Category: Business Written by Charlene Crowell
(NNPA)—In today’s challenging financial times, the cost of living finds many consumers with an ongoing financial challenge to hold on until their next payday arrives. Even worse, when banks peddle predatory payday loans, they pose serious threats to their customers’ financial well-being. Marketed under names such as “direct deposit advance,” these loans are easy to get; but hard to pay off. As consumers get ensnared by the debt trap, banks reap repeating cycles of quick cash.
In its latest report on bank payday lending, the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) found that although participating banks claim that their payday loan products are only for short-term emergencies and carry marginal risks, the real-life experiences were the opposite. In fact, the typical bank payday borrower:
•Is charged an annual percentage rate (APR) that averages 225 to 300 percent;
•Took out 19 loans in 2011, spending at least part of six months a year in bank payday debt; and
•Is twice as likely to incur overdraft fees than bank customers as a whole.
In addition, more than one in four bank payday borrowers is a Social Security recipient. This comes on the heels of a key administrative change for seniors on Social Security. As of March 1, all Social Security payments are issued electronically. And although seniors have specific protections from payday lending on prepaid cards, no comparable protection exists on checking accounts.
CRL’s report also calls for regulators to take immediate actions to stop banks offering payday loans from engaging in this form of predatory lending. Additionally, CRL calls for the following terms on small loan products:
•A minimum loan term of 90 days with affordable installments;
•An APR of 36 percent or less;
•Underwriting based on an ability to repay; and
•No mandatory automatic repayment from the consumer’s checking account.
More than a year ago, 250 organizations and individuals sent a letter to federal banking regulators expressing concerns about bank payday lending. Last year, in a separate action, more than 1,000 consumers and organizations told the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau about elder financial abuse, including bank payday lending.
At that time, CRL advised, “More than 13 million older adults are considered economically insecure, living on $21,800 a year or less. Senior women in particular face diminished incomes because of lower lifetime earnings and therefore lower Social Security and pension benefits.”
As opposition to bank payday and elder financial abuse grows, banking regulators are continuing to hear from advocates, experts and concerned citizens. Fortunately, advocates are determined to press this issue in growing numbers. In a letter dated March 13, for example, 278 organizations and individuals signed a second letter to regulators.
The letter states, “Payday lending has a particularly adverse impact on African-Americans and Latinos, as a disproportionate share of payday borrowers come from communities of color. High-cost, short-term balloon repayments, and the consequent series of repeat loans, have long been identified by regulators as features of predatory lending.
“Ultimately, payday loans erode the assets of bank customers, and rather than promote savings, make checking accounts unsafe for many customers. They lead to uncollected debt, bank account closures, and greater numbers of unbanked Americans. All of these outcomes are inconsistent with both consumer protection and the safety and soundness of financial institutions.”
The limitation of space will not allow for the listing of all 278 signatories. But they include many national and statewide organizations, including AARP, AFL-CIO, AFSCME, the Black Leadership Forum, NAACP, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and CRL.
The coalition warns, “Please move quickly to ensure that payday lending by banks does not become more widespread and to ensure that those banks currently making payday loans stop offering this inherently dangerous product.”
(Charlene Crowell is a communications manager with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at: Charlene.firstname.lastname@example.org)
Last Updated on Thursday, 28 March 2013 10:02
Category: Business Written by Damon Carr
I have noticed a trend in my business. I get tons of emails, phone calls and comments from people who say things like, “Damon, I know a lot of people who can use your help.” Damon, my mother, my father, my grandparents, my cousin, my friend, my coworker, or this person at my church can use your help.
Notice how several people are saying that somebody else can use my help—NEVER THEMSELVES! In the past, I would thank them for referring the person whom they believe needed my help and move on. Lately, I received phone calls, emails and comments from people seeking help for others and not themselves with so much repetition that it forced me to reflect on this matter. You know what—I became offended for the sake of my clients and myself. I thought to myself, what arrogance—these people think that they are above the advice that I give. They think that I’m not qualified to help them improve their financial situation. To add insult to injury, they think that my clients are either rejects or are simply terrible at managing their money. All of this is HOGWASH! As a result, I thought it was time to be adamantly clear as to whom I’m talking to!
