Category Archives: Financial Literacy

How TIAA Locks Down Teachers’ Retirement Money

This is my Facebook comment to someone on a Democratic group about retirement accounts for teachers that do not act in their best interest.

January 31, 2020

I’m not a fan of TIAA. They do have some good products but it’s hard when there are so many bad options on there and of course annuities are like negotiating a field of landmines for most Americans including educators as only the single premium immediate or deferred annuities are good, but bad options are heavily marketed due to high profit potential for the agent and company. Try taking your money out of TIAA and you’ll see the ridiculous hoops. As an adjunct at University of Central Florida I don’t get to participate in Social Security. Instead the university compels me to contribute at least 7.5% to a FICA replacement account with TIAA (the only option), and when I leave this position, to roll it over to Vanguard, TIAA requires signed forms to be sent by postal mail by me, UCF’s HR department, and the receiving institution (Vanguard). It’s ridiculous. They want to lock your money down so they can keep bombarding you with fees. There could be an index mutual fund in there that’s only a 0.04% annual fee at Vanguard or even 0% at Fidelity that they’ll charge upwards of 0.5% per year.

7 Obamacare Secrets for Residents of Florida’s 6th Congressional District and 2 Campaign Promises

Here are 7 facts about The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare as it is colloquially known, that you may not have heard of. As your Congressman, I will support education, outreach, and expansion of Obamacare as well as state expansion of Medicaid in Florida and 13 other states who have still refused to accept a federally funded expansion allowing households with income of up to 138% of the federal poverty line to receive Medicaid.

DISCLAIMER: This article does not, and is not intended to, provide legal, tax or accounting advice, and readers should consult their tax advisors concerning the application of tax laws to their particular situations.

1. Obamacare is still functioning, despite rumors to the contrary.

Even without the individual mandate that previously would penalize you on your federal income tax return for not having insurance, Obamacare hasn’t gone away, as codified in United States Code, Title 42: The Public Health and Welfare, Chapter 157: Quality, Affordable Health Care for All Americans. You can still sign up on HealthCare.gov and large federal subsidies are still offered. About 25% of Americans erroneously believe Obamacare was repealed in 2018, and the vast majority do not know basic facts about it, despite the Trump administration’s baseless claim that their recent 90% cut to educational/outreach efforts is warranted due to everyone knowing about Obamacare now (completely false!).

2. You may be able to enroll at any time of the year.

Although the “open enrollment” period is now quite short: November 1 to December 15, you can actually enroll at any time of the year if you qualify for a “special enrollment period.” The criteria are quite broad, and include:

• Got married in past 60 days
• Had a baby, adopted, or placed a child in foster care in past 60 days
• Got divorced or legally separated and consequently lost health insurance in past 60 days
• Someone on your plan died causing you to become ineligible in past 60 days
• You moved between counties or ZIP codes or for work or school and had qualifying coverage for at least 1 of 60 days prior to the move
• You became a U.S. citizen in past 60 days
• You left jail or prison in past 60 days
• You began or ended service in an AmeriCorps program
• Anyone in your household lost qualifying coverage in the past 60 days or expects to lose it in the next 60 days
• You became a member of a federally recognized Native American tribe
• On occasion, victims of natural disasters such as Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico are declared eligible for a special enrollment period
• You filed an amended IRS tax return (Form 1040-X on paper by mail) to update a prior tax return to add Form 8962 due to failure to reconcile subsidies reported on Form 1095-A, 1095-B, or 1095-C

3. Your job cannot offer “good” health insurance.

In order to receive a federal subsidy for Obamacare, your employer must NOT offer insurance that is “quality” and “affordable.” Many employers do not offer any health insurance to part-time employees, which means you are eligible for an Obamacare subsidy if you meet the other criteria such as being ineligible for Medicaid, Medicare, VA healthcare, and so forth. If health insurance is offered to you as an employee, it must:

1. Meet the actuarial bronze level of quality (“minimum value standard”), meaning it “pays at least 60% of the total cost of medical services for a standard population and offers substantial coverage of hospital and doctor services.”

