Study: Hattiesburg residents best at managing debt

A recent financial study shows Hattiesburg residents are the best in Mississippi at keeping their debt in check.

The study, conducted by SmartAsset — a New York financial tech company — shows Hattiesburg has the highest debt-savvy index in the state at 37.64. The Hub City is followed in the study by Columbus (37.61), Biloxi (33.99), Meridian (24.78), Jackson (10.59) and Greenwood (9.27).

SmartAsset is a financial tech company, offering automated advice on a range of big personal finance decisions from home buying to retirement, said Steve Sabato, senior public relations associate at SmartAsset. We aim to provide the best financial advice on the web through data and technology.

Albany Realtors to collect Toys for Tots

Miliner graduated magna cum laude from VSU in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education. Representing Valdosta, she was crowned Miss Georgia in 2006 and went on to place as second runner-up in the 2007 Miss America pageant. She was named Miss Georgia USA later that year, making her the first Georgian to hold both the Miss America and Miss USA state titles.

Miliner currently works as an instructional coach at Miller Elementary School in Warner Robins.

“Amanda is an exemplary teacher and role model for thousands of students,” said Dr. Brian L. Gerber, VSU’s interim provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. “We are proud to welcome her back to her alma mater. We know that she will be an inspiration to our graduates. Clearly, she is an example of why VSU is the right choice for those seeking to make a positive and lasting impact on the lives of others.”

Approximately 1,400 undergraduate and graduate students will be recognized during Valdosta State’s 222nd commencement ceremonies on Dec. 9 and 10.

Attorney General offers app to help avoid scams

ATLANTA – Attorney General Chris Carr has announced the release of Basic Training, a free mobile app designed to help Georgia-based military service members, veterans and their families be more informed consumers and avoid scams and predatory business techniques.

“Unscrupulous businesses consistently use deceptive practices to take advantage of military service members, veterans and their families,” said Attorney General Chris Carr. “That is something the Georgia Attorney General’s Office will not tolerate. As a proactive measure through our Consumer Protection Unit, we are very pleased to offer the Basic Training app, which aims to support Georgia’s military community and equip them with the educational tools they need to be safe and smart with their personal information.”

The Basic Training app guides users through key consumer and financial issues, including buying a car; creating a budget and saving for a goal; recognizing and avoiding scams, fraud and deceptive practices; lowering the risk of identity theft and knowing what to do if your identity is stolen; understanding credit reports, credit scores and how to use credit cards wisely; understanding your protections under the Military Lending Act; understanding the true cost of payday loans and title pawns; improving credit and managing debt, and knowing what debt collectors can and cannot do under the law.

Basic Training was created through the efforts of the Georgia Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit and Georgia Watch. It is available in the app stores now and can also be downloaded directly by visiting

Driver Services gets grant funding for upgrades

ATLANTA — Georgia Department of Driver Services was recently awarded grant funding totalling $376,961 from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety for ongoing support of the State of Georgia Electronic Conviction Processing System. GECPS provides a secure, electronic transmission of conviction data from Georgia courts to meet a federally mandated timeframe for posting convictions to individual driving records within 10 days of adjudication.

“This continued funding from GOHS allows us to maintain DDS’ Court Outreach efforts,” said Commissioner Bert Brantley. “The training and support DDS provides to nearly 900 courts statewide is crucial to ensuing the timeliness and accuracy of conviction data being posted to a driver’s driving record,” said Commissioner Brantley.

GECPS requires each court to submit convictions in a standard format, and then correct and resubmit any convictions containing errors. To date 887 courts (up from 869 when the project began earlier this year) have adopted the GECPS process, which is a cost-saving application for the State and DDS customers.

This grant will allow DDS to ensure that these courts have an understanding of the functionality of GECPS and help the remaining courts who file paper citations convert over to the electronic system.

For complete driver services information, including the option to view personal driving history and check for points, visit the DDS website at

Should I go for a home loan or wait for rates to come down?

The best time for taking a home loan is when you have already shortlisted a house you want to buy. Waiting for interest rates to come down is an exercise in futility because your home loan is for a long period and rates are bound to fluctuate. A smart borrower will troll the market for the best deal.

