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5 Simple Steps to Save Successfully this America Saves Week

Posted by esivak on 02/23/2015

America Saves Week (February 23 – 28, 2015) is an annual opportunity for individuals to assess their savings and take financial action. America Saves’ mantra – and the focus for America Saves Week – is simple: Set a Goal. Make a Plan. Save Automatically. When you know what your current financial picture looks like, you can be more proactive in setting yourself up for future success.

Try these five simple steps during America Saves Week to help yourself save successfully:

  • Assess Your Savings. Like your health, you should assess your savings annually to make sure you’re savings priorities are on the right track. Complete this simple 12 question assessment to find out your current standing and help you plan for the future.
  • Evaluate your Savings Preparedness. Check off your savings accomplishments on the Saver Checklist to further evaluate where your savings habits need strengthening for your future goals.
  • Take the America Saves Pledge. Those with a savings plan are two times as likely to save for emergencies and retirement than those without one. Join the nearly 400,000 American Savers who have already committed to save. When you make the pledge, you can choose to receive text message tips and reminders to help you save towards your goals.
  • Share Your Savings Goal. Take part in the 2015 #imsavingfor Photo Contest. Share a selfie that shows what you’re saving for on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and enter the contest at http://americasavesweek.org/imsavingfor for a chance to win $500. Savings never looked so good.
  • Make Your Savings Social. Are you on Twitter or Facebook? Join America Saves in encouraging your friends, family, and colleagues to save this week. Better yet, join one of the five – yes, five! – Twitter chats that America Saves will be a part of this week to get real-time savings tips and advice.

America Saves Week is coordinated by America Saves and the American Savings Education Council. Started in 2007, the Week is an annual opportunity for organizations to promote good savings behavior and a chance for individuals to assess their own saving status.

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"37% of Americans think they're too broke to save"

Posted by jware on 02/17/2015

Tags: savings accounts, financial planning

By Morgan Quinn for Gobankingrates.com

This article was originally published by Gobankingrates.com and then republished by The Dallas Morning News on January 13.

Americans really want to save. They just don’t know if they can do it.

Saving money is this year’s most popular financial resolution, with more than 37 percent of Americans emphasizing it over paying down debt, curbing their spending, investing and even getting a raise. But a new GOBankingRates survey run through Survata, which asked consumers about their biggest savings goals for 2015, found nearly one-fourth of respondents aren’t at all confident that they’ll be able to meet this resolution.

The poll revealed Americans’ No. 1 short- and long-term savings goals, the biggest obstacles they believe are keeping them from success, and what they’re planning on doing differently in 2015 to save more.

Overall, building an emergency fund came in first place for short-term savings goals, while saving for retirement was the most popular long-term goal. Insufficient income was the top response for the biggest obstacle facing savers in 2015, followed by unemployment. More than 22 percent of respondents said they have little or no confidence they’ll be able to follow through on their savings resolution this year.

There were some surprising variations among demographics. For example, women are more focused on building an emergency fund, while men are far more likely to be saving for a vehicle. Millennials also have cars on their minds, as well as big-ticket items and vacations, whereas Gen Xers are pursuing homeownership and baby boomers are busy saving for home renovations and retirement.

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"Here's The Painful Truth About What It Means To Be 'Working Poor' In America"

Posted by jware on 02/17/2015

Tags: working poor, huffington post

By Nick Wing and Carly Schwartz for The Huffington Post

This article originally appeared in The Huffington Post May 19, 2014

In a nation that has long operated on the principle that an "American Dream" is available to anyone willing to try hard enough, the term "working poor" may seem to have a bright side. Sure, these individuals struggle financially, but they have jobs -- the first and most essential step toward lifting oneself out of poverty, right?

If only it were that simple.

According to 2012 Census data, more than 7 percent of American workers fell below the federal poverty line, making less than $11,170 for a single person and $15,130 for a couple. By some estimates, one in four private-sector jobs in the U.S. pays under $10 an hour. Last month, Senate Republicans blocked a bill that would have raised the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour, despite overwhelming public support for the measure.

And these numbers don't say anything about the many Americans who earn well above the official poverty line and still barely stay afloat. In HuffPost's "All Work, No Pay" series, the working poor told their own stories, painting a devastating portrait of their day-to-day struggles.

They're a diverse range of people: single parents, couples with and without children, young women with graduate degrees, business owners, seniors and everyone in between. Their financial situations, however, show many similarities. Jobs generally provide them with the means to barely scrape by, treading paycheck-to-paycheck, earning just enough to keep from going under, swallowing their pride sometimes to take food stamps or visit food banks. Others are entirely out of work, tirelessly seeking employment and relying on other means to survive.

