12 Cheapest Small Towns in America

Small-town living has plenty of perks: light traffic, a strong sense of community and a slower pace of life. Perhaps best of all, there’s the cost of living, which typically is cheaper in small towns than in expensive big cities.

To get a better sense of what inexpensive small-town living really has to offer, we compiled a list of the 12 cheapest small towns in America, with small towns defined as places with populations of 10,000 to 50,000 people. We based our rankings on the Council for Community and Economic Research’s (C2ER) calculations of living expenses in 269 urban areas. C2ER’s expansive study tracks prices for housing, utilities, healthcare, groceries, transportation and miscellaneous goods and services (such as going to a movie theater or hair salon).

It goes without saying that you should weigh the pros and cons before you pack up and relocate to one of the 12 cheapest small towns in America. While a low cost of living is attractive, it can be offset by issues such as scarce jobs, small paychecks or a lack of things to do in the area. Plan an extended visit to ensure the small town fits your lifestyle.

The most recent Council for Community and Economic Research’s (C2ER) Cost of Living Index, published February 2021, is based on price data collected during the first three quarters of 2020. City-level data on city populations, household incomes and home values come from the U.S. Census Bureau. Unemployment rates come from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of April 7 for the period ended February 2021.

1 of 12

Benton Harbor, Mich.

photo of lighthouse and pierphoto of lighthouse and pier
  • Cost of living: 12.6% below U.S. average
  • City population: 9,843
  • Median household income: $21,916 (U.S.: $65,712)
  • Median home value: $63,300 (U.S.: $240,500)
  • Unemployment rate: 6.0% (U.S.: 6.0%)

Benton Harbor sits by the shores of Lake Michigan about 50 miles west of Kalamazoo, which is one of the cheapest larger cities in the U.S. The small town’s biggest claim to fame is that it’s home to Whirlpool (WHR), the global manufacturer of washers, dryers, refrigerators and a range of other home appliances.

But despite being host to a Fortune 500 company, Benton Harbor is among America’s cheapest small towns, boasting a cost of living that’s more than 12% below the national average.

True, median income is roughly a third of the national level, but the unemployment rate is in line with the country as a whole. Poverty and crime are also high in Benton Harbor – factors that contribute to a median home value that’s an eye-popping 74% lower than the national median. Indeed, housing-related costs, including rents and mortgages, are 32% cheaper in Benton Harbor, according to C2ER’s Cost of Living Index.

Neighboring St. Joseph, about the same size as Benton Harbor, is a popular beach resort town with significantly higher household incomes and home values.

2 of 12

Hutchinson, Kan.

Strataca salt mine Strataca salt mine
  • Cost of living: 13.4% below U.S. average
  • City population: 40,914
  • Median household income: $46,927
  • Median home value: $96,300 
  • Unemployment rate: 4.8%

Hutchinson, known as “Hutch” by the locals, is about an hour’s drive northwest from Wichita. Founded in the early 1870s as a railroad town, Hutch soon became known for its salt deposits, which were first discovered in 1887.

Today, Hutch is synonymous with the Kansas State Fair, which it hosts annually. The town is also home to the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Basketball Tournament. Local cultural attractions include the Fox Theatre, which opened in 1931. The grand movie palace is considered to be among the finest examples of theater art deco architecture in the Midwest.

Where Hutch stands out among America’s cheapest small towns is that it boasts the lowest housing costs on this list. Indeed, they run 41.3% below the national average. Apartment rents are 43% lower than national average, while home prices come in at a 40% discount.

However, other major costs of living aren’t too far off from what the average American pays. Although prices for groceries are almost 7% lower than the national average, healthcare and miscellaneous goods & services are essentially the same as the U.S. average.

3 of 12

Meridian, Miss.

photo of a courthousephoto of a courthouse
  • Cost of living: 14.1% below U.S. average
  • City population: 37,848
  • Median household income: $32,422
  • Median home value: $83,300 
  • Unemployment rate: 6.7%

Meridian was rebuilt from 1890 to 1930 after being almost totally destroyed in the Civil War. As a result, it has not one but nine registered historic districts. The Highland Park Dentzel Carousel, dating back to 1909, is one of the more whimsical ones.

Meridian’s other claim to fame is as the birthplace of Jimmie Rodgers, known as the “Father of Country Music.” Music remains a centerpiece of Meridian’s cultural scene to this day.

Today, the federal government plays an important role in its economic life, as Naval Air Station Meridian and Key Field are two of the largest employers.

Happily, the men and women in uniform, and Meridian’s civilian citizens, catch a break on expenses. The cost of living stands 14.1% below the U.S. average; what really pushes Meridian into America’s absolute cheapest small towns are its comparatively modest housing costs. Indeed, housing expenses are a third lower than what the average American pays.

4 of 12

Burlington, Iowa

photo of a bridge in Iowaphoto of a bridge in Iowa
  • Cost of living: 14.3% below U.S. average
  • City population: 24,974
  • Median household income: $47,540
  • Median home value: $93,200 
  • Unemployment rate: 6.9%

Burlington sits on the Mississippi River, about 165 miles east of Des Moines. Manufacturing has long been a staple of the area economy, but a number of major employers have left over the years. Today, top employers include Great River Health System and American Ordnance, which makes ammunition for the U.S. military.

Utilities in Burlington are close to 12% more expensive than the national average and healthcare costs are essentially the same. Inexpensive housing is what makes Burlington a truly affordable small town. Housing-related costs are 35% cheaper compared to what the average American pays. Rents, on average, are almost 40% lower than the national average.

True, median incomes are 28% lower than the national figure, but then, median home values are cheaper by more than 60%.

5 of 12

Ponca City, Okla.

photo of a courthouse in Ponca City, OKphoto of a courthouse in Ponca City, OK
  • Cost of living: 14.5% below U.S. average
  • City population: 24,134
  • Median household income: $44,043
  • Median home value: $96,600 
  • Unemployment rate: 5.8%

Ponca City traces its lineage back to the days of the Land Run of 1893, when pioneers decided to build a town in north-central Oklahoma near the Arkansas River and a freshwater spring. Not long after its founding, enterprising oil men successfully drilled wells in the area, and Ponca City remains an oil town to this day. The area’s largest employers include energy companies such as Schlumberger (SLB), ConocoPhillips (COP) and Phillips 66 (PSX).

Household incomes are well below the national median, but housing is a heck of a deal. The median value of a Ponca City home is just $96,600. Nationally, it’s $240,500. Indeed, total housing costs are just two-thirds of what the average American pays, according to C2ER’s Cost of Living Index. Residents also catch a break on healthcare, which is 12.4% less expensive.

Although it’s among the cheapest small towns in America, Ponca City’s low costs of living do come at a cost of their own: The town sits pretty much in the middle of Tornado Alley.

6 of 12

Martinsville, Va.

photo of Martinsville Speedwayphoto of Martinsville Speedway
  • Cost of living: 15.2% below U.S. average
  • City population: 12,852
  • Median household income: $34,371
  • Median home value: $87,700 
  • Unemployment rate: 9.8%

Martinsville needs no introduction to race fans. The tiny Virginia town, an hour’s drive south of Roanoke, lays claim to the Martinsville Speedway of NASCAR fame. Racing enthusiasts laud the short track for its tight turns and intimate seating.

