Errors on your credit report can negatively affect your credit score, which is used to evaluate your applications for credit cards, loans, jobs, housing, insurance, and more.
What Can You Do?
Check Your Credit Report Check your credit report with all three credit reporting agencies at least once a year. You are entitled to one FREE credit report annually from each agency (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax).
Checking your report will help you identify and correct errors that could be affecting your credit score and help protect you from identity theft.
Dispute Errors If you find an error on any of your credit reports, follow instructions on the report that explain how to dispute errors. If errors have not been corrected after you’ve disputed them with the credit reporting agency, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
This America Saves Week: Set a Goal. Make a Plan. Save Automatically.
By Katie Bryan, America Saves Communications Manager
The theme for America Saves Week 2013 is more than just a theme; it’s the essence of a sound approach to savings, designed to help individuals take financial action. Set a Goal. Make a Plan. Save Automatically. Knowing what you want to save for, how to achieve it, and then making the savings process automatic will allow you to reach your savings goal.
Set a Goal
You can save more by having a goal in mind. Visualizing what you want to save for gives your savings a purpose. You may be tempted to withdraw from your savings if it has no purpose. But once you have a goal in place, you know that taking money out of your savings is taking away from that ultimate goal. So what are you saving for? An emergency fund, a home, retirement, a car?
Don’t forget to keep your savings safe, secure, and growing. Banks, credit unions, and even the government offer a variety of financial products that can help you save.
It can be hard to put aside money for savings. But there is an easy way to save money without ever missing it. Once you know how much you can save, make saving automatic. Many employers allow you to divide your paycheck into different accounts through direct deposit. Take advantage by putting part of your pay into a savings account. If you get paid in cash, take a small amount to the bank to deposit into a savings account each week.
Participate in our National Consumer Protection Week Live Twitter Chat
We will host a National Consumer Protection Week Twitter chat on Wednesday, March 6 at 2 p.m. EST.
Experts from USA.gov, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will be on hand to answer your consumer-related questions and and provide government resources that can help. So whether you have questions about how to file a complaint with a company or how to learn about the latest scams, now is your chance to get answers.
You can submit your questions on Twitter (@USAgov) using the hashtag #NCPW from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. EST next Wednesday, when experts will be available to answer them live. As always, you can also ask questions on our Facebook page or here on the blog.
National Consumer Protection Week runs from March 3-9 and encourages you to take full advantage of your consumer rights and make well-informed decisions in the marketplace.
5 Easy Ways to Get Involved in America Saves Week and Save Successfully
By Katie Bryan, America Saves Communications Manager
America Saves Week, February 25 – March 2, 2013, is chance for individuals to assess their own saving status and take financial action. Studies reveal that having a savings plan with specific goals can have beneficial financial effects, even for lower-income families.
Here are 5 easy ways to get involved in America Saves Week:
Take this savings quiz to reveal how much you understand about the realities of savings in America.
5. Share Savings Tips and Advice with Family and Friends
On Twitter and Facebook? Share these social media posts (Word) with your friends and followers to encourage them to save.
America Saves Week is coordinated by America Saves and the American Savings Education Council. Started in 2007, the Week is an annual opportunity for organizations to promote good savings behavior and a chance for individuals to assess their own saving status.
Report lost or stolen passports to the State Department right away by calling 1-877-487-2778. To replace the lost or stolen passport, you’ll have to submit forms DS-11 and DS-64 in person at a passport agency or acceptance facility. If you lose a passport, and then find it again, you won’t be able to use it to travel. You should return the lost passport and request a new one.
Military Service Records
You often need copies of military service records to apply for a variety of government programs available for veterans, like health care, retirement or education benefits. The National Archives keeps copies of all veterans’ services records, and you can apply online to receive a copy of yours or an immediate family member’s if they are deceased. If you prefer to mail or fax a request for your records, you can download form SF-180. You can also find out how to replace lost military medals and awards.
Social Security Card
If you can’t find your Social Security card, you may not actually need to replace it. As long as you know your Social Security number, you will still be able to collect Social Security, get a job and apply for many government benefits and services. However, if you do want to replace the card, you’ll need to gather documents proving your identity and citizenship to mail or take to a local Social Security office.