Through their words, we see what it's really like to be "working poor" in America -- and just how much more it looks like rock bottom than most would imagine.

Being working poor means toiling through "pure hell" for next to nothing.

Earlier this year, 55-year-old Glenn Johnson was making about $14,000 a year -- or $7.93 an hour -- at a Miami-area Burger King. He'd been in and out of the fast food industry for more than 30 years. Recently he watched as his employer reported a 37 percent increase in its quarterly profit, while continuing to resist a minimum wage increase that workers like Johnson have been fighting for.

Johnson described his daily routine as "pure hell." It's a nonstop effort to keep the store clean and the customers and his managers -- most of whom are less than half his age -- happy. "Sometimes, I get home and I’m so tired, I eat dinner, take a shower, lay down to watch TV, and I’m going to sleep," he said. "Next morning comes. I’m tired, but I'm trying to make it."

fast food employee

And yet still wishing you could work more.

While Johnson was far from enthusiastic about his work at Burger King, with no computer and few immediate prospects of another job, he still wished he could clock more hours. He said he worked about 35 hours a week, but wanted anywhere from 40 to 50, which would make it easier to pay for his $765-a-month rent, gas and any of the things he can't currently afford. Since Johnson first told his story, his corporate-owned Burger King made him full-time and gave him a raise.

Deangelo Belk, a 21-year-old Wendy's employee making $7.50 an hour, also knows the pain of not getting enough hours to pay for the things he wants or to help him save enough to move out of his mother's house. He works around 10 hours a week and said that he's regularly ignored when he asks for more time.

Because you know you're lucky to have a job, no matter how awful it is.

Vanessa Powell, 29, works full time in a Goodwill warehouse in Seattle for $9.25 an hour. She holds a bachelor's degree in English and a master's in business administration. But with her fiancé out of work, she's just grateful to have a job, even though she occasionally feels it's "beneath" her. Even with the job, however, it's sometimes hard for them to get enough to eat.

"I mean, yeah, it's dirty work and often demeaning work, but at least it's work," she said. "Even though [my fiancé] only worked part time, it was still something. I make enough to cover rent and electric, but we share a cell phone, which is why it's kind of hard for both of us to search for jobs."

But finding employment can also risk the crucial aid that helps you get by.

Helen Bechtol, 23, is a mother of two and a community college student with dreams of graduating from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. To help pay for child care, she took a second job, which made her ineligible for day care assistance.

Ashley Schmidtbauer said her family is "not destitute, but we barely make it month to month." She stays at home to raise her kids and has found there aren't any easy alternatives. Her husband's income alone makes the family ineligible for day care assistance. "To be honest, we make roughly $35,000 a year. Somehow, we make over $10,000 more than their limits allow," she said. "We are the in-betweeners. Not making enough to live 'comfortably' -- but not 'poor' enough to get any assistance either. We don't expect handouts. We just want what is best for our family."

Being working poor means knowing it can be expensive just to keep your job.

Joanne Van Vranken, 50, was laid off in 2011. After nearly two years of unemployment, she landed a temporary administrative assistant position, which requires a 60-mile round-trip commute every day. Van Vranken's car is in desperate need of repair, but she hasn't had the money to fix it in years. She's worried her car will die, which could put her back in dire financial straits. "And I don't have the money to buy a new one," she said. "But I have to do it, because we need to pay the bills."

Janet Weatherly, 43, has almost completed her doctoral degree but can't find employment in her field. Instead, she's making $11 an hour as a sales associate for a major retailer. Her job is a 45-minute drive from her house, and a significant chunk of her paycheck goes toward gas money. Weatherly's parents put her car repairs on their credit cards. She'd like to finish her dissertation, but currently can't afford to get her documents out of a storage unit halfway across the country, much less invest more time in her education.

job fair unemployed

Or lowering your standards for employment and often still not finding work.

Craig Gieseke is unemployed. At nearly 60, he spent 32 years in journalism, but most of the past decade he was self-employed, so he doesn't qualify for unemployment benefits. Gieseke doesn't want assistance. He wants a job, and he'd take pretty much any at this point. Would-be employers tell him that he is "overqualified" -- a term he calls a euphemism for "too old" -- or that he'd be "bored" doing the required work. "'Bored' is hanging around the house all day because you don't have money to do anything else," he said.

It means making shortsighted decisions because long-term plans seem doomed.

Linda Tirado knows what it's like to be desperately poor. She understands firsthand the mentality that leads many people in similar situations to spend money on things like cigarettes and fast food.

