New CA Bill Forces All Employees to Invest for Retirement



Senate leader Kevin de León has put forth a bill that would require all California companies, that have at least five employees, to offer their own retirement investment plan or enroll workers in the new California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program. Though employees could always invest for retirement using an IRA, while getting almost the exact same benefits of the Secure Choice program, many people haven’t taken advantage. As Time Magazine says, ” .. when it comes to putting money away, an employer nudge really matters: 90% of those with workplace plans save for retirement vs. only 20% of those without one.”

What bill does:

  • Requires that employers with more than 5 employees offer some kind of retirement investment plan to employees.
  • Offers a way for employees to invest for retirement directly from their paycheck.
  • Starts employee contributions at between 2% and 5% of their paychecks (the exact details haven’t been hammered out yet).
  • Automatically enrolls employees (about 6.8 Californians) unless the employee chooses to opt out.

What the bill doesn’t do:

  • Does not require employers to “match” contributions or provide funds for the retirement of employees.
  • Does not assume the risk of investing (investors could lose money).
  • This program does NOT provide assured payouts during retirement (it is NOT a pension plan).

San Jose’s Mercury News:

At first the money would be invested in safe, low-yield U.S. Treasury notes. After three years, the funds would likely shift to a diverse portfolio of stocks and bounds. These options would be developed by the Secure Choice Retirement Savings Investment Board. The accounts would likely be Roth IRAs, a mode that allows for tax-free withdrawals upon retirement.

The amount of money deducted from a worker’s payroll would escalate over time, up to 10 percent, but employees would be able to set the amount themselves.

Time Magazine:

All told, at least 30 states are in various stages of setting up retirement plans—some mandatory for employers and some voluntary—according to the Georgetown University Center for Retirement Initiatives.

At any rate, the Secure Choice Retirement Savings Plan is heading to an employer near you. I’m waiting to hear more about the specific details but this is coming. Do you think it will encourage more employees to invest for retirement? Head over to the Bigger Than Your Block Facebook page and give your opinion.





CFPB Forces TransUnion and Equifax to Return $17.6 million to Customers

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau strikes again!

When the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was created in 2011, its whole goal was to help the American consumer.

In July 2010, Congress passed and President Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The Act created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The CFPB consolidates most Federal consumer financial protection authority in one place. The consumer bureau is focused on one goal: watching out for American consumers in the market for consumer financial products and services.

It seems to be doing it’s job. From helping Wells Fargo customers and military families to pawn shop consumers. Now, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is helping TransUnion and Equifax customers:

Equifax, Inc., TransUnion, and their subsidiaries for deceiving consumers about the usefulness and actual cost of credit scores they sold to consumers. The companies also lured consumers into costly recurring payments for credit-related products with false promises. The CFPB ordered TransUnion and Equifax to truthfully represent the value of the credit scores they provide and the cost of obtaining those credit scores and other services.

It’s good to know that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is on the job.


myRA Might Be the Solution for High School and College Students


If you’ve read “10 Things College Students Need to Know About Money” you know that I am a HUGE advocate of young people investing from retirement as soon as they have earned income. For many people that time is while in high school or college while you’re working part-time or eeking a living out of financial aid. Often, young people don’t know how to open an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) or don’t think they have enough money to open one (get my list of investment accounts you can open for less than $100 here).

The United States government is here to help with the new myRA (my retirement account, get it?). According to the U.S. Treasury,  these accounts are:

  • Easy to set up (you can have the money deducted from your payroll check if you wish)
  • Designed to help people with little money or no access to a retirement plan from work.
  • No risk of losing money (funds are invested in a Thrift Savings Plan-like account)
  • The funds you invest are NOT tax-deductible but you also can take them out whenever you like without penalty.

The best part? There is no minimum amount required to start an account and according to Forbes, ” additional contributions only have a minimum of $5.” The goal is really to get you into the habit of investing when you are young and have few dollars. The return isn’t great (think 1% or 2% per year) compared to a regular traditional or Roth IRA or 401(k)/403(b) but starting now with a few dollars and little interest is better than not doing anything. also notes:

Account holders can contribute up to $5,500 per year ($6,500 if over 50) and may continue to contribute until their total account balance reaches $15,000. All funds are invested in a newly created Treasury bond

Once you’ve grown a nest egg big enough to open a traditional or Roth IRA, or you have a job that provides a 401(k) or 401(b) hopefully with matching, you can roll the money over into a new account.

Click here to find out more about myRA accounts.



Financial Resources for Foster Care Students


I attended undergrad and grad school.

I started my company, Bigger Than Your Block, back in 2008.

I have traveled to 18 countries on 5 continents.

I was a foster kid that aged out of the system at 17 years old.

Fewer than 3% of foster kids earn a degree. I was one of the lucky ones. There shouldn’t be “lucky ones”. We have to do better.

I found this list of scholarships and grants for college students that are wards of the state. The Fostering Access to College Education (FACE) page has tons of good stuff.

First, eligible current and former foster youth may apply online for the Chafee Grant at Grants are for eligible applicants ages 18-23 for up to $5,000 to assist with college tuition or job training. Youth must have been in foster care at or after the age of 16 to be eligible.