If you’re reading this column—I’m talking to YOU! Not the person next to you, I’m talking to YOU! Yeah—YOU! I could care less about your current financial picture. I don’t care if you make $5- thousand or $5-million dollars per year, I’m talking to YOU!
When I say that Wall Street Journal did a study and they revealed that 70 percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, I want YOU to understand YOU were not exempt from that statistic. When I say that the Department of Health and Human Services did a study and they say that 96 percent of people age 65 and older retire or die BROKE, that includes YOU!
Remember the swift or the strong will not win the race. The one who can endure to the end will win the race. You have a 96 percent probability that you will not endure to the end—unless, you’re ok with ending up BROKE in your golden years. You thought the various companies and government organizations were being nice to senior citizens by offering senior citizen discounts because it’s a nice thing to do. Nope! These organizations are offering senior citizens discounts because senior citizens are BROKE! Ask the elderly people you know, “what would they do differently if they could do it all over again?” Two answers will be common. They’ll wish they spent more time with family and friends and they’ll wish they had a better financial game plan.
If you believe that you’re exempt from the information contained in my column, consider this—Magic Johnson never thought he would get HIV. Christopher Reeves (Superman) thought he would leave us with a vision of him flying. I can’t shake the image of him in the wheelchair. The clients that I serve are not rejects. They are not people who woke up one day and decided I’m going to go deeply into to debt, not pay my bills and create a mess. My clients are no different from you. My clients are Managers, CEO’s, Doctors, Lawyers, Nurses, Teachers, Pastors, Administrative Assistants, and Professors. I also work with Janitors, Parking Attendants, Policemen, and everything in between. Most of my clients come to me struggling because LIFE happened without a warning and without a plan. They did not expect to lose their job. They did not expect their spouse to die. They did not expect to come down with a certain illness or disability. They did not expect to go through a divorce. They did not expect their business to fail.
I have one client who is a hard worker and makes good money—I mean GOOD MONEY. An unfortunate part of making a good living is that your family and friends seek you out to bail them out. Being the giving person that she is, she gave and she gave some more. She did not realize that every gift was a sacrifice to her own financial well being. She did not realize that in this case she was not helping with her monetary donations. She was in fact enabling her family and friends to continue their bad behavior. Life happened to my client. She was involved in two car accidents within 3-months. One of which was near fatal. In between the two car accidents, she lost a parent whom she was extremely close with. Her world came tumbling down. The people whom she thought she was helping but in fact was enabling were unable to come to her rescue. Being that she gave without a proper financial foundation to give from, she had no contingency plans in place to bail her out. I’m happy to report, she’s back on her feet and she is seeing incremental progress.
As Zig Zigler says, “Success is not measured by what you do in comparison to someone else. Success is measured by what you do in comparison to what you have the potential to do.” No body plans to fail, they just fail to plan. Do you have a plan in place for when LIFE happens to you? I did not say if. I said WHEN. Money magazine reports that every family will experience a major financial set back within any 10-year period. Jim Rohn says that you are either in a crisis, walking away from a crisis or walking toward a crisis. A solid financial plan will turn your crisis into an inconvenience.
If things are going well for you financially, GREAT!! Is there room for improvement? As Benjamin Franklin says “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Historians don’t record history until after you’ve finished your work. I think the real litmus test for how well you’ve managed your money is measured when you’ll finished your work on earth, or when you’ve retired. What will your legacy be—financially speaking? The scripture says that a wise man/woman will leave an inheritance to his children’s children.
(Mortgage and Money Coach Damon Carr is the owner of ACE Financial. Damon can be reached at 412-856-1183.)