"It is not worth it to me to live a bleak life devoid of small pleasures so that one day I can make a single large purchase. I will never have large pleasures to hold on to," Tirado said. "There's a certain pull to live what bits of life you can while there's money in your pocket, because no matter how responsible you are, you will be broke in three days anyway. When you never have enough money, it ceases to have meaning."

And living in constant fear of losing what little you do have in an instant.

When Alicia Payton, a 31-year-old mother of two, received a promotion at her job, she thought the increased pay would make the nearly 100-mile round-trip commute worth it. But hope quickly turned to panic when she had a car accident, doing $4,000 worth of damage to her vehicle. Unable to afford immediate repairs or a rental, Payton couldn't get to work, which she thought would result in her firing. "I've worked so hard to get where I'm at, and one simple thing and I'm afraid I'm going to lose everything," she said. Payton later learned that she had not been fired and had more time to find another way to get to work.

Karen Wall, 38, works as a teacher, cheerleading coach and weekend bartender. Yet money is tight, and all of it goes to keeping her family afloat and paying off her student loan debt. Both of her boys have special needs, so even with the multiple income sources, Wall knows she's only one disaster away from losing it all. "If I got in a car accident, I'd be homeless," she said. "If I get laid off from any of my jobs, my kids will end up going hungry."

food stamps

Even if things seem manageable now, you could be just a few setbacks away from collapse.

Not so long ago, Kathleen Ann had a house, vacation time, spending money and everything else available to someone with a high-paying corporate job. Then she was discarded in a layoff, cast into a world where she could only find occasional part-time work. Ann now makes less than $20,000 a year, lives in an apartment and has been forced to accept that she is poor -- a "Used-to-Have," as she described it. "As a 'Used-to-Have,' I know exactly what Corporate America, lobbyists and politicians have taken away from me," she said.

Being working poor means learning the hard way that investing in your future can actually make things tougher.

Weatherly, who has a bachelor's degree in English and a master's degree in public health, is still paying off her six-digit student loan debt. "Things are so bad that I can't even afford to file for bankruptcy," she said. "I have applied for hundreds of jobs over the past six years."

DJ Cook, 36, a teacher who has a master’s degree and lives in a converted garage, described himself as “suffocated by student debt.” "I've done everything that I was told to do in order to be successful," he said. "I'm in a lifetime of debt with no foreseeable answers."

Carla Shutak thought buying a house with her husband, who was gainfully employed as a civil engineer, would be a wise investment. When he was laid off in 2009, they couldn’t keep up with the mortgage payments and their home was foreclosed on. "My American Dream died," she said. "Despite doing what we were taught was right by putting 20 percent down and asking for a fixed 30-year mortgage, we were now in our 40s and starting over with nothing."

And can put you at a disadvantage even as you're just starting your adult life.

Monica Simon, 24, works full time at an online advertising firm, earning $23,000 a year after taxes. She's still paying off her student loans and often relies on credit cards to cover basic costs. "Sometimes I get paid and then I have, maybe, $150 left over for the two weeks," she said. "I just feel I'm getting way behind where I want to be for my age. I feel I'm just starting my life and I'm already miles and miles behind."

college students debt

Even if you saved for retirement, being working poor means using up those funds long before you get there.

Van Vranken spent 16 months unemployed before landing her current temp job. During that time, she used her retirement savings to cover expenses. “I’ve decimated my 401(k),” she said. "Without a permanent job, I don't know if I'll be able to rebuild it. I worry I'm going to be one of those senior citizens whose only meal each day is from Meals on Wheels."

It means facing the harsh reality that while money can't buy happiness, it's hard to be happy without any.

Bechtol is consumed with constant anxiety over having enough money to support her two young children. "I go to school and am only paying my parents $250 a month to live in their house and can still barely do it," she said. "I get so overwhelmed sometimes that I think it affects my parenting, and that's what I hate the most. I don't need money to be happy, but I do need money to pay for the resources I need for happiness."

And realizing that without money, it's difficult to meet fundamental human needs.

Jason Derr, 37, who earns $10.75 an hour and supports his wife and baby, wishes he and his wife could socialize with the few friends they have. But the lack of money stops them. "We can't afford to do anything," he said. "I feel like we are unable to participate in humanity, that being alive has a buy-in cost."

Similarly, Simon will spend full weekends at home without social interaction. "There will be weekends when I'll just have to sit home because if there's a priority between food and going out, it's going to be food." Powell added that she hasn’t seen her friends in "six months because I can't afford to go out with them, and they all want to go out."

minimum wage protest

For the working poor, basic medical care is a luxury that's often sacrificed.

