America Saves Week gets us thinking about our financial future

CONSUMER FORUM

By Russ Van Arsdale, Executive Director, Northeast Contact
Posted Feb. 19, 2012, at 12:39 p.m.

The advice to consumers this week is about not spending money. It is America Saves Week and, for service people, Military Saves Week.

The goal of the educational campaign is to get all of us to think about ways to save for the future. While it may seem more difficult than ever given the state of the economy, now may be the most important time to start securing our financial futures.

In announcing Maine’s support of the effort, Gov. Paul LePage said “Our economic strength as a state is tied to the financial well-being of individual families.” He encouraged people to look at their saving habits and plan for their future needs.

One source of information is Maine’s Bureau of Financial Institutions. Resources from the Bureau are available at www.maine.gov/pfr/financialinstitutions or by calling 800-965-5235 (TTY 888-577-6690).

The state’s Department of Professional and Financial Regulation can help consumers avoid investment fraud. Officials remind us always to check credentials of investment advisers or brokers before handing over any money.

People in military service may want to look at a new publication from the Office of Securities called the Financial Field Manual. Administrator Judith Shaw said the booklet covers special home-buying resources for military families, advice to help protect investments when retiring and other topics. The Financial Field Manual is available at www.investors.maine.gov or by calling 877-624-8551 (TTY 888-577-6690). Safe investing tips for civilians are available as well.

Across the country hundreds of organizations are helping Americans learn more about saving. Find out more at www.americasaves.org or www.militarysaves.org.

In last week’s column, I made several points about the Bumbo baby seat with which its manufacturer, Bumbo International, took exception. Three clarifications should help to correct the record.

A Bumbo spokesperson wrote to say that a warning had been placed on the seat, as well as on the box and in printed instructions, before the 2007 voluntary recall; after the recall, a second warning was printed on the front of the seat. This was a reporting error.

I wrote that the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) was aware of 95 more injuries since the recall and that 50 of those happened while the seat was being used on the floor or when it was not clear where the seat was being used. Bumbo notes this statement confused incident reports with injuries. A CPSC news release says the Commission is aware of a total of 39 injuries. This was also a reporting error.

I also cited a story in USA Today about the possibility of adding a safety strap to the seat. The online version reads, “Asked why it doesn’t redesign the seat with a strap to keep kids from falling out, Bumbo International said Thursday that a safety strap would give parents a ‘false sense of security.’” Bumbo’s spokeswoman wrote to me that “the company has not said that a safety strap ‘would’ give a false sense of security but rather is concerned that any safety device could give the impress (sic) that the seat is safe for uses for which it is not designed,” namely, that it not be used above floor level.

The Bumbo spokeswoman also provided a copy of its statement to USA Today, which concluded, “The safety and health of all children who use the Bumbo seat is the company’s foremost priority.”

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We continue to encourage our readers to do their research when making purchases.  If the product was previously owned or is not in its original packaging, check  to see if  a recall has occurred or if there are safety warnings which may wear away with age. “Through SaferProducts.gov, consumers, child service providers, health care professionals, government officials and public safety entities can submit reports of harm (Reports) involving consumer products. Manufacturers (including importers) and private labelers identified in Reports will receive a copy of the Report, and have the opportunity to comment on them. Completed Reports and manufacturer comments are published online at http://www.SaferProducts.gov for anyone to search.”

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s membership-funded, nonprofit consumer organization. Individual and business memberships are available at modest rates. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for more information, write: Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer 04412, go to http://necontact.wordpress.com, or email contacexdir@live.com.

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