Sometimes a simple idea makes so much sense, you have to wonder: Why didn’t folks think of this sooner?
Here’s an excellent example: Increase the value of federal nutrition benefits, such as food stamps, if families use the extra money to buy healthy options like fresh fruit and vegetables, especially at farmers’ markets.
This is one of those rare public policies where everyone wins. No trade-offs or downsides. Families stretch their food budgets while improving their diets. Farmers sell more produce. Society benefits through reduced health care costs.
Oren Hesterman, president of the Fair Food Network in Michigan, wrote last year in The Hill newspaper: “Boosting the amount of fruits and vegetables consumed by vulnerable populations is critical. These are the very same people who are disproportionately likely to suffer from type-2 diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. And how is that treatment for those diseases paid for? Often with Medicaid or Medicare.”
“We can quite literally pay the farmer now instead of the doctor later,” he writes.
This is federalism at its best, with variations on the theme bubbling up in different localities. One of the pioneering projects started in Takoma Park, Md., a Washington suburb, when a man named John Hyde was selling baked goods at a farmers market in a wealthy neighborhood.
Just a few miles away lived a community of poor Hispanic immigrants, who seldom patronized his stand. So in 2007, Hyde created the Crossroads Farmers Market, located it closer to the low-income families, and raised $7,000 from the National Watermelon Promotion Board to subsidize their purchases.
It was a “total gamble … a crazy radical idea,” says Christie Balch, who runs Crossroads. The Department of Agriculture called Hyde the day before the market opened and told him, “What you’re doing is illegal.”
Fortunately, Hyde had influential friends, including a senior official at the department, who called his bosses and said: “What do you think the Washington Post would have to say about your trying to prevent poor people from eating fresh fruits and vegetables?”
They backed down. Now, more than 500 markets in 30 states utilize some form of subsidy program. The systems differ a bit, but basically work this way: A shopper who qualifies for food stamps (officially called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP) tells a clerk at the market how much she wants to use from her benefit account. Say it’s $15. That amount is deducted from the shopper’s SNAP card, and the clerk gives her coupons worth $30, which can be spent like cash.
“We don’t have to buy the $1 bag of Cheetos. We can spend a little bit more on healthier things: fruits and veggies,” Melissa Davis of Lehi, Utah, told a local Fox station.
Vicki Zilke, a farmer who sells her produce at a market in Ypsilanti, Michigan, told YES Magazine: “I make more money, I expand my business, and then I can hire more people. If I hire more people, I then improve the bottom line of my community. It’s a ripple effect.”
These are not just isolated anecdotes. The Union of Concerned Scientists and the Center for a Livable Future at Johns Hopkins published a joint report that concluded: “Incentives for fruit and vegetable consumption could reap enormous health and economic benefits over time.”
There’s one problem: Subsidies are expensive, and each market has to raise funds to finance the bonus coupons. Here at Crossroads, the annual $55,000 budget comes from a mix of private donors, foundations and local governments, but Balch expects that when fall comes, accounts will run low and subsidies will have to be trimmed.
Washington has finally woken up to the possibilities here. Last year’s farm bill provided $100 million in seed money, and this spring, about one-third of that was dispensed to underwrite local experiments.
The Forsyth Farmers’ Market in Savannah, Ga., won a grant to establish a “mobile market” that will deliver directly to low-income “food deserts” where fresh produce is hard to find. Greensboro, NC, will try out a “customer rewards program” that encourages repeat shoppers.
The Rhode Island Public Health Institute will start “nutrition education and cooking demonstrations.” New Orleans will set up a subsidy system at Circle Foods, “a locally and minority-owned grocery store.”
This is exactly what many voters want from government: Efficient programs that leverage the energy and creativity of local initiatives.
This is beyond politics. This is about improving health, helping farmers and saving money — all at the same time. Who can be against that?
(NBC) — Many members of the US armed forces pay a financial price for their service to the country, often carrying higher credit card debt and owning fewer assets than civilians, a new survey shows.
The survey done for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) found that veterans and active duty personnel and their families often face unique circumstances, such as frequent relocation and deployment, which can put a significant strain on their finances.
