FTC Obtains Court Order Halting Business Coaching Scheme

Defendants falsely claimed consumers could earn substantial income

At the Federal Trade Commission’s request, a federal court has temporarily halted an operation that took more than $14 million from consumers seeking to start their own online business. The operation misrepresented that its purported business coaching program would enable consumers to earn substantial income, such as “six figures in 90 days or less.”

According to the FTC, the defendants induced consumers to pay for a series of tiered memberships with increasing fees, falsely claiming that consumers would learn how to make substantial income with an online business. They promised consumers they would receive individualized coaching from successful marketers that would provide what they needed to build a successful business, but, in reality, these were merely salespeople selling higher membership levels in the defendants’ program.

The defendants promoted their scheme via webpages and social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, and offered their marketing materials for consumers to use in posting their own ads touting the scheme. The FTC’s complaint states that most of defendants’ customers never earn substantial income, including some people who were charged more than $50,000.

The defendants are Digital Altitude LLC, Digital Altitude Limited, Aspire Processing LLC, Aspire Processing Limited, Aspire Ventures Ltd, Disc Enterprises Inc., RISE Systems & Enterprise LLC (Utah), RISE Systems & Enterprise LLC (Nevada), The Upside LLC, Thermography for Life LLX, also doing business as Living Exceptionally Inc., and Michael Force, Mary Dee, Morgan Johnson, Alan Moore and Sean Brown. They are charged with violating the FTC Act.

The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint was 2-0. The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California issued a temporary restraining order against the defendants on February 1, 2018.

This article by the FTC was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

Help is Here for People With Severe Disabilities Struggling With Student Loans

Tens of thousands of disabled veterans and hundreds of thousands of people living with severe disabilities are now eligible for new student loan protections starting this year. 

What’s new for borrowers with severe disabilities and student debt?

Due to a recent change in federal law, borrowers whose student loans are forgiven on or after Jan. 1, 2018, due to “death or total and permanent disability” no longer have to pay federal income taxes on those forgiven loans.

Now, when the Department of Education or a private lender forgives a student loan due to a borrower’s death or disability, the amount of forgiven debt no longer counts as income and does not cause a borrower’s federal taxes to go up. Prior to this change some borrowers with disabilities faced financial distress driven by a tax bill because they qualified for debt relief. A Catch-22.

What are my rights if I’m severely disabled and have student debt? 

Since the beginning of the federal student loan program, borrowers who are considered totally and permanently disabled (TPD) have been eligible to have their federal student loans forgiven. 

This includes:

Additionally, some private student lenders also offer disability discharge options for borrowers with disabilities. Lenders that offer these programs may use guidelines that differ from the Department of Education to determine eligibility, so borrowers should contact their private student loan servicer to find out more information. 

Hundreds of thousands of student loan borrowers with severe disabilities could benefit

In 2016, the Department of Education worked with the Social Security Administration to proactively identify borrowers with disabilities who were eligible for the TPD discharges of their federal student loans. They found 387,000 borrowers with disabilities, who collectively owed over $7.7 billion in federal student loans. Roughly half of those borrowers were in default on their student loans.

The Department of Education sent these borrowers letters alerting them to their eligibility for discharge while also warning them about the potential tax consequences. Now, the borrowers with disabilities that are stilled burdened by student debt can receive loan forgiveness without incurring any tax penalties.

Additionally, there are likely to be tens of thousands of severely disabled veterans who don’t yet know that they qualify for federal student loan forgiveness. According to the VA, more than 800,000 severely disabled veterans are unemployable due to a service-connected disability. 

While we don’t know how many of these veterans have student loans, even just a small percentage could mean there are tens of thousands of disabled veterans with billions of dollars in forgivable federal student loans hanging over their heads. The Departments of Education and Veterans Affairs recently put into place some of the tools necessary to automatically identify these severely disabled veterans who qualify for federal student loan forgiveness.

Are you a servicemember or a veteran with questions about credit cards, auto loans, or debt collection? We also provide help for servicemembers, veterans, and military families at every stage of their military career and beyond. See our guides for navigating financial challenges.

Seth Frotman is the CFPB’s Student Loan Ombudsman. To learn more about our work for students and young consumers, visit consumerfinance.gov/students.

Patrick Campbell is the CFPB’s Deputy Assistant Director for the Office for Servicemembers Affairs. To learn more about our work for servicemembers, visit consumerfinance.gov/servicemembers

This article by was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.


TPD (Total and Permanent Disability Discharge) “Awarded” to a Personal Friend of Mine!

