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Preview: - Personal Finance Advice From Washington Post Columnist Michelle Singletary - The Color of Money - Personal Finance Advice From Washington Post Columnist Michelle Singletary - The Color of Money

Personal Finance advice from Washington Post columnist Michelle Singletary - The Color of Money.


Get real on scholarships

Sat, 12 Mar 2011 18:03:00 EST

As the parent of a soon-to-be college student, I'm privy to a lot of conversations other parents have about their child's chances of getting significant scholarship or grant money.

In the battle over debit card swipe fees, consumers will lose

Wed, 09 Mar 2011 23:04:02 EST

Banks and retailers are battling over swipe fees, and debit card holders should pay attention.

Let the 401(k) investor beware

Sat, 05 Mar 2011 19:25:01 EST

A new report from the Government Accountability Office warns employees to watch out for biased investment guidance from the financial companies paid to set up and run their 401(k) plans.

IRS announces new policies, programs to help taxpayers avoid liens

Wed, 02 Mar 2011 20:05:01 EST

In fiscal 2010, the Internal Revenue Service filed liens against 1.1 million taxpayers.

In the housing crisis, we all live under one roof

Sat, 26 Feb 2011 17:14:01 EST

For the past few years, I've been working with a single mother who has had to move four times, renting rooms in other people's homes so she wouldn't have to spend more than 50 percent of her monthly income on housing.

When it comes to credit cards, the good news only goes so far

Wed, 23 Feb 2011 22:25:03 EST

TransUnion, one of the major credit bureaus, issued what on the surface should have been welcome news about the delinquency rate of credit users.

In rough economic times, black Americans hold on to their optimism

Sat, 19 Feb 2011 17:54:00 EST

When asked recently how they feel about their future, 85 percent of blacks said they are optimistic, with 65 percent indicating they specifically feel secure about their financial situation, according to a new poll conducted by The Washington Post, the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard Univers...

If you get some spare cash, time to save and pay down debt

Wed, 16 Feb 2011 20:20:00 EST

It's a good thing in this economy to have some extra money on hand.

Finding harmony between love and money

Fri, 11 Feb 2011 22:54:01 EST

Finding a good book about love and money reminds me of what Forrest Gump's mama told him about that box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get. It might be trite. It might rescue your relationship.

Identity-theft statistics look better, but you still don't want to be one

Wed, 09 Feb 2011 19:42:04 EST

There's some good news and some bad news about identity theft.

Buy insurance for that bling

Sat, 05 Feb 2011 21:31:00 EST

We may be going through a tough economy, but many guys know they had better buy something for their sweetie come Valentine's Day.

In overhauling Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, it's better to be late than sorry

Wed, 02 Feb 2011 21:49:03 EST

To hear congressional Republicans tell it, the Obama administration is much like the harried white rabbit that mutters, "Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!" in Lewis Carroll's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland."

Lose a job? Take a pay cut? Make sure it's on your tax return.

Fri, 28 Jan 2011 22:43:01 EST

If you had some major economic challenges in 2010, your tax situation may be different from in years past. So be more than a passive (or procrastinating) filer this year. Even if you use a professional preparer, which the majority of taxpayers do, or tax software, visit the Internal Revenue...

Wanted now: clear, consistent fiduciary standards for investment advice

Wed, 26 Jan 2011 18:49:00 EST

When the Government Accountability Office and the Securities and Exchange Commission issued reports on the professionals who help investors make financial choices, I couldn't help but think of the battle cry of the civil rights movement.

Job candidates who made a strong impression, but the wrong impression

Fri, 21 Jan 2011 23:13:03 EST

One would think that in an economy where unemployment is high, applicants for the precious few job openings would be on their best behavior.

Taxpayer, heal thyself

Wed, 19 Jan 2011 19:35:01 EST

Railing against the tax code has become an American tradition. But the question remains: What are you willing to give up to get a simpler tax code?

For would-be entrepreneurs, a reality check

Sat, 15 Jan 2011 15:45:00 EST

How many times have you dreamed of being your own boss?

