The Life Skills Gap

I have always been concerned about what and how we help learners. Do we teach them “by the book,” using specific outlines that are given, or do we consider real life situations when providing educational training. I’ve always thought there was a gap. A young niece of mine and I had a conversation one day about “life” as a college student. She was crammed with the traditional courses, but was badly in need of fundamentals of life having to do with budgeting, access to all those credit-card offers, the realities of living with others and sharing rent (oh yes, you better understand when YOU sign the lease, YOU are on the hook for the rent… etc. She wasn’t getting that in school.

Those conversations always get me to thinking we teach what we are required to teach, but do we make sure to include those “other, not required, but really essential” topics? I hope so! My goal as an educator is to help develop people with a depth of real estate knowledge that guides through the potholes and steers them reach their goals. There are lots of potholes in real estate, so there are many topics to cover. My goal is to fill that Life Skills Gap.

This article was originally published by the Association of American Educators on January 30, 2018 Melissa Pratt is the Professional Programs Manager for the Association of American Educators. In this role, she helps connect AAE members with resources and information to further their craft.

There’s been a lot of debate recently on what students need to know to be “college and career ready.” Typically, the debate centers on how high the standards for math and reading should be, how much social studies and science high school grads should participate in, and whether career and technical education should be given renewed emphasis. What seldom gets mentioned are the many small tasks that are essential to everyday life, but never make it into the curriculum.

We know that skills like filing taxes, saving money, applying for jobs, time management skills, and the like can make or break an individual in their first few years of adulthood, but we seldom give thought to how we should approach these skills. Often, schools assume that students are either being taught these skills at home by their parents or gain them through life experience, but that is not always the case. Both research and anecdotal evidence points to our students having trouble with everyday tasks after they graduate from high school.

Despite this, many are unconvinced that schools should be stepping in to help fill this gap. They point to an already crowded curriculum and wonder what we’d be willing to give up to make room for life skill courses. Others worry that a life skill course would be self-defeating. By taking these skills and removing them from the circumstances where they’d be used and needed, we’d be robbing them of their authenticity and relevance, which we know is essential for students to internalize what they’ve learned.

On the opposite side, proponents of teaching life skills argue that no matter how academically successful a student is, they are set up for failure if they can’t master certain essential skills. This fact is urgent for students who may not have a support structure at home to help them muddle through their first years of adulthood. Some students will be taught these skills at home and gain them through life experience, but not all will.

Educators who have placed a high value on teaching life skills have gone a long way to integrate them into the curriculum. Many schools use their extra-curriculars to teach students these skills and allow students to run and manage newspapers, stores, performance scheduling, and other tasks sometimes conducted by staff. A few schools take things further. Slater High School recently debuted their “Life Academy.” This program, which is designed to teach students skills like research, family planning, legal rights, budgeting, etc., will be conducted on days where there is an early dismissal and a normal class schedule is otherwise impossible.

The inclusion of life skills does not have to lead to a full-fledged rewriting of the curriculum or school structure. Individual teachers can help students acquire life skills by raising awareness of them in the classroom through discussion and the incorporation of certain skills into already planned projects and lessons.


Did you know

E-Notarization has been here for some time
Effective July 1, 2006, the Minnesota Legislature enacted electronic notary legislation pursuant to Minnesota Statutes 358 and 359, allowing electronic notarization to be applied to a document so that the document can be fully processed electronically.
To apply for e-Notarization, applicants must be currently registered as an active Minnesota Notary and have the capability to notarize electronically before requesting authorization to perform electronic notarizations.
Physical presence of a person whose signature is being notarized is still required by law (359.01, subd. 5). And notarizing of any MN mortgage and/or real estate documents requires a Closing Agent License unless you fall under specific exemptions – see MSA 82.641.
Before performing electronic notarial acts, a notary public must register or in the case of a recommission, reregister, the capability to notarize electronically with the Secretary of State. There is no fee for this authorization with the secretary of State
To obtain the authorization to perform electronic notarization, complete the E-Notarization Authorization form and certify that you have proof of the filing of your notary commission with the county.