CONGRATULATIONS!

Congratulations to my friend Pam for the complete discharge of her Student Loans! My friend Pam in her mid 50’s has three adult children, is divorced, and because of a stroke a few years ago, is unable to work and is living on SSDI on a monthly income of under $700.00!

Pam attended a now defunct college in an attempt to earn an associates degree in home health care. Her loan with Loan Servicer NAVIENT (formerly Sallie-Mae) showed an unpaid principal amount of $19,390.98 with unpaid interest owing at $6,642.12. The loans were over 10 years old, and as her records indicated, she had never made a single payment.

Based on the fact Pam was disabled (under Social Security Disability Insurance) SSDI, she was not required to make payments towards these student loans. However, there is what I call a “maturity death trap” with SSDI deferments!

Let me explain — One day Pam and I were talking and she happened to mention that she had attended “school” to get a home health care aid certificate (or degree). I asked her if she owed any loans to anyone for this – because I knew of her financial situation.

She told me in fact she did owe a lot of money for school loans, and had no way to pay them off – and that since she was on “disability” she was not required to make payments. Well I can relate to that from my own story (see my other articles – regarding my disability and loan discharge of $130,000.00).

I proceeded to share a bit of my story about my student loan debts and how I was able to win my case in Federal Bankruptcy Court in Virginia in 2016. I told Pam how that while I was on SSDI I did not have to make any payments but that the interest still accrues and is added to the total debt.

I also told Pam that once I reached full retirement age (of 65), the Social Security Agency “switched” me off of SSDI and began to pay “straight” social security annuity. That meant I was no longer on SSDI and no longer under a “deferred” loan status for my student loans! Suddenly I was receiving monthly billing statements for payments on those loans.

Initially the statement was in the neighborhood of $80,000.00 and change! But in the proceeding years that balance continued to climb — while all the while, my small retirement annuities were being “GARNISHED” to the tune of over $300.00 a month!

What was striking was that the interest was accruing each month adding to the loan balance — of which the $300.00 being ‘garnished’ from my retirement checks DID NOT even cover the interest due each payment! Talk about a “DEATH TRAP”!

As I explained this conundrum to Pam, she was shocked. She had no idea she would be taken off of SSDI when she reached the Social Security Age requirement, and she had no idea she would then have her meager annuity check ‘garnished’ for some amount — Most likely the maximum currently allowed which is set at 15% of your gross social security payment!

I then proceeded to tell Pam about her options. I gave her keys to websites with information about seeking “loan forgiveness” (which I do not believe is a real or viable possibility for most debtors! — more on that in my other blog articles). I pointed out that since she is 100% disabled she may want to try and apply for a TPD.

As I recall, this conversation I had with Pam was sometime late last summer or early fall. The other week when I was at her place to do some repair work on her home, she showed me a letter from nelnet (The loan administrative branch of the Department of Education, D.O.E.) Education Planning and Finance Administration, D.O.E.

Note: If you need to see what you owe on your loans you can go online to nelnet here: https://www.nelnet.com/welcome

OK back to the story — Pam showed me a letter dated January 19, 2018 from nelnet.
The letter states “The U.S. Department of Education (the Department) has completed review of your Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) discharge application requesting discharge of your William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program loan, Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loan, Federal Perkins Loan (Perkins Loan) Program loan, and/or your teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Program service obligation….”

“Nelnet assists the Department in administering the TPD discharge process, and we will communicate with you on behalf of the Department concerning your discharge request.”

“Effective 01/19/2018, the Department has approved your application for discharge of the federal student loan or TEACH Grant service obligation identified below on the basis of your total and permanent disability. We will notify you again when we have discharged your loan and/or TEACH Grant service obligation.”

There it is! Pam has been granted a discharge of her debts under the TPD!

The nelnet letter goes on with information regarding return of any payments made or received after the “disability date” (SSDI notice of award date), and if should you question the loan amounts etc. you will need to inform the Department, or if you continue to receive bills from loan holders (and I assume loan servicers).

IMPORTANT NOTE REGARDING A TPD DISCHARGE!
The 3-year post discharge monitoring period!