Last Updated on Thursday, 28 March 2013 09:56
Category: Business Written by Courier Newsroom
MARCH 28—Dress for Success Pittsburgh will host its Essence of Leadership Breakfast Series 2013 from 7:15-9 a.m. at the Omni William Penn Hotel, 531 Penn Ave., Downtown. Liz Moore Pessaro, founder of the Bluebird Kitchen, will speak on the topic “Taking the Entrepreneur’s Leap! How I Traded Wall Street For Fresh Bread.” This is the first of four sessions of the series. Registration is requested. For more information, call Jodie Tabano at 412-201-4204.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 March 2013 06:08
Category: Business Written by Diane I. Daniels
THANKS FOR YOUR SERVICE—MWDBE Governmental Committee members Duvall Aiken from left: Valerie Waters, and Monica Jones, share a rewarding moment with 2013 Hall of Fame inductees Kathleen Agostino and Barbara Fisher. (Photo by Diane I. Daniels)
“Mind your Ps,” the theme of the conference for Minority, Women and Disadvantaged Business Enterprises outlined performance, procurement, process and preparation for participants during the MWDBE Governmental Committee’s yearly event. In its 12th year, the conference once again dealt with issues relivant to the needs of small businesses in the region.
“Addressing the government’s responsibility as related to MWDBE companies, Mind your Ps—Preparation, Process, Procurement, Performance was the committees way of providing DBE firms with the necessary tools and techniques to better navigate the public contracting arena,” said Cameil D. Williams, conference chair and DBE Contract Compliance Officer at the Port Authority of Allegheny County. “Topic and resources for this conference derived from much discussion and brainstorming.”
Panelists addressing the event topic were; Barbara Weaver, Procurement Center Representative SBA; Paul Boggs, PJ Dick-Trumbull—Lindy Paving, Elizabeth Bowers, Small Business Administrator, dck worldwide, LLC, Deborah Wojcik, Director Government Agency Coordination Office (GACO), Nathan G. Heitzman, Project Coordinator—DBE Supportive Services Center Cheyney University of Pennsylvania and Gregory R. Spencer, Randall Industries, LLC.
Weaver, addressing the topic of preparation, focused on the word embrace. Relaying that embracing leadership, planning, learning and preparation is significant for business owners to succeed against the barriers of gaining contracts. “Leaders make wise decisions, communicate effectively and understand and manage people, money, processes, strategies, competition and priorities. She also indicated that the way to master leadership is by leading self, others, managers and executives.
Planning she explained takes a solid strategic plan, deciding what has to be done today to be ready for tomorrow. The components of a good plan include a statement of vision, mission, value assessment, and goals. To embrace preparation, in conclusion Weaver suggested that businesses have management systems and financial statements in place and to keep all insurances, certifications and regulations current.
Weaver is assigned to monitor government agencies and federal prime contractors throughout West Virginia and Western Pennsylvania.
Also talking on the topic of preparation, Boggs pointed out that agencies look for businesses to be prepared. “As potential contractors you should understand the culture of the companies you are interested in. Know how to get to the right people and build relationships. He also recommended that if a business is not successful in receiving a bid on the first try to follow-up and find out why. “If you are successful know what is needed of you, the billing system and deliver quality service.”
Boggs a U.S. Navy veteran has extensive experience as an estimator, in field and project engineering and project and management. As a business development manager he assists in advancing long term corporate strategies aimed toward strengthening positions in target markets.
In a straight-to-the-point fashion, Bowers focusing on process said the reason to be a registered and certified business is to be eligible for state work. “You have to get in the data base to be qualified,” she emphasized. Self-certification web sites she listed included; www.sam.gov and www.pasupplierportal.state.pa.us. Fee based certification web sites are; www.wbenc.com, www.wpmsdc.org, www.nwboc.org and http://uswcc.org. Once certified she said finding business opportunities can also be Internet based mentioning that there are federal, state and local prospects available.
“Marketing is the complex link between what you have to sell, how you communicate its value and the economic response of the marketplace. It is a set of processes for creating, delivering and communicating value to and management of the market,” explained Bowers indicating that market research and implementation is important. Like Boggs she stressed being prepared when bidding.
