Here are three of the week's top pieces of financial advice, gathered from around the web:
A hidden index-fund crisis?
The hero of Michael Lewis' post–financial crisis best-seller The Big Short is warning investors about a new bubble created by index funds, said Reed Stevenson at Bloomberg. Famed asset manager Michael Burry said he sees parallels between the flood of money into passive funds and "the pre-2008 bubble in collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), the complex securities that almost destroyed the global financial system." Burry says such funds "are now distorting prices for stocks and bonds in much the same way that CDO purchases did for subprime mortgages a decade ago." Just as CDOs let investors think they could buy into the housing market without looking at the health of the underlying mortgages, index funds have allowed investors to skip the process of analyzing companies and price risks. Many of the largest index fund are pouring money into bigger companies that are underperforming. At some point, says Burry, the flows will reverse, "and it will be ugly."
New payment terms on credit cards
"More credit cards are offering flexible payment plans for customers who want to spread out the cost of expensive items, or unexpected expenses," said Ann Carrns at The New York Times. American Express' Pay It Plan It program "allows cardholders to pay off large purchases over several months for a fixed monthly fee" that the company says "would always be the same as or better than the cost of interest." Citibank and JPMorgan Chase have also begun offering similar "fee-based" payment or loan options. The plans generally let cardholders carry a balance while still getting a grace period on interest for other purchases.
Unforgivable red tape
The government's Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program is "doing little in the way of forgiveness," said Jessica Dickler and Annie Nova at CNBC. A Government Accountability Office report found that from May 2018 to May 2019, "the Department of Education processed 54,184 requests for loan forgiveness" through an expanded PSLF program that was said to allow certain not-for-profit and government employees to have their federal student loans canceled after 10 years of on-time payments. But the department rejected nearly 99 percent of the requests, approving a total of 661. Last year, Congress authorized a $700 million fund to shore up the program, which was created in 2007, but the Education Department has spent only $27 million of it.