The letter goes on to state: “As stated above, the Department has approved your application for discharge on the basis of your total and permanent disability and your loan …. will be transferred to us to be discharged. You will be subject to a monitoring period that will end three years from 01/19/2018. We will reinstate your obligation to repay your discharged loan … if at any time during this monitoring period:
You have annual employment earnings that exceed the poverty Guideline amount for a family of two in your state, regardless of your actual family size (see www.disabilitydischarge.com for additional information);
You receive a new Direct Loan, Perkins Loan or TEACH Grant;
You are disbursed a Direct Loan, Perkins Loan, or TEACH Grant received before the discharge is made, and you do not return the full amount within 120 days of the disbursement date or;
You receive a notice from the SSA stating that you are no longer totally and permanently disabled, or that your disability review will no longer be the 5-year or 7-year review period indicated in your SSA notice of award for SSDI or SSI benefits.
The disclaimers continue…. But you get the idea! You have to follow and comply with ALL of the requirements and obligations laid out in this letter or you can end up OWING the full amount with the interest (however, they do state that while you will be required to pay the loan amount with the interest, any additional interest that could have accumulated during that period will not be owing).

Note: the full details of what is required post discharge of your loan and interest can be found here: https://www.disabilitydischarge.com/TPD-101

HERE IS THE ONE CAVEAT I DISLIKE ABOUT A TPD DISCHARGE!

While the TPD discharge removes the debt of the student loan and the accumulated interest on those loans, the one serious drawback is this — At the end of the THREE YEAR MONITORING PERIOD — You will be responsible for the INCOME TAX on the AMOUNT DISCHARGED! Yep! The IRS will want the TAXES for the loan and interest amount that you received as a loan discharge!

Here is what is stated regarding the:
TAX IMPLICATIONS AFTER APPROVAL & DISCHARGE OF YOUR LOAN BALANCES!

“The Department reports the discharge of any loan debt totaling $600.00 or more to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for the year that the loan was discharged. If your loans are discharged, we will send you an IRS Form 1099-C that will identify the total amount of your discharged debt. The amount of the discharged debt will be considered income for federal tax purposes and possibly for state tax purposes. You may want to consult with a tax professional to determine how this may affect your personal taxes.”

So… what are my final thoughts on the TPD?

My final thoughts on the TPD are that it should be considered as one of the many options you as the debtor look long and hard at. Bearing in mind it is based on your proving that you are permanently and totally disabled according to the criteria laid out in the application. The TPD is based on legitimate documentation and verification in most cases from your assessment and award by the Social Security Administration (SSA) of what is known as SSI, SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance). Meaning you would first have to have been “awarded a claim” from SSA.

From the TPD webpage here is what is considered qualifying criteria for a TPD:

You can show that you are totally and permanently disabled in one of the following three ways:

1 – If you are a veteran, you can submit documentation from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) showing that the VA has determined that you are unemployable due to a service-connected disability;

2 – If you are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, you can submit a Social Security Administration (SSA) notice of award for SSDI or SSI benefits stating that your next scheduled disability review will be within 5 to 7 years from the date of your most recent SSA disability determination; or

3 – You can submit certification from a physician that you are totally and permanently disabled. Your physician must certify that you are unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that:
Can be expected to result in death;
Has lasted for a continuous period of not less than 60 months; or
Can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 60 months.

The requirements are quite extensive and in my case prior to going to the route of Bankruptcy with an Adversary Proceeding to prove Undue Hardship, I had applied for a TPD twice and was denied twice.

My approach from that point forward was to investigate other means of discharge which included the so-called LOAN FORGIVENESS PLANS, INCOME BASED PAYMENT PLANS, the so-called ZERO DOLLAR 25-year PLAN and others!

What I soon discovered was that my one and only REAL DISCHARGE REMEDY was filing for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy followed immediately by the filing a what is called an ADVERSARY PROCEEDING (basically a lawsuit challenge to the “non-discharge” of student loans as part of a normal bankruptcy proceeding).

The fact is that, yes, student loan debts can be discharged as part of a personal debt bankruptcy when you take the extra steps necessary using a “Complaint” by way of the Federal Law under USC 11 §523(a)(8) Undue Hardship Clause, “Exception to Discharge” — You see there is always an exception to the rules!

FINAL COMMENT

Student loan debts are not easy to deal with even when you are employed! Being disabled and living on poverty level income and dealing with student debt is nothing short of a continuous nightmare! For Pam the discharge of over $26,000.00 was nothing short of a dream come true.

I would like to ask you to please comment on this post. I would also like to say that if you are in need of help with your student loan debt I am willing to try and offer you some assistance. I am not an attorney, I cannot give legal advice, but perhaps I can in some way offer you “keys” to dealing with your situation? I have done so for others and as time permits I will offer the same to anyone who finds this blog insightful.

