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    TV-Americas Got Talent-Stern
    Charles Sykes/Invision via APHoward Stern arrives at "America's Got Talent" 10th season kick-off in New Jersey last March.
    Howard Stern loves to work himself into fits of righteous anger.

    Not long ago, the management of his present employer, Sirius XM (SIRI) satellite radio, became the target of his ire. Stern was upset that, according to him, they had agreed to a later start for his regular live broadcast, but then conditioned this upon his renewing his current contract with them.

    Since then, Stern has strongly hinted that he won't do so. What's inconvenient about that, as far as Sirius XM is concerned, is that the agreement expires at the end of this year. And Stern hasn't only been arguably its top attraction, he's one of the main reasons for its success.

    The company isn't as dependent as it once was on the controversial DJ's audience. Nevertheless, it goes almost without saying that his departure to another media outlet would hurt its results. But more broadly, it would almost certainly reshape the industry the company operates in.

    Changing the Dial

    For evidence of how much broadcast media has changed in a short space of time, look no further than the part of it that made Stern (in)famous. When he was coming to prominence in the early 1980s, the only choice for talents like himself -- gifted of voice but not handsome enough for TV -- was terrestrial radio.

    It's no stretch to say that Stern was a key figure responsible for taking that medium out of this world -- literally. Satellite radio came into its own near the end of the 20th century, but it wasn't really a viable business until he became part of it.

    He signed his first contract with Sirius Satellite Radio (as it was then officially known) in 2004, and for several years was one of its few bankable stars in the years before the company acquired other big-name voices (such as Jenny McCarthy and Dr. Laura Schlessinger).

    In that time, the company grew its revenue to over $4 billion last year from $242 million in 2005, and has been consistently profitable on the bottom line for years. Total subscribers over that stretch of time grew to 27.3 million from 3.3 million.

    The Many Stations of Broadcast Media

    Stern has even more of a chance to shift the industry's gears today.

    That's because a wide range of media is readily available for talents like his. This includes podcasts, internet broadcasters such as Google's (GOOG) YouTube, and websites custom-built for any purpose a talent like his might require.

    If he were to ditch Sirius XM, Stern would have no shortage of venue choices for broadcasting his show. He'd likely want a rich patron to shell out for it -- it's estimated to cost Sirius XM around $100 million per year.

    That's a lot of scratch, and it's assuming that he's happy to work for his present budget. A company would need deep pockets not only to afford him, but to build out the assets and marketing that it would need to retain an audience once he retires (he's 61 years old).

    The most likely suspects are companies in the tech sector that could conquer new worlds with Stern-powered momentum. For instance, both Google and Apple (AAPL) have or are planning to roll out streaming audio services in the not-too-distant future, and have nascent car media platforms. What better way to leverage these elements than by making the shock jock the top live broadcast attraction?

    With many quarters of good financial performance behind them, both companies are sitting on a mountain of money -- Apple's cash and marketable securities at the end of its most recently reported quarter stood at more than $33 billion, while the same figure for Google was over $65 billion.

    If one of them could nab Stern, it could instantly establish itself as a big player in the broadcast world, in addition to its dominance in other businesses. As we've seen with Sirius XM, once Stern's on board, it becomes easier to attract other big-name voice talent.

    Before long, if such a company played its hand well, its chosen platform might become the go-to choice for "radio" broadcasting, leaving its predecessor technologies in the dust.

    To Control the Airwaves

    No one needs to be told that technology is evolving at an ever-speedier rate. This is especially true of broadcast media. If Stern moves his show to a new home, the company managing that asset will become what, to a degree, Sirius XM is now -- a cutting-edge form of media dominating its corner of the broadcasting scene.

    Motley Fool contributor Eric Volkman has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Apple and Google (A and C shares). 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.


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    Financial Markets Wall Street
    Richard Drew/AP
    By Caroline Valetkevitch

    NEW YORK -- U.S. stocks fell Tuesday as a jump in bond yields hit utilities and other top dividend payers, but energy gains and optimism Greece is near a deal with creditors limited losses.

    The S&P utility index fell 1.4 percent, leading losses among S&P sectors, after U.S. long-dated Treasury debt yields rose to two-week highs. Utilities and other dividend paying shares tend to compete with bonds as investments.

    Today the utilities are way underperforming, obviously because people are thinking rates are going to go up sooner rather than later.

    Energy shares gained along with oil prices. The S&P energy index rose 0.5 percent, leading the day's gainers.

    "Today the utilities are way underperforming, obviously because people are thinking rates are going to go up sooner rather than later," said Uri Landesman, president of Platinum Partners in New York.

    Greece's creditors drafted the broad lines of an agreement to put to the leftist government in Athens in a bid to conclude four months of acrimonious negotiations and unlock aid.

    "I don't think Greece is going to be the thing that upsets this market," Landesman said.

    The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) fell 28.43 points, or 0.2 percent, to 18,011.94, the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GSPC) lost 2.13 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,109.6 and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC)
    dropped 6.40 points, or 0.1 percent, to 5,076.52.

    Stocks Making Gains

    Shares of Macy's (M) rose 2.5 percent to $68.49. Reuters reported several hedge funds have asked the U.S. department store company to consider options for its real estate, including selling some major sites and then leasing them back.

    Other gainers included shares of General Motors (GM), up 0.1 percent to $36.22, after it forecast U.S. industry sales to finish May at the strongest pace since January 2006.

    Worries about when the Federal Reserve will bump up interest rates added to caution in the market. Fed board member Lael Brainard said the economy's recent poor performance may be more than transitory, as the full impact of weak consumer spending, low investment and the strong dollar become apparent.

    Shares of steel companies gained, with U.S. Steel (X) up 7.9 percent at $25.78 in its biggest daily percentage gain since January.

    Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 1,648 to 1,385, for a 1.19-to-1 ratio on the upside; on the Nasdaq, 1,594 issues rose and 1,149 fell for a 1.39-to-1 ratio favoring advancers.

    The S&P 500 posted 3 new 52-week highs and 1 new lows; the Nasdaq recorded 93 new highs and 42 new lows.

    About 5.5 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, below the 6.3 billion daily average for the last five sessions, according to BATS Global Markets.

    What to watch Wednesday:
    • The Commerce Department releases international trade data for April at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time.
    • the Institute for Supply Management releases its service sector index for May at 10 a.m.
    • The Federal Reserve releases its Beige Book survey of regional economic conditions at 2 p.m.


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    businessman hand write make money online on virtual screens.Dollar symbol.
    Getty Images
    What do you do when you read a great new book or try out a new gym? You probably start talking about it, right?

    Well, if you're going to tell your friends how awesome your gym, bank, app or hosting company is, you might as well earn a little something in return. Many companies offer cash, store credit or other bonuses for referring their product to other people, so it's worth your time to know what kind of bonuses you can receive.

    This doesn't mean promoting anything and everything that has a referral program. It's just a nice way to get a bit of a bonus when you recommend products and services you genuinely enjoy.

    I put together a list of 30 referral programs that can help you earn money and other rewards. The next time you're sharing your experience about one of these service providers or opportunities, make sure to get credit for your advice.


    Banks are great places to score referral bonuses, whether you convince your friends to sign up for a new account or get friends to open up a new credit card. These are just a handful of the bank referral programs out there; check with your bank to see what referral options they offer!

    1. U.S. Bank offers 5,000 FlexPoints when you refer a friend to sign up for their credit card.

    2. If you have PNC WorkPlace Banking, you can earn $100 for each co-worker who signs up for an account, up to $500 total.

    3. Capital One 360 will give you $20 for every friend who opens an account using your link, up to $1,000 total.

    4. Citi International Personal Bank offers some amazing referral rewards, from $500 cash to a Kindle Fire HD.

    5. The Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card is offering 5,000 bonus points for each friend you refer, up to 30,000 bonus points total.

    6. In addition to the Southwest Rapid Rewards card, other Chase credit cards also come with referral bonuses, so check out their Refer a Friend site and see if your card is on the list!


    Gyms want to get as many new members as possible, so they provide great incentives to people who can get new customers in the door. Plus, you'll have a gym buddy to keep you on target with your workout goals!

    We've listed a few chain gym referral programs for you, but local gyms often have great referrals as well. Many gyms choose not to publicize their referral bonuses, but most offer some form of bonus -- so make sure to ask the next time you stop by!

    7. Chattanooga, Tennessee's Urban Rocks climbing gym offers a sliding scale, depending what kind of membership your friend chooses.

    8. Equinox gives you a gift card for every new member you refer.

    9. Women-only fitness center Healthworks offers $50 in Club Cash, which you can use toward your own membership, for every friend you refer.

    10. 24-Hour Fitness gives you a $20 MyStore coupon or a 50-minute personal training session for every friend you refer.

    11. Gold's Gym lets you choose from various non-cash rewards after successfully referring a friend. Sounds like a nice surprise!


    Believe it or not, some companies offer serious referral bonuses to employees who bring in talented new hires.

    12. San Francisco company Thumbtack offers $15,000 bonuses or paid vacations to people who make successful hiring referrals, according to SFGate.

    13. ThoughtSpot, a Palo Alto, California, startup, offers $20,000 to people who refer successful candidates, reports SFGate.

    Your job might not offer a five-figure bonus, but many companies do offer smaller referral bonuses to people who bring in new hires. Ask around and see if there are referral bonuses available, or see if your human resources department is open to the suggestion.