Carol Sarao, 57, a formerly successful musician who now brings in roughly $240 a week writing web content, saves money by avoiding routine medical care and hoping her health remains relatively stable. When she does get sick, she tries to fix the problem herself. "I try to research it on the Internet or I try to find a friend who has antibiotics or something," she said. "I haven't had any sort of exam in years. I don’t know how much longer it can go on."

Sarao described a time she suffered an allergic reaction and desperately needed a hospital visit, but ultimately decided the financial burden wasn’t worth it. "I remember sitting outside of the emergency room and thinking, 'If I can't breathe, I'll go in and get the shot. But if I can breathe, I won't go in and I'll save the money,'" she recalled. "I've had different cuts that got infected and I just used a hot compress."

Or a necessity that leads to taking risky chances.

Bernadette Feazell, 65, who makes $8 an hour at a pawn shop in Texas, takes a four-hour bus trip to a dangerous area of Mexico when she has medical needs. She contends the trips save her thousands of dollars. "I need a cavity filled," she said. "My last Mexican filling fell out, from two years ago. I went down to Nuevo Laredo. It’s very violent."

Feazell also buys antidepressants across the border. "I buy my Prozac over the line. I speak Spanish," she said. "Without antidepressants, I don't think -- it would take a toll on me."

Because not having the money to seek medical treatment doesn't mean you don't need medical treatment.

Beverly Hill, 60, was laid off from her full-time job more than six years ago and has been actively seeking employment ever since. She avoids routine check-ups because she can’t afford them. But the last time she visited the doctor, for what she described as excruciating abdominal pain, he found something more worrisome.

“He wasn't so concerned about my guts as he was about an irregular heartbeat,” she said. "I was hospitalized. Two and a half days in the hospital came to over $40,000. After pleading poverty and asking to be considered a charity case, the hospital relented and lowered my bill to $12,000. I still can't afford to pay this. I'm eking it out a little at a time."

Being working poor means coming up with creative solutions in order to eat.

Larry Silveira, 60, who earns $9.25 an hour at his part-time retail job, was raised on a farm and learned how to can vegetables at a young age. He now uses the same strategies to maximize his family’s limited food supply. "You buy certain vegetables when they're in season, when they're cheap. You put them in the freezer and have them in the winter when they're expensive," he said. "If you find chicken breast for 99 cents a pound, buy $3 worth and put it in the freezer."

Derr and his wife keep a "food safety box" in the pantry. “Every time we go grocery shopping, we buy a $1 item -- pasta, canned veggies, etc.,” he explained. "At the end of October, we had to live off that box for two weeks."

food pantry

And sometimes accepting you'll just have to go hungry.

Cory Brooks, a senior at George Washington University, works more than full time in addition to her studies and barely makes enough money to eat. "My friends always ask how I stay in such good shape, how I never gained the 'Freshman 15,'" she said. "I smile and shrug, but what I really want to tell them is that being too poor to buy food is great for keeping the weight off."

It means sacrificing your own basic needs for those of your children.

Trisha Lovetrove, a wife and mother of two, said that despite her husband’s full-time job, some weeks she can't afford to buy enough food for the whole family -- so she's the one who suffers. "I feed my children and my spouse, and find an excuse not to be hungry because there's nothing left," she said. "Those weeks suck your will to live."

Kelly Lingo, 22, a stay-at-home mom raising her infant son with her boyfriend, who works full time for $10 an hour, described a similar struggle. “If we do have extra money, it usually goes to diapers or formula,” she said. “Feeding my son, that's my biggest concern. As much as I don't like to skip meals, I can do it -- I can go without eating if it means feeding my son."

Or coming to terms with the fact that you may never be able to afford parenthood at all.

At 36, Cook would like to have children someday. But his financial situation makes that seem impossible. "[I]t's slowly starting to dawn on me that I will most likely never have children, as I would never intentionally bring another child into the world of poverty," he said. "A house and/or a family is a laughable proposition at this point."

For the 29-year-old Powell and her fiancé, poverty has also affected discussions about having kids. "My fiancé and I have kicked around the idea of having kids for almost as long as we've been together, but we don't make enough, in all sanity, to allow a child in our care," she said. "About eight months ago, we just stopped talking about it entirely."

And if you have children, being working poor means worrying that their lives will ultimately be harder than yours.

Jennifer Blankenship, a 39-year-old mother of four whose family lives on her husband’s $11-an-hour job, has been able to send one daughter to college with the help of financial aid. Still, she, along with a growing number of both middle-class and poorer Americans, takes a bleak view of her children’s future.