Beyond the track, manufacturing has always been central to the area’s economy, and although a number of firms have moved on over the past decades, factory work remains important. Major employers include Eastman Chemical (EMN), a manufacturer of plastics, and Monogram Foods.

Martinsville has a rich history dating back to colonial times, and the town boasts multiple historic districts and historic sites including the John Waddey Carter House and the Dry Bridge School.

But Martinsville also is notable as one of America’s cheapest small towns. Housing expenses are 32% below the national average. Fittingly for a racing town, gasoline is about 6% cheaper per gallon.

7 of 12

Salina, Kan.

photo of downtown Salina, KSphoto of downtown Salina, KS
  • Cost of living: 16.4% below U.S. average
  • City population: 46,998
  • Median household income: $50,490
  • Median home value: $129,300 
  • Unemployment rate: 4.3%

The small town of Salina sits at the intersection of Interstates 70 and 135, about 90 miles north of Wichita and 180 miles west of Kansas City.

Manufacturing and healthcare are among the town’s most important industries. Major employers include Schwan’s Company, the maker of Tony’s frozen pizza; Great Plains Manufacturing, which serves the agricultural industry; and the Salina Regional Health Center. Salina is also home to several institutions of higher education, including the University of Kansas School of Medicine Salina Campus and Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus.

This economic mix is producing both low unemployment and low living costs. Housing expenses run two-thirds of the national average, according to C2ER. Groceries are cheaper too, running about 8% lower than the national average.

Utility bills, however, take a bit of a bite. In Salina, they’re almost 2% higher than the U.S. average.

8 of 12

Statesboro, Ga.

courthouse Statesboro, GAcourthouse Statesboro, GA
  • Cost of living: 16.8% below U.S. average
  • City population: 31,495
  • Median household income: $29,203
  • Median home value: $113,600 
  • Unemployment rate: 5.8%

As home to the flagship campus of Georgia Southern University, Statesboro offers many of the benefits of college-town living but at exceedingly affordable prices. Thanks to its status as an academic hub, cultural attractions tied to the local university include a performing arts center, symphony, museum, planetarium and botanic gardens.

Another perk? The charming city of Savannah is just an hour’s drive to the southeast.

Although the university is the area’s largest employer, manufacturing jobs also play an important part in the local economy. At the same time, it should be noted that Statesboro has a high poverty rate, or 41.8% vs. 13.3% for the state of Georgia as a whole.

Statesboro’s place among America’s cheapest small towns is largely due to housing costs, which are about 32% lower compared with the national average, while healthcare runs roughly 14% below average. For example, a visit to a doctor costs about 24% less in Statesboro. Dental care is about a fifth less expensive, according to the C2ER’s Cost of Living Index.

9 of 12

Tupelo, Miss.

photo of house where Elvis Presley was bornphoto of house where Elvis Presley was born
  • Cost of living: 19% below U.S. average
  • City population: 38,271
  • Median household income: $50,694
  • Median home value: $145,400 
  • Unemployment rate: 5.6%

Tupelo’s biggest claim to fame is being the birthplace of Elvis Presley. Indeed, the town, 100 miles southeast of Memphis’s Graceland, is looking forward to hosting its 23rd annual Elvis Festival in June. (Last year’s gathering was a virtual-only affair.)

Not a fan of The King? The cultural scene also includes the North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra and the Tupelo Automobile Museum. But Tupelo’s second-biggest claim to fame is arguably its super-low living costs. Electric and gas bills are about 12% lower than the national average, according to the Cost of Living Index. Housing is 34% cheaper and groceries go for 16% less.

For residents not making a living as Elvis impersonators, major employers include North Mississippi Health Services, Cooper Tire & Rubber (CTB) and BancorpSouth (BXS), which is headquartered in Tupelo.

10 of 12

Richmond, Ind.

Amish man in horse and buggyAmish man in horse and buggy
  • Cost of living: 19.1% below U.S. average
  • City population: 35,539
  • Median household income: $39,724
  • Median home value: $88,400 
  • Unemployment rate: 5.1%

Few cities of any size can claim Richmond’s place in the early history of recorded jazz. Some of the first jazz records were made in this small town, featuring greats such as Hoagy Carmichael, Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. There’s a Walk of Fame celebrating jazz and other artists who recorded with Richmond’s Gennett Records.

While jazz will always be part of its history, today’s Richmond, which is an hour’s drive west from Dayton, Ohio, is known more for its colleges and seminaries. They include Indiana University East, the Earlham School of Religion (part of Quaker-influenced Earlham College) and the Bethany Theological Seminary.

Inexpensive housing is a key to Richmond’s place among our nation’s cheapest small towns. Residents spend 34% less on housing than the average American does. Apartment rents are about half the national average. Average home prices are 26% less. Healthcare is also a bargain. For example, a visit to the eye doctor costs about 50% less than the national average. An appointment with a physician is cheaper by a third.

11 of 12

Muskogee, Okla.

museum in Muskogee, OKmuseum in Muskogee, OK
  • Cost of living: 19.2% below U.S. average
  • City population: 37,624
  • Median household income: $38,194
  • Median home value: $92,300 
  • Unemployment rate: 6.3%

Muskogee packs a lot of history, culture and colleges into a small package.

Located about 50 miles south of Tulsa, the town traces its roots back to 1817. It’s home to four institutions of higher learning, as well as the Oklahoma School for the Blind. Jim Thorpe – All-American, the 1951 film starring Burt Lancaster, was shot on the campus of what was then known as the Bacone Indian University in Muskogee. The town also boasts six museums and the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame.

And let’s not forget what is arguably the town’s most famous appearance in popular culture – Merle Haggard’s hit song “Okie from Muskogee,” which became an emblem of Vietnam-era America. 

Today, the area’s employers include the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, a VA medical center and paper company Georgia-Pacific.

But what really puts Muskogee on the map is its ultra-low cost of living. The biggest break comes from housing-related expenses, which are more than 35% lower than the national average, according to C2ER’s Cost of Living Index. Transportation, groceries and healthcare are notably cheaper, too.

12 of 12

Pittsburg, Kan.

Russ Hall at Pittsburg State UniversityRuss Hall at Pittsburg State University
  • Cost of living: 19.4% below U.S. average
  • City population: 20,171
  • Median household income: $34,956
  • Median home value: $88,500 
  • Unemployment rate: 4.4%

The cheapest small town in America is Pittsburg, Kan., based on the 269 urban areas analyzed by C2ER’s Cost of Living Index.

Pittsburg is about a two-hour drive due south from Kansas City on Route 69. When you get there, you’ll find a small town with a cost of living more than 19% below the national average.

Once upon a time, the town was known for its abundance of coal and the Southern and Eastern European immigrants who worked the mines. Today, the area relies more heavily on higher education, thanks to the presence of Pittsburg State University. Famous alumni of Pittsburg’s local university include actor Gary Busey and Brian Moorman, retired two-time Pro Bowl punter for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills.

