Monday, January 25, 2010

Check the SEC’s for Investor Education

From the website:

By visiting, investors can access information in a user-friendly format that is specifically tailored to their needs. The site includes sections specifically for those just getting started investing, for those saving for a child's education, and for those planning for retirement. It also has a detailed "Seniors Care Package" section for senior citizens and caretakers.

Updated UBS Dictionary of Banking

From website:

This updated edition of the «UBS Dictionary of Banking» contains definitions of over 2,400 terms, incorporating the latest information available from our Research department. This represents an increase – compared to the highly successful 2000 edition – of some 260 terms, the majority drawn from the area of wealth management. In future, the dictionary will be updated and expanded on an ongoing basis, so you will continue to benefit free of charge from UBS's vast expertise in financial theory and practice.

Read more.

Social Security Makes New Data Available to Public

From Social Security News Release

Here are a few examples of the value of the Social Security datasets available today:

  • Researchers can find out about the work-related experiences of our beneficiaries receiving Social Security disability benefits and give us policy guidance for our disability programs.
  • The public can see information about hearings workloads and a breakdown of the types of decisions made by Administrative Law Judges.
  • Researchers can study the effects of current and proposed legislative and program provisions.
  • People who have requested a hearing on their disability claim can estimate the amount of time they may have to wait for the hearing to be held and for a decision.
  • The public can see general information requested under the Freedom of Information Act.

Read more.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

ICI Reports IRA Ownership Remains Steady

From the Investment Company Institute

IRA Ownership Steady Despite Recent Market Turmoil

39 Percent of U.S. Households Owned IRAs in 2009

Washington, DC, January 21, 2010 - Despite market challenges in 2008 through the March 2009 stock market lows, individual retirement account (IRA) ownership in 2009 and IRA owners’ contribution and withdrawal activities in tax year 2008 were in line with recent historical experience, according to a new Investment Company Institute study.

The study, The Role of IRAs in U.S. Households’ Saving for Retirement, 2009, finds that nearly four out of 10 U.S. households owned IRAs in 2009—essentially the same as in 2008. IRA assets made up about 9 percent of all household financial assets. Traditional IRAs continue to be the most popular form, with about one-third of households owning them in 2009. The study finds that much of the recent growth in IRAs can be attributed to rollovers from employer-sponsored retirement plans. In 2009, nearly 20 million households had traditional IRAs that included rollover assets.

Read more.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Who Does Not Have a Bank Account?

This is the question the 2009 National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households prepared by the FDIC attempts to answer.

Key Overall Findings

• An estimated 7.7 percent of U.S. households, approximately 9 million, are unbanked.3 At least 17
million adults reside in these unbanked households .
• The proportion of U.S. households that are unbanked varies considerably among different racial
and ethnic groups, with certain racial and ethnic minorities more likely to be unbanked than the
population as a whole. Minorities more likely to be unbanked include blacks (an estimated 21.7 percent
of black households are unbanked), Hispanics (19.3percent), and American Indian/Alaskans (15.6
percent). Racial groups less likely to be unbanked are Asians (3.5 percent) and whites (3.3 percent).5
• In addition to the unbanked households, an estimated 17.9 percent of U.S. households, roughly 21
million, are underbanked.6 The number of adults that reside in these underbanked households is about 43 million.7
• Certain racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to be underbanked than the population as a whole.
Minorities more likely to be underbanked include blacks (an estimated 31.6 percent), American Indian/
Alaskans (28.9 percent), and Hispanics (24.0 percent). Asians and whites are less likely to be
underbanked (7.2 percent and 14.9 percent, respectively).


Read more.

“When people don’t have savings, they become vulnerable. Whenever there is even a small crisis, everything comes tumbling down. We need to emphasize the need to save and the need for delayed gratification. It’s important to save for tomorrow.”

—Ann Baddour, senior policy analyst at Texas Appleseed, a public interest law organization, at the FDIC’s Face Your Finances Road Show in Dallas

Monday, January 18, 2010

Store Brands Provide Considerable Savings

The following is from a recent Nielson Report

Within food, drug and mass-merchandisers (including Walmart), Nielsen reports that the price gap between store brands and manufacturer brands is considerable—especially for non-edible departments such as health & beauty and general merchandise where gaps ranged from 74% and 63% respectively. Food departments have a smaller percentage gap—store brand prices in the deli department were 22% lower than branded and up to 50% lower in the dairy department. Since the same period in 2006, price gaps have widened in four of seven departments (deli, frozen foods, dry grocery, dairy, non-food, general merchandise, health & beauty).