Distance E- Notarization is Coming
Generally, electronic, or e-signatures, use different methods
• In some cases, the signer can use the mouse on their computer to “write” their signature, like you do when you go to the grocery store and sign for your credit card (where it generally looks nothing like your signature;))
• In other cases, a signer types their name and choses their e-signature from an assortment of a type-sets (Script, Monotype, Bradley Hand, etc.)
• In other cases yet, the signer carefully writes his/her signature and takes a photo (likely with their cell phone) and creates a .jpg file that they can use to accurately represent their signature.
• In some cases, signers hold up their Drivers’ Licenses and other Identifying information for the notary to review
• in other cases, like the US Post Office, you must put in a credit card with identifying information
• Yet again, some systems require that you answer information as to the make of your vehicle, previous addresses, mother’s maiden name, etc. that likely come from credit reporting companies.
• Will the audio/visual session have to be taped and maintained in the notaries file to be legal?
• Can the notary keep a log instead? There is much to be worked out.
You can see examples of what’s coming in distance notarization at such places as
• Signix
• Safedocs
• DocVerify

Distance notarization laws are currently in effect in only two states -Virginia and Montana. In these states the signer and the notary communicate online. Documents are electronically signed and notarized with the signing parties and notary meeting with audio and video communications similar to “facetime” or “go-to-meeting.” Here, the signer of the document might physically be in New York City and the notary physically in Virginia, MN.

But these state laws vary significantly. In Virginia a notary can perform a remote apostille for a signer that is located anywhere in the world. Montana allows distance notarization only for Montana property where the affiant is a permanent Montana resident.

As industries like closing, title insuring, mortgage lending, etc. are nationwide, dealing with various laws could be challenging. In response to that, The National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) are working on distance online notarization with a task force, as are ALTA, the Minnesota Land Title Association, the MN Bar Assoc., Mortgage Bankers Association, MISMO, and others. Hopefully they can come together, soon, with a clear solution that will fit us all.

HUD Releases Guide to Help Struggling Homeowners Avoid Foreclosure

Press Relelase
December 20, 2017

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development today released the Homeowners Guide to Success as part of a public-private partnership between federal agencies and industry partners. The guide provides homeowners with information on the critical first steps to take if they are at risk of missing a mortgage payment or facing foreclosure.

HUD Secretary Ben Carson said, “This guide arms consumers with easy to understand, reliable information about the assistance available to help them keep their homes. Valuable information like this can make a tremendous difference in the lives of homeowners who may be faced with foreclosure.”

This guide ensures homeowners will have resources at their fingertips and will be ready and responsible for the next steps. The guide also covers the value of HUD-approved housing counseling agencies. They are on the front lines providing resources to help homeowners avoid foreclosure. These HUD-approved housing counseling agencies offer free assistance to consumers and help borrowers find housing counselors and avoid scams.

As families recover from the recent hurricanes and are more likely to be targeted by scams, a HUD-approved housing counselor can assist them through the process of purchasing or keeping a home. Independent research shows that borrowers working with a HUD-approved housing counseling agency are more likely to avoid foreclosure than borrowers who do not seek housing counseling.

“Steering consumers away from fraudulent schemes is especially important when they are already facing the difficult situation of not being able to make their mortgage payment,” said Sarah Gerecke, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Housing Counseling at HUD.

As part of the partnership between HUD, Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Agriculture, the Treasury Department, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Federal Housing Finance Agency, Mortgage Bankers Association, and housing counseling agencies, the guide will be available on federal agency and industry partner websites

CFPB Charges Title Company with $1.25 million Dollar Fine

The CFPB takes RESPA matters seriously. While many states, like Minnesota, require a disclosure form describing the relationship between lenders, real estate agents, title companies, appraisers, etc., those who do not disclose those relationships are up for serious fines.
Read the full article here CFBP RELEASE

FinCEN Advisory on Money Laundering Scams

FinCEN Advisory

See Advisory HERE

Lender Sues Specialty Insurer for Cyberspace Crime

A California-based mortgage company hit its insurer with a lawsuit in a New York federal court Tuesday seeking to recoup under a $3 million policy “substantial” losses incurred when an impostor duped the mortgage lender into wiring money for a nonexistent transaction.
American Pacific Mortgage Corp. asserts that Aspen Specialty Insurance Company must indemnify it for a cyberattack that resulted in an employee wiring more than $75,000 to a fictional company.