Although median incomes are almost $31,000 below the national average, median home prices are a whopping $152,000 cheaper. That helps make housing costs 37.2% less expensive than what the average American pays. A myriad of other items are cheap, as well. For example, a haircut will set you back an average of $14.82 vs. $18.88 nationally. Shampoo costs 89 cents, whereas the average American pays $1.05.

Source: kiplinger.com

Social Security Recipients Are Finally Getting Their Third Stimulus Check

Millions of seniors who didn’t file a 2019 or 2020 tax return have already started receiving their third stimulus checks. After receiving data from the Social Security Administration (SSA) in late March, the IRS was able to start processing third stimulus payments for approximately 30 million seniors. These people will generally get their stimulus payment in the same way they get their regular Social Security benefits. Since most of these payments will be paid electronically through direct deposits or to existing Direct Express debit cards, the funds have already been delivered to many of these seniors. For those still waiting, more payments will arrive this week and in the following weeks.

Third stimulus payments are generally based on information found on your 2019 or 2020 tax return. That’s why many people who receive Social Security benefits and filed a 2019 or 2020 return, or who used the IRS’s Non-Filers tool last year, received a third stimulus check in March. However, since some Social Security recipients don’t file tax returns, the IRS didn’t have the necessary information in its computer systems to process third-round stimulus payments for them. That’s why the tax agency needed data from the SSA to send out checks to seniors who haven’t file a recent tax return.

In addition to seniors receiving Social Security retirement benefits, payments are also being sent to people receiving Social Security disability (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) benefits who didn’t file a 2019 or 2020 tax return or didn’t use the Non-Filers tool. Veterans who receive benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs but didn’t file a recent tax return should start getting third-round stimulus payments soon, too.

Most Social Security, SSDI, SSI, and RRB beneficiaries who are eligible for a third stimulus check don’t need to take any action to receive a payment (not everyone is eligible). However, as with previous stimulus payments, some beneficiaries may need to file a 2020 tax return – even if they don’t usually file – to provide the IRS the information it needs to send an additional $1,400 for a spouse or any dependents. The deadline for filing a 2020 tax return has been pushed back from April 15 to May 17, 2021.

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Amount of Your Third Stimulus Check

Every eligible American will receive a $1,400 third stimulus check “base amount.” The base amount jumps to $2,800 for married couples filing a joint tax return. You also get an extra $1,400 for each dependent in your family (regardless of the dependent’s age).

Not everyone will receive the full amount, though. As with the first two stimulus payments, third-round stimulus checks will be reduced – potentially to zero – for people reporting an adjusted gross income (AGI) above a certain amount on their latest tax return. If you filed your most recent tax return as a single filer, your third stimulus check will be phased-out if your AGI is $75,000 or more. That threshold jumps to $112,500 for head-of-household filers, and to $150,000 for married couples filing a joint return. Third-round stimulus checks will be completely phased out for single filers with an AGI above $80,000, head-of-household filers with an AGI over $120,000, and joint filers with an AGI exceeding $160,000.

You can use our handy Third Stimulus Check Calculator to get a customized estimated payment amount. All you have to do is answer three easy questions.

How to Track the Status of Your Third Stimulus Check

The IRS’s “Get My Payment” tool lets you track your third stimulus check payment. The online portal lets you:

  • Check the status of your stimulus payment;
  • Confirm your payment type (paper check or direct deposit); and
  • Get a projected direct deposit or paper check delivery date (or find out if a payment hasn’t been scheduled).

Payments for Social Security recipients and other federal beneficiaries may have already been reported in the portal as “pending” or “provisional” payments. However, the official payment date (i.e., when funds are actually available) is today.

For more information about the tool, see Where’s My Stimulus Check? Use the IRS’s “Get My Payment” Tool to Get an Answer.

Source: kiplinger.com

Estimated Tax Payments Are Due This Week

Even though this year’s income tax return filing deadline was pushed back to May 17, the due date for 2021 first quarter estimated tax payments was not moved. That means the first estimate tax due date for the 2021 tax year is still April 15, which is this Thursday.

So, if you’re self-employed or don’t have taxes withheld from other sources of taxable income (such as interest, dividends, or capital gains), don’t forget to send in your first-quarter tax payment before midnight on April 15.

Use Form 1040-ES to calculate and pay your estimated taxes. The various payment methods are described in the instructions for the form. If you owe at least $1,000 in tax for the year, you could be hit with a penalty if you don’t pay enough estimated tax throughout the year.

Also, unless you live in a state with no income tax, you might owe state estimated taxes, too. Check with the state tax agency where you live for state estimate tax payment due dates.

For more information on 2021 estimated tax payments, see When Are 2021 Estimated Tax Payments Due?

Source: kiplinger.com

Stock Market Today: Nasdaq Climbs, Dow Slips After J&J Vaccine Stumble 

The “recovery trade” took a breather on Tuesday after a setback on the COVID vaccination front.

Both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged a pause in injections of Johnson & Johnson’s (JNJ, -1.3%) single-dose coronavirus vaccine so that the incidence of a blood clotting disorder in six Americans who have received the shot could be studied.

Also Tuesday, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that U.S. consumer prices jumped by 2.6% in March, up from 1.7% in February.

“This morning’s U.S. CPI data came in a touch above expectations but were no worse than feared,” says Michael Reinking, NYSE senior market strategist. “This, coupled with the potential to push out the vaccination process, has put a bid in Treasury markets.”

“That bid strengthened following a strong $24 billion 30-year auction at 1 p.m., with the auction pricing at 2.32% below the 2.338% when issued market. The 10-year yield is down 4.5 (basis points) to 1.63%.”

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This easing in yields, combined with virus concerns, helped boost technology and tech-adjacent stocks – Nvidia (NVDA, +3.1%), Apple (AAPL, +2.4%) and Tesla (TSLA, +8.6%) contributed to a 1.1% gain in the Nasdaq Composite, to 13,996 – as well as utility stocks (+1.2%), which led all sectors Tuesday.

The S&P 500 gained 0.3% to set a new record close at 4,141, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average finished slightly lower, off 0.2% to 33,677.

Other action in the stock market today:

  • The small-cap Russell 2000 slipped 0.2% to 2,228.
  • U.S. crude oil futures improved by 0.6%, settling at $59.70 per barrel.
  • Gold futures declined 0.9% to $1,747.60 per ounce.
  • The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) declined 1.5% to 16.65.
  • Bitcoin prices hit an all-time high of $63,707 ahead of the Coinbase direct listing Wednesday. Bitcoin cooled to $63,023 by the afternoon, but that still represented a 4.9% improvement on Monday’s price. (Bitcoin trades 24 hours a day; prices reported here are as of 4 p.m. each trading day.)
stock chart for 041321stock chart for 041321

Attack of the SPACs

One of Tuesday’s biggest market headlines centered on a company located 9,000 miles away – but it also continues a growing story here at home.

Grab Holdings, a multinational ride-hailing, food-delivery and payments-solutions technology firm based in Singapore, announced it would go public via a $39.6 billion deal that would see it merge with California-based special purpose acquisition company Altimeter Growth (AGC, +9.9%) – the largest such “SPAC” deal in history.

