Being away from home or loved ones is a sacrifice for thousands of men and women working overseas in the United States military. That’s why our care packages to the troops help them feel our support while they are in duty:
Send a care package to a loved one in the military using the United States Postal Service (USPS)
Check out the guidelines for international shipping and make sure the items you’re sending are permitted in the destination country.
Use the internet to fill out a Customs Form to attach to the package.
Note: USPS doesn’t accept packages that are over 70 pounds. You can also check the country’s package weight limits.
For additional information about sending mail contact USPS at 1-800-275-8777.
Show your support through United Service Organizations (USO)
The USO is a nonprofit organization through which you can buy care packages of items (comfort foods, books, movies, etc.) or services such as phone calls home for troops overseas. You can also make tax-deductible donations to send the troops holiday gifts or to honor a loved military member.
Note: These packages and services are sent to troops in general rather than to individual service members.
If you have additional questions about the USO, contact the organization at 1-888-484-3876.
There are more than 4 million disabled veterans in the U.S. The intention of the memorial is to honor the men and women who have served and sacrificed for the country and have been “broken in body, but not in spirit.”
Sixteen years in the making, the memorial was made possible by the efforts of philanthropist and Broadway singer, Lois Pope. President Clinton authorized the memorial in 2000, and a 2.4 acre site was selected adjacent to the National Botanical Gardens and the Rayburn House Office Building. After an open competition, a design featuring a star fountain with a ceremonial flame as a focal point was selected.
The beautiful new memorial conveys the strength, yet vulnerability of those in the military, and serves as a place for the American people to honor both the living and the deceased for their service and sacrifice.
Wireless carrier AT&T has agreed to pay $105 million dollars to settle accusations that they have been “mobile cramming” since 2009.
Mobile cramming is often unnoticed by consumers, and occurs when companies charge customers additional money for services they have not asked for, such as monthly ringtone subscriptions, wallpapers, celebrity gossip, or horoscope text messages. These charges appeared on monthly bills under “AT&T Monthly Subscriptions” which lead consumers to believe they were paying for AT&T services, and not a third-party fee.
If you believe you are a victim of this unauthorized billing, you can apply for a refund on the Federal Trade Commission's website. Or, you can call 1-877-819-9692 to ask questions or request a paper claim form. Refunds will not be available for at least nine months.
Mobile cramming is not exclusive to AT&T, so know what you’ve agreed to pay for and always keep an eye out for charges that that seem irregular on your wireless bill. These charges may be small—often less than $10, so be aware of what you pay each month, and take note of any change in that amount.
It’s important to be a smart consumer. For more tips on protecting your money and avoiding scams and frauds, order the free 2014 Consumer Action Handbook.
October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. Use these tips to keep your home network secure
The cyber threat is no longer limited to your office network and work persona. Adversaries realize that targets are typically more vulnerable when operating from their home network since there is less rigor associated with the protection, monitoring, and maintenance of most home networks. Home users need to maintain a basic level of network defense.
Recalls are not uncommon. They can occur in everything from food and toys to automobiles. Some recalls are easy to find out about — they’re huge stories broadcast on national news outlets. Others don’t garner much media attention, but they’re still important to be aware of. Make it a habit to check the following places for recall notices, and be sure the products you’re buying and food you’re eating is safe.
•Recalls.gov lists government-initiated recalls from federal agencies.
• NHSTA.gov publishes safety information on vehicles and equipment such as children’s car seats.
• FSIS.USDA.gov lists recalls that involve meat, poultry, or processed egg products.
• FDA.gov lists recalls that involve food, medicines, medical devices, cosmetics, biologics, radiation emitting products, veterinary drugs and pet food.
If you have an issue with a product, you can report incidents and safety concerns with consumer products, or search for incidents reported by others at saferproducts.gov.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) provides tax relief to survivors and some dependents of those killed during the following terrorist attacks:
Oklahoma City bombing, 1995
September 11, 2001 (attacks in New York, Washington, DC and United Airlines flight 93 in Pennsylvania)
Anthrax attacks, 2001
Tax relief for eligible individuals
Disability payments to survivors. These payments, including Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), are not subject to income tax if the disability occurred as a direct result from a terrorist attack.
