Survey: Many Americans Living Paycheck to Paycheck

Most national news stories right now are focusing on the seeming ineptness of our Congress and Presidential administration to agree on a plan to avoid the so-called “Fiscal Cliff.” While an agreement has now been reached, none of the information surrounding how this deal came to be is positive.

Americans are mostly annoyed and aggravated, some downright outraged, about this. And we absolutely should be – we elect these people to act on our behalf, not like squabbling children (sorry, that’s offensive to all children).

But maybe we also need to point a finger in the mirror. At least, one in every two Americans should do that, as apparently we’re not much better off at handling our own finances than the federal government is at handling its finances.

A December survey from online lender NetCredit.com has discovered that almost half of Americans indicate that they are living paycheck to paycheck and 44% of Americans are just trying to stay current on their bills and avoid debt and bankruptcy.

Using 1,000 Americans in the poll, there were some demographics that stood out as the most likely to face this financial reality, including: 62% of Americans in their 30s; 54% among those Americans under age 60; 57% of families with children; 64% of families with five or more people in the household; and 53% in southern states, versus those in the northeastern U.S.

Also mirroring our political leaders, borrowing money seems to be the go-to answer in case of an emergency (car repairs, medical bill, high utility bill, etc.).

Twenty-three percent of these Americans would whip out a credit card; 16% would hit up their families and friends; 5% would head to the bank for a loan and 2% would use installment loans. Other possible solutions include using general savings or a separate rainy day fund, selling or pawning items or short-term cash advances.

But the poll’s press release also noted that a recent FDIC study found that nearly half of Americans can’t come up with $2,000 in 30 days if an emergency did arise and they used these options.

So what can be done to prevent this? The first advice I’ve seen from anyone who deals with money and finances is this: have an emergency fund. Start small; say $1,000 in a savings account (separate from the checking account). The ultimate goal is to have three to six months of living expenses in an emergency fund, which would cover a sudden loss of income and delay the added stress that would come with a job loss.

Slow and steady wins the race though; it’s not a quick thing to have six months of living expenses sitting in the bank. Create a budget and stick to it. Live within your means.

Now, would anyone like to share this with the federal government?

FDIC: Businesses, Beware of Fraudulent Letters

A special alert from the FDIC:

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has received numerous reports of fraudulent e-mails that have the appearance of being from the FDIC.

The e-mails appear to be sent from various "@fdic.gov" e-mail addresses, such as "[email protected]," "[email protected]," or "[email protected]."

They have subject lines that read: "FDIC: Your business account" or "FDIC: About Your Business Account."

The e-mails are addressed to "Business Customer" or "Business Owner" and state "We have important information about your bank" or "…financial institution." They then ask recipients to "Please click here to find details."

They conclude with, "This includes information on the acquiring bank (if applicable), how your accounts and loans are affected, and how vendors can file claims against the receivership."

These e-mails and the link included are fraudulent and were not sent by the FDIC. Recipients should consider the intent of these e-mails as an attempt to collect personal or confidential information, or to load malicious software onto end users’ computers. Recipients should NOT access the link provided within the body of the e-mails and should NOT, under any circumstances, provide any personal financial information through this media.

Financial institutions and consumers should be aware that other subject lines and modifications to the e-mails may occur over time. The FDIC does not directly contact consumers in this manner nor does the FDIC request personal financial information from consumers.

For your reference, FDIC Special Alerts may be accessed from the FDIC’s Website at Alert/2011/index.htmlwww.fdic.gov/about/subscriptions/index.html.www.fdic.gov/news/news/Special. To learn how to automatically receive FDIC Special Alerts through email, please visit

Questions related to federal deposit insurance or consumer issues should be submitted to the FDIC using an online form that can be accessed at http://www2.fdic.gov/starsmail/index.asp.

Sandra L. Thompson 
Director
Division of Risk Management Supervision

Financial Reform Bill: It’s a Whopper

(Part 1 of 2)

A sweeping financial reform package passed the U.S. Senate last week. With a version already passed in the House, now compromises must be worked out by a conference committee to be led by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) and House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D- Mass.).  The indication is they would like to send a final bill to President Obama by July 4.