That extends what has been an explosive 2021 for SPACs – a method of bringing private companies public without them having to go directly through the initial public offering (IPO) process. After raising $13.6 billion in 2019, SPAC deals generated an incredible $73 billion in 2020 … only to be eclipsed in just the first three months of 2021, when nearly $88 billion was raised.

Investors need to exercise caution, as this newly red-hot corner of the market is garnering increasing scrutiny from regulators. But those looking for a potential growth booster should take a look at our new “SPAC list”: a regularly updated list of these acquisition-minded companies that are currently on the hunt for merger targets.

Kyle Woodley was long NVDA as of this writing.

Source: kiplinger.com

ETFs vs. Mutual Funds: Why Investors Who Hate Fees Should Love ETFs

While the mutual fund universe is much larger than that for exchange-traded funds, more and more investors are discovering that they can save huge amounts in both fees and taxes and put more money in their pocket by switching to ETFs.

An ETF is a collection of usually hundreds, or sometimes thousands, of stocks or bonds held in a single fund similar to a mutual fund.  But there are also a number of significant differences between the two.

When Comparing Fees ETFs Come Out Clear Winners

Numerous studies show that over the long term, managed mutual funds cannot beat an index fund, such as an ETF.

For example, according to the SPIVA scorecard, 75% of large cap funds “underperformed” the S&P 500 over five years through Dec. 31, 2020.  Almost 70% underperformed over three years, and 60% over one year.  And this is just the tip of the iceberg, with most other managed mutual funds — both domestic and international — underperforming their applicable index.

This is partly explained by the higher fees of managed mutual funds, which cut into the investor’s return. According to Morningstar, the average expense ratio for a managed mutual fund in 2019 was 0.66%. Compare this to a well-diversified portfolio of ETFs, which can be put together with an average blended fee of 0.09%, according to ETF.com. Try getting a fee that low with mutual funds.

What makes the gap in fees even greater are the invisible transaction costs for trading securities inside a mutual fund. Due to the difficulty in calculating these invisible trading costs, the SEC gives mutual fund companies a pass in disclosing them to the consumer.

But University of California finance professor Roger Edelen and his team gave us a pretty good idea when they analyzed 1,800 mutual funds to determine the average invisible trading costs.  According to their research, these costs averaged 1.44%.  Keep in mind this is “in addition” to the average mutual fund expense ratio of 0.66% mentioned above.

An ETF, on the other hand, is cloning an unmanaged index, which generally has very little trading going on, and therefore these hidden trading costs are little to nothing.

Between the expense ratio and the invisible trading costs of a managed mutual fund, the total average expense is easily over 2% for mutual funds, which is over 20 times more than the typical expense of an ETF.

Tax Savings Are Another Win for ETFs

ETFs can also save the consumer money by avoiding taxable capital gains distributions that are declared by the mutual fund even when the investor has not sold any of their mutual fund shares. Mutual funds are required by law to make capital gains distributions to shareholders. They represent the net gains from the sale of the stock or other investments throughout the year that go on inside the fund.

Keep in mind this capital gain distribution is not a share of the fund’s profit, and you can actually have a taxable capital gains distribution in a year that the mutual fund lost money.

ETFs, on the other hand, do not typically trigger this sort of taxable capital gain distribution.  The only time you have a taxable capital gain is when the investor actually sells his or her shares of the ETF for a profit.

They’re More Nimble Then Mutual Funds, Too

An ETF trades in real time, which means you get the price at the time the trade is placed.  This can be a real advantage for an investor who wants to have better control over their price. However, with a mutual fund no matter what time of the day you place the trade you get the price when the market closes.

A Sticking Point to Consider: The Bid and Ask Elements of ETFs

While ETFs have many attractive advantages, a potential problem to look out for has to do with their bid-ask price structure. The “ask” is the price the investor pays for the ETF and the “bid,” which is normally lower than the asking price, is the price the investor can sell the ETF for. 

Highly traded ETFs have a very narrow spread between the bid and ask price, often as little as a single penny. But a thinly traded ETF can have a much larger spread, which under the wrong circumstances could cause the investor to sell the ETF for as much as 4% or 5% less than they paid for it.

Mutual funds on the other hand, set their prices at the close of the market and investors pay the same price to buy and sell, so this risk is eliminated.

Another Point to Ponder: Premium or Discount

ETFs can trade at a premium or discount to its net asset value, or NAV.  Simply stated, this occurs when it trades at what is usually a slightly higher price or a slightly lower price than the value of the ETF’s underlying holdings.

While most ETFs exhibit very small discounts and premiums, some, especially those that are more thinly traded, can stray further away from the true value of the underlying holdings.  For example, if an investor bought an ETF that was trading at a premium well above its NAV, he or she could be subject to a potential loss if the price of the ETF moved closer to its NAV price and the investor needed to sell.

You never have to deal with this issue on a mutual fund because the shares are always priced at the NAV.

The Bottom Line

In spite of these potential disadvantages, for the cost-conscious investor who plans on holding his investments for a while, ETFs may be one way to reduce their fees, allow for more nimble trading and reduce their taxes compared with their mutual fund cousins.

President, Piershale Financial Group

Mike Piershale, ChFC, is president of Piershale Financial Group in Barrington, Illinois. He works directly with clients on retirement and estate planning, portfolio management and insurance needs.

Source: kiplinger.com

11 Surprising Things That Are Taxable

If you work for a living, you know that your wages are taxable, and you’re probably aware that some investment income is taxed, too. But, unfortunately, the IRS doesn’t stop there.

If you’ve picked up some extra cash through luck, skill or even criminal activities, there’s a good chance you owe taxes on that money as well. To avoid being caught off guard when it’s time to file your return, take a look at our list of 11 surprising things that are actually taxable. If you collected any of the income or property on the list, make sure you declare it on your next tax return!

1 of 11

Scholarships

graduation cap on moneygraduation cap on money

If you receive a scholarship to cover tuition, fees and books, you don’t have to pay taxes on the money. But if your scholarship also covers room and board, travel and other expenses, that portion of the award is taxable.

Students who receive financial aid in exchange for work, such as serving as a teaching or research assistant, must also pay tax on that money, even if they use the proceeds to pay tuition.

2 of 11

Gambling Winnings

people playing crapspeople playing craps

What happens in Vegas doesn’t necessarily stay in Vegas. Gambling income includes (but isn’t limited to) winnings from lotteries, horse races, casinos and sports betting (including fantasy sports). The payer is required to issue you a Form W2-G (which will also be reported to the IRS) if you win $1,200 or more from bingo or slot machines, $1,500 or more from keno, more than $5,000 from a poker tournament, or $600 or more from other wagers if your take is more than 300 times the amount of your bet. But even if you don’t receive a W2-G, the IRS expects you to report your gambling proceeds on your tax return.

The good news: If you itemize, your gambling losses are deductible, but only to the extent of the winnings you report as income. For example, if you won $4,000 last year and had $5,000 in losing bets, your deduction for the losses is limited to $4,000. You can’t deduct the balance against other income or carry it forward.