This is a serious problem, said Susan Keating, NFCC president and CEO. The issue of financial stability for those who serve our country is a real concern.
The NFCC survey looked at people who took part in the foundations Sharpen Your Financial Focus program to deal with debt. They found that when compared to all the participants in the program, the average military family had:
– 7 percent higher unsecured debt balances, or $400-$500 more than the average.
I think this higher-than-average burden of debt leads to some significant financial constraints on these military households, said Stephen Roll, an Ohio State University researcher who analyzed the data for the NFCC.
And with the continued reduction in forces, the situation may get worse, as more service members try to find civilian jobs.
These families are facing a loss of income from unemployment or underemployment, as well as bad credit from high debt or financial mismanagement, Roll told NBC News.
People strapped for cash often make questionable financial decisions. Previous research done by the NFCC found that 60 percent of the nations service members have used alternative, non-traditional lenders, such as payday lenders, to make ends meet. This makes them more vulnerable to fraud or high-interest predatory lending.
Help is available
The average military member who contacts a credit counselor has accumulated about $10,000 in consumer debt. In many cases, they are required to seek help by their commanding officer in order to maintain their security clearance.
Bob Fixott works with military families at the nonprofit Consumer Credit Counseling Service office in North Little Rock, Ark. He says the people he sees are pretty stressed out.
Families with only one spouse in the military, often have to live on a single income. And frequent relocations make it difficult for the other spouse to find a good-paying job, he says.
Another problem: When someone joins the military at an early age, they may not have the financial skills to manage their money properly.
Now all of a sudden, theyve got a bunch of money coming in and they spend it all, because they dont have a spending plan in place, Fixott said. Some of these people have never learned how to make a budget.
The NFCCs Susan Keating wants military families to know help is available – often free or low-cost. Programs like Hands on Banking (a joint program of the NFCC and Wells Fargo), for example, offer education and assistance for active duty service members and veterans.
With counseling and financial education, savings rates go up, credit scores go up, and overall debt goes down, Keating said.
To find a certified non-profit financial counselor near you visit www.nfccdebtrelief.org/military.
Sovereign debt has been at the center of global attention lately, as tortuous negotiations between Greece and its international creditors polarized public opinion and sent shockwaves through global markets.
In many other parts of the world, however, debt is a pervasive phenomenon that rarely makes headlines.
Between 1950 and 2010, 95 developing countries have had their debts restructured more than 600 times. However, write offs from the past have done little to prevent developing countries from falling back into debt traps. Today, a quarter of all low-income countries are in or at high risk of debt distress.
So what lies beneath debt relief to poor countries? Devex takes a closer look at the logic and practices underwriting current debt restructuring mechanisms.
By Alain Forget, director of US business development , RBC Bank | bio
Every winter, droves of Canadian snow-birds fly south for warmer climates, which creates a significant opportunity for mortgage originators. Canadian homebuyers are taking advantage of the historically low interest rates in the US to purchase second homes. In fact, Canadians are the
top foreign US home-buyers, accounting for 19 percent of foreign real estate purchases.
Purchasing a home in the US is not the same as it is in Canada, however, and given the differences in homebuying, many Realtors understand the significant value of partnering with a cross-border banking expert who understands the unique obstacles Canadians face on the path to US
homeownership, as well as the differences between the Canadian and US mortgage processes. On the flipside, mortgage loan officers looking to serve international clients can definitely benefit from establishing and maintaining relationships with Realtors who specialize in cross-border deals.
Canadian consumers and Realtors can be particular about whom they work with because of the complicated nature of cross-border homebuying. Therefore, it is critical for brokers and bankers to develop relationships with snowbird buyers and their cross-country Realtors, and commit to gaining a level
of expertise in the differences and similarities of homebuying in each country.
Build a relationship
The first step in building a relationship with cross-border Realtors is to get out into your community. Realtors are generally great at networking and attend many professional and community events. Look for events geared toward cross-border homebuyers in your area and you will likely run into
Realtors who are experienced with Canadian buyers.