Thanks for reading — be sure to check out my other blog articles. Feel free to add comments and I will reply as time permits. Richard

This article by Richard Precht first appeared on Undue Hardship Poverty required and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.


Is Defaulting On My Private Student Loans My Only Choice After a Divorce Where My Ex-Husband Cosigned?

Question:

HELP!! I am currently about $400,000 in debt with student loans. Let me start at the beginning. My federal student loan debt was used to acquire my undergraduate degree while staying at home and raising my new born son. I’m fine with this. Apx $100,000.

I married shortly after that and my husband decided to leave his job 6 months after we relocated to his state of VA. This was also at the time I decided to pursue my graduate degree. Over a course of 3 years there was additional amount of apx $250,000 in private student loan debt I took out (with most of them him co-signing for) to support us after his choice to walk away from his job. We divorced shortly after this.

I was completely apathetic in the divorce decree and just wanted it over with. As a single mother then with a massive amount of debt and a income of $40,000 (at that time) I had to file Chapter 13. The 5 years have now passed, the bankruptcy was discharged in Dec of 2017.

During those 5 years interest has continued to accrue on all of the loans which has brought them to the $400,000 range. I am able to work with my federal student loans to have them discharged after 10 years as I am an addictions social worker for the government.

The private loans though…it seems as if I have no option other than to default and probably SHOULD have done that before the bankruptcy.

I need educated opinions on this. Is defaulting on the private student loans really my only way to manage this situation? I have offered to make payments I can afford, however, they have said they will not accept them.

Melynda

Answer:

Dear Melynda,

It sounds like you hope to address your federal loans through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. Keep in mind there are some very specific requirements to making sure your loans will eventually be eligible for forgiveness. The biggest issue is to make sure your loans are eligible for a discharge.

This typically means consolidating the federal loans into a new Direct Loan and then opting for an income driven repayment option to give you the lowest payment until you make the required conforming 120 payments to even be eligible for forgiveness.

The bigger issue here is it does not matter what you might have agreed to in a divorce agreement, he is still 100% responsible for all the private loans he co-signed for.

This means if you elect to default to attempt to settle these loans there is a good chance the private student loan lender will go after your ex-husband for payment. He can be sued over these loans.

So in situations like this where another person can get dragged into the resulting mess I would suggest you advise your ex-husband what the strategy might be in defaulting. Defaulting will most likely also show up on his credit report as the co-signer.

All of that being said, it sounds like some of your private loans may be eligible for forgiveness in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy with an Adversary Proceeding filed.

The big issue would be if the private loans were used for expenses other than just tuition and approved educational expenses. Please see this article for more details.

The most difficult issue to deal with in these kinds of situations is to navigate all of the moving parts so you can have the right expertise on your side to advise you on what to do. The best person I know of to help do this is my friend, Debt Coach Damon Day.

Steve Rhode
Get Out of Debt GuyTwitter, G+, Facebook

If you have a credit or debt question you’d like to ask, just click here and ask away.

This article by Steve Rhode first appeared on Get Out of Debt Guy and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

Paying Off Holiday Credit Card Debt

Credit cardsYou’ve opened all your gifts, and now it’s time to open those post-holiday credit card statements. If you were a little too jolly with your holiday spending, here are some tips to help you pay down your credit card debt.

Start small, then add on. When you use your credit card to buy something, you have borrowed money. If you can pay it all off, that’s great. If not, try to pay at least a little more than the minimum payment. You also can make more than one payment a month. If you can swing it, that extra payment can help you with the goal of paying off the total balance sooner.

Take an ‘interest’ in your payments. If you only pay the minimum each month, you could end up paying much more in interest. Understand your credit card’s interest rate. The more you pay off each month, the less you’ll pay in interest over time.

Know when to pay. You were on time with your gifts, so don’t be late with your payment. Make a note of your credit card’s due date so you pay your bill on time. If you don’t pay on time, you could add extra fees to your final costs.

Take stock. If you’re having trouble making the minimum payment, it’s time to take a hard look at your budget. Can you reduce any spending to free up some funds?

Make a plan if you can’t pay. Owing more than you can afford to repay can damage your credit rating. If you cannot pay the minimum amount due, call your creditors ASAP. They may be able to place you on a payment plan, making your debt easier to manage.

For more help, read using a credit card and paying down credit card debt.

This article by the FTC was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

New Easy Money Con, Same Old Tricks

What would you give for a turnkey system to earn six figures in 90 days or less, all while working from home? That’s what the defendants behind Digital Altitude promised. But the FTC alleges they did not deliver.