Your state may want a piece of the action, too. Your home state will generally tax all your income (if it has an income tax)—including gambling winnings. But also watch out for a tax bill if you place a winning bet in another state. You won’t be taxed twice, though. The state where you live should give you a tax credit for the taxes you pay to the other state. Also, check to see if your state allows a deduction for gambling losses.

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Unemployment Benefits

picture of man who was just firedpicture of man who was just fired

Millions of Americans have received unemployment compensation during the pandemic — many for the first time. Uncle Sam has also paid additional unemployment benefits of either $300 or $600 per week during much of the crisis. While these benefits provide an important lifeline during tough times, they could also produce an unexpected tax bill.

Unemployment benefits are a form of income, and that income is generally taxable at the federal level (although up to $10,200 of unemployment compensation received in 2020 is exempt for people with an adjusted gross income below $150,000). In some cases, state taxes are due on unemployment benefits, too. (State treatment varies, so check out our State-by-State Guide to Taxes on Unemployment Benefits to see what your state does.) According to the IRS, unemployment compensation, for the most part, includes any amounts received under federal or state unemployment compensation laws, including state unemployment insurance benefits and benefits paid to you by a state or the District of Columbia from the Federal Unemployment Trust Fund.

You have the option to have as much as 10% of your weekly benefits withheld for federal taxes. Taxpayers will receive a Form 1099-G from the IRS, which shows the amount received and the amount of any federal income tax removed from your benefits. Taxes may be withheld from unemployment benefits at the request of the benefits claimant by using Form W-4V, while others who choose not to have their taxes withheld may need to make estimated tax payments during the year.

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Cancelled Debt

picture of the word debt being erasedpicture of the word debt being erased

Don’t get too excited if a credit card company says you don’t have to pay off the rest of your balance. That’s because debt that is cancelled or otherwise discharged for less than the amount you owe is generally treated as taxable income. This applies to credit card bills, car loans, mortgages, or any other debt that you owe. So, for example, if your bank says you don’t have to pay $2,000 of the $6,000 you still owe on a car loan, you have $2,000 of cancellation of debt income that you must report on your next tax return.

There are some exceptions to the general rule, such as for student loans, debts discharged in bankruptcy, qualified farm indebtedness and a few other types of debt. Also, in the case of “nonrecourse” debt—i.e., where the lender can repossess any collateral property if you fail to pay, but you’re not personally liable for the unpaid debt—any cancelled debt is not considered taxable income (although you might realize gain or loss from the repossession).

If you do have a debt forgiven, the creditor may send you a Form 1099-C showing the amount of cancelled debt. The IRS will get a copy of the form, too—so don’t think Uncle Sam won’t know about it.

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Stolen Property

picture of robber holding gun and moneypicture of robber holding gun and money

If you robbed a bank, embezzled money or staged an art heist last year, the IRS expects you to pay taxes on the proceeds. “Income from illegal activities, such as money from dealing illegal drugs, must be included in your income,” the IRS says. Bribes are also taxable.

In reality, few criminals report their ill-gotten gains on their tax returns. But if you’re caught, the feds can add tax evasion to the list of charges against you. That’s what happened to notorious gangster Al Capone, who served 11 years for tax evasion. Capone never filed a tax return, the IRS says.

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Buried Treasure

picture of treasure chestpicture of treasure chest

In September 2020, a man found a 9-carat diamond in the Crater of Diamonds State Park in Pike County, Arkansas. It was the second-largest diamond ever found in the park and could be worth more than $1 million.

But be aware that if you find a diamond in the rough, unearth a cache of gold coins in your backyard or discover sunken treasure while deep-sea diving, the IRS wants a piece of your booty. Found property is taxable at its fair market value in the first year it’s your undisputed possession, the IRS says.

The precedent for the IRS’s “treasure trove” rule dates back to 1964, when a couple discovered $4,467 in a used piano they had purchased for $15. The IRS said the couple owed income taxes on the money, and a U.S. District Court agreed.

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Gifts from Your Employer

picture of gold club with gift bow on itpicture of gold club with gift bow on it

Ordinarily, gifts aren’t taxable, even if they’re worth a lot of money. But if your employer gives you a new set of golf clubs to recognize a job well done (or to persuade you to reject a job offer from a competitor), you’ll probably owe taxes on the value of your new irons.

More than 50 years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that a gift from an employer can be excluded from the employee’s income if it was made out of “detached and disinterested generosity.” Gifts that reward an employee for his or her services don’t meet that standard, the court said. Gifts that help promote the company don’t meet that standard, either.

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Bitcoin

picture of bitcoin logopicture of bitcoin logo

While you can use bitcoin to purchase a variety of goods and services, the IRS considers bitcoin—along with other cryptocurrencies—to be an asset. If the bitcoin you used to make a purchase is worth more than you paid for it, you’re expected to pay taxes on your profits at capital gains rates—just like stocks and bonds.

Also be warned that, as the use of cryptocurrency increases, the IRS is starting to pay more attention to it. For instance, since 2019, the tax agency has been sending letters to people who may not have reported transactions in virtual currencies. Plus, the 2020 Form 1040 includes a line asking taxpayers if they received, sold, sent, exchanged or otherwise acquired any financial interest in any virtual currency during the tax year.

If your employer pays you in bitcoin or some other virtual currency, it must be reported on your W-2 form, and you must include the fair market value of the currency in your income. It’s also subject to federal income tax withholding and payroll taxes.

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Bartering

picture of people trading an apple for a cupcakepicture of people trading an apple for a cupcake

When you exchange property or services in lieu of cash, the fair market value of the goods and services are fully taxable and must be included as income on Form 1040 for both parties. But an informal exchange of similar services on a noncommercial basis, such as carpooling, is not taxable.

If you exchanged property or services through a barter exchange, you should expect to receive a Form 1099-B (or a similar statement) in the mail. It will show the value of cash, property, services, credits or scrip you received from bartering.

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Payment for Donated Eggs

picture of a petry dishpicture of a petry dish

Every year, thousands of young, healthy women donate their eggs to infertile couples. Payments for this service generally range from $6,500 to $30,000, according to Egg Donation, Inc., a company that matches donors with couples. Those payments are taxable income, according to the U.S. Tax Court. Fertility clinics typically send donors and the IRS a Form 1099 documenting the payment.

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The Nobel Prize

picture of Nobel Prizepicture of Nobel Prize

If you were selected for this prestigious honor—worth more than $980,000 in 2020—you must pay taxes on it.

Other awards that recognize your accomplishments, such as the Pulitzer Prize for journalists, are also taxable. The only way to avoid a tax hit is to direct the money to a tax-exempt charity before receiving it. That’s what President Obama did when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009. If you accept the money and then give it to charity, you probably will have to pay taxes on some of it because the IRS ordinarily limits charitable deductions to 60% of your adjusted gross income (for the 2020 tax year, under a provision in the CARES Act, you can deduct donations of up to 100% of your AGI to charity).

