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Articles on this Page
- 05/29/15--22:00: _For Boomers, It's t...
- 05/29/15--22:00: _5 Times Suze Orman ...
- 06/01/15--02:03: _General Motors, Sub...
- 06/01/15--02:20: _Last Week's Biggest...
- 06/01/15--03:54: _Americans Taking Lo...
- 06/01/15--05:32: _How One Couple's Dr...
- 06/01/15--05:34: _Generation Rent: Wh...
- 06/01/15--07:03: _Kroger to Add Nearl...
- 06/01/15--09:45: _Market Wrap: Stocks...
- 06/01/15--22:00: _DIY Dinner Kits: Fr...
- 06/01/15--22:00: _25 Companies That A...
- 06/01/15--22:00: _The Discount Is Dea...
- 06/01/15--22:00: _3 Worst Financial M...
- 06/01/15--22:00: _5 Ways to Instantly...
- 06/01/15--22:00: _Best Cheap Organic ...
- 06/02/15--01:46: _May Auto Sales Race...
- 06/02/15--02:53: _5 Things Your Tax D...
- 06/02/15--03:26: _Why Billionaires Ma...
- 06/02/15--04:00: _Pay The Right Price...
- 06/02/15--05:15: _Walmart to Raise Wa...
- 05/29/15--22:00: For Boomers, It's the Retirement Plan That Never Happened
- 05/29/15--22:00: 5 Times Suze Orman Didn't Follow Her Own Advice
- 06/01/15--02:03: General Motors, Subaru Add Models to Takata Air Bag Recall
- General Motors: About 375,000 Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra HD trucks from the 2007 and 2008 model years to replace passenger air bags, mainly across North America. About 330,000 of the trucks were sold in the U.S. Dealers will replace the inflators at no cost to customers. GM says it knows of no crashes or injuries due to performance of the air bags in these vehicles.
- Subaru: About 60,000 vehicles added to a previous recall along the Gulf Coast for passenger air bag inflators. Recall now expanded nationally. Brings total Subaru vehicles recalled to about 81,000. Additional models include 2004-2005 Impreza and the 2005 Saab 9-2X, which was manufactured by Subaru.
- 06/01/15--02:20: Last Week's Biggest Stock Movers: GeekNet Soars, Kors Slumps
- 06/01/15--03:54: Americans Taking Longer Than Ever to Finance Car Purchases
- 06/01/15--05:32: How One Couple's Dream Home Nearly Tanked Their Finances
- 06/01/15--05:34: Generation Rent: Why Millennials Aren't Buying Homes
- 06/01/15--07:03: Kroger to Add Nearly 650 Jobs at New Ohio Centers
- 06/01/15--09:45: Market Wrap: Stocks Edge Up After Recent Losses, Mixed Data
- Automakers report May vehicle sales.
- The Commerce Department reports factory orders for April at 10 a.m. Eastern time.
- Conn's (CONN)
- Cracker Barrel Old Country Store (CBRL)
- Dollar General (DG)
- G-III Apparel (GIII)
- Guess (GES)
- 06/01/15--22:00: DIY Dinner Kits: From Doorstep to Table in 30 Minutes or So
- Plated. Cost: $12 a plate, minimum order of four plates of one recipe or two portions of two recipes. Plated is available across 95 percent of the country. Click here to get four free Plated meals with the purchase of two meals.
- Blue Apron. "A weekly box of everything you need to make at least three meals for two people, customized based on your dietary preferences and including calorie counts," Epicurious said. Cost: $60 (minimum order) a week. Blue Apron is available everywhere except the Midwest.
- Peachdish. This option includes Southern-inspired recipes and the (Southern-sourced) ingredients to cook the meal. Cost: $50 (minimum order) a week, or $12.50 a serving. Peachdish is available nationwide.
- Scrumpt. This is designed for kids, with weekly deliveries of pediatrician- and nutritionist-curated lunch ingredients. "A complete lunch kit with perishable ingredients is available in San Francisco for $34 a week; a basic lunch kit of nonperishables is available nationwide for $13.50," Epicurious said.
- HelloFresh. If you're a "food lover who is also concerned about nutrition," then HelloFresh is for you, Today said. The cost is $69 a week for three two-person meals.
- 06/01/15--22:00: 25 Companies That Are Revolutionizing Retail
- 06/01/15--22:00: The Discount Is Dead, and What Retailers Are Doing Instead
- 06/01/15--22:00: 3 Worst Financial Mistakes You Can Make in a Divorce
- 06/01/15--22:00: 5 Ways to Instantly Save More Money Like Wealthy People
- Do I really need this or is it something I just want in the moment?
- If I bought it, how often would I use it?
- Does the price justify the benefits?
- Are their maintenance costs or recurring expenses associated with my purchase?
- How many hours of work would it take to pay off the expense?
- 06/01/15--22:00: Best Cheap Organic Food Items to Buy at Walmart
- 06/02/15--01:46: May Auto Sales Race to Strongest Pace in Nearly 10 Years
- 06/02/15--02:53: 5 Things Your Tax Dollars Bought for the Pentagon in May
- 06/02/15--03:26: Why Billionaires May Not Be Able to Buy the 2016 Election
- 06/02/15--04:00: Pay The Right Price for Pots and Pans -- Savings Experiment
- 06/02/15--05:15: Walmart to Raise Wages for 100,000 U.S. Workers
By Ilana Polyak
Call it the retirement that never was. The oldest baby boomers are turning 69 years old this year, yet many are still working and have no plans to go anywhere.
In 1990 just 12.1 percent of workers were 65 and older; by 2010 more than 16 percent were, according to the Census Bureau. That number is likely to grow as more boomers move into the over-65 demographic. Modern retirement calls for different rules, so it's no wonder that boomers are redefining retirement.
"To think that you can finance a 40-year retirement is mathematically impossible," said Catherine Collinson, president of the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. A Transmerica survey shows that almost two-thirds of baby boomer workers plan to stay on the job beyond age 65-or don't plan to retire at all. "Baby boomers do not envision not working," Collinson said.
People who are at least 65 can expect to live another 19 years, and those who make it to 75 should plan to live well into their 80s, reported the Centers for Disease Control. At the same time, the average account balance for workers in their 50s and 60s is less than $150,000, according to the Employee Benefits Research Institute.
"Unless you socked away a lot of money, retirement for many is just not going to be what we grew up believing retirement was," said certified financial planner Mark Singer, president of Safe Harbor Retirement Planning, author of "The 6 Secrets to a Happy Retirement" and himself a boomer, at age 60. As a result of working longer, boomers are transforming not just retirement, but the workplace itself.
Benefits of Working
Working longer is the most obvious solution to the retirement savings problem. Among all of the options available to pre-retirees, it's the one that has the biggest impact on a nest egg, said Judith Ward, a senior financial planning with T. Rowe Price. Working three years longer and contributing 15 percent of income can grow a 401(k) by 22 percent; working five years more can increase savings by 39 percent. Combining more years of work with a bigger retirement-plan contribution (say, 25 percent) has an even more powerful impact.
Of course, not all boomers will be content to continue pounding out 40-hour weeks, said Kerry Hannon, a jobs expert with AARP and author of "Love Your Job: The New Rules for Career Happiness." Some will opt for phased retirement schemes, where they're able to cut back on their hours but still stay employed. Depending on the number of hours, they may be able to hold on to crucial health insurance and retirement-plan perks. Most important, however, is that even part-time work can keep boomers from tapping their nest eggs too soon.
However, employers may not be so quick to jump on the phased-retirement bandwagon. "The trend is happening so quickly that employment practices have simply not kept pace with the changing times," Collinson said.
There are some legal obstacles in switching from full-time to part-time work-specifically, how to account for insurance and pensions for part-time workers-noted Mark Schmit, executive director of the Society for Human Resource Management Foundation. What's more, these arrangements could be seen as unfair to younger workers. "They might be thinking, 'These older folks are getting a perk that the rest of the organization is not getting,'" he said.
Some industries, however, are more open to it, said Schmit, especially if they have a looming brain drain, as is the case in health care and mining. Phased retirement might give businesses time to accelerate their recruiting efforts while still benefiting from the talents of boomers.
Intergenerational Conflicts Loom
Of course, staying in the workplace longer is not without glitches. According to Dan Schawbel, founder of WorkplaceTrends.com, a research and advisory firm focusing on millennials in the workplace, every generation has a negative view of the generation that's coming up but a positive view of their elders'. "The younger generation is seen as more connected and they're cheaper to hire, so they're seen as a threat [by boomers]," he said.
In SHRM's survey of human resource managers, more than a quarter reported some level of intergeneration conflict in their organizations. Dress code is a particular issue, with millennials advocating for casual dress and boomers insisting on business attire. "Millennials want you to appreciate what's coming out of your head, not the costume they're wearing," said Anne Donovan, a managing director and millennials expert at accounting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Focusing on dress code might seem trivial, said Donovan, but it speaks to workplace culture. Businesses that cling to formal dress will continue to lose young talent to companies that do not, she said. Few would argue that the hoodie-wearing engineers in Silicon Valley aren't getting the job done.
