Friday, November 27, 2009

Classic Thanksgiving Dinner Cost Declines for 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C., November 12, 2009 – Menu items for a classic Thanksgiving dinner including turkey, stuffing, cranberries, pumpkin pie and all the basic trimmings dropped 4 percent in price this year, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

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Federal Reserve announces final rules prohibiting institutions from charging fees for overdrafts on ATM and one-time debit card transactions

The Federal Reserve Board announced final rules that prohibit financial institutions from charging consumers fees for paying overdrafts on automated teller machine (ATM) and one-time debit card transactions, unless a consumer consents, or opts in, to the overdraft service for those types of transactions.

Before opting in, the consumer must be provided a notice that explains the financial institution's overdraft services, including the fees associated with the service, and the consumer's choices. The final rules, along with a model opt-in notice, are issued under Regulation E, which implements the Electronic Fund Transfer Act.

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U.S. News Media Group and NCQA Release 2009-10 Rankings of America’s Best Health Insurance Plans

Washington, D.C. – November 12, 2009 – U.S. News Media Group and the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) today released the fifth annual edition of America’s Best Health Insurance Plans on Published at the start of open-enrollment season, when Americans nationwide prepare to select their health coverage, the 2009-10 Best Health Insurance Plans guide provides consumers with comprehensive rankings and important detailed information for over 600 commercial, Medicare, and Medicaid health plans.

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DOL Posts Unemployment Estimation Tool

Unemployment Benefit Estimation Tool

To help unemployed workers keep their homes, the Department of Labor has developed this tool to help mortgage companies quantify income from unemployment benefits for eligible individuals. More information on the tool and how it can be used can be found at: A New Tool to Project Availablility of Unemployment Benefits

Thursday, November 19, 2009

FED Cracks Down on Gift Card Abuses

Release Date: November 16, 2009

For immediate release

The Federal Reserve Board on Monday announced proposed rules that would restrict the fees and expiration dates that may apply to gift cards. The rules would protect consumers from certain unexpected costs and would require that gift card terms and conditions be clearly stated.

The proposed rules would prohibit dormancy, inactivity, and service fees on gift cards unless: (1) there has been at least one year of inactivity on the certificate or card; (2) no more than one such fee is charged per month; and (3) the consumer is given clear and conspicuous disclosures about the fees. Expiration dates for funds underlying gift cards must be at least five years after the date of issuance, or five years after the date when funds were last loaded.

The Board's proposed rules generally cover retail gift cards, which can be used to buy goods or services at a single merchant or affiliated group of merchants, and network-branded gift cards, which are redeemable at any merchant that accepts the card brand.

The proposed rules are issued under Regulation E (Electronic Fund Transfers) to implement the gift card provisions of the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009.

The Board's notice is attached. Comments on the proposal must be submitted within 30 days after publication in the Federal Register, which is expected shortly.

Federal Register notice (308 KB PDF)

Highlights document (13 KB PDF)

2009 Banking and Consumer Regulatory Policy

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

How Did We Spend the Stimulus?

The chart below, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, illustrates how various households spent the stimulus payment. Almost half reported used the payment to pay off debt.

Full Story Here.


Use of 2008 Economic Stimulus Payments (tax rebates), by composition of consumer unit, June 2008–March 2009

Roth Conversion in 2010 and Beyond

This article by Richard Kaplan clearly explains the benefits and cost of converting a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. It is highly recommended.

To Roth or Not to Roth: Analyzing the Conversion Opportunity for 2010 and Beyond

Richard L. Kaplan
University of Illinois College of Law
Bureau of National Affairs Daily Tax Report, Vol. 9, No. 181, September 22, 2009
University of Illinois Law & Economics Research Paper No. LE09-026

Beginning in 2010, all taxpayers will be able to convert their existing Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA) to Roth IRAs, without regard to their level of income or marital status. In effect, taxpayers will be able to lock in current income tax rates on account values that have been eroded by recent investment market declines. This article analyzes who should take advantage of this opportunity, using the barest minimum of arithmetic (and no calculus).

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WSJ: Considering Downside Risk