Brandon Ballenger

Brandon Ballenger

Having more than $10,000 in student loan debt has a way of piquing your interest in personal finance. And because my degree was in English and public communication, I get to share that interest with you. My wide-ranging stories on money and business have run on Business Insider, the Christian Science Monitor, Reader’s Digest, the front pages of and Yahoo! Finance, Money Talks News, and the South Florida Business Journal. In my free time, I like to jump off skyscrapers and play video games.

A Keurig coffee maker is thrown out with the trash (illustrated)

Don’t Destroy Your Coffee Maker Over Politics

November 16, 2017

It makes no sense to punish your wallet for someone else’s political transgressions.

Donald Trump celebrates the anniversary of his election with a birthday cake (illustrated)

Are You Happier Now?

November 9, 2017

It’s been a year since America elected Trump. What have we got to show for it?

Donald Trump has Congress drag Richard Cordray away from big banking regulations (illustrated)

Donald Trump Won’t Let You Sue Banks

November 2, 2017

He signed a law undoing consumer protections for class-action lawsuits against financial abuse.

Congressional leaders Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell look at student loan proposals (illustrated)

More Student Loan Ideas for a Hopeless Congress

October 26, 2017

They’ve got — and are ignoring — a bill on bankrupting student loans. But what about these ideas states are considering?

Donald Trump driving to Mexico for tax benefits while Americans wave goodbye (illustrated)

If Trump Wants Lower Taxes, He Could Move to Mexico

October 19, 2017

Trump’s tax plan benefits him more than anybody else. But he doesn’t have to fight to change policy here… he could just leave.

What America Financially Fears for Friday the 13th

Facing Our Worst Financial Fears

October 13, 2017

We’re most scared of dealing with emergencies, losing our jobs, and outliving our savings.

What America Financially Fears for Friday the 13th

How Donald Trump Has Worsened Our Greatest Financial Fears

October 12, 2017

Whether it’s retirement, health care, or identity theft, Trump has done some frightening things — that’s no trick.

Devil burning your cash in credit hell (illustrated)

Are You Living in Credit Hell?

October 9, 2017

This spooky map looks at how long it takes to pay off the typical credit card debt in every state.

Justice Neil Gorsuch stresses over financial Supreme Court cases

Now You Can Start Judging Justice Neil Gorsuch

October 5, 2017

His first real Supreme Court term starts this week, and his opinions will start affecting our financial lives.

Richard Cordray quizzes American's about their financial health (illustrated)

More Than 40 Percent of Americans Can’t Pay Their Bills

September 28, 2017

If Donald Trump wants an easy win, promote financial literacy. It really does make a difference, according to the CFPB.

Bernie Sanders performs a health care comedy skit (illustrated)

We Can Finally Talk Seriously About Healthcare Again

September 21, 2017

After years of mushy Obamacare repeal, Bernie Sanders gives us something concrete to debate.

The CFPB hands money back to consumers

CFPB Recovers $14 Million for Ripped-Off Consumers

September 21, 2017

The federal agency continues to aggressively battle companies that confuse and shortchange consumers.

Donald Trump spills coffee on a laptop he doesn't know how to use while trying to understand cybersecurity (illustrated)

After Equifax, Where Is Trump’s Cybersecurity Plan?

September 14, 2017

A major credit bureau handed out 143 million Social Security numbers out of laziness and incompetence. Is Trump going to do anything?

Betsy DeVos and her bear order Richard Cordray to leave (illustrated)

Now the Education Department Is Mad

September 7, 2017

The CFPB tried to pick up the department’s slack. Now the Education Department is pushing back.

Help flood and disaster victims after Hurricane Harvey

Help After Hurricane Harvey: What You Can and Should Do

September 1, 2017

Whether you were a victim or want to donate money, here’s our advice to protect yourself after the storm

Donald Trump kicks student loan borrowers when they're down (illustrated)

We’re Paying Off Student Loans More Slowly Than Ever

August 31, 2017

And we’re not getting any relief from Donald Trump.

