Keeping family finances safe: communicate, keep records, watch credit reports

by Shelton on August 27th, 2012

filed under Finances

Thats the cornerstone of every great business, Ritrievi said. Its the cornerstone of every great relationship. Its the cornerstone of a good financial plan. 

Share the burden

Ideally, money matters are a shared duty in every marriage, Ritrievi said. Communicate early in the relationship about life goals kids, home buying, retirement and their financial implications, he said. Then, budget monthly and avoid accumulating credit card debt.

You can even set up a fun financial date, said Mary Rosenkrans, director of financial education for the state Department of Banking. Sit down at a favorite place to take inventory of financial matters and revisit shared goals.

The important thing is to set aside time to have that regular money talk, Rosenkrans said. Its so easy to put it on the back burner. 

The notebook

Whether youre dealing with your own household finances or an aging relatives, accountant John Steffee of Pfister and Rompalo in Wormleysburg suggests a notebook listing bank accounts, insurance policies, credit cards, usernames and passwords. Put a copy in a safe place, or scan it into a secure computer file.

Rosenkrans suggests keeping financial records in a safe deposit box or at the home of a trusted loved one to prevent theft or loss from fire or flood.

Many senior centers and expos offer booklets that elderly people can fill in with financial information that family members should know, said Denise Getgen, chief of the Pennsylvania Department of Agings consumer protection division. 

Check credit reports

Everyone is entitled to a free credit report once a year through www.annualcreditreport.com. Couples need to realize that each person has an individual credit report, Rosenkrans said. Things like joint credit cards will appear on both spouses credit reports, but a card solely in one spouses name wont show on the others report.

If you do have a spouse that is hiding some serious debt, the only way to find out is when its too late, Rosenkrans said. The best thing is to have those conversations early on, and it goes back to communications. Its really not about dollars and cents. Its really about your money attitudes and your money values. 

Relationship building

Financial exploitation of the elderly is on the rise in Pennsylvania; its the third most common type of abuse, Getgen said. Spouses, children and other caregivers should develop relationships that allow for open communication about how to help with finances, where records are kept and what to do in an emergency, she said.

But she also cautioned that perpetrators are often family members, so older adults should manage themselves as much as they can. 

Be specific

Steffee once averted disaster for an elderly client on the verge of sharing her financial information with someone claiming she won the Irish sweepstakes.

It might not be a bad idea to just discuss with someone thats never had financial obligations the fact that theres sharks and wolves out there, Steffee said.

To build a trusting relationship, avoid confrontation, he said. Instead, ask specific questions.

Dont accuse them of being stupid, or dont accuse them of not being able to handle their money, Steffee said. 

Legal affairs

Knowing a parents financial information might be crucial, but be sure that someone has power of attorney to trigger action in the case of death or debilitation, Steffee said.

Have an attorney prepare it so it will hold up legally, and review the power of attorney, will, and pension documents every few years to make sure they still meet legal requirements and reflect changing life circumstances, such as property sales or divorces in the family. 

Red flags

The warning signs that someones financially exploited can include any noticeable, significant change in banking habits, Getgen said. Theyre spending more. Theyre lending money. They use an ATM card excessively.

Red flags also include overdrafts, borrowing money, furtive phone calls and relationships with strangers that are shrouded in secrecy.

Signs of diminished capacity to manage finances can include unpaid or unopened bills, utility shutoff notices, phone calls from debt collectors, and a decline in grooming habits. 

Tax time

Tax time is an excellent time to review finances with a spouse or elderly relative, Steffee said. Many aging people appreciate offers to help prepare returns, and it gives children a peek into parents financial health. Something amiss on a bank statement missed bill payments, for instance offers a chance for specific questions that can open a broader dialog.

Some people arrange to have their financial adviser or a child receive their 1099s and other tax documents, Steffee said.

Mom and dad dont have to worry about collecting all the tax information, he said. We work that out, and it works well.

LEARN MORE

Additional resources: 

  • State Department of Banking: Visit www.moneysbestfriend.com for tips on talking about money with spouses, parents and kids. 
  • National Endowment for Financial Education: Its www.smartaboutmoney.org organizes plain-language tips around life events, such as marriage, births of children and home buying. 
  • Credit reports: Get one free credit report a year at www.annualcreditreport.com. Dont confuse it with commercial services that claim to be free but require paid subscriptions for monthly monitoring. 
  • Area Agencies on Aging: Report suspected abuse, financial or otherwise, to the state Elder Abuse Hotline 800-490-8505 or to a county Area Agency on Agings protective services unit. 

Dauphin County: 800-328-0058, rburns@dauphinc.org, www.dauphinc.org. 

