May is Older Americans Month

May is Older Americans Month, 2018

May is Older Americans Month, a campaign to raise awareness of vital aging issues across the country. The DBO has valuable information and resources to help alert and educate California’s older adults about investment fraud, unscrupulous sales practices, and financial scams. Check out the links below to learn more.

Protect Yourself From Fraud booklet:

http://www.dbo.ca.gov/Consumers/SAIF/Pubs/Protect_Yourself_From_Fraud(2014)English.pdf

More consumer education and protection information is also available at the DBO Consumers page:

http://www.dbo.ca.gov/Consumers/default.asp

 

 

 

 

My Departure… Please Don’t Stop! Keep Going…

   

 Hello!

As you may have heard, I’ll be leaving my position as director for education and outreach here at DBO, and my last day is coming up on Friday, April 13!

Starting Monday, April 16, I will serve as the assistant director of marketing and communications for the California Complete Count Census.

My email will be alana.golden@census.ca.gov. I also have a gmail account that is already available, alanacensus2020@gmail.com. We’ll have a website up soon (www.census.ca.gov) but for now, you can learn about the 2020 Census and how you can partner to help the effort by visiting https://www.census.gov/partners/. We’ll be on social media soon as well (Census 2020 – California Complete Count). I’ll be conducting convenings around the state, so please look for invitations to participate. I hope to see some of you there!

Before setting off, I wanted to reach out to you and let you know how great it’s been to work with you and for some, our work will continue. I have enjoyed collaborating with you on financial education activities. This has been a valuable career experience, a total of 18 years with DFI (2001-2014) and DBO (2014-2018). 

Together, we  launched California Financial Literacy Month in April 2001, we visited schools and classrooms, we conducted hundreds of events (and attended thousands!) to help consumers improve their financial futures, and we received awards and recognition for our web, marketing and outreach projects, including a GOLD Award for this blog from the State Information Officers Council.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. And if you need to reach DBO, please email outreach@dbo.ca.gov.

Farewell!

Alana Golden

 

FTC continues to crack down on student loan scams

A lot of us have student loans – and some of us have trouble paying them every month. Some companies claim to resolve that issue by saying they can help you pay them down quicker, cheaper or get them forgiven altogether. Be cautious – some of these companies are running scams.

Here are some tips to avoid student loan repayment scams:
•Never pay an upfront fee. It’s illegal for companies to charge you in advance before helping you to reduce or get rid of your student loan debt. Companies that make you pay upfront might give you no help and not give your money back.
•Only scammers promise fast loan forgiveness. Before they know your situation, scammers might say they can quickly get rid of your loans through a loan forgiveness program. But they can’t.
•A Department of Education seal doesn’t mean it’s legit. Scammers use official-looking names and logos and say they have special access to certain federal programs. They don’t.
•Don’t share your Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID with anyone. Scammers could use it to take control of your personal financial aid information on U.S. Department of Education websites.

Last month, the FTC announced a lawsuit against American Financial Benefits Center (AFBC), Financial Education Benefits Center (FEBC), AmeriTech Financial, and Brandon Demond Frere as part of its crackdown against unlawful student loan debt relief practices, Operation Game of Loans. The FTC alleges that the companies charged illegal, upfront fees and failed to deliver on their promises to enroll people into a government program that they claimed would permanently lower monthly loan payments or result in total loan forgiveness.

The FTC also alleges the companies charged a monthly fee for the life of the loan (typically 10-25 years) and represented that the fee would go towards the student loan balance. But it didn’t.

You don’t have to pay for help with your student loans. There’s nothing a company can do for you that you cannot do yourself for free: federal borrowers can start with StudentAid.gov/repay; private borrowers can start by talking with their loan servicer.

Spotted a scam? Let us know about it.

DBO Student Loan Consumer Advisory


To protect themselves from unaffordable repayment plans and damage to their
credit score, it’s important for student loan borrowers to be familiar with all
of the repayment options available to them. When they are approved for a
student loan, borrowers should review the loan type and know when they need
to start making payments. Borrowers should communicate regularly with their
loan servicer and utilize online account management tools to ensure their loan
is in good standing and their payments are recorded accurately.

BEWARE: Your student loan servicer may attempt to steer you away
from income-based repayment plans that have lower monthly payments
and into standard payment plans that are easier for them to service.

California’s Student Loan Market
54% of California students graduate college with student loan debt balances averaging more
than $22,000. As of January 2015, 4,156,000 student loan borrowers in California owed a
combined $112 billion in student loan debt. 41 million Americans owe a total of $1.2 trillion
in student loan debt, surpassing both auto loan and credit card debts.

Read entire advisory at http://www.dbo.ca.gov/Licensees/Student_Loan_Servicers/SLS_consumers.asp

SAVE THE DATE! Financial Education Workshop in Sacramento


Financial Education Workshop

Speaker: Anita R. Johnson,
Financial Psychologist

Join Us!

