America Ranked Near the Bottom — Again — In Wealth Inequality

The stark earnings gap between Black and white Americans also is a growing problem in the US, with the disparities widening year by year. A study from theInstitute of Women’s Policy Research in 2016 showed that Black Americans and Latinos (both male and female) lagged behind in weekly wage earnings compared to their counterparts. For instance, Black and Hispanic workers had their weekly wages decrease in 2015, while workers of other races saw their weekly earnings nearly double.

When comparing Black and white economic wealth, study after study has shown that Black Americans fall behind in this area as well because they simply don’t earn as much. In 2016, researchersfrom the Corporation for Enterprise Development and the Institute for Policy Studies examined the growing racial wealth gap and found that it would take the average Black family a lengthy 228 years just to accrue the wealth of today’s average white family. That’s because, over the past 30 years, the wealth of white families ballooned 84 percent — three times the rate of economic growth for Black households.

Institutional racism has played a role in the widening disparity, as researchers highlighted the wealth-building policies that have consistently given white families financial advantages over Black ones. Such policies have exacerbated America’s poor distribution of wealth and have further slowed the upward mobility of African-Americans on the economic ladder.

“If the past 30 years were to repeat, the next three decades would see the average wealth of White households increase by over $18,000 per year, while Latino and Black households would see their respective wealth increase by about $2,250 and $750 per year,” the study read.

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.

Recognising our limiting beliefs

This weekend I played my first game of Monopoly. I realise this may be met with the same incredulity as when I admitted I only recently learnt how to ride a bike!

I did not have a deprived childhood, just poor co-ordination. My aversion to Monopoly, however …

I remember it vividly, although I could only have been about five. My sister and her friends, all ten-year-olds, were playing the board game on the living room floor. I wanted in.

I’m not sure if they tried explaining the rules or just said it was too complicated for me, that I wouldn’t understand: it was about money, wealth and mortgages. Grown-up stuff and I was too little.

My mature response to this was to stomp all over the board, sending the little red and green buildings and silver trinkets flying. And, I haven’t played since, firmly believing the game boring and beyond me.

Until now.

My nine-year old asked me to play. My response: “No way, that’s a really hard game! I don’t even know how.”

I got an odd look. “I’ve played it before, mom. It’s really fun … I can teach you.”

Not wanting to be outdone by a fourth-grader, we set it up; apportioned the cash. I was the Top Hat. I poured over the directions trying to figure it all out: buying lots, charging rent, mortgaging.

Just reading the game rules I noticed the same anxiety building as when my bank statements arrive, which often remain unopened. The truth is, I find dealing with money matters a little bit scary. There’s a nagging sense that I do not understand money, it’s too complex, so I’d just rather not engage.

Secrets of the Millionaire Mind author, T. Harv Eker, suggests there are four different Money Personalities: The Hoarder, The Spender, The Avoider, The Money Monk, and that we are all either one or a mixture of these. ( Guess which one I am?

His book theorises that we each have an inner financial blueprint, a “preset programme or way of being in relation to money”. Our blueprint is based on the messages we received as a child, from parents, teachers, media, siblings: the verbal messages, by modelling what we saw, and from experiencing specific incidents.

Children are impressionable little sponges soaking up all the information around them. How they process it and the meanings they make from it, however, can often be other than intended. Skewed meanings can become fixed and form the belief system by which that person continues to view themselves and the world around them, for life.

Could it be I created my relationship with money based on a board game and a tantrum? I laughed to see so many of my real-life “patterns” at play in the game: fear of not having enough, using “hope” as a strategy, “getting by” rather than proactively wealth-building, looking forward to Passing Go and Payday.

Consciously, I know managing finances is not that hard. Plenty of people do it. Self-sabotage, however, comes when deeply rooted feelings rear up and we act on them: especially fear. Fear that I am not grown up enough to handle money and I will not understand it.

Recognising our limiting beliefs is like a “get out of jail free” card. It’s the first step in addressing them and creating new and empowering beliefs that are truer and more useful for us now. What do you believe about yourself that might be holding you back? Why not get some coaching to better set yourself up for success.

o Julia Pitt is a trained Success Coach and certified NLP practitioner on the team at Benedict Associates. For further information contact Julia on (441)705-7488,;;/igt;

Local investment company fined $70000

A local investment company has been ordered to pay $70,000 in fines and penalties for failing to properly supervise one of its past advisers.