With more than 30 years of experience in the private and government contracting field, Bowers is the Small Business Administrator for dick worldwide. Formerly the Western PA Regional Representative for the PA Department of General Services Bureau of Minority and Women Business Opportunities, she currently concentrates her efforts on moving dck forward in meeting and exceeding its small business contracting and compliance goals company wide.
“The federal government is a good place to search when looking for contracts,” said Wojcik while discussing the topic of procurement. “They spend billions of dollars.” Her advice for businesses is to become familiar with federal regulations, to identify and know NAICs (North American Industry Classification Systems) codes for business and to have a Dun and Bradstreet number. Like previous speakers she encouraged the audience to do their research and suggested looking at being a sub-contractor. Having a one page capability statement is something she also recommended. “The statement should pinpoint what your company can do as well as list all codes.”
As director of the GACO, California University of Pennsylvania, Wojcik assists businesses with contracting on the federal, state and local levels.
To conduct business with the state of Pennsylvania, Heitzman reiterated the significance of certification. “Companies need to be PA Certified to conduct business with PennDOT.” He explained that Certified DBEs interested in participating in PennDOT’s highway construction projects are eligible to receive a broad range of services from the DBE Supportive Services Center at no charge. Services include, but are not limited to access to trainings and workshops, technical support, business development & management, networking with industry professionals and state agencies.
A shared initiative of Cheyney University of Pennsylvania and PennDOT, the agencies mission is to provide services that will enable highway applicable DBEs to acquire the proficiency, expertise and experience necessary to compete, on an equal basis, with non-DBEs for federally-assisted PennDOT highway contracts and subcontracts.
Reflecting on his many years of corporate and entrepreneurial experience, Spencer rounded up the morning panel discussion by advising to do what you say and to do it well. “I have done all the things you are being told to do. I thought I was prepared. But I can tell you it is a lot of hard work, but a great opportunity at the end of the game.” His suggestions to businesses interested in obtaining government contracts is to network, be willing to redefine yourself, to look at doing business on a global level, to listen, and to surround oneself with good information and people.
Spencer, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force is the owner of Randall Enterprises, LLC which consist of a real estate development and services company. A strong believer in giving back to the community he says his company was established to provide affordable housing and job opportunities for the less fortunate. Randall Industries, a manufacturer of chemical products is slated to be one of the largest minority owned chemical manufacturing companies in the United States.
A second highlight of the event was the 2013 Hall of Fame induction. “This is always my favorite part of the program,” said Paula B. Castleberry, Minority/Women Business Coordinator of Pittsburgh Public Schools as she introduced the recipients. Awardees were Barbara Fisher who retired from the SBA last year and Kathleen Agostino, Small and Disadvantaged Business Coordinator of the Mascaro Construction Company, LP.
“I thank God for a 32 year career,” Fisher said. “As I review my career I can say that it was a great experience and I am thankful and grateful for it.”
Pleased to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, Agostino pointed out that the MWDBE Governmental Committee is a great group to work with. “We all work toward one goal. Small business is critical to this region, particularly to the construction industry.”
Monica Jones, Manager of the DBE Department of the Allegheny County Airport Authority and Bowers were also awarded for their commitment to the group throughout the years.
Happy with the turnout of close to 275 attendees and more than 70 exhibitors for the trade fair, Duvall Aiken, of Community College of Allegheny County and Chair of the MWDBE Governmental Committee said the numbers and the increase in sponsorship indicates the importance of the event.
The mission of the 22-member MWDBE Governmental Committee is to create effective methods that strengthen economic opportunities for Minority, Women, and Disadvantaged Business Enterprises and to provide assistance enabling contractors and businesses to secure contracts in the goods and service, construction and professional services markets leading to profitability and growth for the businesses.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 March 2013 09:25
Category: Business Written by Damon Carr
My childhood friends and I were very close. We spent practically every waking moment together—playing sports, video games and just hanging out. Looking back on life from an adult point of view, I must say, “we were spoiled “BROKE” kids.” None of us worked or even thought about doing anything to create an income. We just took what our parents gave us and improvised. We were very creative with the little resources and money that was available to us.