Donald Trump's jobs record isn't great, so he's pressing every jobs button he can (illustrated)

How Is Trump Doing on Jobs?

August 24, 2017

He promised 2.5 million jobs a year. Here’s what we have after six months.

Donald Trump shows off his best presidential qualities, like caring about money for himself (illustrated)

Trump Supporters Say These Financial Traits Make Him Great

August 17, 2017

Ethics and concern for the poor are not among them.

Banking regulator nominees Joseph Otting and Randy Quarles shake hands with Donald Trump (illustrated)

I Agree With Trump’s Top Banking Regulators

August 10, 2017

The biggest risk to the economy is this $1.3 trillion consumer debt — which Trump is doing nothing about

Betsy DeVos looks at a classroom of lawyers (illustrated)

18 States Say Betsy DeVos Is a Failure

August 3, 2017

The education secretary is being sued for siding with for-profit schools over students. But at least she’s learning from her mistakes.

Man walks along a political fork in the road (illustration)

3 Financial Ideas Democrats Hope Will Win Back Congress

July 27, 2017

Democrats want to offer “A Better Deal,” but they’ll have to win a lot of seats first. Back to School 2017 illustration with icons for clothing, electronics, shoes, and school supplies

What’s Your Back-to-School Budget?

July 26, 2017

After the holiday season, back-to-school shopping is the second largest spending event of the year. Nearly half of Americans will shop online, according to the National Retail Federation. In total, they’ll spend an estimated $83.6 billion — a more than 10 percent jump over last year, and a five-year high — to get grade school […]

Man stands in a barren field next to a fruitful one (illustrated)

How Well Does Your State Manage Money?

July 20, 2017

A close look at state balance sheets shows that “fiscally conservative” doesn’t mean financially healthy — but neither does “lots of taxes.”

CFPB Director Richard Cordray tips the scales of consumer justice (illustrated)

Thanks to the CFPB, We Can Sue Banks Again

July 13, 2017

For years, credit card companies and banks have avoided class-action lawsuits by writing rules prohibiting them. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau just snapped those rules.

Betsy Devos and Rich Cordray fight over student loans (illustrated)

Is It The CFPB Versus The Education Department?

July 6, 2017

Looks like Richard Cordray and Betsy DeVos are going to fight over student loan forgiveness.

A geographical color-coded depiction of the U.S. ranking states by consumer credit

Why Do Trump Voters Have Worse Credit Than Democrats?

June 29, 2017

States that voted for Trump have fewer credit cards, lower balances, and a worse understanding of money.

Barack Obama laughs at a tired Trump in the Oval Office (illustrated)

Time’s Up on Trump’s Undo Button

June 22, 2017

the law he used to cancel last-minute Obama regulations won’t prevent changes to prepaid cards and other improvements.

Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch points his gavel dramatically (illustrated)

Neil Gorsuch Sides with Debt Collectors in His First Ruling

June 15, 2017

That sucks in the short-term, but it’s good for consumers in the long-term.

A look at the key aspects of the Financial Choice Act legislation on a mobile app (illustrated)

Where Does Trump Stand on Financial Reform?

June 8, 2017

He wants the CFPB gutted, but also is “looking at” busting up big banks.

Graduates stare at a tsunami of student loan debt (illustrated)

Student Loans: Too Big to Fail? Or Too Much to Succeed?

June 1, 2017

The “student loan crisis” is so massive, we can’t even comprehend it anymore.

Betsy DeVos rides a bear at the circus with ringleader Trump (illustrated)

Donald Trump’s Student Loan Circus

May 25, 2017

He wants to ditch almost everything that helps students save money and manage debt in order to “prioritize students” and “empower parents.”

Neil Gorsuch sits in consideration of arguments in the Supreme Court (illustrated)

Is Neil Gorsuch Good or Bad for Your Wallet?

May 11, 2017

One month into his new job, here’s a quick look at how Trump’s Justice weighs in. It’s way too early for a verdict.

Trump carries off a wheelbarrow of tax break cash while an ordinary guy looks at his empty pockets (illustrated)

Who Is Going to Get a Big Trump Tax Cut?

