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    Comparing an FHA and conventional mortgage

    These days, both require very low down payments

    You've spent months on real estate websites and toured dozens of properties. You've finally found the right house in the right location for the right price and your offer has been accepted.

    Now you have to select the method to finance your purchase, and for most first-time buyers there are two main options – an FHA or a conventional mortgage.

    Which is better will depend on your individual circumstances. Both have their advantages.

    Guaranteed

    An FHA loan is guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration, part of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). If you qualify for an FHA mortgage, the U.S. government guarantees to the lender that the loan will be repaid.

    The loan has some advantages and disadvantages for the borrower. The first is that it is easier to qualify for an FHA loan than it is a conventional mortgage.

    Because it is a program to encourage homeownership, and the government stands behind the loan, a borrower may qualify with less than perfect credit. While overall lending requirements are much tighter in the wake of the housing crash, FHA requirements are a bit less tight.

    Debt-to-income ratio

    For example, a lender looks at a borrower's debt-to-income ratio – what you owe vs. how much money you make. FHA gives you more leeway than conventional loans, meaning if you are early in your career and are still paying on some student loans, an FHA loan may allow you to buy more house than a conventional loan would.

    You can purchase a home with an FHA loan without putting 20% down, which is less of an advantage these days because there are many conventional mortgage programs with similar low down payments.

    An FHA loan requires as little as 3.5% as a down payment but there are now conventional loans with as little as 3% down.

    Lower interest rates

    When it comes to interest rates, the advantage usually goes to FHA. FHA loans almost always have lower interest rates than conventional loans, but the rate spread will differ state to state.

    If you choose to put less than 20% down you will be required to pay mortgage insurance, whether it is an FHA or conventional loan. Mortgage insurance protects the lender from loss in case the borrower defaults.

    Here, the advantage you get with a lower interest rate on an FHA mortgage is wiped out by the slightly higher rate you will pay for mortgage insurance. These insurance costs are based on a percentage of the loan and for FHA mortgage insurance, the percentage is slightly higher.

    But in a decided advantage for a conventional loan, you can appeal to the lender to discontinue the mortgage insurance requirement once you have achieved 25% equity in the home. With an FHA loan, the mortgage insurance requirement is permanent for the life of the loan.

    Because of mortgage insurance, a conventional loan payment might turn out to be lower than an FHA payment, even though it has a lower interest rate.

    If you are just beginning your home search, you should discuss the FHA vs. conventional options with a mortgage officer during the pre-approval process so you will know exactly how much you will be able to pay for a home.

    You've spent months on real estate websites and toured dozens of properties. You've finally found the right house in the right location for the right price...
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    Unemployment still high for young and old

    Survey shows half of older workers out of work for 5 years still not working

    The nation's unemployment rate, which hit 10% in the wake of the Great Recession, has slowly come down over the last 6 years and now approaches normal levels. At least on paper.

    As many have pointed out, the official jobless rate only counts people who are still looking for a job. It doesn't count those who have been out of work so long they've given up, or are working a part-time job because they can't find a full-time one.

    A closer look at the jobless numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) also shows that workers at either end of the wage spectrum appear to be most likely to be out of work. In its annual report, released in August, the BLS found the youth unemployment rate was significantly lower than in previous decades.

    Older workers

    Older workers are also more likely to be out of the labor market. A new report by AARP claims that half of the people in the U.S., age 45 to 70, who lost their job during the last 5 years are still not working.

    Fifty percent of people in that age group responding to the survey said they were either unemployed or had dropped out of the labor force and were no longer looking for a job. AARP says nearly half of those who had lost a job and found another were earning less than they did in the job they lost.

    "As the economy continues to recover and the unemployment rate falls, there are still far too many people struggling," said Debra Whitman, Chief Public Policy Officer at AARP. "Many Americans want to work as long as possible but our survey confirms that, once unemployed, it can take a long time for older workers to find a quality job."

    Of the older Americans in the survey who were not working, 38% described themselves as unemployed and still looking. Twelve percent said they were no longer looking for a job and had dropped out of the labor force.

    Interesting facts

    AARP says its survey uncovered some interesting facts about older workers. For one, being out of work for a long time usually means you earn less when you finally land a job.

    Being out of work for an extended time also increases the likelihood that the job seeker will settle for a part-time job, even though she wants to work 40 hours a week. In fact, 41% of those who experienced long-term unemployment are working in part-time jobs.

    It's possible that many of these older workers were in jobs or vocations that suffered serious dislocation because of advances in technology and productivity. The survey seems to suggest that.

    Of the long-term unemployed older workers in the survey who were successful in getting another job, 53% were in an occupation different from the one they had prior to becoming unemployed. Of workers out for work for a short time, just 46% were in a different occupation.

