personal finance

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The tax and regulatory environment has been changing a lot over the past year and a half in this country. For Roger Ferguson, the changes are affecting both his company and the people it serves. Ferguson is CEO of TIAA, a retirement and financial services firm that largely serves people in education and in nonprofit sectors. 

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Wisconsin's Senate is expected to take up legislation this fall requiring high school students to receive financial literacy education before they graduate.

Currently, only a minority of states require such education.

That squares with new data collected by Milwaukee-based organization, SecureFutures. The group commissioned a study of some 500 teens around the country about their own finances and how they learn about money management.

Senate Republicans voted Wednesday night to rescind an Obama-era policy that allows states to offer retirement savings plans to millions of workers.

Retiree and worker protection groups say the move will hurt employees at small businesses.

Many small businesses say they can't afford to set up retirement savings plans, such as 401(k) plans, for their workers. That's a big reason why so many Americans aren't saving, says Cristina Martin Firvida, the AARP's director of government affairs.

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The often-dreaded April 15th deadline for filing tax returns to the federal and state governments is just under a month away. It's a busy season for tax preparers - both professional and amateur.

But in the haste and the pressure many feel to get our taxes filed, it is also a season in which some of us could fall victim to scams or other fraud. The sophistication of tax scams has been on the rise for a few years now, according to tax consultant Nick Hammernik. 

Check cashing stores and payday loan centers have a checkered reputation, to put it mildly. Critics say their high interest rates and fees take advantage of people who are already financially disadvantaged. But the truth is, these alternative financial systems are proliferating in Wisconsin and around the country.

Writer Lisa Servon wondered why. Servon is a professor of city and regional planning at the University of Pennsylvania and her new book is called The Unbanking of America: How the New Middle Class Survives.

Mary Fusillo and her husband, Bob, have been married for 20 years. She met him on a blind date in Houston. Right away, she knew she liked him.

He was very intellectual, and he "read jazz biographies of dead jazz musicians," she says, laughing.

"And I was used to guys that went hunting on the weekends," she adds.

They fell in love and got married. Pretty soon they had a house and kids — twins, actually.

But within a few years, there was trouble.

Americans collectively are losing billions of dollars a year out of their retirement accounts because they're paying excessive fees, according to researchers studying thousands of employer-sponsored retirement plans across the country.

The rearchers say part of the trouble is that many employers that offer 401(k) plans to their workers are outgunned by financial firms that sell them bad plans loaded with hefty fees. That's especially true, they say, for small and midsize employers that don't have much financial expertise in-house.

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The end of the calendar year is also the end of your chance to donate money or items to charitable causes - if you’d like to deduct them from the taxes you’ll file in 2015.