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Michelle Singletary


Con artists and business owners utilizing shady practices know that desperate people will use up all their resources and even go into debt if they think it will help them out of a financial jam.So the scammers devise plans that promise jobs, access to government grants, debt relief, medical discounts or work-at-home opportunities. The worst of the schemes involve f…

I don't blame investors for thinking there must be a way to get in on something big.People are trying to make money any way they can in a stock market where constant turbulence is the new norm. But because investors can be so gullible, it's still necessary to issue warnings to protect their irrational exuberance.Following the high-profile Chapter 11 bankruptcies of…

For most people, spending an extra $60 a year wouldn't bankrupt them. Heck, a family of five can drop that much money to see a bad 3-D movie and not really complain.So why all the fuss about Bank of America's announcement that it would start charging some customers $5 a month -- $60 a year -- for debit-card purchases?Yes, it's true that when debit cards were introd…

My oldest child, Olivia, will be heading to college in two years. So it's already become college-saving crunch time in our household. As we've been putting money away, I've become even more passionate about helping other people find ways to cut college expenses. So I'm now intrigued by Texas Gov. Rick Perry's proposal to come up with an affordable college degree …

People keep asking me if our financial times are getting any better.They are for some.But for many, things are still bad.The Census Bureau just released household income data noting that in 2010, median household income was at $49,445, a 2.3 percent decline from 2009.And the poverty rate increased. There were 46.2 million people living in poverty in 2010, up from 4…

The National Labor Relations Board says it has been getting an increased number of social media cases as that means of communication continues to grow in popularity.The resulting actions against employers and employees should be a warning both to companies trying to restrict social media postings by employees and to workers who use the medium to air their grievan…

Just recently someone asked me whether parents should require their children to contribute to their college education.Some parents feel that their children will not appreciate their college education if they don't contribute or pay everything themselves. Others feel, as I do, that it's part of the cost of raising a child to pay as much as you can, if not all, of co…

Hear that pop?It's the price of gold bursting.Oh, gold prices may go up again, but investment advisers and regulators are warning investors to be careful about putting too much of their money in gold.As the stock market has vaulted up and down day after day, investors have fled to gold. But have all these investors chasing what they think is a secure investment cre…

At the beginning of the summer, at 65, a friend was laid off from her job at a major corporation. She wisely sought the advice of a financial planner, but she's still worried about making the wrong choices.She wanted help in reviewing her options. If she makes the wrong decision -- or panics, as many investors have done since the debt-ceiling deal was announced -…

America is facing a crisis that will make the federal budget deficit look like a simple bank overdraft fee.If we don't figure out how to provide financial support to the millions of family members taking care of seniors with chronic conditions or disabilities, we will have caregivers so overwhelmed that they will be forced to stop helping their elderly relatives.Th…

I won't tell you not to be frightened about the recent plunges in the stock market.The U.S. economy has a lot of problems. Unemployment, while showing some decline, is way too high with millions still out of work -- and that's just the folks the Labor Department is counting officially.You may not understand the economic crisis in Europe, but you know it's not goo…

The Internal Revenue Service made a policy change recently that shows an agency many people fear and loathe can also make common-sense decisions.The IRS last month eliminated a ridiculous two-year limit that applied to a certain type of "innocent spouse" relief request. An innocent spouse is a taxpayer who did not know and did not have reason to know that his or …

Millions of consumers purchase their credit scores so they can know where they stand credit-wise.But the scores that are sold to consumers may vary, in some cases wildly, from those sold to and used by lenders. That difference could give consumers a false sense of credit bravado, or it could make them think that they are a worse credit risk than they really are. …

People are scared.As President Obama and congressional leaders continue to fight over how to reduce the federal deficit, people are concerned about what they can expect to get from Social Security.Right now, you can take an early payout at 62, but you get a reduced monthly amount. If you wait until your full retirement age, you get more in your monthly benefit. Wai…

After a disaster, people often want to figure out how to avoid the debacle again. As we continue to deal with fallout from the housing crisis, regulators working under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act are proposing rules to prevent folks from getting into homes they can't afford.One would require borrowers to come up with a 20 percent down payment. If they d…