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  • Archive for February, 2010

    Legislative Alert: The CARD Act of 2009 is Now in Effect

    Friday, February 26th, 2010


    The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act takes effect starting today. This act will work to increase the amount of information clearly presented to consumers about their bills, interest, and changes to their account. This is good news for consumers, but you still need to understand these changes and pay attention to your credit card agreements and activity! Some of the changes include:

    â–ª Credit card companies must notify you at least 45 days before they can increase your interest rate or change certain fees applicable to your account.
    â–ª Your bill will have a table showing how long it will take you to pay off your balance if you make only the minimum monthly payments. Here is an example of a credit statement provided by the Federal Reserve:

    New Balance $1,784.53
    Minimum Payment Due $53.00
    Payment Due Date 4/20/12

    If you make no additional charges using this card and each month you pay the minimum payment,you will pay off the balance shown on this statement in about 10 years and you will end up paying an estimated total of $3,284.

    If you make no additional charges using this card and each month you pay $62, you will pay off the balance shown on this statement in about 3 years and you will end up paying an estimated total of $2,232 (Savings= $1,052)

    Other consumer protections include:

    â–ª Credit card companies cannot increase your interest rate for one year after you open the account. Be sure to read the fine print, as there are some exceptions to this rule.
    ▪ Credit card companies must mail you your bill at least 21 days before your payment is due. You must have the same due date each month and your payment must be deemed “on-time” if it is received before 5:00pm on that date.
    â–ª When paying your bill, if you make more than the minimum payment, the company must credit the extra amount to the balance with the highest interest rate.
    ▪ Credit card companies are prohibited from imposing “two-cycle billing,” meaning they can only charge interest on balances in the present billing cycle.

    While these changes are encouraging and will help to protect you as a consumer, you should still carefully look at any information your credit card company sends to you and be aware of your plan’s details. For more information on the CARD Act and its provisions, read WISER’s newsletter.

    Social Security Benefits Update!

    Thursday, February 25th, 2010

    A major victory for individuals with disabling diseases and other medical conditions has been won through the addition of new Compassionate Allowances by the Social Security Administration. Compassionate Allowances allow SSA to offer benefits quickly to applicants whose medical conditions are so serious that they obviously meet disability standards. This update marks the first addition to the Compassionate Allowances list since its creation, and includes diseases like Tay Sachs Disease, Mixed Dementia and early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. The list is used to give individuals with those diseases access to benefits within days, as opposed to months or years, which has often been the case for people with more complicated applications.

    Commissioner Michael J. Astrue asserted, “There can be no higher priority than getting disability benefits
    quickly to those Americans with these severe and life-threatening conditions.”

    This victory has been celebrated by Alzheimer’s disease advocates, who have been fighting for streamlined benefits since 2003. Individuals with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease often have difficulties when applying for benefits which can take years to gain through appeal.

    To see the full list of Compassionate Allowance Conditions that have been added, visit Social Security’s Compassionate Allowances webpage. Check out WISER’s website at www.wiserwomen.org for more information on why Social Security is important to women.

    What is the Earned Income Tax Credit and how EITC can benefit you?

    Thursday, February 4th, 2010

    The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a refundable federal income tax credit designed for low to moderate income working individuals and families. It was originally approved by Congress back in 1975 as a means to offset the burden of social security taxes and to provide an incentive to work, however currently this credit has the ability to lift many struggling American families above the poverty line.

    To find out if you qualify for the EITC ask yourself if you meet the following IRS listed requirements:

    ·You must have a valid Social Security Number

    ·You must have earned income from your job, working for yourself or another source.

    ·Your filing status cannot be married, filing separately.

    ·You must be a U.S. citizen or resident alien all year, or a nonresident alien married to a U.S. citizen or resident alien and filing a joint return.

    ·You cannot be a qualifying child of another person.

    ·Cannot file Form 2555 or 2555-EZ (related to foreign income)

    ·You can have only limited amount of investment income

    Preview of 2010 Tax Year – For 2013 please go here.

    Additionally in order to qualify you must be within the following income brackets:

    Earned income and adjusted gross income (AGI) must each be less than:

    • $43,352 ($48,362 married filing jointly) with three or more qualifying children
    • $40,363 ($45,373 married filing jointly) with two qualifying children
    • $35,535 ($40,545 married filing jointly) with one qualifying child
    • $13,460 ($18,470 married filing jointly) with no qualifying children

    Tax Year 2010 maximum credit:

    • $5,666 with three or more qualifying children
    • $5,036 with two qualifying children
    • $3,050 with one qualifying child
    • $457 with no qualifying children

    *The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provides a temporary increase in EITC and expands the credit for workers with three or more qualifying children. These changes are temporary and apply to 2009 and 2010 tax years.

    To learn more about the EITC and how you might qualify for a tax credit please visit the IRS’ EITC home page at http://www.irs.gov/individuals/article/0,,id=96406,00.html

    WISER

    About Us

    WISER is a nonprofit organization that works to help women, educators and policymakers understand the important issues surrounding women's retirement income. WISER creates a variety of consumer publications including fact sheets, booklets and a quarterly newsletter that explain in easy-to-understand language the complex issues surrounding Social Security, divorce, pay equity, pensions, savings and investments, banking, home-ownership, long-term care and disability insurance.

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