Feature

The bank that keeps on taking

And more of the week's best financial insight

Here are three of the week's top pieces of financial insight, gathered from around the web:

The bank that keeps on taking

"Wells Fargo keeps coming up with ingenious ways" to take advantage of its customers, said David Lazarus in the Los Angeles Times. At age 68, Rick Yelinek finally had "amassed enough money to pay off his mortgage." He deposited a cashier's check into the checking account used for his home loan. But the bank said he was still short: He needed to shell out another $30 for the wire transfer "to move his mortgage payment from one division of the bank to another." Wells Fargo says Yelinek wouldn't have been charged if he had used a certified check instead, a distinction no ordinary customer is likely to know about. The bank has since waived the fee, but Yelinek believes Wells Fargo "will do anything to get money from customers." He'd know — he worked there for seven years as a loan officer.

Venture capital loses its magic

Only three of the 10 biggest venture investors today are venture capital firms, said The Economist. Private equity, hedge funds, and other Wall Street firms are fueling a record year for venture investment, which is "on track to hit an all-time high of $580 billion this year." They have also disrupted how venture capital works. The original approach "was to back risky startups" with seed investments "in the hope that a big success, like Google, would carry an entire portfolio." VC funds could also lend experience and access to a network of contacts. Today's investors demand a faster payoff, and the relationship with young companies is more "transactional" than personal. Meanwhile, traditional VC funds are becoming more like other investors, keeping stakes in companies even after they go public.

A better Social Security statement

The Social Security Administration has made it easier to understand your benefits with a redesigned annual statement, said Richard Eisenberg in MarketWatch. The biggest improvement is probably just in eliminating the term "early retirement benefits." The previous incarnation of the statement led a lot of people to "believe it was smart to begin claiming Social Security as early as allowed." But "Social Security's rules essentially give you an 8 percent bigger benefit for each year you postpone claiming benefits after your Full Retirement Age, until age 70." You can access your statement on the Social Security website — in fact, unless you're 60 or over, the web is the only way to get it. The agency stopped mailing statements to younger workers a decade ago.

This article was first published in the latest issue of The Week magazine. If you want to read more like it, you can try six risk-free issues of the magazine here.

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