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Social Security has stopped trying to settle debts that are more than 10 years old by seizing tax refunds.

By MSN Money Partner Wed 2:42 PM

This post comes from Krystal Steinmetz at partner site Money Talks News. 

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyThe Social Security Administration is backing off the controversial practice of seizing tax refunds to collect on decades-old debt.

Social Security Card © Tom Grill/Photographers Choice RF/Getty ImagesActing Social Security commissioner Carolyn Colvin issued the following statement  Monday:

I have directed an immediate halt to further referrals under the Treasury Offset Program to recover debts owed to the agency that are 10 years old and older pending a thorough review of our responsibility and discretion under the current law.

Colvin added, "If any Social Security or Supplemental Security Income beneficiary believes they have been incorrectly assessed with an overpayment under this program, I encourage them to request an explanation or seek options to resolve the overpayment."

It's a big deal, reports The Washington Post, which broke the story about the program's irregularities.


Eating healthy usually costs more, so some insurers are mailing out coupons to help out.

By Money Staff Wed 12:13 PM

This post comes from Kelli B. Grant at partner site CNBC.

CNBC on MSN MoneyThe Sunday paper isn't the only game in town when it comes to printed grocery coupons: Some health insurers are sending discount mailers to consumers as an incentive to eat healthier.

By their measures, at least, there's some evidence that it's working. Among recipients of such mailings, purchases of healthy items (per USDA guidelines) grew 4.5 percent in 2012 to 43 percent of grocery spending, according to a white paper from Linkwell Health.


New York java junkies can use an app's prepaid plan to quaff as much coffee as they want, for a monthly rate.

By Money Staff Wed 11:47 AM

This post comes from Caroline Winter at partner site Bloomberg BusinessWeek.

Bloomberg BusinessWeek on MSN MoneyNew York caffeine junkies, look alive: A new app called CUPS allows subscribers to pay $45 per month for unlimited coffee from almost 40 independent coffee shops around the city.

Designed by a small team from Israel, the app is intended as an alternative to the smartphone loyalty cards offered by the likes of Starbucks. "It’s a similar service," says Gilad Rotem, a co-founder of the startup, which is also called CUPS. "We’re offering a mobile app, prepaid plan, but it's for independent, higher-quality coffee."

 Coffee © HD Connelly, Getty ImagesNew Yorkers will pay $45 a month for brewed, drip, pour-over, or filtered coffee (or tea).

Latte drinkers will pay more: The unlimited espresso subscription costs $85 a month. Rotem says the prices are equivalent to about 22 cups, or roughly one java beverage per workday per month. On average, Americans consume 1.7 cups of coffee a day, according to Studylogic, which means a CUPS subscription may not be a bad deal. For coffee drinkers with a lower caffeine tolerance, CUPS also offers prepaid package deals for 5, 10, or 20 drinks per month.


Bad news: Your teen got into a jam with the law. Will bailing him out of jail mean bad news for your finances, too?

By Wed 10:50 AM
This post comes from Gerri Detweiler at partner site on MSN MoneyIt's spring, and that means spring break, graduation season and perhaps a bit of reckless behavior parents hadn't expected. If you get a 2 a.m. phone call -- the good news that your kid is not in the hospital, the bad news that he needs bail money -- what's a sleepy, startled parent to do?

If the crime is serious, you may have to wait for a judge to set bail at a hearing. For less serious infractions, there are standard amounts of bail, depending on the charge. Sometimes, a suspect will be released on his or her own recognizance. That will cost you nothing other than the rest of the night lost to picking up your child and worrying about what's next.

Jail © CorbisOther times, the bail could be relatively low, say, $10,000 or $25,000. That's still a lot of money. But if you want to and you are able, you can pay the full amount and it will be refunded when your child appears in court as scheduled.


If you trust the website, can you trust the ads you see on it?

By MSN Money Partner Tue 3:22 PM

This post comes from Stacy Johnson at partner site Money Talks News.

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyToday I'm going to once again address a concern I've talked about before — namely, the advertising you see on websites, television, newspapers and every form of mass communication that accepts it.