There are many home loan plans available in the market. Different banks offervariouskinds of home loan options. Currently, all the banks across India are offering home loans at the rate of 10.15% to 10.5%per annumin all range of loan amounts.

People equipped with relevant information about home loans, banks, interest options and EMIs are the ones to make best choices while selecting a loan. Let’s look at a broad guideline for a buyer going for home loan:

What is the best time to take a home loan?

Predicting the rise or fall of interest rate is difficult, therefore, the time to take home loan should instead depend on nature of the loan. As a customer, one needs to understand that there are two types of loans- fixed and floating. However, majority of the people opt for floating rates in case of home loans. The reason being, a home loan is generally taken for a period of 15-20 years. Since, timing the market for 20 years to get the best rate is impossible, it is advisable to go for floating rates as they ensure that a borrower gets the advantage of interest rates coming down in near future. Also, rates in next 20 years will change and thus boarding rate at floating rates doesn’t matter.

So what does matter?

Taking loans at the lowest interest rate is what matters at the end. A buyer needs to be extra cautious while selecting the type of loan and the bank. He has to be updated with the rise and fall of the interest rates, so that he is not charged at higher rates even when there is a cut in the interest rates. Primarily, you should have clarity on two basic things: a) Is your Bank or Housing Finance Company giving you best deal in terms of rates currently? b) Do you have the options to move to another lender if your existing Bank is charging higher?

In case both the terms are satisfactory, one should go for lowest rate bank and whenever another bank is giving 0.5% lesser rate, should shift to that bank. However, do not forget to check the processing charges while shifting banks. Likewise, you should try to fetch loans from the lowest rate bank and should be ready to shift your Home loan, as there are no prepayment charges.

What is fixed rate schemes?

The interest rates have sharply moved from 7.75% to 14% in last 15-20 years. As the name suggests, fixed interest rate home loans allow the repayment in fixed equal monthly installments over the entire period of the loan. The interest rate in such a case is fixed and doesnt change with market fluctuations. As they offer a fixed interest rate, they prove to be beneficial in cases where market pressures push the interest rates to high levels. In such a scenario, the borrower pays a fixed Equated Monthly Installment (EMI). Therefore, giving a sense of certainty and security.

However, the major drawback in fixed loan is that it is usually 1%-2.5% more than the floating rate home loan. Also, fixed loans becomes costly in times when there is a cut in the interest rates in the market. Therefore, fixed rates are advisable only in situation where the economic future hints at rise in interest rates.

How to manage your home loan amount?

Taking a home loan not only saves tax but also creates asset. While applying for this loan you should ensure that, the EMI is less than 30% of your total income. This will help you in long run of managing debt life. Buying an expensive house/property that takes away 50-60% of the income in EMI is not desirable and should be avoided. Always go for a property within your budget. Home loan rates can’t be timed but least rate from all options is doable. Get the loan that fits your budget and whenever fixed rates loans are available for more than 10 years for 9%, opt them.

Home loan is a long-term commitment and options should ideally be vetted, explored and then zeroed down on. If you follow these advice then are sure to get the best deal in home buying.

The author Rishi Mehra is Founder

Fedeli bill introduces mandatory financial…

NIPISSING Vic Fedeli believes the province needs to do a better job teaching its students how to manage finances.

The Nipissing MPP introduced the Financial Literacy Act, a private members bill that would make a Grade 10 financial literacy course mandatory in all high schools throughout the province.

Financial literacy is an important life skill. As students start their first jobs, use their first credit cards and begin planning for their future, it is important they learn how to save and spend responsibly, said Fedeli.

The bill would amend the Education Act to require school boards to ensure a comprehensive course on financial literacy is taught to Grade 10 students across the province. The amendment would also make the new course a prerequisite to graduation.

The province currently includes aspects of financial literacy in subjects across the curriculum from Grade 4 to 12. Students are given opportunities to learn about saving, spending and investing money, as well as how to be responsible consumers.

The government is also supporting additional learning in regards to post-secondary education and career planning as part of the mandatory Grade 10 career studies course.