    The nation's unemployment rate, which hit 10% in the wake of the Great Recession, has slowly come down over the last 6 years and now approaches normal leve...
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      Texas veterinarian vows Supreme Court challenge in Internet advice case

      The state suspended Dr. Ron Hines' license for giving advice to pet owners over the Internet

      Texas veterinarian Dr. Ron Hines says he will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review his lawsuit challenging the Texas Veterinary Board’s prohibition on offering veterinary advice over the Internet.

      The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week upheld Texas law requiring that a veterinarian physically examine an animal prior to offering advice on how to treat or care for it.

      Since 2002, Hines kept active in his retirement by providing advice on his website to pet owners around the world, many of them in remote locations, often for free.

      But in 2013, the Texas Veterinary Board suspended Hines' license, fined him and made him retake portions of the veterinary licensing exam, finding that he had violated a Texas law tht makes it illegal for a veterinarian to give advice about an animal he has not physicall examined.

      “This case stands at the crossroads of internet freedom, free speech, and economic liberty,” said Institute for Justice Senior Attorney Jeff Rowes, who represents Dr. Hines. “Dr. Hines gives advice for a living, and advice is speech protected by the First Amendment. This case is ripe for review because the federal courts of appeal across the country disagree about the extent to which the First Amendment protects the speech of licensed professionals when they give individually tailored advice.”

      Hines is expected to file his petition for review with the U.S. Supreme Court in late June. He has 90 days from the date of the Court of Appeals’ decision.

      The Institute for Justice is currently litigating a similar case in Kentucky that challenges the state’s use of psychology-licensing statutes to regulate the speech of a newspaper advice columnist.

      In June 2014, IJ scored a victory in the District of Columbia, where the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit struck down the city’s tour-guide licensing scheme, finding that it was an unconstitutional infringement of tour guides’ free speech rights.

      Texas veterinarian Dr. Ron Hines says he will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review his lawsuit challenging the Texas Veterinary Board’s prohibition on offe...
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      Denver, Miami and Dallas pace increase in home prices

      The rate of increase, however, is slowing

      Home prices continued their rise across the country over the 12 months ending in January, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices.

      At the same time, though, monthly data reveal slowing increases and seasonal weakness.

      Year-over-year

      Both the 10-City and 20-City Composites saw year-over-year increases, with the 10-City Composite up 4.4% and the 20-City Composite gaining 4.6%. The S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index, which covers all 9 U.S. census divisions, recorded a 4.5% annual gain in January.

      Denver and Miami reported the highest year-over-year gains, as prices increased by 8.4% and 8.3%, respectively. Fourteen cities reported higher price increases in the year ended January 2015 over the year ended December 2014.

      Chicago led the way with a reported increase of 2.5% -- up 11 basis points from December. Six cities reported declines, with San Francisco leading the declining annual returns with a reported rate of 7.9%, compared with 9.4% annually.

      "The combination of low interest rates and strong consumer confidence based on solid job growth, cheap oil and low inflation continue to support further increases in home prices" says David M. Blitzer, Managing Director and Chairman of the Index Committee for S&P Dow Jones Indices. "Regional patterns in recent months continue: strength in the west and southwest paced by Denver and Dallas with results ahead of the national index in the California cities, the Pacific Northwest and Las Vegas. The northeast and Midwest are mostly weaker than the national index.”

      Month-over-month

      The news wasn't quite as good on a month-over-month basis. The National index declined for the fifth consecutive month in January, reporting a -0.1%. Both the 10- and 20-City Composites reported virtually flat month-over-month changes.

      Of the 9 cities that reported increases, Charlotte, Miami, and San Diego led all cities in January with increases of 0.7%. San Francisco reported the largest decrease of all 20 cities -- -0.9%. Seattle and Washington, D.C., reported decreases of -0.5%. Unusually cold and wet weather may have weakened activity in some cities.

      "Despite price gains, the housing market faces some difficulties”, said Blitzer. “Home prices are rising roughly twice as fast as wages, putting pressure on potential home buyers and heightening the risk that any uptick in interest rates could be a major setback.

      He also pointed out that the new home sector is weak. “Residential construction is still below its pre-crisis peak,” he said. “Any time before 2008 that housing starts were as low as the current rate of one million, the economy was in a recession."

      Home prices continued their rise across the country over the 12 months ending in January, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices. At the sa...
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      Consumers hit the stores for Easter goodies

      Candy and new spring apparel top shoppers' lists

      With Easter just days away, 80% of consumers are eagerly looking forward to a fun, family-filled holiday, according to the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Easter Spending Survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics.

      The survey found that the average person celebrating Easter will spend $140.62 -- slightly more than last year’s $137.46. Total spending for Easter, which includes purchases of apparel, decorations, gifts, candy, food, flowers and more, is expected to reach $16.4 billion.