"I think that our kids are going to have a lot harder time than we've had," she said. "And that's scary, because we've had a really hard time."

This story has been updated with information about Johnson's current full-time employment status.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/19/working-poor-stories_n_5297694.html

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CASH Summary of Accomplishments - 2014

Posted by klyons on 02/11/2015

Created in 2004, Creating Assets, Savings & Hope (CASH) Buffalo works to increase the financial stability of low-to-moderate income families in Buffalo and Erie County. Our coalition consists of over sixty member organizations, including foundations, banks, credit unions, nonprofits, faith-based and community groups, educational institutions, employers, and concerned citizens. CASH Buffalo focuses on a variety of proactive, community-based asset building strategies including: securing working family credits and other income supports (including Earned Income, Education, and Child Tax Credits); improving the coordination, reach, and consistency of local financial education programming; supporting education and employment opportunities; and encouraging homeownership and other asset development through Individual Development Account (IDA) matched savings accounts.

Listed below are CASH Buffalo’s outcomes and successes for 2014:

  • Completed more than 8,319 volunteer-prepared state and federal tax returns for low-to-moderate income households in Buffalo and Erie County;
  • Provided access to free online filing (www.myfreetaxes.com) for more than 404 filers;
  • Connected 3,302 low-wage earners to the Earned Income Tax Credit generating more than $7,210,370 in tax credits for working families;
  • Saved local taxpayers more than $2,180,750 in tax preparation fees;
  • Distributed more than 90,000 marketing pieces for free tax services in Erie County and an additional 5,000 pieces specifically designed for veteran and military families;
  • Connected people to the discounted prescription through the FamilyWize discount card in which 42,390 claims (since program inception) have been processed for more than $1,000,000 in prescription savings;
  • Coordinated the first ever Financial Wellness Tour with stops in 5 locations serving more than 575 people;
  • Hosted the 7th Annual CASH IN Saturday event alongside National EITC Awareness Day at the Northwest Buffalo Community Center with over 75 people in attendance;
  • Coordinated 13 financial wellness events/classes with 276 people in attendance;
  • Connected more than 111 students and young adults with financial education opportunities;
  • Compiled monthly financial education class listings which served over 800 people at 177 free and public classes;
  • Partnered with Opportunity Corps to provide more than 5,668 referrals on financial topics at free tax site locations (Banking: 1,346, Credit: 1,996, Savings: 2,326);
  • Connected more 1,566 people to long-term savings vehicles at free tax site locations and via “Lunch & Learns”;
  • Prepared free income tax returns for 590 veterans and/or military family members (a 24% increase from the prior year) and providing additional information at community events for an additional 250+ veterans;
  • Facilitated 10 poverty simulations for local partners;

Special thanks to our funders: Bank of America, Citizens Bank, First Niagara Bank, Internal Revenue Service, Key Bank, M&T Charitable Foundation, United Way Worldwide, and Walmart Foundation.

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Colorado and Massachusetts Introduce Bills in Support of Manufactured Housing

Posted by klawton on 02/10/2015

Lissette Flores, Program Manager-CFED

On Tuesday February 3, 2015, the Senate Finance Committee in Colorado voted against SB15-095, proposal that would have added protections for manufactured homeowners through a modernized dispute and oversight regime without compromising the rights of manufactured home community owners. Sponsored by State Senator John Kefalas and Representative Max Tyler, the bill would have renamed the Mobile Home Park Act to the Manufactured Home Communities Act (MHCA), reflecting the reality that that manufactured homes are not mobile, but typically remain in the same location once installed. The bill also would have enhanced the functions to the Division of Housing (DOH) within the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA), further mainstreaming manufactured housing in the Colorado housing market.

MHCA would have allowed for the development of much needed resources for manufactured home communities. In addition, the bill would have required that DOH collect economic and demographic data on manufactured home communities, create and administer a dispute resolution program and maintain a list of community-based nonprofit organizations to mediate disputes. Finally, the proposal mandated the Manufactured Home Community Fund to assist community owners and homeowners, specifically identifying such uses as relocation costs, rent subsidies, community improvements and new development.

At the hearing on Tuesday, the Committee heard testimony from various stakeholders, including written testimony from Ishbel Dickens, Executive Director of the National Manufactured Home Owners Association (NMHOA). Though the bill did not pass, Senator Kefalas remains positive and will continue to work to make a compelling case for supporting the bill.

