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Older Americans owe more than $18.2 billion in student loans, pushing some seniors into poverty.

By MSN Money Partner Mon 3:26 PM

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

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyStudent loan debt may be as big a problem for Grandma as it is for her grandkids.

A new report from the Government Accountability Office (.pdf file) found that more U.S. seniors are swimming in student loan debt, and they're more likely than their younger counterparts to become unable to make their loan payments.

Graduation cap © Stockdisc/SuperStockThe report said:

The percentage of households headed by those aged 65 to 74 having student debt grew from about 1 percent in 2004 to about 4 percent in 2010. While those 65 and older account for a small fraction of the total amount of outstanding federal student debt, the outstanding federal student debt for this age group grew from about $2.8 billion in 2005 to about $18.2 billion in 2013.

Those seniors often struggle to find the money to cover their student loan payments. About 36,000 older Americans saw their Social Security benefits garnished in 2013 because of defaults on their loans, forcing many of them into poverty.

"At least 22,000 Americans aged 65 and older had a part of their Social Security benefits garnished last year to the point that their monthly benefits were below federal poverty thresholds," The Huffington Post said.


A new study indicates that Americans are actually pretty smart when it comes to managing credit cards.

By MSN Money Partner Mon 3:24 PM

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

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyYou've probably seen headlines like this: Americans have an average of $15,000 in credit card debt!

Shopping online © Comstock, SuperStockThat's not the case. And now the Survey of Consumer Finances (.pdf file), a major report issued by the Federal Reserve every three years, gives a new in-depth look at how Americans have been handling their credit cards.

They've gotten much better with debt. In fact, most families don't carry a credit card balance from month to month.

The report says:

Between 2010 and 2013, the fraction of families with credit card debt … decreased. Median and mean balances for families with credit card debt fell 18 percent and 25 percent, respectively, and the fraction of families that pay off credit cards every month increased.

Some of the highlights from the report:


How many "official" notices and sweepstakes entries did you receive in the mail last week? Read this to find out what is allowed and what to do about lawbreakers.

By MSN Money Partner Mon 3:21 PM

This post comes from Maryalene LaPonsie at partner site Money Talks News. 

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyI don't know about you, but I have a 79-year-old mom who seems to be on every political and religious mailing list known to man. Every day, she gets a new batch of letters emblazoned with words like "special notice," "official survey due" and "final attempt: invoice enclosed."

User name field on computer screen © William Andrew, PhotographerOf course, the special notice is simply an appeal for money, the official survey asks a few questions from a partisan group (and by the way, can you send a donation to support the cause?) and the invoice is actually a sales pitch. Other mail may have sticky notes, fonts that look handwritten or return addresses that fail to disclose the business. Check out this inventive junk mail sent to a Maine woman in 2012.

Today's seniors can be vulnerable to all sorts of confusing direct mail. Marketers are counting on them not to realize that the survey didn't come from the Census Bureau and the invoice isn't for something they agreed to purchase.

Even those of us in a younger generation can be a target. Anyone who's purchased a vehicle can attest to the onslaught of official-looking mail that arrives trying to sell extended warranties. It has become so bad that we no longer trust legitimate notices  when they do arrive.


The U.S. Postal Inspection Service will investigate claims of mail fraud, but first you need to know what's allowed. While the information below doesn't cover all of the different types of mail you may receive, here are three of the major categories:


The perks and protections of using plastic come in handy when you're buying tickets to the game.

By Mon 2:21 PM
This post comes from Jason Steele at partner site on MSN MoneyThis is an exciting time of year for sports fans. Football season has just begun, hockey season is around the corner and the baseball playoffs begin next month. At the same time, busy sports fans have scheduling conflicts, and there will always be frugal fans on the sidelines hoping to get a good deal on the tickets on the secondary market, or just find any seat to a sold-out game.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) drops back to pass against the Tennessee Titans, Sep 14, 2014 © Don McPeak/Newscom/Reuters
Yet this secondary market for sports tickets can be a very dangerous place. Last year, the AARP estimated that nearly 5 million people paid for fake tickets to concerts, sporting events and theme parks. It's as if thieves have found a way to print money.

Since it can be nearly impossible to distinguish these fake tickets from the real ones, how can fans protect themselves when buying on the secondary market. The key lies with their credit cards.


A new way of dealing with extension cords won't bring about world peace. But it'll make your life a little easier.

By MSN Money Partner Mon 1:27 PM

This post comes from Donna Freedman at partner site Money Talks News.

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyA video by Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson clued me in to a life hack about aluminum foil. Apparently each end of the Reynolds Wrap box has a tab you can push in. Together the twin tabs keep the roll of foil in place while you pull out the amount you need.

Now they tell me! After decades of dealing with unruly aluminum!


Medical-related debt can submarine your budget.

By Mon 12:41 PM

This post comes from Gerri Detweiler at partner site on MSN MoneyWhen police came to John Albers' door one night in June, he could not have been more surprised.

Insurance Money © Comstock Images/JupiterimagesWhen they told him that they were taking him to a nearby psychiatric facility because they had been told he was in danger of hurting himself, he was irritated and said he was fine, but they insisted he go with them.

When he got there, he explained again that he was not in any sort of danger or crisis, and that he did not need any assistance. He was admitted anyway.

The next morning, he was seen by a staff psychiatrist who approved his discharge.

Albers was at the facility for a total of seven hours, objecting at every turn. And now the facility wants him to pay $2,007.75 for that care. Should he have to?'s annual survey of people's credit-worthiness show that residents of states that were least affected by the recession are faring the best still.

By QuinStreet Fri 2:14 PM

This post comes from Richard Barrington at partner site on MSN MoneyHow is the economy doing? It depends on where you look.

In some states, people are practically choking on credit problems, while in others, serious financial difficulties are relatively rare.

Credit card © Fancy, Veer, Corbis

For example, more than one out of every 500 homes in Florida is in foreclosure, while foreclosures are virtually unheard of in North Dakota. Similar differences exist for credit ratings, bankruptcies, unemployment rates and credit card delinquencies.

To factor all this in and determine the best and worst states for credit conditions, looked at the following:

  • Average credit scores from Equifax
  • Foreclosure rates from RealtyTrac
  • Credit card delinquency rates from TransUnion
  • Unemployment rates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • Bankruptcy rates from the American Bankruptcy Institute

Based on a combination of all these factors, the following are the best and worst states for credit conditions.


Markets are signaling that more relief at the pump may be on the way.

By Money Staff Fri 1:23 PM

This post comes from Nicole Friedman at partner site The Wall Street Journal.

The Wall Street Journal on MSN MoneyGasoline prices have tumbled from highs hit in June. And markets are signaling that consumers will get even more relief at the pump.

Oil drilling platform © Scott Gibson/CorbisA global glut of crude oil is the main driver behind the decline in gasoline. Relatively cheap oil has made it more profitable for refiners to produce gasoline and other fuels, and they have ramped up production to record levels.

This boom in supplies has sent gasoline prices tumbling. Traders and other market observers expect the flow of both crude oil and gasoline to keep rising, likely exerting more downward pressure on prices.

The average retail price for a gallon of regular gasoline was $3.42 on Thursday, down 3.8 percent from the same period in 2013, according to motor club AAA. For this time of year, gasoline prices are at their lowest level in four years.



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