Communication style, too, causes conflicts. "The technology divide is getting wider," said Schawbel. "[Younger people] don't use email; they're texting and using Snapchat, and voice mail's dead."
These issues come to a head in particular when millennials supervise workers 20 years or more their senior. "We're seeing more and more of that, and that's just life," said AARP's Hannon. Boomers lamenting this reality, she added, are just "going to have to get with the program."
To quell these conflicts, some companies have instituted reverse mentoring programs -- pairing up boomers with younger workers who can help guide them in today's technology and communications.
At Pricewaterhouse Coopers, where 80 percent of workers belong to the millennial generation, boomers in the company's Atlanta office can get help with their technology questions through their millennial mentors. "What we've done is taken the stigma away for the boomers, and millennials want to have that interaction with leadership," Donovan said.
Philips, a Dutch lighting company that's a client of WorkplaceTrends.com, uses cross-generational teams of millennials who manage employees nearing retirement. "The millennials are learning from the baby boomers, but the baby boomers are also learning from the millennials," Schawbel said.
By Elyssa Kirkham
In the personal finance world, there aren't many names more divisive than Suze Orman. In fact, even Orman doesn't always seem to agree with herself, often giving her audience one piece of financial advice and then later suggesting the opposite course of action. "Orman is nothing if not a contradictory personality," as The New York Times put it in a feature on Orman.
Orman has justified her evolving advice in the past by saying, "Financial advice needs to change according to what is happening in the economy," according to CNBC. But sometimes it's not only Orman's advice that can be contradictory but also her actions. From launching a financial product she had previously railed against to endorsing products she'd often criticized as bad deals, here's a look at five times Orman didn't follow her own advice.
1. She Recommended Her Approved Prepaid Card
Orman often tells her audience to avoid fees on financial products, advising listeners to cancel credit cards with annual fees, shop around for a bank with low fees and avoid high-cost prepaid cards.
But in 2012, Orman launched her own prepaid card, the Approved card. She said that consumers who used the card as she prescribed would only ever pay $3 a month and she touted a partnership with TransUnion that she said would give cardholders unlimited access to their TransUnion credit scores and credit reports.
After the launch, however, the card was found to charge numerous fees, according to NerdWallet, from $2 to contact the customer help line -- the first call every month was free -- and $4.95 to make over-the-counter deposits to the highest fee on the account, a whopping $30 bill payment fee. The partnership with TransUnion also fizzled and nothing came of it despite Orman's hopes that the bureau would one day factor the card usage data into credit score calculations. In June 2014, Approved cardholders received letters notifying them that their Approved cards would soon be shut down and Orman's prepaid card was officially dead.
2. She Taught at a For-Profit University
Orman has often preached the evils of student debt. "Student loans can be the most dangerous loans anybody ever takes out because, in most cases, they are not dischargeable in bankruptcy," she said in a "Money Tips" segment on her website. She advised students to do careful math to figure out what monthly payments would be and decide whether they could afford them once they left college.
Orman's aversion to student loans didn't prevent her from partnering with University of Phoenix to create a credited personal finance course, however. Orman made this move despite statistics that show University of Phoenix and other for-profit schools account for 47 percent of student loan defaults, even though only 13 percent of college students attend such institutions, according to The Huffington Post.
Students at for-profit schools are for more likely to end up with student loan debt they can't afford, yet Orman still chose to join the school's faculty and even praised University of Phoenix in a 2011 USA Today article for requiring all of its students to "go through a free and mandatory three-week orientation course to make sure they understand the full costs of college before they sign on the dotted line."
3. She Sold Her Gold
In 2011, Orman was preaching the virtues of gold. Demand for this precious metal was surging, and it was quickly racing up in value. That year, gold reached a peak value of around $1,900 a troy ounce, an incredible rate of increase from about $1,350 in January 2011.
In August 2011, shortly before the price of gold peaked, Orman announced via Twitter that she had sold her gold. "I sold my gold today only because I had a tremendous gain and had way too much money in gold," Orman tweeted.
Orman continued endorsing gold as a smart investment even though she'd just sold hers at a price that would turn out to be just under an all-time high. In September 2011, she tweeted, "Gold should make up at least 10-20% of your portfolio," and predicted on Twitter that gold would reach $2,100 an ounce by November 2012, though she included the caveat "time will tell." It never reached $1,800 in 2012.
4. She Endorsed a New Car
It's no secret that buying a used car instead of a new car can mean several thousands of dollars in savings, and this was the reasoning behind Orman's frequent suggestions to her audience to buy used. In a 2010 article for O, The Oprah Magazine, she wrote, "Since the most significant drop in a car's value occurs in the first two or three years, buying one that's just a few years old means you avoid paying for those early years of big depreciation."
Then in 2012, Orman landed an endorsement deal for Acura's "Season of Reason" marketing campaign, giving advice to "spend smart." Acura and Orman were sending the message that smart spending apparently included spending $40,000 for a new Acura TL, reported Forbes, even though that contradicted Orman's earlier advice.
5. She Supported Mortgage Default
Over the years, Orman's advice on mortgages has changed. In the early 2000s, Orman told people to aggressively pay down their mortgages and even went as far as to say homes offered a "known return." But this came with a big risk, wrote MarketWatch columnist Chuck Jaffe in 2003: Paying down a mortgage "to the exclusion of other investments is all-eggs-in-one-basket investing. It's a dangerous strategy being pitched as the ultimate safe one." Jaffe was unfortunately proved right when the 2008 housing market collapse leveled home values, and wiped out equity and investments many homeowners had poured into their homes.
After the collapse, Orman changed tacks on mortgages. In 2011, she recommended a strategic mortgage default as a smart option for homeowners with underwater mortgages. Then, in a 2013 episode of "The Suze Orman Show," Orman told her audience that it was all right to buy a home with only a 10 percent down payment, reported CNBC.
For her own real estate portfolio, however, Orman pays cash. She told The Wall Street Journal in 2014, "If I can't write a check for it, I can't afford it." Of course, with Orman's net worth estimated to be about $35 million, what the personal finance expert can afford is very different than what the average American can afford.
This story originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com.
DETROIT -- General Motors (GM) and Subaru are adding vehicles to the growing list of models being recalled by 11 automakers due to potentially exploding air bags.
The U.S. government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released the model information on Friday. The vehicles are equipped with air bag inflators made by Takata of Japan that can inflate with too much force, spewing shrapnel into the passenger compartment.
Six people have been killed and more than 100 injured due to the problem.
Last week NHTSA and the government agreed to double the number of inflators it recalled to 33.8 million. But the makes and models weren't available. The increase made it the largest auto recall in U.S. history, according to the agency.
The best way to tell if your car or truck is being recalled is to key in the vehicle identification number at https://vinrcl.safercar.gov/vin/. The number is stamped on the driver's side of the dashboard near the windshield and also is on many state registration cards. Automakers are still posting recall information by number, and the task may take several days or even weeks. So it's wise to keep checking periodically.
Here's a breakdown of the vehicles added to the recall Friday:
For more details on the recall, go to www.safercar.gov/rs/takata/index.html
Let's go over some of last week's best and worst performers.
GeekNet (GKNT) -- Up 152 percent last week
The market's biggest winner was GeekNet, soaring after a bidding war broke out for the parent company of the ThinkGeek online store specializing in all things geek. Where else can one get a Tardis waste bin or a pizza cutter shaped like Star Trek's U.S.S. Enterprise?
Goth apparel retailer Hot Topic kicked things off earlier in the week by announcing an offer to buy GeekNet for $17.50 a share. GeekNet received a rival offer for $20 a share later in the week, asking Hot Topic to top the offer Friday. We'll see where this battle ends in the coming days, but for now GeekNet's popping faster than you can say "Bazinga!"
ITT Educational Services (ESI) -- Up 76 percent last week
The for-profit post-secondary educator soared after providing audited financials for 2014. ITT confirmed that revenue took a 10 percent hit last year, and that's something that isn't really a surprise given how student enrollments have tailed off sharply at post-secondary institutions. It sees another 10 percent to 15 percent slide in enrollment for 2015.
However, ITT also came through with a profit of $1.23 a share for all of 2014. That's a lot more than analysts were forecasting. ITT may not be any closer to a turnaround, but at least it's not faring as badly as worrywarts had feared.
MannKind (MNKD) -- Up 15 percent last week
An upbeat analyst report on MannKind helped push the shares 13 percent higher a week earlier. It followed that up with a 15 percent pop last week after announcing that it would be making appearances at three different health-related investor conferences this week.
MannKind's been making waves since receiving FDA clearance to market Afrezza, an inhaled insulin that's growing popular with diabetics.
Michael Kors (KORS) -- Down 25 percent last week
It was a rough week for the maker of the once-trendy premium handbags. Kors took a hit after announcing the first year-over-year decline in comparable-store sales in its tenure as a public company.
It gets worse. Guidance for its current quarter suggests that comps will continue to be negative. Fashion can be fickle. Investors in Kors rival Coach (COH) saw it turn negative two years ago, and it has yet to bounce back. Now it's Kors that is suffering from waning popularity in the U.S. market.
