Category : Personal Finance

(NPR) Can’t Pay Your Student Loans? The Government May Come After Your House

On Adriene McNally’s 49th birthday in January, she heard a knock on the door of her modest row-home in Northeast Philadelphia.

She was being served.

“They actually paid someone to come out and serve me papers on a Saturday afternoon,” she says.

The papers were from a government lawsuit that represents something more than just an unwelcome birthday gift — it’s an example of a program the federal government has brought to 19 cities around the country including Brooklyn, Detroit, Miami and Philadelphia: suing to recover unpaid student loans, like the ones McNally owes.

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Posted in Economy, Education, Personal Finance, The U.S. Government, Young Adults

(NPR) Medical Debt Is Top Reason Consumers Hear From Collection Agencies

A recently released report says medical debt is the No. 1 reason consumers reported being contacted by a collection agency. If efforts to overhaul the Affordable Care Act result in more people losing their coverage, those numbers could rise.

The study by the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that 59 percent of people who reported they had been contacted by a debt collector said it was for medical services. Telecommunications bills were the second most common type of overdue bill for which debt collectors pursued payment, at 37 percent, and utilities were third, reported by 28 percent.

Unlike other types of debt, people with medical debt were prevalent across a range of income levels, credit scores and ages. A poll conducted in 2015 by NPR, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that many people with health insurance still struggle to pay medical bills. Some 26 percent said health care expenses have taken a serious toll on family finances.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Personal Finance, Stewardship, Theology

Dethroning Mammon: Archbishop Justin Welby's 2017 Lent Book

In his first full-length book, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby looks at the subject of money and materialism.

Designed for study in the weeks of Lent leading up to Easter, Dethroning Mammon reflects on the impact of our own attitudes, and of the pressures that surround us; on how we handle the power of money, called Mammon in this book. Who will be on the throne of our lives? Who will direct our actions and attitudes? Is it Jesus Christ, who brings truth, hope and freedom? Or is it Mammon, so attractive, so clear, but leading us into paths that tangle, trip and deceive?

Read it all and you can read an extract there.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Books, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Personal Finance, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Lovely Story about a Michigan Restaurant Owner's Generosity

Every Thanksgiving for the past 10 years, George Dimopoulos has done something amazing.

It’s not that he shuts down his Northville, Michigan restaurant, called George’s Senate Coney Island. It’s that he opens it up even more than usual.

If you are homeless or even just alone for Thanksgiving (or Easter!), you can get a free meal at George’s.

“I’m a very good cook,” he told TODAY.com. “I cook a lot of good food, and I give a lot of food to people. I don’t tell people that I do this; I do this because I believe in God and believe that there are people who need a little help.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Corporations/Corporate Life, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Personal Finance, Poverty, Stewardship, Theology

(NYT) A Bigger Economic Pie, but a Smaller Slice for Half of the U.S.

Even with all the setbacks from recessions, burst bubbles and vanishing industries, the United States has still pumped out breathtaking riches over the last three and half decades.

The real economy more than doubled in size; the government now uses a substantial share of that bounty to hand over as much as $5 trillion to help working families, older people, disabled and unemployed people pay for a home, visit a doctor and put their children through school.

Yet for half of all Americans, their share of the total economic pie has shrunk significantly, new research has found.

This group ”” the approximately 117 million adults stuck on the lower half of the income ladder ”” “has been completely shut off from economic growth since the 1970s,” the team of economists found.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Children, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, History, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Marriage & Family, Personal Finance, Psychology, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, Theology

(BBC) Archbp Justin Welby: Putting money in its proper place

In the last two chapters, he offers a couple of countermeasures:
What we give we gain
What we master brings us joy
These are what he calls the formulation of “divine economics”, a kind of upside-down approach to wealth where giving does not result in depletion but blessing, and where overcoming our natural appetite for accumulating wealth is the challenge that brings genuine and deep-seated peace.
“Money buys capabilities,” he says.
“It also buys security, but it risks taking us further and further away from being those who wash feet, who dethrone Mammon by subverting the power of wealth to give us a better life.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Eschatology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Personal Finance, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(CT's The Local Church) These Churches Fought Domestic Poverty with the Gospel””and It Worked

In August, Christianity Today partnered with Deidox Films to debut The Ordinance, a documentary exploring churches’ efforts to fight predatory payday lenders. Many church leaders recognize the shameful practices of these lenders and seek to meet the needs of their church members while also fighting for justice on a legislative level. On the other side of the same coin, however, are churches attempting to fight poverty and prevent the situations that lead people to accept these loans.

