MONEY BRIEFING
'Payday loans' criticized by debt-counseling group

Monday, December 14, 1998

A growing number of individuals is seeking help from the burden of "payday loans," the Debt Counselors of America (DCA) reports. Payday loans are also referred to as "cash advances," "check advance loans," "post-dated check loans" or "delayed deposit loans." But the DCA calls it loan sharking in its worst-case scenario and advises consumers to be cautious of them.

A borrower in need of cash writes a post-dated check payable to a check casher for a specific amount, plus a fee. The borrower gets the cash and the check casher holds the check until the borrower's next payday. At that time, he or she can either redeem the check with cash or a money order, let the company deposit the check or renew the loan by giving another post-dated check covering the previous amount, plus another fee.

"Unfortunately, the latter scenario is the most likely one, and borrowers get caught in a vicious circle . . .," said Elizabeth Parker, a DCA attorney. "Each time the borrower renews the loan, the interest rate increases. You could end up owing $1,000 when you only borrowed $200."

Time remains to reduce tax burden for 1998

Now that we're into December, taxpayers are almost out of time to reduce their tax bill for this year. But there are a few ways.

H&R Block suggests moving up 1999 deductions into 1998 - for example, by paying taxes and making January mortgage payments before the end of this month. If you'll have higher education tuition expenses in January, February or March, and you'll qualify for tax credits, pay the tuition now, too. And if you're a business owner and can defer 1998 income until 1999, that would also help lower your tax bill for this year.

Laid-off workers should plan next move

If you get a layoff notice, don't immediately rush your resume into the mail, suggests Manchester, an employment consulting firm based in Bala Cynwyd, Pa.

Manchester suggests that laid-off workers first think through their next career moves, defining goals and objectives and researching a target list of potential new employers.

Be sure your resume is polished and shows not only the positions you've held, but also specific achievements. And prepare and practice a quick summation of your career that you can deliver when you meet with an interviewer.

PR practitioners worry about their image

People who work in public relations feel good about their profession, but they think that others don't have the same positive image of the business.

A survey of the more than 900 members of the New York chapter of the Public Relations Society of America found that 93 percent say they like their work, and 68 percent feel proud when they describe what they do. But 67 percent think that public relations does not have a good image, and 65 percent think they don't have the same respect as members of other professions. Part of the problem is that most people don't understand what public relations is, 92 percent of the respondents said.

Home-equity loans hit 9 million mark

The total number of U.S. households with home-equity loans reached 9 million by the end of 1997, a 28 percent increase over the 6.5 million in 1988, according to a recent survey by the American Financial Services Association. The main reason for a second mortgage: home improvements.



Business Headlines for Monday, December 14, 1998

ASK THE MONEY PANEL
Financial plan eases pain of spouse's death
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New computer would bypass Microsoft
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