Other valuable sources for scholarship money are as follows: 

  • Promises2Kids Guardian Scholars Program ( The Program provides scholarships also up to $5000 per year to former foster youth enrolling in two and four-year colleges. Applicants should apply at the same time as their FAFSA filing (between Jan. 1 and Mar. 2). 
  • Just in Time for Foster Youth: (approximate deadline is May 1–check website for updates). Its “College Bound” program provides laptops, printers, school supplies and/or dorm room/apartment furnishings for selected youth.
  • Fostering Opportunities Dollars for Scholars: (approximate deadline is July 1 for fall semester and October 1 for spring semester–check website for updates). A $500 grant per semester is available to former foster youth enrolling in San Diego colleges or universities.
  • San Diego Foundation ( or call 619-814-1307. The San Diego Foundation is a clearinghouse for a large number of private scholarships, each with different sets of criteria. Scholarship applications may be filed online between Dec. 1 and February 9th (for first-time users). All application  materials are due February 13, 2012 at 5 PM. Check the website for details.
  • Change A Life Foundation: You may file your scholarship application between Dec. 1 and March 15. San Diego residents with questions may contact Cat Gomez-Holly at
  • Orphan Foundation of America (OFA): (approximate deadline is Mar. 31–check website for updates). OFA serves foster teens throughout the country and provides college scholarships.
  • Gates Millennium Scholars Program: (early January deadline for outstanding African American, Native American, Hispanic American and Asian Pacific Islander American students)
  • Hispanic Scholarship Fund: (for Latina/Latino students–deadlines vary)
  • UNCF: (for African-American students–deadlines vary)



Finally, you may search the internet for other private scholarships by using a free Webbased search engine. Try or You should never pay to find, apply, or receive a scholarship.

Why Small Businesses Should Give Personal Finance Education to Employees


Financial education for your employees is a small investment that can reap large dividends.

The purpose of creating a company is to create profit. Yes, you want to provide a product or service but ultimately you want to create money. You didn’t create a non-profit, after all. If we can agree that small business owners (I’m thinking companies with fewer than 25 employees) are trying to increase their bottom line, let me share with you one easy way to increase job attendance and increase employee retention: provide financial education for your employees.

When people are struggling to pay the bills, much of their frustration will inevitably be directed to the source of their perceived-to-be-inadequate salaries.  When people know what to do with their money and wind up with a bit of money to save each month instead of an ever-larger balance, the prism through which they view their compensation is decidedly more positive. –

Increase Job Attendance

You need your employees to be at the job, on time, and ready to work. When they are worried about paying bills, keeping food on the table,  investing for their children’s college education, and investing for retirement with whatever is left that doesn’t leave a lot of bandwidth to perform on the job. The person is there, but mentally checked out.

If things get really bad, financial concern leads to emotional stress and stress can lead to physical illness, which leads to …  you guessed it: absenteeism. Providing optional financial education classes in person or via webinar on budgeting, debt elimination, credit building, funding a child’s college fund, and retirement can take away some stress and help employees get back to focusing on work.

Increase Employee Retention

You’ve spent time to seek out and train employees, you want them to stay with the company for a long while. Providing opportunities for employees to see how staying with the company can help them achieve their life goals is an easy way to get employees to stay put.

A small investment in training can reap large rewards down the road.

If you’re a small company that would love to help your employees:

  • Get spending under control.
  • Reduce credit card and student loan debt.
  • Choose a strategy for paying for a child’s college expenses.
  • Understand the different retirement investment options available.

Call (323) 596-1843 to talk with Shay Olivarria about setting up a financial education workshop for your group.

ShayOlivarriaHeadshotShay Olivarria is the most dynamic financial education speaker working today. Previous clients include: the Yorba Linda Water District, Verizon, and Friends of Allensworth, among others. She has written three books on personal finance, including Amazon Best Seller “Money Matters: The Get It Done in 1 Minute Workbook”. Shay has been quoted on,, NBC Latino and The Credit Union Times.

What I Learned from Jim Uren’s Webinar on Social Security Benefits


I learned about Jim Uren’s webinar, How to Get More Out of Social Security: Discover how Savvy Single Women are Collecting Thousands More in Retirement, on Facebook and decided I’d click on and see what I could learn. It turned out that he has some really good tidbits.

First, what are social security benefits?

You pay into social security every two weeks. The government takes it out along with taxes. That means that social security benefits are something you’ve paid into and something is owed to you in retirement. You’re eligible to receive benefits once you turn 62 but to get full retirement benefits you’ll have to wait until you’re 67 years old. The Social Security Administration sends out a physical booklet telling you how much your expected benefits are to-date every five years. If you want to know now, you can create an online account at If you choose to create an online account, the Social Security Administration will no longer send you a physical booklet.

Anyhoo, back to the Jim Uren webinar. I learned:

  • Women lose about $80,000 due to decisions made about when to take benefits and how to take those benefits.
  • A person needs to have 10 years (40 quarterly credits) to receive social security.
  • You can start taking social security at 62, but there will be a penalty every year until you reach ACTUAL retirement age, currently 67 years old. If you start at 62 the penalty could be as high as 30% of your benefit.
  • If you wait to take your benefit, you’ll get a percentage bonus every year you wait, until 70 years old. If you wait until 70 you’ll earn a 24% bonus.
  • You can switch from your benefits to your deceased partner’s benefits, or vice versa.
  • You have 12 months to make any changes, after that everything in set in stone.

There are intricacies to every filing and so many things to consider, but the webinar gave me some new ideas to think about. In case you’d like to speak to the man, himself contact Jim Uren at Phase 3 Advisory.