    Digital Tools and Web Hosting

    If you have a website or blog, chances are your web hosting company has a referral program. Likewise, digital tools like Dropbox give you more space for every friend you invite. Here are some of the more popular ones:

    14. Dropbox gives you up to 16 GB of space if you get your friends to join -- plus, with your friends on Dropbox, you can create shared folders and quickly share files.

    15. When you invite friends to Evernote, you can both earn access to Evernote Premium.

    16. When you refer people to DreamHost, you get up to $97 plus an additional $5 for every referral those friends make! It's the referral that keeps on giving.

    17. HostGator increases your bonus the more people you sign up. If you sign up 5 people, you get $50 a person; if you sign up 21 people, you get $125 a person. Spread the word!

    18. Media Temple gives you free hosting in exchange for referrals, and the people you refer get 20 percent off.


    Traveling is expensive, so why not earn a little extra money where you can? Whether you're taking an Uber to the airport or listing your basement suite on Airbnb, here are a few ways to refer friends and get rewards.

    19. Airbnb lets you send friends $25 in Airbnb credit and earn $25 when those friends stay at an Airbnb, and $75 when they host people in an Airbnb.

    20. Uber lets you earn credit for future rides by referring your friends.

    21. If you're a Lyft driver and you refer another driver to join Lyft, you can both earn up to $500 in bonuses.


    If you find yourself buying and reselling clothes constantly, you need to know about these referral programs. (And if you never knew there were sites that let you resell your old clothes for cash, make sure to read The Penny Hoarder's clothing resale guide!)

    22. StitchFix sends new fashions right to your door. Convince a friend to sign up for a StitchFix shipment, and you can earn $25 in StitchFix credit.

    23. Fashion resale site Poshmark sometimes offers referral codes, so if you use the site, watch for chances to earn Poshmark credit.

    24. Another resale site, Twice, has a great referral program. You can earn up to $500 in Twice credit by referring friends to either buy or sell Twice clothing.

    Affiliate Programs

    When you sign up for an affiliate program, you earn money by linking to products on your personal website. It is very important to always disclose when you use affiliate links, which usually means writing something like "the following links are affiliate links." Check out the FTC's disclosure guidance for more info.

    25. Amazon's affiliate program is one of the best out there. When you use an affiliate link to reference an Amazon product on your website, you earn money not only if a person clicks that link and buys the product, but also if they buy anything else on Amazon's website.

    26. If you prefer Barnes & Noble, they have an affiliate program, too.

    27. ITunes also has a great affiliate program, and you can link to songs as well as apps, TV shows and more.

    28. Fitbit gives you 12 percent commission on Fitbit items you sell through your personal website.

    29. and 30. Walmart and Target also both have affiliate programs, and you can earn up to 4 percent on Walmart sales and up to 5 percent on Target ones.

    These are only a small percentage of the numerous referral and affiliate programs out there. If you like a product or service, chances are there's a way to get paid by recommending it to someone else. So start referring -- and start earning!

    Have you ever used a referral program? Which ones do you recommend? Tell us in the comments section below.


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    Cutting Cable Step By Step

    By Karla Bowsher

    You may have heard about the multibillion-dollar deal that Charter Communications (CHTR) made last week.

    Time Warner Cable (TWC), as well as a smaller cable provider, Bright House Networks, will essentially be merged into Charter.

    It remains to be seen whether this will be good news for consumers. The Washington Post reports that the merger of the fourth- and second-largest cable providers will create a new contender for the likes of large providers like Comcast (CMCSK).

    On the other hand, the proposed merger consolidates three providers into one. And as CBS News points out, consolidation ultimately decreases the total number of telecom companies from which consumers have to choose.

    Consolidation also usually requires merging companies to spend money, which pushes them to charge consumers more, CBS reports.

    CBS has outlined several reasons why Internet service is getting increasingly expensive. Consumers have little control over some of these factors.

    For example, Wall Street is pushing Internet service providers to increase profits. Companies like Charter and Time Warner are publicly traded, and thus accountable to stock-holding investors.

    In addition, demand for Internet services from cable companies is increasing as demand for TV services from cable companies is decreasing.

    In 2014, more Americans paid for cable Internet than cable TV, the first time that has happened, according to an analysis by Quartz, on online business news publication.

    These trends give companies leeway to raise Internet prices.

    Quartz reports that over the past two years, Time Warner's residential customers have seen their average monthly TV costs increase less than 2 percent, while their Internet costs have increased 21 percent.

    Although Internet prices are rising, you can still keep a lid on costs. Two ways to keep costs low are:
    • Refusing to be upsold. Upselling is a tactic used by companies like telecommunications providers to sell consumers on pricier packages. Unless you really need all the bells and whistles, avoid purchasing the most expensive packages, especially if your Internet use is mostly limited to casual surfing and using email.
    • Cutting the cable cord. Cord-cutters ditch cable TV for Internet-streamed video. While dropping cable won't lower your Internet bill, it will trim your overall costs.
    If you haven't yet joined the cord-cutting club, start with our guide "How To Choose The Right Cord-Cutting TV Service."

    If you simply can't bear the idea of dropping cable altogether, check out the following: "Lower Your Cable Bill With Techniques A Hostage Negotiator Uses."

    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!


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    frozen credit card in a block...
    The old trick of placing your credit card in water and freezing it into an ice cube is one way some people opt to prevent themselves from running up credit card debt. However, if you're more concerned about someone else using your credit profile to line their pockets, freezing your entire credit report could be a better choice.

    Recent data breaches at Target (TGT), Home Depot (HD) and Anthem (ANTM) have created concern among consumers about their vulnerability to identity theft and how to protect their financial and medical information. While stopping shopping and eliminating your use of identifying information is an impractical reaction to ID theft, limiting your exposure at the credit reporting level might be a wise idea for some.

    All three credit reporting bureaus -- TransUnion, Experian and Equifax (EFX) -- offer consumers protection through credit monitoring, fraud alerts, and credit or security freezes. The option you choose could be free (as is the case for a fraud alert, which is simply a statement attached to your credit report that says you believe you are a fraud victim) or can cost you several hundred dollars a year.

    Freezing your credit report is one tool consumers can use to protect themselves, but it is an extreme measure and not as great as it sounds on the surface.

    "Credit monitoring alerts you when an account has been opened in your name so you can contact the company if the account isn't yours," says Ken Chaplin, senior vice president at TransUnion. "Putting a freeze on your report means that no one can open a new account at all -- not even you."

    Chaplin says that a credit freeze prevents unauthorized new activity on your credit report, such as a credit inquiry for a new credit card or loan. However, it doesn't stop someone who already has your credit card or bank account information from using that information to commit fraud on those open accounts.

    Freezing your credit limits access by potential creditors to your credit report, but it may not be the ideal solution for every scenario.

    "Freezing your credit report is one tool consumers can use to protect themselves, but it is an extreme measure and not as great as it sounds on the surface," says Rod Griffin, director of public education for Experian. "First of all, it doesn't prevent identity theft; it just reduces the ability of someone to use your stolen identity to open new lines of credit. Consumers need to understand that ID theft isn't the same as credit fraud. Credit fraud is just one symptom of ID theft."

    Griffin points out that the need for access to your credit report is more ubiquitous than people realize.

    "Anyone who is actively involved in the credit marketplace will need their credit report available, such as when you buy a new cell phone, apply for a retail store credit card for the instant discount, or set up phone or utility services in a new apartment," he says. "If you know ahead of time that you're applying for new credit, then you can have the freeze lifted, but that often requires an additional fee and can take time."

    How to Freeze Your Credit

    If you've been a victim of identity theft and can produce valid identification, by law you are permitted to request a free security freeze on your credit report. If you are attempting to prevent a criminal from opening accounts in your name but have not been victimized, the amount you will be charged varies by state law.

    "The fee to set up a security freeze varies, but it's typically around $10," says Griffin. "While that doesn't sound like much, it actually can add up quickly because you need to pay separately for your credit report to be frozen with each of the three credit reporting bureaus. You also have to pay each credit reporting bureau to lift your freeze, so that adds up to about $60 right there. You can reinstate the freeze once for free, but if you needed to lift it again that would be another $30."

    When you freeze your credit, you must provide identification to the credit bureau, and typically you're provided with a personal identification number, or PIN, that can make it easier to "thaw" your credit report when you want someone to be able to review it. Griffin says with the PIN it can take as little as a few hours to lift your freeze, but without a PIN it could take several days.

    Freezing your credit still allows for current account holders to check your credit report and for you to use your credit accounts. You just won't be able to open new accounts without thawing your credit report.

    Freezing Your Credit with an App

    Both Experian and Equifax offer credit or security freezing services that can be activated online, by mail or by phone, but TransUnion recently introduced an instant, app-based credit freezing capability called Credit Lock as part of their credit monitoring service.

    "Consumers can download the app, log in and swipe right to lock their credit and swipe left to unlock it," says Chaplin. "This eliminates the lag time that usually makes freezing your credit cumbersome and puts the power back in consumers' hands."

    The app is a free benefit for consumers who purchase the TransUnion credit monitoring service for a monthly fee of $17.95, says Chaplin.

    Alternative Protection Mechanisms

    All three credit reporting bureaus offer credit monitoring systems for a monthly fee that offer unlimited access to your credit report and alerts to any unusual activity on your report, which they say provide a more thorough level of protection against ID theft since they monitor your current accounts as well as new accounts.

    "If you are a victim of an ongoing ID theft scheme, then freezing your credit report makes sense," says Griffin. "If you are extremely concerned about someone gaining access to your credit report, then it's probably worth putting up with the potential day-to-day hassles of a credit freeze. But for most people, this is an extreme step that won't necessarily prevent fraud."