Tax forgiveness for the deceased as a result of any of the attacks listed above. Tax relief is available retroactively to one year before the attack.
For joint tax returns, only the tax liability of the deceased is eligible for tax forgiveness. If both spouses are eligible, the amount of relief is determined separately.
Assistance for personal, family, living, or funeral expenses incurred because of a terrorist attack. The IRS grants at least $10,000, either as credit or refund, if the deceased’s total tax relief is less than this amount.
Forms to apply for tax relief
There aren’t specific tax relief forms for survivors of terrorist attacks. Download Adobe Reader and choose the appropriate tax form for your situation:
The 1040 or 1040NR (nonresident alien) form is for claiming tax forgiveness for someone who is dead or for requesting a refund for taxes withheld from disability payments. Complete 1040X if you have already filed your return.
W-4 form to stop withholding tax payments declared on a W-2 form. Present the W-4 form to your employer.
W-4P form to stop withholding taxes on pension or annuity payments declared on a 1099-R form. Show this form to your company or pension agency.
W-4V to stop withholding SSDI payments. Show this form to your local Social Security Administration office.
For more information contact the IRS at 866-562-5227 or refer to Publication 3920.
Imagine being told that you owe money for a debt you’ve already paid. It’s not only annoying, but frustrating, right? Not to mention expensive and time-consuming.
That’s what happened to Higinio when he found a debt on his credit report that he had paid multiple times. For years, he tried to work with the credit card company to remove the debt from his record, but they were insistent that he owed them money. Hundreds of dollars and countless calls later, Higinio submitted a complaint with the help of his friend Marta by accessing resources on www.consumerfinance.gov/es.
“The help in Spanish was amazing because I understand English, but it´s not the same when you have a problem and try to explain it in a language that´s not yours; it´s never the same.”
We understand that navigating the financial marketplace can be confusing and that language can often be an additional barrier for many people. We’re glad that Higinio got the assistance he needed, and that we were able to offer him resources that he found helpful.
People who feel good about their finances: What do they have in common?
By CFPB and FDIC
Parents tell us it’s important for children to be well-prepared to lead good financial lives. Yes, financial facts and information are important. But the way we behave around money is connected to the way we behave in the rest of our lives. That means it’s important for children to develop attitudes and characteristics as well as knowledge.
So, what kind of person is likely to have financial well-being—that is, to feel confident about their financial situation, today and down the road? It turns out that people who feel financial well-being have a few personality traits in common:
Focus on the future. People with this characteristic tend to plan ahead and think about how their actions today will affect them in the future.
Diligence. This trait describes people who are driven to finish what they start, work hard, and take care of details.
Self-control. People with self-control are generally able to show patience and wait for what they want.
Self-confidence. People with this trait tend to measure themselves against an inner yardstick, and believe their actions can make a difference in their own lives.
Parents, if you’re thinking about getting your children on the path to financial well-being, try helping them work on these traits. They can help children get ahead in many areas of life. Young people develop these traits at their own pace, and almost everyone benefits from help and practice. For example, for children younger than age five, activities like martial arts and playing pretend can develop these qualities. You don’t have to be a money expert, and you can help form a good foundation for your child’s future financial life.
Have you ever considered talking to a financial planner, but have been scared off because of costs? If so, Financial Planning Days is your opportunity to talk with a certified financial planner for free.
Organized in partnership with local city governments, these free public events that run from Sept. 27 through Nov. 8 give you an opportunity to address your personal finance questions privately with highly qualified Certified Financial Planner (CFP) professionals who will volunteer their time to meet with you one-on-one. You will also be able to attend informative classroom workshops addressing key areas of financial planning.
You can ask questions on a variety of topics including
credit and debt
small business finances, among many others.
Best of all – it’s all free and there are no strings attached! Financial planners are participating as volunteers and they will not take down names, sell products or services or give out business cards or marketing materials. And, you can consult with as many different financial planners as you need.