Source: kiplinger.com

Gen I: What Investing’s New Class Looks Like

COVID-19 sparked a lot of change in the world in 2020. In fact, the effects of the global pandemic are still being felt in the workplace, the travel industry and the entertainment sector, among many other places.

That includes the stock market. COVID-19 might have triggered a mass exodus from stocks in February and March, but that dip (as well as a flood of stimulus checks) opened the floodgates to a rush of new investors. In fact, according to a new survey conducted by Charles Schwab, 15% of U.S. investors got their start in 2020 – a group it calls “Generation Investor,” or Gen I.

“We’ve seen tremendous growth and engagement among individual investors over the past year as a result of lower trading costs, new products and services aimed at greater ease and accessibility, and the investing opportunities presented by market volatility,” says Jonathan Craig, senior executive vice president and head of Investor Services at Charles Schwab.

Gen I: This Generation Spans Generations

The popularity of the Robinhood app drew attention to the hot stock-seeking trading tactics of Generation Z – those born in the mid-to-late 1990s through the early 2010s. However, Schwab’s data shines the spotlight not on any specific age group, but on a multi-generational group of people defined by when they started investing.

More than half of Gen I is millennial (born 1981-1996), 22% comes from Generation X (born 1965-1980), 16% is clustered under the “Generation Z” umbrella and 11% hails from the baby boomer generation (born 1946-1964). The median age of Gen I is 35, 13 years younger than the median age of those who began investing before 2020.

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In terms of gender, the vast majority of Generation Investor is male – a similar trend seen in pre-2020 investors – though female investors are a larger component of this new investor set. According to Charles Schwab, 40% of Gen I is female, compared to 35% of women who already had a stake in the stock market prior to the pandemic. 

Additionally, Gen I earns nearly $20,000 less on an annual basis than pre-2020 investors ($76,000 vs. $94,000). This isn’t too surprising given that 62% of people within this group were financially impacted by the pandemic, compared to 52% of those who had investments prior to 2020.

But, as Schwab points out, Gen I isn’t letting that stop them. According to the survey:

  • 43% of Gen I plans on investing more in 2021, versus 20% of pre-2020 investors
  • 72% of Gen I is optimistic about the U.S. stock market this year, compared to just 63% of pre-2020 investors
  • 57% of Gen I thinks the stock market is going to go up in 2021, while 44% of pre-2020 investors project additional upside for stocks this year
  • 30% of Gen I expects to actively manage their portfolios in 2021, versus 19% of pre-2020 investors

Generation I Wants to Learn, Grow

When asked about their main goals in investing, many in Gen I said they wanted to build an emergency fund and gain an additional source of income. Saving for retirement and purchasing a home were also important factors.

Eighty-two percent of respondents say they are confident they will reach their financial goals.

As far as the biggest surprise they learned during their first year in the market, 36% of respondents said it was discovering that investing was more about the longer-term gains versus the shorter term wins in stocks. Coming in at a close second for Gen I was discovering just how much time it takes to research what they were going to invest in and why. Some other important lessons were on diversification, capital gains taxes and risk tolerance.  

But there’s still a lot for these new investors to learn. Despite all the information they digested over the last year, more than half of respondents say they are uninformed on investing fees and the tax-efficiency of their portfolios.

Going forward, Gen I is looking for a toolkit. According to Charles Schwab, 94% of respondents want tools to do their own research, with 82% interested in access to an investment professional to provide ongoing support and guidance.

“While it’s exciting to see this new generation of investors, the industry now has a call to action – to give this group the tools and services they need to be successful over time,” Craig says.

Source: kiplinger.com

How Retired Singles Can Safely Travel While Saving Money

Travel is one of the great luxuries of retirement, and the pandemic has been “a real wakeup call” for single tourists, says Janice Waugh, founder of Solo Traveler. The website, which is aimed at single travelers, found that those over 65 are especially eager to make travel a priority once the pandemic is over.

But post-pandemic, single travelers are looking to take charge. “In previous years, if a friend wanted to go someplace they might just go along, but now they’re saying, ‘I’m going to go where I want to go, even if it means traveling solo,’” Waugh says. 

What will become increasingly popular, she predicts, are so-called hub-and-spoke tours, where the tour group stays in one hotel for the duration and individuals take day trips to nearby places. From a health safety standpoint, people will feel more comfortable after the pandemic sleeping in one place rather than hopping from one hotel or inn to another, Waugh says. These kinds of tours are also especially good for lone travelers who may want to explore on their own during the day but dine out with people in the evening.

Of course, solo travel comes with an extra cost: Premium hotels or cruises charge for a single room.

Although single supplements will continue, whenever the travel industry has had to recover from a rough economic time, such as after the Great Recession or now, it tends to woo the solitary traveler, Waugh says. Often, that has meant waiving single supplements.

If you don’t want to pay the supplement, don’t be shy. Ask a hotel or cruise if it will waive the extra charge, or Google “no single supplement” to find hotels or cruises that don’t charge the additional fee. You may also want to sign up for alerts from websites that cater to those traveling on their own. One way of avoiding the supplement—rooming with someone else on the tour—probably won’t be available for a while because of health concerns, Waugh says.

Source: kiplinger.com

5 Expenses Homeowners Pay That Renters Don’t

Thinking about buying? Be sure to include these five items in your calculations.

Homeownership may be a goal for some, but it’s not the right fit for many.

Renters account for 37 percent of all households in America — or just over 43.7 million homes, up more than 6.9 million since 2005. Even still, more than half of millennial and Gen Z renters consider buying, with 18 percent seriously considering it.

Both lifestyles afford their fair share of pros and cons. So before you meet with a real estate agent, consider these five costs homeowners pay that renters don’t — they could make you reconsider buying altogether.

1. Property taxes

As long as you own a home, you’ll pay property taxes. The typical U.S. homeowner pays $2,110 per year in property taxes, meaning they’re a significant — and ongoing — chunk of your budget.

Factor this expense into the equation from the get-go to avoid surprises down the road. The property tax rates vary among states, so try a mortgage calculator to estimate costs in your area.

2. Homeowners insurance

Homeowners insurance protects you against losses and damage to your home caused by perils such as fires, storms or burglary. It also covers legal costs if someone is injured in your home or on your property.

Homeowners insurance is almost always required in order to get a home loan. It costs an average of $35 per month for every $100,000 of your home’s value.

If you intend to purchase a condo, you’ll need a condo insurance policy — separate from traditional homeowner’s insurance — which costs an average of $100 to $400 a year.

3. Maintenance and repairs

Don’t forget about those small repairs that you won’t be calling your landlord about anymore. Notice a tear in your window screen? Can’t get your toilet to stop running? What about those burned out light bulbs in your hallway? You get the idea.

Maintenance costs can add an additional $3,021 to the typical U.S. homeowner’s annual bill. Of course, this amount increases as your home ages.

And don’t forget about repairs. Conventional water heaters last about a decade, with a new one costing you between $500 to $1,500 on average. Air conditioning units don’t typically last much longer than 15 years, and an asphalt shingle roof won’t serve you too well after 20 years.

4. HOA fees

Sure, that monthly mortgage payment seems affordable, but don’t forget to take homeowners association (HOA) fees into account.