Annoyed woman looking at computer © Sheer Photo, Inc/Getty Images
To get started, here are two recent reader comments. I've gotten many similar ones over the years.

You run articles warning us about rip-offs and then you post one on your website. … Explain why you allow this scam on your website. Thank you. -- David

This one is about a different company, but the theme is the same.

I just want you to know that a company you sponsor on your website for cost-saving purposes is not reputable. I have reported (them) to Discover Card fraud services, the New York State BBB and Utah BBB. I am also unsubscribing from your newsletter.
I thought you vetted your affiliations better than that. It's a shame since people rely on you to save money and not get scammed. I hope you do a better job vetting in the future. -- Joe

These emails are painful. I've spent decades building credibility as a journalist. Without it, I'm out of business. So when I read things like "Explain why you allow this scam on your website" and "I thought you vetted your affiliations better than that," it really makes me cringe.

Here’s the deal, guys: We can't vet the advertisers on our website because we rarely know who they are. To understand why, here's a quick lesson in how online advertising works.


If you sue your bank, you may be required to pay the bank's legal fees -- even if you win.

By MSN Money Partner Tue 1:36 PM

This post comes from Krystal Steinmetz at partner site Money Talks News.

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyLooking to settle a dispute with your bank? Your options are likely limited.

Chances are your bank has a so-called mandatory binding arbitration agreement in its checking contract -- the voluminous, 40-plus-page document that you signed and probably didn't read. (You're not alone. Ninety percent of consumers don't read all of it, according to MarketWatch.)

Bank sign © John Foxx, Stockbyte, Getty ImagesA recent study by the Pew Charitable Trusts found that 70 percent of banks, up from 58 percent in 2013, have verbiage in their contracts that prevents customers from suing the bank on their own or as part of a class-action lawsuit.

As if that's not bad enough, some banks require that consumers who bring suit against the bank will have to pay the bank’s expenses, no matter who wins the case, MarketWatch said.

You read that correctly: If you take your bank to court to settle a claim and you win, you may have to pay your bank's legal expenses. The "loss, costs and expenses" clause is included in the fine print of about 1 in 4 banks' checking account contracts.


When it comes to planning your golden years, it's important that you and your partner are on the same page.

By Tue 10:48 AM
This post comes from AJ Smith at partner site on MSN MoneyImagining retirement, like dreaming of vacation or if you win the lottery, can be fun. But what if you and your spouse are picturing very different things? Getting on the same page with your significant other early on can help you to plan a successful retirement.

TFinancial planning © Yellow Dog Productions, Lifesize, Getty Imagesalk about goals

You and your husband/wife/partner don’t have to agree on everything about what you expect in retirement but you do need to figure out how to weave the two dreams together. Whether you want to downsize, travel more, indulge in expensive hobbies or something else, write down your retirement vision. Then compare it with your spouse’s vision. Now think about what you would need to make those dreams a reality.

Questions you want to try to answer include when you want to retire, what you see yourself doing in retirement and how much money you will need for a comfortable retirement. how much money you will need for a comfortable retirement.  It may require some compromise to create a shared retirement dream.


Redrawn lines between full- and part-timers at Sodexo decide who is eligible for coverage.

By Money Staff Mon 5:42 PM

This post comes from Lauren Weber at partner site The Wall Street Journal.

The Wall Street Journal on MSN MoneySusan Caspersen was in a hospital in Akron, Ohio, last November recovering from an emergency appendectomy when she got some unwelcome news: as of Jan. 1, 2014, she would no longer be eligible for the health-insurance plan offered by her employer, food-service giant Sodexo USA.

Insurance Money © Comstock Images, JupiterimagesMs. Caspersen, a waitress at Virtues Restaurant in the Summa Akron City Hospital, falls into part of the workforce that may feel the strongest effects of the Affordable Care Act: workers whose hours change on a weekly or seasonal basis.

Thousands of these so-called variable-hour employees—many of whom work on college campuses that don't operate during summer months—could lose their benefits as employers use new formulas to classify workers as full time or part time. The distinction determines which employees are entitled to company-sponsored health coverage.



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