In recent years, several Christian organizations have developed programs providing microloans, savings groups, and economic education in international contexts. But how much do we know about empowering our own communities? With racial and economic tensions exacerbated in recent years, the local church has a key role to play in bringing about reconciliation. Organizations like The Chalmers Center, whose founders wrote the bestselling When Helping Hurts, have recognized the vast needs in the United States and are now working to equip churches to meet economic and spiritual needs in their communities.

“As Chalmers worked to empower grassroots churches in Africa, Asia, and Latin America to help the poor help themselves, we became acutely aware of the same need to address poverty holistically in our own nation,” said John Mark Bowers, the Curriculum Specialist at The Chalmers Center. “After publishing When Helping Hurts, we heard from even more churches that were hungry for tools to help them walk alongside people across economic lines right here in the United States. Thus, the birth of an IDAs [Individual Development Accounts] pilot””out of which came Faith & Finances, and later, Work Life.”

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Personal Finance, Poverty, Religion & Culture, Theology

(WSJ) Rabbi Peter Rubinstein–Thinking About Charity on Black Friday

Following a bruising presidential election, some Americans are afraid of the future. Others feel that the tumult of the campaign was necessary to disrupt business as usual. Multitudes feel that the country has lost its way, while just as many believe that the nation has finally found its footing. No doubt millions of people have witnessed these divisions at their own Thanksgiving feasts.

Many of us in the religious world wonder: How can we bridge this chasm and unify our body politic? How does the country close the fault line that divides the U.S. in half? Is it possible to stand for what we believe is right while still being civil toward the friends, family and neighbors who supported the “wrong” candidate? The way forward lies not in politics, but in something that binds us together as human beings: the simple act of giving to others.

Giving has long been invoked as a healing counterpoint to the darker sides of human nature. Tzedakah””the Jewish concept of donating at least 10% of one’s income to charity””comes from the Hebrew word for justice, or righteousness. Generosity is also at the heart of Christianity, and it is one of the five pillars of Islam.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Personal Finance, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(C of E) The Bp of Birmingham responds to the Chancellor's Autumn Statement

The Bishop of Birmingham, Rt Revd David Urquhart, has issued the following response to the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement:

Bishop David said: “The political turbulence of the past year and lower growth forecasts have meant the Chancellor has been given limited economic room for manoeuvre. But I welcome the emphasis in the Autumn Statement on long term stability, investment in innovation, in our national infrastructure and on supporting regional growth. To be a nation living within its means is an aspiration worth keeping, even if the revised figures for deficit reduction mean that the goal of its achievement has been moved slightly further away.

The Government is to be commended for wanting to address the situation of those who are ‘just managing’ and for its emphasis on work as being an important route out of poverty. The increases in the National Living Wage and a partial reversal of planned cuts to Universal Credit announced in today’s Autumn Statement are welcome and will offer some help. But at a time when the cost of living is set to rise, more on the lowest incomes will still struggle to get by and they might benefit from more targeted assistance than further increases in the tax free personal allowance, which mostly benefits better off families, as the recent report by the Centre for Social Justice points out.

As the Joseph Rowntree Foundation have highlighted, the four-year freeze on working-age benefits is looking increasingly out of date, especially with rising inflation.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Anthropology, Children, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Marriage & Family, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Taxes, Theology

(LA Times) In America, the rich outlive the poor by up to 9.5 years, study says

The United States is one of the richest countries in the world, but it would look dramatically different if its 50 states were organized according to income instead of geography.

If that were the case, residents of the poorest state in the union would have a median household income that’s just above the federal poverty line for a family of four. They would also expect to live shorter lives than people in more than half of the world’s countries.