United Rentals (URI) -- Down 15 percent last week
An analyst downgrade slammed shares of United Rentals. Bank of America Merrill Lynch lowered its rating on the stock to underperform -- and its price target to $80 -- on concerns that the renter of industrial and construction equipment is losing its pricing power. An oversupply of rental gear in the industry poses a threat to near-term results.
Shake Shack (SHAK) -- Down 11 percent last week
The rally in shares of Shake Shack took a breather last week. The stock had soared a week earlier after reports suggested that it might open up a sister chain specializing in chicken, but the real spike was likely the result of a short squeeze.
Given Shake Shack's thin float of shares available for trading and the high short positions, it's not a surprise to see any whiff of bullish news trigger a wave of shorts scrambling to cover their positions. That's been a big driver in the recent gain, but the rally came undone by the middle of last week with the stock giving back some of its earlier gains.
Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Coach and Michael Kors Holdings. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Check out our free report on one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.
DETROIT -- The average length of loans for new and used vehicles in the U.S. in the first quarter hit record highs, and nearly 30 percent of new-vehicle loans have pay-back periods longer than six years, Experian Automotive said in a report issued Monday.
The average term for a first-quarter new-vehicle loan was 67 months and for used vehicles, 62 months, Experian said.
Experian found that in the first quarter, 29.5 percent of new-vehicle loans in the U.S. market were for term of 73 months to 84 months.
While longer term loans are growing, they do not necessarily represent an ominous sign for the market.
"While longer term loans are growing, they do not necessarily represent an ominous sign for the market," said Melinda Zabritski, Experian's senior director of automotive finance. "Most longer-term loans help consumers keep monthly payments manageable, while allowing them to purchase the vehicles they need without having to break the bank."
The average age of cars and trucks on U.S. roads is about 11 years.
The average new-vehicle loan in the first quarter this year was $28,711 in the first quarter of 2015, up from $27,612 a year earlier. The average monthly payment for new vehicles rose to $488 from $474 a year earlier, Experian reported.
Leases accounted for 31.5 percent of new vehicles financed in the first quarter, up from 30.2 percent a year earlier. The average monthly payment for a new leased vehicle fell to $405 from $412 a year earlier.
By Clayton Collins, as told to Marianne Hayes
In our Money Mic series, we hand over the podium to people with controversial views about money. These are their views, not ours, but we welcome your responses. Today, one man shares how stretching his budget to buy a big home left him and his wife financially -- and emotionally -- strained.
Once upon a time purchasing a home landed at the very top of my bucket list.
At 25 years old it felt like the next logical step in growing up -- a move that would inch my wife, Jessica, and me closer to the American dream.
From the outside it appeared we were ready for it. We'd built up our emergency fund, paid off our car loans, and started setting aside cash for a down payment. We did everything by the book.
Well, not everything.
When it came time to pull the trigger on our new home, we completely maxed out our budget -- effectively signing ourselves up for months of financial strain, emotional stress and major regret.
Landing Our Dream Home -- $50,000 Over Budget
In 2009 Jessica and I were living in the Dallas-Forth Worth area. At 23 and 24 years old, respectively, we were doing great.
I was a firefighter/paramedic, and Jessica was studying photography at the University of North Texas while working as a preschool teacher. Together, we pulled in $75,000 -- and had zero debt, no kids, and about $25,000 saved up between our emergency fund and retirement accounts.
We were renting a one-bedroom apartment for $750 a month, but loved the idea of putting down roots and moving into a home where we could eventually raise a family.
So, with giddy excitement, we began house hunting for properties in the $150,000 to $170,000 range -- a number we settled on after plugging our finances into an online mortgage calculator.
We also decided to look into an FHA loan for first-time homebuyers, which would only require us to make a 3 percent down payment. I knew 20 percent was the rule of thumb, but it just wasn't really something I saw other first-time buyers my age doing. Plus, putting down 3 percent would preserve some of our savings, and I liked having a reliable cushion to cover us in emergencies.
Two months into our search, we noticed a "for sale" sign on a stunning house just a few doors down from a home we'd just viewed. When our realtor offered to give us a peek on the spot, it was love at first sight.
The house was enchanting: It was just a few years old, with four full bedrooms, 2,400 square feet, and a lush backyard. We couldn't find anything wrong with it, until we heard the price -- $206,000.
We knew it was well over our budget, but couldn't bear the thought of letting it go. Plus, we'd been pre-approved for a $200,000 loan, which felt like permission to purchase a home of that size.
In hindsight, I know this was a terribly risky move, but at the time I didn't know any better. And none of our friends or family advised us against buying the home.
After the closing costs were said and done, the total came to around $207,000. We plunked down $7,000 -- and moved in August 2010.
Plenty of House, Not Enough Cash
Although we loved the home, we were instantly struck by our high expenses.
While our original $150,000 to $170,000 price range would have put our housing costs at a manageable 30 percent of our total income, springing for a $200,000 loan shot that number up to just shy of 50 percent.
But we felt confident we could handle the expenses, since I was banking on a steady flow of raises from my employer. (Spoiler alert: They didn't.)
We'd just have to tighten our belts to sustain our $2,000 housing bills, which included the mortgage, insurance, taxes and utility bills.
That meant some serious lifestyle changes, like declining after-work drinks with friends and passing on the dinner date nights we loved. We couldn't even afford to fully furnish and decorate the place -- inviting friends over to an empty house was really tough on my pride.
Living out of a backpack for two years really changes your priorities. Having financial security and a better quality of life now means much more to us than a fancy house.
In a matter of months, we had gone from feeling financially flush to pinching every penny -- a change that put unnecessary stress on our marriage. More and more we found ourselves nitpicking and bickering with each other.
Over the next nine months, as Jessica and I had many conversations about our decision, it became more apparent that we were being seriously weighed down by the house. We felt stuck, and began to wonder: Had we made a huge mistake?
About a year and a half after moving in, we made the drastic decision to put the house on the market in August 2012. There was no straw that broke the camel's back -- you can only go so long living paycheck to paycheck before you realize that something's got to give.
While waiting for it to sell, we did everything we could to start saving again. We had a feeling we might take a loss on the house, and wanted to lessen the sting. So we began selling our belongings -- our boat, TV, cars -- and socked away the profits.
Jessica and I also explored ways of bringing in additional money on the side. She picked up freelance photography work, while I began building websites. All in all, we were able to shore up an additional $15,000.
We finally sold the house at the beginning of 2013, taking a $10,000 loss. While the hit didn't feel good, the sale took a massive weight off our shoulders.
Our New Life: House Poor, Cash Rich
Armed with about $30,000 in savings and two travel backpacks, Jessica and I did something even crazier after giving up our homeowner status: We left our jobs -- and decided to travel the world.
For two years we went all over Europe and South Asia, mastering the art of budget travel. We picked up odd jobs teaching English, painting houses -- and even herding sheep! I also continued to do some Web development work and invested in a few blue-chip stocks.
By the time we returned to Texas in the fall of 2014, we had about $100,000 to our names -- and were ready for a fresh start.
Jessica is still doing freelance photography work, as well as running a few photography workshops. And I continue to take on Web development projects.
But, in a strange twist of fate, I also decided to break into the real estate industry. A few months ago, I earned my realtor's license and was recently hired at a national agency. I'm looking forward to helping guide other first-time buyers to find a great house -- in their budget.
Although we're certainly not in any hurry to buy another home, if we ever do I'll definitely be taking my own advice: Buy only what you can afford.
As you might imagine, living out of a backpack for two years really changes your priorities when it comes to material possessions. Having financial security and a better quality of life now means much more to us than a fancy house.
In the end, our version of the American dream has turned out to be different from most. But I'm happy that it's ours.
By Jennifer Liu
Back in the day, moving out of your parents' home probably meant you were moving into one of your own.
But whether you blame it on the economy or just a generational shift in values, young adult homeowners are becoming increasingly rare.
Case in point: recent stats find that only 38 percent of millennials between the ages of 25 and 34 owned homes in 2012, compared to 52 percent of the same age group in 1980.
So just why is "generation rent" so adverse to home-buying?
Well, that depends on where they live. A survey from Carrington Mortgage Services found that the underlying causes actually vary from region to region.
In the Western states, for example, millennials are most worried about being able to shore up enough for a down payment. That makes sense -- considering the region's average down payment amount tends to far exceed the national average.
Moving over to the Midwest however, millennials have misgivings for a much different reason: student loan debt. Experts suspect this is because salaries tend to be lower here, leaving student loan debt taking a greater chunk of the generation's take-home pay -- and making homeownership a more daunting challenge.
In the Northeast, Gen Y is most concerned with credit card debt, while Southern millennials actually shy away from homeownership for two reasons: concern about low credit scores, as well as simply not knowing where to start.
But not everyone is ditching the white-picket fence altogether. Despite their current low confidence, more than half of millennials surveyed said that they plan to buy a home within the next two years.
CINCINNATI -- Grocery giant Kroger Co. (KR) plans to bring nearly 650 jobs to new centers in a suburban city in southwest Ohio.
Kroger and Ohio officials announced Monday the $46 million investment by Kroger in buildings and renovations for a distribution center and a business administration center for customer service, human resources recruiting and digital innovation in Blue Ash.