2. Be “affordable,” meaning that the lowest bronze plan for YOU only (not including your family) from your employer costs LESS than 9.78% (in premiums paid by you via payroll deductions) of your entire HOUSEHOLD’s income.

If BOTH of the above two criteria are met by your employer health insurance plan, you are NOT eligible for a federal Obamacare subsidy (i.e., Premium Tax Credit). If both of the above criteria are met, you ARE generally eligible if your household income is between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty line and you are ineligible for Medicaid or other coverage. The rationale is that taxpayers should just pay for the genuinely needy, so if you have a good employer plan available you should not be allowed to receive a subsidy.

4. The Advance Premium Tax Credit (APTC) may mean your cost is absolutely zero.

Even though premiums keep going up, up, and away year after year, so does the premium subsidy—that is, the amount you can receive from the federal government as a free grant toward your health insurance. Basically, as long as your income is above 100% and under 400% of the federal poverty line (FPL) you can receive a sizable subsidy—often $1,500 per month or even more for a family. For a family of 3 in 2020, that means your household must earn between $21,720 and $86,880. You have to fill out an application on HealthCare.gov and guesstimate your household income for the tax year you are applying for (that is, you must guess what you will earn in all of 2020). The subsidy remains quite large up to 400% of the FPL and then falls off a cliff to exactly $0 per month above this income level. If your chosen plan is cheaper than your maximum monthly subsidy, you own nothing per month as the money is paid directly from the U.S. Treasury to your health insurance company via what is called an Advance Premium Tax Credit (APTC).

On your tax return you must reconcile premiums and tax credits based on Form 1095 that you receive from your insurance company using IRS Form 8962, which is included in all major tax software such as TurboTax. If you underestimate your income you may be required to pay back a maximum of $1,300 of subsidies received during the year if your household income is under 400% of the FPL, or the entirety of all subsidies received if it is above 400%.

The Trump administration is making it harder for people with volatile incomes (e.g., gig economy) to receive the APTC due to requiring documented proof of income, and they are discouraging a practice of overestimating one’s projected income at 100% of the FPL for those living in poverty (below 100% of FPL) in order to receive the APTC in a state that has rejected Medicaid expansion in order to cut costs, as well as failing to educate Americans—an estimated 10 million are eligible for Obamacare subsidies but not taking advantage.

In Florida’s 6th Congressional district, some of the major insurers offering plans on HealthCare.gov are Florida Health Care Plans, Florida Blue (BlueCross BlueShield FL), and Oscar Insurance Company of Florida. You apply and enroll on HealthCare.gov and then you’ll receive your plan information, insurance ID cards, payment instructions (if you are not fully funded by the APTC), and log-in instructions for the insurer’s website later, typically by U.S. Mail.

5. If you are a big saver, you can manipulate your income using retirement accounts to stay under 400% of the FPL and qualify for a subsidy.

To receive an Obamacare subsidy, besides being ineligible for other insurance such as Medicaid or an employer plan, your household income must also fall between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty line (FPL). For a family of 3 in 2020, that means your household must earn between $21,720 and $86,880 (modified adjusted gross income including wages, interest, dividends, capital gains, etc.).

Earning over $86,880 would be particularly unfortunate for an APTC-receiving household of 3 as they would have to pay back ALL subsidies received, which could easily be over $10,000 in a year. However, if you happen to be a big saver, like many followers of Mr. Money Mustache, you can put up to $19,500 in your employer’s 401(k) or 403(b) plan via payroll deductions per person in 2020 (and your spouse can do this too). Contributions must be “traditional” or “pre-tax,” NOT Roth or “tax-exempt” or “post-tax.” Pre-tax contributions reduce your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) reported to the IRS, which can qualify you for Obamacare subsidies if your household income goes down.

Even if you didn’t receive an APTC, you can get the money back as a tax refund during the following year (as a “regular” PTC or Premium Tax Credit). Note that many tax-filing software programs do NOT correctly handle a situation where a taxpayer is receiving their subsidy as an IRS refund.

