Monthly Archives: March 2012

Bill may allow discharge of student loans in bankruptcy

Graduation Cap

Student loans are a unique type of debt because they are at least partially federally owned and cannot be discharged by bankruptcy. A bill in subcommittee hearings, however, would allow bankruptcy to clear student loans.
The current status of student loans
There are two types of student loans: subsidized and unsubsidized. Subsidized loans are government-supported, while unsubsidized loans are basically a differently structured personal loan. Both types of loans cannot be canceled out by bankruptcy. In 2010, 29 of the 72,000 student loan borrowers that filed for bankruptcy were able to prove enough of a hardship to have student loans discharged. Student [...]

Rising gas costs a sign of economic recovery?

Gas prices

Some industry analysts are saying that the rising cost of gasoline is driven, at least in part, by higher demand as the U.S. recovers from the economic downturn. Others say the economy is suffering because of inflated fuel prices.
Indications of economic recovery
A variety of recent reports give strong indications of continued recovery in the U.S. economy. In February, the unemployment rate dropped to to its lowest point since 2008. That same month saw a 1.1 percent rise in retail sales. As the economy gets stronger and spending picks up, that demand helps spur the rising cost of fuel.
Carl A. Larry, [...]

Talking with kids about drugs easier than talking about money

Kids and Money

A new survey released by T. Rowe Price has revealed that most parents have a very tough time talking with their children about money. The survey is only of 1,008 parents and 837 kids, but the answers are revealing.
Parents insecure about children’s finances
For parents, talking to kids about money and finances is difficult. Most parents are also not very confident about the financial security their children; only 26 percent of the surveyed parents think that Social Security or other social programs will be present when their children retire. Most parents are also very uncertain about talking to their kids about [...]

Everyday charitable donations for your taxes

A mosaic lithograph depicting a Bible-era example of charity toward the poor.

Giving gifts to charity is a great way to assist those in need and give yourself a nice break in the form of tax deductions. There are many everyday ways to make your charitable donations count, from goods to cash. Here are a few ideas you can use for next year’s tax return.
Sponsor yourself or a friend in a charity event
Each year, there are countless runs, walks and rides that benefit charities. By sponsoring a participant, whether it is yourself, a friend or a complete stranger, you can show support for a worthy cause and give yourself another tax deduction. [...]

Four new ways to try sticking to your budget

Envelope Budget

Budgeting and money management is as much an art as a science. Everyone has a different method that works for them, and finding the method that works for you is an important step in taking control of your financial future.
The envelope method
Using the envelope method of budgeting, take cash out of your paycheck or income that matches the amount you have budgeted for each expense. Put exactly that amount in an envelope marked with that budget category, and when you need to pay a bill or spend money, pull it out of the appropriate envelope.

Benefits: Simple, easy-to-understand, and visual.
Drawbacks: Operating [...]

Spotlight on celebrity tax deadbeats

Nicholas Cage

Tax season is approaching with all its usual fanfare, grumbling and deadbeats. Many of those tax-dodgers will no doubt say the economy is to blame for their tax shortcomings. But what about the celebrities listed below? Surely they can afford to pay up. The red carpet is filling up with celebrity tax-cheats. Paparazzi take notice as we spotlight five.
Nicholas Cage
The Academy Award-winning star of “Leaving Las Vegas” has been in hot water with the IRS since 2002. Nicholas Cage blames his former manager Samuel Levine, whom he sued for $20 million for investments that, in Cage’s words, sent him “down [...]

Domestic oil production has little effect on gas prices

Oil Rig

Some people think that the panacea for high gas prices at the pump is to produce more oil here in the United States. Though it seems expedient, the fact is that domestic oil production is the highest its been in years.
Myriad reasons for gas prices
Many, especially political candidates on the campaign trail, espouse the notion that increasing domestic oil production is the cure-all. If we just drill more here, the price of gas will come down. However, according to CBS, a statistical analysis by the Associated Press has found that domestic oil production doesn’t have much to do with gas [...]

Three-year degrees reduce student financial burden

College

The economic downturn, rising tuition costs and the burden of student loans have paved the way for a more economical way of getting that all-important sheepskin. Many colleges and universities are now offering — or considering offering — fast-track three-year bachelor’s degree programs.
Other colleges considering option
Grace College and Seminary, Baldwin-Wallace College, American University, Lesley University and St. John’s University all began offering three-year bachelor’s degrees in the fall of 2011, according to the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. And, according to NAICU president Tony Pals, other colleges are considering the option.
Pals said:
“The economic downturn has encouraged more students [...]

