Debt

Beware of Illegal Student Debt Relief Schemes

In March 2016, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau requested a federal court to shut down a student debt relief company that charged borrowers millions of dollars in illegal upfront fees and for federal student loan services.  The court order would also require the company, Student Loan Processing.US, to pay refunds to thousands of harmed consumers and civil money penalty.  If the proposed judgement is entered by the court, the company must:

  • Shut down illegal operations: Student Loan Processing.US must shut down all operations within 45 days of the entry of the court’s judgement.
  • Cancel all contracts with consumers and stop charging them.
  • Pay consumer refunds.
  • Stop participating in the debt relief and student loan industries.
  • Ensure student loan borrowers do not miss important repayment benefits.
  • Pay a civil penalty.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

Discussion Questions

  1. How can you protect yourself from companies engaged in deceptive marketing practices, or otherwise violate federal consumer protection laws?
  2. Is it possible for government agencies to permanently shut down companies that defraud consumers?
Categories: Debt, _Appendix A | Tags: | Leave a comment

Newcomer Money Guides

While beneficiary, collateral, and fair market value are familiar to many, these terms can be especially confusing to those with limited English-language skills. In an attempt to assist various people, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has created the Newcomer’s Guides to Managing Money to provide recent immigrants with information about basic money decisions.  These guides offer brief suggestions to those who are new to the U.S. banking system.  The guides also include guidance for submitting and resolving problems with a financial product or service.

The Newcomer Guides include these topics:

  • Ways to receive your money, comparing cash, check, direct deposit, and debit cards.
  • Checklist for opening an account, to assist with starting a bank or credit union account.
  • Ways to pay your bills, providing guidance on whether to pay by check, debit card, credit card, or online.
  • Selecting financial products and services, providing assistance on deciding which financial services are right for various household situations.

Print copies of the guides can be ordered or downloaded. These publications are available to English and Spanish with additional languages to be offered in the future.

For additional information on money guides for newcomers:

Article #1
Article #2
Article #3

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students ask people to create a list of financial planning terms that people find confusing.
  • Have students suggest methods to have people learn about confusing financial planning terms.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What financial problems might be encountered by people with limited English-language skills?
  2. What actions might be taken to assist various groups to better understand banking services and money management activities?
Categories: Bank Fees, Budget, Chapter 2, Chapter 4, Credit Cards, Debit Cards, Debt, Financial Services, Savings | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Investor Alert: Securities-Backed Lines of Credit (SBLOC)

SBLOCs are loans that are often marketed to investors as an easy and inexpensive way to access extra cash by borrowing against the assets in your investment portfolio without having to liquidate these securities.  They do, however, carry a number of risks, among them potential unintended tax consequences and the possibility that you may, in fact have to sell your holdings, which could have a significant impact on your long-term investment goals.

Set up as a revolving line of credit, an SBLOC allows you to borrow money using securities held in your investment accounts as collateral.  You can continue to trade and buy and sell securities in your pledged accounts.  An SBLOC requires you to make monthly interest-only payments, and the loan remains outstanding until you repay it.  You can repay some (or all) of the outstanding principal at any time, then borrow again later.  Some investors like the flexibility of an SBLOC as compared to a term loan, which has a stated maturity date and a fixed repayment schedule.  In some ways, SBLOC are reminiscent of home equity lines of credit, except of course that, among other things, they involve the use of your securities rather than your home as collateral.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and the SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy (OIEA) have issued an investor alert to provide information about the basics of SBLOC, how they may be marketed to you, and what risks you should consider before posting your investment portfolio as collateral.  SBLOCs may seem like an attractive way to access extra capital when markets are producing positive returns, but market volatility can magnify you potential losses, placing your financial future at greater risks.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students to prepare a list of possible advantages and disadvantages of securities-based loans.
  • How might market volatility magnify potential losses placing your financial future at a greater risk?