Come as you are or come prepared with any financial paperwork related to your questions. You can also pick up a variety of free personal finance resources, including government publications from USA.gov.
To learn more and to register for an event in your area, visit www.FinancialPlanningDays.org. You can also call toll free at 877-861-7826. Walk-ins are welcome too, but we recommend that you register in advance.
Election Day is Approaching - Are You Registered to Vote?
2014 is a mid-term election year. All 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are contested, as well as 36 of the 100 U.S. Senate seats. Gubernatorial elections will be held in 36 states and three territories, along with many state and local races.
Voting rules vary from state to state, but NOW is the time to make sure you are registered, your registration is up-to-date, and you’ve applied for an absentee ballot, if you need one.
Find out if your state allows early voting
Check your polling place and its hours
Schedule assistance getting to the polls, should you need it
See if your state requires official ID in order to vote
Consumers often come to us with complaints about problems with debt collection and related credit reporting issues. We forward their complaints to the companies and work to get a response from them. In Venida’s case, within weeks of submitting her complaints, she was able to get the inaccurate information on her credit reports removed.
“Now that I have received the help from [the] CFPB”, she said, “I feel as if I can go along with my life enjoying my grandchildren and my children…and not worry about… whether I’m going to be sued.” She continued, “It’s so important because older people my age get taken advantage of. These collections agencies have them thinking that they owe this, they owe that. They don’t know that there’s a resource out there that can help them like the CFPB.”
We’re glad Venida got the help she needed, and we want to make sure that you know that we’re here for you too. To share your experience or learn more from others, visit us at www.consumerfinance.gov/yourstory.
Watching your cholesterol intake can be confusing because your body actually needs some of it and not all cholesterol is bad.
There are two types— HDL and LDL. LDL is the bad stuff found in foods with trans and saturated fats.
To keep cholesterol in check, it’s important to
eat a healthy diet
maintain a healthy weight
Because it is Cholesterol Education Month, it’s an ideal time to get screened and know exactly what your cholesterol levels are. If you are 20 years old or older, you should be screened every 5 years, and more often as you age.
Talk through what you do with money—your children are listening
By CFPB and FDIC
Parents tell us they want to help their children be smart about money. But they’re not always confident about how to go about it.
We’ve got a suggestion: Talk through your money choices with your child as you go. (If you already do this, great!) You don’t have to change anything that you choose to do with your money. But your kids need a window into how to think about spending, saving, borrowing and more. You can show them how you think about these important choices.
Next time you pay a bill, or buy something online, or go grocery shopping, try speaking your thoughts out loud. “Now I’m looking at our electric bill, and I’m checking to see if it’s the right amount. And I’m looking at the due date, so I know whether the payment is on time or late.” This talk helps your child start to understand how to think about transactions. Over time, your child can turn these thoughts into good habits.
Many of us are living longer and will have healthier and more active years in retirement. That makes saving for retirement even more important.
Don’t let the math put you off. EBSA’s Savings Fitness online worksheets make it easy: Enter your information, and the calculations are done for you. In recognition of National Hispanic Heritage Month, we are pleased to share with you the online worksheets in Spanish, as part of our publication Su Dinero y Futuro Económico.
In addition, we are holding a webcast in Spanish on September 18 to walk you through the worksheets and give you a chance to ask questions. Please join us. An archived English-language webcast is available on EBSA’s website.
Retirement may seem like it’s a long way off. But the best time to save, regardless of your age, is now. The earlier you start, the more prepared you’ll be when you are ready to retire. If your employer sponsors a retirement savings plan, that is a great place to save. However, not everyone can; only 54 percent of all America’s workers and 38 percent of Hispanic workers have a retirement plan at work. If your employer doesn’t offer a plan, it is even more important that you save on your own.
Regardless of whether or not you have started to save for retirement, and whether you need the information in English or Spanish, EBSA has some tools to get you started, answer your questions and track your progress.
The important thing is to get started today. Fill in your information, let the worksheets do the math, and take the first steps towards a secure retirement.