Kroger spokesman Keith Dailey said the new jobs will represent a cross-section of positions including workers involved in mobile shopping technology and call-center employees for Kroger pharmacy customer service.
The Ohio Tax Credit Authority approved a 10-year tax credit for the project. JobsOhio, the state's private economic development agency, says it will also provide assistance.
Cincinnati-based Kroger employs nearly 400,000 employees across operations that generated $108.5 billion in sales last year.
NEW YORK -- U.S. stocks ended with modest gains Monday, recovering part of last week's losses in a session marked by cautious trading as investors reacted to mixed economic data.
A report from the Institute for Supply Management showed the pace of manufacturing growth rose in May. Other data showed construction spending surged in April but consumer spending was unexpectedly flat.
Investors are weighing data to try to guess how soon the Federal Reserve might raise interest rates. Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren said with little evidence of a rebound, the Fed is in no position to start raising interest rates for the first time since 2006.
The risk is that the Fed raises interest rates into a slowing economy.
"The risk is that the Fed raises interest rates into a slowing economy."
Eight of the 10 major S&P indexes were higher, with health, industrials and technology among sectors with the most gains.
Transportation stocks rebounded from recent losses. The Dow Jones transportation average, which last week came within a hair of correction territory, was up 1.1 percent.
The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) rose 29.69 points, or 0.2 percent, to 18,040.37, the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GSPC) gained 4.34 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,111.73 and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) added 12.90 points, or 0.3 percent, to 5,082.93.
Mover and Shakers
Immunogen (IMGN) surged more than 70 percent, leading a rally in cancer drugmakers' stocks after they presented positive data at a conference.
Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY) shares jumped 2.9 percent to $66.48, giving the S&P 500 its biggest boost, after the Food and Drug Administration accepted its application for a combination melanoma treatment.
Intel (INTC) fell 1.6 percent to $33.90 and was the biggest drag on the three major indexes after the company agreed to buy programmable chipmaker Altera for $16.7 billion. Altera (ALTR) rose 5.8 percent to $51.68.
Amid mounting worries of a Greek default, Athens missed a self-imposed Sunday deadline to reach an agreement to unlock aid.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 1,630 to 1,417, for a 1.15-to-1 ratio on the upside; on the Nasdaq, 1,371 issues fell and 1,363 advanced for a 1.01-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.
The S&P 500 posted 15 new 52-week highs and 6 new lows; the Nasdaq recorded 100 new highs and 51 new lows.
About 5.9 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, below the 6.1 billion daily average for the last five sessions, according to BATS Global Markets.
-With additional reporting by Tanya Agrawal.
What to watch Tuesday:
These selected companies are scheduled to release quarterly financial results:
By Krystal Steinmetz
I enjoy cooking, but I despise the preparation for making dinner. It can be expensive and time-consuming to find a recipe, go grocery shopping and then prepare the ingredients to be cooked. But there are increasing number of alternatives.
Plated, for instance, aims to simplify the process by providing subscribers with the recipes and fresh ingredients needed to make a wholesome homemade dinner with a minimum of stress. Most of Plated's meals are designed to go from refrigerator-boxed ingredients on your doorstep to a hot-cooked meal on your dinner table in 20 to 40 minutes.
According to Real Simple, Plated takes the hassle out of making dinner, so you can enjoy cooking again (or maybe for the first time). Here's how it works: "The idea behind Plated is amazingly simple: Every week you go on the site, choose the recipes you'd like, and on your selected delivery date your Plated box arrives with everything you need to prepare your meals. If one of the dishes you chose calls for 2 wild-caught salmon fillets and 3 ounces of foraged mushrooms, you will get the exact amount needed of each ingredient with absolutely zero waste or excess ingredients."
Epicurious describes Plated as "meal kits for the adventurous." If that's not your style, there are other options for meal delivery kits. Here's the scoop on some of the services available:
What do you think about meal kit deliveries? Have you tried any? Share your comments below or the Money Talks News Facebook page. Like this article? Sign up for our newsletter and we'll send you a regular digest of our newest stories, full of money saving tips and advice, free! We'll also email you a PDF of Stacy Johnson's "205 Ways to Save Money" as soon as you've subscribed. It's full of great tips that'll help you save a ton of extra cash.
By Ashley Lutz and Hayley Peterson
The way people shop is changing every day. Thanks to the proliferation of smartphones and innovations in delivery and data, the retail landscape is evolving like never before. From an established e-commerce giant deploying drones to an inventive pizza chain, here are 25 companies that are revolutionizing the industry.
1. Zulily Applies T.J. Maxx Model to E-Commerce
Similar to discount retailer T.J. Maxx, Zulily (ZU), founded in Seattle in 2010, creates a daily treasure hunt for the mothers who shop its site. While T.J. Maxx offers close-out discounts on various brands in its stores, Zulily's website offers flash sales on apparel, home goods, toys, and more. The deals and constantly changing selection keep shoppers coming back, and the e-commerce site, which went public in 2013, has nearly 4 million users.
2. Kroger Writes Playbook for Grocery Industry
Cincinatti-based Kroger (KR) has reported positive comparable-store sales for 45 straight quarters and is expected to surpass Whole Foods Market (WFM) within two years to become the nation's top seller of organic and natural food. The chain, which dates back to 1883, is renowned for its excellent customer service and extensive selection. The retailer is a leader in offering private-label products to keep prices low and is known for its loyalty program, which makes customers eligible for discounts and fuel savings.
3. Brandy Melville Caters to Teens on Instagram
Fashion retailer Brandy Melville was founded in Italy more than two decades ago, and it brought its tiny crop tops, high-waisted bottoms, and slouchy sweaters to the U.S. just five years ago. Thanks to a brilliant Instagram account, which features a mix of professional models and real customers, the retailer is now ranked in the top 10 teen clothing brands, and has a major e-commerce presence. The brand is also notable for offering "one size fits all" clothing.
4. Bigcommerce Is the Brains Behind Online Stores
Bigcommerce is helping retailers adapt their businesses to an online format. Bigcommerce users rave about the company's features, including better search engine optimization than other platforms -- meaning that it's more likely to get at the top of an online search. The Texas firm supports more than 70,000 retailers from 150 countries and has processed more than $5 billion in sales.
5. Starbucks Revolutionizes Mobile Payments, Delivery
Starbucks (SBUX) is responsible for making coffee shops ubiquitous. Now the Seattle icon is leading the charge on mobile payments at its 21,000 locations. The company's mobile app allowed customers to pay for their coffee beverages by smartphone before Apple Pay. An impressive 16 percent of transactions are now mobile. The company is also testing delivery in Seattle and New York.
6. Poshmark Created a Reliable Resale Clothing Market
Poshmark uses an Instagram-like platform for users to sell used clothing. For a fee, users can easily upload pictures of their items. Unlike eBay (EBAY), which can be overwhelming with its broad array of products, the California firm is focused on clothing and accessories. Users can shop by brand or see what their friends are selling, giving a social aspect to the app. One DailyFinance contributor tested Threadflip and Tradesy, and another tried Twice and ThredUp.
7. Under Armour Challenges Athletic Brands
The Baltimore company, which put performance wear on the map, recently surpassed Adidas to become the second-biggest sportswear brand in the U.S. by sales. When it was founded in 1996, it had $17,000 in revenue. This year, it is expected to bring in $3.76 billion. Under Armour (UA) has been investing in high-profile endorsement deals with athletes like Stephen Curry and Muhammad Ali and building up its women's business.
8. Pirch Creates New Home-Shopping Experience
San Diego-based Pirch is a high-end home store whose founders strive to make the experience of shopping "inspirational and joyful." The retailer builds stunning, expansive showrooms. Baristas greet customers by offering them a custom latte. Shoppers can try out all of the products, including an aromatherapy shower and a heated toilet. Pirch is a pioneer in making its stores a destination when shoppers are increasingly going online.
9. Kohl's Reinvents the Department Store
Kohl's (KSS) is American women's favorite place to shop for clothes, according to a recent survey. The department store chain, which traces its roots to Wisconsin in 1962, offers deep discounts on national clothing brands such as Nike (NKE), Vera Wang and Izod. Analysts say the thrill of finding good deals keeps bargain hunters coming back for a savvy mix of brands and value.
10. EDITD Shows Real-Time Purchases
EDITD is a technology company that helps retailers like Target (TGT), Gap (GPS) and Asos have "the right products, at the right place, at the right time." The English company tracks what people are buying in real time. This helps retailers make better merchandising decisions and restock items faster.
11. Trader Joe's Makes Brand Names Obsolete
Trader Joe's sells twice as much a square foot as Whole Foods yet offers very few brand names. Consumers view the 57-year-old California firm as high-quality but inexpensive (many staple products are half the price of other retailers). The creativity of the in-house products is also important. Some of the most popular products include Chili-Lime Chicken Burgers, Cookie Butter (a cookie-flavored nut butter), corn and chili salsa.
12. Lululemon Defines Athleisure
Lululemon (LULU), which started in 1998 in British Columbia, was arguably the first company to offer women workout clothes they wanted to wear all the time. Now, analysts say the "athleisure" trend will likely become a permanent part of the retail landscape. The company now counts Nike and Under Armour among its copycats. Lululemon is continuing to innovate -- its "anti ball-crushing" pants have become hugely popular with men. It's also expanding ivivva, its line for young girls.