Cumberland County Office of Aging and Community Services, 888-697-0371, ext. 6110, aging@ccpa.net, www.ccpa.net/aging. 

Perry County: 717-582-5128, rmeyer@perryco.org, www.perryco.org

Mint for OS X Provides Eagle-Eye Scrutiny for Personal Finances

by Shelton on August 27th, 2012

filed under Finances

Mint for OS X Provides Eagle-Eye Scrutiny for Personal Finances

By Chris Maxcer
MacNewsWorld
Part of the ECT News Network

08/20/12 5:00 AM PT

Keeping a close eye on your finances can be tricky in the age of credit cards. Online banking sites help, but Mint.coms OS X application keeps all sorts of personal financial details about your life accessible via a handy menu bar icon. Its out of sight when you dont want it and there when you do, showing you where your money is coming from and how its being sucked away.

Britons’ finances take smallest hit since Dec 2010: poll

by Shelton on August 26th, 2012

filed under Finances

LONDON (Reuters) – Britons reported the smallest deterioration in their finances in 20 months in August, as their debt levels stopped rising and fears of being laid off eased, suggesting that consumers could yet be in the mood to help pull the economy out of recession.

Survey compiler Markit said on Monday that its headline Household Finance Index climbed to 38.9 from 37.5 in July. That is the highest since December 2010, but still well below the 50 level that would mark no change compared to a month ago.

Just under 30 percent of respondents said their financial situation worsened this month, while less than 8 percent reported an improvement.

Fewer consumers reported increased worries about their jobs, though they still outnumbered those who felt more confident. On balance, the index for job security reached the highest level since April when it was also 44.9.

Moreover, Britons expected the smallest deterioration in their year-ahead finances since March 2010, with manufacturing and construction workers the most pessimistic.

While the Olympics perhaps helped give a warmer glow to household morale, the breadth of improvement spanning debt trends, inflation expectations, incomes and job security points to a more fundamental easing of the financial downturn, said Tim Moore, senior economist at Markit.

The index measuring inflation expectations for the year ahead reached the lowest level since February, though the survey was compiled before official data showed an unexpected rise in consumer price inflation in July – to 2.6 percent from 2.4 percent.

Still, consumers remain fragile. Household spending rose at the slowest pace for five months in August, while both savings levels and cash available to spend fell faster than in July.

The survey of 1,500 people was conducted from August 9 to August 13.

(Reporting by Olesya Dmitracova; editing by Patrick Graham)

Ann Romney talks family, finances in exclusive interview: ‘There’s nothing we …

by Shelton on August 26th, 2012

filed under Finances

After the election was over and [John] McCain was the nominee, I made a decision that I would never do it again, she said. You know who your husband is. You know– I know what a good person he is. And oh – the negative – its so hard as a wife to sit there and listen to that.

But when Morales asked why she changed her mind, Mrs. Romney said, We have a reason why were running and its because I believe in my heart that Mitt is going to save America, that economically we are in such difficult times and that he is the person thats going to pull us through this.

The criticism that plagued the Romneys during the 2008 campaign has continued, particularly in regards to their reported $250 million fortune and the issue of their tax returns.

When pressed by Morales, Mrs. Romney stood her ground. We have been very transparent to whats legally required of us, she said. Theres going to be no more tax releases given.

Mrs. Romney said if they release any more information, it will only give them more ammunition.

In regards to their finances, she said theres nothing were hiding.

Its been managed by a blind trust since before Mitt was governor, you know, 2002 forward, she told Morales. And so, you know, Ill be curious to see whats in there too.

Editors Note: Natalie Morales full interview with Ann Romney aired Thursday, August 16 on NBCs Rock Center with Brian Williams.

Nedbank finances Shopping Centres for BEE Consortium Listed Property Fund

by Shelton on August 25th, 2012

filed under Finances

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Nedbank finances Shopping Centres for BEE Consortium Listed Property Fund

EUROPEAN OPENING NEWS INCLUDING: The hole in Greece’s public …

by Shelton on August 25th, 2012

filed under Finances

Asia

The resumption of 14-day reverse repurchase operations last week suggest that the Peoples Bank of China has no intention of cutting the Reserve Requirement Ratio in the short term as a way to increase liquidity in the money supply. (China Financial News) This follows a series of reports last week that suggested the Chinese central bank could be delaying a Reserve Requirement Ratio in favour of other liquidity-boosting measures.

