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.

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 does a 100 days victory dance (illustrated)

All the Great Things Trump Did for Me In 100 Days

May 1, 2017

No, I’m not joking.

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

Donald Trump and Barack Obama in Uncle Sam Outfits pitch their student loan repayment plans to a recent graduate (illustrated)

Trump Could Be Great for Your Student Loan Debt

January 19, 2017

Or he could be horrible. That’s why I just applied for a new repayment plan while I still can.

Donald Trump mints a coin in his own image (illustrated)

3 Weird Markets Trump Has Already Changed

January 12, 2017

The Donald’s business ties, Twitter tantrums and fickle personality will shake up a lot of markets — but I bet you didn’t expect these

negotiate your credit card debt

We’re Getting Squeezed By Credit Card Debt — But Acting Smarter

December 15, 2016

Our expenses keep going up, but our credit card debt is lower than it was a decade ago

What the Oval Office will look like after the first 100 days of Donald Trump's presidency, including a bust of himself, gold drapes and a golden T painting (illustrated)

What will President Trump do to our finances?

November 9, 2016

It’s finally over. But what now? Here’s a quick look at some of the things Trump has promised to achieve that’ll change your bottom line — if they get past Congress.

Americans and Nate Silver fret over the economic effects of a Trump or Clinton presidency on car buying and other important consumer expensesWhat the Oval Office will look like after the first 100 days of Donald Trump's presidency, including a bust of himself, gold drapes and a golden T painting (illustrated)

All these election polls show a clear loser — Americans

November 8, 2016

They’re not about who becomes president, they’re about everything else.

A giant red, white, and blue cobra representing the 2016 election looms over a man cowering in front of a gravestone (illustrated)

Presidential Politics Might Scare People Into Buying More Insurance

November 7, 2016

Political decisions impact most businesses, but here’s a surprising one getting a boost: life insurance.

cartoon of Halloween shopping

Still Haven’t Got A Costume? Try These Popular Picks

October 26, 2016

This year’s Halloween spending is expected to top a ghastly $8.4 billion, the highest figure since the National Retail Federation began surveying consumers about their holiday spending. The biggest chunk of that is on costumes: $1.5 billion on costumes for adults — $1.17 billion for kids, and even $420 million on pet costumes. Candy is […]

A giant Republican elephant piggy bank gives itself coins next to a small Democratic donkey piggy bank (illustrated)

What About the Financial Issues the Candidates Aren’t Debating?

October 19, 2016

Americans, like always, care most about the economy and how it helps or hurts them. Why aren’t we hearing more about it?

A college graduation cap and dollar sign tassel with a degree wrapped in a price tag (illustrated)

What Would It Cost to Forgive Everybody’s Debt?

August 17, 2016

Here are 10 ways American could come up with the money to pay off everybody’s debt in collections… not that we recommend doing that.

US map about tax

When Your State Has A Sales Tax Holiday In 2016

August 5, 2016

Find out when your state has a back-to-school sales tax holiday this year!

Newt Gingrich begs for money in front of a bus stop (illustration)

Campaign debt can outlast a presidency

May 11, 2016

Would you believe that President Obama’s campaign committee is still in debt? If a president can’t pay off his debts in a timely fashion, what about all the other could-have-beens?

student loan deferment

A New Way to Figure Out How To Pay Less on Your Student Loans?

May 10, 2016

The federal government tries something novel: clarity.