13. Pet Food Express Leads in Conscious Capitalism
It's easy to see why Pet Food Express, which has more than 50 stores in California, has a huge cult following. The 19-year-old company will undercut competitors' prices by 10 percent and welcomes pets into its stores. It also pours profits into pet rescue and adoption, having donated more than $1.7 million in 2013 alone. Pet Food Express is known for offering workers excellent pay and benefits, and is routinely ranked as one of the best companies to work for.
14. Swipely Offers All-in-One Marketing, Payment Platform
Swipely is a platform that helps thousands of small retailers and restaurants attract and retain customers. The company, founded in 2009 in Rhode Island, tracks point-of-sale, sales, and customer data so retailers can see what's working -- services that were previously only available to larger companies. Swipely's companies now post $4 billion in annual sales.
15. GameStop Prospers in Digital Transition
In the age of e-commerce, many people assumed that video game retailer GameStop (GME) -- which dates back to 1984 -- would go the route of book, music and video stores. But the Texas firm has been able to get customers in stores to purchase digital content. It's cultivated retail locations as places where young men can socialize, meaning that online competitors haven't made a dent in business. The company also has trade-in and loyalty programs that are unrivaled by competitors.
16. Stitch Fix Changes How Women Shop for Clothes
Stitch Fix eliminates the hardest part of shopping: making choices. With its services, women don't have to step foot inside a store or browse shopping websites to find clothes they like. The San Francisco company's stylists curate items for customers based on an extensive profile of their style preferences, sizing, and body types, and send them a box of selections every month. Customers can try on the clothes at home and send back whatever they don't want to keep. Over time, the service gets increasingly accurate in predicting specific customers' style preferences, thanks to an algorithm that learns from customer feedback.
17. Aldi Figures Out How to Be Cheaper Than Walmart
Aldi -- a German firm that has been called the best grocery chain in the U.S.-- offers cheaper prices than Walmart (WMT) by offering a lean selection of items that's heavy on house brands. Aldi also saves money by requiring customers to bring their own shopping bags and bag their own groceries. The chain, which dates back to 1913, has nearly 1,300 US locations, mostly in the Midwest and East, and plans to open 650 more U.S. stores within the next five years.
18. Abine Protects Consumers With 'Fake' Credit Cards
The privacy firm Abine, founded in Boston in 2008, has developed a service called Blur that generates "fake" credit-card numbers to protect consumers from hackers. When a user is ready to make a purchase, Blur will randomly generate a masked card -- a one-time-use credit card number, expiration date and security code. The card is only authorized for a specified amount and after a single use, it will be destroyed. That way, no customer information can be stolen.
19. Interior Define Makes Customizable Furniture Affordable
Interior Define, founded in 2014 in Chicago, builds every piece of furniture on demand and will customize everything, including size, shape, color, fabric, filling, and frame. With an average price point of about $1,700, Interior Define is targeting customers who have graduated from Ikea furniture but can't afford designer brands.
20. Amazon Pioneers in the On-Demand Economy
Since its 1994 founding, Amazon.com (AMZN) has continued to innovate This year, the company started offering one-hour delivery for members of its Prime service and expanded its grocery delivery business to New York City. The company also announced a new gadget called the Dash Button, which will make it easier for consumers to order household items, such as detergent, when they are running low.
21. CVS Stops Selling Cigarettes
CVS (CVS) shocked the retail industry last year when it made the decision to stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products at its stores, saying tobacco has "no place in an environment where healthcare is being delivered." The decision was expected to cost the 52-year-old Rhode Island company about $2 billion in annual revenue, but the pharmacy chain made up some lost revenue by charging a new premium to Caremark customers who fill prescriptions at pharmacies that sell tobacco products. The change gives Caremark customers a major incentive to fill their drug orders at CVS.
22. Restoration Hardware Opens Design Galleries
At a time when many retailers are shutting down physical stores or downsizing existing ones, Restoration Hardware (RHI), which was founded in 1980, is opening even bigger stores -- and sales are booming. The California company has been opening massive "design galleries," which are larger than its typical stores, and have a much wider selection of products. Restoration Hardware's same-store sales soared 20 percent in 2014.
23. T.J. Maxx Redefines Discount
T.J. Maxx-parent TJX Cos. (TJX) has been called the most powerful apparel retailer in the U.S. The Massachusetts company, which also owns the discount retailers Marshalls and Home Goods, frequently floods its stores with new merchandise but limits the amount of each product it sells to keep bargain hunters coming back again and again. The company, founded in 1976, also aggressively trains its buyers to keep costs low.
24. Wanelo Make It Really One-Click Easy
Wanelo, founded in 2011 in San Francisco, is a popular online shopping community where users find and share images of cool products. Unlike Pinterest, clicking on a product's image on Wanelo will take users right to the website where they can purchase it. From August 2013 to August 2014, Wanelo grew from 1 million members to 11 million.
25. Adore Me Brings New Strategies to Lingerie
Adore Me, founded in 2011 in New York, has applied the strategies of fast-fashion retailers like Zara and Forever 21 to the lingerie business. Adore Me bras and panties run about $39 total, while a single bra at Victoria's Secret costs between $50 and $60. The brand sells plus sizes, while Victoria's Secret is criticized for its limited selections.
By Krystina Gustafson
For more than a year, retailers' play-calling has centered on deluging shoppers with discounts and other money-saving bargains-a tactic that resulted in a sea of sameness from one brand to another.
While it's true that deals are still prevalent, with retailers like Bloomingdale's and J.C. Penney (JCP) ramping up their promotions at the end of the month, several companies are tapping into more unique tactics to lure shoppers.
Whether it's a short-term strategy such as better-targeted emails, or a long-term bet on delivering better customer service to shoppers, below are four ways retailers are adjusting their game plans to be less focused on price slashing.
1. Making Retail More Than Just Shopping
Shoppers -- millennials, in particular -- have become more interested in collecting experiences than spending money on physical goods, said Virginia Morris, vice president of global consumer and innovation strategy at Daymon Worldwide. As a result, smart retailers have recognized that creating a sensory experience in their stores can help create buzz by engaging consumers, and encouraging them to spread that experience across social media.
She pointed to a recent campaign by The North Face as an example. Last month, the outdoor apparel retailer launched a virtual reality initiative at its Chicago store, through which shoppers are virtually placed in Yosemite National Park and Moab, Utah, via 360-degree 3-D audio and video. The technology is expanding. "It's all about that thrill-seeking, man-over-nature kind of approach," Morris said. "For a lot of these brands yes, lots of eyeballs are great, but what I want as a brand is I want a connection."
2. Getting Customers Into the Stores -- Now!
It can be tough to get shoppers to part with their hard-earned cash when they know the dress they're eyeing will still be there next week -- and there's a good chance it'll be on sale. In fact, one differentiator that's helped make fast-fashion names including Forever 21 so successful is that it stocks a wide variety of merchandise but in a more limited quantity. Therefore, if consumers don't snatch up an item they want quickly, they know it could be gone the next time they visit the store.
Target tapped into this buy-it-now mentality with its recent Lilly Pulitzer for Target collection, which had shoppers lined up around the block ahead of the limited-edition collection's launch. Although the retailer received some backlash from consumers, who were upset that the items were nearly sold out the first morning, analysts said the collection's popularity showed that Target is starting to get its mojo back. "Bottom line, we believe the buzz is more likely positive than negative to revitalize Target's fashionable, signature category brand image," Cowen & Co. analyst Oliver Chen wrote in a note to investors following the launch.
3. Focusing on the Product, Not the Price
It's easy to get sucked into the habit of promoting your brand on price, not product. Although the number of email promotions traditionally ticks lower following the holiday push, the first quarter saw a 12 percent year-over-year increase in the number of email campaigns with offers for more than 50 percent off in the subject, according to Experian Marketing Services. Experian's Spencer Kollas said that new deliverability standards are rewarding brands for sending more relevant messages.
Specialty apparel retailer Express is one company that's shifted away from messages focused solely on discounts. Instead, its recent email blasts focus on new arrivals, the latest trends, and how to wear them. Liz Crystal, chief marketing officer at Express, said the retailer is also better segmenting its messages to highlight specific categories or products that shoppers are interested in. The changes are part of a company-wide campaign that started in 2015. "As a brand we are focused on being a fashion authority and communicating fashion trends and categories that are relevant to our customers," Crystal said.
4. Playing the Long Game
Several retailers are taking a longer-term approach to improving the store experience. Earlier this year, Walmart announced that it would raise its hourly pay for 500,000 employees to $9. In following months, TJ Maxx parent company TJX Cos. (TJX) and Target (TGT) followed suit.
While the raises will weigh on the retailers' cost structures, analysts viewed the moves as an investment in their workforce-and therefore, an investment in their stores. That's because boosting employee pay encourages sales associates to stick with the retailer longer, thereby lowering turnover costs and resulting in a better-trained workforce. "A happy workforce helps build the brand," Morris said.