Beyond this, you can put money in a pre-tax (traditional) individual retirement arrangement or IRA to reduce your MAGI and qualify for Obamacare. The limits are $6,000 per person, so that’s up to $12,000 between you and your spouse if married, and a non-working spouse qualifies to contribute as long as you are married filing jointly (MJF).

Note that for those Age 50 and older, the limits are higher: $7,000 for IRA and $26,000 for 401(k) or 403(b) in 2020. This is a great way to reduce your income if you have a high savings rate, and you can invest your retirement money in stocks or bonds so it can grow until you are eligible to make withdrawals at Age 59.5 or older. For IRAs, you can even contribute up to the tax filing deadline of the subsequent year, which is April 15, 2020 for contributions designated to 2019, or April 15, 2021 for contributions designated to 2020. Make sure to check if you are eligible for the IRS Retirement Savings Contributions Credit via Form 8880 due to your retirement contributions.

If you designate a traditional IRA contribution for the prior tax year after having already filed your tax return, you can still get your Obamacare subsidies restored if this contribution puts you below 400% of the FPL, and get your Saver’s credit if eligible, but it won’t be easy: you must file an amended IRS tax return on paper by mail using Form 1040-X and it will be manually processed by an IRS agent and can take up to 16 weeks. You can do this for up to 3 years after the initial filing (e.g, up to March 14, 2023 if you file for 2019 on March 14, 2020). The U.S. Treasury will end up issuing you a check, with interest, for the additional amount owed from the government to you due to your amended return.

6. Florida has a Medicaid–Obamacare coverage gap.

Florida’s Rick Scott, who made off with $300 million from Columbia/HCA from defrauding Medicare (the company admitted to 14 felonies) and used it to become governor, then REFUSED to accept federal Medicaid dollars that would help over 800,000 low-income Floridians and would most likely actually save money for the state.

Because of Republican refusal to accept a federally funded expansion of Medicaid authorized under the Affordable Care Act (commonly known as Obamacare), Florida has a Medicaid–Obamacare coverage gap. This means that there is a hole in between where many Floridians are ineligible for Medicaid due to making too much money (the limits are very low) and ineligible for Obamacare due to making too little money. Many adults are required to earn less than 29% of the FPL to receive Medicaid in Florida, which is only $6,299 for a family of 3, but can’t receive an Obamacare subsidy unless they earn 100% or more of the FPL, which is $21,720. Therefore, families, such as families of 3 who earn between $6,299 and $21,720 in 2020, are in the coverage gap being ineligible for both Medicaid and Obamacare subsidies. Families with small children may still be eligible for Medicaid, but “able-bodied adults” receive the worst treatment under this regime.

7. Be prepared with proof of immigration status or citizenship.

Under the Trump administration there has been a push to disqualify recipients of Obamacare subsidies who cannot prove their immigration or citizenship status. You may receive a digital or U.S. Mail notice from the HealthCare.gov marketplace requesting a copy of your passport or other documents, and they will cancel your subsidy payments if you do not comply by uploading digital files or mailing in photocopies. This can happen even if they should already know you are a citizen based on documents you submitted in a prior year or based on other information available to the government. Make sure to watch your mail closely, or preferably, sign up for emails and digital alerts to avoid the possibility of such notices being lost in the mail.

Two Campaign Promises

If I am elected to the United States House of Representatives for Florida’s 6th Congressional district, I’m going to make expanding Medicaid and Obamacare a priority, but I’m also going to make it a priority to help constituents get educated and enrolled. As long as it’s still functioning, we’ll be signing up constituents for Obamacare left and right*, or helping them understand the program and their plan. (I will comply fully with the Privacy Act of 1974 which requires written consent from constituents in order to assist.)

To facilitate access to my staff and I for minorities and disadvantaged populations, I will open a constituent office in mid-town Daytona Beach and possibly Deltona as well, or alternately a traveling mobile office as it can be hard to find office space in Deltona. I will also hire at least one Spanish-speaking staffer.

