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Family Economics News - November 2008

The Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) works with land-grant university partners and others to advance knowledge for agriculture, the environment, human health and well-being, and communities through national program leadership and Federal assistance. Among the Agency’s goals is to support increased economic opportunities and quality of life in rural areas. Family economics aligns with this goal by focusing on how individuals and families obtain and use resources such as money, time, human capital, material resources, and community services; by exploring the relationship between individuals and families and the larger economy; and by studying the impact of public issues, policies, and programs on family economic well-being.

Research/Program Evaluation

  • Health Confidence Survey
  • Bankruptcy Education
  • Farmer and Rancher Family Medical Costs

Education/Extension

  • Earned Income Tax Credit and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance
  • New on eXtension:

Resources

  • Database of Resources from National Associations, State and Local Governments
  • Lifetime Consumption Smoothing
  • Hope for Homeowners Program
  • Avoid Fake E-mails Tied to Bank Mergers

Opportunities

  • Call for Papers:
    • Journal of Consumer Affairs
    • Journal of Personal Finance
    • Financial Counseling and Planning
    • The Journal of Youth Development
    • Journal of Family and Economic Issues 
    • National Association of Community Development
    • 2009 National Extension Risk Management Education Conference
    • Asian Consumer and Family Economics Association
    • Journal of Consumer Education
    • Eastern Family Economics and Resource Management Association
  • Funding:
    • Grants.gov
    • National Endowment for Financial Education® 
    • MMI Financial Education Foundation
    • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
    • Foundation for Financial Literacy
    • FINRA Investor Education Foundation

Calendar

Mailbox

More than half of Americans with health insurance coverage experienced an increase in health care costs in the past year, according to the 2008 Health Confidence Survey released by the Employee Benefit Research Institute. Most who experienced cost increases also reported that these increases had a negative affect on their household finances. In particular, increased health care costs resulted in decreased contributions to retirement and other savings and difficulty in paying for necessities and other bills.

The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (BAPCPA) includes consumer counseling and education mandates among its regulations. Before filing for bankruptcy, debtors must complete an approved credit counseling session.  After filing, debtors must complete an approved financial education course before they can discharge their debts. These requirements ensure that consumers make informed choices about bankruptcy, its alternatives, and consequences. Perhaps more importantly, they provide debtors with the financial skills necessary to build a strong financial foundation and avoid future financial problems. In 2006, Money Management International (MMI) collaborated with Dr. Angela at the University of Illinois to launch a multi-phase research study to measure the educational value of its bankruptcy counseling and educational services. Specifically, pre- and post-tests were administered to measure changes in debtors’ financial knowledge, current and intended behaviors, and overall satisfaction with MMI’s bankruptcy counseling and education. The results showed improvement in financial knowledge and behavioral awareness and intentions. These results have important legislative and educational implications concerning whether the current counseling and education requirements are helping debtors’ to make informed financial choices. Visit the Consumer Credit Counseling Service’s Web site to download a complete copy of the report and learn more about the impact of bankruptcy counseling and education on debtors’ financial well-being.

Farmer and Rancher Family Medical Costs

Farmers and ranchers, on average, spend about twice as much on health care than do non-farmers, according to a report released by The Access Project. According to the report, nearly one-quarter of the respondents said medical costs contributed to financial problems for them or a member of their household. In addition, the research found that farmers who have financial problems spend 42 percent of their incomes on health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket health care expenses. According to the report, farmers and ranchers who responded to the survey, on average, spent $11,200 on health care, compared with non-farmers who spent an average of $5,600. Farmers have higher average incomes and are more likely to have insurance coverage than other U.S. residents; however, most farmers purchase individual health plans, which often cost more than group coverage through a large employer.

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Are you looking for a program with measureable impacts that can really make a difference for low- and moderate-income families? Would you like to report that your extension programming helped dozens of families in your area save hundreds of dollars on tax preparation costs and receive thousands of dollars in tax refunds–dollars that can help strengthen local economies? If so, please consider making taxpayer education a part of your extension programming. Learn more about this collaborative effort between the Internal Revenue Service and CSREES.