      “Easter will be the perfect segue into spring for both consumers and retailers who have longed for warmer weather for quite some time,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “As one of the busiest times of year for several retail sectors and as shelves begin filling with both traditional spring and holiday merchandise, retailers are looking forward to welcoming shoppers with attractive promotions on home goods, garden equipment and traditional Easter items.”

      New duds

      Consumers, the survey says, will use Easter as the perfect opportunity to spruce up their spring wardrobes, with 45% of those celebrating buying clothing -- spending more than $2.9 billion on bright colored apparel items for themselves and their families.

      However, more people plan to buy food for the holiday: 85.7% will purchase food for a family meal or other festivity, spending more than $5.3 billion on Easter fare.

      Children and sweet-toothed adults will also purchase candy this Easter: 87.1% of those celebrating say they will buy candy, spending more than $2.2 billion on jelly beans, chocolate bunnies and flavorful chick-shaped Peeps.

      Consumers this holiday will also spend $2.4 billion on gifts, $1.1 billion on flowers, $998 million on decorations and $695 million on greeting cards.

      Where we shop

      With a laundry list of items to buy, 58.6% will head to discount stores to purchase their holiday merchandise. Another 40.7 will shop at department stores, while 23.8% plan to shop at a local or small business. Additionally, 21.8% will head to a specialty store like a florist or jewelry store and 18.8 percent will shop online.

      Busy Easter shoppers will take advantage of their mobile devices to help them find meal items, gifts, candy and more. According to the survey, 21.4% of those who own smartphones and are planning to celebrate Easter will use their phone to research products and/or compare prices, and another 13.5% will purchase items with their smartphone.

      Nearly one-quarter (24.9%) of tablet owners will research products and/or compare prices for their Easter needs on tablets; 16.6% will purchase something via their tablet.

      What we're doing

      For the first time, NRF asked consumers about the activities they are planning for Easter Sunday, and the survey found many of the traditional aspects of the holiday will be in play this year. Nearly 6 in 10 (57.4%) plan to visit friends and family, half (50.8%) will go to church and 12.9% plan to open gifts.

      Not forgetting the little ones, 3 in 10 (30.9%) adults will plan a special Easter egg hunt for the children in their lives. Additionally, 15% of those celebrating will opt out of doing dishes and head to a restaurant to celebrate the holiday and 24.1% will surf the Web throughout the day.

      “Easter remains a beloved affair for consumers young and old, and this year it looks like families are ready to dig into their budgets to make the most of the special day,” said Prosper’s Principal Analyst Pam Goodfellow. “The warm weather should help fuel some interest in celebrations, especially given the record-breaking winter much of the country experienced the last several months.”

      With Easter just days away, 80% of consumers are eagerly looking forward to a fun, family-filled holiday, according to the National Retail Federation’s Eas...
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      Feds bounce bad-check collectors

      Debt collectors used threats of arrest to intimidate borrowers

      A debt collection agency that threatened to have consumers arrested for bouncing checks will pay $50,000 in penalties if a proposed settlement with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is approved by a federal district court.

      The National Corrective Group used deceptive threats of criminal prosecution and jail time in order to intimidate consumers into paying debts for bounced checks. The company also misled consumers into believing that they must enroll in a costly financial education program to avoid criminal charges.

      “National Corrective Group masqueraded as prosecutors and used deceptive tactics to intimidate consumers into paying hundreds of dollars in extra fees to avoid potential criminal prosecution,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Today we are taking action to put a stop to these illegal debt collection practices.”

      The CFPB’s proposed order names National Corrective Group, a privately-held, California-based corporation that operates nationwide and specializes in the collection of consumer debt for bounced checks, and several affiliated companies. Together, these companies operate one of the largest bad check diversion programs in the United States.

      The CFPB alleges that National Corrective Group deceived consumers by sending them notices on prosecutors’ letterheads and creating the false impression that consumers may be prosecuted for writing bounced checks. However, the letters went to consumers before any district attorney had determined prosecution was likely.

      Consumers were told by the company that to qualify for the diversion program and avoid prosecution they must pay the bounced check debts as well as enroll in the company’s financial education class for an additional fee. The cost of the financial education classes were typically around $200, which was often several times the amount of the alleged bad check debt.

      A debt collection agency that threatened to have consumers arrested for bouncing checks will pay $50,000 in penalties if a proposed settlement with the Con...
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      Need more time to prepare your tax return? Get it now

      But you still need to pay up on time

      With just over 2 weeks to go before the federal tax-filing deadline, a lot of folks are beginning to realize they are nowhere near ready to send in their returns.

      Not a problem, says the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The tax agency says it's actually easy to get more time; in fact, it can even be done online.

      Chill out

      If you haven’t yet filed, the IRS has this advice: Don’t panic. Taxpayers who need more time to complete their tax return can request an automatic 6-month extension.

