VA Sec. Eric Shinseki resigned Friday after meeting with President Obama. Obama praised Shinseki, but said the retired general feels that new leadership is needed to address the department's problems.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden ceremonially swears in Mel Watt as the new director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency as his wife Eulada Watt, looks on
In the world of real estate, few people are more powerful than Mel Watt, the head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Together, the two mortgage giants guarantee about 60 percent of all new home loans.
Watt hasn’t made a lot of public appearances since he was appointed head of the FHFA in January. In fact, his first major speech wasn't until May 13, at the Brookings Institution.
“We’re balancing, in a number of instances, contradictory mandates,” he told the audience.
For example, the mandate to protect the taxpayers while trying to get banks to lend more but not make risky loans, which Fannie and Freddie would still have to guarantee. After the speech, Watt hung around outside Brookings and chatted for a while -- Maybe not what you’d expect, but perhaps a throwback to Watt’s previous job. He served in Congress for more than two decades, representing the banking hub of Charlotte, North Carolina.
The Senate Banking Committee has passed legislation that would gradually wind down Fannie and Freddie, something Watt’s predecessor also tried to do, but without input from Capitol Hill.
But Congress isn’t likely to act this year, leaving Watt in charge of Fannie and Freddie’s fate.
“I think he’ll work cooperatively with Congress,” says David Stevens, president of the Mortgage Bankers Association, who adds that he thinks Watt will let Congress decide what to do with the mortgage giants.
“He gets it. Mel understands his role," Stevens says. "He understands the role of Congress.”
Watt’s role also involves dealing with a lot of money. Since Fannie and Freddie were taken over by the government in 2008, their profits have gone to the U.S. Treasury.
“Even in this town, $25 billion a year is a lot of money,” says Mike Calhoun, president of the Center for Responsible Lending, a homeowner advocacy group.
Sitting in Calhoun's Washington office, I ask him whether all that money led to pressure on Watt, maybe from people in the White House who don’t want to change Fannie and Freddie because they’re afraid of cutting off the spigot of cash. But Calhoun doesn't think that'll happen.
“They know he is going to be independent. He’s in his mid 60s," Calhoun says. "He’s quite comfortable standing his ground.”Marketplace Morning Report for Wednesday June 4, 2014 Nancy Marshall-Genzer
Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Mel Watt spoke at the Brookings Institution on May 13.by Nancy Marshall-GenzerPodcast Title The man behind Fannie and FreddieStory Type News StorySyndication SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond No
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We’ve all seen the late night infomercials promising to lift us out of a mountain of crushing debt: It’ll only take a phone call. Just three minutes of your time. And you, too, could be debt free forever.
You don’t need to consult with your financial adviser to figure out that calling that 1-800 number probably isn’t going to solve all of your money woes.
But is there a safe and practical way to consolidate a big chunk of consumer debt?
Gerri Detweiler, the director of consumer education for Credit.com says absolutely. You just need to know where to look.
Debt consolidation vs. credit counseling
“A lot of those ads that you see are not actually companies that will consolidate your debt,” Detweiler says.
"They’re credit counseling agencies and they will work with your creditors to get you on one monthly payment, lower your interest rate and lower your payments but they aren’t actually paying off your debt like a true consolidation loan would do.”
Instead, a debt consolidation loan is one new loan that will pay off all your existing debt, put you on a fixed monthly payment with a set plan for when the debt will be gone. “With a consolidation loan you know, in three, four or five years this loan will be paid off.”
So where do you get one?
Oh, how things have changed. Traditionally if you wanted a consolidation loan you’d have to apply through your bank or credit union or even tap into your home equity.
"But that industry has changed dramatically in the past few years thanks to the P2P, or peer-to-peer lenders, who take money from investors like you and me and lend it to other people who need to consolidate their debt.”
You can save money, Detweiler says, by using a P2P lender because the interest rates typically are much lower.
How to spot a scam
We’re used to doing everything online these days but when it comes to giving out personal financial information here’s one area where we need to be extra careful.
“There are sites out there that look very professional and they typically promise money with very little in terms of credit standards,” Detweiler says.
“What they’re doing is they’re gathering your personal information and turning around and selling it to scammers. Even if you don’t get a loan from them there’s a good chance that in a year or two you’re going to start hearing from debt collectors who are telling you that they’re going to have you arrested or sue you in court for paying this debt, whether or not you took out the debt.”
If you’re considering consolidation for student loans you need to be even more cautious. Head directly to the Department of Education for information and bypass any other companies who claim they can consolidate your student loans.
“The big risk with consolidating student loans is you may lose some of the protections you have right now with federal student loans including graduated repayment, deferment and forbearance,” she says.
“If you consolidate a federal student loan with a private student loan you lose those protections.”