Read more. The Lowest Price Is Not Always the Best Price | Nielsen Wire

FRB Approves Final Rule on Credit Card Practices

From FRB press release:

Release Date: January 12, 2010

For immediate release

The Federal Reserve Board on Tuesday approved a final rule amending Regulation Z (Truth in Lending) to protect consumers who use credit cards from a number of costly practices. Credit card issuers must comply with most aspects of the rule beginning on February 22.

"This rule marks an important milestone in the Federal Reserve's efforts to ensure that consumers who rely on credit cards are treated fairly," said Federal Reserve Governor Elizabeth A. Duke.  "The rule bans several harmful practices and requires greater transparency in the disclosure of the terms and conditions of credit card accounts."

Among other things, the rule will:

  • Protect consumers from unexpected increases in credit card interest rates by generally prohibiting increases in a rate during the first year after an account is opened and increases in a rate that applies to an existing credit card balance.
  • Prohibit creditors from issuing a credit card to a consumer who is younger than the age of 21 unless the consumer has the ability to make the required payments or obtains the signature of a parent or other cosigner with the ability to do so.
  • Require creditors to obtain a consumer's consent before charging fees for transactions that exceed the credit limit.
  • Limit the high fees associated with subprime credit cards.
  • Ban creditors from using the "two-cycle" billing method to impose interest charges.
  • Prohibit creditors from allocating payments in ways that maximize interest charges.

Read more.

Savings From Using Public Transit Increases

This study from the American Public Transportation Association bases the savings on the full cost of owning an auto, not the marginal cost.

Riding Public Transit Saves Individuals $9,242 Annually  

Transit riders now save $600 more per year compared to last year at this time as the cost of gas has increased nearly $1 per gallon

Washington, DC – Individuals who ride public transportation can save on average $9,242 annually based on the January 11, 2010 national average gas price and the national unreserved monthly parking rate.  Compared to last year at this time, the average cost per gallon of gas was $1.79 which is nearly $1 less than the current price of gas at $2.75 per gallon.  This increase in cost equates to an additional $600 in savings per year for transit commuters as compared to last year’s savings amount at this same time.

“The Transit Savings Report” released monthly by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) calculates the average annual and monthly savings for public transit users.  The report examines how an individual in a two-person household can save money by taking public transportation and living with one less car.

Read more.

ICI Update on Mutual Funds Held by Households

ICI Study: More Than 50 Million U.S. Households Own Mutual Funds

Washington, DC, December 3, 2009 - More than 50 million U.S. households owned mutual funds in 2009, according to a newly updated ICI annual survey of U.S. households. While mutual funds are the most commonly held type of fund, 3.0 million households reported owning exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and 1.8 million households reported owning closed-end funds.

Read more.

CBO Issue Brief on the Alternative Minimum Tax

The Congressional Budget Office has just published an issue brief on the ATM that discusses the current reach of the tax.

The most recent AMT patch expired at the end of calendar year 2009. Without further adjustments, the impact of the AMT will expand quickly this year and continue to expand in subsequent years, becoming a more significant source of future revenues. As the reach of the AMT grows under current law, many taxpayers will face a fundamentally altered tax structure. If nothing is changed this year, one in six taxpayers will be affected by the AMT, paying on average an additional $3,900 in tax and nearly every married taxpayer with income between $100,000 and $500,000 will owe some alternative tax. Because of the particular tax preferences and exemptions disallowed under the AMT, that tax structure is more likely to affect married couples, large families, and taxpayers in states with high state and local taxes.

imageRead more.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Kaiser Fact Sheet on Extension of COBRA Coverage

The fact sheet from the Kaiser Family Foundation examines the key provisions in federal legislation that extends the COBRA subsidy.

Read more.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Job Loss is Top Reason for Foreclosure

From NeighborWorks of America

Washington, D.C. – Today NeighborWorks® America, the administrator of the National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling (NFMC) Program, announced that more than half (54 percent) of homeowners who received foreclosure counseling through the NFMC Program reported the primary reason they were facing foreclosure was reduced or loss of income. This finding was reported in NeighborWorks’ fourth Congressional report, which reported on NFMC Program activity through August 18, 2009.

Read more.