Category : Personal Finance & Investing

(Gallup) In U.S., Most Say Reducing Cost of Care High Priority for Biden

Seven in ten (70%) U.S. adults say lowering health insurance premiums should be a high priority for President Joe Biden and his administration among key healthcare issues, followed closely by lowering drug costs (66%) and reducing the uninsured rate (63%). These results are based on a new study conducted by West Health and Gallup.

Democrats are more likely than Republicans to prioritize lowering health insurance premiums and the cost of prescription drugs, but majorities of both groups agree these cost reduction goals are high priorities. In contrast, 90% of Democrats (and 60% of independents) but only 30% of Republicans regard reducing the uninsured rate as a high priority. These results come at a time when 26% of adults report there has been at least one time in the prior 12 months that someone in their household did not pursue care due to the cost, matching levels measured in early 2019.

This survey was conducted by web from Dec. 15, 2020-Jan. 3, 2021, with 3,100 adults, ages 18+, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia via the Gallup Panel, a scientifically populated, non-opt-in panel of about 110,000 adults nationwide.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Personal Finance & Investing, Politics in General

(NYT front page) Hope Dries Up as Young Nigerians Disappear in Police Custody

AWKA, Nigeria — In the small family portrait gallery hanging above the television in the cozy home of the Iloanya family, only two framed photographs remain that include the youngest son, Chijioke.

He disappeared eight years ago. His parents, Hope and Emmanuel, last saw him in handcuffs in a police station run by the feared unit known as SARS — the Special Anti-Robbery Squad.

They have been searching for him ever since, along the way encountering an industry of merchants peddling hope: lawyers, human rights groups and the churches and pastors who asked for the photographs of Chijioke, promising to pray over them and help bring him back.

“They give you a prophecy that he will come back,” said Hope, a devout woman of 53, staring at the gaps on her salmon-pink wall. “Whatever they tell you to do, you do it.”

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Posted in Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Nigeria, Personal Finance & Investing, Police/Fire, Politics in General

(Bloomberg) Affluent Families Ditch Public Schools, Widening U.S. Inequality

One is thriving after switching from online public school to in-person private education. The other is struggling, stuck in her virtual classroom.

The lives of these two girls, Ella Pierick and Afiya Harris, encapsulate the growing divide in U.S. education as more affluent parents flee public schools.

In Connecticut, enrollment fell 3%. Colorado reported a similar decline, with the steepest losses in one of its wealthiest counties. Chicago’s rosters dipped 4.1%, the most in 20 years.

Parents with means are instead homeschooling; joining with other families to hire teachers in so-called pandemic pods; or signing up for private schools. Poor and minority children often have no choice but to attend inferior virtual classrooms, and some are just giving up entirely.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Children, Education, Marriage & Family, Personal Finance & Investing

(Deseret News) Supreme Court rules that religious freedom law allows for monetary damages

Federal employees who violate religious freedom protections can now be held liable for monetary damages they cause after the Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the law allows people of faith to seek financial relief.

Money is “the only form of relief that can remedy some … violations,” wrote Justice Clarence Thomas in the court’s unanimous decision.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett did not take part in the case because oral arguments took place before her Senate confirmation.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Personal Finance & Investing, Religion & Culture, Supreme Court

(Mirror) Coronavirus: 60,000 families forced onto Universal Credit ‘to be hit’ by two child limit

Around 60,000 families forced onto Universal Credit by Covid-19 could have essential support restricted by the government’s hated ‘two-child limit’.

Families who have to claim the benefit because of job losses and illness will find they are denied support for more than two children.

Ministers have refused to scrap the policy, even temporarily during the coronavirus crisis….

A new report by the Church of England and Child Poverty Action Group said the virus crisis had exposed the injustice of the policy, which mostly hits working families.

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Posted in Anthropology, Children, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Personal Finance & Investing, Politics in General, Theology

(NYT) Location Data Says It All: Staying at Home During Coronavirus Is a Luxury

It has been about two weeks since the Illinois governor ordered residents to stay at home, but nothing has changed about Adarra Benjamin’s responsibilities. She gets on a bus nearly every morning in Chicago, traveling 20 miles round trip some days to cook, clean and shop for her clients, who are older or have health problems that make such tasks difficult.