By Kathryn Tuggle
NEW YORK -- If you're going through a divorce, your future financial well-being may be the last thing on your mind. Unfortunately, when emotions get in the way, it's easier to make mistakes that may cost you for years to come. Here's a look at three of the worst financial mistakes you can make during a divorce.
1. You don't know where the assets are or you lack an understanding of the household finances.
Dividing assets can be "simple math," as alimony and child support are dictated in most states by a formula, says Michael Rosenberg, managing director of wealth management firm Diversified Investment Strategies.
"By financial professionals, divorce is viewed purely as an economic divide," he says.
You have to have a game plan going in as to what you want, and the only way to know what to negotiate for is to have an understanding of what's there.
"Things can get pretty crazy when you're in the negotiating room," he explains. "You have to have a game plan going in as to what you want, and the only way to know what to negotiate for is to have an understanding of what's there."
The first step is simply asking your spouse to allow you more involvement in the family finances or just looking at all the accounts to get a better handle on things, he says. If that's not possible, it may be time to hire a forensic accountant.
"They can dig through everything, including any 401(k)s or IRAs as well as other accounts that may exist," he says. "They can go back through your tax history and ask questions and make assumptions. If they find holes then they will investigate further, just like what a private detective would do, but for finance."
Even so, it can be hard to find money your spouse is trying to hide. The best remedy is prevention, Gabrielsen says, and you don't have to be an accountant to gain a decent understanding of your household's money.
"It all comes down to this: You love your children more than you dislike your spouse," clinical psychologist Barbara Greenberg says. Because you're not just going to be taking care of yourself, you're also going to be caring for your children, "you have to educate yourself."
There's nothing beneficial about one spouse being rich and one being poor, she stresses.
"A lot of people say, 'I just want out, I'll deal with this later,' but then they regret that once they have more energy and more time to think. You don't want to be one of those people who wake up one day and realize they should have done it differently," Greenberg says.
"This is not the time to be spiteful and hateful. It is, however, a time to remember that everything you do today has a long-range impact. Divorce is not a single event, it's a journey."
2. You don't have a good financial adviser or legal team.
Everyone going through a divorce should have a team who can answer their financial and legal questions, Gabrielsen says.
"You should have someone who can help you dig deeper into your household finances if you need it. You need professionals who can explain everything to you," he says.
With the average divorce, you don't need a huge law firm, but when there are assets at stake you do need a firm with a three- to four-person team who can makes sure everything gets done properly, he says.
Having a trusted financial adviser before and after the divorce is also important. If you and your spouse use the same adviser, it's OK for you both to continue a relationship with him or her. There are no conflict of interest concerns as with an attorney.
"The financial adviser is legally able to give both spouses advice all the way through," he says. "They won't have a role in the divorce proceedings, but before and after they're going to work to make sure all the assets are explained and to get both spouses settled into a new financial plan, with asset allocation based on their new situation."
3. You agree to things or expect things that aren't written in the divorce decree.
"So many times people say, 'Well, I conceded to this because I thought you were going to do this for me,' but that wasn't in writing, so it ended up never happening," Gabrielsen says.
With the emotions that so often surround divorce, you can't count on the other person always acting rationally, he says. That's why everything needs to be in writing.
Inheritance is a good example here," he says. "Your spouse may say that when he passes, he's going to pass an asset to your children. Well, that's something based on a promise that may or may not happen if it's not written down. There can be no handshake agreements here," he says.
You can't know what's going to happen over time, Greenberg says. In another year, your spouse may have a new family and they may be feeling far less generous.
"I can understand that people want to avoid conflict, so they don't want demand that something is written down, but things will change," she says. "Remember that you are not married to this person anymore, and there is a reason why."
-Written by Kathryn Tuggle for MainStreet.
With the five ways to save more money below, you will quickly notice that none of the tactics suggest you forgo that $4 cup of coffee you get once a week at Starbucks or try to cancel your $9 a month Netflix service. Unless you're spending $10 a day -- or over $3,500 a year -- on Frappuccinos, these minor lifestyle changes aren't going to launch you into the 1 percent club.
1. Negotiate Everything
When you call customer service for any large corporation, their goal is to keep you happy, unless you're Comcast. Fortunately, other telecom providers regularly offer promotions for their cellphone and Internet services. My friend Gary Dek at Gajizmo has been able to annually negotiate his AT&T DSL service to $35 from $65 a month.
He says the trick is to keep calling till you find a friendly customer service rep who is willing to look through their list of promotions and get you the one that saves the most money. Remember, for an hour of your time, you could save $360 a year or more depending on your service plan.
The same "negotiate everything" strategy can apply to buying a new car, finding a cheap cellphone plan, switching car insurance carriers or any monthly expense that could be draining your bank account. The higher the dollar amount or longer the commitment, the more time you should spend finding ways to save.
2. Lower Your Investment Fees and Commissions
Broker commissions, mutual fund loads and investment fees can significantly reduce your overall returns. Looking at these costs annually, you may think about ignoring them, but if you consider that your lost capital could have earned compounded returns over the course of 30 years, the numbers balloon quickly. For this reason, it is important to thoroughly research discount brokerage firms before opening an account.
Even after you open an account with one of the best online brokers, beware of your financial adviser or account representative. Like anything else in life, you are accountable for your choices, so don't let a sales pitch convince you of anything until you research the facts for yourself.
3. Avoid Debt, Unless It's for an Appreciating Asset or Investment
One of the best reasons to stay debt free and save money is to have the capital for when investment opportunities present themselves. Buying real estate or equities five years ago would have resulted in huge investment gains, but most American households just didn't have the cash available to take advantage of fallen prices.
As the American economy continues to thrive, don't get too comfortable and confident by overspending on your next car purchase or home renovation. All great bull markets come to an end, and there will be another recession somewhere in the future. Be prepared. In the end, a 20 percent return on $500,000 is much greater than a 20 percent return on $250,000.
4. Don't Mix Your Investments and Life Insurance
We all have that relative or friend who is a financial planner selling life insurance. He touts whole life insurance as a great investment with a guaranteed 4 percent rate of return. Unless you're wealthy and have a large enough estate to trigger estate taxes, start running because permanent whole life insurance isn't for you. Whole life policies cost 3 to 5 times more than term life policies, you won't be able to afford the coverage you need, and your insurance agent is going to net thousands in commissions.
Instead of mixing insurance and investment products, buy the more popular and affordable term policy from one of the best life insurance companies. If you're a healthy, non-smoking 35-year-old male, you can buy a 30-year, $500,000 term life policy for less than $500 a year in premiums. The 30-year policy will cover you into your retirement, past your children becoming financially independent, and give you plenty of time to create a nest egg.
In the meantime, your saved premiums can be invested in the stock market, which has yielded over 10 percent a year since 1980.
5. Research and Comparison Shop
Buyer's remorse is one of the worst feelings a consumer can have, especially on a large purchase. The easiest solution is to avoid impulsive purchases and thoroughly research and comparison shop any big-ticket items. Always ask yourself these questions:
However, if a product or service passes all these tests, then it's time to immerse yourself in consumer guides, reviews, and ratings.
Anyone Can Achieve Financial Independence
Ultimately, I strongly believe anyone can achieve financial independence. The only difference between households who gradually become millionaires and others who fall short is the time, energy and patience invested in making important financial decisions.
If you are mindful of your budget, you won't overspend. If you don't overspend, you will have more cash to invest. When your investments are growing, you won't withdraw the cash, forgo the gains and trigger taxes. Over time, you will find this process has put you in a position to retire comfortably.
John Schmoll is the founder of Frugal Rules, a finance blog that regularly discusses investing, budgeting and frugal living. He is a father, husband and veteran of the financial services industry who's passionate about helping people find freedom through frugality. He also writes about wise ways to manage your money at WiseDollar.org.
By Cameron Huddleston
If you had to name stores known for their large selection of organic items, you'd likely say Whole Foods, The Fresh Market or perhaps Trader Joe's. Walmart probably wouldn't come to mind, though. The retail giant is known for its low prices. But organic food?
Walmart actually offers 1,600 organic grocery items, including a line of packaged goods from the Wild Oats brand, which once was a chain of natural-food stores that was bought by Whole Foods. And its size and scale allows the retailer to make organic items available at affordable prices, says Walmart spokesperson Molly Blakeman. "We don't think people should have to pay more to put organic on the table," she says.
Walmart started carrying the Wild Oats brand in 2014. Now about 3,800 of its stores stock at least 30 Wild Oats products and 2,200 stores have more than 70 of the brand's items on shelves, Blakeman says. The prices are on par with similar conventional items and at least 25 percent lower, on average, than national organic brands, she says. Walmart also offers 50 organic produce items under its Marketside private-label brand along with a variety of other organic items from national brands.
We wanted to find out if the prices on Walmart's organic offerings were lower, so we did some comparison shopping at several grocery stores (Kroger, Meijer, Trader Joe's and Whole Foods). On the whole, the organic produce prices were almost the same at the Walmart Supercenter and the supermarkets we checked. Trader Joe's had lower prices on several of its organic fruits and vegetables (see Best and Worst Buys at Trader Joe's). Prices on organic dairy products and eggs also were consistent across the stores we checked -- with the exception of milk. The Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value Brand was about $1 less than a gallon of organic milk at Walmart and the other stores we checked (see Best Things to Buy at Whole Foods).