Despite new CARD law, credit card companies still targeting young adults

Wed, 12 Jan 2011 20:03:02 EST

I wasn't naive enough to think that major credit card legislation passed in 2009 would stop lenders from going after young customers.

Come up with a financial plan

Sat, 08 Jan 2011 23:02:01 EST

My grandmother, Big Mama, was a stickler for order.

One more time: The best paths to help you wipe out credit card debt

Sat, 01 Jan 2011 17:37:00 EST

As one year ends and another begins, people begin to assess how deep in debt they are.

5 financial fibs - and how to come clean in 2011

Sat, 25 Dec 2010 21:09:00 EST

One of my favorite movie quotes comes from "A Few Good Men," when Jack Nicholson, playing a Marine colonel, shouts, "You can't handle the truth."

Consider giving to the poor rather than buying meaningless holiday 'stuff'

Wed, 22 Dec 2010 20:20:01 EST

For the new year, I'd like to propose that those who give advice on how to budget should drop the expression "pay yourself first."

The year's top 10 personal finance stories

Sat, 18 Dec 2010 15:56:00 EST

Right about now, many people look back on the year that was and measure the triumphs and tragedies.

'Standing on Shaky Ground' report finds Americans deeply affected by economic tremors

Wed, 15 Dec 2010 20:25:01 EST

Sometimes it helps to see the data that prove the uneven financial ground you're standing on is occupied by a lot of other people as well.

Elizabeth Warren: The watchdog consumers will thank

Fri, 10 Dec 2010 22:42:05 EST

When Yahoo put out its Top 10 searches in the financial category for 2010, there was no surprise to find, among the leaders, unemployment, foreclosures and the Dow Jones flash crash, the term coined for when the Dow dropped more than 600 points in one day in May.

Prosecuting investment fraud is good; preventing it is even better

Wed, 08 Dec 2010 20:08:01 EST

Federal and state officials are patting themselves on the back for Operation Broken Trust, a nationwide effort to target investment fraud schemes.

No matter what you call it, your debit card is still plastic

Fri, 03 Dec 2010 21:38:02 EST

What's in a name? That's what Juliet asks Romeo in William Shakespeare's classic love story. Juliet knew that what matters is not what you're called, but what you are at your core. "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet," she says. Take the case of a debit card versus a credit card. Incre...

Why not add charity shopping to the Black Friday ritual?

Fri, 26 Nov 2010 21:54:01 EST

Another national holiday shopping extravaganza officially kicked off with Black Friday. But what if searching for and giving to a good local charity also became part of this annual ritual?

Woman who told Obama her financial fears has lost her job

Mon, 22 Nov 2010 22:08:01 EST

Nobody is safe. Velma Hart, who burst onto the media scene after telling President Obama she was scared about her financial future, has been laid off. Hart was let go as the chief financial officer for Am Vets, a nonprofit Maryland-based veteran services organization. Hart has become another casu...

Donations, deductions and the deficit

Sat, 20 Nov 2010 18:20:00 EST

If indeed it is better to give than to receive, then there should not be much criticism from givers if the charitable tax deduction is reduced as the government tackles the budget deficit.

No stock exchange for old, new GM shares

Wed, 17 Nov 2010 23:53:03 EST

General Motors will be issuing new stock, a signal that the company is emerging from the ashes like the mythical phoenix.

The Color of Money: Giving ex-offenders the chance to work

Sat, 13 Nov 2010 23:47:07 EST

Shawn Dunning has been getting his hair cut every three weeks at a Hair Cuttery salon in the District of Columbia for years.

Some simple rules for managing student loans

Wed, 10 Nov 2010 20:36:01 EST

Tick tock. Tick tock. That's the sound recent college graduates are hearing as they near the day of reckoning. The typical six-month grace period on student loans is about to end.

Ex-offenders struggle to find work, overcome employers' doubts

Sat, 06 Nov 2010 17:18:05 EDT

Every year columnist Michelle Singletary chooses several people or families and helps them with their finances. This year she has worked with women recently released from prison. She met them through a volunteer outreach effort of a financial mentoring program she directs at First Baptist Church of...

