Financial Advice

Puerto Rico to Pilot New Student-Centered Funding System

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced that the Puerto Rico Department of Education (PRDE) will be the first to pilot new flexibility under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to create a student-centered funding system. The model is designed to equitably allocate local, state and federal resources based on student needs.

“Puerto Rico’s use of a student-centered funding system will help to ensure those with the greatest need receive the most support” said Secretary DeVos. “Amid the hardships and challenges following Hurricane Maria, I am pleased to see Puerto Rico rethinking school and putting students’ needs above all else.”

Added Puerto Rico Secretary of Education Julia Keleher, “Puerto Rico’s ability to provide a quality education for its youth depends on how we fund K-12 education and the way funds are allocated. This pilot allows us to take a more scientific approach and track the relationship between strategic investments and future learning gains. We are committed to implementing effective solutions that benefit our students and ensure accountability to our families.”

ESSA provides for 50 school districts to pilot a new student-centered funding system that combines local, state and federal dollars. This innovative approach allows maximal resources to be allocated to schools based on quantifiable student need, directing the most resources to support students who need them most. The result is a more equitable, predictable and transparent method of allocating resources that puts students first.

ESSA specifically requires that pilot districts allocate substantially more funding to support students from low-income families, English learners, and any other educationally disadvantaged group as chosen by the school district. Puerto Rico designed its system to allocate additional funds to support students from low-income families, language learners and students in rural schools.

To learn more, visit: https://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/essa/scfp/studentcentered.html

This article was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

The post Puerto Rico to Pilot New Student-Centered Funding System appeared first on Personal Finance Syndication Network.

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Financial Advice

I Can’t Afford My MCA Business Loan and Not Sure if I Can Settle With Lendr LLC

Question:

Dear Steve,

I get fund 8k from mca…after that my business slows down and I can not afford to pay back. I need some help to protect my business

I need someone help me set up a settlement with the Lendr LLC I own 10k …now they send to a recovery company. How much you cost to help me successfully settlement with them either amount I can afford.

Thao

Answer:

Dear Thao,

Thank you for sending along correspondence you received from a lawyer. I am not an attorney and can’t give you legal advice. You would need to see an attorney licensed in your state for that.

I was struck by the letter you received. On face value, it appears to be an offer to settle the amount you owe.

The offer was labeled FORBEARANCE AGREEMENT and not a settlement offer. In fact, the letter demands payment from you and then says once you make those two payments they will then talk to you about “further payment options.”

There are many people and companies out there, including an attorney, who could represent you with the creditor. A settlement is nothing more than a negotiated repayment arrangement which may include a one-time payment or installments. It’s just a meeting-of-the-minds between you and your creditor.

The advantage of using a third party is they are not emotionally involved in this issue and have experience in dealing with similar situations. I would suggest that an individual debt coach or attorney is a better fit for you in this case than some large process-driven settlement company.

Steve Rhode
Get Out of Debt GuyTwitter, G+, Facebook

If you have a credit or debt question you’d like to ask, just click here and ask away.

This article by Steve Rhode first appeared on Get Out of Debt Guy and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

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Financial Advice

California Company Settles FTC Charges Related to Privacy Shield Participation

A California company has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission allegations that it falsely claimed it was in the process of being certified as complying with the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield framework, which establishes a process to allow companies to transfer consumer data from European Union countries to the United States in compliance with EU law.

“Today’s settlement demonstrates the FTC’s continuing commitment to vigorous enforcement of the Privacy Shield,” FTC Chairman Joe Simons commented. “We believe Privacy Shield is a critical tool for ensuring transatlantic data flows and protecting privacy that benefits both companies and consumers.”

According to the FTC’s complaint, the Commission alleges that ReadyTech Corporation, which provides online training services, falsely claimed on its website that it is “in the process of certifying that we comply with the U.S.-E.U. Privacy Shield Framework.” While ReadyTech initiated an application to the U.S. Department of Commerce in October 2016, the company did not complete the steps necessary to participate in the Privacy Shield framework. The Department of Commerce administers the framework, while the FTC enforces the promises companies make when joining the Privacy Shield.

The FTC alleges in its complaint that the company’s false claim that it is in the process of certification violates the FTC Act’s prohibition against deceptive acts or practices.

As part of the settlement, ReadyTech is prohibited from misrepresenting its participation in any privacy or security program sponsored by a government or any self-regulatory or standard-setting organization, including but not limited to the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield framework and the Swiss-U.S. Privacy Shield framework. It also must comply with standard reporting and compliance requirements.