Using my knowledge from my Ph.D. in instructional design, I will design training materials for my employees and the public to help with Obamacare. The incumbent, Republican Michael Waltz, has an office at Port Orange City Hall, but I think mid-town Daytona Beach is a far more underserved area and many Port Orange residents have motor vehicles. Waltz’s website does not even mention helping people with Obamacare, possibly due to the GOP’s whole “down-with-Obamacare” shtick.

* As of present I have not verified the legality of this but it is clear that Congressional representatives can and do help constituents deal with federal agencies.

Congressional representatives receive a budget from the U.S. Treasury of approximately $1.3 million per year to rent offices and employ staff to help with Congressional work and constituent services.

DISCLAIMER: This article does not, and is not intended to, provide legal, tax or accounting advice, and readers should consult their tax advisors concerning the application of tax laws to their particular situations.

I need your help. Please donate if you want to see real change for Florida’s 6th district in Congress.

Donate to Richard Thripp's Campaign

Perspective, Issues, and My Potential Role in Congress (Ballotpedia Survey, Part 3)

I have now completed the Ballotpedia survey, although it may take a couple days to show up on their website. For these items, I delve into my perspective, several issues, and my potential role in Congress. For past segments, please see these posts:
More About Me and Key Issues (Ballotpedia Survey, Part 1)
On the Climate Crisis and the Next Decade (Ballotpedia Survey, Part 2)

NOTE: On February 21, 2020, I came around to fully endorsing Bernie Sanders’s vision for Medicare for All Americans. My previous stance was to expand Obamacare and Medicaid as being more realistic, but with Bernie’s break-out performance in the Democratic presidential race, I believe we have a real shot at Medicare for All which will be much better!

If you are not a current representative, are there certain committees that you would want to be a part of?

I would love to be on the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, which is chaired by Kathy Castor, a fellow Democrat from Florida’s 14th district that includes most of Tampa. Although the Daytona Beach area is also at-risk, the Tampa Bay area is especially vulnerable to stronger and more unpredictable hurricanes that rapidly intensify due to the climate crisis, given that there has been so much development there in the past decade particularly in low-lying areas. In the long run, all of Florida is also vulnerable to sea level rise, and we have already seen this affecting Miami Beach with king tides. We have a duty to the next generation, as well as to current victims such as farmers and climate refugees, to tackle the climate crisis head-on, with all options on the table, such as removing subsidies (including hidden subsidies) for fossil fuels and removing encumbrances for green energy, with a particular focus on storing said energy. There must also be a growing realization that travel and jet-setting needs to be curtailed, particularly among the world’s wealthiest 10% who are responsible for 50% of greenhouse gas emissions. Although my Ph.D. is in Education rather than Climatology, as a scholar I am firmly focused on science and facts and will always deliver cogent arguments and real solutions to the table.

Other committees of interest to me are the Financial Services Subcommittees on Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions and on Investor Protection, Entrepreneurship and Capital Markets, and the Education Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Investment. I have backgrounds in financial literacy education and teacher education, focused on standing up for working-class Americans and teachers to financially educate them and stop big financial institutions from bamboozling them into foreclosure, student loan or other debt, or cash-strapped retirements. I particularly focus on women and minorities who face even greater disadvantages.

Do you believe that two years is the right term length for representatives?

I think it’s too short. Four years would be more reasonable. If you look at the House, you’ll see they are constantly up for re-election. New members from both parties are told that “dialing for dollars” takes precedence over actual governing. Representatives are not allowed to do this from the Capitol or their offices, so the parties have dank cubicles set up in office space a couple blocks from the Capitol where new members are told they should be spending 30+ hours a week of their time calling potential donors. They’re given scripts including the names of the children of the potential donors they are calling, and party leaders update a whiteboard in real-time with representatives’ names and total $$$ procured, in red, black, or green depending on whether they are below, at, or above target. The daily schedule of the House is built around being out-of-session during the valuable lunch hours, and new members are chastised for attending committee meetings during time they are supposed to spend dialing for dollars. It’s a disgrace. I won’t do it. I might still end up being able to pay my party dues (required for committee assignments and re-election support) from social media donations, or fancy events, but if not, then so be it. I am not for sale and I think too many of our politicians are, or were (they were bought and paid for long ago).