Ms. Benjamin knows the dangers, but she needs her job, which pays about $13 an hour. She also cannot imagine leaving her clients to fend for themselves. “They’ve become my family,” she said.

In cities across America, many lower-income workers continue to move around, while those who make more money are staying home and limiting their exposure to the coronavirus, according to smartphone location data analyzed by The New York Times.

Although people in all income groups are moving less than they did before the crisis, wealthier people are staying home the most, especially during the workweek. Not only that, but in nearly every state, they began doing so days before the poor, giving them a head start on social distancing as the virus spread, according to aggregated data from the location analysis company Cuebiq, which tracks about 15 million cellphone users nationwide daily.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine, Personal Finance & Investing

(NYT) ‘White-Collar Quarantine’ Over Virus Spotlights Class Divide

In other cases, the rich aren’t going east or west, but down. Gary Lynch, general manager of Rising S, a Texas maker of safe rooms and bunkers that range in price from $40,000 to several million dollars, said he had added a second shift of 15 workers to handle the flood of new orders, mostly for underground bunkers.

“I’ve never seen interest like there is now,” said Mr. Lynch, who has taken to turning his phone off at night so he can get some sleep. “It has not let up.”

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine, Personal Finance & Investing

EF Interviews Jonathan Tame, the Director of the Jubilee Centre in Cambridge–“The Bible says debt is a form of enslavement, and interest a means of oppression”

Q. You mentioned the precarious jobs and low wages. An example of that is a much praised film in the UK, titled “Sorry We Missed You”, a story about a man who starts working as a deliveryman in one of the new businesses such as Amazon, Uber… What ‘curses’ come with these new types of jobs linked to mobile phone ‘apps’ and the new ‘needs’ of costumers to have everything as fast and as cheap as possible?

A. Yes, it has been very interesting in the last decade that the combination of the new technologies that developed, especially smartphone apps, and that high unemployment at the beginning of the decade following the financial crisis, created the perfect conditions for what we call the ‘gig economy’ to emerge.

This form of capitalism, if you like, has developed where we have a cultural individualism and a market economy; but the consumer’s choice and freedom are becoming the most important thing of all. So we have 24/7 shopping, and somehow, we accept the ‘curse’ zero-hours contracts. And people who have to deliver this service are people we don’t really see, that are kind of invisible and anonymous. They are working having very anti-social hours and often not given much advance warning, only one day or two before they are told when they can work. This makes the worker in this ‘gig economy’… Well, it is a new kind of oppression, to be honest.

The loss of rights, the loss of freedom, especially for family relationships which came out in the film, is a very high price to pay for this new kind of consumerism – the new way we do buying and selling. So yes, it is something we should look out very critically.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Personal Finance, Personal Finance & Investing, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Atlantic) The Great Affordability Crisis Breaking America–In one of the best decades the American economy has ever recorded, families were bled dry

In the 2010s, the national unemployment rate dropped from a high of 9.9 percent to its current rate of just 3.5 percent. The economy expanded each and every year. Wages picked up for high-income workers as soon as the Great Recession ended, and picked up for lower-income workers in the second half of the decade. Americans’ confidence in the economy hit its highest point since 2000, right before the dot-com bubble burst. The headline economic numbers looked good, if not great.

But beyond the headline economic numbers, a multifarious and strangely invisible economic crisis metastasized: Let’s call it the Great Affordability Crisis. This crisis involved not just what families earned but the other half of the ledger, too—how they spent their earnings. In one of the best decades the American economy has ever recorded, families were bled dry by landlords, hospital administrators, university bursars, and child-care centers. For millions, a roaring economy felt precarious or downright terrible.

Viewing the economy through a cost-of-living paradigm helps explain why roughly two in five American adults would struggle to come up with $400 in an emergency so many years after the Great Recession ended. It helps explain why one in five adults is unable to pay the current month’s bills in full. It demonstrates why a surprise furnace-repair bill, parking ticket, court fee, or medical expense remains ruinous for so many American families, despite all the wealth this country has generated. Fully one in three households is classified as “financially fragile.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Economy, Marriage & Family, Personal Finance & Investing

(Gallup) Record-High Optimism on Personal Finances in U.S.