    Motley Fool contributor Michele Lerner has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Anthem. 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.


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    Getty ImagesCreating a budget can help you align your spending and saving with your short-term and long-term financial goals.

    As most everyone understands in theory, it is smart to be prepared for anything in life -- whether it occurs personally, financially or professionally. The unexpected happens to people just like you and me every day.

    But for many, good financial preparation, including establishing and maintaining solid financial habits or retirement readiness, isn't as easy as it sounds.

    According to the Voya Retire Ready Index, only 17 percent of workers have a formal written financial plan, while nearly half (48 percent) have less than $49,000 in retirement savings. The study, which focuses on the retirement readiness of workers and retirees, found that 27 percent of retirees and 59 percent of workers were extremely or very concerned about outliving their savings.

    Given these concerning statistics, how should you become financially prepared? Here are three tips that can help get your planning and saving on track.

    Establish (and write down) your financial goals. Planning involves setting short- and long-term goals. It also involves investigating different ways to reach those goals. You need to explore and be open to different options when planning to have the best outcome.

    Ask yourself: What are my financial goals? Do you want to make a big purchase in the near future, such as an engagement ring, house or a child's braces? For those closer to retirement, you may be thinking about a goal of retiring by age 65 with a certain amount of money saved.

    Most of us are on a quest to become financially independent, but many lack the planning know-how to get there. Writing down your goals is a great first step.

    Prepare a budget. The best way to establish a budget is, quite simply, to start keeping track of your money. Track your income, expenses and savings for two to three months, and then analyze the numbers to see how you are doing. While a budget may be easy to establish in theory, it can be difficult in practice because execution requires dedication and can involve cutting back on spending.

    There are plenty of tools that can help you, such as online home budget calculators. Find resources that work for you so you can accurately track where your money is going and determine where you can save more.

    Don't forget to aim to align your spending and saving with your long-term and short-term financial goals.

    Understand your emotions and money. The path to financial preparedness isn't easy, and there are many unexpected turns. Since you'll experience ups and downs, it helps to better understand how you react to money issues.

    Money is such an important part of our lives because it affects our relationships, career choices, education, family, retirement, charitable giving and much more. A lack of money can place us in vulnerable situations, which can lead to emotional, knee-jerk actions and make the situation worse.

    It's important to know what it takes to rattle our own emotional cage. It could be a sudden drop in the stock market, a large, unexpected bill, conflicting financial priorities or something else. Once you identify your emotional trigger spots, you can create a plan to steer yourself away from making bad decisions in crunch times.

    Despite the financial world becoming more complicated, the way to financial independence still remains pretty straightforward and simple. Save, plan and get professional help when you need it.

    Above all, to achieve your financial goals, choose the right path for you and stick to it. Being financially prepared doesn't happen overnight. It's a journey with many opportunities to revisit, adjust and then march forward to financial security.

    Jacob Gold is a Voya Retirement Coach, a third-generation financial adviser and President of Jacob Gold & Associates Inc. He is the author of the upcoming book, "Money Mindset: Formulating a Wealth Strategy for the 21st Century" and "Financial Intelligence: Getting Back to Basics after an Economic Meltdown," which was published in August 2009. Gold is a certified financial planner practitioner and is Series 7, 24 and 66 securities registered. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.

    Securities and Investment advisory services offered through Voya Financial Advisors Inc. (member SIPC).

    Jacob Gold & Associates Inc. is not a subsidiary of nor controlled by Voya Financial Advisors.


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    Keynote: Sally Hogshead - Social Media Marketing World 2013
    toprankonlinemarketing/FlickrSally Hogshead speaking at Social Media Marketing World 2013 in San Diego.
    For most of us, pay raises don't come as often as we'd like. We can do something about that if we take the time to become fascinating, says bestselling author Sally Hogshead.

    Speaking at the recent Authority Rainmaker conference here in Denver, Hogshead used a multitude of examples to demonstrate how brands that stand out earn more. For example, sunglasses featuring the Coach (COH) logo command 400 percent more than unbranded pairs. Morton Salt is priced 200 percent higher than generic alternatives.

    Yet none of the examples hit home so much as her spiel about Jagermeister, since it included Hogshead joining a member of the audience in taking a shot of the stuff minutes after the conference's 8:30 a.m. kickoff. Of course, what matters is that sales of Jagermeister rose 40 percent annually during Hogshead's time working for the company as a brand steward. And they continue to grow to this day. Why? She says it's because Jagermeister is fascinating -- a brand so different that it has to be tried to be believed. "And different is better than better," Hogshead said her in speech.

    In her latest book, "How the World Sees You: Discover Your Highest Value Through the Science of Fascination," Hogshead lays out a process for helping workers unleash their own fascination advantages to earn more and live better.

    Wait. Fascinating? Me?

    Hogshead is a marketer and advertising copywriter by trade, so it's not surprising that what she's pitching is a process for helping workers market themselves. "If you can find a way to take who you are and what you're already doing right and then condense that into a marketing message, it becomes really easy for your ideal clients and customers to come find you," she said in her speech.

    Call it a plea to become more fascinating.

    After studying more than 600,000 people, Hogshead says she's certain that everyone has "Fascination Advantages." She cited seven, specifically, noting that we all have two primary advantages and one dormant advantage from this list: Innovation, Passion, Power, Prestige, Trust, Mystique and Alert. Performing work that highlights your greatest advantages is the key to earning more. Performing work that requires your dormant advantage is often exhausting, Hogshead said.

    Put differently: A test pilot whose primary advantage is Alert should be able to spot even the slightest aerodynamic flaws at high speed without so much as a nervous tic. But delivering an impassioned keynote speech if he were required to do so might induce night sweats.

    What You Do Differently, What You Do Best

    Putting yourself in the right circumstances is only part of the process, unfortunately. In her speech, Hogshead argued that workers should be thinking like marketers. How do we add distinct value? The answer, she said, is in defining what we do differently than our peers, and what we do best -- and then rolling that up into an "anthem" for use on a resume, in an interview, or in a new business pitch.

    "When I was a copywriter and a creative director, I was figuring out what makes the brand different and what the brand does best," Hogshead said. "The breakthrough I had five years ago is that the same is true for us. If we can identify what makes us different and what we do best, then it's really easy to position ourselves in a crowded marketplace."

    Different Is Better Than Better

    How can you create your own anthem? Simple. Answer Hogshead's two key questions and then combine the results into a phrase:
    1. What makes me different? You're looking for an adjective because it's a descriptor. It's relative to the competition. For a writer, it most likely describes style: witty, educational, structured or, for me, off-the-wall.
    2. What do I do best? Here, you're looking for a noun because it describes the action or the deliverable that you provide. For a writer, this is the type of content being offered: news, analysis, training or, for me, financial content.
    So my anthem is "providing off-the-wall financial content." Is that saleable at a good rate? I've been supporting a family of five writing for The Motley Fool for the better part of 12 years, so I'd say yes. And why not? It's a different approach, and as Hogshead puts it, "different is better than better."

    Motley Fool contributor Tim Beyers is fascinated by chinchillas. Especially the fuzzy ones. Find him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Coach. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Check out our free (and fascinating!) report on one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.


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    Money Moves to Make in Your 40s

    By Donna Freedman

    For many people, hitting the big 4-0 can actually be quite freeing. You're in your peak earning years, and your home is likely close to being paid off. The kids are out of that house -- or nearly so -- and you're enjoying more of the other things life has to offer: hobbies, travel, restaurants that don't serve French fries, maybe even a new career.

    To be sure, the 40s are tough for some people, especially following the recession.

    Although U.S. salaries tend to peak in this decade (between 39 and 48 according to Forbes), that doesn't mean much if you're unemployed or underemployed. Those who weren't able to buy homes or who lost them during the recession may be seeing rising rent rather than equity increases.

    Folks who had their kids later in life may be hitting the wall in terms of salary right when their children are getting the most expensive. (Raising a kid costs $245,340 from birth to age 18, according to the U.S. government).

    Avoiding the 'Cliff Retirement'

    Whether you're riding high or barely making it, however, you should be saving for retirement. (Can't find the money in your budget? We'll talk about that later.)

    Maybe you're one of those unemployed or underemployed folks and have been for years. If you don't have much to spare, how can you save for retirement?

    Or perhaps you're part of the "sandwich generation," someone who's providing physical and financial support to your kids and your parents. Funny how often that leads to having more month than money.

    But a less-than-ideal financial situation doesn't mean you can ignore future needs. It's human nature to want to believe that everything will work out somehow. Fail to plan, and you might find yourself scrambling to fund retirement in your 50s and 60s.

    "It's going to be really hard to catch up -- if you even can," personal finance expert Liz Weston said on Marketplace, by American Public Media. The result of failing to save, she says, is a "cliff retirement," i.e., one in which your lifestyle falls off a cliff.

    Ideally you would have been saving for years and years. If not, enroll right now in any company retirement plan.

    And, importantly, enroll for an employer match, if one is available. It's crazy: U.S. workers lose an estimated $24 billion in free money every year because they fail to contribute to their 401(k) plans.

    What part of "free money" is so hard to understand? Don't let this happen to you! If company matches exist, get yourself signed up for automatic increases so that you'll ultimately receive the full match. Each time you get a raise, increase the percentage of your own paycheck that goes in there. If your employer offers pro investment advice, then by all means take advantage -- that is, as long as it's the right kind.

