Parents are getting sucked in by college education costs

There are plenty of stories out there covering the issue of spiraling college costs and ridiculous student loan amounts piling up on college kids. College students need to be smarter about taking on so much debt and start taking cost into account when they choose a college.

Parents need to get smarter as well, otherwise college costs will suck up their retirement savings. Here’s a familiar story.

Terry Williams borrowed about $7,000 to earn a degree from Spelman College 38 years ago. For her youngest child, a sophomore at Belmont University in Nashville, she will take on almost $40,000 in parental loans. Williams, a 59-year-old widow who runs a nonprofit that helps black families navigate private-school admissions, is watching her retirement savings dwindle as she pays college bills for her three children. “I’ll probably work until I fall dead at my keyboard,” says the Decatur (Ga.) resident.

Read the article and avoid a similar fate.


Payday lenders support Mitt Romney

Since Barack Obama passed financial reform that included the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, it’s no surprise that payday lenders are coming out for Mitt Romney who opposes more regulations to protect consumers in this area.

Major payday lending companies and their owners contributed more than $250,000 last month to a super PAC supporting Mitt Romney for president, federal reports show.

The contributions to Restore Our Future come from some of the largest players in the industry, which is coming under increasing scrutiny from federal regulators. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, created by Congress in 2010, recently released its examination manual.

“They’ve never been subject to federal supervision before,” said Jean Ann Fox of the Consumer Federation of America, an industry critic. “The industry has always written big checks for state-level fights, but now the federal government is suddenly much more important.”

Romney has not addressed payday lending issues on the campaign trail, but he has been critical of regulations in general. “Under President Obama, they are multiplying like proverbial rabbits,” he said Monday.

There is a big philosophical difference between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama on financial regulation, so this is just corporations putting money out there to protect their self interest. The question then becomes what is in the public’s interest?

Payday lending is a huge ripoff for consumers. If this is something your do – be smart and stop it. Get a bank account and start using direct deposit of your checks. Create a budget so you aren’t living paycheck to paycheck.


Reducing your car insurance rates

In a time when we’re all looking to cut expenses, here’s an interesting story about how some people are cutting their car insurance rates.

When Zshavina Meacher of Cleveland traded in her car for a new 2011 Chevy Malibu last summer, her insurance premium jumped to $510 every six months. Her insurer, Progressive Corp., asked her whether she wanted to cut her rate.

If Meacher agreed to install a device in her car that monitors how safely she drives and the results were good, her rates would go down. If the results weren’t so good, her rates would stay the same. She agreed.

During the first few weeks, the device told Meacher that she slammed on her brakes a lot. She stopped the hard braking.

In February, the 23-year-old’s insurance bill dropped by $120 per six months, or 24 percent.
Meacher is happy her rates went down. And Progressive is happy the risk of Meacher getting into an accident went down. Fewer claims will help keep Mayfield-based Progressive profitable.

If you haven’t heard of telematics — a device that monitors your driving — then get ready. While Progressive started dabbling in telematics in the 1990s, it started pushing it in 2010 with its “Snapshot” program, and other insurers have stepped up interest in the last year.

Telematics is changing car insurance, and who knows what else it might change. Of course this raises privacy issues, but for people who need to watch every penny, it can really be a helpful option to lower your car insurance costs.


Research will help you with mortgages

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the financial crisis, you have to do your own research. You can’t rely on anyone else these days. It’s a shame, but that the fact. Ratings agencies, mortgage brokers and bankers have all shown that they only care about themselves.

Fortunately, we have the new Financial Consumer Protection Bureau, but it will take a while before all their regulations kick in. So get informed by going online. Learn about the interest rates and other factors that will help you with mortgages, refinancings, foreclosure and other issues. Compare Natwest Mortgages quotes online on Know Your Money. You are such a better position if you’ve done your own research ahead of time. People in this industry throw around jargon and numbers to confuse you, so make sure you also take your time.

You don’t have to make decisions on the spot! Keep that in mind. It’s always acceptable to say that you want to go back and do more research. If anyone pressures you, it’s probably because it’s not a great deal. If is sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

Lastly, figure out your real budget before you start shopping. Many people don’t do this and then they get into trouble.


Savings rate down

Here’s some interesting news on the national savings front.

The nation’s savings rate has dwindled as consumers try to juggle rising prices and stagnant wages.

According to government data released Wednesday, the national savings rate was 3.5 percent in October, a slight improvement from the previous month but significantly below the 5 percent rate seen for most of the past two years. During the throes of the recession, the savings rate had skyrocketed above 8 percent.

“They spent it. That’s the short answer,” said Paul Dales, senior U.S. economist for Capital Economics. “It might be a lot of households don’t have a choice.”

Economists blamed higher gas and commodities prices for sending the savings rate to its lowest point since 2007. After remaining virtually flat in 2010, the consumer price index inched up this year as prices rose for essential products such as cotton and corn. Although consumers received bigger paychecks this year thanks to a payroll tax holiday, many found that the extra money was eaten up by increased fuel costs.

Another item to consider is that frugality is becoming less popular. Of course people are still looking for deals, but overall spending is up. We just had a record Black Friday and Cyber Monday, so people are flocking to the stores. Unemployment is still high, but more people perhaps are secure in their jobs after years of downsizing slows down.