Professional Investments, which has been headquartered in Kingston since 1984 and has five other locations between Belleville and Ottawa, faces the penalties from the Mutual Fund Dealers Association of Canada (MFDA). The settlement hearing was released publicly on Friday. It states Professional Investments failed to supervise Patrick Caicco, who admitted in a statement of agreed facts and to the Whig-Standard to engaging in securities outside of a MFDA member.

Between May 12, 2009, and March 12, 2010, Caicco was registered as a mutual fund salesperson with Professional Investments based in Ottawa. Without initially notifying or asking permission from the local company, Caicco incorporated Advantage Wealth Building Strategies Inc. to carry out wealth coaching and wealth planning services, reads a November 2015 MFDA case summary.

Caicco said on Thursday that, at the time, he was moving out of the mutual fund game and into alternative investments. One of those investments was The Skyline Real Estate Investment Trust, between March 2008 and May 2010. Caicco referred 21 people, four of whom were clients of Professional investments, to invest a combined $1,343,449. Caicco collected one per cent in referral fees from Skyline. Caicco said that the Skyline investment was a success and that some of his clients have doubled their investments.

Things went south in 2009 when Caicco started to work with the Assaly Group. Caicco recommended that 21 people, including five Professional Investments clients, invest a combined $1,838,000 in the Assaly Groups Natures Walk Gated Community and one person to invest $171,000 in Villa Montague. Natures Walk was going to be a gated community and golf course in North Grenville while Villa Montague was a real estate investment pool to redevelop an existing retirement residence located in Smith Falls.

Investors were initially receiving returns on this investments but they suddenly stopped in February 2011. Suing The Assaly Group, the court process revealed the two projects were hopelessly insolvent and in stages of abandonment. The settlement from MFDA says there is no reasonable prospect that investors will recover the full amount of their investments.

For his actions, Caicco was banned from the MFDA and from ever working in the mutual fund business. He was also fined $50,000 and ordered to pay $5,000 in proceedings costs. Caicco said on Thursday he likely wont pay the penalties.

I havent paid the fine and probably never will because I dont have the money to pay it, Caicco said.

While Caicco didnt invest in the Assaly ventures and made three per cent in referral fees, he said he went bankrupt going after The Assaly Group.

I spent a whole year trying to fight Assaly with the lawyers, because I wanted to get them, so I didnt work for a year, lost probably $100,000 of income, and I get bankrupt and I lost all my assets, Caicco said. If [Assaly] hadnt defaulted, MFDA wouldnt have found out and I wouldnt have had to go bankrupt and my clients wouldnt have lost money.

His default set a cascading effect right across the board.

Caicco said one of the advisers at Professional Investments knew he was working in a grey area because he was transferring his mutual fund clients to him. MFDA and Professional Investments agree in the settlement that when they found out about Caiccos actions, they didnt initially report it to the MFDA. Caicco said Professional Investments had eventually suggested that he resign from the company.

Because Professional Investments wasnt adequately supervising Caicco and it failed to report to the MFDA that Caicco was working outside its domain, panelists Martin Friedland and Guenther Kleberg fined Professional Investments $60,000 and $10,000 in proceedings costs.

This is not the first time Professional Investments has been penalized by the MFDA. In December 2008, the company entered a settlement with MFDA that stated it did not establish, implement and maintain two-tier compliance structure. A compliance structure ensures investments are right for the individual investor. Investments must be approved by a manager and the companys head office.

Professional Investments was fined $10,000, was ordered to pay the $2,500 for the costs of the MFDA disciplinary proceedings, and was ordered to retain KPMG Inc. to help set up and monitor the compliance structure.

Caicco now works in mortgage investments with FMP Mortgage Investments Inc. but would like to expand further into the food services industry.

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

Personal finance checklist at age 50

In a youth-oriented culture, it is easy to feel a little over the hill by the time you turn 50. When it comes to building wealth though, your 50s are the prime of your life – a period when you have a chance to emerge from debt, enjoy your peak earning years and start to see your investments make a serious contribution to your net worth.

