Home Loan Modification Run-Around Continues

August 31, 2009

The foreclosure help run-around, as we call it here at the Consumer Warning Network, continues to rear its ugly head. Click here to watch and learn more.

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The Foreclosure Judge Who Gets It

August 31, 2009

foreclosure judgeA State Supreme Court Judge in Brooklyn, New York is on a mission to force mortgage companies to stop foreclosing on homeowners unfairly. Judge Arthur Schack has become a friend to the little guy.  Instead of rubber stamping and waving foreclosure cases through his court, he is standing up to mortgage companies who try to foreclose on homeowners without proper standing or proof.

He’s not a pushover, but is diligent about enforcing the law.  As a result, he’s tossed out 46 of the 102 foreclosure motions that have come before him in the last two years.

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Why Banks Make It So Tough to Get a Loan Modification

August 27, 2009

Homeowners facing foreclosure continue to be frustrated by the difficulty of getting banks to work with them to save their homes.  Consumer Warning Network Managing Editor Terry Smiljanich took up the issue on the Kathy Fountain show “Your Turn,” on Tampa’s FOX affiliate.  Click here to watch Terry tackle the issue of why the government’s Making Home Affordable Program needs a shot in the arm.

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Senator Ted Kennedy and Health Care Reform Bipartisanship

August 26, 2009

With the passing of Senator Ted Kennedy (1932-2009), the consumer has lost a great friend. Especially at this time, when so many partisan voices are raised to a fever pitch over the subject of health care reform, it is helpful to be reminded that “reaching across the aisle” and seeking compromise is always more productive.

A good friend and former aide of Senator Kennedy wrote an essay last year about him, and shared a little-known example of what we are talking about. We at the Consumer Warning Network, with his permission, want to share it with you:

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Back to School Shopping Falls Short

August 25, 2009

back to schoolBy Nicole Andriso:

The beginning of a new school year is just getting underway, and retailers are hoping back-to-school shoppers will overlook the down economy and higher gas prices and still go shopping for new school supplies. But according to a recent Gallup Poll, while consumer confidence is relatively high, consumers aren’t expected to respond favorably to back-to-school shopping.

The National Retail Federation’s (NRF) 2009 Back to School Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey states the average family with students in grades kindergarten through 12 is expected to spend 7.7 % less than they did in 2008. According to the survey, the economy is having a major impact on back-to-school spending, as four out of five Americans (85 percent) have made some changes to their back-to-school plans this year as a result. According to the survey, shoppers are spending less, hunting for sales more often, purchasing generic products and using more coupons.

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Lease or Buy: How Does Rapidly Evolving Car Technology Change the Equation?

August 25, 2009

By Terry Smiljanich:

Anyone who has considered getting a new car has faced the question: is it better to buy the new car or to lease it? With all of the talk lately about hybrid cars and all-electric cars, and with all of the new computerized gadgetry showing up in new cars, the issue of buying versus leasing may have taken on a new wrinkle.

When you buy a car, you are purchasing a depreciating asset. As the years go by, your car has less and less value, but it retains some intrinsic value nonetheless and can serve as a trade-in when you finally give up on it.

When you lease a car, you are in effect “renting” the use of a vehicle that you do not own. When the lease runs out, you own nothing but can usually buy the leased car for a set sum based on its projected value.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Buying

If you choose to buy your new car, the advantages are:

  • pride of ownership – it’s all yours to customize or accessorize as you please;
  • you have no mileage limits – take it on your next vacation if you want; and
  • you own an asset that you can sell or trade in whenever you want.

The disadvantages of buying your car are:

  • When the warranty runs out, you’re faced with ever increasing repair bills;
  • you immediately owe all of the sales tax on the vehicle;
  • you cannot personally deduct the monthly installment cost of purchase off your income taxes;
  • your car loses value and appearance as the years go by;
  • if your car is in a serious accident, you permanently lose some value even after repairs; and
  • monthly payments on a car loan are usually higher than lease payments.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Leasing

If you lease your new car, there are several upsides to your decision:

  • Your monthly payments are usually lower, freeing up your account;
  • you are always driving a newer car with all the latest safety and technological features;
  • if you are in a serious accident, the reduced value of the vehicle does not affect you;
  • you pay the sales tax on the vehicle over time as opposed to right away;
  • if the car is used for business, you can take some tax savings on the lease payments;
  • you can still purchase the vehicle at the end of the lease term (with the typical open-end lease); and
  • it’s easier and more convenient to lease.

The downsides to leasing are:

  • you don’t own the car – you own no asset;
  • you must maintain the car and keep it in normal working order (no problem if it’s under warranty);
  • you face mileage restrictions and cannot customize the car; and
  • the longer you lease cars, the more you lose.

There are websites that will help you calculate whether buying or leasing is a better financial decision for your personal circumstances (Lease Guide, Car Lease Calculator, and Buy or Lease Calculator).