What do you believe are the core responsibilities for someone elected to this office?

I think good governance requires looking out for people, and we really aren’t doing it. We have a huge national debt, a world on fire, and the greatest financial inequality in modern history. Congress should not be in the back pocket of wealthy individuals and corporations. Congress could stand up for the poor, the downtrodden, the forgotten Americans—but instead they legislate and prioritize helping the rich attain greater wealth and privilege without paying their fair share commensurate with what they are extracting from American people, government, and public resources and commons. If Walmart or Amazon’s employees are all on Medicaid and food stamps, shouldn’t we be billing that back to Walmart and Amazon? When it comes to the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act of 2017, passed solely by Republicans, it was the greatest robbery in modern history. The Republicans want you to buy into trickle-down economics or that they care about small businesses. It’s one big fat lie. Congress and state governments alike facilitate monstrosities like Amazon, Walmart, and Wells Fargo that crush small businesses left and right. When Apple repatriated all that money from overseas, most of it just went to share buybacks, which are at an all-time high nationwide. Our government needs to work for our people. You should not have to beg for scraps from feudal overlords who will kick you to the curb if you get pregnant, hurt your back, or if they find some way to replace you with a robot.

One of my focuses is Restoring Congressional Authority. I think it goes back to the emphasis on “dialing for dollars”—Congress has abdicated so many of its responsibilities that are written plain-as-day in the United States Constitution. We can’t delegate our war powers to a reckless president. We can’t pass bills written entirely by lobbyists that we don’t even have time to read. The House needs to take control of the purse strings and really take responsibility for budgets, spending, and debt.

Date of birth
August 17, 1991

Place of birth
Daytona Beach, FL

Gender
Male

Religion
Agnostic

Education
Daytona State College, A.A., 2011
University of Central Florida, B.S. in Psychology, 2014
University of Central Florida, M.A. in Applied Learning & Instruction, 2016
University of Central Florida, Ph.D. in Education, 2019

What is your professional career to date?

At University of Central Florida I teach future teachers about technology and I studied the financial literacy of future teachers for my dissertation. I’ve been focused on personal finance, investing literacy, and financial policymaking for many years, and I’ve also become a voracious reader about the climate crisis from greenhouse gases in the past couple years. My wife and I have a handsome, goofy 10-month-old baby boy, which has really got us thinking about the future and what life will be like for him in adulthood. I’m also a bit of an expert on blended learning and worked across disciplines at UCF on National Science Foundation grants for cutting-edge STEM assessment methodologies and helped with the founding of the Center for Students with Unique Abilities by getting their website set up and refined. I’m only 28, so I plan to make a big difference in many areas going forward, even if I don’t win this race.

Please list any professional credentials below.

Besides my degrees I was an editor of a recent Handbook of Research on Emerging Practices and Methods for K–12 Online and Blended Learning, and I’m experienced with statistics having earned an Advanced Quantitative Methodologies in Educational and Human Sciences certificate at UCF during my Ph.D. program, which required completing four difficult statistics courses. I’ve taught nearly 300 students at UCF in EME 2040: Introduction to Technology for Educators, and I’ve graded hundreds of Master’s-level assignments in the same field. I’m Florida teacher certified on the General Knowledge Test, and as an instructional designer have worked with the National Park Service and redesigned a Master’s-level research course. I type 100 words per minute (no joke), am an advanced pianist, used to clean greasy restaurant kitchens with caustic chemicals as a teenager, and as a new husband and father have had many sleepless nights and poopy diapers where the poop goes all up baby’s back onto everything.

What organizations are you affiliated with and how?