Discussion Questions

  1. How are securities-backed lines of credit different from home-equity lines of credit?
  2. Why some investors prefer SBLOC to a traditional short term loan?
Categories: Chapter 5, Debt, Investments, Savings | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Attention College Students: Student Loans, Debit and Prepaid Cards

College students often make financial decisions that can have consequences for years.  Getting a student loan or credit cards can influence long-term financial success.  Here are the ways to strengthen your decision-making skills:

  1. Do your research before applying for a student loan. If you have to borrow to pay for some or all of a college education, review the different types of student loans.  Choose one that’s low-cost and has a flexible repayment terms, which will generally be a federal student loan.
  2. Understand the pros, cons and costs of debit and prepaid cards. Debit cards enable you to withdraw money from your checking accounts for purchases or cash.  Prepaid cards are used to access money that has been loaded (added) onto the card, which is not connected to a bank account.
  3. Use credit cards responsibly: While credit cards are a convenient way to establish a credit history, they can make it easier to spend money. Purchases that cannot be paid in full by the due date will incur interest

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students if they have an outstanding student loan. Was the process of financing an education daunting and time consuming?
  • Ask students to visit the College Affordability and Transparency Center website (collegecost.ed.gov) for choosing the financial aid package that best suits their needs.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why is it important that you find the most affordable education that fits your budget, future career, and long-term financial goals?
  2. What might be the benefits of understanding the pros, cons, and costs of debit and prepaid cards?
  3. Are school-affiliated cards the best deal for all students? Why or why not?
Categories: Chapter 5, Credit Cards, Debt, _Appendix A | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Fake Payday Loan Debts

In September 2015, the Federal Trade Commission banned Kirit Patel and his company, Broadway Global Masters, from the debt collection business. Patel and his company illegally collected more than $5.2 million in fake payday loan debts.  He also pleaded guilty to the Department of Justice on charges of criminal mail and wire fraud.  Specifically, Patel’s company:

  • Called people and pushed them to pay debts they didn’t really owed,
  • Posed as law enforcement and fake government agencies like the “Federal Crime Unit of the Department of Justice”,
  • Threatened to sue or arrest people—or tell their family and employers about a debt, and
  • Recited people’s Social Security and bank account numbers to seem legit.

So how can you tell if you’re being targeted by a fake debt collector?  A caller may be a fake debt collector if:

  • You don’t recognize the debt,
  • You can’t get a mailing address or phone number for the collector,
  • You’re asked for personal financial or sensitive information, and
  • You’re threatened with arrest or told you’ll be reported to a law enforcement agency.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students to prepare a list of steps they should take if they receive a call from a debt collection agency.
  • Encourage students to visit a local office of the Consumer Credit Counseling Service. What assistance is available if the debt is legitimate, but the debt collector is not?

Discussion Questions

  1. What can governmental agencies do to stop scammers from bilking honest and innocent people?
  2. Why is it important to obtain and review your free credit reports at least once a year?
Categories: Chapter 5, Debt, Frauds and Scams, Uncategorized | Tags: , | Leave a comment

10 Reasons You Will Never Get Out of Debt

“Do you feel as if you’ll be in debt forever?  You’re not alone.”

According to a CreditCards.com survey, 13 percent of Americans say they’ll never pay off all their loans, and another 8 percent say they won’t pay off what they owe until they’re 71 years old.  While the results of the survey are discouraging, this Kiplinger article describes the following 10 reasons people can’t get out of debt and also provides suggestions for getting out of debt.

  1. You don’t know how much you owe.
  2. You pay only the minimum.
  3. Your mortgage is too big.
  4. You took out too many student loans.
  5. You can’t say no to your kids.
  6. You don’t have money for emergencies.
  7. You feel a sense of entitlement.
  8. Your car loan is too long.
  9. You rack up late fees.
  10. Your interest rates are too high.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

You may want to use the information in this blog post and the original article to

  • Explain how people get in trouble when they make financial decisions without considering the consequences.
  • Go into more detail about how each of the 10 reasons described in this article affect an individual’s financial future.

Discussion Questions

  1. How do you plan to balance your objective of creating an enjoyable and entertaining life with the objective of building a secure financial future?
  2. Based on the 10 reasons in this article, what steps can you take to improve your financial planning for the future.
Categories: Chapter 1, Chapter_11, Debt, Investments, Opportunity Costs, Time Value of Money | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Revising Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps

Dave Ramsey has taught and encouraged millions to get out of debt and to achieve an improved financial situation through his “seven baby steps,” which are: (1) establish a $1,000 emergency fund; (2) pay off debt; (3) save three to six months of expenses; (4) invest 15 percent of income in pre-tax retirement funds; (5) plan for the funding of the college education of children; (6) pay off mortgage as soon as possible; (7) build wealth and give.

