Here's an illustration of the many ways slow payment systems can inconvenience you and cost you money.
Let's say Homer is two days from payday. The family checking account at First Bank of Springfield is on fumes. There's just enough in the account, Homer thinks, to gas up his Plymouth sedan and buy Bart a Squishee at the Kwik-E-Mart.
But Marge checked the account balance too, and thought she could safely buy groceries. Because Homer and Marge didn't realize they were spending the same money, one of the transactions triggers an overdraft fee. Plus, they forgot the power bill is due, and utility owner Mr. Burns charges a wicked late fee.
Homer hits up Lenny and Carl for a loan, but Lenny uses Venmo, Carl uses PayPal and Homer uses only Zelle. Lenny writes Homer a check, but it's from National Bank of Springfield, so First Bank puts a hold on the deposit. Desperate, Marge breaks into Lisa's piggy bank for money to pay the power bill, but has to pay a fee to "expedite" a same-day bill payment.
The animated "Simpsons" television show might use this scenario to get laughs, but it's not funny for Americans who pay billions of dollars in overdraft charges and late fees , thanks in part to antiquated payment systems. The most vulnerable people turn to high-cost payday loans to bridge cash flow gaps, and some leave the banking system altogether because of high, unpredictable fees .
It doesn't have to be this way. Many other countries have real-time payments that clear almost instantly. Federal regulators urged U.S. banks to update their payment systems, but the banking industry has balked.
Finally, after years of nagging, the Federal Reserve announced in August it's developing its own service, FedNow, that will allow all U.S. banks to offer real-time payments. Big banks, predictably, aren't happy.
That's because the largest banks have already created a real-time payment system through a payment-processing company they own called The Clearing House. The big banks have yet to convince a critical mass of other institutions to make the investments required to connect to it, however.
Meanwhile, a bunch of person-to-person payment systems — PayPal, Venmo, Square Cash, Zelle and so on — promise to move money more quickly between individuals. Many require both parties to have an account, and the cash can sometimes take days to transfer. We're still a long way from everyone having the ability to pay anyone instantly.
The current landscape underscores why the Federal Reserve needed to step in, says Lauren Saunders, associate director for the National Consumer Law Center.
"It's just really important that a public entity that answers to everybody, and not just the biggest banks, have a strong role in making sure that the payments work for everybody," Saunders says.
Only the Fed, which is the U.S.' central bank, can make sure faster payments are available at financial institutions of all sizes, which means consumers everywhere can benefit, says Christina Tetreault , senior policy counsel for Consumer Reports.
Unfortunately, this transformation won't happen overnight, even though we're already decades behind some countries. (Real-time payments came to Japan in 1973 and to Switzerland in 1987.) The Fed is shooting for implementation by 2024. In the meantime, here are some steps that could help you minimize the cost of slow payments:
TRY TO KEEP A CUSHION IN YOUR CHECKING ACCOUNT. Many financial planners recommend keeping an amount equal to one month's bills, but that may not be possible. Even an extra $100 can help avoid overdrafts.
HAVE ACCESS TO CREDIT. Charging an emergency expense or getting a cash advance from a credit card is ultimately a lot cheaper than a payday loan.
DECLINE THE BANK'S "COURTESY OVERDRAFT" COVERAGE. This coverage, also sometimes known as "bounce protection," ''courtesy pay," or "overdraft privilege," is an expensive option that can trigger multiple $35 fees. Opting out means ATM and debit card transactions that exceed your balance will be declined. Or you can choose the less expensive "overdraft protection" that Iinks your checking account to your savings account or a line of credit.
TRACK TRANSACTIONS, SET UP ALERTS AND CREATE REMINDERS. You can use a budget app to download and monitor bank account transactions, or check your accounts frequently online. Note every bill's due date on your calendar and set up alerts for low balances, due dates and unpaid bills. Such vigilance is a hassle, but can save a lot of money while we wait for real-time payments to arrive.
Two collectors said you're the one that I want to Olivia Newton-John's iconic "Grease" leather jacket and skintight pants at an auction Saturday in Beverly Hills.
Julien's Auctions says the combined ensemble, which Newton-John's character Sandy wears in the closing number of the 1978 film, fetched $405,700 total. The leather jacket sold for $243,200 and the pants, which Newton-John famously had to be sewn into, went for $162,500.
Other "Grease" memorabilia included a Pink Ladies jacket that went for $50,000 and a poster signed by Newton-John, John Travolta, director Randal Kleiser and producer and songwriter John Farrar, which sold for $64,000.
The proceeds from the jacket and pants, as well as a portion of the other items sold, will go the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre in Australia.
Rainbow Paints, popular paint brand of RFL Group, has on Thursday launched ‘Service Month-2019’, aiming to provide highest service to its customers.
RN Paul, Managing Director of RFL Group, inaugurated the programme at Premier Plaza at Badda in the city.
During the service month, customers will be able to purchase products of Rainbow brand in installment. Customer will enjoy discount up to 25 percent on paint products and five percent discount on hardware products. All paint related solutions including selection of paints for new houses are available for customers during service month.
Moreover, there is scope to win attractive prizes including refrigerator, TV, microwave oven, bicycle, dinner set, through raffle draw by purchasing products during the campaign.
Addressing the programme, RN Paul said, “RFL Group gives highest importance to the quality of products as well as satisfaction of the customers. We have introduced the campaign to provide customers paint related best service as well as to grow confidence in their mind about the service of Rainbow Paints.”