Americans’ views on their personal financial situation have been climbing since 2018 and are now at or near record highs in Gallup’s trends. Nearly six in 10 Americans (59%) now say they are better off financially than they were a year ago, up from 50% last year.

These data come from Gallup’s annual Mood of the Nation survey, conducted Jan. 2-15. The survey was completed after months of historically low levels of unemployment and as the Dow Jones Industrial Average neared the 30,000 mark for the first time.

The current 59% of Americans who say they are better off financially than they were a year ago is essentially tied for the all-time high of 58% in January 1999. That was recorded during the dot-com boom, with conditions similar to the current state of the economy — a stock market rocketing to then-record highs and unemployment at multidecade lows — though GDP growth was higher at that time.

From 1998 to 2000, at least half of Americans rated their financial situation better than that of a year ago. However, in most surveys from 2001 to 2018, the percentage saying their personal finances were better off than the previous year was under 50% — with a low of 23% in May 2009, during the Great Recession.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Personal Finance & Investing, Psychology, Sociology

(C of E) Bishop Alan Smith welcomes the credit card gambling ban

The Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, has welcomed an announcement from the Gambling Commission that consumers will no longer be able to use credit cards to gamble from April 2020.

“This marks a significant step in progressive policy-making, reducing the risks to gamblers,” he said, following the announcement.

“For too long people have been vulnerable through gambling with money they don’t have, using credit cards, additionally incurring the costs of borrowing alongside any losses.

“I have been calling for this change as consultation turned into consultation, while gamblers were facing the consequences of delay.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Gambling, Personal Finance & Investing, Religion & Culture

(Gallup) More Americans Delaying Medical Treatment Due to Cost

A record 25% of Americans say they or a family member put off treatment for a serious medical condition in the past year because of the cost, up from 19% a year ago and the highest in Gallup’s trend. Another 8% said they or a family member put off treatment for a less serious condition, bringing the total percentage of households delaying care due to costs to 33%, tying the high from 2014.

Gallup first asked this question in 1991, at which time 22% reported that they or a family member delayed care for any kind of condition, including 11% for a serious condition. The figures were similar in the next update in 2001, and Gallup has since asked this question annually as part of its Health and Healthcare poll. This year’s survey was conducted Nov. 1-14.

Americans’ reports of family members delaying any sort of medical treatment for cost reasons were lower in the early to mid-2000s when closer to a quarter reported the problem. Since 2006, the rate has averaged 30%.

The pattern is similar for the subset of Americans postponing medical treatment for a serious condition. The rate rose from 12% in 2001 to an average of 19% since 2006. However, the current 25% is the highest yet, exceeding the prior high-point of 22% recorded in 2014.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Personal Finance & Investing, Theology

(CC) How local governments punish poor people with fines

Several years ago, Anne Stuhldreher rolled through a stop sign in San Francisco and got a ticket. That kind of infraction costs $238 or more in California. The price shocked Stuhldreher, who knew that many families living in San Francisco—rated one of the most economically unequal cities in the US—don’t have a few hundred dollars to spare.

After Stuhldreher got her ticket, she thought about the way that the fee would impact different people in the community differently. “If someone who is a daycare worker in my neighborhood got that ticket, it would be very different than someone who works at a tech company.” Stuhldreher, who has long worked on addressing the financial issues facing low-income residents, started digging into these questions.

Around this time, new research was demonstrating the impact of fines and fees on low-income people across the country. The problem isn’t isolated in San Francisco: a 2016 survey by the finance website Bankrate showed that 63 percent of Americans don’t have enough money saved to cover a $500 emergency. That is nearly the cost of a ticket for running a red light in California.

In its 2015 report on Ferguson, Missouri, in the aftermath of the police shooting of Michael Brown, the US Department of Justice showed that aggressive law enforcement in low-income communities of color was being used to generate revenue. People’s inability to pay for minor offense tickets could have major ramifications on their live, forcing them to go into debt, lose a driver’s license or a job, or even end up in jail.