Changing Automotive Technology

As everyone knows, however, car technology seems to be evolving at an ever increasing pace. Practically every manufacturer has, or is coming out with, a hybrid gas/electric car that gets better mileage. Just a few months ago, $4/gallon gasoline convinced some people that oil won’t be around forever and that every time the Middle East hiccups, the West catches a cold. Consumer demand for hybrid cars has not been high, but as the technology gets better demand will certainly go up. Manufacturers seem to be banking on it.

In addition, all-electric cars are getting better. Currently, they are still too expensive and underpowered and not much liked by consumers, but does anyone doubt that the battery technology will vastly improve? When gas is expensive again, and an electric car is getting hundreds of miles on an overnight charge, consumer demand will inevitably go up.

Also, if you’ve looked at new cars recently you’ve no doubt been impressed with the latest automotive technological and safety innovations. Navigation aids, side and backup cameras, increasing audio options, and other bells-and-whistles give new cars the feeling of space capsules, much to the enjoyment of many buyers trading in their old cars.

Which brings us to a new observation. The difference between a 1995 and a 2000 car were not that great. The body styles changed, but the cars were still very similar. Between 2000 and 2005, the pace of change increased, but cars still retained much of their basic mileage characteristics and functions.

Can the same be said about 2010 cars and 2015 cars? If batteries get more efficient and cheap, if computer miniaturization continues apace, and if the price of gasoline continues to creep upward, what looks good for you today may change drastically by then. Today’s gas guzzlers might look and sell like white elephants in the near future.

What to Do

One of the most decisive factors in the decision to buy versus lease is whether you will want a new car in four or five years or will want to keep your current car for several years after that. The rapidly evolving automotive landscape may be something you want to consider in making your decision. Buy and lease options have financial differences and also depend on your attitude toward cars in general, but you may also want to try and look ahead and consider whether 2015 cars might be very, very different than today’s models. Of course, you will need to polish up your crystal ball, but deciding to buy or lease has always required some of that.

Update: Men’s Underwear Disappoint Again

August 25, 2009

Uh-oh! We’re still in trouble. On August 11th Broder Brothers, a distributor of the popular men’s underwear Fruit of the Loom, reported earnings for the second quarter of 2009.  Unfortunately, net sales dropped more than 27% when compared to the same period for 2008.

This is very distressing on two fronts. As pointed out in our previous article “Men’s Underwear Will Lead Us Out of the Recession”, the sale of men’s underwear is a great predictor of the economy.  The economy will pick up when men start replacing their underpants.  So far, however, men are still hanging on to their now torn and tattered Fruit of the Looms. The second distressing point is that men are still wearing their torn and tattered Fruit of the Looms.

Come on men!!  Lead us out of this great abyss. Start buying new underwear.  It has been two years for goodness sake.  Not only is your only remaining piece of underwear full of holes, the elastic is now worn out and your waist size has no doubt increased by at least two inches.  This recession cannot go on forever.  If you would just start replacing your tattered underwear the economy will surely follow.

It is possible that by now you have an emotional attachment to your Fruit of the Loom. For the good of America you must shove that emotional attachment aside.  Turn off your computer, go to your underwear drawer and throw them all away, and then march down to your nearest Walmart and buy all NEW fresh underwear.  Do it for America, do it to save your marriage, do it today!!

Safety of Vaccine for Young Girls Questioned

August 20, 2009

By Angie Moreschi:

What’s a parent to do? All you want is to protect your children. So, you listen to the experts about how this new vaccine, Gardasil, will protect your daughter against cervical cancer. You watch all the glitzy commercials saying it’s the thing to do.  And now this. Click here to watch the video and learn more.

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Do Outbursts Help or Hurt Healthcare Debate?

August 12, 2009

The debate over healthcare is getting nasty.  Veteran U.S. Senators are facing angry citizens ripping into them as they return home to discuss healthcare reform with constituents. Click here to watch the video above by NBC News Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd.  You’ll get a taste of what’s happening at town hall meetings around the country.  What do you think? Is this an important part of Democracy or a  counter-productive distraction? Be sure to vote in our reader’s poll in the upper right hand corner of the CWN home page.

Credit Card Companies Cut Unfair Fee

August 12, 2009

credit cardsBy Angie Moreschi:

One small step for consumers.  Two credit card companies announced they are going to drop penalty fees for charging over your credit limit.  American Express and Discover have decided to be pro-active in throwing this bone to its customers.

A new law set to take effect next year would force them to do this anyway, but you’ve got to give them credit for moving forward early, especially since it was such a money maker. USA Today reports credit card companies are expected to make $3.7 billion from over credit limit fees this year. That’s up 16 percent from last year.

The whole concept of charging customers for going over their credit limit, instead of just denying the charge is pretty unseamly to begin with, but at least we’re now beginning to see a reversal in some of the most unfair consumer practices of recent years. Let’s hope the trend continues.

Both Discover Card and American Express say they plan to stop charging fees when consumers accidently spend go over their credit limit. The new law only allows fees to be imposed if a consumer says they want the ability to charge more than their credit limit – which would happen rarely at best.

If you go over your credit card limit, American Express and Discover say they use computer programs to decide if they will allow you to splurge, or will cut you off immediately.

Of course, don’t celebrate too soon.  Analysts say credit companies may replace the credit limit fees with other charges.

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