Posts by Lisa Scherzer
- Lisa Scherzer at Yahoo Finance20 days ago
After last year’s ugly rollout of the healthcare marketplace, the Obama administration is no doubt counting on a smoother course for its second enrollment period. The technical glitches that bedeviled HealthCare.gov a year ago may be largely gone. But those tasked with signing up consumers in health plans are sure to face plenty of challenges for the second open enrollment go-around. Throughout the Marketplace’s first year, healthcare navigators served a vital function. These workers, trained with federal grant funds to help consumers analyze insurance options, helped shepherd people through a new and cumbersome process. “In-person assisters have an impact on the lives of so many Americans, helping individuals and families across the country access quality, affordable health coverage,” Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said in a statement. According to a July Kaiser Family Foundation survey of the health insurance marketplace assistor programs, more than 4,400 of them, employing over 28,000 full-time-equivalent staff and volunteers, helped an estimated 10.6 million people during the first open enrollment period. The navigators typically work in local libraries, churches and food bank offices. Over 80% of those programs reported that most consumers who sought help didn’t understand the ACA or the coverage choices offered them, or simply lacked confidence to apply on their own. Almost 90% of programs reported the majority of consumers they helped were uninsured. (There are different types of assistor programs that provide outreach; they include navigators, in-person assistors and certified application counselors. Each receives training to provide enrollment assistance to consumers, but they differ in the extent of their duties.) HHS announced this month it’s giving $60 million in grants to 90 nonprofit groups that hire navigators and assistors nationwide. That’s down from $67 million for the first enrollment cycle. New challenges In some regards, navigators and assistors, considered the backbone of Obamacare’s ongoing outreach effort, are likely to have a tougher job this year for a few reasons. “I think the biggest challenge for assisters will be to help more people with more tasks in half the time,” says Karen Pollitz, senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation. The coming enrollment lasts three months (Nov. 15, 2014 -- Feb. 15, 2015), compared with six months for the launch. Many of the consumers who haven’t yet signed up for a plan are the hardest to get to. The 8 million newly insured people were the easier targets – out of more than 47 million nonelderly Americans who were uninsured in 2012 – and the 5 million people who the Congressional Budget Office forecasts will enroll for 2015 coverage may be less informed and resourced than the initial enrollees. And if that’s the case, consumers may require even more help from assisters than they did last year, Pollitz says. Another unknown is continuity among assistor-navigator programs. People who worked as assistors and navigators last time can work more efficiently because they’re experienced and have established systems and procedures. But almost 40% of 2015 navigator programs
- Lisa Scherzer at Yahoo Finance7 mths ago
Consumers have been forever "this close" to making every purchase with just a tap of their smartphones. For years we’ve been told cash and credit cards will be obsolete as technology makes mobile payments more convenient and worthwhile than pulling out your wallet. That hasn’t quite happened yet. There is, apparently, strong consumer interest in mobile payments. But despite an array of players – including Google Wallet (GOOG), PayPal, Isis, LevelUp, Square and Loop – widespread adoption has not occurred. According to a study published last week by Yankee Group, just 16% of mobile device owners have used their phone to make an in-store payment in the past three months, while two-thirds of consumers are interested in doing so. Mobile payment transactions more than tripled from 2011 to 2012 in the U.S., reaching $539 million that year, according to eMarketer, which expects these transactions to increase and reach an estimated $58 billion by 2017. But in a report eMarketer said the market is growing slower than expected, noting how it scaled back estimates of user adoption and transaction value from its initial projections in 2012. Part of what’s holding consumers back, analysts say, is that using credit cards isn’t that much of a hassle. “It’s not solving a clear customer problem. Taking out your card and paying is not a problem or inconvenience in the U.S.,” says Kebbie Sebastian, president of Penser Consulting, a firm focused on the payments industry. Where’s the value? A bigger factor keeping consumers from embracing mobile wallets is the lack of incentive. “There’s not a lot of value around it,” says Jordan McKee, an analyst at Yankee Group. Consumers need a financial reason to make the change. “Loyalty, offers, coupons – things that add immediate value that your credit card can’t do – should take a front seat. It should be about the overall value proposition, not just the payment,” McKee says. Mobile