Stuhldreher calls it the “spiral of despair.” A person gets a traffic ticket for a few hundred dollars. Unable to pay the fine, she misses the deadline for payment, and the ticket starts accruing late fees and creates a debt that hangs over her head. The city sends the ticket to the collections department, and now her credit is damaged, so that the next time she tries to rent an apartment, her application is rejected.

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Posted in City Government, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Personal Finance & Investing, Poverty

(CNBC) As the cost of dying rises, more families try crowdfunding for funerals

At 2 a.m. on Oct. 17, Helen Ramos tried to wake up her son, Michael Bowen. Something about the 37-year-old looked strange.

Ramos, 65, uses a wheelchair, and running errands can be a struggle. The day before, Bowen had gone grocery shopping for her. Later, Ramos pleaded with him to spend the night at her house in Milford, Connecticut. It was raining heavily and she wanted him to be safe, but now she couldn’t get him to rise.

Bowen had died in his sleep, from either medical or drug complications. He had suffered from drug addiction since he was 13.

Bowen’s death threw his family into grief — and a financial problem. Neither his four older siblings nor his parents had enough savings to come up with the $10,000 it would cost for a funeral and burial at Keenan Funeral Home in West Haven, Connecticut.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Death / Burial / Funerals, Personal Finance & Investing, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(NYT Op-ed) The Unending Indignities of Alzheimer’s

But while his family, and his physician, agree on the need for more advanced care, his health insurers do not.

Medicare does not generally cover long-term nursing home care. Medicaid does, but only when it deems those services “medically necessary” — and that determination is made by insurance agents, not by the patient’s doctors. The state of New Jersey, where my parents live, recently switched to a managed care system for its elderly Medicaid recipients. Instead of paying directly for the care that this patient population needs, the state pays a fixed per-person amount to a string of private companies, who in turn manage the needs of patients like my father. On paper, these companies cover the full range of required offerings: nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and a suite of in-home support services. In practice, they do what most insurance companies seem to do: obfuscate and evade and force you to beg.

When I told my father’s care coordinator what his doctor said, she was unequivocal. “He is not even close to qualifying,” she said. “He’s only 78, and he can still walk and wash and dress himself without assistance.”

I countered that he had “bathroom issues” and that he frequently refused to shower.

“Refusing to do something is not the same as being physically incapable of doing it,” she said.

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Posted in Aging / the Elderly, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Personal Finance & Investing

(NBC) Churches across the country come together to pay off medical debt

The nonprofit RIP Medical Debt buys up and forgives medical debt using donations — with much of those funds coming from faith-based organizations. Kyra Taylor was overwhelmed with medical debt until Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor stepped in. She had an emotional reunion with the congregation that saved her life, calling their intervention a “miracle.”

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Posted in Health & Medicine, Personal Finance & Investing, Stewardship

(Chicago Tribune) Nearly 6,000 Chicagoans to get letters this holiday season saying their unpaid medical debt is forgiven. Learn about the group behind the gifts

For Chicagoans struggling to make ends meet, the daily act of checking the mail can be anxiety-inducing. Aside from birthday cards and holiday letters, there isn’t often much good news, but there never seems to be any shortage of bills or debt collection attempts.

Soon, when bright yellow envelopes appear in thousands of mailboxes around Cook County with the words “RIP Medical Debt” on each one, recipients might assume it’s yet another bill. In reality, those envelopes contain the opposite, a potentially life-changing gift.

A network of area churches this summer banded together to take on the debt collection system that profits “on the backs of poor people”; to help restore bad credit marred by medical debt; and to inspire joy, said the organizers, the Rev. Otis Moss III and the Rev. Traci Blackmon. As a result, Moss said they’ve wiped out more than $5.3 million in medical debt, and they soon plan to send letters to nearly 6,000 Cook County residents with a no-strings-attached message: “May you have a beautiful, wonderful holiday. Your debt has been forgiven. Enjoy Thanksgiving.”

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Posted in Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Personal Finance & Investing, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Urban/City Life and Issues

(CJ) Are Cities Going to the Dogs?

