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Monday Laundry: Happy Financial Planning week, call our hotline and more

My weekly list of things I meant to say, follow-ups, requests, all the personal finance news that need to be cleaned up and aired out.54497%2C1216250385%2C1.jpg

We've got banks hiking fees, mortgage lenders driving troubled borrowers to the brink and more. But we have one exciting piece of news.

But first.

The Duh! Fact of the week: If the monthly mortgage payment for a troubled homeowner goes up, the borrower is in deeper trouble.

Don't know why that isn't obvious. It's one of the many complications that are at the heart of this loan modification mess.

A loan modification is what troubled borrowers try to get to hold off foreclosure. Borrowers ask for a new deal and the lenders can cut the interest rate, extend the term and (although I haven't seen a real example of this yet) even cut the principal amount owed.

So last week, the Comptroller of the Currency and Office of Thrift Supervision reported that for recent loan modifications, almost one out of four borrowers find out when they get a loan modification that their payments actually went up.

Which, really, wasn't the point was it?

If you're in trouble with a $1,000-a-month mortgage payment, exactly what lender thinks you'll not be in trouble with a $1,200-a-month mortgage payment?

Lenders are cutting the payment on 78 percent of recent modifications -- and the rest of the borrowers are supposed to somehow deal with an increase.

Oh and there was this fact tucked in the report, too: A year after the modification, 65 percent of those whose payments had gone up were in default.

More on this subject soon.

And the bright news of the week:
Mortgage rates BELOW 5 percent. Did you hear me? Below 5 percent.
It's very close to the all-time low set in Freddie Mac's weekly surveys over the last three decades. For a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, the average last week was 4.94 percent.
If you're a buyer or looking to refinance, get going.

Rates down, fees up. released its annual survey and it showed that bounced check fees now average $29.58.

ATM fees are going up too, for using an ATM that doesn't belong to your bank. The average is now a record high of $2.22

And the average monthly service charge for an interes-beargn checking account has hit a new high of $12.55.

Banks take in billions from fees. The trend continues.

For the full Bankrate report, for your misery, look here:

Finally, it's Financial Planning Week. Starts today.

Tomorrow, local financial planners will be answering your questions and doling out advice during a lunchtime chat, here in the office of the Sun Sentinel.

Send in your questions through this blog (The box at the right) and a planner will be answering in real time from 11:30 to 2:30 p.m. The questions and answers will be here, on the blog.

Or you can call one of our volunteer planners.

The numbers are:
305-810-5040, 561-454-6940 or 954-356-4940

And watch the paper. I'll be writing about the helpline and the top issues.

Categories: Your Money (256)
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About the author
You've got the job of managing your money. No one in school taught you how. But you and I, we can teach each other, how to handle it, how to save for retirement, how to make money last, how to educate the kids, how to make a budget work. The conversations I have with my readers are fun. Money's important, but discussing it does not have to be boring.

Harriet Johnson Brackey Harriet Johnson Brackey, the personal finance columnist for the Sun Sentinel, is an award-winning business reporter. Her columns for 2008 were named "The Best in the Business," a national award chosen by her colleagues at the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.

Brackey has worked at Business Week magazine and at USA TODAY, where she was a founder and part of the original staff of the Money section at the country's first national newspaper. After nearly 11 years there - spent covering the 1980s bull market, the insider trading scandals, the 1987 crash - Brackey left Washington, D.C., and came to The Miami Herald. She spent the next decade writing a column about personal finance that chronicled the stock market's Internet boom and bust, as well as the popular Money Makeover features.

Brackey also has done commentaries for Marketplace Money, which airs on National Public Radio and The Nightly Business Report which is broadcast on more than 250 PBS television stations nationwide. She also has been a radio guest on WLRN’s Miami Herald News.
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