Of course University of Central Florida as a triple-alumnus and instructor, but I am also an experienced Toastmaster who was President of Port Orange Toastmasters for a year followed by Treasurer for a year. This gave me wonderful experience speaking, organizing, taking leadership, and managing a 501(c)(3) non-profit chapter of an international organization. I only left because it was too much after starting my Ph.D. in August 2016, which I just finished in December 2019. I’m a current member of the West Volusia Democrats, Port Orange Democrats, and the InfraGard FBI Partnership, as well as a past member of the Association of Teacher Educators, American Society for Engineering Education, Association for Educational Communications & Technology, Academy of Financial Services, and the UCF Daytona Beach Psychology Club.

What qualities do you possess that you believe would make you a successful officeholder?

I’m a firebrand, but I also know how to make sausage (although I am a vegetarian). I’m obviously a total nerd—you don’t become a Ph.D. without being a nerd, but I can distill a complex issue down to a sound bite when needed, or expound on it at the length and depth of a dissertation when the situation calls for it. You also don’t get through a Ph.D. program without dealing with a LOT of bureaucracy and paperwork, so I will be right at home in Washington, D.C. I’m a former Toastmasters president, so I already know a bit about Robert’s Rules of Order and parliamentary procedure. I’m also a voracious reader and podcast-listener capable of competently discussing and seeing both sides to a wide range of issues, but am also able to speak truth to power in recognizing and calling out deceit, trickery, or fallacious arguments.

Although I was born in Daytona Beach, my mother emigrated from the People’s Republic of China. I am profoundly lucky to have been born here and to enjoy the freedoms and opportunities that we take for granted every day. I can put out anti-Trump statements without having to fear being “disappeared,” unlike the authoritarian government in China which has actually gotten worse under Chairman Jinping (do NOT call him “president”—it is a dishonor to the title). Our Constitution is a beacon of light and hope to the world, and I will always respect my oath of office in honoring, upholding, and respecting it. That includes the 2nd amendment, and it also includes restoring Congressional authority over matters they have abdicated responsibility for and that we are seeing a total lack of vision or leadership on. The founders were men of faith, and they recognized that government does not bestow privileges as a king does—rights are granted by God, and governments can either uphold and protect these rights or try to squash and suppress them. To be fair and just, we must endeavor to do the former.

If you could be any fictional character, who would you want to be?

The Doctor from Doctor Who. It would be so exciting to travel through time, although also dangerous with having to foil alien plots to destroy or subjugate humanity, using only a TARDIS and sonic screwdriver.

NOTE: On February 21, 2020, I came around to fully endorsing Bernie Sanders’s vision for Medicare for All Americans. My previous stance was to expand Obamacare and Medicaid as being more realistic, but with Bernie’s break-out performance in the Democratic presidential race, I believe we have a real shot at Medicare for All which will be much better!

Announcing the Final Examination of Richard Thripp for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy

It has been a busy season for us with our eight-month-old son and completing my Ph.D. dissertation on the financial knowledge of Florida preservice teachers. Here is my official dissertation defense announcement, due to take place on November 7, 2019.

UCF College of Community Innovation and Education logo

Announcing the Final Examination of Richard Thripp for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy
Thursday, November 7, 2019 at 2:00 PM
University of Central Florida, Main Campus (Orlando)
Education Complex, Room 306

Dissertation Title: A Survey of Investing and Retirement Knowledge and Preferences of Florida Preservice Teachers

This dissertation investigated the financial and retirement knowledge, concerns, and preferences of preservice teachers at the University of Central Florida. The author developed a 39-item survey instrument and administered it to 314 preservice teachers in undergraduate teacher education courses in Summer and Fall 2019, who were primarily female elementary and early childhood education juniors and seniors. Topics covered included familiarity with plans, preference for pension plans versus defined contribution plan or increased salary, concern over pension vesting requirements, knowledge of the Florida Retirement System, anticipated challenges in funding retirement, financial knowledge, concerns about debts, and retirement investment preferences using a mock portfolio allocation exercise. For comparison, an electronic version of the survey was administered to 205 Amazon Mechanical Turk workers for $1.00 each, who were U.S. college students or graduates ages 18–25. Findings showed that preservice teachers had statistically significantly lower financial knowledge and retirement investing literacy; even those who were Age 25 or younger chose to put more than half their retirement money in money market and bond funds, which will almost certainly underperform equities over several decades. Although it may be ill-advised, 54% of preservice teachers preferred a defined-contribution plan over a pension plan. Preservice teachers were not particularly concerned about debts, but anticipated that low salaries will impede their ability to save for retirement. These findings suggest a need for financial education targeting Florida preservice teachers, particularly given that the Florida Retirement System substantially cut its benefits in 2011.