More here at Housing Wire

Last year, the Federal Trade Commission and the National Association of Realtors issued a warning to people interested in buying a home that scammers were posing as real estate agents, Realtors and title insurance companies to steal consumers’ closing costs.
And earlier this year, the FTC and NAR reissued that same warning because similar scams are still taking place.
In these scams, hackers take over the email accounts of homebuyers, real estate agents, lenders or Realtors. They obtain information about upcoming real estate transactions and send an email to the homebuyer, pretending to be the real estate agent or the title company that’s being used for the closing.

The email tells the buyer that there has been a last-minute change to the wiring instructions, and instructs the buyer to wire their closing costs to a different account – one controlled by the hacker. Then, once the buyer sends the money to the scammer’s account, the money disappears.

Do you have Cyber Insurance?

Protect Your Money from Wire Fraud Schemes – ALTA Video

Buying and selling a home is an exciting time, but there can be pitfalls for unsuspecting consumers . The American Land Title Association wants homeowners and sellers to be aware that criminals are using wire fraud schemes to steal money meant for home purchases or the proceeds from the sale of the property. Watch this video for four tips to protect your money and advice for what to do if you’ve been targeted by a scam.


CFPB Gives Snapshot of Complaints from Older Consumers

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released a complaint report highlighting complaints submitted by older consumers.

The snapshot shows that older consumers frequently report servicing problems with reverse mortgages, difficulties recovering money after financial scams, confusion around deferred interest credit cards, and charges for unauthorized add-on products. The snapshot provides an overview and analysis of more than 103,100 complaints submitted to the Bureau by consumers voluntarily reporting their age as 62 or older.

“Older consumers who may be on a fixed income are at a greater risk for financial trouble if they encounter problems with financial products or services,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “The complaints submitted by older consumers are important for the Bureau to ensure we are properly looking out for this segment of the population.”

The Monthly Complaint Report can be found at: CFPB Press release

CFPB Seeks Comments on Proposed Mortgage Servicing Rule

CFPB Seeks Servicing Agent Comments on Proposed Mortgage Servicing Rules.  This is an important discussion for Service Providers who work for Mortgage Lenders


By Erik Durbin and Paul Rothstein – MAY 04, 2017

Today, we’ve released our plan to assess the effectiveness of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) mortgage servicing rule. We are asking the public to comment on our plan, to suggest sources of data, and generally to provide other information that would help with the assessment.

Mortgage loan servicers are typically responsible for several activities relating to mortgage loans such as:

  • Processing loan payments
  • Responding to borrower inquiries
  • Keeping track of principal and interest paid
  • Managing escrow accounts
  • Reporting to investors
  • Pursuing collection and loss mitigation activities (including foreclosures and loan modifications) under certain circumstances

In January 2013, the CFPB issued the 2013 RESPA Servicing Final Rule. We amended the rule a few times before it took effect, and we refer to all of the requirements and related amendments that took effect on January 10, 2014, as the RESPA mortgage servicing rule. This rule gave borrowers new consumer protections related to mortgage loan servicing, many of which were aimed at helping consumers who were having trouble making their mortgage payments.

The RESPA mortgage servicing rule requires, among other things, that servicers provide disclosures to borrowers related to force-placed insurance, respond to errors asserted by borrowers in a timely manner, and follow certain procedures related to loss mitigation applications and communications with borrowers. For example, servicers generally must acknowledge written notices of error within five days and investigate and respond to the borrower in writing within 30 days. In general, the consumer protection purposes of RESPA include that servicers respond to borrower requests and complaints in a timely manner, maintain and provide accurate information, help borrowers avoid unwarranted or unnecessary costs and fees, and facilitate review for foreclosure avoidance options.