payment systems could take a page from the playbook of the very successful Starbucks (SBUX) app. The app, which generated $1 billion in transactions in 2013, not only lets customers pay for their daily coffee quickly and easily but also lets them refill their loyalty accounts with a few taps, offers instant discounts on menu items and links directly to Starbucks’ reward program. “It’s a great example of what a mobile wallet should be – it’s not only about payment, but the loyalty and offers,” McKee says. So in an ideal scenario, for instance, your mobile wallet app would track your movement and know you’re turning the corner at Baby Gap and you’ve shopped there before, then send a coupon to your phone to entice you to go in, Sebastian says. Name recognition Of all the mobile payment options and players jockeying for position, who’s set to come out ahead? Leading the pack is PayPal, whose clear advantage lies in the company’s 143 million active user base. In the Yankee Group’s survey, 15% of mobile phone owners said
- Yahoo Finance9 mths ago
How much do you need to save for a comfortable retirement? The answer is “it depends.” (If you don’t like that, try “as much as possible.”) The problem with retirement planning is that so much is unknowable – no one number or percentage rate quite cuts it – and any formula depends on a mountain of factors, including: your savings rate, how many years of work remain, the rate of return on your investments, and how long you live. We took a look at some retirement planning strategies to help savers figure out if they’re on track. As with most tools and calculators, these are guides – not hard and fast decrees. The “16.6% rule” One study by Wade Pfau, CFA and professor of retirement income at The American College in Bryn Mawr, Pa., analyzes what he calls “safe savings rates,” which is how much of your income you need to save per year to fund your retirement. What he's found is that saving 16.6% of your salary every year is the safest minimum rate you can use to finance a comfortable retirement.
- Yahoo Finance10 mths ago
Consumers who shopped at one of Target’s 1,778 stores between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15 should check their credit and bank card statements for any fraudulent activity. Target (TGT) confirmed Thursday that it’s investigating a security breach that may have impacted as many as 40 million people. The stolen data include customer names, credit and debit card numbers, card expiration dates and the three-digit security codes located on the backs of cards. The breach affected transactions at Target’s bricks-and-mortar locations nationwide, not online purchases. Security blogger Brian Krebs first reported the breach on Wednesday. Krebs wrote that the type of data stolen “allows crooks to create counterfeit cards by encoding the information onto any card with a magnetic stripe. If the thieves also were able to intercept PIN data for debit transactions, they would theoretically be able to reproduce stolen debit cards and use them to withdraw cash from ATMs.” The incident may have involved tampering with the machines customers use to swipe their cards when making purchases, according to the Wall Street Journal. In a statement on its site Target said the breach may impact shoppers who made credit or debit card purchases in stores from Nov. 27 to Dec. 15. The Minneapolis-based retailer said it is partnering with a forensics firm to investigate the incident and recommended customers “remain vigilant for incidents of fraud and identity theft by regularly reviewing your account statements and monitoring free credit reports.” What should you do? What does this breach mean for consumers, in particular those who shopped at Target stores in the period between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15? First thing to do is check your credit card statements for unfamiliar purchases, as well as your bank account — daily — online to ensure there are no fraudulent transactions, says Linda Sherry, director at consumer rights advocacy group Consumer Action. Report any problems immediately to your bank. Your bank should contact you if your credit card was part of the breach. If you were affected, you’ll get a new credit card account number (obviously an inconvenience, especially during the holidays). You won’t be held liable for unauthorized charges made using your credit card number. American Express (AXP) and Discover (DFS) said they were aware of the breach at Target and had fraud measures in place, according to a CNNMoney article. If you receive a data breach notification letter from Target, “you know with certainty your information was compromised,” says Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center. (Consumers who know their card data was stolen can contact the ITRC at 888-400-5530 for help on what steps to take next.) Sherry suggests impacted consumers ask their bank to waive the expedited delivery fee for a new card. Also ask if any credit monitoring services are being offered to victims of the breach. What does it mean for Target? The real victim here is Target itself, says Avivah Litan, a vice president and
- Yahoo Finance10 mths ago