Media Files:

To cope with a lower income, short-term savings take priority

Wed, 03 Nov 2010 20:27:01 EDT

In an economy that is still as rocky as the Grand Canyon, many people remain perplexed about what they should do if they find themselves without a job or on the verge of losing one soon.

How to avoid bursting bubble of college tuition? Don't fill it.

Sat, 30 Oct 2010 21:05:01 EDT

Debt-free u How I Paid for an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, or Mooching off My Parents By Zac Bissonnette Portfolio Trade, 304 p. $16.00 Let's see, there was the tech bubble in the mid- to late 1990s that eventually busted a lot of people financially. We're suffering ...

The latest hiring hurdle: your credit history

Sat, 23 Oct 2010 17:16:00 EDT

Job applicants painstakingly pore over their resumes and cover letters because studies show that hiring managers have little tolerance for any mistakes. And now, there's something else for applicants to worry about - their credit profiles.

Want to fix the mortgage mess? Companies must recognize individual problems.

Fri, 15 Oct 2010 12:49:01 EDT

Really, should any of us be surprised at the recent events surrounding home foreclosures?

Survey reveals troubling numbers of military personnel in debt

Wed, 13 Oct 2010 20:32:01 EDT

Whenever I'm traveling and I see uniformed military personnel, I can't help but become a little teary-eyed.

When free 401(k) advice is offered, employees should take it

Sat, 09 Oct 2010 18:30:00 EDT

When I'm in a hurry and all of the supermarket checkout lines are long, I head for the self-service terminals to ring up and bag my own groceries.

Justice Department proposal for Visa, MasterCard would help consumers define cost of using credit cards

Wed, 06 Oct 2010 20:09:01 EDT

It's been a long time since a retail clerk has asked me whether I was paying with cash or credit.

Color of Money Book Club selection: Robert Reich's "Aftershock"

Sat, 02 Oct 2010 20:57:01 EDT

The next economy and America's Future By Robert B. Reich Knopf 192 pp. $25 So what are we to do about an economy that is so badly broken? We have to look at where we've been, figure out what went wrong and be open to new ways of doing things. That's what Robert B. Reich does in "Aftershock: The ...

New federal rules take aim at shady practices of debt-settlement companies

Wed, 29 Sep 2010 20:17:01 EDT

Got debt? Well, if you do, the federal government has made it more difficult for unscrupulous or sham debt-settlement companies to make false claims that much of your debt can be easily erased. Debt-settlement or debt-relief services promise to renegotiate or in some way change what you owe to an...

Like most of us, Velma Hart just wanted a little reassurance at Obama's town hall

Sat, 25 Sep 2010 18:32:05 EDT

By the time I called her, Velma Hart was surprised at how her words had been dissected and analyzed. Hart is the middle-aged, middle-class Maryland woman who asked President Obama to reassure her that he remained the crusader for change she had voted for.

Media Files:

Recession is far from over for many Americans

Wed, 22 Sep 2010 19:52:01 EDT

So it's officially over. Technically, the recession that began in December 2007 ended in June 2009, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). It was the longest of any downturn since World War II. We need another yardstick to measure how bad off we are, because the one we have now isn't good enough.

A caveat on that drop in credit card debt

Sat, 18 Sep 2010 18:20:01 EDT

I keep wondering if consumers will learn their lesson from this recession - to rely less on credit cards and more on the cash they have.

Path to converting savings to Roth IRAs is full of 'ifs'

Wed, 15 Sep 2010 20:20:01 EDT

I've read so many surveys about people neglecting to save for retirement that my eyes hurt.

The Color of Money: Basic lessons on credit cards for students

Sun, 22 Aug 2010 00:00:00 EDT

Entering freshmen at colleges across the country will be the first class of regular-semester students to face credit card restrictions under the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009.

New rules on student debt shouldn't be limited to for-profit colleges

Thu, 19 Aug 2010 00:00:00 EDT

The Obama administration wants for-profit career colleges to better prepare students for gainful employment and to improve debt-repayment rates. The government is threatening to pull access to federal student aid for colleges that fail to show progress.