    And if there's no match, or even a company plan? Start your own 401k or Roth IRA with a company like Vanguard or Fidelity. The nuts and bolts of the most popular retirement accounts can be found at "Confused by IRAs and 401(k)s? Roth and Regular Accounts Made Simple."

    College and Insurance: Niceties or Necessities?

    How lovely it would be to have both a healthy retirement fund and a 529 plan or some other mechanism to save for your children's college educations. But if that's not possible, you must prioritize retirement. The reality is, you can finance an education, but you can't finance the last few decades of your life.

    Be upfront with your kids so they can choose colleges accordingly. If you can offer little to no help, then it's up to them to apply for scholarships and select schools that are affordable. For more tips, see "Go To College Without Borrowing A Dime."

    Another hot-button topic you should at least consider is whether you should invest in long-term care insurance. This is coverage designed to cover the cost of daily support -- helping you with things like bathing, dressing and eating -- in the event that you become incapable of doing these things independently. Some say you shouldn't be without it; others are willing to roll the dice.

    Stacy Johnson has researched this type of insurance and decided to go without it. However, he stresses the importance of educating yourself on the ins and outs and considering your own situation very carefully before deciding. For specifics, see his column, "Ask Stacy: Should I Have Long-Term-Care Insurance?"

    Learn about life insurance as well if you have dependents, a spouse or anyone else who will struggle financially after you die. Need to know more? See "8 Ways To Save On Life Insurance" and the Money Talks News Solutions Center.

    Can't afford life insurance? If you earn less than $40,000 a year you might be able to get free coverage through MassMutual's LifeBridge program, which pays $50,000 toward your children's education if you die before they finish school. Follow that link to see if you qualify.

    What If You Can't Afford to Invest?

    Finding money to put away is a challenge, but it's almost always doable. Not necessarily fun, but possible.

    Start by tracking your spending, either on paper or with an online tool like PowerWallet or Once you find money leaks, start plugging them. Every dollar you don't let trickle pointlessly away is a dollar that can go toward your retirement plan.

    Next, create a workable budget. That means funding your needs -- food, shelter, utilities, debt service -- and a certain number of wants. Any "extra" money you've found can help cover your future in the short term -- by establishing an emergency fund -- and in the long run, in the form of a retirement fund.

    Is it annoying to add "retirement funding" to your already long list of money musts? Probably. Is it necessary for you to do so? Definitely.

    Think of these savings as improvements to your quality of life: Having an emergency fund will make it easier to deal with any surprises life throws your way. Putting money away for retirement helps eliminate the insomnia-inducing worries that you won't have enough or will become a burden on your kids in later years.

    Being careful with your money does not mean you can't enjoy life. You just need to get creative with your fun as well as your funds.

    More good news: A minimalish lifestyle means that indulgences seem way more awesome. For example, if you've cut way back on sweets, bringing home a quart of ice cream will seem like a tremendous luxury.
    Where there's a will...

    If you're in your 40s, then your parents are likely approaching retirement age or already finished working. Time to have what may be the most uncomfortable chat you'll ever have with Mom and Dad.

    Yes, it's worse than the facts of life talk. This time you're discussing things like money, health care directives, power of attorney and where your parents will live out their final years.

    Awkward! They (or you) might want to put this talk off indefinitely. Don't. Trying to figure out what your parents would want after they become ill or are injured is not the way to go about this. You need to know if they have plans in place.

    This might also be the time when you discover they're spending like drunken sailors because they plan to move in with you once they're broke. That's an entirely different talk, but better to have it now than 10 years from now when they show up on your doorstep.

    Speaking of wills: If you haven't made your own, do it now. Your loved ones will be traumatized by your death. Don't make it worse by leaving zero instructions about who should get what and who should be in charge of distributing your worldly goods.

    Only 26 states recognize "holographic" wills, i.e., those you write yourself. A lawyer can create a will for anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on the complexity. For a cheaper alternative, check out services like Nolo, LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer, where you'll pay anywhere from $35 to $80 or so.

    Those with minor children must designate legal guardians in their wills, so figure out who you'd want those people to be -- and then ask them if they'd be willing to do it. Never just assume that your sister can take your three kids, and remember that some people consider the term "godparent" to be someone who cares for a child spiritually, not physically.

    Finally: Don't let your fear of the future keep you from planning for it, even if you haven't saved a dime thus far. As the saying goes, the best time to have planted a tree is 10 years ago. The second-best time is today.

    If you didn't lay the financial groundwork in your 20s and 30s, resolve today to start making smarter decisions. Future You will be very, very glad that Current You put forth the effort.

    Be sure to check out Money Talks News' financial advice for people in their 20s and 30s.

    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!


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    Trade Gap
    Stephen B. Morton/AP
    By Richard Leong

    NEW YORK -- The U.S. trade deficit narrowed in April on a drop in imports, which surged in March following the end of a West Coast ports labor dispute, while companies picked up their hiring in May after a pullback the previous month.

    The data supported the notion the U.S. economy has recovered somewhat from a first-quarter contraction and bolstered expectations the Federal Reserve may consider raising interest rates later this year.

    Economists cautioned that a second-quarter economic rebound remains modest due to a strong dollar, a recent rise in oil costs and sluggish demand abroad.

    "The takeaway for now is that the massive drag from trade activity is beginning to unwind, though this sector is likely to remain a modest drag on activity this quarter on account of the strong dollar, higher energy prices and weak global demand," said Millan Mulraine, deputy head of U.S. strategy at TD Securities.

    The Commerce Department said Wednesday the trade gap narrowed to $40.9 billion from March's revised deficit of $50.6 billion. The March deficit was previously reported at $51.4 billion.

    The 19.2 percent drop in the April trade deficit was the largest decrease since early 2009.

    Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast the trade deficit falling to $44 billion.

    Imports fell 3.3 percent to $230.8 billion as West Coast ports, a key entry point for goods to and from Asia, cleared a backlog created by a labor dispute that was settled earlier this year.

    Exports increased 1 percent to $189.9 billion in April. A stronger U.S. dollar has in recent months made U.S. goods and services less affordable abroad.

    Exports of U.S. services edged up to $60.9 billion, the highest ever recorded.

    The April petroleum deficit stood at $6.8 billion, the lowest since March 2002.

    Improved Hiring

    Meanwhile, private employers added 201,000 jobs in May, the most since January, payrolls processor ADP said Wednesday.

    That was in line with analyst forecasts and higher than a revised 165,000 jobs in April, which were the fewest since January 2014.

    U.S. stock indexes were trading higher after the data, while prices for U.S. Treasuries fell. The dollar was weaker against a basket of currencies.

    The ADP data came ahead of the U.S. Labor Department's more comprehensive non-farm payrolls report Friday, which includes both public and private-sector employment.

    Economists polled by Reuters are looking for total U.S. employment to have grown by 225,000 jobs in May, largely in line with April's 223,000 increase. The unemployment rate is seen holding at a near seven-year low of 5.4 percent.

    -With additional reporting by Elvina Nawaguna in Washington.


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    In this April 2, 2015, photo, David Dunn from Chickamauga, Ga., right, stands in line with hundreds of other job seekers at The Colonnade in Ringgold, Ga., to attend a huge 15-county job fair. Payroll processor ADP reports how many jobs private employers added in May on Wednesday, June 3, 2015. (Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP) THE DAILY CITIZEN OUT; NOOGA.COM OUT; CLEVELAND DAILY BANNER OUT; LOCAL INTERNET OUT
    Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press via APJob seekers at in Ringgold, Ga., attend a huge 15-county job fair.

    WASHINGTON -- U.S. companies stepped up hiring in May, a private survey found, evidence that employers remain confident in the economy even after it contracted at the start of the year.

    Payroll processor ADP (ADP) said Wednesday that businesses added 201,000 jobs last month, up from just 165,000 in the previous month. April's increase was the smallest in a year and a half.

    The figures suggest that the economy is recovering after it shrank at a 0.7 percent annual rate in the first quarter. On Friday, the government will issue its official jobs report for May. Economists forecast it will show that employers added 227,000 jobs, and the unemployment rate remained 5.4 percent.

    The relative strength in today's report is an encouraging sign that the labor market, and the economy, is reaccelerating.

    "The relative strength in today's report is an encouraging sign that the labor market, and the economy, is reaccelerating," Dan Greenhaus, chief strategist at brokerage BTIG, said in a note to clients.

    The ADP survey covers only private businesses, however, and frequently diverges from the official figures.

    Employers added jobs last year at the strongest pace in 15 years, putting 3.1 million people to work, or an average of 260,000 jobs a month. Yet hiring has slowed a bit in 2015, with job gains averaging 194,000 a month through April.

    Much of that slowdown occurred in March, when only 85,000 net jobs were created. Hiring rebounded to 223,000 in April.

    The Federal Reserve is closely watching the health of the job market as it considers when to begin raising the short-term interest rate it controls from nearly zero.

    Construction companies added 27,000 jobs, ADP said, the most in four months. That's a sign that developers are ramping up homebuilding, an important driver for the economy.

    Manufacturers cut 5,000 jobs, the third straight decline. The drop in factory jobs likely reflects the impact of the stronger dollar, which makes U.S. goods more expensive overseas and cuts into export sales.

    Services were the main driver of job growth, adding 192,000 jobs. Those gains were led by shipping, retail, and professional and business services, which includes higher-paying industries such as accounting and engineering.

    Other recent reports have painted a mixed picture of the economy. Consumers remain cautious and are reluctant to spend their savings from lower gas prices, which are about $1 a gallon cheaper than a year ago. On Monday, the government said consumer spending was unchanged in April. Instead, the saving rate rose to 5.6 percent from 5.2 percent.