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act) requires us to review some of our rules within five years after they take effect. These formal reviews are called assessments. We are conducting an assessment of the RESPA mortgage servicing rule, and we will issue a report of the assessment by January 2019. As required by law, the assessment will address the rule’s effectiveness in meeting the purposes and objectives of title X of the Dodd-Frank Act and the specific goals of the rule, using available evidence and data. We recently released our plan for the remittance rule assessment, as well.

We see conducting the assessment as an opportunity. Conducting the assessment will advance our knowledge of the benefits and costs of the key requirements of the RESPA mortgage servicing rule. The assessment will also provide the public with information on the mortgage servicing market, and help us to fulfill our commitment to be an evidence-based and effective agency.

We would like your help in improving the assessment.

We invite consumers, consumer advocates, housing counselors, mortgage loan servicers, industry representatives, and other interested parties to comment on our assessment plan. Comments can suggest sources of data, offer other recommendations, and generally provide information that would help us understand the rule’s effectiveness or improve this important work.

We are committed to well-tailored and effective regulations and have sought to carefully calibrate our efforts to ensure consistency with respect to consumer financial protections across the financial services marketplace.

Comments on the plan will be due 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register.

Learn more about your options and rights related to mortgage loans.

For more information on how to comply with the Bureau’s mortgage servicing rules, visit our implementation and guidance page.




Join the conversation. Follow CFPB on Twitter  and Facebook .


SEC Addresses Important Cyber-Security Measures for Service Providers

I just completed my PCI Compliance ( Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards report that requires specific security and use of qualified vendors who accept credit card payments on our behalf.) So  data security has been on my plate and on my mind.  I was particularly concerned after hearing about the recent ransom-ware attack that affected business, governments, hospitals and other entities computers in 75 countries including the US…. Scary stuff.

So it seems important to pass on the new SEC information on cyber-security.

“The staff observed a wide range of information security practices, procedures and controls across registrants that may be tailored to the firms’ operations, lines of business, risk profile and size,” as well as “firm practices during this Initiative that the staff believes may be particularly relevant to smaller registrants in relation to the recent WannaCry ransomware incident.”

Key findings from the examination, as reported in the alert, are as follows:

  • Cyberrisk assessment: “5 percent of broker-dealers and 26 percent of advisers and funds (collectively, ‘investment management firms’) examined did not conduct periodic risk assessments of critical systems to identify cybersecurity threats, vulnerabilities, and the potential business consequences.”
  • Penetration tests: “5 percent of broker-dealers and 57 percent of the investment management firms examined did not conduct penetration tests and vulnerability scans on systems that the firms considered to be critical.”
  • System maintenance: “All broker-dealers and 96 percent of investment management firms examined have a process in place for ensuring regular system maintenance, including the installation of software patches to address security vulnerabilities. However, 10 percent of the broker-dealers and 4 percent of investment management firms examined had a significant number of critical and high-risk security patches that were missing important updates.”

The SEC also noted that the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has created a webpage with links to resources related to cybersecurity. It includes a cybersecurity checklist for small firms and a report on cybersecurity practices, which highlights effective practices for strengthening cybersecurity programs.

It is estimated that the ransomware attack affected more than 200,000 computers in about 150 countries, beginning May 12. The malicious software is known as “WannaCry,” “WCry” and “Wanna Decryptor,” which works by encrypting files and demands payment from users to regain access to their data.

“Initial reports indicate that the hacker or hacking group behind the attack is gaining access to enterprise servers either through Microsoft Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) compromise or the exploitation of a critical Windows Server Message Block version 1 vulnerability,” the alert states. “Some networks have also been affected through phishing emails and malicious websites.

“To protect against the WannaCry ransomware, broker-dealers and investment management firms are encouraged to:

(1) review the alert published by the United States Department of Homeland Security’s Computer Emergency Readiness Team and

(2) evaluate whether applicable Microsoft patches for Windows XP, Windows 8, and Windows Server 2003 operating systems are properly and timely installed.”

Info On Home Closing

Home Closing 101: An Educational Initiative of the American Land Title Association