Last month in Massachusetts, State Senator James Eldridge introduced S.D. 1881, a bill that, through titling reform, could facilitate better financing options and spur greater interest in the use of manufactured homes as affordable housing. The bill, titled An Act Relative to the Titling of Certain Manufactured Homes, will modernize and improve the process for converting manufactured homes from personal property to real property. In essence, the bill would help put manufactured homeowners on equal footing as those of site-built homes. For example, the bill would provide owners of manufactured homes with many of the same legal protections as owners of site-built homes.

Though manufactured homes are often indistinguishable from site-built homes, they are typically titled as personal property, such as a car for example, rather than real estate In Massachusetts, many homes are not subject to any titling regime and the process for an owner to convert to a real property title is onerous. The Act Relative to the Titling of Certain Manufactured Homes will not only simplify and streamline the titling process, but also improve the inadequate and outdated existing titling law while improving access to safe and affordable mortgage financing options.

With over 250 manufactured home communities in Massachusetts—about a dozen on which are resident-owned communities—manufactured housing is a key component of the affordable housing solution. Senator Eldridge, who also serves as chair on the Joint Committee on Financial Services, represents a district that includes a resident-owned community in Shirley, and is working with advocates and homeowners who support the bill.

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New Study sows Nevada's Veterans Caught in High Cost Payday Loans

Posted by nbrown on 02/03/2015

Opportunity Alliance Nevada Brief of Veteran Study Survey February 4, 2015

Conducted by: UNLV School of Environmental and Public Affairs

Many Nevada veterans are struggling financially, and many are using payday lenders to pay their bills, resulting in increasing amounts of debt and interest payments that put the veteran and their family at financial risk. A new report by the School of Environmental and Public Affairs at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas shows a troubling trend. The data is based on a survey created to assess the financial security of Nevada veterans. Survey goals were to research the major barriers veterans face as they work to build assets; access stable and high quality financial products and services; and assess veteran use of financial products and services. Objectives for this survey project were to identify patterns of financial literacy, management, and preparedness within the Nevada veteran community. A major focal area of the survey was centered on the use of payday lending and cash advance services by Nevada veterans.

In Nevada, the typical payday loan carries an annual interest rate of more than 400%.

The report shows Nevada’s active-duty members of the military and its veterans are falling into the debt trap of these high-interest, deceptively marketed payday loans. Payday loans are marketed as a one-time quick fix to consumers facing a cash crunch, but real consumer experiences and studies show payday loans create a long-term cycle of debt. Borrowers end up in the debt trap, taking out loan after loan and paying new fees each time, because they cannot pay off their previous loan and still cover their normal living expenses.

Payday lenders maybe illegally lending to active duty members of the military in Nevada, as veterans surveyed in Nevada acknowldged utilizing a payday loan or cash advance while on active duty. The Military Lending Act limits payday loans interest rates to troops and their families to a cap of 36% annual interest because the Department of Defense identifies these products as predatory and a threat to military readiness. Financial issues are now the number one issue causing soldiers to lose their security clearances and prevent them from serving overseas.

The report finds that an incredible 1 in 5 (20%) of Nevada veterans have used payday loans compared to a national rate of 5.5%. This is troubling. Of those who took out a payday loan, half still have payday lending debt, and for some the debt began while they were still enlisted. This raises concerns about the long-term nature of pay day loan debt, in addition to highlighting the need for strengthening protections for active duty service members in order to promote their financial security as veterans.

The report shows payday loans are often used by Nevada veterans who are already struggling with existing monthly expenses, such as difficulty paying for housing, monthly bills, and other debt like auto loans, student loans, or credit cards. Payday loans are not an appropriate substitute for meeting regular expenses, and actually compound existing financial stresses. Payday lenders make no attempt to determine if veterans will be able to repay their loan or whether borrowers are already overextended with existing debt obligations.

The report shows most veterans learn about payday loans through payday lender advertising (62%) and receive the loans from a payday loan storefront within walking or driving distance (84%). This is concerning because data from other studies consistently show that payday lenders’ engage in deceptive marketing. While payday loans are marketed as a one-time quick fix, 75% of payday lending fees are generated by borrowers taking out over 10 loans a year.

“The report is very troubling because it shows payday loans can result in spiraling debt for veterans and active duty members of the military, ensnaring them in a financial quagmire they cannot escape,” said Kat Miller, Department of Veterans Services. “While these loans are marketed as a one-time quick fix, borrowers are ending up in a long-term cycle of debt taking out loan after loan and incurring new fees every time.”

The report concludes that, “results from this survey clearly indicate the existence of a problem with pay day lenders and veterans in the State of Nevada.”