What’s a tax lien certificate? What are some ways to cut spending? What are some health insurance options for an adult child no longer covered under the parent’s policy? These are some of the most recent questions posted through the Ask-the-Expert function at the extension Web site. If your question doesn’t come up in the frequently asked questions database, which now includes more than 1,200 entries, you can pose your question and get an answer within 48 hours from a Cooperative Extension educator.

Extension educators provide information to help consumers make informed financial decisions. They do not provide specific financial advice.

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The National Association of Government Defined Contribution Administrators, in consultation with the Financial Literacy and Education Commission’s National Financial Education Network, has developed a network database of resources from national associations, state, and local governments. The database provides links to resources on other organizations’ web sites and includes a list of participating organizations.  The site allows the reader to search on several different parameters, such as topics addressed, target audience, types of materials, language, and location.  The database does have guidelines for submission.

An Excel Spreadsheet for Lifetime Consumption Smoothing,” presented at the October 2008 Academy of Financial Services conference, describes a program file for consumption smoothing and portfolio allocation recommendations (stocks versus bonds). It has been used by students in a financial planning class with actual client households, as well as by a class where students create hypothetical couple households.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has a new Hope for Homeowners site with information. The HOPE for Homeowners program is a way to refinance mortgages for borrowers who are having difficulty making their payments, but can afford a new loan insured by HUD's Federal Housing Administration (FHA). The program began October 1, 2008, and will end September 30, 2011. HUD is still building their Web site, but some basic is available.

Online scammers are taking advantage of tough economic times. While electronic phishing for sensitive data is nothing new, scammers are taking advantage of upheavals in the financial marketplace to confuse consumers into parting with valuable personal information. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) urges caution regarding e-mails that look as if they come from a financial institution that recently acquired a consumer’s bank, savings and loan, or mortgage. In fact, these messages may be from “phishers” looking to use personal information—account numbers, passwords, social security numbers—to run up bills or commit other crimes in a consumer’s name. The FTC urges consumers to take the bait. The FTC has advice about how to stay on guard against this type of scam in the consumer alert “Bank Failures, Mergers and Takeovers: A ‘Phish-erman’s Special’.”

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  • Grants.gov is your source to find and apply for federal government grants. There are over 1,000 grant programs offered by all Federal grant making agencies.

  • National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE®) - The NEFE® Grants program deadline for April 2009 grant cycle is December 2, 2008. To learn more about the NEFE® Grants program visit the NEFE® Web site, and click on the Grantsmaking section. 
  • MMI Education Foundation - The foundation uses its resources to serve the public interest and strengthen the communities where we live and work. The foundation provides periodic announcements and grant guidelines. 

  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - Grantees provide financial literacy training to enable low-income individuals and families to achieve economic self-sufficiency. 

  • Foundation for Financial Literacy - The Foundation for Personal Literacy supports educational, charitable, and other organizations that use financial education to teach individuals how to convert earned income into passive and portfolio income.

  • FINRA Investor Education Foundation Grant Programs – Submission deadlines and decision dates for 2009 grant opportunities will be announced in November. Subscribe to the e-mail newsletter for periodic updates. 

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2009

2010

  • EFERMA (Eastern Family Economics & Resource Management Association) Conference, Chattanooga, TN, March 3-5, 2010. Details pending. For information, contact Michael Rupured.

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  • CSREES Contact: Jane Schuchardt, National Program Leader, CSREES-USDA

  • eXtension (pronounced ee-eXtension) Financial Security for All provides reliable, research-based, and up-to-date financial and consumer information, including learning lessons, fact sheets, and unbiased peer-reviewed answers to frequently asked questions. Consumers can access eXtension 24/7/365 on any Internet-ready device.
    Contact: Debra Pankow, family economics specialist, North Dakota State University, or go to eXtension.org and click on Personal Finance.

  • National Initiative "Financial Security in Later Life" Contact: Nancy M. Porter, Family Resource Management Specialist, Clemson University

  • Financial Literacy for Youth Contact: Erica Tobe, Program Leader for Youth Financial Literacy, Michigan State University Extension


Back issues of Family Economics News
are available.

To submit items for consideration for this newsletter, contact Jim Terry, Program Analyst, CSREES-USDA.


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