To take advantage of this crucial phase of your financial life, it is important to understand some key factors that can help you make the most of your 50s.

Personal finance checklist at age 50

As you look over your financial situation once you turn 50, here are some things you should attend to:

1. Shift more heavily from borrowing to saving

Early in your career, accumulated savings are likely to be modest and it seems you are taking out one loan after another: student loans, car loans, home mortgages, etc. By the time you reach age 50 though, you should have greatly reduced your debt burden. In its place, you should see a growing portfolio of retirement assets. This is the type of trend that can feed on itself: the more you retire your debt, the more of your monthly budget can go to savings rather than loan payments.

2. Estimate your Social Security benefits

The US Social Security Administration will provide you with a free projection of your retirement benefits based on your career earnings so far. While this will remain subject to change based on your subsequent earnings, by age 50 you should have enough of a track record to get a sense of what contribution Social Security will make to your retirement income. This projection can also help you start to think seriously about the pros and cons of retiring early or working longer to achieve the maximum annual benefit.

3. Reassess your retirement goals

In addition to Social Security, look at your other retirement savings and see how much income they project to provide. Knowing where you stand will help you make more concrete plans about the future, including when to retire and what kind of lifestyle to expect.

4. Use catch-up retirement saving opportunities

Looking at your projected Social Security benefits and your savings accounts relative to your goals may tell you that you have some catching up to do. Fortunately, the government gives you some catch-up opportunities in the form off additional tax-deferred retirement contributions to 401(k) or individual retirement account (IRA) plans that you can make once you turn 50. Use this as an incentive to start making extra contributions.

5. Keep your asset allocation aggressive

People often feel their investments should get more conservative as they get older, but age 50 is too soon to throttle back to a less growth-oriented asset allocation. At that age, you are probably still more than a decade away from retirement, and still have an investment time horizon of some 30 or so years stretched out ahead of you. Plus, if you are contributing heavily to your retirement plans, this positive cash flow will help smooth out some of the volatility from growth investments.

6. Update your will

If you first made a will when you started your family, you might find things are radically different by the time you turn 50. Your kids may be on the verge of adulthood and your net worth may be substantially greater, so it is a good time to take a fresh look at what provisions youve made for your survivors.

7. Dont be shy about discounts

Turning 50 makes you eligible for AARP membership. Dont let that make you feel old – just look at the discounts available, and think of it as an advantage youve earned.

8. Take advantage of senior checking accounts

Some banks offer checking accounts for older customers that have no monthly fees. Eligibility is often set at age 50, and with free checking getting harder to find these days, signing up for one of these accounts can be another advantage of getting older.

9. Survey your career opportunities

Since these can be your peak earnings years, you should assess whether your current employer is the best place to capitalize on those years, or whether you could do better somewhere else. To think more defensively, you should also take an honest look at whether your job skills need freshening up so your employer does not view you as out of date.

With proper attention to your finances, this could be your greatest decade for wealth building. After all, it is too late for procrastination and too early for slowing down. This is prime time.

More form

Personal finance checklist for age 40

Turning 30? See this personal finance checklist

Over 40 with no retirement savings? Take these 6 steps

The Right Financial Decisions Can Improve Credit Scores

To our readers: Today GoodCall examines credit. First, Terri Williams outlines the right financial decisions to make to improve your credit score. In our next post, Courtney Price Davis takes a look at whether moving affects your credit score.

Millennials typically experience a lot of firsts before the age of 30. From their first post-graduate jobs to the first time they’re solely responsible for rent or mortgage payments, millennials wade through a lot of major financial decisions. Like every generation, sometimes they may not make good choices.

A recent survey revealed that most millennials made at least one major financial mistake before the age of 30. These blunders include maxing out credit cards, missing payments, defaulting on loans, and/or having accounts sent to collections. These financial decisions can affect credit scores, which in turn, can affect just about everything from the ability to purchase a car or house to the interest rate charged for products and services.