Brooklyn’s Prospect Park is dog heaven. On sunny Saturday mornings, the park’s open green space, Long Meadow, fills with hundreds of canines frolicking during off-leash hours. The dogs’ owners hover nearby like watchful parents who, when playtime ends, head over to the nearby farmers’ market or go out for brunch. Later in the day, they might make time for doggie yoga or the pet bakery before coming home to their pet-friendly apartment buildings, many featuring dog baths and groomers.

Roughly 600,000 dogs live in New York City, along with half a million cats. About half of U.S. households own a pet, which adds up to at least 77 million dogs and 54 million cats. Generationally, millennials are the most enthusiastic pet owners, with some 70 percent boasting of having at least one pet.

What you’re less likely to see, especially in America’s largest cities, are children. Pets are now more common than kids in many U.S. cities. San Francisco, for example, is home to nearly 150,000 dogs but just 115,000 children under age 18. Farther north, Seattle has more households with cats than with kids. Nationwide, pets outnumber children in apartment buildings. In New York neighborhoods like Long Island City and Williamsburg, wealthy singles have the highest number of pooches per capita.

In a recent Atlantic essay, Derek Thompson wrote about how “America’s urban rebirth is missing a key element: births.” Manhattan’s infant population is projected to halve in 30 years. High-density cities are losing families with children over age six, while growing their populations of college-educated residents without children. Indeed, the share of children under 20 living in big cities has been falling for 40 years.

Young professionals’ four-legged friends have replaced those babies.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Personal Finance & Investing, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues, Young Adults

Anglicare Australia calls for Robodebt system to be suspended

Anglicare Australia called for Centrelink’s Robodebt system to be suspended at a Senate committee hearing today.

“The Robodebt system has no human oversight – and it puts the onus onto ordinary people to correct robotised mistakes,” said Anglicare Australia Executive Director Kasy Chambers.

“The Government has already admitted that the system that has saddled people with tens of millions of dollars in false debt. But that is just the tip of the iceberg.

“Many people are simply paying these false debts instead of challenging them. In other cases, the debts are so old that the records to contradict them no longer exist.”

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Posted in Anglican Church of Australia, Ethics / Moral Theology, Personal Finance & Investing, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(Guardian) Hundreds of clergy facing hardship despite vast C of E wealth

Hundreds of clergy are in financial hardship, with some resorting to credit cards or even a high-interest payday lender, despite the Church of England sitting on a multibillion-pound investment fund.

Some vicars are tens of thousands of pounds in debt, with many struggling to survive – especially those supporting families – and relying on charity handouts to make ends meet, the Guardian has learned.

Clergy Support Trust – a centuries-old charity which supports destitute Anglican vicars, assistant or associate priests, curates-in-training and chaplains – gave £1.8m worth of grants to 459 clergy last year.

Analysis last year found that 217 individuals who had applied to the charity for help had personal unsecured debts of £5,000 or more, totalling nearly £3m. The figures, based on a combination of grant application data over a 20-month period, do not include mortgages or student loans. Of the 217, 41% had debts of between £5,000 and £10,000, 44% between £10,000 and £20,000, and 15% over £20,000. Four applicants had debts in excess of £50,000.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Personal Finance & Investing, Stewardship

(WSJ) American Families Go Deep in Debt to Stay in the Middle Class

The American middle class is falling deeper into debt to maintain a middle-class lifestyle.

Cars, college, houses and medical care have become steadily more costly, but incomes have been largely stagnant for two decades, despite a recent uptick. Filling the gap between earning and spending is an explosion of finance into nearly every corner of the consumer economy.

Consumer debt, not counting mortgages, has climbed to $4 trillion—higher than it has ever been even after adjusting for inflation. Mortgage debt slid after the financial crisis a decade ago but is rebounding.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Personal Finance & Investing, Theology

(C of E) New study outlines impact of two child limit

Research on the impact of the two-child limit in tax credits and universal credit, conducted by the Child Poverty Action Group and the Mission and Public Affairs Council of the Church of England, is published today.

All Kids Count: the impact of the two-child limit after two years, shows that parents affected by the policy are reporting that they have cut back on fresh food for children, are unable to cover essential utility bills, and are being obliged to withdraw older children from activities such as swimming lessons and school trips.

