Author Archives: Melissa Hart

About Melissa Hart

A permanent lecturer at North Carolina State University. I teach Personal and Corporate Finance.

Top Frauds

Are you at risk for fraud?  What are some of the more common frauds and how much could it cost you?

  • In 2018, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) collected more than 1.4 million fraud reports, and Americans said they lost money to the fraud in 25 percent of those reports. Americans reported losing $1.48 billion to fraud – an increase of 38 percent over 2017.
  • The top reports in 2018 were: imposter scams, debt collection, and identity theft.
  • Younger people reported losing money to fraud more often than older people. Of those people who reported fraud and their age, 43 percent of people in their 20s reported a loss to that fraud, while only 15 percent of people in their 70s did.
  • When people in their 70s lost money, the amount tended to be higher: their median loss was $751, compared to $400 for people in their 20s.
  • Scammers like to get money by wire transfer – for a total of $423 million in 2018. That was the most of any payment method reported, but there was a surge of payments with gift and reload cards – a 95 percent increase in dollars paid to scammers last year.
  • Tax-related identity theft was down last year (by 38 percent), but credit card fraud on new accounts was up 24 percent. In fact, misusing someone’s information to open a new credit card account was reported more often than other forms of identity theft in 2018.
  • The top 3 states for fraud and other reports (per 100,000 population) are Florida, Georgia and Nevada. The top 3 states for identity theft reports (also per 100,000) are Georgia, Nevada and California.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students if they, their relatives or friends have ever been victims of fraud. If so, what was the outcome?
  • Ask students to prepare a list of local, state, and federal agencies where fraud can be reported.

Discussion Questions

  1. Is it possible that the reason more young people reported fraud is because older persons are less likely to report?
  2. Are older people not reporting fraud because they are not tech savvy, or embarrassed by their inability to know they were scammed?
Categories: Chapter 5, Frauds and Scams, Identity Theft | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Fake Credit Repair: Good Teton Professionals, LLC

In June 2019, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charged that two defendants, Douglas Filter and Marcio G. Andrade, using such trade names as Deletion Experts, Inquiry Busters, and Top Tradelines, used deceptive websites, unsolicited emails, and text messages to target consumers with false promises of substantially improving consumers’ credit scores by claiming to remove all negative items and hard inquiries from consumers’ credit reports.

The defendants also falsely claimed to substantially improve consumers’ credit scores by promising to add consumers as “authorized users” to other individuals’ credit accounts.  In most instances, however, the defendants were not able to substantially improve consumers’ credit scores.  The complaint also alleges that the defendants charged illegal upfront fees and failed to provide consumers with required disclosures about their credit repair services.

The defendants often used illegal remotely created checks to pay for the credit repair services they offered through telemarketing, according the FTC’s complaint.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students to prepare a list of federal laws that protect consumers from operators of fake credit repair schemes.
  • What is the best advice before you sign with such companies as, Grand Teton Professionals, LLC; to repair your poor credit?

Discussion Questions

  1. What is a household to do if it is experiencing problems in paying bills, thus resulting in poor credit scores?
  2. What are your options, if you are having problems paying your bills and need help?
  3. Discuss the statement, “Only time and a conscientious effort to pay your debt in a timely manner will lead to the success of improving your credit report.”
Categories: Chapter 5, Consumer Complaints, Credit Scores, Frauds and Scams | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Financial Regrets

Most people would like to be able to go back and do some things differently related to their personal finances. A study by bankrate.com revealed that 76 percent of those surveyed have at least one financial regret. The largest concern, over half (56 percent), involved not starting to save sooner for retirement, an emergency fund, or their children’s education.  Other financial regrets reported in the study include: living above one’s means; taking on too much credit card debt; and the burden of student loans.

A recommended action to address these financial regrets include breaking down large goals into smaller, easier ones can help put individuals on a path to success. A “save-first” mindset instead of “spend-first” is also suggested. In addition, consider opening an online savings account with higher returns, and set up direct deposits for regular saving.

For additional information on financial regrets, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students conduct online research to determine various financial regrets of people in different age categories and life situations.
  • Have students conduct an interview with a person about actions that might be taken to avoid financial regrets.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What factors might create situations that result in a financial regret?
  2. Describe possible financial regrets and corrective actions a person might take.
Categories: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Financial Planning, Savings | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

When A Robot Reads Your Resume

Before a person views your resume, it might be scanned by a computer to screen your qualifications.

Career experts suggest preparing your resume for three audiences: a computer screening program, a human resources specialist, and the hiring manager.