An alternative perspective to this approach might be:

  1. Create a larger initial emergency fund.
  2. Instead of paying off the smallest debts first, pay off the ones with the highest interest.
  3. A minimum of six months for expenses is needed, with twelve months more realistic.
  4. Take advantage of any 401k matching offered by employers.
  5. College may not be the right educational choice for everyone. Also, those who go to college should be responsible for a portion of education costs.
  6. Home ownership may not be appropriate for everyone. When buying a home, paying off a mortgage may be a higher priority than saving for college to reduce the amount of interest paid.
  7. Making money, saving money, and donating to charity should be the main focus.

For additional information on personal financial planning actions, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students survey others regarding their use of these personal financial planning suggestions.
  • Have students obtain additional financial planning suggestions using online research.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What do you believe are the most important actions that should be taken regarding wise personal financial planning?
  2. How would you communicate these financial planning actions to others?
Categories: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Credit Cards, Debt, Financial Planning, Wise Shopping | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

The New Grad’s Guide to Student Loan Debt

“Finishing college is surely cause to celebrate—but it is also time for some hard realities to hit.” 

This article provides information about what happens after graduation and you have to start paying back student loans.  Specific information includes:

  1. When you will start making payments
  2. How much you will pay and which repayment option to consider
  3. How to make your payments
  4. What happens if you want to change your repayment plan
  5. The importance of making a budget that includes your loan payments.

Note:  There are also links to a “very informative” video and additional articles at the bottom of this article that provide even more information about student loans and what happens if you don’t make payments.  Definitely worth a click.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

You may want to use the information in this blog post and the original article to

  • Help students understand that student loans are one way to finance their education, but loans should not be considered free money that doesn’t have to be repaid.
  • Illustrate what can happen if student loans are not paid back.

Discussion Questions

  1. Many students obtain student loans to help pay for their college education. Are there other options that can be used to pay for college?
  2. Assuming that you decide a student loan is the best way to obtain the money you need to pay for college, what steps can you take to understand the conditions of the loan agreement that you will sign in order to obtain the loan money?
  3. What happens when someone finishes college, but doesn’t make the student loan payments that are required?
Categories: Debt, Opportunity Costs, _Appendix A | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Is This Debt Collector Legitimate?

How can you verify whether or not a debt collector is legitimate?  Below are a few warning signs that signal a debt collection scam:

  • The debt collector threatens you. Legitimate debt collectors probably won’t claim that they will have you arrested or claim that they or their employee are law enforcement officers.
  • The debt collector refuses to give you information about your debt or trying to collect a debt you do not recognize.
  • The debt collector refuses to give a mailing address or phone number.
  • The debt collector asks you for sensitive personal financial information.

Tell the caller that you refuse to discuss any debt until you get a written “validation notice.”  This notice must include the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor, and a description of certain rights under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

For additional information and to learn more on debt collection practices, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students to draft a sample complaint letter explaining that the debt is not legitimate and demanding the debt collector stop contacting you.
  • Ask students to compile a list of governmental and nongovernmental agencies where consumers can send debt collection complaints.

Discussion Questions

  1. Do all states require debt collectors to be licensed?
  2. If the debt collector is licensed in your state and he/she is not acting properly, what are your remedies?
  3. Who enforces the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and how this law protects consumers?
Categories: Chapter 7, Debt | Tags: | Leave a comment

Unscrupulous Debt Collectors

In January 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice sued a Texas-based Commercial Recovery System, Inc., a debt collection company that allegedly impersonated attorneys, law firm staff, judicial employees and mediators.  The company threatened people with lawsuits, seizure of their property, or wage garnishment.  All these practices are against the law.  Under federal law, debt collectors–including collection agencies, lawyers who collect debts, and companies that buy delinquent debts and then try to collect them–can’t use abusive, deceptive or unfair practices to collect from you.

For additional information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students to check a local Consumer Credit Counseling Service to learn about their services provided to consumers.
  • Ask students to compile a list of places a person can call to report dishonest credit practices, get advice and help with credit problems.

Discussion Questions

  1. Which federal law(s) protect your rights if you are ever contacted by a debt collector?
  2. If you need help regaining control of your finances, what resources are available to you?
Categories: Chapter 5, Consumer Complaints, Debt | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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