      The fastest and easiest way to get the extra time is through the Free File link on IRS.gov. In a matter of minutes, anyone, regardless of income, can use this free service to request an extension on Form 4868.

      Filing this form gives you until Oct. 15 to file a return. To get the extension, taxpayers must estimate their tax liability on this form and should also pay any amount due.

      No free pass

      The IRS stresses that a request for an extension will give extra time to file a tax return -- not extra time to pay any taxes owed. By filing either a regular tax return or requesting an extension by the April 15 filing deadline, taxpayers will avoid a stiff penalty -- the late-filing penalty. Taxpayers should file even if they can’t pay the full amount of taxes they owe.

      The late-filing penalty, normally 5% per month based on the unpaid tax balance, applies to returns filed after the April 15 filing deadline. In addition, any payment made with an extension request will reduce or eliminate interest and late-payment penalties that apply to payments made after April 15.

      The interest rate is currently 3% per year, compounded daily, and the late-payment penalty is normally 0.5% per month.

      No need to ask

      Some taxpayers get more time to file without having to ask for an extension. These include:

      • Taxpayers abroad. U.S. citizens and resident aliens who live and work abroad, as well as members of the military on duty outside the U.S., have until June 15 to file. Tax payments are still due April 15.
      • Members of the military and others serving in Afghanistan or other combat zone localities. Typically, taxpayers can wait until at least 180 days after they leave the combat zone to file returns and pay any taxes due. For details, see Extensions of Deadlines in Publication 3, Armed Forces’ Tax Guide.
      • People affected by certain recent natural disasters.
      With just over 2 weeks to go before the federal tax-filing deadline, a lot of folks are beginning to realize they are nowhere near ready to send in the ret...
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      BMW recalls various convertibles

      The driver's front air bag deployment timing may be incorrect

      BMW of North America is recalling 2,067 model year 2015 428i Convertible, 428i xDrive Convertible, 435i Convertible, and 435i xDrive Convertible vehicles manufactured October 22, 2014, to February 27, 2015.

      Due to a programming error, the driver's front air bag deployment timing may be incorrect, posing an increased risk of personal injury in the event of a vehicle crash.

      BMW will notify owners, and dealers will reprogram the air bag control module with corrected software version, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in April 2015.

      Owners may contact BMW customer service at 1-800-525-7417.

      BMW of North America is recalling 2,067 model year 2015 428i Convertible, 428i xDrive Convertible, 435i Convertible, and 435i xDrive Convertible vehicles m...
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      Yaris vehicles sold in Puerto Rico recalled

      The roof headliner may not provide the proper occupant protection

      Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 16,582 model year 2012-2015 Yaris vehicles manufactured August 31, 2011, to February 9, 2015, and sold in Puerto Rico.

      The recalled vehicles may have been manufactured with a roof headliner that does not provide the proper occupant protection in the event of a crash. This could increase the risk of occupant injury in the event of a crash.

      Toyota will notify owners, and dealers will replace the headliner, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in mid-April 2015.

      Owners may contact Toyota customer service at 1-800-331-4331.

      Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 16,582 model year 2012-2015 Yaris vehicles manufactured August 31, 2011, to February 9, 2015, and sol...
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      Aurora Products expands recall of walnut and trail mix products

      The products may contain Salmonella

      Aurora Products is expanding its earlier nationwide recall of certain lots of natural walnuts and trail mixes containing walnuts.

      The products may contain Salmonella.

      No illnesses have been reported to date.

      The recalled products were distributed through retail stores nationwide and in Canada and Bermuda.

      Private label products that use store branded labeling include: America Choice, Belmont Market, Boiceville Market, Gaul’s Market, Green Hills Market, Harvest Co – Op Market, Hurley Ridge, Lees, Miles Market, Palmers Market, Union Market, Walter Stewart , Windfall Market and Wild Acorns.

      The recalled products are listed below:

      America Choice Brand Products

      AFFECTED PRODUCTPACKAGE SIZEUPC CODEBEST IF USED BY DATE CODE RANGE
      Walnuts12 oz. Plastic Pouch7548077904910/29/15 – 12/7/15
      Cranberry Health Mix12 oz. Plastic Pouch7548077904610/30/15 – 12/13/15

      Belmont Market Brand Products

      AFFECTED PRODUCTPACKAGE SIZEUPC CODEBEST IF USED BY DATE CODE RANGE
      Walnuts6.5 oz. Plastic Cup6558520009710/29/15 – 12/7/15
      Cranberry Health Mix9.25 oz. Plastic Cup6558520028810/30/15 – 12/13/15
      Cranberry Health Mix21 oz. Plastic Cup6558520058510/30/15 – 12/13/15
      Roasted Salt Mixed Nuts20 oz. Plastic Tub6558520034011/4/15 – 12/13/15
      5 K Omega Trail Mix10 oz. Plastic Cup6558520070311/3/15 – 11/16/15

