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Help us design a consumer survey about mandatory pre-dispute arbitration

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As part of our effort to study the use of mandatory pre-dispute arbitration clauses in consumer financial contracts, today we are proposing to conduct a nationwide telephone survey of 1,000 credit card holders.

In Section 1028 of the Dodd-Frank Act, Congress instructed us to complete a study about arbitration. We released a Request For Information last year seeking input on the scope, methods and data for the study. A number of commenters recommended we survey consumers, and we agree. Hearing directly from consumers will help us do this job better.

Our proposed survey will explore consumer awareness of dispute resolution terms in credit card agreements. The survey will gather information about consumers’ perceptions, preferences, and assumptions related to arbitration proceedings. And the survey will let us put those findings in context by asking similar questions about court proceedings, including class action cases. We’ll incorporate what we learn from the survey into our study.

We have released a proposed survey questionnaire as well as an initial plan for how we would gather this data.

Comments must be received on or before August 6, 2013 to be assured of consideration. Please let us know what you think.

After this comment period closes, we will refine the proposal based on the feedback we receive, then publish an updated proposal and accept comments on it for another 30 days.

The graduate’s guide: Your first job

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School’s behind you. Now it’s time to put everything you’ve learned to work. Your first couple of days on the job will likely include filling out forms that will require you to make a flurry of key financial decisions. Use this guide to be ready, so you can focus on making a good impression.

Before you start

  • Check your credit reports. Many employers now use credit histories and background checks in their hiring decisions. Make sure what they’re seeing is accurate. Get free credit reports from annualcreditreport.com.
  • Don’t overestimate your paycheck. After deductions for taxes and benefits, you may take home only about 75 percent of your salary. Avoid committing to future payments until you have a firm idea of how much you’ll be bringing home.
  • Consider living expenses. If you have to find a place to live, try to keep housing costs (rent and utilities) below 30 percent of what you’ll earn. Also, be ready to pay first and last months’ rent—plus deposits for utilities. The good news is that some moving expenses may be deductible on your federal income taxes, even if you don’t itemize.

Your first day

  • Bring required I.D. Before showing up, find out what forms of identification your new employer would require. If you take your Social Security card or passport, be sure to take them out of your wallet or purse when you get home and keep them somewhere safe to reduce your risk of identity theft.
  • Sign up for direct deposit. Many banks and credit unions will waive monthly fees if you have direct deposit. Also, ask if your workplace offers automatic savings or allotments to other accounts.
  • Estimate your withholding. One of the first things you’ll be asked to do is fill out a W-4 form. This withholding calculator can help.
  • Find out when you’ll get paid. Depending when you enter the pay cycle, you may have to wait a few weeks longer than you thought.

During your first few weeks

  • Sign up for health benefits. During your first week, take some time to understand your options, deductibles and co-pays. If your employer offers a flexible savings account, you can use it to save pre-tax dollars to cover those costs.
  • No health benefits? Ask your parents if you can stay on their plan. New rules may let you stay on your parents’ plan until you’re 26.
  • Start your retirement saving. Many employers offer a retirement savings plan at work. Find out your options and start saving as soon as possible–especially if your workplace offers a matching contribution. That’s free money! Save at least enough to get your employer’s contribution. Some employers may require you to work up to a year before signing up. If that’s the case, set a reminder for yourself and sign up as soon as you can.
  • Open an IRA. If a plan isn’t offered at work, you have to wait a period of time to join, or you think it might be appropriate for you, consider opening an individual retirement account (IRA) on your own.
  • Consider enrolling in IBR. If you have federal student loans and you are not getting a hefty paycheck, you should consider enrolling in income-based repayment (IBR).
  • Ask questions. Being independent doesn’t mean you have to know everything. If you have questions, ask people you trust, like your parents or friends. Your human resources department may also have staff available to help. You could Ask CFPB or try online resources like the IRS or Department of Labor.

Join us today for a discussion on debt collection

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Today, we’re co-hosting a roundtable discussion with the Federal Trade Commission on “Life of a debt: Data integrity in debt collection.” You can join us by tuning into a livestream of the event starting at 9 a.m. EDT.

This event brings together debt collection specialists to discuss solutions to collection issues that may harm consumers.