To pass the test of automatic resume scanners, consider these suggestions:

  • Be sure to include your contact information, and avoid putting required information in the heading where it might be missed by the scanner.
  • Avoid fancy formats and fonts. Use a professional presentation.  Bullets are suggested for an organized, easy-to-read appearance.
  • Emphasize keywords that reflect your competencies and experiences.
  • Connect to the job description. Use the requirements and responsibilities of an employment position as a guide for presenting your background, skills, and accomplishments. Avoid a generic resume; tailor your resume to the specific position. Especially look for keywords that are repeated in the job description.
  • Use clear job titles. Adapt and simplify previous job titles to fit generally-accepted labels in an industry.
  • Seek guidance. Ask for assistance from career development centers, professional colleagues, friends, and others who can help you prepare a resume appropriate for scanning software.

Of special note, job applicants with military experience should match job description keywords to their military service. They should also emphasize and communicate their background so the resume scanning software will easily recognize their employment competencies.

For additional information on automatic resume scanners, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students create a resume for a specific job description to connect their background to the available position.
  • Have students talk to a few people to obtain suggestions for improving their resumes.

Discussion Questions 

  1. Based on selected job descriptions, name keywords that might be appropriate to use in a resume for those positions.
  2. List various sources that might be used to obtain resume preparation assistance.
Categories: Career, Career_Appendix, Chapter 1, _Appendix B | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

The Future of Social Security

The Social Security Board of Trustees released its 2019 annual report on the long-term financial status of the Social Security trust funds. The combined asset reserves of the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance (OASI and DI) trust funds are projected to become depleted in 2035, one year later than projected last year, with 80% of benefits payable at that time.

The OASI trust fund is projected to become depleted in 2034, the same as last year’s estimate, with 77% of benefits payable at that time. The DI trust fund is estimated to become depleted in 2052, extended 20 years from last year’s estimate of 2032, with 91% of benefits still payable.

The Board of Trustees usually comprises six members.  Four serve by virtue of their positions with the federal government, Secretary of the Treasury and Managing Trustee; Commissioner of Social Security, Secretary of Health and Human Services and Secretary of Labor.  The two public trustee positions are currently vacant.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students if they are concerned about the future of Social Security. Do they believe that Social Security will be there when they retire?
  • Ask students to debate the issue, “Social Security is not sustainable over the long term at current benefit and tax rates.”

Discussion Questions

  1. What is the outlook for future Social Security and Medicare costs in relation to GDP?
  2. What might be the implications of rising Social Security and Medicare costs?
  3. How are Social Security and Medicare financed?
  4. How do longer life expectancies and early retirements affect the future of Social Security?
Categories: Chapter_14, Retirement Planning | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Investing Success for Young People

Young people should take advantage of time, and start investing now for the long-term.  When doing so, they should consider these actions:

  • Make use of low-cost mutual funds, exchange-traded funds and index funds to minimize administrative costs, transaction fees and commissions.
  • Take advantage of tax-deferred retirement programs, which will allow them to invest pre-tax dollars to lower their current tax bill. Employers may match retirement fund contributions.
  • Don’t avoid risk by emphasizing conservative investments. Taking on more aggressive investments creates greater potential for higher, long-term returns.
  • Effectively manage risk with fixed index annuities, fixed annuities, and market linked CDs. Dollar-cost averaging allows for obtaining more shares at a lower cost during market downturns.

For additional information on investing by young people, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students talk to others for suggested investment actions to take.
  • Have students conduct online research regarding the best investments for their life situation.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What factors might a person consider when selecting investments for their life situation?
  2. Describe actions people might take to increase the funds they have available for long-term savings goals.
Categories: Chapter 1, Chapter_11, Financial Planning, Investments | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Do You Need Rental Insurance?

Your landlord’s insurance will cover damage to a building or home you rent, but it will not cover your personal items, and yet only 40 percent of renters purchase renters insurance.  But renters insurance is usually affordable.  For people who rent, renters insurance typically includes three types of coverage—personal property coverage, loss of use, and personal liability.  Keep in mind that flood damage is not covered with renters insurance.  Also remember, if you are a dependent, your parents’ home-owners policy may cover your belongings even if you are not living at home.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students if they are living on their own and renting an apartment. If so, do they have renters insurance?
  • Ask students to call local insurance agents to get quotes for renters insurance. Do you have to pay extra for expensive items you own?

