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From the wires

According to reprots, the Federal Reserve is calling the economic growth outlook "unusually uncertain." Minutes of a December 11th Fed meeting show the central bank staff now expects the economy to grow "noticeably below its potential in 2008". This is a result of high oil prices, lower incomes, a deteriorating housing market and constricted credit markets take a toll.

Credit card and auto loan delinquency rates have been rising. The commercial real estate bond market is showing "deterioration," the Fed said. "Strains in financial markets … could persist for quite some time," the Fed said, adding that the housing slump looked "deeper and more prolonged" than expected.

According to USA Today, the unemployment rate jumped from 4.7 percent in November to 5 percent in December, the highest since November 2005 after the Gulf Coast hurricanes dealt the country a mighty blow. Total payrolls — both private employers and government — grew by just 18,000 last month, the worst showing since August 2003, when the economy suffered job losses as it struggled to recover from the 2001 recession.

Some of the top news wires are reporting fears of a possible recession.
According to the AFP, the US economy succumbed to housing and credit troubles in December as just 18,000 jobs were added and the unemployment rate rose to 5.0 percent, data showed Friday, highlighting fears of recession.

The Latest News About the US Economy

Borrower Beware: How to Avoid Fraudulent or Deceptive Deals

The best advice is to steer clear of fraudulent or deceptive offers targeting borrowers. Unscrupulous individuals try to lure consumers into questionable, high-cost deals or fraudulent transactions, usually involving new loans or credit cards or offers to help deal with debt problems.

Here are examples:

"Predatory" loans: People from non-bank or home improvement industries may use false or misleading sales tactics to make high-cost loans to consumers in need of cash. Victims who can't afford the loan may be pressured to refinance. Borrowers who pledge their house as collateral could lose it in a foreclosure.

Credit repair scams: Con artists may promise to erase a bad credit history or make easy loans to people with spotty credit histories. Most charge exorbitant fees or never provide the promised money. Only steady and consistent on-time payments by a consumer can legally repair a credit record.

Mortgage foreclosure frauds: Thieves may contact homeowners at risk of losing their home to foreclosure and propose to help by "paying your mortgage" while you temporarily "rent" your home from them. They then trick you into signing documents that transfer the ownership of the property to the crooks. In other scams, phony companies claiming to be housing counselors offer to negotiate a new loan or perform other services for very high upfront fees and do little or nothing in return.

Credit card fraud: Identity thieves steal personal information and apply for new credit cards or make counterfeit cards. Under federal law, if a thief uses your credit card or card number the most you are liable for is $50. Even so, ID theft in general can be costly to fix, and it can take months to repair the damage. Notify your card issuer about any problems as soon as possible to help limit your losses.


21 Tips on Saving Money

1.Set a budget
Sit down and look at how much money you'll have coming in. Subtract the amount you'll owe for bills that are due _ and make a plan for what's left over.

2.Save early, save often
A little or a lot can go a long way.

3. Consider Automatic deductions to help you save.

4. It's never too early to think about retirement
Opening an account to pad your pension , enroll in your 401(k), especially if your employer offers matching funds , open a Roth IRA or invest in mutual funds.

5. Start early if you can, if not, start now.

6. Stop procrastinating. This is pretty much the idea with any goal that you set. Just get it going, quit talking.

7. Prioritize your long-term nest egg needs.

8.Decide which goals are best met with savings versus debt.

9. Pay yourself first. We've heard it a million times and with good reason.

10. Participate in employer-sponsored savings and retirement plans. Do your research on it.

11. Diversify. Most financial consultants will say this for a good reason.

12. Control and reduce your debt. It's like a diet.

13. Compare what you spend with what you want. Do you want it or do you need it??

14. Monitor your savings progress. There are software programs that can help you do this.
15. Review your income tax withholding.

16. Discuss savings goals with your spouse, parents or significant other who can provide support or encouragement.

17. Set up an emergency fund to cover unexpected cash needs. Life with anything else in life, expect the unexpected.

18. Slash the incidentals. Carefully read through one of your credit-card statements, to see the stupid things that you may have purchased or ongoing monthly fees that you may have forgotten about.

19. Pay ahead on your mortgage. By paying an extra $100 a month toward the principal on a $150,000, 30-year mortgage with a fixed interest rate of 6.5 percent, you’ll save more than $51,000 in interest and be able to retire your mortgage nearly seven years early. An extra monthly payment of even $20 or $25 can make a surprising difference. However, you may stand to benefit more if you could invest that extra payment in an interest-bearing account offering a guaranteed higher rate of return than your mortgage rate. Also, paying off your mortgage early means you won’t have the tax benefits of home ownership for the same number of years.

20. Shed credit-card debt. Easier said than done.

21. Say goodbye to late fees. Make a plan and attempt to stick to it.