Posts by Mandi Woodruff
- Mandi Woodruff at Yahoo Finance11 hrs ago
The cost of college has more than tripled over the last three decades — annual tuition and fees now total $8,893 on average at four-year public institutions.
Private four-year students pay three times as much.
And looking at a state-by-state breakdown of tuition rates, East Coast students have it the worst. In-state tuition for New Hampshire residents is the highest in the nation, topping $12,000 per year, according to an independent study by research firm Wintergreen Orchard House.
Pennsyvania isn't far behind, with annual tuition costs averaging $12,193.
If you think of education as any other consumer good — groceries, gas, cars — price hikes are to be expected. But the problem with rising costs in the U.S. is that wage growth hasn't been able to keep up. As a result, more and more people have turned to student loans to finance their college degrees.
- Mandi Woodruff at Yahoo Finance2 days ago
Faced with falling revenues and increasing interference from federal and state regulators, some debt collectors have been trying out a new, somewhat unorthodox strategy to improve business (and their image) — good old-fashioned customer service.
“There’s no room to be aggressive or to try to beat the daylights out of somebody and expect to collect money from them afterward,” says Richard Doane, president of the Association of Credit and Collection Professionals International (ACAI), which represents more than 3,500 collections agencies in the U.S.
To that end, there is movement among old guard players as well as new entrants to refashion debt collection as friendlier work.
In 2013, the debt collections industry took in about $52 billion in revenue, down from $55 billion in 2010, according to a . At the same time, collectors have become one of regulators’ favorite punching bags, a role they’ve been trying to reverse. In 2012, the year that the CFPB began the debt collection industry, the ACAI on lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill — quadruple its 2009 budget.
- Mandi Woodruff at Yahoo Finance6 days ago
If you’re suffering from Ice Bucket Challenge fatigue, here’s another video worth watching: the dying American dream, perfectly illustrated in Lego bricks.
The expanding wealth gap in America has been well-documented in the years since the recession. Data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that the wealthiest households in the U.S. were worth nearly 40 times as much as the poorest households in 2005, accounting for both debts and assets. By 2011, they were worth 87 times as much .
- Mandi Woodruff at Yahoo Finance9 days ago
The debt collections industry in the U.S. is so under-regulated these days that even debt collectors are getting scammed by debt collectors, as the illustrated in a lengthy feature this past weekend.
When a debt is left unpaid, it’s common practice for lenders — banks, credit card companies, cell phone providers, hospitals, car dealers — to sell the debt to companies (debt buyers) willing to chase after the borrowers. The amount owed could be $2,000 or $20. For a debt buyer, it’s a heck of a bargain. Charged-off debts sell for an average of according to a Federal Trade Commission study, and debts older than 15 years can cost practically nothing. Buyers of that debt then pass off the borrower’s information to a debt collector, who tries to collect the debt. If they succeed, it can prove to be a lucrative investment. In the same FTC study, researchers found the top nine debt buyers in the U.S. held debts with a face value of $143 billion, which they purchased for just $6.5 billion.
- Mandi Woodruff at Yahoo Finance9 days ago
A new map released by the Tax Foundation shows exactly how far $100 would go in all 50 states.
Using recently released data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the Tax Foundation was able to show exactly how the varying prices of goods, housing and income taxes in each state can impact consumers’ purchasing power.
Southerners and Midwesterners have a serious edge over those along the East and West Coasts. A hundred bucks goes the furthest in Mississippi, where $100 will buy you what would cost $115.74 in another state that's closer to the national average. As the Tax Foundation puts it, Missippians are about 15% richer than their nominal incomes suggest. The next low-price states are Arkansas ($114.16), Missouri ($113.51), and Alabama ($113.51). Meanwhile, $100 would only be worth $84.60 in the District of Columbia, the priciest state, $85.32 in Hawaii, $86.66 in New York and $87.64 in nearby New Jersey.
- Mandi Woodruff at Yahoo Finance10 days ago
The rich and famous may have a knack for earning millions of dollars, but that doesn’t always translate to holding onto that money, or investing it wisely. For every financially savvy celebrity coupon clipper, like Kristen Bell, there’s a Nicolas Cage (had to pay the IRS $6 million in back taxes in 2012) or Toni Braxton (filed for bankruptcy twice) or Teri Polo of “Meet the Parents” fame (filed for bankruptcy this year): celebrities and other rich folks who, through overspending, overconfidence and general short-sightedness, manage to bungle their finances and squander their wealth.
For the rest of us, some of the best financial lessons can be learned from watching the fortunate foul up.
- Mandi Woodruff at Yahoo Finance14 days ago
The college financial aid application process can be tough for any family to manage on their own, but is it worth the money to bring in a professional?
Certified college aid planners and consultants promise to help families maximize their chances of securing financial aid. Since the recession, the National Institute of Certified College Planners, which offers a certificate in college aid planning to financial professionals, has doubled its membership, from 600 in 2006 to 1,300 this year, according to co-founder Ron Them.
Some of these pros play dual roles, counseling families through the college application and selection process, and then helping them handle financial aid applications afterward. Others are traditional wealth managers or accountants who have begun offering college aid planning as a bonus to their existing roster of clients.
- Mandi Woodruff at Yahoo Finance15 days ago
After decades of operating as wardens of modern-day debtors’ prisons, the reign of payday lenders may soon be over.
Since the spring, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a set of rules that could for the first time impose nationwide regulations on the payday lending industry as a whole. Meanwhile, state regulators have redoubled their efforts to crack down on the growing predatory practices of payday lenders as they increasingly move from traditional neighborhood strip malls to the Internet.
The anti-payday lending movement hit the mainstream this week. Consumer advocacy group hijacked Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week” campaign, swapping out the killer fish for predatory payday lenders. And in a on the HBO show “Last Week Tonight” on Sunday, host John Oliver (with an assist from comedian Sarah Silverman) begged Americans to “literally do anything else” but take out payday loans.
“Basically, payday loan companies are the Lay’s potato chips of finance,” he said. “You can’t have just one and they’re terrible for you.”
Shtick aside, Oliver has the right idea.
- Mandi Woodruff at Yahoo Finance20 days ago
People who struggle to qualify for new loans because of old debts can celebrate a pair of significant victories this week.
First, FICO — the creator of the most widely used credit score in the U.S. — that it would no longer weigh unpaid medical debt as heavily when computing consumer credit scores. The news was followed by a by the Department of Education that would make it easier for students and parents who are carrying unpaid debt to qualify for federal PLUS loans.
In different ways, each of these changes would make it easier for cash-strapped consumers to access credit. It’s a reversal of the trend that took hold in the wake of the financial crisis, when banks and lenders went from handing out risky loans like candy to making it difficult for subprime borrowers to access new credit.
Improving access to credit is what many economists have argued is necessary to help jolt what has been a sluggish recovery.
But others are more cautious about loosening credit standards for certain borrowers who might end up taking on more debt than they can handle.
- Mandi Woodruff at Yahoo Finance21 days ago
So far, the outlook is pretty bright for shoppers who like to buy more than just their party supplies and holiday candy at dollar stores.
Dollar Tree, which is already the No. 1 dollar-store chain the U.S., will raise its storefront count to more than 13,000 with the addition of Family Dollar. But the chain still faces competition from contenders like Big Lots (BIG) and Dollar General (DG), not to mention retail heavyweight Walmart (WMT), which hasn’t taken too kindly to the fact that dollar stores have been eating into its customer base.