      Boiceville Market Brand Products

      AFFECTED PRODUCTPACKAGE SIZEUPC CODEBEST IF USED BY DATE CODE RANGE
      Roasted No Salt Mixed Nuts9.0 oz. Plastic Cup6558520024311/10/15 – 12/10/15

      Citarella Brand Products

      AFFECTED PRODUCTPACKAGE SIZEUPC CODEBEST IF USED BY DATE CODE RANGE
      Cranberry Health Mix9.25 oz. Plastic Cup7908450594910/30/15 – 12/19/15
      Cranberry Health MixBulkNO UPC10/30/15 – 12/13/15

      Food Emporium Brand Products

      AFFECTED PRODUCTPACKAGE SIZEUPC CODEBEST IF USED BY DATE CODE RANGE
      6 – Section Nut Tray Assortment26 oz. Plastic Tray0111907901211/6/15 – 12/10/15
      4 – Section Nut Tray Assortment13 oz. Plastic Tray0111907901111/6/15 – 12/10/15
      Cranberry Health Mix7.5 oz. Gift Bag0111907904410/30/15 – 12/13/15
      Raisin Nut Party Mix7.5 oz. Gift Bag0111907905011/10/15 – 12/10/15
      Roasted Salt Mixed Nuts6.5 oz. Gift Bag0111907904211/4/15 – 12/10/15
      Roasted Salt Mixed Nuts20 oz. Plastic Tub0111907909511/4/15 – 12/10/15
      Roasted No Salt Mixed Nuts20 oz. Plastic Tub0111907903911/10/15 – 12/10/15
      Cranberry Health Mix21 oz. Plastic Cup0111907901010/30/15 – 12/19/15
      Walnuts14.0 oz. Plastic Tub0111907909610/29/15 – 12/7/15
      Walnuts12.0 oz. Plastic Pouch7229745100410/29/15 – 12/7/15

      Gaul’s Market Brand Products

      AFFECTED PRODUCTPACKAGE SIZEUPC CODEBEST IF USED BY DATE CODE RANGE
      Walnuts6.5 oz. Plastic Cup6558520009710/29/15 – 12/7/15
      Cranberry Health Mix9.25 oz. Plastic Cup6558520028810/30/15 – 12/13/15
      Cranberry Health Mix21 oz. Plastic Cup6558520058510/30/15 – 12/13/15
      Raisin Nut Party Mix11.0 oz. Plastic Cup6558520009411/10/15 – 12/10/15
      Roasted No Salt Mixed Nuts9.0 oz. Plastic Cup6558520024311/10/15 – 12/10/15
      Roasted Salt Mixed Nuts9.0 oz. Plastic Cup6558520008411/4/15 – 12/13/15
      Roasted Salt Mixed Nuts20 oz. Plastic Tub6558520034011/4/15 – 12/13/15

      Gourmet Garage Brand Products

      AFFECTED PRODUCTPACKAGE SIZEUPC CODEBEST IF USED BY DATE CODE RANGE
      Walnuts6.5 oz. Plastic Cup7908450593110/29/15 – 12/7/15
      Walnuts14.0 oz. Plastic Tub7908450537110/29/15 – 12/7/15
      Roasted Mixed Nuts with sea salt

      9 oz. Plastic Cup

      7908450592211/4/15 – 12/19/15
      Roasted Mixed Nuts No Salt

      9 oz. Plastic Cup

      7908450601011/10/15 – 12/19/15
      Roasted Salted Mixed Nuts Deluxe

      9 oz. Plastic Cup

      7908450594511/18/15 – 12/19/15
      Roasted Salt Mixed Nuts with sea salt20 oz. Plastic Tub7908450584211/4/15 – 12/19/15
      San Fernando Sunshine Mix

      11 oz. Plastic Cup

      7908450593611/10/15 – 12/19/15
      5 K Omega Trail Mix10 oz. Plastic Cup7908450594711/3/15 – 12/19/15
      Cranberry Health Mix9.25 oz. Plastic Cup7908450594910/30/15 – 12/19/15
      Cranberry Health Mix21 oz. Plastic Cup7908450560310/30/15 – 12/19/15

      Green Hills Market Brand Products

      AFFECTED PRODUCTPACKAGE SIZEUPC CODEBEST IF USED BY DATE CODE RANGE
      Cranberry Health Mix9.25 oz. Plastic Cup6558520028810/30/15 – 12/13/15
      Cranberry Health Mix21 oz. Plastic Cup6558520058510/30/15 – 12/13/15