If you have a U.S. Permanent Resident (Green) Card, you may need to replace it if it was lost, stolen or damaged or if your name or other biographical information has legally changed since it was issued. You can easily request a new one online. If you’re outside the United States and have lost your green card, you should contact the nearest U.S. consulate or immigrations office before you apply online for a new card.
A few of the infections that affect unborn babies or newborns include:
Group B Strep — About 1 in 4 women carry Group B Strep. This bacteria is usually not harmful to you, but it can be passed on to your baby during childbirth and lead to a potentially deadly infection in your newborn. If you test positive for Group B Strep, you can protect your baby by getting IV antibiotics during labor.
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) — Some babies born with CMV infection will develop permanent health problems, such as hearing or vision loss or mental disabilities. Help protect your unborn baby by washing your hands often, avoiding contact with saliva and urine, and taking additional precautions to reduce your risk of exposure to CMV.
Listeriosis — Pregnant women are 13 times more likely than the general population to get listeriosis, a serious infection caused by eating food contaminated with the bacteria Listeria. Protect yourself and your unborn baby by avoiding certain foods while you’re pregnant.
Hangout With Astronauts on the International Space Station
NASA will host a Google+ Hangout Fri., Feb. 22, live from the International Space Station. The hangout will take place from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. EST.
You can ask questions about life on the International Space Station to astronauts Kevin Ford, Chris Hadfield, and Tom Marshburn.
NASA will be taking live questions on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ during the hangout. Use the hashtag #askAstro so NASA sees your questions.
Hangouts are limited to 10 people at a time, so NASA is also encouraging fans to submit their video questions ahead of time. Several of these questions will be picked and aired during the hangout when the astronauts answer them live.
The IRS alerted taxpayers and the tax community it is experiencing high traffic on Where’s My Refund as more tax returns come in. The heavy volume of refund inquiries means that the IRS anticipates both “Where’s My Refund?” on IRS.gov and the refund feature on the IRS2go phone app will have limited availability during busier periods.
Due to the large number of inquiries and to avoid service disruptions, the IRS strongly urges taxpayers to only check on their refunds once a day. IRS systems are only updated once a day, usually overnight, and the same information is available whether on the internet, IRS2go smartphone app or on IRS toll-free lines. While “Where’s My Refund” is updated nightly, your account will not change that frequently.
The IRS is seeing a good start to the filing season, and tax refunds are being issued timely. Nine out of 10 taxpayers typically receive refunds in less than 21 days when they use e-file with direct deposit.
The IRS expects to see the number of tax returns — and related refund inquiries —steadily increase around the President’s Day holiday week.
Here are some tips to help taxpayers with their refund questions:
Have the right tax information ready before using any of the IRS refund tools. This includes Social Security number, filing status and refund amount.
You don’t need to check Where’s My Refund more than once a day as your information will not change.
To avoid system delays, the best time to check on refunds is evening and weekends.
There is no need to call the IRS about your refund; the telephone service has the same information that is available on Where’s My Refund.
Financial advisors will be the first to tell you: if you want to buy a house, get out of debt, save for retirement, or achieve any other financial goal, you have to make a budget.
There are many online tools to help you with budgeting, including mobile apps. But you don’t have to have access to technology to create one. All you need is a pencil and some paper. These tips will help you get started.
Track Your Spending
For your budget to be effective, it´s important to know exactly where you’re spending your money each month.
Write down all fixed monthly expenses or use your favorite online tools or mobile apps to track where the money goes.
Make sure to include your cash expenses since they can easily go unreported, especially if you’re using computer software.
Add seasonal or annual expenses such as car registration, tax preparation fees, vacations, or expenses related to the holiday season.
Track at least two months to get a sense of your average of expenses and avoid high or low months.
Track Your Income
The second part is identifying your monthly income. It is important to be accurate since you will be making financial decisions based on what you make. To make an accurate assessment:
Write down all net income from each job or income source for one month. This may include regular salary, temporary jobs, unemployment compensation, and public assistance. If the amount varies, average it out to the last 12 months.
