October 7, 2021
The Gateway For Payroll Data
US Postal Service not equipped to handle banking, industry trade groups say

Bank and credit union trade groups spoke out against the U.S. Postal Service’s (USPS) postal banking pilot program which was launched last month, saying the government agency is incapable adequately managing an operation that includes financial services.

USPS’s new services, which are available in Washington, D.C.; Baltimore; Falls Church, Virginia; and the Bronx in New York City, include check cashing, bill pay and ATM access, as well as upgraded money orders and wire transfers, NBC News reported Monday.

Trade groups including the Consumer Bankers Association (CBA), the American Bankers Association (ABA) and the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions (NAFCU) argue banking services should be left to financial institutions, and not be placed in the hands of a government agency already struggling with its own funding issues.

Paving the Payments Future
As USPS slows mail delivery, it's testing a new business: Check cashing

The U.S. Postal Service is undergoing an overhaul of its operations under Postmaster General Louis DeJoy's 10-year plan, ranging from slowing down mail delivery to raising postage prices. Now, another change may soon be in store as the postal service tests a new offering to consumers: check cashing.

The USPS began testing a check-cashing service in September, a spokeswoman for the agency told CBS MoneyWatch. The pilot program is operating at USPS retail locations in Washington, D.C.; Falls Church, Virginia; Baltimore; and the Bronx, New York, the spokeswoman said.

The USPS is testing the service as it struggles to staunch massive financial losses, which amounted to almost $3 billion in its most recent quarter. The agency's tattered finances have sparked DeJoy's 10-year plan, which he argues is necessary to redirect the USPS toward profitability. Yet the details of his plan, including slowing first-class mail delivery starting October 1, have sparked outrage from lawmakers and postal experts, who say it will harm Americans and businesses that rely on the USPS for essential mail such as payments.

Join us in December!
Student Debt Holding Buyers Back 

Sixty percent of non-homeowning millennials say student loan debt is delaying their ability to buy a home, according to a survey released by the National Association of Realtors.

The study found that most student loan borrowers feel the effects of the debt on their daily lives. Among non-homeowning student debt holders, 72% say they believe their educational debt will delay them from purchasing a home. Buyers are often choosing between student loans and other major life decisions such as investing in their retirement, purchasing a new home, getting married or saving in general.

The fact that housing prices continue to hit new highs combined with low inventory is also affecting housing affordability for new buyers.

"Housing affordability is worsening, leaving future homebuyers with student debt at a severe disadvantage," said NAR President Charlie Oppler. "Younger Americans shouldn't have to choose between education and homeownership, and NAR continues to pursue policies that ensure the American dream remains available and accessible for those still paying off their college education."

Have a tax law question? Our #IRS Interactive Tax Assistant has answers. Watch this short video to learn more:

If you have questions while you're filling out your tax return, get help through our #IRS Interactive Tax Assistant.
Bank of America, BMO Harris boost their minimum wages

Bank of America is raising its companywide U.S. minimum hourly wage to $21 from $20, the Charlotte, North Carolina-based lender said in a press release Wednesday. The move is meant as the next step in the bank’s plan to boost its minimum wage to $25 by 2025.

The pay raise comes a day after BMO Harris Bank — the American arm of the Bank of Montreal — said it is boosting the minimum wage for its full- and part-time U.S. branch and call center employees by 20%, to $18 an hour from $15, effective Oct. 17.

BMO's move parrots a raise PNC Bank announced in August — boosting its minimum wage from $15 to $18 effective Nov. 22 — and institutes it more than a month before the Pittsburgh-based bank.

The 14 States That Won't Tax Your Pension

When it comes to making your pension go further during retirement, one of the best ways to stretch your dollars is of course to reduce expenses. There are a variety of approaches to cutting costs but perhaps few are as effective as simply moving to a state that does not tax pensions. After all, tax-free retirement income has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?

According to AARP, there are nine states that have no state income taxes at all—which would mean no taxes on your pension. An additional three states tax personal income but specifically exclude distributions from retirement plans such as 401(k)s, IRAs, and pensions. And there are two states that, while they don't tax pensions, will tax distributions from your 401(k) or IRA accounts. Here's a closer look at the options for living your best—and most financially-savvy—retirement life.

There's a long list of income types that are exempt from taxation in the state of Alabama. These include state of Alabama teachers' retirement system benefits, state of Alabama employee's retirement system benefits, state of Alabama judicial retirement system benefits, military retirement pay, U.S. government retirement fund benefits, and yes, you guessed it, payments from a Defined Benefit Retirement Plan.

What is a digital wallet — and is it safe?

When people talk about having a wallet, they usually mean a place to physically stash your cash and credit cards. But these days, you can use contact-less digital wallets instead of traditional physical ones — and they've only grown in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With a quick scan or a tap, you can complete financial transactions safely and securely. That's because digital wallets allow you to pay without having to use your physical credit cards.

So what, exactly, is a digital wallet?
The term "digital wallet" refers to any device storing information related to financial transactions via an app. They include smartphones, wearables such as smart watches, tablets, and laptops.

Who Uses Social Media for News in 2021?

News Consumption Across Social Media in 2021
More than half of Twitter user get news on the site regularly

As social media and technology companies face criticism for not doing enough to stem the flow of misleading information on their platforms, a sizable portion of Americans continue to turn to these sites for news. A little under half (48%) of U.S. adults say they get news from social media “often” or “sometimes,” a 5 percentage point decline compared with 2020, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted July 26-Aug. 8, 2021.1

When it comes to where Americans regularly get news on social media, Facebook outpaces all other social media sites.

In a separate question asking users of 10 social media sites whether they regularly get news there, about a third of U.S. adults (31%) say they get news regularly on Facebook, while about one-in-five Americans (22%) say they regularly get news on YouTube. Twitter and Instagram are regular news sources for 13% and 11% of Americans, respectively.

Google abandons plans to offer Plex checking accounts

Google is abandoning its plans to offer checking accounts to its users in partnership with banks and credit unions, a project the tech giant announced almost two years ago.

The decision to drop the project, first reported Friday by The Wall Street Journal and confirmed to Banking Dive by a Google spokesperson, comes after a series of delays and the March departure of Caesar Sengupta, the Google Pay executive who headed the project. The missed deadlines and Sengupta’s departure prompted the search engine behemoth to scrap the project, sources told the Journal.

"We’re updating our approach to focus primarily on delivering digital enablement for banks and other financial services providers rather than us serving as the provider of these services," a Google spokesperson said in an email to Banking Dive. "We strongly believe that this is the best way for Google to help consumers gain better access to financial services and to help the financial services ecosystem connect more deeply with their customers in a digital environment."

More Regulatory Clarity on the Horizon for FinTech

On September 21, 2021, the FinTech task force of the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services held a hearing on consumer privacy. The hearing was live-streamed and the archived webcast is available on the Committee website.

The hearing was called to address what Task Force Chairman Stephen Lynch called “serious gaps” in the current regulatory scheme, e.g. the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA), Dodd-Frank Act, and Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), due to rapid developments in FinTech. The following highlights key issues discussed.

Changes to the Financial Services Industry
The hearing acknowledged the change in technology, as institutions try to keep up with consumer preferences and desire for convenience when accessing financial services. The industry has grown to now include various FinTechs, such as payment processors, neobanks who offer entirely online and mobile banking, financial management apps, and online investment services.

Alternative Financial Service Providers Association
315 Tuscarora St., Lewiston, NY 14092