Category : Personal Finance & Investing

(NBC) Former medical debt collectors using expertise to help the neediest patients

Craig Antico co-founded RIP Medical Debt, a non-profit that buys up batches of overdue medical bills, erasing $120 million in debt for 60,000 patients so far.

Posted in Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, Health & Medicine, Personal Finance & Investing, Stewardship

(C of E) Fixed Odds Betting Terminals: £2 maximum stake is ‘right decision’, says Bishop Alan Smith

The Bishop of St Albans, Alan Smith, has welcomed Government plans to limit the maximum stake on Fixed-Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) to £2.

Dr Alan Smith said the decision was an “essential” step in curbing the harm done by the machines, which he said have “taken advantage of the vulnerable for too long”.

He thanked ministers for their action, announced today as part of a package of measures in response to a Government consultation.

Bishop Alan had previously written to all members of the Church of England’s General Synod, encouraging them to respond to the consultation with evidence of the consequences of these machines for their communities.

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

(Post-Gazette) Religious institutions wait to see what tax reform does to their place in people’s budgets

The conventional thinking is that most people who donate to places of worship are not primarily motivated by tax benefits.

For many, giving is a core value based on religious teachings and a sense of gratitude.

This could be the year when those assumptions are put to a test.

The new federal tax law has cut taxes for working American families, but it also could have the unintended consequence of reducing the financial incentive for many people to donate to religious and charitable organizations.

The Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy estimates roughly 30 million households earning between $50,000 and $100,000 will be less likely to itemize deductions on their taxes due to the new law. With less incentive to donate, researchers predict the amount those households give will decline.

“Tax incentives do affect how much people give,” said Una Osili, associate dean for research. “If it is more expensive to give, they give less.”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Personal Finance & Investing, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Taxes

(Mirror) Punters would lose £500 a session under Gambling Commission’s recommendation for fixed bet terminals to set the maximum stake at £30

Gambling addicts will lose more than £500 a session if the maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals is set at £30.

Government minister Tracey Crouch wants a £2 limit on the ­bookies’ shop machines – nicknamed the crack cocaine of gambling.

But her plans received a blow from the Gambling Commission – the body that advises the Government – which has recommended she sets the top stake at £30.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Gambling, Personal Finance & Investing, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Wash Post) Robert Samuelson–Don’t deny the link between poverty and single parenthood

What’s less worthy is basing any debate on misleading analysis. That’s my complaint against the Times essay. Its hypothetical and admittedly unrealistic thought experiment that eliminating poverty among single mothers wouldn’t have much effect on overall poverty is wrong, according to the government’s own figures from the Census Bureau.

Let’s look at the census figures.

In 2016, 40.6 million Americans had incomes below the government’s official poverty line, which was $24,339 for a family of four, including two children. Of those below the poverty line — 12.7 percent of the population — nearly 5 million were moms or dads heading single-parent families; 8.7 million were children under 18 in these single-parent homes.

Do the arithmetic. Together, single-parent families and their children totaled almost 14 million people, which is roughly a third of all people in poverty. If, magically, a third of America’s poor escaped poverty, the change would (justifiably) be hailed as a triumph of social policy. If we included the children in poverty in two-parent families, that would add more than 7 million to the total (3 million parents and 4 million children). The total of 21 million would equal about half of all people in poverty.

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Posted in Census/Census Data, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Personal Finance & Investing, Poverty

(Wash Post) A retirement account Boom leads to an Urge for Some Americans to Splurge

The remarkable stock market rally of 2017 – in which the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index shot up 22 percent and the Dow Jones industrial average 25 percent – has boosted the nation’s retirement accounts to record heights, making the painful 2008-2009 stock market crash feel like ancient history. And that fervor has not faded with the new year.

That feeling of optimism could spread as more Americans receive their year-end retirement account statements in the mail and online this month, providing concrete evidence of newfound paper wealth.

And some are so confident that they are taking money out – despite it being taxed and potentially hit by an early-withdrawal penalty – assuming it will be replaced as markets continue to surge upward.

“I’ve seen more money requests for extraneous items in the last six weeks than I have in the last five years,” said Jamie Cox of Richmond-based Harris Financial Group, which manages $500 million in savings for about 800 middle-class families.

“There’s a lot of people that are feeling comfortable spending their retirement money right now,” Cox said.

Cox said he is seeing more people take larger withdrawals, $20,000 to $40,000, to fund dream vacations or home improvement.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Personal Finance & Investing, Theology

(Front Page of Yesterdays LA Times) Borrow $5,000, repay $42,000 — How super high-interest loans have boomed in California

[JoAnn] Hesson’s $5,125 loan was scheduled to be repaid over more than seven years, with $495 due monthly, for a total of $42,099.85 — that’s nearly $37,000 in interest.

“Access to credit of this kind is like giving starving people poisoned food,” said consumer advocate Margot Saunders, an attorney with the National Consumer Law Center. “It doesn’t really help, and it has devastating consequences.”

These pricey loans are perfectly legal in California and a handful of other states with lax lending rules. While California has strict rules governing payday loans, and a complicated system of interest-rate caps for installment loans of less than $2,500, there’s no limit to the amount of interest on bigger loans.

State lawmakers in 1985 removed an interest-rate cap on loans between $2,500 and $5,000. Now, more than half of all loans in that range carry triple-digit interest rates.

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Posted in Personal Finance & Investing

(CT) A federal judge (again) has declard that the longstanding clergy housing allowance violates the 1st Amendment

Once again, a federal judge has declared that the longstanding clergy housing allowance violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

Offered only to “ministers of the gospel,” the 60-year-old tax break excludes the rental value of a home from the taxable income of US clergy. It’s the “most important tax benefit available to ministers,” according to GuideStone Financial Resources.