PAYDAY LOANS – AVOID THE DEBT TRAP!

March 14, 2018
Robertson Community Center
3525 Norwood Ave. Sacramento, CA 95838
6:00pm – 8:00pm

National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW) is a time to help people understand their consumer rights and make well-informed decisions about money, credit, mortgages, retirement and learn how to avoid financial fraud and scams.

A representative from the California Department of Business Oversight (DBO) will discuss the risks related to high-cost payday loans and how to avoid financial fraud and scams.

An interactive session with a financial behavior coach will help participants learn how to get out of debt, save for emergencies, buy a home and save for retirement.

Free materials

Flyers

Financial Ed Flyer Sacramento Anita Johnson 2018

payday workshop sac 2018

FDIC Encourages Consumers of All Ages to Set and Achieve Savings Goals

America Saves Week

America Saves Week is February 26 – March 3, 2018

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) today is encouraging people to use America Saves Week as an opportunity to develop, or review their progress toward, financial goals.

FDIC Chairman Martin J. Gruenberg said, “During America Saves Week, financial institutions and their community partners collaborate to help people of all ages develop and achieve savings goals. Small steps in building a savings habit can make a big difference over time.”

The FDIC offers a number of resources to institutions interested in supporting savings and to individuals of all ages who are interested in learning more about saving. For instance, through the FDIC’s Youth Banking Network, financial institutions are working with schools and nonprofit organizations to teach financial education and offer students an opportunity to open a savings account—for many students, their first account.
Many organizations work together during America Saves Week to encourage consumers to make a savings commitment and then take steps to make savings automatic, such as setting up a regular transfer into a savings account. Developing this type of savings habit can help consumers withstand unexpected expenses and income disruptions.

California Retirement Savings Program Now Called CalSavers

California State Treasurer John Chiang announced that the Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program, which will provide retirement security to nearly 6.8 million private sector workers, has a new name: CalSavers.

“The name CalSavers truly reflects what this program is all about — providing an opportunity for millions of Californians to easily save for retirement in a way that is safe, simple and portable,” said Chiang. “The program is a win-win-win for employees, employers and taxpayers in the Golden State. It will ensure that millions of working Californians can have a dignified retirement and won’t have to rely on meager social support services that leave them facing the all-too-real scenario of having to choose between buying medication and paying rent.”

Signed in to law in 2016, CalSavers has been hailed as the most significant expansion in retirement security since the passage of the Social Security Act in 1935.

CalSavers enables employees to save automatically for their retirement through payroll contributions with the ability to opt-out any time. The program will be professionally managed by a private-sector financial firm, yet to be named, with oversight from a transparent public board. Participants will be able to contribute to the plan throughout their careers regardless of job changes.

CalSavers will be self-sustaining through participant fees and there will be no cost or liability for the employer or taxpayers.

Development of the CalSavers program, including the search for a private sector financial firm to manage the participants’ accounts, is currently underway. The program is expected to be open for business statewide in early 2019.

“While the White House and Congressional Republicans bury their heads in the sand in the face of a growing retirement insecurity crisis, states have become laboratories of democracy coming up with high-impact, low-cost solutions aimed at preventing the growing national crisis from metastasizing into a full-bore humanitarian catastrophe,” Chiang said. “We look forward to rolling out CalSavers in the near future and will be working with employer groups and the business community to spread the word about how the program can aid millions of Californians with their retirement, while also helping businesses currently unable to offer plans compete with those that do.”

The governing board of CalSavers will continue to be known by the formal statutory name California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Investment Board.

For more news, please follow the Treasurer on Twitter at @CalTreasurer, and on Facebook at California State Treasurer’s Office.

JOIN AARP FOR A FREE FINANCIAL WORKSHOP IN SACRAMENTO

Wednesday, March 7, 2018
6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
South Natomas
Community Center
2921 Truxel Road
Sacramento, CA 95833

FREE workshop, “Finding Your Financial Freedom,” led by Anita Johnson, financial psychologist, entrepreneur, and founder of Money Wisdom for Women.

This interactive workshop provides practical tools and hands-on activities designed to help you arrange your finances for today AND for the future.

Workshop participants will:

> Learn about cash management and where to “park” your savings
> Find out how and where to cut costs, track expenses, and reduce debt
> Understand the implications of debt and how to improve your credit
> Learn the basics of sound and simple investing

Dinner and refreshments will be provided.

This is a free event but ADVANCE REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED. Please call 1-877-926-8300 or visit https://aarp.cvent.com/FinancialFreedomCA

2nd Annual Scholar Dollars Program – Enroll or Vote for a School

2nd Annual Scholar Dollars Program to Support K-8 Public and Charter Schools
– $300,000 grant program provides funding for extracurricular activities vital to a well-rounded education

An important part of a young person’s education happens outside the classroom—in extracurricular activities like sports, music or computer lab. But California school districts, facing tight budgets, have found themselves forced to cut back or cancel many of these vital after-school programs.
To help, California State Treasurer John Chiang today announced the second year of Scholar Dollars, an innovative grant program that makes more than $300,000 available to schools to pay for extracurricular and after-school programs.