This is the FTC’s fourth case enforcing Privacy Shield. It continues the FTC’s commitment to enforcing international privacy frameworks, making a total of 47 cases enforcing the Privacy Shield, the predecessor Safe Harbor framework, and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Cross Border Privacy Rules framework.

The Commission vote to issue the administrative complaint and to accept the consent agreement was 5-0. The FTC will publish a description of the consent agreement package in the Federal Register shortly. The agreement will be subject to public comment for 30 days, beginning today and continuing through Wednesday, August 1, after which the Commission will decide whether to make the proposed consent order final. Interested parties can submit comments electronically by following the instructions in the “Invitation To Comment” part of the “Supplementary Information” section.

NOTE: The Commission issues an administrative complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of up to $41,484.

This article by the FTC was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

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Financial Advice

Can We Live on One Income?

Dear Dollar Stretcher,
I have been very interested in gathering information on living on one income. Although others have helped me with suggestions on saving and even investing, I still haven’t come across methods to calculate actual costs of working. Could you please advise me on ways to determine these costs?
Thanks!
Karen J.

Karen is not the only one asking this question. A lot of families are wondering if they could make a go of it on one income. And it’s not just moms who are electing to stay at home. More dads are getting into the act, too. But one of the key questions for these families is ‘can we live on one income?’. Let’s see if we can’t help them create a framework to make a decision.

The first step is not surprising. You’ll need to know your current income and expenses by category. If you use a budget you probably have the required info. Otherwise, you’ll need to set aside some time to go through your check registers, credit card statements and your earning statement from work that shows your income and deductions. Figure out your income and expenses for the year. That will be your starting point.

What we’re going to try to do is to take your current income and expenses and make adjustments to both that would occur with the loss of one income. Once you’ve done that, you can see if you have enough income to cover expenses. If possible use a one year period. That way you won’t forget annual expenses like property taxes.

Let’s start with the income. That’s the easiest. We’ll be reducing income by the gross income of the stay-at-home partner. The key here is to remember that we’ll be using gross pay. That’s your pay before taxes and the other deductions have been taken. We’ll consider those deductions in a moment.

Next we’ll get into the meat of Karen’s question. How much will expenses go down? Naturally that will depend on your family. So we’ll try to give you tools to estimate the answer for your family.

The first expense that will be lower is your taxes. The most exact way to calculate how much lower is to work through an income tax return at your new income level. I know that most of you won’t want to do that. The next best thing is to take the amount of money that was withheld from your pay for the ‘retiring’ person during the year. Unless you had to write a big check or got a large refund in April, that will be a reasonable approximation.

The next expense is the trickiest one. That’s insurance. You will save any money that had been deducted from your paycheck. So count any money deducted from your salary as a reduced expense.

But you’ll be losing any coverage you had. So decide whether you’ll be adding ‘family’ coverage to your spouse’s plan, finding a separate plan or paying the bills yourself. You might need to shop around to check out competitive rates. You’ll need to add that cost to your current expenses. It’s possible that insurance could cost you more than it does now.

What about auto expenses? At the very least you’ll use less gas if you’re not driving to work every day. You might get a low mileage discount on your insurance. If only one person is leaving the house each day, you might even be able to survive with one auto. Or if that’s not feasible, could you get by with one car that’s older to avoid a car payment? The things to consider with your auto are the payments, gasoline, maintenance, insurance, and parking/tolls. Remember, even if you don’t have a car you might still have savings by eliminating bus fares or contributions to carpools.

Daycare is an obvious area of savings if children are involved. And it’s not just the check you write to the daycare provider. They might require disposable diapers whereas you’d be willing to use the lower cost cloth ones. You’ll need to think about your daycare situation and to recognize the areas of savings.

Grocery expense will almost certainly change. But it can be difficult to estimate by how much. If you eat out often to save time you’ll want to keep track of what you spend that way. As a rule of thumb it costs only about half as much to eat similar foods at home. So if you spend $20 per week ($1,040 yearly) in restaurant food, you should be able to save about $500 when you have the time to cook at home.

Even if you do cook all your own meals, you’re likely to find some savings. The time to use coupons and shop sales can greatly reduce your food bills.

You could save money on clothing. Even if you don’t ‘dress up’ for work, you’ll probably still save some. It’s not uncommon to the stay-at-home partner to save 50% of what they’ve been spending on clothes.

You might also be able to save on dry cleaning and laundry service. Obviously, this will vary widely depending on your lifestyle. And any outside laundry services are likely to be eliminated.