Standout items in terms of price at Walmart were, indeed, the Wild Oats organic offerings. The prices on many (but not all) of these organic products were lower than competitors' prices and often not much higher than the prices on their conventional counterparts at Walmart. The following 10 Wild Oats organic items, in particular, were a good deal at Walmart. Because they are pantry-stable packaged items, the quality should be consistent from store to store.
Applesauce. At $2.14, a 23-ounce jar of Wild Oats applesauce was about $1 less than organic applesauce at the supermarkets we checked. Considering that conventional apples are at the top of the Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen list of produce items with the highest pesticide loads, applesauce might be a good item to buy organic.
Canned beans. A can of Wild Oats organic beans (all varieties) costs just 20 cents more than a can of Walmart's Great Value brand conventional beans, about the same as other brand-name conventional beans and at least 40 percent less than organic brands at the other supermarkets we checked.
Coconut oil. This oil can be used for cooking as well as skin and hair care. A 29-ounce jar of Wild Oats organic coconut oil was $2 to $4 less than brands sold at other supermarkets we checked.
Fruit spread. Strawberries are another item on the Dirty Dozen list. So if you like to add a little jelly to your toast, an 11-ounce jar of Wild Oats organic strawberry fruit spread was almost $2 less than a similar jar of organic jelly at Kroger.
Ketchup. Tomatoes also make the list of produce that test high for pesticides, so you might want to consider ketchup made with organic tomatoes. A 24-ounce bottle of Wild Oats organic ketchup costs about 65 percent less than a bottle of Annie's brand organic ketchup and 10 cents less than a 20-ounce bottle of Kroger's Simple Truth brand ketchup.
Olive oil. A 17-ounce bottle of Wild Oats organic extra virgin olive oil was about $1 less than brands at other supermarkets we checked.
Pasta. Organic penne, spaghetti and other pastas sold in 16-ounce packages under the Wild Oats brand were more than 25 percent cheaper than Kroger's and Meijer's private-label brands of organic pasta.
Pasta sauce. Wild Oats marinara sauce was the only organic pasta sauce we found priced less than $2 at the stores we checked. At $1.95 for a 25-ounce jar, the Wild Oats sauce was at least 15 percent cheaper than brands at other supermarkets.
Salsa. At $2 for a 16-ounce jar, Wild Oats organic salsa was about $1 less than organic salsas sold at the other supermarkets we checked.
Soup. Wild Oats organic soups in 18.6-ounce cans were at least $1 less than 17-ounce cartons from Campbell's line of organic soups in stores we checked.
DETROIT -- Consumers emboldened by easy-to-get loans and cheap gas pushed U.S. auto sales in May to their strongest pace in a decade, countering weakness in other economic indicators.
U.S. May auto sales hit 17.79 million last month on a seasonally adjusted annualized basis, according to Autodata, the highest since summer 2005.
As automakers reported robust sales Tuesday, data showed new orders for U.S. factory goods in April fell 0.4 percent, a day after a Federal Reserve official said second-quarter growth may be slower than expected.
Sales of pickup trucks and SUVs in May led the way again, which bodes well for profit margins of the major automakers. Consumers are snapping up trucks and sport utility vehicles as the national price of gasoline averaged $2.75 a gallon, nearly a dollar less than this time last year.
Consumers are finding it easier to obtain auto loans. Experian said nearly 30 percent of new-vehicle loans have payback periods longer than six years.
Industry sales are expected to top 17 million vehicles this year, besting the 16.94 million reported in 2005.
Return to Showrooms
General Motors (GM) sales rose 3 percent in May, while Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' (FCAU) increased 4 percent, the automakers said Tuesday.
Ford Motor (F) sales fell 1 percent as its F-Series pickup trucks declined 10 percent. Its primary model, the F-150 pickup truck, remained in high demand and the company said it is reducing downtime at two plants this summer. Ford said F-150 sales will rise as production ramps up at its Kansas City, Missouri, plant.
For the second year in a row, May auto sales were boosted as more consumers returned to showrooms after a harsh winter, a GM spokesman said.
GM sales reached 293,097 vehicles on strong pickup truck and crossover sales. GM said its average sale prices in May rose $550 to about $34,000 a vehicle.
May sales for Toyota Motor (TM) and Nissan Motor both slipped less than 1 percent. Honda Motor (HMC) sales rose 10.6 percent.
Fiat Chrysler's U.S. sales hit 202,227 vehicles in May, the first time above 200,000 in any month since March 2007.
Automakers are still benefiting as consumers who put off buying new vehicles from 2008 to 2013 return to showrooms, said Dave Fish of MaritzCX, a market research firm. Maritz estimated that if automakers sell 17.1 million cars and light trucks this year in the United States, another 13 million older vehicles would still need to be replaced.
But he cautioned there were signs the recovery could have limits. Many younger consumers are delaying getting driver licenses or buying new cars, and households aren't adding more cars, on average.
"It looks like the good times may roll for some time into the future," Fish wrote in a report.
-With additional reporting by Joseph White.
tax windfall in April, and flush with funds, the Department of Defense spent with abandon throughout the month of May. After laying out $35.4 billion for purchases of military goods and services in April, the Pentagon signed contracts worth a further $26.1 billion in May.
And no, none of this includes the cost of paying servicemembers' salaries, which added billions of dollars more to the expense.
That said, let's give credit where credit is due. The Pentagon may be a big spender (of your money). But at least it's more open about how it spends that money, and on what, than most government agencies are. Every day of the week, the Department of Defense tells U.S. taxpayers what contracts it's issued, to whom, and for how much -- all right out in the open on its website.
Here are the top five items that jumped out at us last month.
Every Little Boy Wants to Grow Up to Be a Fireman ... or a Soldier
Lucky for the Pentagon, they get to be both. One of the earliest contracts handed out at the Pentagon last month went to Wisconsin-based Oshkosh (b'gosh!). Valued at just $9 million, it will purchase "13 low-rate initial production vehicles" for the U.S. Navy, and pay for their "vehicle federal retail excise tax" as well.
The Pentagon didn't actually say what those "production vehicles" were in the contract announcement. But with a little digging, we were able to come up with the likely answer: fire trucks (for extinguishing fires on crashed fighter jets).
Pants -- Everybody Needs 'Em
And when you're based in an area with lots of ticks, mosquitoes and other pesky critters, you really want a pair of pants soaked in insect repellant. That's why in early May, the U.S. Army awarded Tennessee trouser-tailor Tullahoma Industries a $59 million award to supply it with a (presumably large) number of "various permethrin trousers" for use in Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina and Puerto Rico.
This is the third such pants purchase the Army has placed with Tullahoma in the past three years.
Napoleon's Army Marched on Its Stomach. Today's Army Travels by Air
Moving rapidly up the dollar-value ladder, we come next to a big order placed by the U.S. Army, which will be buying $2 billion worth of T700 701D/401C helicopter engines from General Electric (GE) over the next five years. Although the money's being routed through the Army, the Pentagon states that these engines are actually destined for buyers in the Navy, Air Force and foreign militaries as well.
The wide usage is explained by the T700's wide-ranging capabilities. This engine powers everything from Army Black Hawk helicopters to Navy Seahawks to Bell Vipers for the Marine Corps.
What Flies Higher Than a Helicopter?
Nearly as big as the GE contract, Lockheed Martin (LMT) won a $735 million award from the U.S. Air Force this month. In exchange for the money, Lockheed will maintain the Advanced Extremely High Frequency, Milstar and Defense Satellite Communications System III satellite systems for the Air Force. Lockheed describes AEHF as a "jam-resistant" system used by U.S., Canadian, U.K. and Dutch commanders and warfighters to communicate securely on the ground, at sea and in the air.
AEHF is expected to become operational this year, when its six satellites will begin replacing the legacy five-satellite Milstar secure communications satellite constellation, and the broader, less secure Defense Satellite Communications System III as well.
Military Mad Men
Last but not least, in one of the final contract awards of the month, the U.S. Navy contracted with British advertising firm WPP (WPPGY) -- more specifically, with its New York City subsidiary, Young & Rubicam -- to run "advertising and marketing services in support of the Navy Recruiting Advertising Program" for the next year. Initially valued at $84 million, the Navy has the option of extending WPP's contract by as much as four more years -- for a total potential contract value of $457 million. Apparently, it takes more than a few dollars to locate "a few good men."
These contracts represent only a small sampling of the hundreds of awards your tax dollars funded last month. To see the rest, check out the Department of Defense contracts website.
Intrigued by the recruiting contract, Motley Fool contributor Rich Smith did some digging, and discovered that the U.S. Navy aims to recruit 43,798 sailors and officers this year. That means it will cost taxpayers more than $1,900 to find each one. Interesting.
Rich has no position in any stocks mentioned. Follow him on Facebook for more defense news. The Motley Fool owns shares of General Electric Co. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days and check out our free report on one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.
NEW YORK -- Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has one; Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has one; even former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, considered a longshot for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, has a billionaire in his corner. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has two.