One thing that we did that was smart is we combined our money and our resources allowing us to do and purchase things collectively that we could not do on our own. We called this process “Ante-up.”
If we wanted pizza, a group of five of us may have one to three dollars per individual. Individually none of us could purchase a pizza. By “Anteing up”—pooling our cash together, collectively we can purchase a pizza and all of us would share a piece of the “pizza pie.” This Anteing up or pooling your cash together process is the foundational concept of Mutual Funds.
I believe that mutual funds are the investment vehicle of choice for my target audience—ordinary upwardly mobile people. Since I’m in the business of “Helping Ordinary People Make Extraordinary Progress Toward Their Financial Goals—Regardless of Current Financial Status, I’m always looking at what’s best for the common man.
As I look into my crystal ball, I can state with confidence three things about the stock market. The stock market will rise (Bull Market). The stock market will decline (Bear Market). Fortunately, it has risen far more times then it has declined. As a result, the majority of investments do well the majority of the time. Consequently, simply being in the market over an extended period of time—five years or more, you have a high probability of your investments earning a reasonable rate of return. As investors we want to reduce the likely hood of harm by making wise decisions. The best decision you can make when you’re investing is—DIVERSIFICATION!
Diversification is the process of spreading your investments around. In other words, it’s following the old adage of not putting all your eggs in one basket. If you have the ability to invest in 100, 300, 500 or 1,000 of America’s and even some foreign country’s brightest and best companies, you have the closest thing you’ll get to a guarantee that your investments will make money. In order to lose money all 100, 300, 500 or 1,000 companies would have to go broke at the same time. Can you imagine Microsoft, Wall Mart, Dell Computer, Home Depot and 150 other companies all going broke at the same time? I can’t. If by chance that was to happen, your Certificate of Deposit isn’t safe either because the whole economy will have collapsed.
How does the common man invest in 100, 300, 500 or 1,000 companies with limited cash? Many individual securities have large minimum denominations—meaning you have to purchase a block of securities of an individual firm spending a minimum amount of $10,000. If you don’t have $10,000 you can’t invest. If you did manage to save $10,000 and you decided to invest this money, you would have a highly concentrated portfolio. Let’s say that this particular security turned out to be Enron, MCI or K-Mart? There goes your $10,000.
Mutual Funds works to the advantage of the common man because you can make a one time investment with as little as $250 or you can engage in a process called dollar cost averaging and systematically invest as little as $25-$50 dollars per month. Furthermore, your contribution—no matter how large or how small will purchase you a pro-rata share of 100, 300, 500 or 1,000 securities of well-established companies. So if one of those companies happens to be Enron, your portfolio is not as devastated because you have a vested interest in 100-1,000 other companies—many of which may be doing great.
Mutual Funds allow small investors—common man type of investors to pool their cash together (Ante-up). This cash is used to buy hundreds to thousands of securities of established companies that these individual investors could not do on their own. Each individual who invests with the mutual fund has a pro-rata share or piece of the pie based on his or her contribution.
So if you’re like me and you consider yourself to be a common man, 90-100 percent of your investments should be with mutual funds. Your retirement plan including, 401(k), 403(B), 457 Plan, IRA should be invested with mutual funds. Your college savings including Education Savings Account and 529 plans should be with mutual funds. Your wealth-building portfolio should consist of mutual funds.
Why do I believe strongly in this? You get professional management, diversification, convenience, record keeping, liquidity, minimal investment requirements, and regulations!
As an aside, it’s important to note that no two mutual funds are exactly alike. There’s a science to selecting high qualify mutual funds. I’ll share ideas on how to select qualify mutual funds in an upcoming article.
(Mortgage and Money Coach Damon Carr is owner of ACE Financial. Damon can be reached at 412-216-1013.)
Last Updated on Thursday, 21 March 2013 14:31
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