    Yet Americans were willing to spend more on cars last month. Auto sales rose 2 percent in May to 1.64 million cars and trucks, according to Autodata Corp. That was the fastest sales pace since July 2005.

    And a survey of manufacturing firms showed that factory activity grew at a faster pace in May than the previous month, driven higher by more new orders and greater hiring.

    Overall, analysts expect the economy will expand at about a 2 percent annual pace in the second quarter. That would leave growth in the first half of the year barely above 0.5 percent, down from a 3.6 percent pace in the second half of last year.


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    Wal-Mart Shipping Service
    Damian Dovarganes/AP
    Every physical retailer wants to be the next (AMZN), but now a brick-and-mortar chain that can actually do it is ready to give it a shot. Walmart (WMT) has gone public with its plans for ShippingPass, a subscription-based program that it hopes will unseat Amazon Prime.

    Everyone knows Prime by now, Amazon's flagship offering where customers pay $99 a year for unlimited two-day shipping on Amazon-warehoused goods at no cost. Amazon also includes a ton of digital goodies in its subscription plan. The company doesn't reveal the actual number of Prime memberships on its rolls, but it has announced that its subscriber base numbers in the tens of millions.

    In other words, there are at least 20 million folks paying Amazon $99 a year to be a part of the loyalty shopping club. Many analysts and researchers feel that the reach of Prime is closer to 40 million in the U.S. alone.

    That's a pretty big captive audience. Once you sign up for a buffet of subsidized shipping, you're likely to find yourself turning to first when you're looking to buy something, and studies show that Prime members spend two to three times as much on Amazon as non-Prime shoppers do over the course of a year.

    That's a pretty big incentive to take on Amazon, and now Walmart is ready to give it a shot.

    Wall-to-Walmart accidentally leaked a signup page last week. It was only supposed to be part of an internal test, but now that the cat's out of the bag, the company has rolled out a page allowing folks to be added to a waiting list for what the world's largest retailer is calling ShippingPass.

    There are some pretty big differences between ShippingPass and Prime. For starters, Walmart's service is offering three-day shipping instead of two-day turnarounds. Orders also have to be placed by noon, several hours earlier than Amazon's typical cutoff. However, Walmart is sweetening the deal by pricing its plan at just $50 a year, with no minimum order requirements.

    Given Walmart's historically low pricing, this will certainly make things interesting. If the selection and pricing is competitive, Amazon Prime may finally have a worthy adversary on its hands. At the very least it will keep Prime's pricing in check. The e-tail giant raised the price of its annual memberships by 25 percent to $99 last year.

    Digital Goodies

    Amazon learned that physical goods aren't enough to sway shoppers into subscriptions. It's been adding compelling digital features to Prime -- including a Netflix-like streaming platform, a growing catalog of digital music, monthly Kindle e-book rentals, and unlimited photo storage -- making it that much harder for members to cancel as they start relying on these online platforms.

    Walmart's ShippingPass isn't making any initial promises on digital perks, but it will be interesting to see if it follows suit if it fails to drum up enough interest to its rival offering. Time isn't on Walmart's side. Prime's membership user base continues to grow. Then again, Walmart realizes that it's going to have to make a big splash as a way to pick up its otherwise stagnant sales. There's an online battle about to take place, and consumers could be the real winners as Amazon and Walmart bend over backward to line up members.

    Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of and Netflix (NFLX). Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Want to make 2015 a winning investment year? Check out The Motley Fool's one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.


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    This undated product image provided by Beats by Dre shows the Beats Pill XL speaker. Apple, which owns Beats, on Wednesday, June 3, 2015 said it is recalling its Beats Pill XL speakers after a customer reported getting burned when it overheated. (Beast By Dre via AP)
    Beats By Dre via AP
    NEW YORK -- Apple said it is recalling its Beats Pill XL speakers after a customer reported getting burned when it overheated.

    There were eight reports of the speaker's battery overheating, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said Wednesday. One person's finger was burned and another reported damage to a desk.

    Apple said customers can apply for a $325 refund on its website. They can also elect to receive Apple Store credit for the same amount. Apple, based in Cupertino, California, said it will send customers boxes for free to return the speakers.

    About 222,000 of the speakers are in the U.S., and 11,000 are in Canada, the CPSC said. They were sold at Apple's stores and websites starting in January 2014. It was also sold at other retailers.

    Beats, which also makes headphones and has a streaming music service, was bought last year by Apple Inc. (AAPL) for $3 billion.


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    Dining Out Is In As Tax Cuts Lift Americans' Restaurant Visits
    Matthew Staver/Bloomberg via Getty Images
    By Reem Nasr

    Eating out can pack a big calorie punch, but these restaurant dishes take it to the extreme.

    The Center for Science in the Public Interest has chosen the winners of its annual Xtreme Eating Awards for the "worst chain restaurant meals of the year."

    The results? Red Lobster, The Cheesecake Factory (CAKE) and Sonic (SONC) are the top "dishonorees," as CSPI calls them.

    Red Lobster topped the list with its "Create Your Own Combination" dish. The combination of Parrot Isle Jumbo Coconut Shrimp, Walt's Favorite Shrimp, and Shrimp Linguine Alfredo, Caesar salad, French fries and one Cheddar Bay Biscuit add up to 2,710 calories and four days' worth of sodium at 6,530 milligrams.

    This nutritional shipwreck from Red Lobster exemplifies the kind of gargantuan restaurant meal that promotes obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related diseases.

    You can add another 890 calories with the Lobsterita, a 24-ounce margarita. That brings the meal's grand total to 3,600 calories.

    "This nutritional shipwreck from Red Lobster exemplifies the kind of gargantuan restaurant meal that promotes obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related diseases," said Paige Einstein, CSPI registered dietitian, in the press release.

    "If this meal were unusual, that would be one thing, but America's chain restaurants are serving up 2,000-calorie breakfasts, 2,000-calorie lunches, 2,000-calorie dinners and 2,000-calorie desserts left and right. Abnormal is the new normal," she added.

    In an email, Red Lobster Director of Communications Erica Ettori wrote the meal chosen for the award is "just one atypical combination" out of more than 500 possible creations "and as a result inaccurately portrays the nature of this menu item." Other calorie-laden meals to make the list include IHOP's Chorizo Fiesta Omelette, which can come with three buttermilk pancakes and syrup for a total of 1,990 calories and two days' worth of saturated fat.

    Kevin Mortesen, a spokesman for IHOP, wrote in an email, "At IHOP, we're all about choice ... we offer a complete menu that includes entrees in every category that are under 600 calories, in addition to our more indulgent items. Our menus also feature tips on how our guests can control the calorie counts in their selections, if they choose."

    Sonic's Pineapple Upside Down Master Blast in the large size clocks in at 2,020 calories with 61 grams of saturated fat. It also has about 29 teaspoons of added sugar.

    Sonic spokeswoman Christi Woodworth told CNBC the calorie count for the drink in the report is the 32 ounce size, "which is frequently shared between friends and family" and "customers may choose from a variety of sizes." Alethea Rowe, senior director of public relations at The Cheesecake Factory, said calorie-conscious customers can choose from the chain's SkinnyLicious menu, "which is actually larger than many restaurants entire menus."

    She added that "a large percentage of our guests take home leftovers for lunch the next day."

    The Food and Drug Administration's rules that require calories to be listed on chain-restaurant menus should take effect in December. CSPI recommends consumers order from "light" menus at these restaurants when possible.


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    Beige Book
    Lenny Ignelzi/AP

    WASHINGTON -- The U.S. economy was growing at a moderate pace in most regions of the country in April and May, as consumers ramped up spending at retailers and auto dealers, the Federal Reserve said Wednesday.

    In its latest survey of business conditions around the country, the Fed said that manufacturing activity held steady or increased, except in the energy industry. Some companies laid off workers and cut back on drilling activities in response to the big fall in oil prices over the past year.

    The Fed report, known as the beige book, will be reviewed by officials at the Fed's next meeting June 16-17 meeting. Economists expect the central bank to delay any rate hike until they see more signs of an economic rebound.

    Four districts -- Boston, Atlanta, Chicago and St. Louis -- reported moderate growth in manufacturing, while some other districts said growth was basically flat during the survey period.

    The report found wide-ranging consequences from the fall in energy prices, with over half of the Fed's 12 districts reporting a negative impact on companies that either operate in the energy sector or provide services to energy companies. Kansas City described a sharp fall in activity in energy producers Oklahoma and New Mexico, while the Dallas district said that oilfield machinery sales were down significantly from a year ago.

    The Fed report also found that the rise in the value of the dollar wasn't uniformly hurting demand for U.S. manufactured goods. The Philadelphia and Richmond districts reported stronger demand in the rubber and plastic industries. In San Francisco, biotech and pharmaceutical companies also saw growing demand.

    But the report said that business contacts in the Boston, Cleveland, Chicago, Minneapolis and Dallas districts all reported a drag on either export sales or business investment plans from the rise in the value of the dollar against foreign currencies, which makes U.S.-made products more expensive on foreign markets.

    While the Fed at its April meeting downgraded its view of the U.S. economy to reflect the impact of an unusually harsh winter, economists believe it will upgrade its outlook at the June meeting. But private economists think the Fed will still prefer to wait until later in the year, possibly September, before it begins raising a key interest rate.

    That rate has been at a record low near zero since December 2008 as the Fed tried to counteract the impact of a severe recession on the labor market and overall economic growth.