When work-related expenses make a job not worth your time

A forlorn, shaggy dog is seated at a table. Eyeglasses, a pad of paper and a pen are on the table in front of it.

In a down economy, a job would seem like a precious thing. It would seem that way, if not for the fact that sometimes, having a job is more expensive than it’s worth. Following the philosophy that it “takes money to make money,” the International Council of Shopping Centers notes that scores of U.S. workers who are forced to take part-time jobs, particularly those of the minimum-wage variety, don’t earn enough money to continue profitably in their jobs.
Working poor can’t handle the expense
According to the international council, U.S. office workers spend approximately $195 each week on work-related expenses such as [...]

High-yield checking accounts offer greater return than CDs

Black-and-white close-up of a checking register. A weathered old hand is writing something in.

When it comes to rate of return, everyone wants a higher interest rate. In the field of consumer finance, a certificate of deposit may offer the kind of safety that many casual investors crave, but available interest rates have not been high for some time. In most instances, high-yield checking accounts offer consumers more value for their money.
What’s to like about CDs anymore?
The latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that CDs are far from rewarding for those who are looking for decent return on their investments. In February 2012, the all-items index, which tracks all things that [...]

Can divorce affect your credit score?

Divorce

The finances of divorce, like everything else associated with the unhappy institution, can be tricky, complex and heart-breaking. Untangling joint accounts and obligations is essential in order to move on and become independent again. But what kind of impact, if any, does divorce have on your credit score?
A mortgage by any other name
A consumer recently asked financial expert Lynnette Khalfani-Cox if her credit score would be affected by her impending divorce. She owns a house jointly with her spouse, and it’s currently in foreclosure. She asked if she could skirt that ding on her credit report by reverting to her [...]

Survey says buying is far cheaper than renting

Apartment building

The eternal debate over whether renting is cheaper than buying continues to rage. A recent survey, by real estate company Trulia, found that buying is cheaper than renting everywhere except Honolulu and San Francisco.
Annual survey finds more cities got cheaper
Every year, real estate firm Trulia releases a survey that looks at typical rental prices and typical purchase prices of houses in the 100 largest cities to gauge whether it is cheaper to rent or to buy. In recent years, Trulia has found that it is cheaper to buy as real estate values are lower due to the effects of the [...]

Apprenticeships: Training without student debt

Sorcerer's Apprentice

Tuition prices keep going up, and if Congress doesn’t act before July, the interest rate for some federally subsidized student loans will double. The burden of student debt hinders success in the early years of many careers. But there is another way to learn a profession without diving into the debt pool. Apprenticeships are on the rise in the U.K., and that trend may be crossing the Atlantic.
Student loan burden
A college graduate in the U.S. generally leaves school owing $25,000 in student loans. The current 3.4 percent rate on the federally subsidized Stafford loans will go up to 6.8 percent [...]

Four ways to reduce moving expenses

Moving Truck

Moving, be it across town or across the country, can be very expensive. There are some easy things you can do to cut down the costs of moving, especially if you plan ahead.
Pack carefully
The biggest cost of moving is not moving yourself; it’s moving your stuff. The more large, unwieldy or difficult to pack your stuff is, the more expensive it will be to move, because it takes more time to pack and more space. Packing carefully, in boxes that are relatively uniform size and shape, will cut down on the expense of moving significantly, even if you are moving [...]

The costs and benefits of a Homeowners Association

Gated

Homeowners Associations, usually referred to as HOAs, are a hotly debated entity among home buyers. If you are planning on moving, no matter whether you are renting or buying, an HOA is important to consider.
The basics of an HOA
A Homeowners Association, Condo Association or Property Owners Association is generally started by the property developer and turned over to the owners once a plurality of the property has been sold. The HOA is a legal association of individuals, and it is generally also a legal entity with some kind of right to control the property. These associations will generally create and [...]

Postal Service offering targeted junk mail service to businesses

Junk Mail

Junk mail is at best a nuisance, whether it comes in one’s email account or mailbox. Opponents of junk mail are not likely to be happy with the Postal Service, which is soliciting more junk mail by offering mail targeting services to businesses.
Hurting for cash
There are few governmental entities that are as hard up as the United States Postal Service. The agency, according to CNN, posted a $5.1 billion loss for the last fiscal year and is slated to start closing post offices and mail centers to stop hemorrhaging money. The agency has also proposed a postal rate hike and [...]