JGBs trade in minor negative territory at 143.54 (-5 ticks) in a quiet overnight session as investors eye the upcoming 5- and 20-yr issuance from Japan later in the week before taking positions. Last price taken at 0555BST. (RANsquawk)

Europe

The ECB is considering setting yield limits on the debt of each country and will intervene to buy the securities should the cap be breached according to reports. (Der Spiegel/EFE) Elsewhere, Spanish Economy Minister de Guindos said the ECB should commit to massive, open ended bond buys in order to be effective and before Spain asks for help refinancing itself.

The Spanish region of Murcia may request up to EUR 700mln in loans from the Spanish central government to fund its deficit and redeem bonds according to local government officials. (ABC/Europa Press/El Pais) Government funding, however, will not be ready before September, and conditions applied to regions requesting aid to face bond redemptions and finance deficits are still to be defined according to budget ministry officials. Elsewhere, the Spanish government may have to tighten its austerity measures further to guarantee the attainment of its 2012 deficit target of 6.3% of GDP, if tax revenue does not pick up.

ECBs Asmussen has said a Greek exit from the single currency would be manageable although he would prefer it if the country remained within the Eurozone. (Frankfurter Rundschau) Asmussen added that the ECBs planned new bond-buying program is superior to its predecessor, and the governing council are to work on the details at the next meeting.

The hole in Greeces public finances may now be as large as EUR 14bln, EUR 2.5bln more than the Greek government previously estimated, due to failure to generate money from privatizations, according to preliminary drafts of the Troika report. (Der Spiegel/Newswires) However, EUs Juncker said Greece will not leave the Eurozone unless the country totally refuses to fulfil any of its reform targets. Juncker is set to meet Greek PM Samaras in Athens on Wednesday amid speculation the Greek PM will try to gain more time to implement austerity cuts promised in return for the bailouts.

France is to stick to its plans to cut their deficit to 3% of GDP next year, despite increasing anxiety among the ruling socialist party concerning the savings of more than EUR 30bln that are needed to hit the target, according to the French finance minister. (FT-More)

The German finance ministry have said indicators suggest the German economy is likely to slow due to weakening demand is the Euroarea, according to their monthly report. (Newswires)

FX

China should further reform the mechanism for setting the CNY exchange rate to make it more transparent and market-driven. (Xinhua) This follows similar reports at the tail-end of last week with reports suggesting that the USD/CNY band should be widened.

EUR/USD and the EUR related crosses traded in a range bound patter overnight, technical resistance levels for the major pair seen at the 55DMA at 1.2392, followed by 1.2400. Supports are seen at the 21DMA at 1.2287 and then at 1.2250, which is also an intraday option expiry level. GBP/USD traded in minor negative territory overnight, weighed on by the release of less than impressive Rightmove housing data. The pair has rebounded off lows and is seen flat as we head towards the EU open. (RANsquawk/IFR)

Geopolitical

Iraq is helping Iran skirt international sanctions by smuggling oil and letting Tehran secretly move large amounts of cash through bank auctions, according to reports. (NYTimes)

The US and South Korea have begun an annual joint exercise to test their defences against North Korea, in a drill that North Korea have denounced as a rehearsal for war. (AFP)

Commodities

WTI crude futures are seen in positive territory at the start of the week, aided by a pick up in US consumer confidence seen at the end of last week, currently trade USD 96.23, up USD 0.22, last price taken at 0612BST. (RANsquawk)

US

T-notes finished the day in minor positive territory, giving back the majority of the gains in the final two hours of the session. Fixed income markets were led by German Bund futures in early trade as Bunds tripped buy stops and led a bid from CTAs at the CBOT pit open. Fixed income desks noted light flows and short-covering into the weekend, with the lack of liquidity a result of peak holiday season. At the pit close, t-notes settled at 132.16, up 4+ ticks. Finally the DJIA finished up 0.19% at 13275.20, the Samp;P 500 finished up 0.19% at 1418.16 and the Nasdaq 100 finished up 0.44% at 2780.30. USTs traded flat at the start of the week on thin volume and little news, currently trade 132.17, up 1 tick, last price taken at 0615BST. (RANsquawk)

UK Aug House Prices Slump on Month; Consumers Downbeat On Finances …

by Shelton on August 24th, 2012

filed under Finances

UK households continue to feel the pinch as house prices post their biggest drop on record for the month of August while Britons spending plans remained constrained, a trio of surveys showed Monday.

Online estate agency Rightmove said UK house prices fell 2.4% on the month in August following a 1.7% fall in July.

Estate agents are always aiming to win new sellers, but if whats already on the market isnt shifting then the best advice they can give to potential new sellers is to undercut those properties already failing to sell, said Miles Shipside, Rightmove director and housing market analyst.