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    spencer   wisconsin sept.12  ...
    NEW YORK -- Taco Bell says it will serve beer, wine and "mixed alcohol freezes" at a new location set to open in Chicago this summer.

    The chain, owned by Yum Brands (YUM), says the restaurant will have a new design it's testing in urban markets. It says the layout has already been launched in South Korea, Japan and the United Kingdom.

    A rendering of the design shows a row of lime-green stools along a bar that peers into an open kitchen, flanked by an exposed brick wall. The chain says the location "will highlight the work of local artists" to give it a neighborhood feel.

    The new layout is the latest sign Taco Bell is working to shed its fast-food image and appeal to millennials, who marketers say prefer places and products that seem less cookie-cutter and more "authentic." Wendy's (WEN), which is also trying to recast itself as a step up from traditional fast-food, has also been pushing a remodeling of restaurants that features more inviting and mixed seating options.

    The push to embrace a new image extends to food as well. Last month, Taco Bell announced it would drop artificial flavors and colors from its menu by the end of this year, although co-branded products like the Doritos Locos tacos would be exempt.

    Taco Bell says its franchisee in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago will ensure that alcohol is served responsibly at the new location and that a third-party secret shopper service will be hired to monitor alcohol sales.

    A representative for Taco Bell declined to provide further details on the drink options.


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    Financial Markets Wall Street
    Richard Drew/AP
    By Caroline Valetkevitch

    NEW YORK -- U.S. stocks rose Wednesday, helped by optimism that Greece was close to an agreement to avoid default and as further gains in bond yields lifted financials.

    The S&P financial index climbed 0.7 percent and was among the day's top sector performers as U.S. benchmark Treasury debt yields jumped to seven-month highs, extending recent gains.

    Adding to the day's upbeat tone, Greece's international creditors signaled they were ready to compromise to avert a default even as Athens indicated it might skip an IMF loan repayment due this week.

    "Yields going higher is a net positive for all of the financials. Higher yields on fixed income translate into higher rates and that increases the net interest margin for financials," said Michael James, managing director of equity trading at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles.

    Economic data bolstered the view the Federal Reserve may consider raising interest rates later this year, including reports showing the U.S. trade deficit narrowed in April on a drop in imports and private sector jobs in May.

    The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI)​ rose 64.33 points, or 0.4 percent, to 18,076.27, the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GSPC) gained 4.47 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,114.07 and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC)​ added 22.71 points, or 0.5 percent, to 5,099.23.

    The Fed, in its Beige Book report, said U.S. economic activity expanded from early April to late May and growth was expected to continue at a "modest" to "moderate" pace.

    The consumer discretionary index rose 0.7 percent.

    Bonds Yields Rise

    Ten-year bond yields have risen about 28 basis points in three days, their biggest rise in a comparable period in nearly two years. While that boosted financials, it weighed on utilities index for a second day. The index was down 1.4 percent.

    Logistics company C.H. Robinson (CHRW) jumped 5.5 percent to $64.62 and was the biggest daily percentage gainer in the S&P 500. It also lifted the Dow Jones transportation average, which was up 1.2 percent, bouncing back from near correction territory last week.

    Wendy's (WEN) rose 3.3 percent to $11.47 after the hamburger chain said it would buy back $1.4 billion of shares, including some from Nelson Peltz's Trian Group, its largest shareholder.

    Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 1,548 to 1,503, for a 1.03-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, 1,908 issues rose and 863 fell for a 2.21-to-1 ratio favoring advancers.

    The S&P 500 posted 11 new 52-week highs and 4 new lows; the Nasdaq composite 151 new highs and 21 new lows.

    About 6 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, below the 6.2 billion daily average for the last five sessions, according to BATS Global Markets.

    -With additional reporting by Tanya Agrawal.

    What to watch Thursday:
    • At 8:30 a.m. Eastern time, the Labor Department reports weekly jobless claims, and worker productivity and costs for the first quarter.
    Earnings Season
    These selected companies are scheduled to release quarterly financial results:
    • Cooper (COO)
    • J.M. Smucker (SJM)
    • Michaels (MIK)
    • Navistar International (NAV)


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    Depressed Senior Adult Man With Stacks of Papers and Envelopes
    Getty Images
    By Tom Anderson

    How bad is America doing when it comes to retirement savings? The Government Accountability Office looked into the question, and its answer is sobering.

    GAO analysis finds that among households with members aged 55 or older, nearly 29 percent have neither retirement savings nor a traditional pension plan.

    There hasn't been a significant increase in wages, people have student loans and other debt, and many are continuing to struggle financially.

    "There hasn't been a significant increase in wages, people have student loans and other debt, and many are continuing to struggle financially," said Charles Jeszeck, the GAO's director of education, workforce and income security, which analyzed the Federal Reserve's 2013 Survey of Consumer Finances to come up with its estimates. "We aren't surprised that people have not saved a lot for retirement."

    Even among those who do have retirement savings, their nest eggs are small. The agency found the median amount of those savings is about $104,000 for households with members between 55 and 64 years old and $148,000 for households with members 65 to 74 years old. That's equivalent to an inflation-protected annuity of $310 and $649 a month, respectively, according to the GAO.

    "I don't care what anyone says. That's not enough income for retirement," said Anthony Webb, senior research economist at the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, who reviewed the GAO report.

    Social Security remains a fundamental part of most Americans' retirement plans, with benefits providing most of the income for about half of households age 65 and older, according to the GAO.

    The agency studied the level of Americans' retirement savings at the request of Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent who is seeking the Democratic nomination in the 2016 presidential election and is also the ranking Democratic member on the Senate's subcommittee on primary health and retirement security.

    Estimates about the size and scope of the retirement savings problem vary widely, the GAO found. In addition to examining the Survey of Consumer Finances, it reviewed nine studies conducted between 2006 and 2015 by a variety of organizations, including academics, benefits consultant Aon Hewitt, the Employee Benefit Research Institute and the Investment Company Institute. Based on these reports, it concluded that one-third to two-thirds of workers are at risk of falling short of their retirement savings targets, in part because of the range of assumptions about how much income is required in retirement.

    The research that the GAO examined consistently showed that people aged 55 to 64 are less confident about their retirement and plan to work longer to afford retirement. However, a 2012 study by EBRI found that about half of retirees said they retired earlier than planned because of health problems, changes at their workplace or having to care for a spouse or another family member. This suggests "that many workers may be overestimating their future retirement income and savings," wrote GAO researchers.

    "EBRI's model does show that a significant percentage of households will run short of money in retirement," said Jack VanDerhei, EBRI's research director. "This is because we model all the major risks in retirement."

    Reports like those and the GAO analysis should serve as a wake-up call about the lack of Americans' retirement savings, said Catherine Collinson, president of the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies.

    Transamerica's retirement research, which wasn't included in the GAO's review, doesn't give board projections about America's retirement readiness because retirement is "a very personal question," she said. But Collinson stressed the need for more people to calculate their projected retirement needs and to plan ahead accordingly. "As a society, we cannot do enough to raise awareness about the magnitude of this problem."


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    Stressed out businesswoman in office.
    Getty Images
    Just about everyone wants to advance in their career. Some people are willing to work hard and sacrifice to make it happen. Others prefer to play it safe and then they wonder why they go nowhere.

    To move ahead in your career, you might have to face some harsh realities -- about yourself and your organization -- and make some tough choices to make it happen.

    Here are 12 reasons why your career is going nowhere, and what you might be able to do to remedy the situation.

    1. You're Too Comfortable Another way to put this is that you like your job too much. Wait, is that even possible?

    While it might seem like loving your work would help you to advance your career, the opposite is often true. If you like the position you're in, your boss, your coworkers, and your routine too much, you can get so comfortable that you lose the desire and ambition to do what's necessary to advance your career.

    Then again, if you love your job that much, why are you reading this post? There's nothing wrong with being content and satisfied with where you are. But if you eventually want to climb the corporate ladder, a certain amount of dissatisfaction with your current circumstances is often necessary to provide the motivation that you need to move forward. If you're completely comfortable in the position that you're in right now, you might be unconsciously avoiding doing what you need to do to move ahead.

    2. You Have Too Many Interests Off the Job

    The people who usually move the farthest and the fastest in a company or career are often the ones who are basically obsessed with their work. If you have lots of interests off the job, that can get in the way of your next promotion. For example, if have major recreational interests that eat up most of your time off the clock, you just might not have either the time or the motivation to push your career ahead.

    This isn't necessarily a bad thing, though. For many people, their real passions exist outside of their career; the job is simply the vehicle that affords them the time and money to pursue those interests, like visiting every In-N-Out Burger in the world (a guy can dream, right?). But if you decide that advancing your career becomes a priority above your recreational pursuits, you may have to consider minimizing, or even giving up one or more of your non-business interests.

    3. You Lack a Critical Skill or Two

    This is something that holds a lot of people back. Overall, you're good at your job, but there is one, or maybe two, important skills you lack that are keeping you from advancing. If it's a relatively minor skill, such as learning more about a particular software program that's important in your company or industry, that can be pretty easy to overcome.

    But sometimes the missing skill is something more substantial -- something you might hesitate to even take on.

    For example, let's say that you are in a job where advancing will require speaking before groups. A lot of people are deathly afraid of doing just that. For that reason, learning to do so could be a major obstacle. Another example can be sales. Sales are required to advance in a lot of job capacities, but if you don't have hands-on sales skills, it could be holding you back.