In a case announced today, the FTC says the defendants defrauded consumers out of more than $14 million, but provided nothing more than a series of “training” videos, a few PDF documents and so-called “coaching” sessions that turned out to be sales pitches to get people to pay even more.

The FTC says most people made little or no money. The few that did make money typically didn’t earn enough to cover their required membership fee and monthly dues. People were paid only when they recruited new members.

To reach people, the defendants used ads and videos on websites and social media platforms to sell memberships. Their methods included these tried and true tricks of the con artist’s trade:

  • Outrageous claims — “You are about to receive a very special guide that reveals how you can make six figures online in the next ninety days or less”
  • Deceptive testimonials — Videos of members scuba diving, hiking, and lounging by a pool as money poured in on autopilot
  • High-pressure upselling — “You are leaving $60,000 on the table” by not moving up to the next membership tier
  • Free trial periods that aren’t as they seem — Ads promising 14-day “test drives,” but fine print giving people just 72 hours to cancel

If someone promises you fast and easy money, you can bet it’s a scam. Slow down. Search the company’s name online with words like “scam” or “complaint.” Share what you know with a friend, and help others by reporting what you’ve spotted to FTC.gov/complaint.

This article by the FTC was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

The Secretary of State is Not Emailing You

There are many scammers who pretend to be government officials – from the IRS, Social Security, and even the FTC. The latest twist is an email from – supposedly – the Secretary of State. In the email, someone pretending to be Secretary Tillerson says you’re owed a payment – which he knows about because of an investigation by the FBI and CIA. The email goes on to say that you’ll get an ATM card with $1.85 million on it – and it even gives you the PIN code. But, to get the ATM card, you have to send in $320 and a bunch of information about you.

Except you don’t have to send either the money or the information. Because it’s not the Secretary of State emailing, nobody owes you $1.85 million dollars (just guessing), and no government agency will ever tell you to pay a fee to collect funds owed to you. Here’s what you can do the next time you get an email or call from someone claiming to be from the government. Ask yourself these two questions:

  1. Did they say you’ve won a prize, owe money, or might go to jail?
  2. Did they say that you can get the prize – or get out of trouble – if you pay them money right away?

If the answer to these is “yes,” that’s going to be a scam. You don’t need to send money. You don’t need to give up your information by phone or email. You don’t need to worry. But what I hope you will do is tell people you know about the scam you spotted – and then tell the FTC.

This article by the FTC was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

Know Your Data: Our latest list of consumer reporting companies

You may know that your credit record affects your ability to get an affordable loan, a job, an apartment, or many other essentials of daily life. But, do you know where and how to actually request your credit report and what you can do once you order your consumer reports?

Over the past few years, we have updated and published a list of consumer reporting companies. Today, we present you with the 2018 edition of our list. This year’s list includes the following features:

  • Information to request a report. This includes the latest company name and contact information from the three nationwide consumer reporting companies (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion) and dozens of specialty reporting companies. We sort the companies by specialty, such as employment, tenant, bank, subprime, insurance, or medical.
  • New tips on which specialty reports might be important for you to fact-check depending on your specific situation. With the exception of employment screening reports, you can be rejected without warning based on the information in your consumer report. When you know a consumer report is going to be used in a decision about you, check your consumer reporting information ahead of time.
  • Useful identity verification information about how consumer reporting companies try to make sure you are who you say you are—before they give you your reports. It also includes the types of questions they might ask to verify your identity.
  • Free reports guide. Most of the companies on this list will provide your information to you for free once every twelve months if you request it. In our list, we tell you ones that do.
  • Companies that will provide free scores along with free reports. Not many do, but there are a few. We tell you which ones.
  • New security freeze information about how some of the companies on this list will limit third-party access to your data if you request it through a security freeze.

Did you know?

You should fact-check your credit reports for free from the three nationwide consumer reporting companies every 12 months and before you apply for credit. Requesting your credit reports will not hurt your credit score.

You should fact-check your specialty consumer reports during important life events and situations, such as when applying for a job, rental home, or at other times like when applying for a new bank account or insurance policy. 

We offer resources to help you understand your credit reports. You can also learn the difference between credit scores and credit reports and tips for a good credit score.

There are a variety of ways to protect and take control of your consumer reporting data. Data breaches are an unfortunate reality. It’s important to be aware of your options to protect yourself after a data breach.

Your rights with your consumer reports

Finally, when it comes to your own consumer reports, you have the legal right to:

  • Obtain the information in your consumer reports. All consumer reporting companies are required to provide you a copy of the information in your report if you request it.
  • Dispute suspected inaccuracies with the consumer reporting companies and those, such as your lenders, who gave them the information. Your dispute will be investigated at no charge to you. Learn more about how to file a dispute and download sample dispute letters.