Don't like your banking fees? Tell the FDIC.

Sun, 15 Aug 2010 00:00:00 EDT

There are a lot of bank fees that deserve the "Slater Slide." Steven Slater is the JetBlue flight attendant who allegedly cursed an uncooperative and rude passenger, then opened an emergency exit and jumped down the aircraft's escape slide. He slid into infamy or history -- depending on your take...

Michelle Singletary: IRS decision means tax-refund loans will be harder to make

Thu, 12 Aug 2010 00:00:00 EDT

The Internal Revenue Service has dealt a hard blow to a tax product that has long needed to be knocked out.

The hottest housing market: Information

Sat, 07 Aug 2010 16:02:00 EDT

In the real estate world, there was one word that used to be the cardinal rule: location, location, location.

Media Files:

Insecure about securities? Lawmakers hope studies will teach otherwise.

Thu, 05 Aug 2010 00:00:00 EDT

Within the massive financial reform package is a requirement for no fewer than seven studies intended to help protect individual investors.

Consumer complaints rise as protection resources dwindle

Sun, 01 Aug 2010 00:00:00 EDT

State and local consumer-protection agencies across the country should pool their limited resources and start an advertising campaign called "Gotcha."

Direct-deposit Social Security benefits need protection from payday lenders

Thu, 29 Jul 2010 00:00:00 EDT

Over the years, I've met too many people who were stuck in a hellish payday-loan cycle, rolling one loan into another until the fees and the outstanding balance crushed them.

Media Files:

Race isn't the problem -- economic inequality is

Sun, 25 Jul 2010 00:00:00 EDT

Instead of focusing on the politics behind the firing and subsequent redemption of Agriculture Department employee Shirley Sherrod, we should consider what she was trying to tell us when she addressed the NAACP.

Media Files:

Obama should nominate Elizabeth Warren to lead new consumer protection bureau

Thu, 22 Jul 2010 00:00:00 EDT

Barack Obama promised enormous change in how our government was run when he was elected president.

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Your money, not your age, signals when it's time to retire

Sun, 18 Jul 2010 00:00:00 EDT

My husband and I are hoping to retire -- or at least reduce our work schedules -- when our youngest child, who is now 9, graduates from college.

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The scary state of retirement savings

Thu, 15 Jul 2010 00:00:00 EDT

The nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute regularly delivers the dreadful news of how unprepared so many Americans are for retirement. The findings give you a chill, much like seeing an image of the iconic black-robed, scythe-carrying personification of death.

Reading up on elder care

Sun, 11 Jul 2010 00:00:00 EDT

WHEN THE TIME COMES Families With Aging Parents Share Their Struggles And Solutions By Paula Span, Springboard Press 288 pp., $23.99 The ladies like him. He's got jokes, so the staff likes him, too. Despite his reservations, my 81-year-old father-in-law is doing well at the assisted-living facili...

SEC proposes new rules to make target-date mutual funds more transparent

Thu, 08 Jul 2010 00:00:00 EDT

Target-date mutual funds -- investment vehicles that automatically change your mix of assets as you near retirement -- are thought by many investors to be a safer investment choice that's relatively insulated from market gyrations as the funds get closer to the target date.

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Tips for couples to help solve money problems

Sun, 04 Jul 2010 00:00:00 EDT

In my online discussions I frequently get questions from couples facing financial issues.

A question of debt, and more debt

Sun, 27 Jun 2010 00:00:00 EDT

While I'm away for a short vacation, I'd like to pass along some interesting questions -- and answers -- about debt from a recent online discussion.

Look for signs of fraud against the elderly

Sun, 20 Jun 2010 00:00:00 EDT

When we talk about the aging population in the United States, the conversation is often focused on who will take care of the physical needs of millions of seniors.

How to help a loved one in a financial bind

Thu, 17 Jun 2010 00:00:00 EDT

When someone you love is laid off, the news can feel debilitating to you, too.