      Harvest Co – Op Market Brand Products

      AFFECTED PRODUCTPACKAGE SIZEUPC CODEBEST IF USED BY DATE CODE RANGE
      Walnuts6.5 oz. Plastic Cup6558520009710/29/15 – 12/7/15
      Cranberry Health Mix9.25 oz. Plastic Cup6558520028810/30/15 – 12/13/15
      Raisin Nut Party Mix11.0 oz. Plastic Cup6558520009411/10/15 – 12/10/15
      Roasted No Salt Mixed Nuts9.0 oz. Plastic Cup6558520024311/10/15 – 12/10/15
      Roasted Salt Mixed Nuts9.0 oz. Plastic Cup6558520008411/4/15 – 12/13/15

      Hurley Ridge Brand Products

      AFFECTED PRODUCTPACKAGE SIZEUPC CODEBEST IF USED BY DATE CODE RANGE
      Walnuts6.5 oz. Plastic Cup6558520009710/29/15 – 12/7/15
      Walnuts12 oz. Plastic Pouch6558520031610/29/15 – 12/7/15
      Raisin Nut Party Mix11.0 oz. Plastic Cup6558520009411/10/15 – 12/10/15
      Roasted No Salt Mixed Nuts9.0 oz. Plastic Cup6558520024311/10/15 – 12/10/15
      Roasted Salt Mixed Nuts9.0 oz. Plastic Cup6558520008411/4/15 – 12/13/15
      Cranberry Health Mix9.25 oz. Plastic Cup6558520028810/30/15 – 12/13/15
      Cranberry Health Mix21 oz. Plastic Cup6558520058510/30/15 – 12/13/15

      Lees Market Brand Products

      AFFECTED PRODUCTPACKAGE SIZEUPC CODEBEST IF USED BY DATE CODE RANGE
      Walnuts6.5 oz. Plastic Cup6558520009710/29/15 – 12/7/15
      Cranberry Health Mix9.25 oz. Plastic Cup6558520028810/30/15 – 12/13/15
      Cranberry Health Mix21 oz. Plastic Cup6558520058510/30/15 – 12/13/15

      Miles Market Brand Products (Bermuda)

      AFFECTED PRODUCTPACKAGE SIZEUPC CODEBEST IF USED BY DATE CODE RANGE
      Cranberry Health Mix9.25 oz. Plastic Cup6558520028810/30/15 – 12/13/15

      Palmers Market Brand Products

      AFFECTED PRODUCTPACKAGE SIZEUPC CODEBEST IF USED BY DATE CODE RANGE
      Walnuts6.5 oz. Plastic Cup6558520009710/29/15 – 12/7/15
      Roasted Salt Mixed Nuts9.0 oz. Plastic Cup6558520008411/4/15 – 12/13/15
      Roasted No Salt Mixed Nuts9.0 oz. Plastic Cup6558520024311/10/15 – 12/10/15

      Union Market Brand Products

      AFFECTED PRODUCTPACKAGE SIZEUPC CODEBEST IF USED BY DATE CODE RANGE
      Walnuts6.5 oz. Plastic Cup6558520009710/29/15 – 12/7/15
      Cranberry Health Mix9.25 oz. Plastic Cup6558520028810/30/15 – 12/13/15
      5 K Omega Trail Mix10 oz. Plastic Cup6558520070311/3/15 – 11/16/15

      Walter Stewart Market Brand Products

      AFFECTED PRODUCTPACKAGE SIZEUPC CODEBEST IF USED BY DATE CODE RANGE
      Walnuts14.0 oz. Plastic Tub6558520007010/29/15 – 12/7/15
      Roasted No Salt Mixed Nuts9.0 oz. Plastic Cup6558520024311/10/15 – 12/10/15

      Windfall Market Brand Products

      AFFECTED PRODUCTPACKAGE SIZEUPC CODEBEST IF USED BY DATE CODE RANGE
      Walnuts6.5 oz. Plastic Cup6558520009710/29/15 – 12/7/15
      Cranberry Health Mix9.25 oz. Plastic Cup6558520028810/30/15 – 12/13/15

      Wild Acorns Brand Products

      AFFECTED PRODUCTPACKAGE SIZEUPC CODEBEST IF USED BY DATE CODE RANGE
      Walnuts6.5 oz. Plastic Cup8195740107510/29/15 – 12/7/15
      Roasted Salt Mixed Nuts9.0 oz. Plastic Cup8195740105211/4/15 – 12/13/15
      Roasted No Salt Mixed Nuts9.0 oz. Plastic Cup8195740104011/10/15 – 12/10/15
      Raisin Nut Party Mix11.0 oz. Plastic Cup8195740103111/10/15 – 12/10/15
      Cranberry Health Mix9.25 oz. Plastic Cup8195740102510/30/15 – 12/13/15
      Cranberry Health Mix16.0 oz. Plastic Pouch8195740111410/30/15 – 12/13/15

      Wild By Nature Brand Products

      AFFECTED PRODUCTPACKAGE SIZEUPC CODEBEST IF USED BY DATE CODE RANGE
      Cranberry Health Mix9.25 oz. Plastic Cup6558527028810/30/15 – 12/13/15
      Roasted Salt Mixed Nuts9.0 oz. Plastic Cup6558527008411/4/15 – 12/10/15
      Roasted No Salt Mixed Nuts9.0 oz. Plastic Cup6558527024311/10/15 – 12/10/15
      Walnuts6.5 oz. Plastic Cup6558527009710/29/15 – 12/7/15
      Consumers who have the recalled products should not eat them, but destroy them or return them to the place of purchase.