Your child’s environment – whether at home, at school or socially – can greatly influence how they may behave in the future.
FindYouthInfo.gov, a government website focused on youth issues, found that in 2012, more than 630,000 young people between the ages of 10 and 24 were admitted to the hospital due to violence-related injuries.
If you’re worried that your child is at risk for violent behavior, there are some factors that may indicate a problem.
Risk factors for violent youth
During their teen years, some kids may behave violently because of some risk factors found in their environment.
Note: Some of these risk factors may be out of your control. However, it is recommended that you keep them under consideration.
From an early age, young people could be exposed to:
Violent behavior between parents
Parents who are frequently absent or don’t pay attention to their children
Protecting consumers from predatory financial products and services is part of our mission and something we take very seriously. We received a Tell Your Story from the father of a servicemember that led to us opening an investigation into an auto loan program. The program, which targeted servicemembers, was found to have deceptive marketing and lending practices. The investigation led to an enforcement action against auto lenders requiring them to refund approximately $6.5 million to over 50,000 servicemembers. Ari, a servicemember, and his father Harry, shared their story with us, and here’s what they had to say:
“It’s very important to speak up because there are people within the government that are there to help us get through challenging financial situations,” Harry said. “It’s very important for any citizen to speak up and just tell your story.” Ari mentioned that: “The fact that the CFPB took action in the name of servicemembers across the entire country… really shows us that someone’s in our corner.”
We were glad to be there for Harry and Ari - they shared their story with us and got the help they needed. To learn more about their story, share your own, or find resources for servicemembers check out www.consumerfinance.gov/yourstory.
Share Your Thoughts: New Labels to Help ID Safer Products
From the Environmental Protection Agency
Image description: Samples of the newly redesigned Safer Product labels.
Do you look for safer cleaning and household products? Did you know that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a voluntary program that reviews products and allows them to display its Safer Product Label if they meet EPA’s stringent health and environmental criteria?
The EPA is redesigning its Safer Product Label (formerly, the Design for the Environment label) to give it a more modern look and make it clear that labeled products are safer for health as well as the environment.
Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month By Putting Your Health First
In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, @HHSgov and @HHSLatino are hosting a live bilingual Twitter chat on Monday, September 15th at 2 p.m. EST. The chat will focus on putting your health first and discuss how to to sign up for health coverage, how to find free resources to help you make healthy lifestyle decisions and how to make a difference in your community.
You’ll also have the opportunity to ask any health-related questions and get answers from the experts.
Join us and others from across the government to chat about the health challenges, preventive care and how to take charge of your health.
Use the hashtag #HHMSalud to join the conversation!
You don’t have to give children an allowance—but if you do, talk about it
By CFPB and FDIC
Giving children an allowance is a topic many parents discuss. Even within families, parents can disagree about whether it’s a good idea.
Research doesn’t conclusively prove whether or not having an allowance helps children achieve better financial well-being as adults. However, research does suggest how to make an allowance work well for your children, if you do decide to give one.
Don’t just hand over the money and leave it at that. Make it part of your conversations. Talk about what the family budget still covers. For example, you can clarify that the child’s meals with the family, school clothes, and school supplies are the family’s responsibility. The child’s own expenses, like clothes he wants to buy or apps she wants to add, should come from the allowance.
If you give the allowance weekly, check in each week and ask about what the child decided to do with the money. Did she save any of it for a future goal? What did he learn about spending, saving, or planning ahead? Does she want to make changes to how she spends money next time?
Some families decide to pay children for certain chores. If this sounds like your family, you can have similar conversations about what your child earned.
Whether to give an allowance at all is a choice each family should make. To make the most of an allowance if you choose to give one, commit to giving your child some of your own time and guidance along with it.
Being on the hook for a debt you don’t owe is not only stressful, but can be scary. If you don’t know where to turn, you might feel hopeless. We heard from William, who was receiving calls for a debt he didn’t owe. William tried to resolve the issue for over four years, seeing his credit get ruined in the process. He said “None of them could do anything… except tell me I had to pay them the $8,500.”