Campaign finance watchdog groups fear heavy spending by these ultra-rich Americans will warp the election -- already expected to be the most money-soaked in history. The idea that billionaires can buy elections has taken root in the public imagination.
Those billionaires are now seeing small, early signs of a pushback. Whether these are the beginning of a new trend is far too soon to say, but polls show there is wider discontent about the perceived influence of big money in U.S. politics and a growing gulf between the country's very rich and very poor.
These nascent rumblings -- along with evidence that the super-rich are inefficient political spenders -- raise questions about how effective billionaires will be in the 2016 elections.
There's growing public awareness about rich people trying to buy elections and that makes the task of winning all the more difficult.
"There's growing public awareness about rich people trying to buy elections and that makes the task of winning all the more difficult," said Darrell West, the author of "Billionaires: Reflections on the Upper Crust" and the director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution think tank.
Potential big donors dispute the notion they are trying to buy elections and say they are simply using their positions to try to influence the future of the country in a positive way.
"I do believe -- and I've told my kids this -- that I can do more for them by giving money to the right presidential candidate in 2016 than by leaving them double that amount in my will," said David Walsh, a retired investor living in Jackson, Wyoming, who wouldn't disclose his net worth but has given several multimillion dollar gifts to charitable causes and said he planned to donate heavily to candidates in 2016.
Miami car dealership mogul Norman Braman has been outspoken about backing his longtime protege Rubio; financial investor Foster Friess was in the audience cheering Santorum on when he announced his presidential bid two weeks ago; and Bob Mercer, the founder of a New York hedge fund, has been identified as supporting Cruz. The billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch have publicly vowed to spend nearly $900 million influencing races in 2016.
The Democrats have billionaire supporters too -- most prominent among them is former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer. The billionaires George Soros, Alice Walton and Marc Benioff made small donations in 2014 to an outside spending group, Ready for Hillary PAC, backing Hillary Clinton, now the front-runner in the Democratic presidential primary contest.
Amid the populist outcry against CEO pay and income inequality there may be some risks in candidates being so publicly linked to the extremely rich.
In Philadelphia, Anthony Hardy Williams was considered the favorite for the city's next mayor. He won support from three billionaires, Joel Greenberg, Jeff Yass and Arthur Dantchik, founders of the Susquehanna International Group, a global financial firm headquartered in a Philadelphia suburb. The three backed Williams, encouraging voters to support his views on a hot-button education policy issue.
They spent nearly $7 million on television ads promoting Williams. In response, unions and other community groups, who opposed Williams's education platform, coalesced around another candidate, Jim Kenney. One of the groups, Action United, organized a march in front of SIG's offices with placards that said, "Stop billionaires from buying our next mayor!"
"I would have looked seriously at Williams if not for the money," said JoAnn Seaver, 85, a retired teacher who voted for Kenney. She was one of several Philadelphia voters Reuters interviewed on election day who said Williams' billionaire backers were a turnoff. "You don't think that money should govern people who are elected, but what do you do, just let the billionaires take over?"
A spokesman for Williams declined to comment. Through a spokesman, the three billionaires declined to comment.
Crowdpac, an online political fundraising platform that works like Kickstarter -- an online tool that lets entrepreneurs gather funding for new projects through small donations -- sees fighting billionaires as part of its business model. Mason Harrison, the site's political director, says Crowdpac wants to get more middle-class people involved in politics by hosting smaller donation drives for candidates.
"We have a lack of money from small donors in American politics, and if we have more people involved in the political process we can make great strides in terms of diluting the influence from special interests," he said.
A veteran of Republican Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign, Harrison is not the typical liberal voice decrying money in politics. But Crowdpac's Twitter tagline sounds very similar to the calls from non-profit watchdog groups to level the political playing field. It reads: "Together we can beat the big donors."
Big Money, Not Smart Money
Inefficiency could also dampen the effects of billionaires' political spending.
"When you have political amateurs or novices with a strong issue or ideological position in which they have intense belief and are willing to put their money behind it, the money itself is no guarantee of victory," said Michael Traugott, a political science professor at the University of Michigan who studies the influence of money on political races.
Studies of the 2012 and 2014 elections by the Sunlight Foundation, a Washington-based non-profit that tracks political spending, show most groups backed by billionaires had less success swaying election outcomes than groups controlled by trade organizations or professional political strategists. The Sunlight study does not offer any explanation for this difference.
Steyer, who backed Democrats through his Nextgen Climate Action Committee, spent $79 million in the 2014 congressional elections, $17.9 million of which was directed toward influencing specific races. Sunlight found Steyer had a 32 percent success rate on the $17.9 million spent.
For some, failure was total. Evidence from news reports shows that casino magnate Sheldon Adelson spent more than $100 million in 2012 in donations to trade groups, political action committees and candidates, only to watch virtually all his chosen candidates -- including presidential hopefuls Newt Gingrich and Romney -- lose.
Other groups have seen more success. The Kochs' Americans for Prosperity saw a 95 percent success rate in 2014.
But its string of victories isn't flawless. It ran negative TV ads against Ethan Berkowitz, a candidate in this year's mayoral race in Anchorage, Alaska. Local strategists said the ads only increased Berkowitz's name recognition.
Jeremy Price, the state director for Americans for Prosperity in Alaska, said the ads were meant to show Berkowitz's record on spending, highlighting an issue rather than a candidate.
Berkowitz won the race.
First, consider what material the piece is made from. Copper looks pretty and conducts heat the best, but unless you're a pro chef, it might not be worth it to pay over a thousand bucks for a top-of-the-line set.
Cast iron is really durable and great at cooking your food evenly. However, it's also heavy and tough to clean, which might not be appealing if you plan on using it a lot. The most popular aluminum options are coated in Teflon because it keeps food from sticking, but over time the pan's surface will peel and flake off into your food.
So, what are we left with? Stainless steel. his can be a great choice since it's affordable, sturdy and, no matter how many times you use it, it won't peel or rust. It's also great for browning and searing meat.
And while you're shopping, don't feel pressured to buy an entire set. If you're not going to doing anything too fancy, you only really need three pieces: A 2-quart saucepan for cooking rice, soup and sauce; astockpot for boiling water to make pasta or steamed vegetables; and a sauté pan that you can use to sear and sauté meats and vegetables, deep-fry chicken or even to make stir-fry dishes. The best part is, you can usually find deals on all three of these for around $150.
Regardless of what you choose, shop carefully -- sometimes, the numbers on the box can be deceiving. Some manufacturers will advertise a 10-piece set, but what you may not realize is that each lid counts as a piece.
Finally, don't look past the handles -- they matter, too. Plastic handles are the least reliable because they crack easily and can't be used in the oven if the temperature is over 350 degrees. Wooden handles are a decent middle-of-the-road option, as they're sturdy and will stay cool to the touch. However, you can't put them in the oven, or the dishwasher. So, if it's all around durability you want, metal handles can be a great choice. Just be sure to use a rubber grip or a potholder since they can heat up fast while cooking.
As you shop for pots and pans, remember these tips to help you buy the right piece for the right price. You'll find that you can heat up your cooking skills, without burning your budget.
Walmart Stores (WMT) will raise minimum wages for more than 100,000 of its U.S. workers in some departments starting in July, the second time the world's largest retailer has announced a wage hike this year.
Walmart, the largest private employer in the United States with 1.3 million U.S. workers, has been targeted by labor groups in the past for its minimum wages.
The company said in February that it would raise minimum wages for 500,000 U.S. employees, triggering a wave of wage hikes by retailers and restaurant chains including McDonald's (MCD), Target (TGT) and TJX (TJX).
Walmart said Tuesday that it would increase the wages of managers of service-oriented departments such as electronics and auto care to $13 to $24.70 an hour from $10.30 to $20.09 currently.
Hourly wage of managers of departments such as clothing and consumer products will rise to $10.90 to $20.71 from $9.90 to $19.31.
At specialized areas such as the deli sections, workers will earn $9.90 to $18.81 an hour compared with $9.20 to $18.53 currently.
The Associated Press first reported the news.
Labor and other groups have been pushing for a higher federal minimum wage, which was last raised in 2009 to $7.25 an hour. In the 2014 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama called on Congress to raise the national minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.
"[Walmart's wage increases] pretty much ends the debate about whether there should be a minimum wage increase, the question now is exactly how much," Gary Chaison, professor of industrial relations at Clark University, told Reuters.
Walmart will also start paying store associates 10 percent more an hour when they are promoted, starting with their Aug. 13 paycheck, Walmart spokesman Kory Lundberg said.
This means the minimum increase in hourly wages of an associate who has been promoted will rise to 90 cents from about 50 cents currently.
The wage increases seem aimed at discouraging unionization among workers, Chaison said. "The general feeling is, 'Why join the union to negotiate with Walmart when Walmart takes care of its own?' " he said.
Walmart has 4,540 Walmart stores and about 650 Sam's Club stores in the United States.
The company said in February that it would raise hourly entry-level wages for half a million U.S. employees to at least $9 starting April and then to $10 by Feb. 1, 2016.
Walmart's shares were little changed at $74.61 in late morning trading Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange.
-With additional reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bangalore.