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The “Out of Left Field” Factors that Impact Our Financial Lives

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The economy is a fickle thing. There are a number of factors that can affect you financially even if you don’t realize it. Some are easy to pinpoint. For instance, even if you aren’t personally borrowing money or paying off a credit card, a Fed decision on raising interest rates still impacts you. It can lead to troubled times for businesses, higher prices and less disposable income for everyone. However, there are other, not-so-obvious, hidden factors that can impact your financial life in ways you never imagined. Here’s what they mean for you.

The Financial Contagion of the Flu 

Depending on what area you live in, flu season in the U.S. is generally considered to be approximately October through May. Some years are worse than others, in terms of both the number of people afflicted and the intensity of their illness. However, even in the lightest of years, the flu virus affects thousands of Americans.

The financial impact this has on you directly can vary. Assuming you have adequate health insurance and enough sick days saved up, it shouldn’t cost you too much. However, there’s another issue at play, which is loss of productivity.

Even if you personally never get the flu or miss any days at your job, plenty of others will. Their absences will slow things down for everyone, limiting what you’re able to get done. Worse yet, many sick employees won’t stay home, but will force themselves to come in. For lower-income workers this may be because they don’t get paid sick days.

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Among higher-income workers “toughing it out” may be considered a badge of honor, but it actually makes things worse for everyone. When someone goes to work sick, they end up getting the rest of the office sick as well, leading to more absences and a greater decline in productivity. At minimum, this can mean fewer sales for your company, or fewer goods produced.

Believe it or not, an average flu season can result in a GDP loss of up to $45 billion. Companies make up for this by raising prices, reducing employee work schedules and more. Thus, even if you don’t get sick yourself, the economic results are still likely to affect you.

Holiday Shoplifting

Theft is a problem most retailers have to deal with all year. However, it gets far worse during the holidays. Crowded stores make thieves more difficult to catch, with all the confusion, and temptingly small, expensive items arrayed on the shelves.

Electronics and their accessories are among the most popular items stolen during the holidays, as they tend to be very costly, but small enough to slip into a pocket or purse. Other popular items include alcohol, perfume and cologne, and certain types of clothing.

But even if you would never dream of taking the “five-finger discount,” other people’s shoplifting habits affect all of us. The losses that retailers suffer from theft are passed on to the average consumer in the form of higher prices. This can cost consumers around $50 per person or more during the holiday season.

Every action has consequences, and most of them involve money in some way. There are a variety of reasons why prices go up or incomes go down, and while some are fairly evident, others are caused by events you probably never imagined.

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