Opportunity Alliance Policy recommendations:

• Strengthen state and federal protections for active duty military personnel through enhancement and enforcement of the Military Lending Act’s 36% rate cap

• Urge the Nevada State Legislature and Congress to enact a rate cap of 36% APR for payday loans

• The CFPB should issue strong rules to ensure payday lenders only make loans borrowers can afford to repay when considering a borrower’s income and expenses.

Full report at: www.opportunityalliance.nv.org

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New CFED data showing state of family economic security in Arkansas

Posted by tedwards on 02/02/2015

Last week, the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) released its annual Assets and Opportunity Scorecard. The Scorecard provides a comprehensive look at Americans’ capacity to accumulate wealth by examining how well residents prosper in the 50 states and District of Columbia on both the ability of residents to achieve financial security and the state policies designed to make it possible. The Scorecard assesses state policies focused on helping people develop and protect assets across 67 outcome measures in five different issue areas: Financial Assets & Income, Businesses & Jobs, Housing & Homeownership, Health Care, and Education. The identified asset building policy triumphs, deficiencies, and recommendations for the state are of great interest to us at Southern as we serve as the Lead State Organization for the CFED Assets & Opportunity Network and our mission is to provide opportunities for increasing net worth and economic mobility.

That said, Arkansas fared poorly overall in 2015. In Education, Arkansas ranked among the worst states in the country in regards to residents with high school degrees (45th) and those with two-year and four-year college degrees (ranked 50th and 49th, respectively). The state’s poor performance in education uncovers significant inequalities. For example, Arkansas ranks last (51st) in four-year college degrees by income, with the top 20 percent of earners 6.4 times more likely to hold a degree than the bottom 20 percent. The Scorecard revealed Arkansas’s young adults are also not doing so well – the state ranked 42nd for the number of “disconnected youth,” meaning those aged 16-24 who are not in school and do not have a job. Without job skills or education, most have to work in low-paying jobs with few to no benefits. According to the Scorecard, 36.6 percent of Arkansas jobs are low-wage, ranking the state 49th in this category.

2015 Arkansas Scorecard Snapshot Issue Area Success Challenge Rank Grade Financial Assets & Income

Avg. Credit Card Debt Households w/ Savings Accounts 46 D Businesses & Jobs

Business Creation Rate Low Wage Jobs 44 D Housing & Homeownership

Affordability of Homes Delinquent Mortgage Loans 28 C Health Care

Uninsured Rate by Race Employer-Provided Insurance Coverage 17 B Education

Early Childhood Education Enrollment 4-year Degrees by Income

Source: CFED Assets & Opportunity Scorecard, 2015.

The state received its worst ranking in Financial Assets & Income, ranking 46th and earning a “D.” This grade reflects persistently high rates of income poverty (18.8 percent) and unbanked households (12.3 percent), ranking the state 48th on both of these measures. Arkansas also received a “D” in Businesses & Jobs, partially due to a stark disparity in business ownership by race, with business ownership 2.4 times as high for white workers as for workers of color. The state’s ranking of 44th in Education is essentially due to residents’ low levels of math and reading proficiencies (ranked 42nd and 40th, respectively) and low rates of postsecondary degree attainment described above.

Interestingly enough, Arkansas has always and continues to fare considerably better on its policy measures than its outcomes, having adopted 29 of CFED’s 68 recommended policies and receiving an overall ranking of 14th among all states. Despite many entrenched problems placing pressure on low- and moderate-income families, the state ranked among the top in Health Care and Education policies, receiving rankings of 6th and 5th in these issue areas, respectively. But the dichotomy between Arkansas’ enacted policies and its policy outcomes is intriguing: although Arkansas ranks 42nd in the nation in terms of outcomes, the state places 14th in its aggregate policies. Hence, there is a weak relationship between Arkansas’s policies and outcomes; the state has strong policies yet still poor outcomes for families.

A reason behind the weak relationship between Arkansas’s policies and outcomes is while a policy may have been effective for a period of time, the policy was never extended or supplemented. For example, Arkansas passed legislation for a Housing Trust Fund but never fully funded it and the state left our matching 529 GIFT plan program (Aspiring Scholars) in pilot mode without a sustainable funding source for match money or marketing. Further, when payday lenders left Arkansas, no financial institution introduced a payday loan alterative product. For state policy to truly have a lasting, major impact on Arkansans, policies must be sustainable and comprehensive.

