Archive for November, 2011

FDIC Open Meeting Webcast Tomorrow

Want to know what the Washington wonks are planning on doing or not doing about prepaid cards and mobile financial services?

On Thursday, December 1 from 8:45 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. the FDIC Advisory Committee on Economic Inclusion (ComE-IN) will be holding an open meeting to:

“discuss  developments and innovations in the delivery of financial services, including mobile financial services and prepaid cards. …  it will be important for us to understand their actual capabilities as well as the risks they may present to all consumers, including the unbanked and underbanked.”

The meeting will be held in the 6th floor Board Room at the FDIC headquarters, 550 17th St., NW, Washington, DC

Can’t make it to Washington?  The meeting agenda and a link to the webcast can be found here.  Read the full press release by visiting http://www.fdic.gov or click here.

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Massachusetts Conference for Women

This year’s Massachusetts Conference for Women will be held on Thursday, December 8th at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, 415 Summer St., Boston.

Learn how to manage your money, reinvent your career and network effectively.

“The  Conference features nationally recognized speakers who share their wisdom and expertise on a wide range of personal and professional development topics, helping you find clarity on your goals and what you need to accomplish them.”

A Small Business Boot Camp will be held one day prior on Wednesday, December 7 and will feature Tory Johnson,  Good Morning America workplace contributor and a line-up of small business experts.

This is not a free conference.  Registration information can be found here.

Consumer Rights Reviewed

Barbara Anthony, Undersecretary, Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation (OCABR)  was our featured Guest Speaker at our November 16th Financial Literacy at the Library event.

Ms. Anthony,  assisted by her knowledgeable staff, presented a helpful overview of the many ways in which OCABR supports the needs of Massachusetts consumers.

We learned about the Home Improvement Contractor Program which regulates more than 28,000 registered contractors.  Homeowners are encouraged to contact the OCABR with complaints about incomplete or unsatisfactory work or to utilize contractor arbitration services.

Massachusetts car buyers benefit from the state’s Lemon Laws which cover new, used and leased vehicles.

During this holiday season, be cautious when shopping online.  Look out for additional charges such as shipping and handling costs.  Understand the return policy and who pays for return shipping and restocking fees.

When shopping in person, check your receipt in the store to confirm the price charged is what you expected.

Know your shopping rights and protection under the Massachusetts Implied Warranty of Merchantability.  You have a right to receive a replacement or full refund if a product you buy does not work for a “reasonable period of time”.

To protect yourself from Identity Theft, it is important to review your credit report at least annually.  You are entitled to a free credit report, one from each of the three major credit bureaus once a year. Order your report from annualcreditreport.com. This is the only authorized website to request a report for free.

Have a complaint? Go to www.mass.gov/consumer to file your grievance.

Ms. Anthony reminded us to call the Consumer Hotline at 617-973-8787 or toll free at 888-283-3757 to speak to a live Consumer Information Specialist for all our consumer questions and concerns.

College Costs Calculator

How much will college cost?  The answer is not always a simple one.  While colleges give a “sticker price” for tuition and fees, the amount any student will actually pay can be quite different. Financial resources of both the family and the school are factors.

The total cost will not be known until late in the college-decision process, often after the student has been accepted for admission.

Fortunately, new regulations now require every college to have a financial aid calculator on its web site.  Applicants will be able to target their search to those they can afford.

To use the calculators,  input data on parents’ financial information from tax returns, bank accounts, and investment records, plus information on student grades and assets.  Using the data, the calculator will show how much grant and scholarship assistance a student is likely to receive from the federal government and the college plus the “net price” the family is expected to pay, either out-of-pocket or from loans.

Although the intention of the financial aid calculators is good, critics say that the calculators can be difficult to use. In addition, they can vary considerably from one school to another. With no standardization, easy comparisons are difficult.

To read about the experience of one high school senior at using a financial aid calculator, see The Boston Globe article College Aid – The Daunting Calculus:  New Tool to Help Make Sense of It All.

To see a sampling of net price financial aid calculators, go to the National Association of Independent Colleges (NAICU) website.

For more information on Paying for College, see our blog post and video  from MEFA‘s presentation at September’s Financial Literacy at the Library event.

Future Business Leaders Food Drive

The Newton North High School Future Business Leaders of America club is organizing a city-wide food drive on Saturday, November 12, 2011 from 9 am to noon.

We will have tables set up at 4 convenient locations:

  • Newton North High School on Tiger Drive
  • Star Market at 2040 Commonwealth Avenue in Auburndale
  • Whole Foods at 647 Washington St.
  • Whole Foods at 916 Walnut St.

Please bring any packaged or canned goods. All goods will be donated to The Greater Boston Food Bank to help the needy this holiday season.

People may also drop off any donations after their shopping.

Health Insurance Quiz for Millennials

Let’s say you’re an unemployed 24-year-old.  Which is your best choice for health care insurance: get added to your parent’s policy or buy your own plan from a private insurer? You may be surprised to know that a private policy can actually be the cheaper option.

This is just one of the health insurance topics included in Kiplinger Magazine’s quiz, What Young Adults Need to Know about Health Insurance.  Other questions range from the effect of preexisting conditions on premiums to the distinction between health savings plans and flexible spending accounts.

With the passage of the federal Affordable Care Act, the number of uninsured young adults has dropped from about 28% to 25%. But that still leaves too many 20-somethings at risk of financial devastation from a medical crisis.

Take the quiz, plus consult a Guide to Open Enrollment for 2012 and  How to Save Money on Health Insurance When You’re Young.