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This Week in Your Wallet: September 13, 2011

As I’m writing this, I’m alternately typing and gazing out at a brilliant blue sky, the type of sky that so many of us remember from a certain fateful day ten years ago. If you’re like me, you spent the better part of the weekend mesmerized by the 9/11 anniversary coverage on almost every channel, website, and magazine. Hearing the tales of survival and heroism from firefighters and watching the memorial services in Shankesville, Washington, and New York stirred up a lot of different emotions, but above all, made me proud of our country.

However, a recent article in Reuters reminded me that there are swindlers looking to capitalize on these emotions, and that it’s easy to get caught in a trap in the form of a fake charity. “Unfortunately, we find that in times like these there are some really, really nasty people out there with ill intentions,” said Adam Levin, chairman and co-founder of Identity Theft 911, which provides identity theft and data breach education and resolution. Thieves will try to take advantage of your goodwill towards victims and memorial foundations by creating a fake charity or malicious link, then pocketing the money themselves. Levin warns all consumers to be wary of links they see on Facebook and Twitter, and any other online solicitation to “Remember 9/11.”

Donating to a 9/11 charity is certainly a wonderful thing to do. But don’t give to the first charity that comes asking, and be sure to check them out via the BBB or Guidestar. These rules apply to all charities — not just 9/11 ones. For more tips on September 11th charities and how to safely donate, you can check out the rest of the Reuters article here.

In more uplifting news…

What You Can Learn from Athletes (Other Than How to Spike a Football)

If I had a dollar for every professional athlete who spends lavishly, I’d be a rich lady. It seems like half of the ostentatious mansions featured on MTV’s “Cribs” belong to professional athletes, and you needn’t look much farther than New Jersey Nets player Kris Humphries and his wedding to Kim Kardashian for an example of over the top spending (I read they actually made $17 million on their nuptials! Boggles the mind.) However, not every athlete can spend like a king and get away with it. As this New York Times article points out, bankrupt athletes “are a sad fixture on the sports scene.”

In the case of athletes, bankruptcy often happens when someone receives a huge windfall of money and doesn’t know how to properly manage it. As author Ron Lieber points out, neither you nor I will be getting an endorsement deal from Nike anytime soon. However, we might come into a significant sum of cash — a bonus, an inheritance, the lottery — and in these cases, we can learn from athletes’ mistakes. Among his tips:

Q2 Credit Card Debt is Going Up, Up, and Up…

Let’s play a quick game. How much debt did consumers accumulate in the second quarter of 2011 alone? Is it:

A. $750 million

B. $2.5 billion

C. $11.1 billion

D. $18.4 billion

If you answered D, you are correct. This is 66% more than they accumulated in the same quarter of 2010, and a staggering 368% increase relative to the second quarter of 2009. CardHub.com came out with these numbers this week.  The company predicts that consumers will end 2011 with about $54 billion more in credit card debt.

However, while the rate at which this debt is rising is alarming, these facts and figures aren’t altogether a bad thing, says Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics.  “I view this as a good sign, not a bad sign.  What this indicates is people who can afford to borrow are starting to borrow again, and lenders are extending credit. This means that the leveraging process is coming to an end and credit flows are starting to improve.”  Though he noted that the third quarter of 2011 “will be weaker because of what we’re going through,” ultimately, “we’ll end the year stronger.”

How’s that for some good news? To see the full CardHub study, click here.

And finally, some quick self-promotion: I teamed up with Learnvest to create a personal finance bootcamp. It’s free – and contains a lot of the things you’re always telling me you want more information about. Check it out here.

That’s all for now. Have a great week!


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