You also should consider joining and attending events at your local Chamber of Commerce and attending events hosted by real estate organizations. These help you better understand the experience of Realtors and buyers during the homebuying process and are great networking opportunities.
” Canadian homebuyers should meet with cross-border tax accountants before purchasing to gather information on specific tax considerations. ”
It sometimes can be challenging to identify and network with Realtors who are experts in cross-border homebuying, however. Asking is one way to find out, but also be on the lookout for Realtors with a Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS) designation. CIPS designees are a
trusted resource for international homebuyers and have a unique understanding of currency and exchange rates, tax issues, cross-cultural relationships and more.
More than 2,000 real estate professionals have earned this designation from the National Association of Realtors. Real estate professionals with this designation are a unique resource for mortgage originators because of their relationships with cross-border homebuyers and their experience in the
In addition to seeking out CIPS designees at events, you also can research webinars or events put on by real estate professionals with a CIPS designation. This can be a targeted way to learn about cross-border home-buying issues as well as a good source for locating leads to help you establish
relationships with cross-border Realtors.
Learn the differences
From getting cash and paying for purchases to establishing credit and buying a home, managing finances in the US can be quite different from what Canadian consumers are accustomed to back home. Plus, there are many key considerations that Canadian homebuyers must be aware of when purchasing
real estate in the US This is one of the many reasons why collaborations between cross-border banks and Realtors can be advantageous for all parties involved.
Cross-border banks understand that the US mortgage process takes longer, com-pared to the Canadian process, and that home-buying in the US requires more documentation because of America’s highly regulated market. Fees in the US also can be higher than in Canada, ranging from a 3 percent to
5 percent increase when financing property.
Another difference that Canadian homebuyers and their mortgage professionals must consider during cross-border deals is that interest rates are calculated differently in the two countries. US mortgages compound monthly and Canadian mortgages com-pound semi-annually. Perhaps the biggest issue
with cross-border deals, however, is that some Canadians have a limited or non-existent US credit history, which can make securing financing more difficult. Thus, partnering with a bank that has access to a client’s Canadian credit history is an important consideration.
If you work closely with local Realtors and learn your way around cross-border deals, you can establish yourself as a valuable resource for Canadian clients, and provide practical advice on the differences, advantages and limitations of banking in the US To do this, you must
establish and maintain a trusted network of cross-border legal, tax and real estate experts you can call on when helping Canadian clients, whether they need advice on calculating interest payments or wish to minimize their tax liability based on financial status and family circumstances.
Realtors are on the front lines of the housing industry and often have special insight into the issues and concerns of homebuyers. This is never truer than for foreign buyers looking to purchase vacation homes in the US Cultivating and maintaining relationships with cross-border real estate
specialists may help you stay on top of this important market.
For example, at a recent cross-border event for American Realtors, a few of these professionals shared their top tips for Canadians who are house hunting in popular snowbird markets. These tips offer great insights into the priorities of foreign buyers and may help US mortgage loan
originators better serve cross-border clients.
A Realtor from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, suggested finding a contractor you trust. This is important for ensuring the job gets done right and the contractor abides by existing building codes.
A Phoenix Realtor recommended that Canadian homebuyers meet with cross-border tax accountants before purchasing to gather information on specific tax considerations. Lastly, a Naples, Florida, Realtor proposed that Canadian snowbirds buy a travel insurance policy, no matter how long they are
staying in the US
o o o
Understanding the cross-border homebuying process and tailoring your services accordingly is a great way to differentiate your mortgage business. Establishing mutually beneficial collaborations with cross-border Realtors will help you grow your international business and also enable you to
make the dream of home ownership a reality for an increasingly important segment of US-bound homebuyers.
Lets be honest, praying that your debit card goes through for a soda is not the best feeling in the world. You want to start saving. You do. Except that you dont. Like, at all, because the actual act of saving is about as pleasant as muscling down a ketchup-and-ramen-seasoning sandwich which you may or may not have done last Thursday.
Heres why despite all of its obvious benefits (and how often your dad is always after you to do it), saving money feels like throwing away your chance at happiness.