Opportunistic scam artists can be as slick as the oil spill

Sun, 13 Jun 2010 00:00:00 EDT

The magnitude of the BP spill really hit me once I starting seeing front-page photos of oil- soaked birds. One poor thing looked like a Hollywood- inspired alien or a prehistoric creature.

FTC wins Countrywide settlement, but celebrates a little early

Thu, 10 Jun 2010 00:00:00 EDT

It's an all-too-familiar Washington story. Officials call a news conference to pat themselves on the back for righting a wrong they shouldn't have allowed in the first place.

How to manage student loan debt

Sun, 06 Jun 2010 00:00:00 EDT

Soon the sounds of "Pomp and Circumstance" will fade and thousands of college graduates will have to really start facing the music -- their education loans.

Media Files:

Talk to relatives about caregiving before they need it; resources that can help

Thu, 03 Jun 2010 00:00:00 EDT

Before my grandfather died of cancer, I helped my grandmother care for him in their home. For more than a decade, I managed health care and other financial issues for my disabled brother until his death. I also assisted with some of my grandmother's financial affairs in the years leading up to he...

Study assisted-living options for aging parents

Sun, 30 May 2010 00:00:00 EDT

The residents at the assisted-living facility looked so frail, many sitting in wheelchairs or hunched over their walkers, making their way slowly along the hallways.

With credit scores, it should be equal access for all

Thu, 27 May 2010 00:00:00 EDT

Why in the world would Congress provide some consumers with free access to credit scores, but not others?

The Color of Money Challenge catches up with Stephanie Harris and Christine Foote

Sun, 23 May 2010 00:00:00 EDT

Picking up trash is a career step up for Stephanie Harris.

When it comes to finances, the simplest advice is often the best advice

Thu, 20 May 2010 00:00:00 EDT

People often ask me what's the best financial advice I've ever received.

Media Files:

Prepare now for a future that might include caring for your elderly family

Sun, 16 May 2010 00:00:00 EDT

The time has come. As the nation ages, millions of adults will find they are thrust into caring for an aging parent or other relative. My husband and I have just joined this group of caregivers. We recently began taking care of my father-in-law, a fiercely independent, 81-year-old ex-military man...

Regulators skeptical about PIN technology designed to thwart ATM robberies

Thu, 13 May 2010 00:00:00 EDT

I've played out in my head many times what I would do if I were abducted and forced to withdraw money from an ATM.

We're flunking personal finance

Sun, 09 May 2010 00:00:00 EDT

The financial teaching grade is in for teachers -- and it's not good.

The Color of Money: Day-to-day financial issues by Michelle Singletary

Thu, 06 May 2010 00:00:00 EDT

Every now and then, I answer questions culled from my e-mail or left over from my regular online discussions. I do this to let you know I'm concerned about your financial issues even if I can't reply to all inquiries personally.

Book shares tips on how to prepare for a job interview

Sun, 02 May 2010 00:00:00 EDT

Can I Wear My Nose Ring to the Interview? The Crash Course: Finding, Landing, and Keeping Your First Real Job

Students trapped in private loans, with no bankruptcy protection

Thu, 29 Apr 2010 00:00:00 EDT

Valisha Cooks assumed that the college education she financed with debt -- about half of it in expensive private student loans -- would pay off handsomely.

Looking for a watchdog with teeth

Sun, 25 Apr 2010 00:00:00 EDT

Burglars hate alarm systems, and they hate big barking dogs.

U.S. aims to switch millions of benefit recipients to electronic payments

Thu, 22 Apr 2010 00:00:00 EDT

The Treasury Department is making a big push to go green -- and save a lot of green -- by switching millions of people who receive Social Security and other federal benefits from paper checks to electronic payments.

Airline fees have you reaching for the sick bag? Vote with your wallet.

Sun, 18 Apr 2010 00:00:00 EDT

"MADtv" wasn't so mad after all. When the writers on the comedy show penned a 2008 skit about a no-frills airline that charges multiple fees, who knew they were predicting the future? The airline industry now has more add-on fees than the number of peanuts in the miniature bag still given to some...

