Living Paycheck to Paycheck, Are Banks Robbing You, and more bits…

Middle class & living paycheck to paycheck – About one-third of American households live “hand-to-mouth,” meaning that they spend all their paychecks. But what surprised the study authors is that 66% of these families are middle class, with a median income of $41,000. While they don’t have liquid assets, such as savings accounts or mutual fund holdings, they do have homes and retirement accounts, with a median net worth of $41,000.

5 sneaky ways banks may be robbing you – When you cheat on your bank by withdrawing cash from a competitor’s ATM, a warning message on the screen makes it clear customers will likely face various fees. But analysts say banks are still far less forthcoming when it comes to fees tied to checking accounts.

Social Security statements make a comeback – Until a few years ago, Social Security sent annual statements to just about everybody who was still working to let them know what they could expect to receive in retirement, survivor and disability benefits (minus a 25% or so haircut if Congress never gets its act together to fix the system). Those statements got axed by budget cuts, but now Congress wants them resumed.

Where Are All the Homebuyers? – Residential overbuilding during the boom and a lack of new household formation since the bust. You probably recall the massive new home construction during the boom; economist David Rosenberg has pointed out that we are still at levels of new home construction and sales that are associated with the bottoms of prior recessions.

How One Woman Made 3 Cars Last 50 Years – It used to be that when the odometer hit 100,000 miles, people started thinking that maybe it was time to replace the old car with a newer, more reliable model. That’s no longer true, and for Marion Claire, it has never been. Claire, a speaker, coach and author of “Secrets of a Unique & Sexy Speaker,” replaces a car once she decides “it’s costing me too much to keep it running.”

8 retirement questions for 50-something couples – As an economist, MIT prof James Poterba can run a regression analysis and assume a can opener (see footnote 1 below) with the best of them. After all, he is president of the National Bureau of Economic Research, the wonky organization that officially determines when U.S. recessions start and end. But Poterba, who has studied savings behavior and retirement for decades, also has a knack for turning what economists know (and don’t know) into insight for the rest of us.

Should you consolidate your student loan debt? – If you’re making separate student loan payments on each of your five or 10 student loans, you may want to consider consolidating your loans. Student loan consolidation can help get rid of the headache caused by keeping all those payments straight.

Married with kids vs. singles: Who pays higher taxes? -There are many reasons it pays to have a family. Most of them are not financial. Except, that is, when it comes to federal income taxes. The Tax Institute of H&R Block calculated the 2013 federal income tax bill of a dual-earner married couple with two young kids — and compared it to the tax bill of a single person without kids.

Amazon launches grocery service for Prime members – Amazon is taking aim at grocery stores and discounters like Wal-Mart with a grocery service that lets its Prime loyalty club members fill up to a 45-pound box with groceries and get it shipped for a flat rate of $5.99.

A fading middle-class perk: lower mortgage rates – For three decades, the U.S. middle class enjoyed a rare financial advantage over the wealthy: lower mortgage rates. Now, even that perk is fading away. Most ordinary homebuyers are paying the same or higher rates than the fortunate few who can afford much more.

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