Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Makes Consumer Complaints Publicly Available

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Do you know about Yelp?  Maybe Tripadvisor?

If you’re looking for a new restaurant or you’re traveling and find yourself in an unknown place, Yelp and Tripadvisor take some of the guesswork out finding a quality restaurant by publishing customer reviews.  You can search for restaurants by the amount of positive reviews and companies can respond to the review in an attempt to rectify a negative customer experience.

Websites like these have caused some local businesses to clean up their act since they know that savvy consumers reference these sites en masse.  They know that bad reviews can affect their bottom line just as positive reviews can increase traffic.

Not all businesses have such a low tech yet effective system of oversight.

Wouldn’t it be nice to know how a certain bank in your community treats its customers?  When trying to choose from the sea of credit card offers, wouldn’t it be nice if you could see what other card holders around the country think of the card?

Credit Card Complaints Made Public

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Roth IRA Contribution and Income Limits for 2012

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A Roth IRA can be a great way to build up retirement savings.  

One of the great advantages is that since you are putting money in after it’s taxed you get to take the money out, in retirement, tax-free.  And that includes the money’s growth over the years as well.

Another great advantage to the Roth IRA is that you can take out the contributions you put in without any penalties. This is due to the fact that you have already paid taxes on that money (opposed to a traditional IRA where you put pre-tax money in and get the tax break now).

As wonderful as the Roth IRA can be you can only put so much into it each year and there are limits to how much you can make as well.

Congress is always tinkering with the tax code and making changes nearly every year and in nearly all categories, and that includes Roth IRA contribution and income limits.

Below are the Roth IRA contribution limits for 2012.

Contribution limits

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What Do Bank Routing Numbers Mean?

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Bank routing numbers, or “routing transfer numbers” (RTN’s) appear on virtually all of our checks and other demand instruments, but as common as they are most of us have no idea what their purpose is.

Occasionally we’re asked to provide our bank’s routing number—such as for direct deposit of income tax refunds—but this does little to clear up the mystery behind them or why they’re so important.

Think of it this way: each of us has a checking account number—the bank has its own identification number, and that’s the bank routing number.  That number is at least as important to the bank as our checking account numbers are to us.

Where do you find a bank routing number?

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2012 Federal Income Tax Brackets and Marginal Tax Rates

The Federal Income Tax brackets and marginal tax rates for 2012 are out, and we’ll take a look at how the changes affect single taxpayers, those who are married filing jointly, those married filing separately, and head of household.

The changes from 2011 to 2012 are fairly small but they can have an impact for those who are at or over a threshold.

By knowing what bracket and marginal rate you may fall in, you can tax plan to lower your taxable income.

Every year the Internal Revenue Service, or IRS, uses inflation data to revise the bracket amounts.  Congress sets the marginal rate percentages with changes in the law.

Note the marginal tax rates are remaining the same in 2012 as they were in 2011.  It’s the dollar amount of the tax brackets that’s changing.

Before we jump into the changes I want to let you know that a qualifying widow(er) follows the same rates as married filing jointly.

The 10% tax bracket—the lowest marginal tax rate

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Which Airlines Have Seats Open for Your Rewards?

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Membership has its privileges but cashing in on those privileges is another story.

If you’re a traveler but you don’t fly enough to get in to the extra special diamond, platinum, or other private group of the most elite airlines, you know that amassing frequent flyer miles or points is easy but using them to get a better seat or a free flight might be exceedingly difficult.

The problem is simple: airlines save money by offering fewer flights which means less seats available.

Even worse, when an airline merges with another airline, the amount of people in the frequent flyer problem doubles but often, the amount of flights taking off and landing doesn’t.  More people but less seats doesn’t make you happy.

Finally, if that isn’t enough frustration, in order to make money, airlines sell points and miles to credit card and other companies to offer to their loyal customers.  Some of those people sitting in the first class seats that should rightfully be yours may hardly ever fly.  Go ahead and get a little frustrated!

Ideaworks knows how you feel and that may be why they conduct the Switchfly Reward Seat Availability rankings report (click here to see the report pdf.) Continue Reading

Tradeking and Zecco to Merge – More Capabilities, Same Great Pricing

Like so many other industries, there are small players and big players.

Little fish in a very large pond may be another applicable cliché to describe this story.  The pond is the brokerage business and that pond is big.

Companies like Fidelity, the world’s largest retirement account holder has 13.5 million accounts, E*Trade, one of the most well known of the brokers for retail investors has 3.9 million accounts and TD Ameritrade has 5.7 million.

In the past, there were plenty of smaller discount brokers but most were bought by the larger firms.

Schwab acquired OptionsXpress for $1 billion and TD Ameritrade acquired Thinkorswim for an undisclosed amount.

As the big brokers keep getting bigger, there was little room to compete if you were still holding on as one of the smaller firms in the highly competitive field of discount brokerage.

[Related: Best Online Brokers for Inexpensive Trades]

This was true for two small firms, Zecco and Tradeking.
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Is Social Security Really a Retirement Plan?

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Most of us commonly think of Social Security as almost synonymous with retirement — but it was never planned to be.

When it was established in the 1930s it was set up to be primarily an anti-poverty program—or “social insurance”—dealing with old age, poverty, unemployment, and the burdens of widows and fatherless children.

The stock market crash of 1929 and the onset of the Great Depression collapsed incomes across the board and wiped out the savings of many of the elderly.  The government responded by implementing Social Security to remedy many of these economic ills.

Strictly speaking, it was never intended to be a retirement plan as much as a supplement for lost wages.

The Depression is now deep in the history books and with it, the original intent of Social Security.  Today it’s mostly seen as a retirement plan.

But is it really?

Why you can’t rely on Social Security alone

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