Major: Education Ph.D., Instructional Design & Technology
B. S. University of Central Florida, 2014
M. A. University of Central Florida, 2016

Committee in charge:
Dr. Richard Hartshorne
Dr. Debbie L. Hahs-Vaughn
Dr. Bobby Hoffman
Dr. Shiva Jahani
Dr. Gary Mottola

Approved by Dr. Richard Hartshorne, Committee Chair

The public is welcome to attend.


Keywords: financial literacy, preservice teachers, Florida Retirement System, retirement knowledge, financial challenges, plan preferences, investor behavior, nonwage benefits

Acknowledgments

I extend heartfelt thanks to Dr. Richard Hartshorne, my adviser, supervisor, dissertation chair, mentor, and friend, who gave me timely and valuable feedback, opportunities, and support at each step in my doctoral and teaching journey at the university, particularly as I developed my fervor for financial education and research. He was always patient even when I abandoned projects, missed deadlines, and delivered flurries of ill-conceived ideas and horrendous drafts. I also thank my fiancée, Kristy White, for providing invaluable support, particularly as we are new parents to a handsome baby boy born in February 2019. Working with my other committee members, Drs. Gary Mottola, Bobby Hoffman, Debbie L. Hahs-Vaughn, and Shiva Jahani, has been most helpful and instructive. I am appreciative of the opportunities, support, and resources I have been afforded at University of Central Florida over these past seven years. When in 2012 I set out to go back to school and earn my Bachelor’s in psychology, I had no idea I would end up coming this far. Thank you, Drs. Bobby Hoffman, Atsusi Hirumi, and Richard Hartshorne for accepting me to the Applied Learning and Instruction M.A. and Education Ph.D. programs, as well as Dr. Ronald DeMara from the College of Engineering and Computer Science. My favorite part of my time at UCF was instructing over 250 preservice teachers in educational technology as a Graduate Teaching Associate. Bringing a love of learning to others, at a massive scale, is an integral part of our identity and mission as Knights. Finally, I am profoundly thankful to the UCF students and Amazon Mechanical Turk workers who participated in this survey, as well as Drs. Junie Albers-Biddle, Kelsey Evans-Amalu, Regina Gresham, Marni Kay, Nevine Snyder, Lee-Anne Trimble Spalding, Cheryl Van De Mark, Scott Waring, and Anna Wolford for allowing me to visit their courses, without which this dissertation would not have been possible.

Capital One Capitulates; Issues Checks in June 2019 for $500 OFFER500 Money Market Promotion from October 2018

In February 2019 I had written about Capital One offering a $500 incentive to open a money market account in September–October 2018 under promotion code OFFER500 if one made deposits of $50,000 or more. Capital One’s terms for this promotion did not say that one could not deposit, say, $10,000, transfer to an external bank, and then re-deposit the amount five times in order to meet the requirements. In addition, they had been automatically paying out the $500 bonuses to all customers up until September 24, 2018 who did this, within just 1–2 business days of the deposits being completed, but then halted this even though customers should have had until October 31, 2018 to meet the requirements, and claimed that such activity did not qualify (although they did not claw back bonuses already paid out).

As reported by Doctor of Credit on June 17, 2019, Capital One has now been quietly issuing checks by mail to all customers who they had previously denied the bonus to. Although my continued complaints and threats of suing in small claims court resulted in Capital One offering a settlement arrangement subject to a non-disclosure agreement, my fiancée who also participated in the promotion recently received the letter and check shown below. In fact, she got $6 extra as well:

Capital One check for $506

The text of the letter states:

Attached is a check for your 360 Money Market bonus.