Lunches at work are another expense that will be reduced. For those who bring lunch the savings might be fairly small. Perhaps just the cost of a daily drink or break-time coffee. Even a dollar a day is about $250 a year in savings. For those who eat in the company cafeteria or a local restaurant the savings can be significant. Just $5 a day for fifty weeks a year totals $1,250.

Another, often overlooked area is the amount spent on workplace gifts, cards and cakes. In many workplaces, it’s not uncommon to be asked to contribute on a frequent basis. Think of the requests during the last month and you’ll begin to get an idea of how much you can save in a year.

Finally, you’ll want to look for savings that could be unique to your family. Some children are especially prone to colds they pick up in daycare. Avoiding those doctor bills would provide savings. Another family might be prone to ‘treat’ themselves for surviving their busy schedule. Perhaps with a slower family pace those treats wouldn’t be purchased.

At this point you should be able to adjust your current income and expenses with the changes. You might be surprised at the results. Many families find that the second income is all but consumed with expenses that come with a second job. But the only way to know for sure is to work through your own income and expenses.

Ultimately, Karen will find that there’s more than just income and expenses to making this type of decision. But, whether her family decides to try to live on one income or not, it’s foolish to make a decision without considering what would happen to the family budget. We hope Karen finds the answer that’s right for her family.

This article by Gary Foreman first appeared on The Dollar Stretcher and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

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Financial Advice

FTC Warns Consumers about Vacation Rental Scams

With July 4th right around the corner, plenty of us are still running around trying to book a last-minute vacation rental. If that’s you, here’s what you need to know: scammers are ready with fake vacation rental ads. Rental scammers try to get your rental booking and take your money. But, when you show up for the vacation, you have no place to stay and your money is gone!

Here are some of the ways they pull off the scam:

Some scammers start with real rental listings. Then they take off the owner’s contact information, put in their own, and place the new listing on a different site — though they might continue to use the name of the actual owner. In other cases, scammers hijack the email accounts of property owners on reputable vacation rental websites.

Other scammers don’t bother with real rentals — they make up listings for places that aren’t really for rent or don’t exist. To get people to act fast, they often ask for lower than average rent or promise great amenities. Their goal is to get your money before you find out the truth.

So how do you avoid a rental scam?

  • Don’t wire money or pay with a prepaid or gift card for a vacation rental. Once the scammer collects the money, it is almost impossible to get it back.
  • Don’t be rushed into a decision. If you receive an email pressuring you to make a decision on the spot for a rental, ignore it and move on.
  • Look out for super cheap rates for premium vacation properties. Below-market rent can be a sign of a scam. Do some extra research to confirm the deal is legitimate before jumping in.
  • Get a copy of the contract before you send any deposit money. Check that the address of the property really exists. If the property is located in a resort, call the front desk and confirm the location of the property and other details on the contract.

If you come across any of these ads, we want to hear about it — report it to us at ftc.gov/complaint, whether you lost money or not.

If you sent money to a rental scammer, contact the company you used to send the money, such as your bank, Western Union, MoneyGram, Green Dot, iTunes, or Amazon and tell them the transaction was fraudulent. They may not be able to get your money back, but it is important to alert them of fraud.

This article by the FTC was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

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Financial Advice

New research report on student loan repayment and broader household borrowing

Student loans make up an increasing share of the debt held by borrowers around the country, particularly for younger borrowers. Our previous research has shown that borrowers vary greatly in their ability to pay off their loans, how quickly they can do so, and the potential hurdles they face. Today, we released a new Data Point report providing a closer look at borrowers’ use of credit as they approach and make their final student loan payments, and in the months that follow. 

Looking at how borrowers pay off their student loans helps us understand how households manage their finances over time. The patterns we see highlight the interconnected nature of borrowers’ finances, as repayment of one type of debt affects payments and borrowing on other types of debt. This research can help us better predict the impacts new policies or products may have on homeownership, credit card use, and the broader economy as a whole. 

As background, the typical student loan has a term of ten years, with equal monthly scheduled payments. However, borrowers can pay the loan off early at any time by using savings, gifts, or other resources, or by refinancing with a new loan. Our analyses focus on how borrowers first pay off a student loan and what happens next.