Cracking down on unscrupulous tax-return preparers

Thu, 15 Apr 2010 00:00:00 EDT

Just in time for April 15, the dreaded tax day, several consumer advocacy groups released the results of a mystery-shopping test of commercial tax preparers. They were not good.

Renting isn't reckless if you're not ready for homeownership

Sun, 11 Apr 2010 16:36:00 EDT

Throughout my childhood, my grandmother Big Mama extolled the virtues of owning a home.

Media Files:

IRS registration of tax-return preparers is long overdue

Thu, 08 Apr 2010 00:00:00 EDT

The Internal Revenue Service has issued proposed guidelines in an effort to keep track of the estimated 1.2 million paid tax-return preparers.

Throw out 50 things this spring . . . and you just might feel reborn

Sun, 04 Apr 2010 00:00:00 EDT

THROW OUT FIFTY THINGS Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life by Gail Blanke Springboard Press. 304 pp. $13.99 Spring, the season of rebirth and warm days, is as good a time as any to get busy throwing out the stuff clogging your home, office, mind and spirit. I'm going to do it. I'm going to throw ou...

Media Files:

In health overhaul, a better prognosis for students' finances

Thu, 01 Apr 2010 00:00:00 EDT

Tucked inside the health-care reform law is significant financial relief for the millions of students who borrow to obtain a higher education.

Media Files:

The Color of Money: 4 scenarios in the new health-care law

Sun, 28 Mar 2010 00:00:00 EDT

With the most significant changes to the nation's health-care policy in decades having finally come to fruition, the question I have, as I'm sure so many others do as well, is how the new law will affect me.

IRS plans open houses to help those with tax issues

Thu, 25 Mar 2010 00:00:00 EDT

The tax code is complicated enough, but some people who tried to learn more about a recent Internal Revenue Service initiative to help those in economic distress discovered anew why Americans get so frustrated with the agency charged with collecting our tax dollars.

Do you know how much to save for retirement?

Sun, 21 Mar 2010 00:00:00 EDT

When my eyesight began to give me trouble, I tried to ignore it.

Fed seeks public comments on proposed credit card reforms

Thu, 18 Mar 2010 00:00:00 EDT

In what feels like never-ending regulatory fiddling with the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009, the Federal Reserve wants to know what consumers think about certain fees that lenders charge as penalties for late payments or other issues.

IRS offers help paying taxes

Sun, 14 Mar 2010 00:00:00 EST

For the second year, the Internal Revenue Service is reaching out to folks in financial trouble.

Media Files:

Finding solid footing as banks' overdrafts get overhauled

Thu, 11 Mar 2010 00:00:00 EST

I've been noticing a lot of notice fatigue lately. By now, you may have become a bit overwhelmed with correspondence from your bank or credit union about mandated changes to your credit card account.

Color of Money Challenge: Soon-to-be-former inmates ready to rebuild their lives

Sun, 07 Mar 2010 00:00:00 EST

Stephanie Harris's management and sales skills helped her earn $3,000 for just six or seven hours of work on a "good" day. isn't free; you want

Thu, 04 Mar 2010 00:00:00 EST

Beginning April 1, when you go online to view your federally mandated free annual credit reports, you'll get exactly what you came for. Hopefully.

The Color of Money: Michelle Singletary on women with a wealthy attitude

Sun, 28 Feb 2010 00:00:00 EST

A PURSE OF YOUR OWN An Easy Guide to Financial Security By Deborah Owens with Brenda Lane Richardson. Fireside. $15 Except for the occasional special coin or the Martha Washington $1 silver certificate, I always wondered why the face of a woman isn't part of U.S. currency. Then I saw this quote f...

Media Files:

Second phase of Credit CARD Act changes begins

Thu, 25 Feb 2010 00:00:00 EST

"Credit card debt, does it ever end?" That's a haunting line delivered by comedian Amy Poehler in a 2006 "Saturday Night Live" skit also featuring Steve Martin and Chris Parnell. The sketch was brilliantly and simply titled "Don't Buy Stuff You Cannot Afford." (You can view it at ).