The report, with additional contributions from Women’s Aid, the Refugee Council, and the charity, Turn2us, includes analysis by the Institute for Public Policy research (IPPR) which projects that one million children who already live in poverty will be pushed further below the poverty line by the time universal credit is fully rolled out in 2023/24 as a result of the policy.

The research draws on a survey of more than 430 families and 16 in-depth follow-up interviews with a representative sample of survey respondents. Women’s Aid and the Refugee Council provided additional findings from interviews with survivors of domestic abuse and refugees.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Children, Church of England (CoE), Economy, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Personal Finance & Investing, Politics in General

(CNBC) Charitable contributions take a hit following tax reform

After years of strong growth, total charitable giving rose just 0.7% in 2018, according to a new report on philanthropy by Giving USA. When adjusted for inflation, total giving declined 1.7%.

Last year was the first time the impact of the new tax law, which eliminated or sharply reduced the benefits of charitable giving for many would-be donors, could be measured.

Altogether, individuals, bequests, foundations and corporations donated an estimated $427.71 billion to U.S. charities in 2018, Giving USA said. But giving by individuals fell, while contributions from foundations and corporations rose.

“We certainly do have a pretty stark picture that tax reform took effect and charitable giving declined,” said Laura MacDonald, the president of Benefactor Group and vice chair of the Giving USA foundation board. However, a volatile stock market, which took a dive near the end of the year, may have also played a role, she said.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Personal Finance & Investing, Politics in General, Stewardship, Taxes

(DM) Former BBC boss Michael Grade will lead a probe into the effects of problem gambling on society and the £1bn cost to the taxpayer

The House of Lords probe will look in particular at the effect of online gambling on society and the ‘gamblification’ of sport. It will also consider whether participation in lotteries can push people towards gambling problems.

The panel into the ‘social and economic impact of gambling’ will be chaired by Lord Grade, chairman of the BBC between 2004 and 2006 and now a Tory peer. It follows a report by the Institute of Public Policy Research think-tank, which found the cost of problem gambling to the Government could be as much as £1.2 billion a year.

The report said problem gambling may impose health costs through pressure on mental health services, welfare and employment costs through Jobseeker’s Allowance, housing costs and criminal justice costs. It said the impact on families can be devastating.

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Posted in England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Gambling, Personal Finance & Investing, Politics in General

(WSJ) As Sharing Health-Care Costs Takes Off, States Warn: It Isn’t Insurance

Religious organizations where members help pay each other’s medical bills have grown from niche insurance alternatives to operations bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars, an increase that is also driving more consumer complaints and state scrutiny.

More than a million people have joined the groups, known as health-care sharing ministries, up from an estimated 200,000 before the Affordable Care Act, which granted members an exemption from the law’s penalty for not having health insurance. The organizations generally provide a health-care cost-sharing arrangement among people with similar religious beliefs, and their cost is often far lower than full health insurance.

Consumers typically pay a set monthly amount that goes into a general account or directly to others who have an eligible medical bill. They also submit their own eligible bills to be shared by other members.

As membership swells, more people have complained that their medical bills weren’t paid or were paid months late. Some states said they have seen an increase in complaints filed with regulators. More negative reviews have also appeared online.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Personal Finance & Investing, Religion & Culture, State Government

(MarketWatch) Former SEC lawyer sounds alarm on ‘the greatest retirement crisis’ in history

He pointed to a “woefully unprepared” U.S. population.

“In the decades to come, we will witness millions of elderly American’s, Baby Boomers and others, slipping into poverty.” he said in a podcast this week with the Peak Prosperity blog. “‘Too frail to work, too poor to retire’” will become the new normal for many elderly Americans.”

Siedle threw out some startling numbers to show just how much pensions are underfunded, a pervasive problem made worse by their inability to reach performance targets, which is typically set around 7%.

“Warren Buffett BRK.A, +1.41% himself has said that is an unrealistic return,” Siedle said in the interview. “Wall Street’s solution to every investor problem is, and will always be, pay us more fees.”

Investors then pay those higher fees for “ever riskier rolls of the dice,” in an effort to chase returns, which “has resulted, predictably, in worse performance.”