It’s also the biggest: American ministers currently avail themselves of the tax break to the tune of $800 million a year, according to the latest estimate by the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation.

Wisconsin district judge Barbara Crabb first ruled against the housing allowance in 2013, finding that the second part of Section 107 of the IRS tax code provides “a benefit to religious persons and no one else, even though doing so is not necessary to alleviate a special burden on religious exercise.” Her ruling “sen[t] shockwaves through the religious community,” the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability stated at the time.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Personal Finance & Investing, Religion & Culture, Taxes

Keeping Things in perspective Dept–Looking back to 1938 and what it cost to Live

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Personal Finance & Investing

(NBC) Parents of Toddler Killed in Disney Resort Alligator Attack Launch Foundation to Help Families with Children in Critical Medical Need

The parents of Lane Graves announced that the foundation, named in honor of their son, would help other parents pay expenses like electrical bills or the mortgage, while their children endure organ transplants.

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Posted in Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, Children, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Personal Finance & Investing

(Local Paper) South Carolina insurance director confirms http://HealthCare.gov prices will increase 31% next year

As Congress once again turns its focus toward health care reform, the S.C. Department of Insurance posted some sobering news about 2018 health insurance prices.

The agency confirmed on its website Thursday that average premiums for HealthCare.gov polices will skyrocket 31 percent in South Carolina next year, confirming information the federal government published on the future of health insurance costs earlier this summer.

Some customers will face higher increases than others. A 60-year-old patient in Charleston County who doesn’t use tobacco and wants to buy a “silver” plan next year will pay about 28 percent more. His monthly premium will increase from about $837 a month this year to $1,068 a month next year.

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Posted in --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Personal Finance & Investing

(WSJ) After Irma, Many Mobile Homeowners May Face Tough Choice–rebuild or walk away

Some of the homes hardest hit by Hurricane Irma in Florida are also the least likely to be insured.

Florida has more mobile and manufactured homes than any other state. These homes, which are built in factories rather than directly onto a lot, often house low-income residents and seniors seeking cheaper housing for their retirement.

The homes are also less likely to be insured than many other types of homes, with the Florida Manufactured Housing Association estimating as many as 50% of the homes may lack insurance.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Marriage & Family, Natural Disasters: Earthquakes, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, etc., Personal Finance & Investing

(WSJ) In America Men, young adults and rural residents increasingly say college isn’t worth the cost

Americans are losing faith in the value of a college degree, with majorities of young adults, men and rural residents saying college isn’t worth the cost, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey shows.

The findings reflect an increase in public skepticism of higher education from just four years ago and highlight a growing divide in opinion falling along gender, educational, regional and partisan lines. They also carry political implications for universities, already under public pressure to rein in their costs and adjust curricula after decades of sharp tuition increases.

Overall, a slim plurality of Americans, 49%, believes earning a four-year degree will lead to a good job and higher lifetime earnings, compared with 47% who don’t, according to the poll of 1,200 people taken Aug. 5-9. That two-point margin narrowed from 13 points when the same question was asked four years earlier.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Education, Personal Finance & Investing, Rural/Town Life, Young Adults

(Bloomberg) American weddings are getting rarer and smaller—but not cheaper

You’re not the only one spending fewer summer weekends watching other people get married—but don’t worry, the weddings you’re still invited to might feel a little more special these days.

Fewer Americans are getting married, and the ones who still are have scaled back their weddings. Their nuptials are becoming smaller, though not necessarily cheaper, affairs.

Many couples are waiting longer and longer to schedule their weddings. In 2015, the median first-time American bride was almost 28 years old and the median groom almost 30, according to the most recent data available from the Census Bureau. (Ten years earlier, the typical bride was 25.5, the typical groom 27.)

The U.S. marriage rate—the number of new marriages per 1,000 people—has been falling for decades. It fell especially fast during the recession, in 2008 and 2009, but there’s little evidence that people started getting married again even as the economy recovered. And research firm IbisWorld predicts the marriage rate will keep falling over the next five years.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Marriage & Family, Personal Finance & Investing, Sociology

(CT) DL Mayfield–How Government Support Saved Me; Signing up for food stamps changed my view of poverty in America

Just a few months ago, my family stopped qualifying for government cheese.

It came as a little bit of a surprise to me—I had, after all, been a part of the WIC (women, infants, and children) program for almost seven years, starting with my first child. My daughter was born two months early due to life-threatening complications and I was never able to breastfeed. WIC supplied the formula, an expense that would have been a huge blow to our family’s finances. As my husband and I took turns getting our graduate degrees, WIC provided us with milk, cheese, eggs, and a few other essentials, and when we were support-raising missionaries living in immigrant and refugee neighborhoods for three years, we used our WIC vouchers along with all of our neighbors.

Two years ago when my second child was born, I wasn’t able to work, and while moving across the country, our only car broke down. By the time we finally found an apartment to live in and a job for my husband, we didn’t even have enough money to buy curtains for our windows. We applied for food stamps, or SNAP, along with WIC, and I don’t know what we would have done without it for those few months. I felt sweet relief being able to go to the grocery store, swipe my card, and purchase food for my family. Each time, I was incredibly grateful for my country.

In light of where my family is now, it’s important for me to take a moment and remember those feelings—both the stress of not having money to buy essentials and the gratitude for any small breaks.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Personal Finance & Investing, Poverty, Religion & Culture