    If either of these skills, or one that is equally challenging, is standing in the way of you moving forward in your career, you may have to suck it up and get the necessary training and experience. That could involve taking a course or two outside of work, and then getting practice under controlled circumstances. This could mean speaking before small, friendly groups in your company, or handling inside sales on the job.

    Still another option is to take a part-time job that will enable you to learn the skill that you need in a real-world environment, but one where you aren't dependent on the job or the income. For example, you can take a part-time job that involves face-to-face sales. Sometimes the most important aspect of selling is just getting comfortable with it. That can happen if you begin working with it in a low-pressure environment. And then when you think you're ready, you can bring it out on your full-time job.

    4. You Don't Get Along With Your Boss

    This will be a major obstacle to advancing in your career, no matter what that career is. If you don't get along with your boss, it will be close to impossible to improve your career prospects in the job that you are in right now. Worse, all the options that you have are pretty bad.

    The first, best way to deal with this problem is to find a way to make peace with your boss, and to find as much common ground as possible. The difficulty with this approach is that puts all of the burden on you to make it happen. But one of the best ways to do this is by finding out what your boss's biggest concerns are, and how you can help him or her overcome them. By positioning yourself as your boss's ally, you may be able to put aside the animosity that has existed up to this point.

    If that effort fails, your only option will be to get a new boss, and that usually requires finding a new job. Naturally, if you're forced to go this route, you'll have to make sure that you establish the firm basis for good relationship with your new boss. Two bad boss relationships in a row can be a real career killer.

    5. You're Working For a Boss Who's Going Nowhere

    One common way that people move ahead in their careers is by riding on the coattails of their boss. If your boss is on an elevator ride up, and you are a trusted loyalist in tow, you will often move up as well. Unfortunately, if your boss has been stuck in the same job for longer than five years, you're not getting help on that front.

    As a rule, employers are reluctant to promote people over their bosses. It tends to create harmony problems, not to mention a bruised ego by your former boss. But that creates a roadblock in that if your boss's career isn't going anywhere, yours probably isn't either.

    The only way around this dilemma is to get out from under your static boss. That will require that you either transfer to a different department, or you make a move to another employer. Both moves have their own risks however. Once you make the change, you may have to put in certain time requirements before you are eligible for promotion. Another is that the new boss could turn into a sudden roadblock, and be just as stuck as your old boss.

    Once again, there are no easy solutions to this problem, but in-action is generally the worst of course of all.

    6. Upper Management Doesn't Know You Exist

    Sometimes you actually can leapfrog over your boss, but only if upper management -- defined as anyone higher in rank than your boss -- is aware of your skills and talents, and has a generally favorable view of you. However, if no one in upper management seriously knows you or what you do, you don't have a chance.

    You can approach this from a social standpoint, which means interacting with members of upper management in a non-confrontational way (translation: the purpose should never be to complain about your boss). You might also work on getting involved in projects and activities that have higher visibility. The idea is to get noticed if you haven't ever been up to this point.

    This is a delicate balancing act however, as you have to be careful that you are not obviously trying to upstage your boss. If your boss perceives that you are, a smack down could follow that takes you in the exact opposite direction of where you are hoping to go.

    7. You're Working For an Employer Who's Going Nowhere

    Just as there are bosses who are going nowhere in their careers, there are also employers who are going nowhere in the pecking order of their industry. Generally speaking, when an organization is underperforming its industry sector, advancement of any kind is extremely hard to come by.

    Even if you are very comfortable in your current job, if you plan to advance your career, you'll almost certainly have to leave if your employer fits this description. While you are languishing at the company, people are moving ahead at more successful competitors. You'll have to make sure that you get on board at the more successful companies during the best times to advance, and before you get labeled as a lifer in a losing organization. You never want to settle in at a company that's going nowhere.

    8. You're Working in an Industry That's Going Nowhere

    This is a far more complicated situation, and it is probably more common today than ever before. Technology is rendering entire industries obsolete. What makes it difficult is that the decline isn't always obvious early on. As a company makes efforts to slow the fall, there can be false starts that give false hope, and keep you where you're at longer than you need to be.

    Any time you find yourself in industries in decline, it's important that you make a transition into another industry as soon as possible. Most people in your industry will be reluctant to leave early on, believing that salvation is right around the corner. That makes now the perfect time to go -- before everyone else is out looking. Later on, when the decline becomes painfully obvious to everyone, the stampede will start and your chances of transitioning into an entirely new industry sector will begin to drop rapidly.

    9. You Don't Volunteer

    Every organization has new projects that come up from time to time. Like a lot of people in your company, you may be reluctant to volunteer for these projects because working on them can change your routine, present you with difficult challenges, and be kind of messy. It's certainly easy to see why anyone would not want to get involved, but doing so is a way of showing management that you are proactive and willing and ready to do what's necessary to advance the goals of the organization.

    If you fail to volunteer for special projects at least some of the time, management may assume that you are perfectly comfortable in your cozy routine. And when promotion situations come along, you may very well be passed over.

    10. You Prefer Not to Be the Go-To Guy/Girl

    You're probably aware that in every department, there are people who step up and take responsibility during times of peak stress. And there are others who kind of disappear during those peaks. You never want to be counted among the second group!

    You'll have to do some serious soul-searching here. Some people think that they are stepping up simply because they get their job done. It's as if doing anything more than doing their regular job is outside their paradigm, and beyond consideration. Rest assured that management will be aware of this, and you'll be passed over when a promotion comes around.

    Management wants people who they can rely on in difficult and unconventional situations, and though it will make your job even tougher, becoming one of the go-to people in the department is one of the best ways to stand out from the crowd.

    11. You Don't Spend Enough Time and Effort on What's Really Important

    It would be easy to say instead that you're too easily distracted, but this issue goes way beyond simple distraction. Nearly every job today is multifaceted -- you might have a dozen or more responsibilities that you need to accomplish every week or even every day. That's to be expected, but how you prioritize those responsibilities can have a material effect on your career advancement.

    The key is to be able to distinguish between mission-critical functions, and simple busywork. The better that you are at identifying and managing this distinction, the more successful you'll be in your career.

    If you do have a lot of responsibilities, you need to pick out the one or two that are most important for your job. Once you do, you have to give top priority to these tasks, and save everything else for later. You're probably aware of what those critically important tasks are, but if you're not, talk to your boss about it. Most likely, your most important functions are the ones that are most important to your boss. He or she may be encouraged at your desire to create such a priority, since it will reflect better on them.

    This will help you isolate your most important functions, and to apply the greatest effort at becoming better at them. It's likely that your performance on your most important tasks will define your future career direction.

    12. You're Afraid to Take Chances

    People often play it too close to the vest when it comes to their careers. It's understandable that you don't want to do anything that will jeopardize your job and your income. But sometimes taking chances is exactly what you need to do.

    This is particularly true if you feel that your career has stagnated. This may involve changing jobs, making a career change, or even considering self-employment. For example, if you're in an administrative capacity, and everyone in your organization and industry who is on the career fast-track have a sales background, you may have to take a chance on getting into sales.

    While making such a move will be stressful -- and risky -- sometimes the biggest risk is doing nothing. Stagnating in your job could make you layoff bait in the next recession. But showing a willingness to transition into new areas can make you a more valuable employee, which will make you both more promotable and less subject to layoffs.

    There's no doubt about it, advancing your career usually means moving outside your comfort zone or interviewing for another job. But that's the price to be paid to move forward, and there's no way to get around it. Make the changes you need to make, then embrace the new direction for all it's worth!


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    American dollar bills scattered in a chaotic manner
    AlamyDesign your cash pool according to the types of market opportunities that best advance your investing plan.

    For investors, cash needn't be a four-letter word.

    After all, without cash -- money in a liquid account you can withdraw immediately without penalty -- you can't seize fleeting market opportunities. But those opportunities are only worth pursuing if they "fit into your overall investing plan," cautions Craig Bartlett, vice president and division consulting manager for U.S. Bancorp Investments, based in Minneapolis.

    It's likely counterproductive to scan the market for potential bargains with a sum you are itching to invest. Bartlett recommends first defining the types of market opportunities that best advance your investing goals so you can move fast for the right reasons. Then, design your cash pool accordingly.

    As a matter of functional money management, it is smart to have a cash account set up as a parking spot for money flowing in and out of your portfolio. Ahmad Adnan, a certified financial planner with Ameriprise Financial Services, based in Austin, Texas, says brokers call this a "sweep" account because it's used to sweep money in and out of investments. That's especially useful if you expect to be directing funds to several types of investments over a period, or, conversely, rolling money from maturing or performing holdings into a pool of money for a purchase.

    The sweep account could be set up as a money-market account, short-term certificate of deposit in an FDIC-insured institution, or a similar account, Adnan explains.

    "Don't expect to make any money with it," he adds. "Clients ask, 'What's the cash earning?' and the answer is 'nothing.' " He and other advisers agree that with interest rates so low, cash accounts are lucky to reap even a fraction of a percentage point.

    That doesn't make much of a difference when you are parking cash for a few months or a couple of years in anticipation of a major purchase, such as a house down payment. In fact, advisers agree, it's smarter to table the funds in a cash account than risk losing some of it in an equity investment. The rule of thumb, they agree, is that if you need a certain amount of money on a certain date, keep the money in a cash account. "Cash is for short-term circumstances," Adnan says.

    The flip side is that the longer the cash languishes in the sweep account, the greater the chance you will start to lose money thanks to inflation, advisors say.

    If inflation is at 2 percent, and you're earning zero percent, "then you've lost 2 percent of your purchasing power," says David A. Frisch, president and founder of Frisch Financial Group, based in New York. "People think of cash as a riskless asset, but it's not."