Don’t despair. Here are steps that can be taken to repair a bad credit score:

Check/verify your credit score

The very first step before making any financial decisions is to ensure that your credit score is accurate. You may have an excellent score with one reporting agency and a poor score with another agency.

Kevin Gallegos, vice president of Phoenix operations for Freedom Financial Network, tells GoodCall, “A credit score actually involves three scores from the three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.” Every year, each agency is required to provide consumers with a free credit report, Gallegos says. Reports can be accessed at or by calling 877-322-8228.

Your score may be different at each agency because of different – potentially wrong information. Carefully review each report, looking for inconsistencies in your address, balances, and even creditor. If you locate an error, Gallegos recommends following the specific instructions listed on each bureau’s website as the best and the quickest way to resolve these issues. “Under terms of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the credit bureaus must investigate any disputed items and remove them from the credit report if they cannot be verified,” Gallegos says.

Understand credit percentage utilization

This is a central part of your credit score. “If you have a credit card with a limit of $10,000, and you owe $3,500 on it, that’s 35 percent utilization” Gallegos explains. However, if you go over 35 percent, he says that high amount could negatively impact your score. “Over 50 percent will have a definite negative impact on a credit score, and a maxed-out card will very negatively impact the score,” Gallegos says. Bottom line: If you pay down your debt so it’s below 35 percent, it will help to improve your score.

However, there’s another tactic that you can use. Kelley Long, CPA/PFS and member of the AICPA’s Consumer Financial Advocates Group, agrees that millennials should pay down cards with high limits. “But also consider asking for a limit increase – some lenders will do this without a hard inquiry and the decrease in credit utilization will boost your score,” Long says. Warning: If you’re the type of person who would continue charging and eventually max out the new limit, don’t dig yourself deeper into a debt hole.

So what is this hard inquiry that Long mentioned? It occurs when you apply for credit, or other types of situations in which a company would need to check your credit score to determine if they will allow you to rent a car, purchase a cellphone, etc. However, when you check your own credit score, it’s considered a soft inquiry, and does not negatively impact your score.

Financial decisions: Should you stop using your credit card?

While a maxxed out credit card can negatively impact your credit score, don’t make the mistake of thinking that the solution is to never borrow or use your credit card. Gallegos explains, “Credit agencies rely on past payment history to gauge how borrowers will do in the future, and if you don’t borrow, they have no information to rely on.” However, he recommends that millennials choose one card to use. Also, evaluate the use of your card. For example, a recent survey revealed that some people use credit cards to pay tuition. That’s among the worst financial decisions since it involves not only high credit card interest rates but also 3rd party transaction fees at an average of 2.62 percent.

Pay your bills on time

It sounds like the simplest of financial decisions, but it’s the best way to improve your credit score – or keep your pristine score intact. “Make all payments on time all the time,” Long says. “That’s the number one thing you can do.” You’ll see faster results if you start paying down the bills with the largest interest rates first, since a lot of your money is being eaten up in interest.

Make and stick to a budget

While budgeting isn’t usually listed among ways to improve your credit score, there is a direct link between the two. According to Leonard Wright, CPA/PFS and member of the AICPA’s Consumer Financial Advocates Group, budgeting may not directly impact your score, but if you don’t do it, your score will be affected.

“Always budget: by staying on top of random and unexpected bills through budgeting, you will be less likely to overspend, which results in credit cards near their limit and a lower credit card score,” Wright says. For millennials who need help in this area, Wright recommends such resources as and

Don’t use credit repair companies

Don’t be fooled by those credit repair service ads promising to quickly improve your credit score. Gallegos says these companies dispute items on your credit report – which temporarily improves the score while the lenders are researching the charge. Simply put, this is not among the wisest financial decisions: “There is nothing that a credit repair service can do that consumers can’t do themselves.”

Also, you may end up spending a lot of money without seeing any lasting results. Gallegos explains, “Once a dispute has been filed, the onus is on the credit reporting agency to remove or suspend that account from the consumer’s record until the dispute has been resolved one way or the other.”

Jewish Family Service hosts estate planning, elder law talk

Ratner is an estate planning and elder law attorney at Bacon Wilson. He is a graduate of Babson College and holds his juris doctor from the Pennsylvania State University School of Law as well as a masters degree in business administration from Boston University School of Management (Questrom School of Business).

Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions and discuss the benefits of advanced planning. Light refreshments will be served.

The event is free, but registration is requested on the JFS website or call (413) 737-2601. The event is co-sponsored by the Massachusetts – New Hampshire chapter of the Alzheimers Association.

Other community workshops presented by JFS include Medicare: What You Need to Know, Become Bone Smart: What You Need to Know about Osteoporosis and How to Stay Socially Connected.

JFS provides a variety of programs, including behavioral health services and Jewish Life Enrichment, as well as those serving older adults and new Americans.

Estate Planning Guide: How Can a Man Protect Himself and His Family After Death?

Nobody wants to think about the fact that they’ll die one day, but a responsible guy considers how his family and friends will suffer after he’s gone. You want them to properly mourn your passing, not spend the entire time trying to figure out your chaotic finances. When you plan for your death, you’re performing a loving act for your family as well as one that lets you retain control even after death. You don’t need to have an estate to do your estate planning. You don’t even need to have tons of assets for wills and estate planning. You don’t have to wait until you’re getting older than you are. In fact, you should start thinking about getting estate planning in order as early as in your 30s.

Five small monthly saving schemes for long-term wealth creation

All of us want our savings to give maximum possible returns with the least possible risk. And to achieve this, we invest in variety of instruments which we think will contribute to our long-term wealth building goals. Like they say you should not keep all your eggs in the same basket, similarly you should diversify your investments so that you get full benefit of all the asset classes available for investment. Let’s discuss some investments which you can do on a monthly basis to generate wealth in the long run.

Equity Mutual Fund SIP: Systematic Investment Plan (SIP) in an Equity Mutual Fund which allows one to invest a set amount every month on a particular date selected by the investor. As the money is getting invested on a particular date, it helps in rupee cost averaging ie when the market is low, investor will get more units and when the market is high he will get less number of units. SIP also helps in inculcating discipline towards investing. And the minimum investment amount is also rather small ie between Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 per month and so everyone can easily start an SIP savings plan.

Public Provident Fund: PPF is scheme under which you can get Tax Rebate as well since it comes under section 80(C). PPF also comes under EEE category ie Exempt, Exempt, Exempt which means that there is an exemption on the amount invested, exemption on the interest accrued, and exemption on the total income earned from the investment. There is limit of Rs 1.5 lakh for investment in PPF per annum, which can be easily divided into monthly instalments to get guaranteed sound returns. The current PPF rate is 8% pa tax free.

Gold ETF: Everyone knows gold is an investment used for its hedging quality. So, you can have 5-10% allocation of your portfolio towards gold. When it comes to gold as an investment, you should not buy physical gold but should invest into Gold ETF (Exchange Traded Fund) which aims to track domestic physical gold prices and operate like Mutual Funds or E-Gold which is available at the National Spot Exchange (NSEL) in smaller denominations to invest every month.

Whatever method you choose, you need to keep the investment in demat form. If you are looking for a lumpsum investment into this asset class, then you can also look at Sovereign Gold Bonds which are issued by the RBI on behalf of the Government of India and also bear interest rate on the issue price. Equities: If you are planning for a better return in the long run, then you can’t miss equities in your portfolio. You can invest monthly some amount towards large-cap stocks.

And if you don’t know how to track good stock but still want to invest in the stock market, you can always look at Index ETFs. Index ETFs are nothing but Index Funds that are listed and traded on the Stock Exchange. An Index ETF comprises basket of stocks which reflects the composition of an Index like BSE SENSEX, Samp;P CNX Nifty, etc. The only difference between Index ETF and Index Fund is that unlike Mutual Fund ETF, it can be traded real-time.

Sukanya Samriddhi Yojna: If you have a girl child under 10 years of age, again this is one of the best triple exempt schemes under section 80(C) where you are allowed to invest up to Rs 1.5 lakh per annum. The two main requirements for success in investing is discipline and asset allocation. A monthly saving habit and discipline is most important to create long-term wealth. And along with asset allocation to different types of investment, one can expect sound returns over a five- to 10-year horizon.

(The writer is MD at Sinhasi Consultants)