May 4, 2017

Hint: His name starts with T and ends with rump. But at least it’s not Paul Ryan’s plan, and maybe if he gets a big break he’ll leave us all alone.

Donald Trump gestures at a chaotic scene in Venezuela (illustrated)

Trump Can’t Ruin America

April 27, 2017

No matter what you think about Donald Trump, there are hard limits to how much he can reshape politics and the economy. Look no further than the crisis in Venezuela.

Uncle Sam is a two-faced monster when it comes to tax debt (illustrated)

Want to Collect Debts for the IRS? The Bar Is Pretty Low

April 21, 2017

The IRS will use private debt collectors who have failed before, including one the federal government is already suing for ripping consumers off.

Donald Trump and Mike Pence snoop on you in the privacy of your home (illustrated)

Trump Is Stealing Your Internet Privacy

April 20, 2017

Deregulating for its own sake is incredibly stupid — but potentially profitable for internet companies and identity thieves.

Donald Trump punts people seeking public student loan forgiveness off a cliff (illustrated)

Could Donald Trump Snatch Away Student Loan Forgiveness?

April 13, 2017

Everybody wants their debt forgiven, but the people actually promised it could be screwed.

tax fraud

Waiting Until Tax Day to File Is How You Get Ripped Off

April 13, 2017

Tax-related identity theft is increasing, and experts say we ignore easy ways to protect ourselves by stressing about filing.

Donald Trump yells at immigrants to go away and stop stealing our jobs against a foreground of shuttered factories in a Soviet-style illustration

Are Immigrants Actually Stealing Our Jobs?

April 6, 2017

Trump thinks so, but research shows they do far more good than harm.

Rising interest rates affect different kinds of consumers (illustrated)

Interest Rates Are Going Up. Should You Be Worried?

March 30, 2017

It depends on whether you have debt, and what kind. If you’re rich, it’s strictly good news.

Donald Trump juggles piggy banks representing Social Security (illustrated)

Can Trump Keep His Promise To Leave Social Security Alone?

March 23, 2017

He campaigned on not cutting entitlements, but conservatives think he has to.

Donald Trump fights consumers in a boxing ring as the CFPB jumps in (illustrated)

Why the CFPB Still Has a Fighting Chance

March 16, 2017

Republicans may hate it, but the courts — and even Mike Pence’s economist — don’t.

Donald Trump presses the magic jobs button (illustrated)

God’s Gift to Jobs? Time to Prove It

March 9, 2017

Here’s a quick look at employment stats to put the first jobs numbers of the Trump administration into context — and what we can expect.

A giant Donald Trump lounges in a speech to Congress (illustrated)

State of the Dystopia

March 2, 2017

Donald Trump’s first speech to Congress Tuesday night was a nice change of pace. But actually doing stuff would be better.

Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell search for good legislative ideas (illustrated)

5 Smart Pieces of State Debt Legislation

February 23, 2017

If Congress needs help helping people, it should look to these state legislators.

Parents, veterans, and other Americans drop their petitions into the White House (illustrated)

Financial Issues Real Americans Want Trump to Solve

February 16, 2017

These desperate White House petitions aren’t getting much attention. Some of them deserve it.

Betsy DeVos rides a bear and flings education vouchers everywhere (illustrated)

25 Things I Learned About Betsy DeVos By Reading Her Own Words

February 9, 2017

Secretary of Education responded (sort of) to more than 140 Congressional questions beyond her confirmation hearing. But nobody talked about it.

Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch points his gavel dramatically (illustrated)

What Trump’s Supreme Court Pick Could Mean for Your Finances

February 2, 2017

Neil M. Gorsuch is a lot like Justice Antonin Scalia — except for one big thing.

A giant Trump looms over the New York skyline with his foot about to crush the CFPB on a small boat (illustrated)

Will Trump Wreck the Greatest Federal Agency?

January 26, 2017

He’s hiring people that hate the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and pledged to tear up post-recession banking regulations