It’s not a pretty picture, according to the researchers who carried out this thought experiment.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Children, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Poverty, Theology

Bonnie Gayle–I Didn’t Have Kids Because They’re Too Expensive–and I Have No Regrets

Being childless has allowed me to invest in myself.

Right now, most 50-somethings are cashing out their savings to send their kids to college.

And a great deal more are paying for their kids’ weddings, embracing grandkids, or supporting Millennial children who are returning to the nest.

Me? Let’s just say my life doesn’t exactly fit into the typical mold.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Children, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Personal Finance, Psychology, Theology

(BI) U.S. public pension plans are headed for a disaster on the current trajectory

The combined debt held by U.S. public pension plans will top $1.7 trillion next year, according to a just-released report from Moody’s Investors Services.

This “pension tsunami” has already forced towns like Stockton, California and Detroit, Michigan into bankruptcy. Perhaps no government mismanaged their pension as badly as Puerto Rico, where a $43 billion pension debt forced the commonwealth to seek protection from the federal government after having defaulted on its obligations to bondholders ”” a default which is expected to spread to retirees in the form of benefit cuts.

While the disastrous outcome of Puerto Rico’s pension plan ”” which is projected to completely run out of assets by 2019 ”” represents the worst-case scenario, the same series of events that led to its demise can be found in most public pension plans nationwide.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, Anthropology, City Government, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Pensions, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Psychology, State Government, Stock Market, Theology

(Church Times) Stanley Hauerwas–Countering the politics of resentment

…the racism and anxiety that Mr Trump has exploited are, I believe, manifestations of an even deeper pathology ”” namely, the profound sense of unease that many Americans have about their lives. That unease often takes the form of resentment against elites, but, even more troublingly, it also funds the prejudice against minority groups and immigrants.

Resentment is another word for the unease that seems to grip good middle-class ”” mostly white ”” people who have worked hard all their lives and yet find that they are no better off than when they started. They deeply resent what they interpret as the special treatment that some receive in an effort to right the wrongs of the past.

All this is happening at the same time as the Church ”” at least, the mainstream Church ”” is struggling against a culture of consumption. Americans find that they have no good reason for going to church. The statistical decline of Christians has led some church leaders to think that our primary job is to find ways to increase church membership. At a time when Christians are seeking to say something confident and useful about “church growth”, what we communicate is superficial and simplistic. You do not need to come to church to be told that you need to be nice.

The Church has failed to help people to live in such a manner that they would want no other life than the life they have lived….

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

Key Guardian article on the elitism+incestuousness of some of the usa ruling class

They are the comfortable and well-educated mainstay of our modern Democratic party. They are also the grandees of our national media; the architects of our software; the designers of our streets; the high officials of our banking system; the authors of just about every plan to fix social security or fine-tune the Middle East with precision droning. They are, they think, not a class at all but rather the enlightened ones, the people who must be answered to but who need never explain themselves.

Let us turn the magnifying glass on them for a change, by sorting through the hacked personal emails of John Podesta, who has been a Washington power broker for decades. I admit that I feel uncomfortable digging through this hoard; stealing someone’s email is a crime, after all, and it is outrageous that people’s personal information has been exposed, since WikiLeaks doesn’t seem to have redacted the emails in any way. There is also the issue of authenticity to contend with: we don’t know absolutely and for sure that these emails were not tampered with by whoever stole them from John Podesta. The supposed authors of the messages are refusing to confirm or deny their authenticity, and though they seem to be real, there is a small possibility they aren’t.

With all that taken into consideration, I think the WikiLeaks releases furnish us with an opportunity to observe the upper reaches of the American status hierarchy in all its righteousness and majesty.

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I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Psychology, Senate, Theology

(Gallup) Americans Continue to Cite the Economy as the Top Problem Facing the Country

With the presidential election looming, more Americans cite the economy (17%) than any other issue as the most important U.S. problem in October, followed by dissatisfaction with the government (12%). Americans’ concerns about the major problems facing the country are largely consistent with what they have been throughout 2016.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Office of the President, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Sociology, Theology