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New California Financial Watchdog Would Take Aim At Predatory Lenders Amid Pandemic

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Lawmakers in California are rushing to create a new financial protection watchdog agency by the end of the month. They say it’s needed because, under the Trump administration, the main federal regulator has been paralyzed.

And they say that during the pandemic that is leaving millions of Americans who are in dire financial straits more vulnerable to predatory lenders, get-out-of-debt-scams and other wrongdoing.

One study last year found that the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s enforcement activity plunged by 80% from 2015. And money returned to consumers dropped by 96%.

“We are now as states left to do the work ourselves,” says California Assembly member Monique Limón.

Along with Gov. Gavin Newsom, she is proposing to create the new state watchdog agency, which would be called the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation. But a legislative deadline means they need to do it by Aug. 31.

“Consumer protections are an area where California wants to show that we care,” Limón says. “As the fifth-largest economy in the world we think that it is very important and it’s the right thing to do.”

The new agency would give the state broader power and ability to police aggressive debt collectors, credit repair schemes, predatory lenders and other shady financial practices.

Limón proposed the agency before the pandemic. But she says given the economic fallout, the need for more oversight is greater now.

“The timing of it is even more important,” she says, noting that since the Covid outbreak, consumer complaints about financial wrongdoing in the state are up 40 percent. State officials say some of those complaints are about mortgage companies, personal loans, and companies that promise to help people get out of debt.

A long list of fair lending and consumer protection groups are backing the proposal. With upwards of 8 million people applying for unemployment in California alone, “many people are teetering on the brink of insolvency here,” says Suzanne Martindale , who works on policy issues for Consumer Reports.

“A bad loan, a risky payday product, an aggressive debt collector, that can push someone over the edge into poverty, into bankruptcy and homelessness at the worst possible time in the middle of a public health crisis,” she says. “So, the case is even stronger now.”

Financial firms of course are not usually big fans of additional regulation. But Beth Mills with the California Bankers Association says she supports the new agency better policing some of the banks’ competitors.

She says many online lenders for example face much looser regulations than the banks do.

“We would welcome greater regulation on them to make sure that we’re operating under the same rules,” Mills says.

But when it comes to the companies that her group represents — which she says are most of the large and small banks and lenders in the state, she says, “we would like to be exempt from the bill because the banks and financial institutions that we represent are already very heavily regulated at both the state and federal level.”

And it appears the financial firms have the ear of some lawmakers. A group of moderate Democrats is pressuring Newsom to allow for large carve-outs for many financial firms, a source close to the negotiations over the proposal tells NPR. And that could weaken the new agency’s ability to go after companies who take advantage of people.

Richard Cordray, a former director of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, says that would be a big mistake.

“I don’t think that the legislature should make it hard for consumers to get their money back when they’ve been victimized by unfair, deceptive and abusive practices,” says Cordray, who has been consulting on the bill.

Cordray says, if it’s done right, the new agency could be a model for other states for how to have a tough financial watchdog agency of their own. And he says Congress envisioned that when it created the federal CFPB under the Dodd-Frank financial reform act.

“The financial reform law,” he says, “had an implicit promise in it that there would be consumer financial protection at the federal level, but there would also be room for significant consumer financial protection at the state level and that the two could work in partnership.”

He says it also envisioned that, “if one was doing its job and the other was pulling back, there still would be protection for consumers.” Cordray says this new agency could live out that promise.

But, a legislative deadline means the bill has to get passed by the end of the month if the agency is to be created this year. There’s a key hearing with lawmakers over the weekend.

Technically, the new agency would be created by restructuring and expanding the size and authority of an existing agency called the Department of Business Oversight.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Are Sallie Mae Student Loans Federal or Private?

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When you hear the name Sallie Mae, you probably think of student loans. There’s a good reason for that; Sallie Mae has a long history, during which time it has provided both federal and private student loans.

However, as of 2014, all of Sallie Mae’s student loans are private, and its federal loans have been sold to another servicer. Here’s what to know if you have a Sallie Mae loan or are considering taking one out.

What is Sallie Mae?

Sallie Mae is a company that currently offers private student loans. But it has taken a few forms over the years.

In 1972, Congress first created the Student Loan Marketing Association (SLMA) as a private, for-profit corporation. Congress gave SLMA, commonly called “Sallie Mae,” the status of a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) to support the company in its mission to provide stability and liquidity to the student loan market as a warehouse for student loans.

However, in 2004, the structure and purpose of the company began to change. SLMA dissolved in late December of that year, and the SLM Corporation, or “Sallie Mae,” was formed in its place as a fully private-sector company without GSE status.

In 2014, the company underwent another big adjustment when Sallie Mae split to form Navient and Sallie Mae. Navient is a federal student loan servicer that manages existing student loan accounts. Meanwhile, Sallie Mae continues to offer private student loans and other financial products to consumers. If you took out a student loan with Sallie Mae prior to 2014, there’s a chance that it was a federal student loan under the now-defunct Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP).