    His recommendation: For any goal two years or more in the future, try to capture some return. "The shorter the time horizon, the less return you need. The longer the horizon, the more you should be thinking about capturing return," Frisch says. An interim step might be to buy 10-year Treasury bonds, which are currently yielding about 2.1 percent, he adds. Those at least keep pace with the current inflation rate.

    As you fine-tune your cash strategy, consider these points:
    • If your portfolio is large enough, you might allot as much as 10 percent of your conservative investments to cash. "This diversifies the conservative portion of your portfolio," says Paul Jacobs, chief investment officer with Palisades Hudson Financial Group, based in Atlanta. "You can maybe take a little more risk with bonds."
    • Be sure you know in advance if you'll be dinged for transaction fees to move the cash from a maturing instrument to a holding account.
    • Forecast your likely financial moves with a cash holding account in mind. If you are likely to be rebalancing or shifting assets around, "you might need to have a decent amount of cash on hand," Jacobs says. If are working toward a major purchase several years out, "ladder your instruments so all the money is available at the right time," Bartlett says. With various accounts maturing in succession, you can roll them into the cash account in an orderly fashion. ""Match the maturity for the purchase date for when you need the money. You want to actually allow a couple extra months for the transition, so do it early," Bartlett says.


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    Money Moves to Make in Your 50s

    By Marilyn Lewis

    The 50s are a pivotal decade. You are near enough to retirement to feel its hot breath on your neck, and that can be a good thing. It sharpens your focus at a time when you may still have 10 or 15 years of work left, so there's time to fatten your savings and watch the money grow. At this point, too, you may have been doing a job or honed a skill for long enough to feel a delicious sense of mastery and to be at the peak of your earning power.

    These peak earning years coincide with a peak chance for savings. If children finally are on their own, household expenses are lighter than they have been in decades. Rather than spend this freed-up money, sock away savings and pay off debt, bringing you closer to the retirement you've hoped for. Here are 12 critical financial moves to make in your 50s:

    1. Map out your strategy. Spend a weekend gathering your financial information -- your savings, investments and other assets, your debts and bills -- and map out your strategy for retirement. Seeing the details of your finances and setting goals for life beyond work will expose the gap, if any between your plans and your savings and spur you to close that gap while you still can.

    2. Meet with a fee-only financial planner. This is a good moment, while there's still time for course corrections, to make sure you haven't missed any crucial piece of planning. Even people who comfortably manage their own investments can profit from one or two meetings with a fee-only financial planner. It's important that the person you see charges an hourly fee with no commissions or products to sell, so they can objectively review your numbers, assumptions and plans. Learn how to find a trustworthy adviser by reading Ask Stacy: Do I Need a Financial Adviser, or Can I Manage My Money Myself?

    One key question for screening financial advisers: "Are you required to uphold the fiduciary standard?" What this means is that the adviser is required to put your financial interest -- not theirs -- first. If the answer is anything but "yes," keep looking. Here are sources for fee-only advisers: 3. Use retirement calculators -- with caution. By your 50s, you should be able to have a realistic idea of what your income will be in retirement. Online retirement calculators are a good, if inexact, way to estimate the monthly or annual income you'll receive from savings and other sources. Calculators vary a great deal in their accuracy, but they can be useful for setting goals and exposing gaps between your likely income and expenses in retirement.

    The more detailed data a calculator collects the more likely its results will be useful for you. One respected calculator is ESPlanner, a free tool created by Boston University Professor of Economics Laurence Kotlikoff. Three other calculators are: Two problems with calculators: They require you to make impossible guesses about the future rate of return on your investments. Also, "[m]ost online retirement calculators do not accurately account for taxes," says About Money's Retirement Planning in your 50s.

    Because of these issues, it's a good idea to play around with several different calculators to see how your results can vary.

    4. Supercharge savings. If life's demands have made it hard to save for retirement, your 50s offer a good chance to catch up. You'll see if you are saving enough by following the three steps above, mapping your retirement, assessing your situation and using calculators to estimate your retirement income.

    If there's a gap between savings and your needs in retirement, ramp up your savings. Shoot for saving 20 percent of your income. If that's too big a change, "set aside just 5 percent now and make a plan to ramp up your savings by 1 percent every quarter until you reach your target goal," suggests

    5. Maximize retirement plan contributions. The IRS has special rules to encourage savers who are 50 or older to ramp up savings for retirement. Here's how to take advantage of these rules:

    Max out your employer's retirement plan contribution. If your workplace matches a portion of your retirement contributions, take full advantage of the free money. If your employer matches up to 3 percent, for example, save at least 3 percent to capture that gift. According to U.S. News:

    The most common employer match is 50 cents for every dollar saved up to 6 percent of pay, according to Vanguard data. For a worker earning $60,000 a year, this employer match could be worth as much as $1,800.
    • Max out your retirement savings contribution. IRS rules let workers contribute up to $18,000 to a 401(k) plan in 2015. That's money you can save tax-free (you'll pay the income tax when you take it out in retirement).
    • Max out your "catch-up" contributions. Savers age 50 and up may also contribute an additional $6,000 to a 401(k) account in 2015. That's $24,000 total you can save -- tax free -- if you are able.
    • Max out IRA contributions. The IRS' 2015 maximum contribution to an IRA account is $6,500 if you are 50 or older ($5,500 otherwise).
    6. Decide whether to pay off your mortgage. In an earlier era, workers tried to enter retirement with no debt at all. Paying off your mortgage before retirement still is a good goal, but it's not possible for many people today.

    Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson says that tax-deferred savings accounts often offer a better return than paying down a mortgage. The reason: tax savings. If you can do both that's even better, of course. At the same time, you can't discount the psychological value, at least for some people, of owning their home free and clear in retirement. Read Ask Stacy: Should I Save More for Retirement or Pay Down My Mortgage? to learn about the pros and cons.

    7. Pay off debt aggressively. Once you retire, interest payments on debt can eat up your limited income, making it difficult to pay off loan balances. Now, in your highest earning years, is the time to aggressively eliminate nonmortgage debt, from credit card balances to auto loans and other debts.

    Don't let pride stop you from getting help if you need it. You owe it to yourself and your family not to stick your head in the sand. If loan payments are feeling unmanageable, you may benefit from taking out a consolidation loan to lower your interest rates and help you focus on a single payment.

    A trustworthy nonprofit credit-counseling agency can help you set goals, make a repayment plan and negotiate with your creditors if necessary. But, beware of sleaze bags masquerading as credit counselors! The bad ones make your debt problems even worse. Learn where to find good help: Is 2015 the Year to Tackle Your Debt? 10 Tips to Find Free or Low-Cost Help.

    You'll find lots more help at Money Talks News. A few good reads: 8. Keep a portion of savings invested in growth. Playing it safe is a natural inclination at this stage in life. You want to protect your hard-earned savings, but if your savings don't at least keep up with inflation you'll lose spending power. For example, it takes $155 to buy goods and services today that you could have bought with $100 in 1995, according to this Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator. Inflation is low currently: It was 1.6 percent in 2014. But, historically, it has been higher and takes a big bite out of savings.

    The solution? Keep a good portion of your retirement savings invested in the stock market. Because retirement is a stage of life that can last 20 or 3o years, there's time to recover if some of your investments lose value. Keeping 60 percent of your investments in long-term growth with the remainder in more conservative investments is a good idea even after retirement, Ohio financial planner Doug Kinsey tells Jean Chatzky at DailyFinance.

    9. Bring both spouses on board. If finances are the realm of just one spouse in your family, it's time to correct that. Both members of a couple should understand the family's debts, savings, investments and plans in order to take over the financial reins in case one dies or becomes disabled.

    10. Consider dropping life insurance. One place to cut expenses could be dropping your life insurance premiums. Do it only if, after careful consideration, you find that the insurance no longer benefits your family. For example, if your spouse and children will not need the protection because the children are grown and are financially independent, and if your spouse will inherit a home and sufficient retirement savings.

    If you are unsure what to do, get expert help from a fee-based financial planner (see step No. 2). Do not accept financial advice from an insurance representative or from anyone who stands to gain from your decision or could sell you products.

    11. Decide if you want long-term care coverage. If you are going to buy long-term care insurance, which pays some or most costs should you become unable to care for yourself, your 50s is the time to do it. Wait much longer and premiums become prohibitively expensive. Also, you could develop health problems that disqualify you for coverage.

    The problem is, long-term care insurance is extremely expensive. The cost of coverage rose nearly 9 percent in 2014 alone, according to the American Association for Longterm Care Insurance, which says:

    A healthy 55-year-old man can expect to pay $1,060 a year for $164,000 of potential benefits, compared to $925 last year. ... The average cost for a 55-year-old single woman is $1,390, an increase from $1,225 a year (2014).

    What's a prudent person to do? After all, the cost of nursing home care currently is about $205 a day ($6,235 a month) for a semi-private room, according to the federal government, at

    Fortunately, long-term care insurance isn't always necessary, says Stacy Johnson, weighing the pros and cons of long-term care insurance in Ask Stacy: Should I Have Long-Term-Care Insurance?

    12. Practice living on less. You'll save more, and faster, by reducing spending. But there's another reason to get a good grip on your outflow: Living on less gives you information about where your money goes and how much you truly will need in retirement. It's a reality check for your planning. To get started read Resolve to Budget This Year: Here's How to Do It Painlessly.

    What are your money tips for people in their 50s? Share your experiences.

    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!


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