On average, HOA fees cost anywhere from $200 to $400 per month. They usually fund perks like your fitness center, neighborhood landscaping, community pool and other common areas.

Such amenities are usually covered as a renter, but when you own your home, you’re paying for these luxuries on top of your mortgage payment.

5. Utilities

When you’re renting, it’s common for your apartment or landlord to cover some costs. When you own your home, you’re in charge of covering it all — water, electric, gas, internet and cable.

While many factors determine how much you’ll pay for utilities — like the size of your home and the climate you live in — the typical U.S. homeowner pays $2,953 in utility costs every year.

Ultimately, renting might be more cost-effective in the end, depending on your lifestyle, location and financial situation. As long as you crunch the numbers and factor in these costs, you’ll make the right choice for your needs.

Related:

Originally published August 18, 2015. Statistics updated July 2018.

Source: zillow.com

7 Super Small-Cap Growth Stocks to Buy

Stocks with smaller market values are outperforming by a wide margin so far this year, and strategists and analysts alike say small caps should continue to lead the way as the economic recovery gains steam.

“The U.S. economy is currently trending toward high-single digit GDP growth in 2021 as COVID-19 vaccine distribution expands and we gradually emerge from the pandemic,” says Lule Demmissie, president of Ally Invest. “That environment favors small-cap names, which tend to have a more domestic focus than larger multinational firms.”

Small caps tend to outperform in the early parts of the economic cycle, so it should come as no surprise that they are clobbering stocks with larger market values these days.

Indeed, the small-cap benchmark Russell 2000 index is up 13.6% for the year-to-date through April 8, while the blue chip Dow Jones Industrial Average added just 9.5% over the same span.

Keep in mind that small-cap stocks come with heightened volatility and risk. It’s also important to note that it can be dangerous to chase performance. But small-cap growth stocks – particularly in this environment – can offer potentially much greater rewards. 

Given the increased interest in these securities, we decided to find some of analysts’ favorite small caps to buy. To do so, we screened the Russell 2000 for small caps with outsized growth prospects and analysts’ highest consensus recommendations, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Here’s how the recommendation system works: S&P Global Market Intelligence surveys analysts’ stock recommendations and scores them on a five-point scale, where 1.0 equals a Strong Buy and 5.0 is a Strong Sell. Any score below 2.5 means that analysts, on average, rate the stock as being Buy-worthy. The closer a score gets to 1.0, the stronger the Buy recommendation.

We also limited ourselves to names with projected long-term growth (LTG) rates of at least 20%. That means analysts, on average, expect these companies to generate compound annual earnings per share (EPS) growth of 20% or more for the next three to five years. 

And lastly, we dug into research, fundamental factors and analysts’ estimates on the most promising small caps. 

That led us to this list of the 7 best small-cap growth stocks to buy now, by virtue of their high analyst ratings and bullish outlooks. Read on as we analyze what makes each one stand out.

Share prices are as of April 8. Companies are listed by strength of analysts’ consensus recommendation, from lowest to highest. Data courtesy of S&P Global Market Intelligence, unless otherwise noted.

1 of 7

Q2 Holdings

Digital banking technologyDigital banking technology
  • Market value: $5.7 billion
  • Long-term growth rate: 150.0%
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.68 (Buy)

Q2 Holdings (QTWO, $103.06) provides cloud-based virtual banking services to regional and community financial institutions. The idea is to make it so that smaller firms – which are sometimes small caps themselves – can give account holders the same kind of top-flight online tools, services and experiences as the industry’s big boys.

To that end, Q2 recently announced the acquisition of ClickSWITCH, which focuses on customer acquisition and retention by making the process of switching digital accounts easier. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. 

Q2’s business model and execution has Wall Street drooling over the small cap’s growth prospects. Indeed, analysts expect the software company to generate compound annual earnings per share growth of 150% over the next three to five years, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence. 

“In the last year, the pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation efforts and investments of the financial services industry, and we believe Q2 Holdings is well positioned to support and grow its customer base,” writes Stifel equity research analyst Tom Roderick, who rates the stock at Buy. 

Of the 19 analysts covering Q2 tracked by S&P Global Market Intelligence, 10 call it a Strong Buy, five say Buy and four rate it at Hold. Their average target price of $152.25 gives QTWO implied upside of almost 50% over the next 12 months or so. Such high expected returns make it easy to understand why the Street sees QTWO as one of the best small-cap growth stocks.

2 of 7

BellRing Brands

A man drinking a protein shakeA man drinking a protein shake
  • Market value: $962.8 million
  • Long-term growth rate: 21.6%
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.60 (Buy)

BellRing Brands (BRBR, $24.37), which sells protein shakes and other nutritional beverages, powders and supplements, is forecast to generate unusually healthy EPS growth over the next few years. 

Stifel equity research, which specializes in small caps, says BellRing offers a “compelling growth opportunity” thanks to its positioning in the large and fast-growing category known as “convenient nutrition.”

U.S. consumers are increasingly turning toward high-protein, low-carbohydrate foods and beverages for snacks and meal replacement, Stifel notes, and BellRing Brands, spun off from Post Holdings (POST) in late 2019, is in prime position to thrive from those changing consumer tastes. 

After all, the company’s portfolio includes such well-known brands as Premier Protein shakes and PowerBar nutrition bars. 

In another point favoring the bulls, BellRing’s “asset-light business model requires limited capital expenditures and generates very strong free cash flow,” notes Stifel analyst Christopher Growe, who rates the stock at Buy.

Most of the Street also puts BRBR in the small-caps-to-buy camp. Of the 15 analysts covering BRBR, eight call it a Strong Buy, five say Buy and two have it at Hold. Their average price target of $28.33 gives the stock implied upside of about 16% over the next year or so. 

With shares trading at just a bit more than 25 times estimated earnings for 2022, BRBR appears to offer a compelling valuation.

3 of 7

Rackspace Technology

Cloud technologyCloud technology
  • Market value: $5.3 billion
  • Long-term growth rate: 21.8%
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.50 (Strong Buy)

Rackspace Technology (RXT, $25.61) partners with cloud services providers such as Google parent Alphabet (GOOGL), Amazon.com (AMZN) and Microsoft (MSFT) to manage its enterprise customers’ cloud-based services. 

And make no mistake, this sort of expertise is much in demand.

The pandemic accelerated many industries’ migration to cloud technology. As such, plenty of firms have discovered they need all the help they can get when it comes to transitioning and managing their operations – often with more than one cloud service provider.

“The prevalence of a multicloud approach has created integration and operational complexity that require expertise and resources most companies lack,”  writes William Blair analyst Jim Breen, who rates RXT at Outperform (the equivalent of Buy). “This creates an opportunity for a multicloud services partner to enable businesses to fully realize the benefits of cloud transformation.”

Breen adds that research firm IDC forecasts the managed cloud services market to grow 15% a year to more than $100 billion by 2024.

As the leading company in the field of multicloud services, bulls argue that Rackspace stands to benefit disproportionately from all this burgeoning demand. 