Key findings include: 

  • Most borrowers paying off a student loan do so before the final payment is due, often with a single large final payment. The median final payment made on a student loan is 55 times larger than the scheduled payment (implying a payoff at least 55 months ahead of schedule), with 94 percent of final payments exceeding the scheduled payment and only 6 percent of loans paid off with the final few payments equal to the scheduled payments. Even among loans within five years of their scheduled payoff date, for which refinancing is uncommon, the median final payment is more than seven times larger than the scheduled payments made immediately prior.
  • Borrowers paying off a student loan early also reduce their credit card balances and make large payments on their other student loans at the same time. In addition, these borrowers are 31 percent more likely to take out their first mortgage loan in the year following the payoff than in the year preceding the payoff. While this is evidence of a link between the timing of student loan payoffs and home purchases, the simultaneous reduction in credit card and other student loan balances suggests that increased wealth or income may influence when borrowers pay off student loans, reduce credit card balances, and purchase homes. 
  • The smaller share of borrowers who pay off their loan according to the scheduled payments pay down, rather than take on, other debts in the months following payoff. Paying off a loan reduces borrowers’ monthly payment obligations, and those with additional student loans put 24 percent of these savings toward paying down those other student loans faster. Borrowers also use 16 percent of the drop in their required payments to reduce credit card balances. Unlike for borrowers paying off a student loan early, those paying off on schedule are not more likely to take out a mortgage for the first time.

Taken together, this new research suggests that when borrowers approach their final student loan payments most prefer to, and are able to, pay off the loans in full with a single large payment. The timing of this payment coincides with a broader reduction in existing debts and is followed by increases in home purchases. However, for those borrowers who are unable to, or choose not to, pay off their loans early, the reduction of other debts that follows their final payment suggests that their required monthly student loan payments constrained their ability to pay down these other debts. 

Understanding why so many borrowers use large lump sum payments, rather than gradual increases in monthly payments to pay off student loans, could help us better predict how the student loan market evolves as a whole, and warrants additional research. Our new findings suggest that the timing of many student loan payoffs may be determined by life events such as household formation or jumps in income or wealth, though transaction costs, rules of thumb, or inertia may also play a role.

Finally, while this analysis focuses on student loan borrowers who are successfully paying off their loans, similar approaches could be applied to the large population of student borrowers struggling with rising balances, delinquency, or default. Such research could shed light on how borrowers use other credit products to cope with their student debt, how their access to other credit may be inhibited, and how available repayment plans and other programs change these outcomes.

This article by was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

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Financial Advice

6 Smart Ways to Save Money When Dining Out

Trying to make the thrifty choice in every situation of your life can be exhausting. Take for example the frugal decision to cook for yourself instead of eating out. While that’s a good plan to have the vast majority of the time, who doesn’t enjoy the chance to splurge a little and take an evening off?

A couple of years ago, my wife and I decided to start “Together Tuesdays.” While this weekly event can technically involve a number of different date options, it usually means dining out in some capacity. Although this might not be the most frugal idea we’ve ever had, we’ve managed to keep things in check by making efforts to keep our spending to a minimum and still enjoy the benefits of a nice meal out.

So how do we do it? Here are six of our top tips for dining out on a budget:

Check the Specials First

One of the best ways to save money when dining out starts before you even get to the restaurant — and maybe before you even choose where you want to dine. These days there are several ways you can research dining options, ranging from review sites like Yelp to Facebook pages run by the owners of each establishment. Beyond getting an idea for what people think of each restaurant, you can also garner some important information about what types of specials and promotions they may offer. In some cases, these specials may be tied to a certain day of the week (typically weekdays), a special event, or even a time of the year. Meanwhile, other promotions can be more random and will require a bit more research to spot.

If there are certain restaurants you enjoy going to, you can also sign-up to receive their e-mail alerts. Not only will this ensure you’ll be the first to know about great deals but these blasts may also include exclusive coupons or offers. It also doesn’t hurt to follow some of your favorites on social media for similar reasons.

Split a Dish or Take Some Home

This one may feel a bit obvious but it’s important to mention nonetheless. As you’re doing your pre-meal research, you’ll also want to get a sense for the portion sizes any given restaurant offers by looking at various photos and reading a couple of reviews. By doing this, you may decide that you and your dining mates will be able to split a dish (or dishes) and still leave with full stomachs.

I’ll admit that splitting entrees isn’t exactly my favorite pastime. Not only does it sometimes lead to awkward exchanges with the wait staff but certain restaurants may even tack on an additional charge or “split fee” as a result. Instead, if I anticipate that a single order will leave me with extra food, I’ll plan ahead and resolve to take the rest home with me for subsequent meals.