Preparing students to be financially literate is essential to students success and a strong economy. By learning about financial literacy, students will have the skills they need to thrive now and throughout the rest of their lives, said Education Minister Mitzie Hunter when discussing the topic at the beginning of November, which the province recognized as Financial Literacy Month.

While the province has invested more than $3 million into financial literacy resources and learning opportunities since 2011, Fedeli believes it needs to do more.

The Wynne governments plan on financial literacy is insufficient. Under their plan, financial literacy is not a mandated course, it is not permanent under the Education Act, and is not a prerequisite for completing high school, said Fedeli.

David Thompson, chair of the Near North District School Board, likes the idea of bringing structured financial courses to Grade 10 students in the province. While schools in the Near North District currently teach some aspects of financial management across different courses, their currently isnt one course devoted to the subject.

Financial literacy is very important for our students. In hearing from alumni and graduates some wish they had more of a financial background before they moved on from high school, said Thompson. Certainly educating students about money management is always a good thing.

The absence of financial literacy is being felt across the province, according to the Financial Composer Agency of Canada. A recent survey revealed 60 per cent of adults rate their financial knowledge as fair or poor and 80 per cent of young Canadians are not confident in their financial knowledge.

A firm grasp of personal finance is essential for making independent decisions, managing debt, and leading a secure and fulfilling life. The Financial Literacy for Students Act would equip students in Ontario with the skills, knowledge and confidence to make the right financial decisions in their own lives and for Ontarios economy, said Fedeli.

OECD economist says China’s economic reforms effective on several fronts

Intelligent robot AELOS stands with one leg at an incubator in Shenzhen, south Chinas Guangdong Province, Oct. 12, 2016. Shenzhen is an attractive destination for start-ups around the world with a total of 1,421 incubators. (Xinhua/Mao Siqian)

PARIS, Dec. 1 (Xinhua) — Chinas economic reforms are effective on several fronts as the reduction of cost of business and the modification of fiscal system, an economist of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said.

OECDs indicator shows that in the past three years, the cost of starting a business has been reduced substantially in China, while the administrative procedures that the firms have to go through when registered have been eased a lot in the country, the head of China Desk of Economics Department of the OECD Margit Molnar said in a recent interview with Xinhua.

Newly registered enterprises have been soaring these years in China, more and more people decided to set up a firm and to become entrepreneurs, she noted.

Chinas official statistics published in July this year show that about 2.62 millions of firms have been newly registered during the first six months this year in China, with a rise of 28.6 percent compared to the same period of 2015.

On the fiscal front, Chinas fiscal reform has been very successful, Margit said, adding that China has changed its budget law in 2014, which came into effect in 2015, to allow Chinese local governments to issue bonds.

I think thats a crucial improvement in the managing of responsibilities between the central and local government as well as managing debt and making debt more transparent, so on the fiscal front we have seen very substantial changes and improvements, Margit qualified.

On the question of opening of China, Margit said that if you just look at the initiatives China has adopted in the past year or two, you can say that China is opening, for instance the Belt and Road initiative announced in 2013, that is something that goes well beyond expectation.

It was not just a trade and investment type of integration that people have thought in the beginning, but it really goes into areas like intellectual property rights or environment or climate change, or collaboration in areas that people never thought such an initiative could cover, said Margit.

So if you look at these initiatives or the AIIB or other initiatives, you would say that these are definitely signs of further opening to reap the benefits of increased integration, she said.

Margit also said that there was still room for further reforms in China, for example, on the reduction of cost of business, the so called one-stop shop, or single window where at a single place one can achieve all the documents, is needed for registering a company.

So far, weve seen a unification of three or four license, or five … but this is not all, we would like to see unification for all licenses, she said.

China should also be alert to the risk of cooperate debt which is not only high but also not coming down in the past two years, Margit said, noting that the implicit guarantees enjoyed by state-owned enterprises should be removed.

Financial gap between women, men narrowing

The financial wellness gap between women and men is still wide, but it is narrowing, according to the latest research from Financial Finesse.

The widest differences are in cash management, managing debt and investing, says Cynthia Meyer, a financial planner with Financial Finesse. The narrowest differences are in life insurance, estate planning and college planning.