      Customers with questions may contact Aurora Products at (800)-898-1048 between 9:00AM – 5:00 PM EST Monday – Friday.

      Aurora Products is expanding its earlier nationwide recall of certain lots of natural walnuts and trail mixes containing walnuts. The products may contain...
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      Toyota recalls vehicles with power steering issues

      The electric power steering system could fail

      Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 110,085 model year 2015 Camry, Camry Hybrid, Highlander, and Highlander Hybrid, and 2014-2015 Rav4 vehicles.

      A component of the electric power steering (EPS) electronic control unit (ECU) may have been damaged during the manufacturing process. Over time, this damage may result in failure of the electric power steering system, increasing the risk of a crash.

      Toyota will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the serial number of the EPS ECU or steering column assembly. If the number is within the affected range, the EPS ECU will be replaced, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin in April 2015. Owners may contact Toyota customer service at 1-800-331-4331.

      Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 110,085 model year 2015 Camry, Camry Hybrid, Highlander, and Highlander Hybrid, and 2014-2015 Rav4 ve...
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      Student loan debt may be worse than we thought

      Educator argues for increased financial literacy for college students

      What we know about student loan debt is sobering enough.

      "The average student loan debt for a U.S. graduate of the Class of 2013 was $28,400, according to the Project on Student Debt," said Deborah Figart of the School of Education, at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. "Each month, young adults are burdened with 25% to 30% or more of their net pay dedicated to student loan debt."

      The total outstanding student loan debt in the U.S. has now surpassed $1.2 trillion. A September 2014 report by the credit bureau Experian found student loans in the U.S. had surged 84% since the Great Recession, with more than 40 million consumers having at least 1 student loan.

      It's a debt burden that many recent graduates – and especially those who left school before graduating – cannot easily bear. In its Project on Student Debt, the Institute for College Access & Success reports that more than 650,000 federal student loan borrowers who began repaying their loans in 2011 had defaulted by 2013. The institute reported that students who attended for-profit colleges had a much higher average default rate than other types of schools: 19.1%, compared to 7.2% at nonprofit colleges.

      Horror stories

      Behind those statistics are specific horror stories. Figart says she has heard from graduates with tens of thousands of dollars in interest-accruing debt but are earning minimal wages. She's heard from law school graduates who can't get a license to practice, despite passing the necessary bar exams, because of a bad credit record.

      She says there are restaurant school graduates hoping to become chefs but earning a fraction of what they owe for their degree peeling potatoes.

      While the Experian report shows 40 million consumers with at least 1 student loan, Figart says the reality is actually worse. She says the average student has around 8 to 10 loans and the total student debt far outweighs the nation's total credit card bills.

      Solution?

      The answer, Figart says, is giving prospective college students full and transparent advice before they take out loans for an education that will follow them from campus to the workplace. She says the federal "Know Before You Owe Private Student Loan Act" does not go far enough in several ways and so also fails to protect students from debt.

      Figart has taught financial and economic literacy to students and teachers, covering subjects related to budgeting and consumer debt. And, while some states require courses to include a component related to budgeting and finance, she contends too many students are "falling through the cracks."

      The solution? Figart says students must be counseled in topics like loan repayment options, average salaries for a wide range of jobs, suggested debt-to-income ratios, and the likely consequences of defaulting on loan repayments.

      "In an economy where job security and job quality are increasingly elusive, students pursue higher education as an investment, not simply a means of personal fulfillment," she said. While financial counseling may dash the dreams of some or at least postpone those dreams, it could nevertheless save thousands of students from a fate worse than debt.”

      What we know about student loan debt is sobering enough. "The average student loan debt for a U.S. graduate of the Class of 2013 was $28,400, according to...
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      Solid gains in Midwest, West push pending home sales up in February

      The Pending Home Sales Index is at its highest level since last June

      Pending home sales shot to their highest level in 8 months in February as solid gains in the Midwest and West offset small declines in the Northeast and South.

      The National Association of Realtors (NAR) says its Pending Home Sales Index -- a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings -- rose 3.1% to 106.9 last month -- and is now 12.0% above February 2014 level.

      The index is also at its highest level since June 2013, has increased year-over-year for 6 consecutive months and is above 100 -- considered an average level of activity -- for the 10th straight month.