Dear [name],

Late last year, you didn’t receive the $500 bonus that was offered for your 360 Money Market account ending in ####.

This check for $506.00 covers that bonus — plus interest.

If you have any questions, give us a call at 1-888-464-0727. We’re here to help Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.–6 p.m. ET.

Thanks for saving with us.
Capital One

Even customers who did not complain are being issued checks by mail, and those who already complained and were offered a smaller consolation prize (most commonly, $200) are now receiving checks for $306 to make up the difference.

This is another example that putting pressure on corporations who defraud customers can produce positive results. I have no idea how many customers Capital One stiffed, but even if it was only 2,000, that’s $1,000,000 they are now paying out, and it’s possible my complaints to Capital One’s Office of the President, Florida Attorney General, and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau played a part in their decision to capitulate. Obviously, they would prefer to privately pay the bonus only to customers who complain vociferously, but in this case they totally capitulated and decided to pay, 8 months later, all the money they would have paid in the first place had they simply honored their end of the contract.

Capital One is keeping this quiet, not mentioning it by email or in online banking, nor are they depositing the bonuses directly to customer accounts, but instead are issuing checks by mail. Although a customer could just end up throwing out the check by accident thinking it is another credit card or auto loan advertisement from Capital One (the envelope is no different from these), in these cases I am not sure Capital One would get to keep the money or have to escheat it to the state after several years as unclaimed funds. Regarding my continued complaints about Amazon.com stealing customer gift card balances, I am almost positive Amazon is skirting state escheatment laws, however.

Capital One is one of the most heavy handed of credit issuers; no other lender sues more of its customers in small claims court seeking payment. They are a notorious subprime lender that abuses customers with especially high usury interest rates and worthless credit cards with annual fees and no rewards. Of course, the whole industry participates in usury, thanks to a 1970s court case that determined that credit issuers could headquarter in usury-enabling states like Delaware and South Dakota to evade usury laws in their customers’ home states. Even Florida, which does not have a particularly stringent usury law, caps interest rates at 18% annual percentage rate, which is why credit unions who charter in Florida can’t exceed this APR on their credit products, but Capital One and others routinely demand APRs of 24.99% or even higher.

As alluded to in my February 2019 post, in March 2019 I switched from the Republican to Democrat party and will vote for Elizabeth Warren in the Democratic primary (who, incidentally, was also a Republican until age 46). Warren is a professor-turned-senator who has a long history of advocating for consumers in financial matters, including spearheading the founding of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Although I have now learned that addressing the climate crisis is objectively and undeniably more important than financial literacy or advocacy, the broader issue of wealth inequality is related to both financial literacy and the climate crisis, in that the wealthy have manipulated the government and the people into abetting their theft (via tax schemes, collusion, privatizing profits while offloading liabilities and debts onto the public) and genocide (via greenhouse gas emissions), while simultaneously encouraging a culture of self-blame where the victims of plutocracy are indoctrinated to blame themselves for not understanding predatory financial products or failing to recycle plastic cups, instead of demanding real justice and change.

Previously, I had wrote that my flights to California and China to visit family will kill people in 2075 and 2150 due to exacerbating the climate crisis. In fact, I conveniently forgot the many people who have already died and are presently dying from heat waves, flooding, famines, and other disasters caused by humans flying, driving, building with steel and concrete, and other madness (e.g., California wildfires, Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, flooding in Bangladesh). The wealthy, and in particular the extremely wealthy, are disproportionately responsible for mass murder, but take no responsibility and in fact have a sense of entitlement that they earned their position and should be enabled and empowered to partake in grotesquely wasteful and unnecessary travel and to possess multiple large residences, without consequences or accountability. This is abhorrent. There should be no doubt among those who have educated themselves on the matter that the climate crisis is the ultimate issue of our times, and there is much suffering to come.