 This user-friendly list of companies makes it easier for you to make the first move.

This article by was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.


Are You Struggling to Build an Emergency Fund?

If you’ve been struggling to build up an emergency fund, you aren’t alone. According to the Wall Street Journal, one in four Americans has no emergency savings.

Maybe you’re stuck trying to figure out the best way to build up your emergency fund. We reached out to Alan Moore, MS, CFP, and the co-founder of the XY Planning Network, to answer a few questions regarding ways to build up your emergency fund. Here’s what he had to say:

Q. How can you determine the ideal amount for an emergency fund?

Alan: The exact amount in your emergency fund is more art than science. You have to look at things like: How volatile is your job/income source? If you lost your job, how long would it take you to find a new one? Would that involve a move? Do you have a significant other who could help pay the bills if something happened to you? What is the deductible on your health insurance plan? All of these questions, and others, will play into how much you need to keep on hand. Three to six months of living expenses (not income) is the general rule of thumb, and I find that it applied to most clients.

Q. How would the paycheck-to-paycheck individual go about building his/her emergency fund?

Alan: If you are living paycheck-to-paycheck, you can look at both your income and expenses. Analyze your spending to be sure you are spending money in ways that makes you happy, not just blowing it on things you can’t even remember buying. Track your spending using a platform like Mint.com for a few months and see if you can find any areas to cut out of your budget. Also look at your income. Are there ways to make a little more money each month? It could be making more money in your full-time job or by starting a side hustle. You can use a hobby to earn additional money and set it aside into your emergency fund.

Q. Should individuals rely on interest-bearing accounts as a place to store the emergency fund?

Alan: Emergency funds need to be kept in cash, preferably in a savings account that isn’t directly tied to your day-to-day checking account. You want the money to be easily accessible, but you don’t want to see it every single day that you look at your bank account, because it might tempt you to spend some of it.

Q. Is it more important to establish an emergency fund or a retirement account?

Alan: Hands down, the emergency fund is more important. You shouldn’t be thinking about retirement savings at all until you have your emergency fund going.

Q. What are some unconventional tips you might offer for building the emergency fund?

Alan: I think we focus a lot on expenses, but really focusing on income and how to make a little more each month is a much better strategy in my opinion. You can only cut so many expenses, but there are a lot of ways to add income each month.

Saving an emergency fund may not be easy, but it is one of the more important steps you can take to take control of your finances.

This article by Paige Estigarribia first appeared on The Dollar Stretcher and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.


Your Money, Your Goals: Free tools for diverse communities

Financial challenges can happen to anyone regardless of age, income, or location. Just like the people and communities across the nation, the organizations that serve their needs are also diverse. We created Your Money, Your Goals with that diversity in mind. Your Money, Your Goals is a suite of financial empowerment materials that can help organizations talk about money with the people they serve.

Our resources include everything an organization may need to start a new financial empowerment program or enhance an existing one such as: 

  • How to make a plan for integrating financial education into your organization
  • Training for frontline staff
  • Real, tangible tools that you can use to help people manage their finances

Resources

Our Your Money, Your Goals toolkit contains comprehensive information and tools that you can use with the people you serve. The toolkit is available in English, Spanish, Chinese, large print, and plain text. 

Our companion guides help you work with specific audiences that may have unique needs. We have guides for organizations working with Native communities, people with disabilities, and individuals who have been involved with the criminal justice system. Additionally, all of these tailored tools are available for individual download so that you can access them when you need them.

Our booklets are colorful, handheld sets of tools and information that focus on specific common financial topics, such as managing debt and staying on top of bills. You can use our booklets in the office or on the road as you work with people in a variety of settings. 

Our training and implementation materials have everything you need to put Your Money, Your Goals into practice and train staff and volunteers at your organization. Our Implementation Guide, train-the-trainer videos, training slide decks, and surveys can help you better meet the needs of the people you serve. 

Our other online resources contain all of the information that’s available throughout the toolkit, guides, and booklets in one easily accessible location so they’re at your fingertips when you need them.

Our tips and ideas include useful feedback and suggestions from people like you who use Your Money, Your Goals in their daily work.

At one time or another, everyone can use help managing their finances. People like you, the frontline staff and volunteers at local organizations, can use our Your Money, Your Goals materials to support people in your community in reaching their goals.

This article by was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.