Panelists will discuss:

  • The quality and quantity of information conveyed to debt collectors upon initial assignment or purchase of debt.
  • The process of debt collection and dispute handling in debt collection and related credit reporting.
  • Debt collection litigation issues.

Take a look at the full agenda to learn more.

Working with small businesses

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We’re committed to building partnerships with small businesses, including those owned by veterans, women, and minorities, that can help us meet our purchasing needs. If you or your company are interested in doing business with us, we have an event you won’t want to miss.

On June 25, 2013, we will be hosting a small business fair from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at our office in Washington, D.C.

Please join us for this opportunity to meet with representatives from our business units, procurement team, and Office of Minority and Women Inclusion. We’ll be discussing current business needs and upcoming contracting opportunities. Those attending will be able to share ideas and solutions, as well as network.

Please email CFPB_procurement@cfpb.gov and include your capabilities statement if you are interested in attending. Space is limited.

Unleash the power of age

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This May marked the 50th anniversary of Older Americans month. This year’s theme – Unleash the Power of Age – has been an inspirational reminder of the achievements, expertise, and wisdom that age brings. Beyond this month – use the months ahead, to celebrate your – or your older family members’, friends’, and colleagues’ – talents and gifts.

We’re working every day to “unleash the power of age” – by working to empower older consumers to take control of their financial lives and achieve their goals. Admittedly, as many Americans grow older, power may be the last thing they feel with regard to their financial preparedness for retirement, ability to protect themselves from fraud or scams, and general financial security. We’re committed to providing older Americans with tools and information they can use to plan for a secure future.

Older adults are still empowering themselves today:

  • With increased longevity and better health, older Americans can work longer and bolster their later life economic security. A recent poll reported that 26 percent of those surveyed say they will retire beyond the age of 65. Working longer can mean saving more, building 401(k) and other pension accounts, and thereby having more when you do retire.
  • Many people are in a position to defer claiming Social Security several years beyond their initial eligibility at 62 – and thereby significantly increase their benefit checks when they do collect. If you were born between 1943 and 1954 and start receiving your benefits at age 66, you receive 100 percent of your monthly benefit, but if you wait until at age 67, you’ll get 108 percent of the monthly benefit, and at 70 you’ll get 132 percent.
  • Staying physically fit and maintaining cognitive strength can help you stay financially fit. Research shows that financial capability is one of the first abilities to decline as cognitive impairment encroaches. But the Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation reports that physical exercise reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 50 percent, and women from age 40 to 60 who exercised regularly had a dramatic reduction in cognitive decline.

For younger people reading this, please take the time to celebrate an elder family member, neighbor or acquaintance and the history and wisdom garnered over a lifetime.  Let’s keep reaching out year-round and not limit recognition to one month a year.

Dig in: Releasing credit report and money transfer complaint data

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We promised more expansions and improvements to the Consumer Complaint Database and, just in time for the National Day of Civic Hacking, we’re delivering on that promise.

Today we’re adding:

  • Complaints about credit reports
  • Complaints about money transfers
  • More specificity about certain issues by adding sub-issues. For example, you’ll see more detail about the specific issue around incorrect information on a credit report such the information isn’t the consumer’s, wrong personal information, etc.
  • The state where the consumer lives. We’ve always had ZIP code, but listing the state can make it even easier to put the data in context.

Adding credit report and money transfer complaints will take the number of complaints in the database to more than 113,000.

Remember, if you think you’ve found something interesting in the consumer complaint data, we definitely want to hear about it and encourage the public, including consumers, analysts, data scientists, civic hackers, and companies that serve consumers, to analyze, augment, and build on the information in the database to develop ways for consumers to use the complaint data or mash it up with other public data sets to reveal potential trends.

Check out our civic hacking challenges and don’t forget to share your work, from visualizations to new tools, by tweeting @CFPB using the hashtag #CFPBdata.

The consumer complaint database is just another example of our support for an open-data agenda. Our Project Catalyst team also will be using this data to support innovation in the consumer finance space.

The CFPB blog aims to facilitate conversations about our work. We want your comments to drive this conversation. Please be courteous, constructive, and on-topic. To help make the conversation productive, we encourage you to read our comment policy before posting. Comments on any post remain open for seven days from the date it was posted.