There are a few things to note with the “take it home” strategy, not the least of which is understanding what items can travel and which can’t. A classic example of this is french fries, which even when reheated in an oven can rarely be revived to their former glory (and don’t even talk to me about trying to microwave them). Because of this unfortunate truth, I may elect to finish my fries and take more of whatever they were on the side of home for future lunching.

Another important note is to plan your itinerary properly so that your leftovers aren’t sitting out for too long. While most foods can safely make the trip home, leaving items in the car for an extended period of time can increase your food safety risks. Because of this, if you don’t intend on heading home from the restaurant in a timely manner, you may want to rethink your options.

Skip the Show and the Flash

Have you ever been to Benihana? The purveyor of Japanese cuisine has become a popular destination for celebratory gatherings thanks in part to the fun experience that comes with each meal served. Not only is your meal prepared before your eyes by a skilled hibachi chef but the cook tends to throw in some fun gags and stunts along the way. While these show elements make for a great night out, they also comes at a price.

Don’t get me wrong — I love hibachi style meals, but that’s exactly why we skip Benihana and head to other establishments that exclude the show elements. By accepting that our food is going to be prepared in a normal kitchen instead of beside our table, we’ve been able to enjoy food that’s just as good but at nearly half the price.

Of course this is just one specific example, but there are similar lessons to be learned for other restaurants. Often times things like trendy decor, location, or a chef’s name on the door can raise the price per meal significantly. In some cases, having these unique experiences may be worth it to mark a special occasion or event. As for the rest of the time, you’re probably better off dining at a venue where the prices are based on the food and not the flash.

Stock up on Gift Cards and Join Loyalty Programs

Even though my wife and I make a point to dine out on a near weekly basis, she sometimes mocks me for always wanting to eat at one of small list of favorite restaurants. What can I say — I like what I like! Luckily, such loyalty can sometimes save you money thanks to the way some locations push their gift cards.

Seeded strongly in my regular restaurant rotation is Red Robin. I mention this because I’ve often seen offers from them where you can get a free $5 gift card just for purchasing $25 in cards. Although this is surely aimed at those giving gifts, there’s no reason you can’t take advantage of these offers yourself as long as you plan on making use of the balance.

Speaking of Red Robin, another thing I like about the chain is their strong loyalty program. For every nine burgers you purchase, you get one for free. Additionally, I always look forward to my free birthday burger each year (sidenote: I swear they’re not paying me to write this). That said, loyalty programs are far from exclusive to Red Robin. So whatever your favorite dining spots are, it may be worth looking into what types of programs they have for fans like you.

Nix the Booze (and the Dessert)

If the first half of this section title didn’t make you gasp, surely the parenthetical did. While enjoying a craft cocktail and/or concluding the meal with a decadent dessert can be half the fun of dining out for some, there’s no denying that these add-ons are often overpriced. In fact, how many times have you been at a restaurant where a single drink costs as much as an entree does?

For those who really want to sip a drink while dining out, you may want to aim for locations that offer happy hours or other drink specials. As for dessert, unless there’s some specialty your sweet tooth just can’t resist, you might consider heading home to truly conclude your meal experience or perhaps stopping off at a quick-service option that can satisfy your craving. In each of these scenarios, you’re bound to save some money on the night.

Use a Rewards Credit Card or Cash Back App

These days, there may be ways for you to save money when dining that don’t even really involve the restaurant itself. For example, in recent years, dining perks have been a big selling point for some rewards credit cards, leading to enhanced cash back when you use your card at restaurants. Personally the 4% back on dining is a major reason I decided to get the Uber Visa card. Similarly, I always look forward to the times when my Discover It card makes restaurants its quarterly 5% cash back spending category. Such kickbacks can help take a little bit of the sting out of each check.

What’s even better than these great credit card rewards is combining them with cash back deals from apps and services like Dosh, Visa Local Offers, and others. I’ve even been able to earn as much 14% back from dining out when you add up my Dosh and Uber Visa cash back — not even including any specials or coupons the restaurant offered. Needless to say, it’s definitely worth checking out these third-party apps and offers when choosing where to eat.

Sure dining out may not be the most frugal option in most cases, but there’s nothing wrong with splurging once in a while. Additionally, if you want to enjoy a night out without feeling guilty about your spending, there are several efforts you can make to save money on your meals. With a bit of pre-dining planning and research, some specials or loyalty offers, and the help of rewards credit cards and apps, you can have a great dining experience that won’t cost you a ton.

This article by Kyle Burbank first appeared on Money@30 and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

The post 6 Smart Ways to Save Money When Dining Out appeared first on Personal Finance Syndication Network.

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