Rainbow Paints began its journey in January, 2017 with the slogan ‘Charaw Jiboner Rong’. There are 30 types of paints in decorative, floor coating, marine, car, powder coating, industrial, wood coating categories. Customers can purchase Rainbow Paints across the country through more than one hundred outlets and authorized dealers across the country.
The Mongolian government has approved a national program to promote the development and protection of seniors, the government's press office said Thursday.
"The national program aims to improve the livelihood and security of the elderly, promote their physical health and healthy aging, and protect them from poverty as well as establishing long-term care system for them," the press office said in a statement.
From 2020 to 2023, a total of 62 activities will be held within the framework of the program, said the statement.
Roughly 6.4 percent of Mongolians were at least 60 years old in 2015, according to the country's National Statistical Office. The East Asian country has a population of 3.2 million.
The percentage is likely to reach 11.9 percent by 2030 and 21.1 percent by 2050.
Deep in the rainforest of Volcanoes National Park, a 23-year-old female gorilla named Kurudi feeds on a stand of wild celery. She bends the green stalks and, with long careful fingers, peels off the exterior skin to expose the succulent inside.
Biologist Jean Paul Hirwa notes her meal on his tablet computer as he peers out from behind a nearby stand of stinging nettles.
The large adult male sitting next to her, known as a silverback, looks at him quizzically. Hirwa makes a low hum — "ahh-mmm" — imitating the gorillas' usual sound of reassurance.
"I'm here," Hirwa is trying to say. "It's OK. No reason to worry."
Hirwa and the two great apes are all part of the world's longest-running gorilla study — a project begun in 1967 by famed American primatologist Dian Fossey.
Yet Fossey herself, who died in 1985, would likely be surprised any mountain gorillas are still left to study. Alarmed by rising rates of poaching and deforestation in central Africa, she predicted the species could go extinct by 2000.
Instead, a concerted and sustained conservation campaign has averted the worst and given a second chance to these great apes, which share about 98% of human DNA. Last fall, the Switzerland-based International Union for Conservation of Nature changed the status of mountain gorillas from "critically endangered" to "endangered," an improved if still-fragile designation.
It wouldn't have happened without an intervention some biologists call "extreme conservation," which has entailed monitoring every single gorilla in the rainforest, periodically giving them veterinary care and funding forest protection by sending money into communities that might otherwise resent not being able to convert the woods into cropland.
Instead of disappearing, the number of mountain gorillas — a subspecies of eastern gorillas — has risen from 680 a decade ago to just over 1,000 today. Their population is split between two regions, including mist-covered defunct volcanoes within Congo, Uganda and Rwanda — one of Africa's smallest and most densely populated countries.
"The population of mountain gorillas is still vulnerable," says George Schaller, a renowned biologist and gorilla expert. "But their numbers are now growing, and that's remarkable."
Once depicted in legends and films like "King Kong" as fearsome beasts, gorillas are actually languid primates that eat only plants and insects, and live in fairly stable, extended family groups. Their strength and chest-thumping displays are generally reserved for contests between male rivals.
Every week, scientists like Hirwa, who works for the nonprofit conservation group the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, gather data as part of long-term behavioral research.
If they see any health problems in the gorillas, they inform the staff at Gorillas Doctors, a nongovernmental group whose veterinarians work in the forest. The vets monitor wounds and signs of respiratory infections, but intervene only sparingly.
When they do, they almost never remove the animals from the mountain.
"Our hospital is the forest," says Jean Bosco Noheli, a veterinarian at Gorilla Doctors. When his team goes into the field to address a gorilla emergency, they must carry everything they might need in equipment bags weighing up to 100 pounds — including portable X-ray machines.
Schaller conducted the first detailed studies of mountain gorillas in the 1950s and early '60s. He also was the first to discover that wild gorillas could, over time, become comfortable with periodic human presence, a boon to researchers and, later, tourists.
Today, highly regulated tour groups hike in the Rwandan rainforest to watch gorillas.
Ticket revenue pays for operating costs and outstrips what might have been made from converting the rainforest to potato farms and cattle pastures. About 40% of the forest already was cleared for agriculture in the early 1970s.
"With tourism, the tension is always not to overexploit," says Dirck Byler, great ape conservation director at the nonprofit Global Wildlife Conservation, which is not involved in the Rwanda gorilla project. "But in Rwanda, so far they're careful, and it's working."
The idea of using tourism to help fund conservation was contentious when conservationists Bill Weber and Amy Vedder first proposed it while living in Rwanda during the 1970s and '80s. Fossey herself was skeptical, but the pair persisted.
"The wonder of the gorillas' lives, their curiosity, their social interactions — we felt that's something that could be accessible to others, through careful tourism," Vedder says.
Figuring out the balance of how many people could visit the forest, and for how long, was a delicate process of trial and error, Weber says.
In 2005, the Rwandan government adopted a model to steer 5% of tourism revenue from Volcanoes National Park to build infrastructure in surrounding villages, including schools and health clinics. Two years ago, the share was raised to 10%.
To date, about $2 million has gone into funding village projects, chief park warden Prosper Uwingeli says.
"We don't want to protect the park with guns. We want to protect and conserve this park with people who understand why, and who take responsibility," he says.
The money from tourism helps, but the region is still poor.
Jean Claude Masengesho lives with his parents and helps them farm potatoes. About once a week, the 21-year-old earns a little extra money helping tourists carry their bags up the mountain, totaling about $45 a month. He would someday like to become a tour guide, which could earn him about $320 monthly.
The obstacle is that most tour guides have attended college, and Masengesho isn't sure how his family can afford tuition.
"It's my dream, but it's very hard," he says. "In this village, every young person's dream is to work in the park."