The good news on gossip

September 5, 2021

Here are three of the week's top pieces of financial insight, gathered from around the web:

Robinhood's not-so-free shares

Robinhood could pay a big price for its practice of giving new customers a free share of stock, said Paul Kiernan at The Wall Street Journal. "Brokerages like Robinhood are required to deliver proxy materials to a public company's shareholders ahead of annual meetings" — at the company's expense. Florida-based Catalyst Pharmaceuticals paid $234,000 in delivery fees last year, up from $12,500 in 2019, after its number of stockholders surged 10-fold. "Most of the new investors held tiny stakes through Robinhood." Catalyst and other firms have complained to the Securities and Exchange Commission, which recently approved a rule change from the New York Stock Exchange that bars brokers from seeking reimbursement for delivery costs. Robinhood isn't listed on the NYSE, but the Financial Industry Regulation Authority, which oversees brokerages, is likely to issue a similar rule.

The good news on gossip

Don't feel guilty about engaging in office gossip, said Bryan Lufkin at BBC. "As long as it's not malicious, it can serve practical, positive purposes." A 2019 study found that workers gossip an average of 52 minutes a day. Most of the conversations "weren't positive or negative, but neutral." This chatter can help people make sense of their environment, says management expert Shannon Taylor, and check if they're "perceiving the world in the same way as other colleagues and co-workers." Talking about a strong-arming boss or a lazy team can warn people about "dangerous others," says psychologist Elena Martinescu, and bring colleagues closer as they "realize they have shared values and experiences." Overall, Martinescu says, "gossip is a good thing."

More firms add Roth option

"Roth accounts are available in more 401(k) plans than ever," said Greg Iacurci at CNBC​. About 75 percent of employers with a workplace 401(k) now allow employees to save money in a Roth account, up from 46 percent a decade ago. Savers pay tax upfront on a Roth account, not when they withdraw funds in retirement, and so it makes sense for young people "who are likely in a lower tax bracket now than when they retire." But only about a quarter of 401(k) investors are saving in a Roth account, "a share that hasn't budged much in recent years." One reason is that many companies set pre-tax 401(k) plans as the default option, "meaning employees would have to proactively switch their allocation."

This article was first published in the latest issue of The Week magazine. If you want to read more like it, you can try six risk-free issues of the magazine here.