Discussion Questions

  1. What can you do to cover losses to your personal property due to floods or other acts of God?
  2. What actions can you take to reduce the cost of renters insurance? Should every renter purchase renters insurance?  Why or why not?
Categories: Chapter 8, insurance | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Where to Keep Your Emergency Fund

While having an emergency fund is vital, putting this money in a low-yield checking account is not recommended. A certificate of deposit (CD) also may not be appropriate since your funds may be locked-up when the money is needed. For safe storage of your funds along with quick access and a better return, consider these alternatives:

  • High-yield savings account. These financial products are offered by banks to attract new savers. These accounts have high liquidity and are covered by federal deposit insurance; although, interest earned is taxable. Most high-yield savings accounts are available through online banks. Also be aware of fees, minimum balances, or a required minimum length of investment.
  • Money market fund. Usually offered by investment companies, these financial products are similar to high-yield savings accounts but do not have federal deposit insurance. However, they are protected by Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) insurance, usually covering amounts up to $1 million for investors.
  • Treasury bills and bonds. These debt instruments of the U.S. Treasury have a maturity ranging from 90 days to 30 years. While considered very safe, an investor may lose money if sold before it matures.
  • Ultra-short term bonds. For a higher yield with a bit more risk, consider ultra-short term bond exchange-traded funds (bond ETFs).  These funds invest in corporate bonds, which are not guaranteed.  However, it is possible to find funds that invest only in highly-rated bonds.

In each situation, be sure to consider the tax implications of earnings from these savings and investment products.

For additional information on emergency funds, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students create a list of unexpected situations that might require accessing money from a person’s emergency fund.
  • Have students talk to others to determine where they keep money for emergencies.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What factors might a person consider when selecting a savings instrument for storing money for emergencies?
  2. Describe actions a person might take to have more funds available for an emergency fund?
Categories: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Financial Planning, Savings | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Do You Really Need Dietary Supplements?

Ads abound for products that claim to treat or prevent serious health conditions. Unfortunately, these products often are unproven and useless. Sometimes the ads even make false promises for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia – diseases for which science has no cure.

In March 2019, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued warning letters to certain companies making unproven claims that their products can treat or cure Alzheimer’s or other diseases .Many of these products are sold on websites and social media platforms – and called “dietary supplements” or natural remedies. But that doesn’t mean they are necessarily safe.  Products that claim to do it all often do nothing.

The reality is that phony miracle products can be dangerous, and not just because of interactions with medicines you’re already taking. They also might cause you to delay or stop proven medical treatment ordered by – or available from – your physician. They might also delay you from making important dietary and lifestyle changes to help your condition. And some may contain unlabeled and unapproved drugs, which can cause serious injury or death.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  1. Ask students to make a list of credible sources of health information.
  2. Ask students if they, their relatives or friends ever bought a dietary supplement or health-related product that did not work as promised. What action(s) did they take?

Discussion Questions

  1. Why is it important to talk to your healthcare professional before you take any dietary supplements?
  2. What are some of the most effective ways to stay healthy, instead of wasting your money on unproven dietary supplements?
Categories: Chapter 9, Frauds and Scams | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Bank Accounts Everyone Should Have

While a savings account and a checking account provide the foundation for managing finances, several other accounts should be considered.  Since all most people don’t put all their financial documents in one drawer, all your money shouldn’t be in one account. The various recommended accounts include:

  • Emergency savings for funds when you face financial difficulties that cannot be resolved in others ways. An amount equal to 6 to 12 months of living expenses is often recommended.  Consider storing these funds in an “out of sight, out of mind” location, such as with an online bank account.
  • Regular savings for short-term needs, such as home repairs, vacation, auto maintenance, or new furniture. Be sure to have a goal and plan for these funds.
  • Household checking account for paying current bills. All income is deposited in this account with automatic transfers for regular bills and amounts to various savings accounts. Extra funds in this account can go to the regular savings fund.
  • Spouse checking accounts to pay expenses for which each person has responsibility as well as work-related costs.
  • Health savings account (HSA) for tax-free payments of medical-related expenses. HSAs are especially of value with high-deductible insurance plans.
  • The extra fund involves the “fun money” leftover after all bills are paid, savings is under control, and all accounts have a balance at an appropriate level. This money is the reward for spending wisely.

If all your accounts are at the same financial institution, using the online dashboard will allow you monitor your balances.  Or, if you use different banks, websites or apps such as Mint.com can be used to view your overall financial situation.

For additional information on needed bank accounts, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students design a personal plan for the various bank accounts they will use to to monitor their spending and saving.
  • Have students talk to others about methods used to monitor spending and to maintain an appropriate level of saving.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What are the benefits and drawbacks of the system discussed in this article?
  2. Describe actions to monitor spending and saving using online banking and apps.

 

Categories: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 4, Financial Planning, Savings | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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