At present, Sallie Mae owns 1.4 percent of student loans in the United States. In addition to private student loans, the bank also offers credit cards, personal loans and savings accounts to its customers, many of whom are college students.

What is the difference between private and federal student loans?

When you’re seeking financing to pay for college, you’ll have a big choice to make: federal versus private student loans. Both types of loans offer some benefits and drawbacks.

Federal student loans are educational loans that come from the U.S. government. Under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, there are four types of federal student loans available to qualified borrowers.

With federal student loans, you typically do not need a co-signer or even a credit check. The loans also come with numerous benefits, such as the ability to adjust your repayment plan based on your income. You may also be able to pause payments with a forbearance or deferment and perhaps even qualify for some level of student loan forgiveness.

On the negative side, most federal student loans feature borrowing limits, so you might need to find supplemental funding or scholarships if your educational costs exceed federal loan maximums.

Private student loans are educational loans you can access from private lenders, such as banks, credit unions and online lenders. On the plus side, private student loans often feature higher loan amounts than you can access through federal funding. And if you or your co-signer has excellent credit, you may be able to secure a competitive interest rate as well.

As for drawbacks, private student loans don’t offer the valuable benefits that federal student borrowers can enjoy. You may also face higher interest rates or have a harder time qualifying for financing if you have bad credit.

Are Sallie Mae loans better than federal student loans?

In general, federal loans are the best first choice for student borrowers. Federal student loans offer numerous benefits that private loans do not. You’ll generally want to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and review federal funding options before applying for any type of private student loan — Sallie Mae loans included.

However, private student loans, like those offered by Sallie Mae, do have their place. In some cases, federal student aid, grants, scholarships, work-study programs and savings might not be enough to cover educational expenses. In these situations, private student loans may provide you with another way to pay for college.

If you do need to take out private student loans, Sallie Mae is a lender worth considering. It offers loans for a variety of needs, including undergrad, MBA school, medical school, dental school and law school. Its loans also feature 100 percent coverage, so you can find funding for all of your certified school expenses.

With that said, it’s always best to compare a few lenders before committing. All lenders evaluate income and credit score differently, so it’s possible that another lender could give you lower interest rates or more favorable terms.

The bottom line

Sallie Mae may be a good choice if you’re in the market for private student loans and other financial products. Just be sure to do your research upfront, as you should before you take out any form of financing. Comparing multiple offers always gives you the best chance of saving money.

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Tips to do some fall cleaning on your finances

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Wealth manager, Harry Abrahamsen, has five simple ways to stay on top of the big financial picture.

PORTLAND, Maine — Keeping track of our financial stability is something we can all do, whether we have IRAs or 401ks or just a checking account. Harry J. Abrahamsen is the Founder of Abrahamsen Financial Group. He works with clients to create and grow their own wealth. Abrahamsen shares five financial tips, starting with knowing what you have. 

1. Analyze Your Finances Quarterly or Biannually

You want to make sure that your long-term strategy is congruent with your short-term strategy. If the short-term is not working out, you may need to adjust what you are doing to make sure your outcome produces the desired results you are looking to accomplish. It is just like setting sail on a voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. You know where you want to go and plot your course, but there are many factors that need to be considered to actually get you across and across safely. Your finances behave the exact same way. Check your current situation and make sure you are taking into consideration all of the various wealth-eroding factors that can take you completely off course.

With interest rates very low, now might be a good time to consider refinancing student loans or mortgages, or consolidating credit card debt. However, do so only if you need to or if you can create a positive cash flow. To ensure that you are saving the most by doing so, you must look at current payments, excluding taxes and insurance costs. This way you can do an apples-to-apples comparison.

The most important things to look for when reviewing your credit report is accuracy. Make sure the reporting agencies are reporting things actuary. If it doesn’t appear to be reporting correct and accurate information, you should consult with a reputable credit repair company to help you fix the incorrect information.

4. Savings and Retirement Accounts

The most important thing to consider when reviewing your savings and retirement accounts is to make sure the strategies match your short-term and long-term investment objectives. All too often people end up making decisions one at a time, at different times in their lives, with different people, under different circumstances. Having a sound strategy in place will allow you to view your finances with a macro-economic lens vs a micro-economic view. Stay the course and adjust accordingly from a risk and tax standpoint.

RELATED: Financial lessons learned through the pandemic

A great tip for lowering utility bills or car insurance premiums: Simply ask! There may be things you are not aware of that could save you hundreds of dollars every month. You just need to call all of the companies that you do business with to find out about cost-cutting strategies. 

RELATED: Overcome your fear of finances

To learn more about Abrahamsen Financial, click here

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How to Get a Loan Even with Bad Credit

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Sana pwedeng mabura ang bad credit history as quickly and easily as paying off your utility bills, ‘no? Unfortunately, it takes time. And bago mo pa maayos ang bad credit mo, more often than not, kailangan mo na namang mag-avail ng panibagong loan. 

Good thing you can still get a loan even with bad credit, kahit na medyo limited ang options. How do you get a loan if you have bad credit? Alamin sa short guide na ito. 

For more finance tips, visit Moneymax.

 

 

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