Archive for August, 2013

Financial Struggles? Options to Get Your Finances Under Control

According to a recent report published by the Associated Press, as many as four out of five adults in the United States struggle with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on government benefits for at least a portion of their lives. The AP reports that economic hardship plagues people across all races, but that hardship is on the rise among whites.

Our Columbia, SC bankruptcy lawyers know that many people are struggling, especially as there has been a decline in good-paying manufacturing jobs and as economic security in the United States has deteriorated.  While some of these struggles may come from a lack of financial education – or the wrong types of financial education – in other cases, unemployment and outside economic factors may create problems for individuals and families.

Is Budgeting the Answer?

For some people who struggle financially, the problem may be a lack of financial education that would make it possible to make the right financial decisions.

According to the Wall Street Cheat Sheet, for example, as many as 57 percent of Americans responding to a survey conducted by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling  misunderstood the purpose of a budget. Most respondents described budgeting as a restriction on the money they could spend, rather than on a way to identify and avoid financial waste.

Unfortunately, a part of the reason why people may have budgeting problems or issues managing money is that they are learning the wrong lessons from their parents.

As The Street pointed out, parents are talking to their kids about money more than ever before, with 73 percent of parents saying they discuss the subject of money often. Unfortunately, however, many of these conversations center around short-term money topics such as going back to school shopping. This can help to turn kids into spenders, encouraging children either to save only for short-term goals or to spend cash immediately. A T-Rowe Price survey in which as 24 percent of kids said they believe the best way to save $1 million is to become famous, also shows that kids are lacking in some basic fundamental facts about how to save and invest.

The absence of good financial education and financial knowledge, therefore, may play a roll in explaining why some are living paycheck to paycheck and struggling with money.

At the same time, however, a budget can only go so far to solve your financial problems when low-wages jobs are all that are available. In fact, reported on a recent McDonald’s minimum wage budget that the company created to try to teach fast food employee’s how to manage money. The only problem with the budget was that it required the employee to have a second job and to pay nothing for food, child care or heat.

The McDonald’s budget shows just how hard it can be for families to survive even when they are working. A budget and financial education are not going to resolve struggles for families who simply don’t have good middle class jobs available to them. When these families are in debt – as so many are because of medical expenses or emergencies like car breakdowns- things become even worse. Bankruptcy may become the best and only solution for a family to get out of debt when their finances have reached a point where no amount of careful budgeting can provide a solution.

If you are considering bankruptcy, contact the Columbia, South Carolina attorneys at Matthews & Megna today at 877-253-7705.

New Consumer Study Sheds Light on Car Insurance Premium Practices

Car insurance companies are supposed to provide protection to drivers by ensuring that accident damages are covered. Our South Carolina accident lawyers know that car insurers will evaluate how much of an accident risk a given driver presents before quoting an insurance policy and determining how much someone will pay in premiums. 

Although it has long been known that certain factors – such as a history of accidents – can result in higher premiums, a new study from the Consumer Federation of America sheds light on some of the practices of car insurers. Unfortunately, this new consumer report doesn’t make car insurance companies look very good (or very trustworthy) as it appears the insurers are taking into account education and employment in setting car insurance rates.

Car Insurance Companies Charge Blue Collar Workers More

According to a report released by the Consumer Federation of America:

  • Geico charges a factory worker with a high school degree as much as 45 percent more in certain markets as compared with a plant supervisor that has a college degree.
  • In some markets, Progressive charges a factory worker with a high school degree as much as 33 percent more than the college-educated factory supervisor.
  • Farmers charged non-professionals and non-government workers as much as five percent higher premiums than those who worked for the government or who worked in jobs traditionally considered professional.

The Consumer Federation of America obtained quotes from major insurance companies by providing information that was consistent in all respects except for education and income.

Based on the data collected in the survey, the Executive Director of the CFA, Stephen Broderick, was quoted as saying “Auto insurers charge high premiums for minimal coverage to most working people, even those with perfect driving records, who live in urban areas.” The use of education and income data to set insurance rates is something that the majority of people disagree with; a June 2012 study revealed that 68 percent of more than 1,010 responding adults said it was unfair to use education in setting insurance premiums and 65 percent said it was unfair to use occupation in setting rates.

Unfortunately, as the study points out, the outcome of this is that many lower income workers end up facing a choice of paying either unaffordable prices or taking the chance of breaking the law and driving with no insurance. If this is the choice that is made, it is dangerous for everyone involved because a lower income person who causes a crash would have no insurance and limited assets to pay for damages.

The findings are disturbing as they show that insurance companies may actually be creating a high-risk situation where some drivers are more likely to go without insurance. The findings also highlight a fact that has become abundantly clear: insurance companies care about profit and not customers. This is why it is so important to ensure you have a legal professional dealing with the insurance company on your behalf if you are involved in an accident and need to make a claim.

If you have been injured in a car accident, contact the Columbia, South Carolina attorneys at Matthews & Megna today at 877-253-7705.