Speaking of bulls, of the 10 analysts covering the stock tracked by S&P Global Market Intelligence, five rate RXT at Strong Buy and five call it a Buy. The bottom line is that Rackspace easily makes the Street’s list of small-cap growth stocks to buy.

4 of 7

Chart Industries

Cryogenic technologyCryogenic technology
  • Market value: $5.3 billion
  • Long-term growth rate: 34.2%
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.50 (Strong Buy)

Shares in Chart Industries (GTLS, $146.76), which manufactures cryogenic equipment for industrial gasses such as liquefied natural gas (LNG), are riding the global secular trend toward sustainable energy.

The market certainly likes GTLS’ commitment to greener energy. The small-cap stock is up more than 410% over the past 52 weeks – analysts expect a torrid pace of profit growth over the next few years to keep the gains coming. Indeed, the Street forecasts compound annual EPS growth of more than 34% over the next three to five years.

Analysts say the company’s unique portfolio of technologies gives it an edge in a growing industry. To that end, they applauded its $20 million acquisition of Sustainable Energy Solutions in December because it bolsters the company’s carbon capture capabilities.

“In the context of the decarbonization megatrend, Chart is a one-of-a-kind play on the global shift to more gas-centric economies,” writes Raymond James analyst Pavel Molchanov in a note to clients. “There is upside potential from large liquefied natural gas projects. Notwithstanding the lingering headwinds from the North American energy sector, we reiterate our Outperform [Buy] rating.”

Stifel, which chimes in with a Buy rating, says GTLS deserves a premium valuation given its outsized growth prospects. 

“With potentially a decade or more of high single-digit to low double-digit revenue growth, more recurring revenue, accelerating hydrogen opportunities, and the potential big LNG surprise bounces, we expect shares could trade north of 30 times normalized earnings,” writes analyst Benjamin Nolan.

The stock currently trades at nearly 30 times estimated earnings for 2022, per S&P Global Market Intelligence. Small caps to buy often sport lofty valuations, but with a projected long-term growth rate of more than 34%, one could argue GTLS is actually a bargain.

Raymond James and Stifel are very much in the majority on the Street, where 12 analysts rate GTLS at Strong Buy, four say Buy, one has it at Hold and one says Sell.

5 of 7

NeoGenomics

Lab equipmentLab equipment
  • Market value: $5.5 billion
  • Long-term growth rate: 43.0%
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.33 (Strong Buy)

NeoGenomics (NEO, $47.87), an oncology testing and research laboratory, is still coming out from under the pressure of the pandemic, which led to the cancellation of legions of procedures.

But there’s been quite a lot of activity at the company, nevertheless, and analysts still see it as one of the better small-cap growth stocks to buy.

In February, the company said longtime Chairman and CEO Doug VanOort would step aside to become executive chairman in April. He was succeeded by Mark Mallon, former CEO of Ironwood Pharmaceuticals (IRWD). The following month, NeoGenomics announced a $65 million cash-and-stock deal for Trapelo Health, an IT firm focused on precision oncology. 

All the while, shares have been lagging in 2021, falling more than 11% for the year-to-date vs. a gain of 13.5% for the small-cap benchmark Russell 2000.

Although COVID-19 has been squeezing clinical volumes – and bad winter weather is always a concern – analysts by and large remain fans of this small cap’s industry position. 

“We continue to find the company’s leading market share in clinical oncology testing and expanding presence in pharma services for oncology-based clients to be a very attractive combination,” writes William Blair equity analyst Brian Weinstein, who rates NEO at Outperform. 

Of the 12 analysts covering NEO tracked by S&P Global Market Intelligence, nine call it a Strong Buy, two say Buy and one says Hold. With an average target price of $63.20, analysts give NEO implied upside of about 32% in the next year or so. That’s good enough to make almost any list of small caps to buy.

6 of 7

Lovesac

A Lovesac storeA Lovesac store
  • Market value: $917.3 million
  • Long-term growth rate: 32.5%
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.14 (Strong Buy)

The Lovesac Co. (LOVE, $62.47) is a niche consumer discretionary company that designs “foam-filled furniture,” which mostly includes bean bag chairs. 

Although it operates about 90 showrooms at malls around the country, revenue – thankfully – is largely driven by online sales. That’s led to a boom in business as folks, stuck at home, shop online for ways to spruce up their living spaces.

Shares have followed, rising about 45% for the year-to-date and more than 1,000% over the past 52 weeks. And analysts expect even more upside ahead, driven by a long-term growth rate forecast of 32.5% for the next three to five years, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. 

Stifel, which says LOVE is among its small caps to Buy, expects the consumer shift to buying furnishing online to persist, and even accelerate, once the pandemic subsides.

“Lovesac is well positioned for continued share gains in the furniture category with its strong product, omni-channel capabilities and enhancements to the platform, many of which were initiated during the pandemic,” writes Stifel’s Lamont Williams in a note to clients.

The analyst adds that LOVE has a long ramp-up opportunity thanks to a new generation of home buyers.

“As the housing market remains healthy there is the opportunity to capture new buyers as more middle- to upper-income millennials become homeowners and increase spending on [the company’s] category,” Williams writes. 

Of the seven analysts covering the stock tracked by S&P Global Market Intelligence, six rate it at Strong Buy and one says Buy. That’s a small sample size, but the bull case for LOVE as one of the better small-cap growth stocks to buy still stands.

7 of 7

AdaptHealth

An elderly person using a walker during home rehabAn elderly person using a walker during home rehab
  • Market value: $4.3 billion
  • Long-term growth rate: 43.0%
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.11 (Strong Buy)

AdaptHealth (AHCO, $37.61) comes in at No. 1 on our list of small caps to buy thanks to their outsized growth prospects. The bull case rests partly on demographics and the aging of baby boomers. 

AdaptHealth provides home healthcare equipment and medical supplies. Most notably, it provides sleep therapy equipment such as CPAP machines for sleep apnea – a condition that tends to increase with age and weight.

With the majority of the boomer cohort of roughly 70 million Americans hitting their 60s and 70s, home medical equipment for sleep apnea and other conditions is increasingly in demand.

Mergers and acquisitions are also a part of the company’s growth story, notes UBS Global Research, which rates AHCO at Buy. Most recently, in February, the company closed a $2 billion cash-and-stock deal for AeroCare, a respiratory and home medical equipment distributor. 

“AdaptHealth exits 2020 with material themes of accelerating growth,” writes UBS analyst Whit Mayo. “In each quarter of 2022, we assume that AHCO acquires $35 million in annual revenues, closing these deals at the middle of the quarter. This drives estimated acquired revs from yet to be announced deals of $70 million.”

Small caps have been rallying in 2021, but not AHCO, which is essentially flat for the year-to-date. Happily, the Street expects that to change sooner rather than later. With an average target price of $47.22, analysts give the stock implied upside of about 25% over the next 12 months or so.

Of the nine analysts covering AHCO tracked by S&P Global Market Intelligence, eight rate it at Strong Buy and one says Buy. As noted above, they expect the company to generate compound annual EPS growth of 43% over the next three to five years.

Source: kiplinger.com