Over the years, Southern has supported a number of asset building policy changes focused on financial stability and independence of Arkansans, including a state match for Individual Development Accounts (IDAs), an increase in the state’s minimum wage, a statewide housing trust fund, matched savings for the state’s 529 GIFT plan, the termination of payday lending practices, and most recently, the expansion of our Medicaid program. However, the need for sound and effective asset building policy is still highly critical to ensuring a family’s economic security in Arkansas. Furthermore, support for implementation of the policies Arkansas has in place must also be secured.

The findings from the Scorecard highlight the need to better prepare Arkansas’s children for the future workforce through investments in education. Arkansas can make postsecondary education more affordable with a statewide Children’s Savings Account program that would encourage families to start saving early for college and promote a college-going mentality. Additionally, current workers can develop needed skills through expanded job training programs. Policymakers should also help low-income workers keep more of their hard-earned dollars through the adoption of a state Earned Income Tax Credit.

To learn more about what can be done at the state policy level to create economic opportunities for more Arkansans, please contact Nathan Pittman, Director of Communications, at Nathan.pittman@banksouthern.com.

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CFED Assets & Opportunities Scorecard released Thursday

Posted by rstoller on 02/02/2015

New Data Expose Income Inequality, Overall Financial Insecurity###

Despite signs of progress, economic recovery missing millions of Americans

Thursday morning marked the official release of its 2015 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard which looks at 135 different measures to paint a picture of how residents are doing in their quest to achieve financial security, and what states are doing to help get them there.

The 2015 Scorecard finds that millions of Americans are seeing little evidence of economic recovery, despite the fact that several indicators suggest the economy is improving. The research finds substantial disparities between low-income households and their wealthier counterparts, as well as between white households and households of color. For example, while 72% of white households own their home, only 46% of households of color can say the same.

Produced annually, the Assets & Opportunity Scorecard offers the most comprehensive look available at Americans' ability to save and build wealth, stay out of poverty and create a more prosperous future. It is designed to be a powerful tool that advocates can use to educate policymakers and other community leaders about the need for strategies that help individuals and families get ahead.

Features of this year's Scorecard include:

The Assets & Opportunity Scorecard is made possible each year thanks to the many Assets & Opportunity Network Leaders who are committed to expanding the reach and deepening the impact of asset-based strategies that create economic opportunity. It is also possible thanks to the generosity of its funders, including the Ford Foundation, Northwest Area Foundation, Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Walter S. Johnson Foundation and Surdna Foundation.

Click here for a full list of news stories on the Scorecard, and click here to access the full 2015 Scorecard.

Psst! Hey you! Yes, YOU! Are you a huge data nerd or policy wonk? You're not alone!

Luckily, we've got today's to-do list covered:

  • Dig into the report. Tweet directly from the interactive report or share the report's infographics on Facebook. (Don't forget to use #CFEDScorecard in your social media updates!)
  • Start an interstate rivalry. Use dynamic data on 67 outcome measures and 68 policy measures to show how your state stacks up against your neighbors.
  • Impress your colleagues. Make your own charts, graphs and handouts, and then use them in your next presentation to lawmakers.
  • Silence your opponents. Next time you find yourself in a Facebook war with that crazy cousin of yours, use the Scorecard to arm yourself with the facts you need to declare victory!

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2014 EITC in North Dakota

Posted by rstoller on 02/02/2015

Click here to read about EITC in North Dakota

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Nevada State Treasurer Anounces Continued Support of Nevada Kick Start Saving Program

Posted by nbrown on 01/29/2015

Thank you Nevada State Treasurer Schwatz and the Nevada College Savings Board!

State Treasurer Schwartz proudly announced today that the Kick Start Savings will continue and that he plans to invest more dollars to market college savings programs: “Let’s Go to College”.

Today members from the Opportunity Alliance Nevada (OA) traveled to Carson City to welcome the new Nevada State Treasurer Schwartz. The group thanked the Nevada State Treasurer's Office and Board of Trustees during public comments for their continued support of the 1st state wide children's savings program in the Nation, Nevada Kick Start Savings Program. Members of OA along with others spoke about the positive impact the Kick Start Savings is having on Nevada families and the advancement of a Nevada college bound culture.

Special thanks to those that participated: Kelly George- United Federal Credit Union, Amy Nelson,-OA Youth Chair, Theresa Navarro,-Kick Start Navigator Program, Kristin McNeil – Washoe County School District, Representative of the United Way of Northern Nevada & Sierra Board, plus letters of appreciation and support from Community Services Agency, Walter Bracken Stem Academy, LV and Dale Erquiaga, Superintend of the State of Nevada Dept. of Education.

Nancy Brown, OA Chair

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