Rightmove also reported prices were 2% higher in August compared with a year ago, a lower gain than the 2.3% year-on-year increase reported in July.

The survey shows that the number of new sellers in August was higher than a year ago and could suggest there are more home-owners who are in a position where they must sell their home. That could be due to a number of reasons, including difficulties in making their monthly mortgage repayments to fears over job security.

According to data firm Markit and high street bank Lloyds TSB, the majority of consumers are still experiencing tough financial conditions. Both released surveys Monday showing that consumers remain cautious over spending plans and said weak earnings growth meant that despite the slower pace of inflation, cash availability fell in July from June.

Markit, however, said there was a welcome, if small, sign of improvement as its overall household finances index rose to a balance of 38.9 in July from 37.5 in June was the least negative–a balance below 50 signals a deterioration in personal finances–for over two-and-a-half years, lifted higher by a stabilization in debt levels as well as expectations of lower inflation.

The overall strain on finances was the least marked since December 2010, and hopes of a reduced squeeze on real incomes meant that households are the least downbeat about the financial outlook for almost two-and-a-half years, said Tim Moore, senior economist at Markit.

Less welcome will be the muted household spending patterns shown by Augusts survey, which add to concerns about worsening business conditions at home and in key export markets, Mr. Moore said.

It is the lack of cash flowing through the economy that is weighing on the economy–UK gross domestic product has contracted for three straight quarters–and a major concern for the Bank of England and government, leading to the creation of the funding for Lending Scheme.

The BOE and UK Treasurys FLS opened for business earlier this month in the hope that banks will increase mortgage and businesses lending in return for cheaper funds from the central bank.

With UK house prices having fallen on the month more often than they have risen so far year, it is becoming more of a buyers market. This development could actually drive demand for mortgages, and if the FLS works and does encourage more lending, it could boost activity in the sluggish housing market as well as helping to get more money back into the economy.

Indeed, the surveys show that the FLS couldnt have begun soon enough as financial concerns and ongoing fears over job security remain.

News that the economy shrank in the second quarter of the year would appear to be dampening spirits towards the UKs financial situation, said Jatin Patel, director of current accounts at Lloyds TSB.

Annual growth in essential spending is not putting downward pressure on budgets in the same way as it was earlier in the year, but with income growth still weak, we are yet to see any noticeable improvement in the amount of money people have left over for discretionary purchases. Until we see this, spending on the high street will likely remain subdued for many in the near future, Mr. Patel said.

Write to Ilona Billington at ilona.billington@dowjones.com

Copyright copy; 2012 Dow Jones Newswires

TEXT-Fitch:Malaysian growth supportive, but fiscal pressure remains

by Shelton on August 24th, 2012

filed under Finances

  • Link this
  • (The following statement was released by the rating agency)
    Aug 20 – The strong contribution of public-sector spending and investment to economic growth
    may sustain pressure on Malaysias public finances, Fitch Ratings says. Malaysias high level…

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Summer celebrations ‘hit consumer finances’

by Shelton on August 23rd, 2012

filed under Finances

The summer celebrations may have been fun for Britons, but many have been hit in the pocket as a result.

With the Queens Diamond Jubilee celebrations sparking numerous street parties, the European Championships providing an excuse to stay in with a few beers and the Olympics seeing many millions of pounds on tickets and travel, the summer fun will have come at a cost.

A study by the MoneySupermarket website has found 58 per cent of consumers spent more than they planned to this summer, with 38 per cent noting this had impacted on their personal finances.

Credit card debt may be an issue for nearly a fifth of consumers, with 18 per cent admitting they used their plastic to make payments with the attitude that they would worry about the consequences later.

Only eight per cent made budget plans in advance of the summer to account for these extra costs, while just over 12 per cent said the summer has actually cost them less than normal this summer because they had spent so much time at home in front of the television.

Head of banking at the site Kevin Mountford said: It has really been a fantastic summer full of celebrations so its no surprise consumers have entered into the spirit and spent more than they planned.

Whilst its good to see some have already budgeted for the extra expense, its really important to be savvy about how you plan to pay for it or you could be left feeling the pinch for many months to come.

The extra spending has been taking place at a time when the economy has still been in recession, although some economists believe the Olympics could give the economy a short-term boost that would push third quarter gross domestic product into positive territory.

One benefit of the Games appears to have been its positive impact on the jobless total, with the increase in employment in the three months to June being largely concentrated in London.

By James Francis

Monti says Italy making progress on finances

by Shelton on August 22nd, 2012

filed under Finances

Monti says Italy making progress on finances

Updated: 15:17, Monday, 20 August 2012