It’s been a year of CEO walkouts…and push-outs. Whether they retired, stepped down or were ousted, more exited their companies in the past 11 months compared with the same period last year. There were 1,147 CEO changes so far this year, 3.2% more than the 1,111 departures announced in the first 11 months of 2012, according to outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Some of these executive exits were expected, while others took investors by surprise – Men’s Wearhouse chairman George Zimmer and Groupon CEO Andrew Mason, most notably. Here we highlight some of the most headline-grabbing chief executive and chairman moves of the year (ordered by date of announcement). 1. Louis D'Ambrosio — Sears Holdings (SHLD) Sears announced in January that D'Ambrosio, CEO since February 2011, would step down because of “health issues” involving his family. He was replaced by company chairman and main shareholder, Edward Lampert on Feb. 1. Weighed down by operating losses and falling sales, Sears said last week it would spin off its Lands' End clothing business, adding to assets the company is shedding to bolster its balance sheet. Last year Sears split off its smaller-format Hometown and Outlet stores to raise $446 million. Total compensation 2012: $1.29 million 2. Andrew Mason — Groupon (GRPN) Mason, founder of the online deals company, was fired in February amid increasing concerns around the stock performance and long-term viability of the business. Shortly after the news broke he published a goodbye note to his employees, saying they "deserve the outside world to give you a second chance. I'm getting in the way of that. A fresh CEO earns you that chance." Groupon named co-founder Eric Lefkofsky permanent CEO last month. The Chicago company reported a 7% increase in revenue for the second quarter. Mason left with a headline-worthy severance package: $378.36. According to regulatory filings, Mason was due six months’ salary plus health care coverage if he left the company (or was fired). Mason's base annual salary was just $756.72 in 2012, but he holds about 46.6 million shares in Groupon, worth approximately $292 million. The former CEO, often described as “quirky,” has been exploring new career options; this summer he released a seven-song album called “Hardly Workin’.” Total compensation 2012: $5,291, base salary $757 [2011 compensation: $7,943] 3. Joe Kennedy — Pandora Media (SHLD0) In March the Internet radio company said Kennedy, who led the company as chairman and CEO since 2004, SHLD1 at the same time as announcing stronger-than-expected quarterly sales. The company went public in 2011, and Kennedy helped grow Pandora to a platform that has more than 67 million monthly active listeners, despite increasing competition from online music services such as Spotify and iTunes radio. On Sept. 11 Pandora named former head of digital advertising company aQuantive, SHLD2, as its new CEO. Total compensation 2012: $732,425 4. John Riccitiello — Electronic
- Yahoo Finance10 mths ago
Is no password hacker-proof anymore? Researchers at cybersecurity firm Trustwave said this week they found a stash of about two million passwords to major sites, including Facebook (FB), Twitter (TWTR), Google (GOOG) and Yahoo (which operates Yahoo Finance). The database included stolen information from some 320,000 email accounts, 318,000 Facebook accounts, and 21,000 Twitter users, nearly 60,000 Yahoo accounts, more than 8,000 LinkedIn accounts, and 70,000 Gmail, Google+ and YouTube accounts, Trustwave said. Two Russian social-networking sites, vk.com and odnoklassniki.ru, were also targeted, as well as 8,000 accounts at ADP, the payroll service provider, according to Trustwave. "We don't have evidence they logged into these accounts, but they probably did," John Miller, a security research manager at Trustwave, told CNNMoney. You have ‘terrible’ passwords Trustwave’s researchers combed through the data to analyze users’ password selection habits – and they weren’t impressed. More than 15,000 of the affected users had “123456” as their password, followed by “123456789,” “1234” and “password.” The firm said only 5% of the passwords were considered “excellent,” which means they used all four character types (uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers and special characters), and 17% were “good.” Passwords with four or fewer characters of only one type are considered “terrible” – and there were more terrible passwords -- 6% -- than excellent ones. Every year or so, a report comes out that highlights how vulnerable our passwords are to hackers and identity thieves. And a different list from 2011, for instance, shows the most common passwords are nearly identical to the ones found in Trustwave’s trove. In short, they’re way too simple. Protect yourself We asked Nick Berry, data scientist at Facebook, for guidance on how users should go about creating passwords to their myriad email, social networking, banking and other accounts they want to remain private. “I can confirm from my research that people really are staggeringly unimaginative in their selection of passwords,” says Berry, who founded technology consulting firm Data Genetics and has done extensive research on password security. Check out FB0 about the subject.
