek revenge on political adversaries.”

A day after Middlebrooks issued that order, Trump voluntarily dropped another lawsuit he had pending before the same judge against New York Attorney General Letitia James. That suit was related to James’ pending $250 million fraud lawsuit against Trump and his company in Manhattan state court.

Jared Roberts, the lawyer for Trump and Habba, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNBC about the appeal.



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