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Posted in Aging / the Elderly, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pensions, Personal Finance, Personal Finance & Investing, Social Security

Archbishop Justin Welby: Britain’s housing crisis is a major challenge

Britain’s housing crisis is one of the major challenges facing this country.

Housing is becoming unaffordable for many families, making it hard for those on lower incomes to get through the month and pushing them into debt. People are living in poor quality, over-crowded or temporary housing, putting their health at risk. Families are forced to move away from the communities they have settled in, separating them from family and support networks and breaking up communities.

Meanwhile it’s the poorest who are suffering the most. It’s those with least who find themselves isolated, or having to move every time they start to get established. The stress piles up in ways many of us would find hard to imagine.

That is why I’m so pleased to be launching the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commission on Housing, Church and Community. The commission will explore these issues by combining academic and industry expertise with the lived experience of those affected by them. It will draw on the wisdom of those taking innovative approaches to housing.

The Church of England is already doing much to alleviate current suffering and build better communities. We do this every day through our 33,000 social action projects around the country – from food banks and debt counselling, to helping people of different faiths build bonds of friendship. But we also do it just by being in contact with people; by simply being there.

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Housing/Real Estate Market, Personal Finance & Investing, Religion & Culture

(NYT Op-ed) Nicholas Kristof–is a small Seattle company showing that capitalism can have a heart?

Staff members gasped four years ago when Dan Price gathered the 120 employees at Gravity Payments, the company he had founded with his brother, and told them he was raising everyone’s salary to a minimum of $70,000, partly by slashing his own $1.1 million pay to the same level.

The news went viral and provoked a national debate about whether efficient capitalism could have a heart. Some Americans lauded Price for treating employees with dignity. However, on Fox Business he was labeled the “lunatic of all lunatics,” and Rush Limbaugh declared, “I hope this company is a case study in M.B.A. programs on how socialism does not work, because it’s going to fail.”

So I came to Seattle to see what had unfolded: Did Gravity succeed or crash?

There were bumps, no doubt about it. A couple of important employees quit, apparently feeling less valued when new hires were close to them in pay. The publicity forced Gravity, which processes credit card payments for small businesses, to hire additional people to handle a deluge of inquiries. Worst of all, Price’s brother, who owned a stake in the company, sued and alleged that Price hadn’t consulted him on decisions.

For a while, it wasn’t clear that the gamble was going to pay off.

But eventually it did: Business has surged, and profits are higher than ever. Gravity last year processed $10.2 billion in payments, more than double the $3.8 billion in 2014, before the announcement. It has grown to 200 employees, all nonunion.

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Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Personal Finance & Investing, Theology

(NYT) Biggest College Admissions Scandal in US History: Actresses, Business Leaders and Other Wealthy Parents Charged

A teenage girl who did not play soccer magically became a star soccer recruit at Yale. Cost to her parents: $1.2 million.

A high school boy eager to enroll at the University of Southern California was falsely deemed to have a learning disability so he could take his standardized test with a complicit proctor who would make sure he got the right score. Cost to his parents: at least $50,000.

A student with no experience rowing won a spot on the U.S.C. crew team after a photograph of another person in a boat was submitted as evidence of her prowess. Her parents wired $200,000 into a special account.

In a major college admissions scandal that laid bare the elaborate lengths some wealthy parents will go to get their children into competitive American universities, federal prosecutors charged 50 people on Tuesday in a brazen scheme to buy spots in the freshmen classes at Yale, Stanford and other big name schools.

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Posted in Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Personal Finance & Investing

(USA Today) Help with the mortgage. More married couples bring in roommates to ease cost, study shows

In June, Natalee King and her husband, Jonathan, realized a decade-long dream of buying a home in Orange County, California, one of the more expensive housing markets in the country.

The couple drained their savings for a down payment to win the fixer upper.

But concerned about the cost of future repairs and compelled to rebuild their savings, they decided to rent out the master bedroom with its own bathroom for $1,250. From September through January, two college students on internships leased the space.

That rent money gave the Kings a bit of relief, and they’re looking for more.

They just signed another renter who is expected to move in at the end of the month. They plan to rent for at least a year to steady their finances as Jonathan goes back to school for a career change.

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Posted in Housing/Real Estate Market, Personal Finance & Investing