Include income that occurs less frequently like annual bonuses, dividends and interests, tax refunds, etc.
Make a Budget
Once you’ve identified your expenses and income, it’s time to make a budget. Consumer.gov has lots of information on creating a budget, but you can also follow these quick tips:
Create a document with two columns: one with your monthly income and another with your monthly expenses. FDIC.gov has an example of a budget worksheet (at the end of the page).
In the expenses section, separate them by fixed and flexible. That way you can prioritize your monthly expenditures.
If monthly expenses exceed income, then you have to look for ways to reduce expenses or make more money. It’s usually more feasible to reduce flexible expenses such as mobile phones bills, water and electricity.
Stay Flexible but Focused
It is ideal to have a monthly budget where income is greater than expenses, and where the budget includes a monthly savings amount. This can help you balance your family budget. Because things can change month to month, experts recommend that you remain as flexible as possible and adjust when needed.
Tooth decay affects more children in the United States than any other chronic infectious disease. It can lead to pain and infection that impacts eating, speech, and learning. Fortunately, tooth decay is preventable.
2. Prepaid Debit Card: The U.S. Treasury deposits your benefits directly to a debit card. This is an option if you don’t have a bank account and do not want to open one. You can request a debit card by calling (800) 333-1795 (Mon-Fri, 8am-8pm ET).
Image description: A team of surgeons at Johns Hopkins performs the hospital’s first double-arm transplant on former infantryman Brendan Marrocco. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army.
Former infantryman Brendan Marrocco lost both his arms and legs while serving in Iraq. However, after a successful double-arm transplant surgery, Marrocco has two arms again.
The double-arm transplant was the first surgery of its kind performed at Johns Hopkins hospital in Baltimore, Md. A team of 16 surgeons performed the surgery, which lasted 13 hours.
The surgical team replaced Marrocco’s right arm with a donor arm. On his left side, where Marrocco still had an elbow, the team replaced his entire forearm with his own remaining tissue, said Dr. W.P. Andrew Lee, director of the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Johns Hopkins.
Marrocco is currently in intensive hand therapy which helps him learn how to move his fingers, wrists and elbow.
“One of my goals is to hand cycle a marathon,” Marrocco said, after his surgery. “I want to get the most out of these arms. And as goals come up, knock them down and absolutely take it as far as I can. I want to get to the point where I can be on my own and get back to enjoying my life.”
Ability-to-Repay Rule Ensures You Can Afford Your Mortgage Payments
When you apply for a mortgage, it can sometimes be hard to understand how much of a monthly payment you can afford. Oftentimes you have to factor in additional fees and property taxes that add to the base cost of your monthly payment.
You can’t always rely on a mortgage broker or lender to ensure that you’re getting a responsbile loan that you can afford.
That’s why the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) introduced the Ability-to-Repay rule.
Under the new rule, lenders have to ensure that you can pay back the loan plus interest over the long term.
According to CFPB, in order to do that, lenders will need to verify the following before they can issue you a loan:
Current income or assets;
Current employment status;
The monthly payment for the mortgage;
The monthly payments on any other loans associated with the property;
The monthly payment for other mortgage related obligations (such as property taxes);
Other debt obligations; and
The monthly debt-to-income ratio or residual income the borrower would be taking on with the mortgage. (Debt-to-income ratio is a consumer’s total monthly debt divided by their total monthly gross income).
These rules will help protect you from lenders who might try to sell you an irresponsible mortgage that you can’t afford.
Going to College or Career School? Submit the FAFSA to Get Financial Aid
The federal government provides more than $150 billion in grants, loans, and work-study funds to students each year. In order to get that money, you must first complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly called the FAFSA.
Completing and submitting the FAFSA is free and easier than ever, and it gives you access to the largest source of financial aid to pay for college or career school.
In addition, many states and colleges use your FAFSA data to determine your eligibility for state and school aid, and some private financial aid providers may use your FAFSA information to determine whether you qualify for their aid.