This year, the program will award 20 grants, ranging from $5,000 to $30,000 each, depending on school size, to K-8 public and charter schools in California. Schools can spend their grants on musical instruments, computers, library books, gardening tools or sports equipment, or support enrichment programs like tutoring labs, student counseling, science and technology instruction, and many other activities.

Watch Video– Treasurer Launches 2nd Annual Scholar Dollars Program at https://vimeo.com/254007252

Scholar Dollars also helps the adults, by giving a break to the administrators, teachers and parents who spend many of their weekends and evenings at bake sales, car washes and other events to raise money for the equipment and programs that are essential to providing kids a well-rounded education.

Scholar Dollars is administered by ScholarShare 529, California’s college savings plan. The program recognizes the critical role that California schools play in preparing students for college success by providing essential extracurricular programs that foster college-going cultures on their campuses.

In its first year, Scholar Dollars was immensely successful. In 2017, more than 390 schools across the state registered and over 411,000 votes were cast. All told, the program awarded $300,000 to support extracurricular activities and afterschool programs. Schools spent their Scholar Dollar grants in a variety of ways. Alfred B. Nobel Charter Middle School in Northridge purchased 80 new Chromebooks. Village School in Campbell sent a classroom of 5th-graders to science camp. Shannon Ranch Elementary School in Visalia built a much-needed new running track.

“This grant has helped Nobel go a long way towards meeting our goal of ensuring that all students have access to a computer to increase computer literacy, research skills and create products that have real world implications,” said Felicia Drew, Assistant Principal, Alfred B. Nobel Charter Middle School.

“With grants like Scholar Dollars, we can continue giving our children an extraordinary school experience and guide them into being lifelong learners,” added James Crawford, Principal, Village School.

Eligible schools can register online at MyScholarDollars.com and apply for a grant. The registration period is open now through March 7, 2018. Enrollment is as easy as ABC. There are no formal grant requests or cumbersome red tape. A school administrator, teacher or PTA president can enroll a school in a matter of minutes. All K-8 public and charter schools in California are already uploaded to the Scholar Dollars website, so enrollment is as simple as selecting your school from the list, entering your contact information and describing the program your school wants funded.

Once a school is registered and approved to participate in the grant program, it will be included in the voting period. Encouraging your community to vote during this time is a critical part of the process because the more votes your school receives, the better positioned it is to win a grant.

Anyone 18 years or older is eligible to vote and can cast a vote once per day during the voting period. Voting runs from March 12, 2018 to March 23, 2018. The Scholar Dollars program provides a variety of resources to help schools get out the vote, such as a customizable PDF flyer as well as copy and images to use in email blasts and/or social media posts.

ScholarShare 529, which supports Scholar Dollars, offers families a diverse set of tools to help pay for college, including investment options, tax-deferred growth and withdrawals free from state and federal taxes when used for higher-education expenses. Studies show that kids with a savings account in their name are six times more likely to attend and graduate college.

To learn more, enroll or vote for a school, visit http://www.myscholardollars.com/

For more news, please follow the Treasurer on Twitter at @CalTreasurer, and on Facebook at California State Treasurer’s Office.

CFPB: Servicemembers should secure their identity after the Equifax data breach

Here is a CFPB operation order for what you can do next to secure your identity

  1. Situation: The personal information of a reported 143 million people has been stolen, including many servicemembers.
    1. Enemy forces: Criminals with your stolen information may attempt to use your credit cards or open new accounts in your name. It can be hard to notice that you were a victim of identity theft until you review your reports or statements and see charges you didn’t make, or are contacted by a debt collector about a debt that you don’t recognize.
    2. Friendly forces: We are working hard and along with other government agencies and looking into the data breach and Equifax’s response
  2. Mission: Secure your identity from criminals who may have stolen your personal information.
  3. Execution: Use the tools available to you to secure your identity and prevent criminals from taking your money or running up bills in your name.
    1. Concept of the operation: You should closely monitor your financial statements and credit reports. If you see anything out of the ordinary, no matter how small, you should take action immediately.
      1. Review your free credit reports for signs of fraud or identity theft.
      2. Sign up for an active duty alert on your credit report.
      3. Consider placing a security freeze on your credit.
      4. Review any free credit monitoring services offered by the company affected by the data breach. Read the fine print, but never give your credit card information for a “free” product.
  4. Service support: If you’re run into problems taking these actions, you can submit a complaint to the CFPB online or by calling (855) 411-CFPB (2372).
  5. Command and signal: For help handling financial challenges at every step of your military career visit our guide through the military lifecycle.