      Growing demand

      Demand appears to be strengthening heading into the spring buying season. “Pending sales showed solid gains last month, driven by a steadily-improving labor market, mortgage rates hovering around 4% and the likelihood of more renters looking to hedge against increasing rents,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “These factors bode well for the prospect of an uptick in sales in coming months. However, the underlying obstacle -- especially for first-time buyers -- continues to be the depressed level of homes available for sale.”

      According to the NAR’s monthly Realtors Confidence Index, the percent share of first-time buyers increased slightly in February for the first time since November 2014 -- up to 29% from% percent in January.

      “Several markets remain highly-competitive due to supply pressures, and realtors are reporting severe shortages of move-in ready and available properties in lower price ranges,” adds Yun. “The return of first-time buyers this year will depend on how quickly inventory shows up in the market.”

      Activity by region

      • The PHSI in the Northeast fell 2.3% to 81.7 in February, but is 4.1% above a year ago.
      • In the Midwest the index surged 11.6% to 110.4, and is now 13.8% above February 2014.
      • Pending home sales in the South dipped 1.4% to an index of 120.2, but still shows a year-over-year gain of 10.8%.
      • The index in the West climbed 6.6% last month to 102.1, the highest since June and 18.3% above a year ago.

      A look ahead

      Total existing-homes sales this year are forecast to be around 5.25 million, according to the NAR, an increase of 6.4% from 2014. The national median existing-home price for all of this year is expected to rise by about 5.6%.

      Existing-home sales declined 2.9% in 2014, while prices rose 5.7%.

      Pending home sales in February shot to their highest level in 8 months as solid gains in the Midwest and West offset small declines in the Northeast and So...
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      A February increase in personal incomes and spending

      Consumers also tucked more money into their savings accounts

      Consumers had more money in their pockets in February, which led to an increase in personal outlays.

      The Commerce Department reports personal income rose $58.6 billion, or 0.4% the third increase in a row. Disposable personal income (DPI) -- personal income less personal current taxes -- increased $54.2 billion, or 0.4%.

      Personal consumption expenditures (PCE), or consumer spending, inched up 0.1% or $11.8 billion -- or 0.1% -- the first increase in 3 months.

      Wages and salaries

      Wages and salaries were up $23.9 billion in February, less than half of January's increase of $47.3 billion. Private wages and salaries made up $21.9 billion of that , while government compensation came to $2.1 billion. Pay raises for federal civilian personnel added an additional $0.6 billion.

      Personal outlays and saving

      Personal outlays -- PCE, personal interest payments, and personal current transfer payments – rose $14.2 billion last month after falling $25.4 billion in January.

      Personal saving -- DPI less personal outlays -- was up more than $40 billion from January -- to $768.6 billion. The personal saving rate -- personal saving as a percentage of DPI -- was 5.8%, compared with 5.5% the month before.

      The complete report is available on the Commerce Department website.

      Consumers had more money in their pockets in February, which led to an increase in personal outlays. The Commerce Department reports personal income rose ...
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      General Motors recalls Buick Encore and Chevrolet Trax vehicles

      The vehicles could experience a sudden loss of electric power steering assist

      General Motors is recalling 2,295 model year 2015 Buick Encore vehicles manufactured November 27, 2014, to February 24, 2015, and 2015 Chevrolet Trax vehicles manufactured November 18, 2014, to February 17, 2015.

      The steering column assembly housing may contact the power steering printed circuit board causing the circuit board to wear. The circuit board wear may cause a sudden loss of electric power steering assist, increasing the risk of a crash.

      GM will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and replace the steering column assembly, as necessary, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.

      Owners may contact Buick customer service at 1-800-521-7300 or Chevrolet customer service at 1-800-222-1020. GM's number for this recall is 15168.

      General Motors is recalling 2,295 model year 2015 Buick Encore vehicles manufactured November 27, 2014, to February 24, 2015, and 2015 Chevrolet Trax vehic...
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      Toyota recalls Rav4 EV vehicles

      The vehicle could lose drive power

      Toyota Motor Engineering & manufacturing is recalling 2,497 model year 2012-2014 Rav4 EV vehicles manufactured July 24, 2012, to August 29, 2014.

      Due to a software issue within a component of the Electric Vehicle Traction Motor Assembly, the electric propulsion motor may shift to "neutral" resulting in a possible loss of drive power. A loss of drive power may increase the risk of a crash.

      Toyota will notify owners beginning in April 2015. The remedy is still under development, but will be provided free of charge.

      Owners may contact Toyota customer service at 1-800-331-4331.

      Owners may contact Toyota customer service at 1-800-331-4331.

      Toyota Motor Engineering & manufacturing is recalling 2,497 model year 2012-2014 Rav4 EV vehicles manufactured July 24, 2012, to August 29, 2014. Due to...
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