However, there remain significant points of contention to be negotiated between the House and Senate; perhaps most notably the Senate provisions forwarded by Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) that require banks to spin off their derivative trading to affiliate entities. Over the next few weeks, advocates will continue to promote their position on the several items at play and the final product is still in question.

Below are descriptions of the major components in the Senate bill (see the 1,300-plus page bill in its entirety):

  • New Regulatory Authority – Gives federal regulators new authority to seize and break up large troubled financial firms without taxpayer bailouts in cases where the firm’s collapse could destabilize the financial system. Sets up a liquidation procedure run by the FDIC. Management could be removed, with shareholders and unsecured creditors bearing losses. Other provisions would make it harder for top executives at the failed firms to claim large compensation packages, and it would give the government power to limit payments for certain creditors of failed firms. The Treasury would supply funds to cover the upfront costs of winding down the failed firm.
  • Consumer Agency – Creates a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau within the Federal Reserve, with rulemaking and some enforcement power over banks and non-banks that offer consumer financial products or services such as credit cards, mortgages and other loans. The new watchdog would have authority to examine and enforce regulations for all mortgage-related businesses, large non-bank financial companies such as big payday lenders and consumer reporting companies, and for banks and credit unions with assets of more than $10 billion.
  • Derivatives – Requires the vast majority of all derivatives trading be executed on a public exchange as opposed to between banks and their customers as many contracts are currently. Most controversially, the bill would adopt language written by Sen. Lincoln that would compel any large commercial banks that have access to the Federal Reserve’s discount window to spin off their derivatives trading business. The Fed, FDIC andTreasury, as well as the banking industry, have argued against this measure.
  • Financial Stability Council – Establishes a new, nine-member Financial Stability Oversight Council, comprised of existing regulators, charged with monitoring and addressing system-wide risks to the nation’s financial stability. Among its duties, the council would recommend to the Fed stricter capital, leverage and other rules for large, complex financial firms that are judged to threaten the financial system. In extreme cases, would have the power to break up financial firms.
  • Oversight Changes – Eliminates the Office of Thrift Supervision, but an attempt to strip the Fed of its oversight of thousands of community banks was reversed with an amendment. Would empower the Fed to supervise the largest, most complex financial companies to ensure that the government understands the risks and complexities of firms that could pose a risk to the broader economy.
  • Federal Reserve Oversight – Calls for a one-time government audit of all of the Fed’s emergency lending programs from December 2007 onward, including facilities used to help deal with the collapse of Bear Stearns & Co. and the program to stabilize asset-backed securities markets. The Government Accountability Office would also review the Fed’s corporate governance, including whether there are conflicts of interest inherent in the current design of the Federal Reserve System.

Summary of remaining key components to be posted later today.

Small Business Owners Deal with Crisis

How are small business owners dealing with the latest financial crisis? How do they know if their bank is failing? What if they have a loan that is taken over by the FDIC or is acquired by a competitor? How could "Alf" speak English so well? You’re telling me the guy is from Melmac, eats cats and has the face of a bull terrier, yet he can pontificate like Oscar Wilde?

BusinessWeek responded to three of these pressing questions in a recent article focused on the impact the recent financial goings on have had on American small businesses. The article touches on the status and trends of banks, credit unions, loans and other information that could be useful to know:

While the financial crisis doesn’t necessarily affect the small business sector directly, economic pessimism and fears about winter fuel costs are likely to sap consumer confidence for some time. "Entrepreneurs should be mentally and financially prepared to hunker down in this economy for a couple of years," Thacker says. "The downturn that started a year ago could last another two Christmas seasons. I’m hoping its going to be less time than that, but people are worried."

Shameless plug: For those truly interested in helping their small business thrive, the Indiana Chamber offers Building a Business in Indiana. This publication, authored by attorneys at Bose McKinney & Evans LLP, walks new business owners through myriad trials and issues regarding a new business — things like protecting your company, taking advantage of the available tax credits and grants, legal obligations to employees, tax status and much more.