In the News

According to the advocacy group Demos, the average balance among lower- and middle-income households is $8,650.
 
"World News Tonight's" special series "Credit Crunch" aims to help you get on the road to becoming debt free.
A fraudulent appraisal "can lead homeowners to borrow more money than their homes are worth, putting themselves at risk of being 'upside down' in a home -- e.g. not being able to sell for a high enough price to pay off their mortgage," according to a briefing paper on appraisal fraud put out by Demos, a New York-based think tank.
Since my mother and I both find the prospect of me moving back home nightmarish, I decided to end our "standards of living: then and now" debate once and for all. I sent her Strapped: Why America's 20- and 30-Somethings Can't Get Ahead, and guess what? It worked! Yes, the Strapped method of garnering parental support work for me. I want to do infomercials for the book now. "Do your baby boomer parents wonder why all their success hasn't rubbed off on you?
According to a recent study by the research group, Demos, credit card debt has nearly tripled since 1989, reaching almost $800 billion. The study's co-author, Tamara Draut, said the offers are a double-edged sword for the newly bankrupt.
 
"There is a need for credit. What happens, though, is once you get in the cycle of charging, the high interest rates kick in," Draut said.
A major survey released by the think tank Demos provides some important new insights on how average American families are using credit cards.
 
The implication is hard to escape: many middle- and low-income American families are using consumer credit as a way to weather fluctuations in their finances.
Demos, a non-partisan election reform group, said higher voter turnout, especially among youth, reversed a decades-old trend of low electoral participation. The group said about 120 million voted in the Nov. 2 election, an increase of 15 million voters from 2000.
 
Election Day registration, or EDR, makes it possible for new voters, the recently relocated and those whose registrations were incomplete or lost, to participate without unnecessary hurdles, the group said.
Happiness research is "enormously important" if it can be applied to policy, says Robert Frank, an economist at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. For example, since money doesn't buy much happiness, the nation could institute a steeply progressive consumption tax that taxes income (minus savings and investments), rather than the mildly progressive income tax we have, he says.
 
Here's an unusual term: Gross National Happiness.
That all portends "payment shock" for those with adjustable-rate mortgages whose loans are due soon to adjust, said Javier Silva, senior research and policy associate with the public policy research group Demos in New York City. "Lots of ARM customers are experiencing payment shock already, and we're only see the first wave of adjustments upward," Silva said. "People didn't understand how much their interest rate could rise, or were unprepared for it. I'm not surprised that we're seeing rising foreclosures.
Walsh waited to start the nonprofit until one of his main inspirations, David Callahan, author of "Cheating Culture: Why More Americans Are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead" could come to town to speak.
 
Michael Walsh has decided to do something about all the lying, cheating and manipulating he sees in society. He's starting locally, but he's also using the internet to branch out globally.
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According to Javier Silva, a senior research and policy associate with Demos, a New York think tank and public policy organization, homeowners' equity fell from an average of 68.3 percent to 55 percent between 1973 and 2004. Americans now own a smaller stake in their homes than they used to. In the 1950s, they owned nearly 80 percent.
 
If real estate appreciation slows or declines, homeowners without equity that is firmly established may find themselves owing more than their houses are worth.