- Lisa Scherzer at Yahoo Finance10 mths ago
It should come as no surprise that the troubles bedeviling Obamacare’s exchanges have sunk the law’s popularity. But according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released Friday, the gap between positive and negative views of the law is almost the largest it’s been since Kaiser began tracking consumer sentiment about Obamacare in April 2010. Nearly half (49%) of Americans have an unfavorable view of the law and a third have a favorable view, a 16-percentage-point difference. The only time it was bigger (17 points) was in October 2011 – in the midst of the 2012 presidential campaign – when Republican candidates amped up their critique of the law. What’s more, favorable views of Obamacare dropped most among Democrats, after rebounding in September and October. The past few weeks have brought a mix of news as the Obama administration works to fix HealthCare.gov’s technical snags in time for the promised end-of-November deadline. The administration said Friday it would give consumers until Dec. 23 – an additional eight days – to sign up for coverage that takes effect Jan. 1. The move allows more time for people to compare and shop for plans on the notoriously glitch-filled federally run exchange.
At long last, Congress reached a deal Wednesday to reopen the government after 16 days of impasse, letting the American public exhale a bit and bringing a modicum of stability to the weakened economy.
The compromise, which President Obama signed off on last night, funds the government through Jan. 15, 2014, and suspends the debt limit until Feb. 7 (so get ready for another go-round then).
But what about the present? For a handful of major companies that rely on a confident U.S. consumer to bolster the bottom line, the government logjam is being blamed for potentially weaker sales in the upcoming critical holiday season.
Indeed, a Goldman Sachs report published this week said that, at least partially because of the government shutdown, 40% of consumers surveyed have curbed their spending. Those with household income under $35,000 were particularly impacted, with 47% indicating they were, compared with only 32% of those earning more than $100,000.
In a CNBC interview today, Warren Buffett likened the debt ceiling to a “political weapon of mass destruction” being used against the American public. Like poison gas and nuclear weapons, the debt ceiling is “too powerful” and Congress "shouldn't touch it," he said.
Buffett’s warnings add to the already-heated rhetoric around the debt ceiling debate that’s griped Congress in the days leading up to Oct. 17 – when the Treasury says the U.S. government will run out of cash to pay its bills.
As the Senate readies for a last-ditch attempt to end the stalemate, here's a rundown of what some of the nation's top lawmakers, CEOs, business leaders and pundits have said about the potential for a U.S. default.
Warren Buffett, Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, in an interview with Fortune magazine:
Correction: A previous version of this article said it costs 7.8 cents to produce each $100 note. The correct amount is 12.5 cents.
The Federal Reserve on Tuesday will begin circulating a new $100 bill with a fresh design and smarter security features. And it’ll be more than two years after it was originally scheduled for release.
The new design for the $100 note was unveiled in 2010, but its actual release was pushed back because of production delays. In December 2010, a printing problem that caused the bills to crease and therefore become unusable meant the new bills couldn’t be released in 2011 as originally scheduled. The last redesign of the $100 note began circulating in March 1996.
A new, high-tech hundred
The well-known image of Benjamin Franklin will still be on the new design, but he won’t be surrounded by an oval. The new design is also supposed to make it harder for counterfeiters to copy and easier for the public – and store cashiers – to authenticate.