Stories like William’s are important because it’s often hard to know where to turn and who to trust for help. Because William submitted a complaint, he was able to end a four year long credit dispute in one week.
“Just to have the situation resolved…that just felt good.” William said. “In a situation for me that was seemingly endless and hopeless, the CFPB helped me to find resolution. It’s a new day.”
We’re glad William got the help he needed, and we want to make sure that you know that we’re here for you too. To share your experience or learn more from others, visit us at www.consumerfinance.gov/yourstory.
The federal government is often referred to as, “Uncle Sam.” However, not many people know why, or from where this nickname stems.
During the War of 1812, a meat-packer from Troy, NY named Samuel Wilson supplied the U.S. Army with barrels of beef. Wilson was known around town as “Uncle Sam” and when he labeled the barrels with “U.S.” the soldiers assumed that’s what the initials stood for. It actually meant “United States,” and the ideas combined where Uncle Sam stood for the United States of America. A newspaper picked up on the story, and as word traveled, the term “Uncle Sam” eventually became synonymous with the federal government.
Decades later, a political cartoonist popularized the image of Uncle Sam— with the white beard, stars and stripes suit, and top hat. The same cartoonist, Thomas Nast (who was German) also created the modern image of Santa Claus, as well as the Democratic donkey and Republican elephant.
During WWI, the Uncle Sam image was greatly popularized when it was used with the slogan “I want you for the U.S. Army” for recruitment purposes. With over four million copies printed, this effort has been called the “most famous poster in the world.” Uncle Sam was officially adopted as a national symbol of the U.S. in 1950.
Troy, NY now calls itself, “The Home of Uncle Sam.”
In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Wilderness Act into law. It created the National Wilderness Preservation System and protected roughly 110 million acres of wilderness from development, roads, logging, and other disturbances. It is one of the greatest land preservation efforts in United States history. Of these protected lands, 44 million acres are National Parks.
The lands preserved are some of the most scenic and astoundingly beautiful areas in the country. In celebration of the Wilderness Act, there are events and activities scheduled throughout the country. For more information, check out Celebrating 50 Years of American Wilderness.
Smoking cigarettes or drinking too much alcohol can cause addiction and other serious health issues.
The risk of diseases associated with tobacco and alcohol increase for those who drink and smoke.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), about 443,000 people in the United States die of illnesses caused by tobacco each year. Meanwhile, about 88,000 die from alcohol-related illnesses.
Diseases caused by smoking tobacco
Smoking cigarettes can cause various types of cancer and chronic illnesses, including:
Cancer of the larynx, stomach, trachea, lung, esophagus and others
Note: Even those who do not smoke, but are exposed to cigarettes and tobacco, can develop health problems caused by second-hand smoke.
Free resources and help centers to quit smoking
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is a good resource for smokers, offering plans to quit smoking, self-help materials, and a helpline at 1-800-784-8669, or 1-800-332-8615 (TTY for the hearing impaired).
Smokefree.gov offers tips on how to quit smoking as well as pamphlets, information about medications and other advice. You can also subscribe to SmokefreeTXT to receive helpful messages on your phone.
Just a year away from graduating with $23,000 in student loans, Leah didn’t know how she was going to make her payments. They were a constant source of stress in her life; she would lie awake at night thinking about how she was going to pay off her student debt. She was worried about her future.
We understand that fear – it’s why we built our Paying for College tool. It helps students and recent graduates inform themselves about the true cost of college and the repayment options available after graduation.
Leah learned about the Income Based Repayment option, which helped to significantly lower her monthly payments. “It’s a lot less stressful now,” she says; “It feels amazing… My husband and I don’t feel like we’re living paycheck to paycheck. I wasn’t informed when I was taking out my student loans of the reality of after college. And now students have the CFPB website to know in advance and be informed of what to expect when they graduate. I took charge of my student loan debt. Now other students can take charge of theirs thanks to the CFPB.”
Do you have a story like Leah’s? Do you want to find resources for students and graduates? Or are you interested in what other people are saying about their experiences with financial products and services? Check out Everyone has a story.