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DailyFinance.com

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    close up of woman hand holding...
    Shutterstock
    Sensitive information is apparently hard to keep that way these days. It seems as if there's a new hacking scandal every few weeks, leading folks to wonder if anything can ever be secure.

    However, these incidents should also make us smarter as consumers. Let's go over some of the financial lessons that some of the more prolific recent hacker events have taught us.

    1. Keep your credit cards separated. Target's data breach during the 2013 holiday shopping season was brutal. The cheap-chic discounter initially reported that as many as 40 million customers had their credit and debit card information swiped. A few weeks later it revealed that a new group of 70 million customers might have also had their card data lifted.

    The development was enough to rock Target's sales, even after it offered an across-the-board discount during the final week of the holiday shopping season. The retailer tried to get ahead of the mess, arming consumers with the tools to clean up their compromised financials.

    It's easy to see why Target (TGT) shoppers felt helpless here. They didn't do anything wrong beyond simply swiping plastic at a Target register. However, the hassle of having to have a replacement card issued probably made them smarter.

    One potent takeaway is that cardholders should probably have at least two credit cards. Dedicate one card to automated payouts. Use the other for physical store purchases. That way, if someone does steal the info from the one used in real-world purchases, you don't have to scramble to have all of your automated payments reset or fear that some of the payments will bounce.

    2. Separate email accounts is also a good idea. This month's Ashley Madison hacking scandal may have been the butt of talk show jokes, but the incident exposed a lot of data. More than 30 million email addresses were compromised, from folks who had registered for the website that unabashedly hooks up married folks for adulterous flings.

    The initial headlines focused on the large number of accounts from investment banker domains, but then things took a turn for the morose. There were extortion attempts and even a couple of unconfirmed suicides reported by the New York Post.

    The lesson here is fairly clear. If you're going to hit up a website that could potentially be shameful if your registration was made public, don't sign up for the site with your work or school email. Create a free email account. You should probably have a few email accounts anyway, just in case one should get hacked into. Just as you should do with your credit cards, dedicate one email address to serious sites. Create at least one more for everything else, so it's the one collecting spam and Ashley Madison signups.

    3. Financial data isn't the only hacker currency. One of the more embarrassing hacks came late last year when Sony (SNE) movie studio emails were compromised. There was no financial information taken, but sensitive emails detailing the inner workings of Sony and unflattering exchanges between actors, executives, and directors made a lot of people look bad.

    Be careful with everything you write in an email. Even if you may have everything secure on your end, always remember that there's a recipient at the other end of every email you send. If something is sensitive -- and that includes financially sensitive -- you don't want to pass it along in an email.

    Stay safe, and keep your finances secure.

    Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Looking for a winner for your portfolio? Check out The Motley Fool's one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.

     

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    cut up some coupons to save...
    Shutterstock
    By Kyle James

    Everybody loves to score a deal. Retailers are keenly aware of this phenomenon and have become very good at tricking your brain into thinking you're getting a deal, even when you may be spending more than you should. Here are some clever ways retailers use coupons to get you to open your wallet wide, along with some timely tips to fight back.

    1. Online coupons aren't always a deal. Online shoppers love a good coupon code. But did you know that many online retailers are notorious for releasing a coupon only after jacking all of their prices up to full-retail? Suddenly your 25 percent off coupon code doesn't look so good, especially when you consider the fact that you could have actually saved more money the week prior, for example, when the website had everything in their new fall collection for 30 percent off, no coupon needed.

    A few of the online retailers notorious for releasing a coupon when prices are high include Ann Taylor, American Eagle, Old Navy and Macy's to name a few. It's always in your best interest to keep track of the pricing schemes of the online retailers you frequent on a regular basis. Pay attention to when they release coupons and when they offer sitewide sales and only make your purchases when the price is actually the lowest. Also, if you can time your purchase when you have a coupon code in hand and the retailer is having a sitewide sale, you'll definitely maximize your savings.

    2. The BOGO dilemma. Another commonly used trick retailers use to get you to open your wallets wide is "Buy one, get one for 50% off," also known as BOGO. Be aware that unless it is "Buy one, get one free," you're rarely getting a good deal. Buy one, get one for 50 percent off is the equivalent of a 25 percent off coupon -- which is an okay deal, but only if you actually need two of the particular item. Keep in mind that many retailers, especially clothing and shoe stores, often have coupons that exceed 25 percent off, making the BOGO offer nothing more than a spending trap. Kohl's, Lands' End, JCPenney and Gap are a few retailers that fit this bill and immediately jump to mind.

    3. Free shipping ... with a catch. When it comes to shopping online, there is nothing worse than finishing your shopping at a website only to discover you're $10 short of qualifying for free shipping. Many online retailers will set a minimum threshold requirement for free delivery at $25, $50, $75 or even $100 to encourage shoppers to add items to their purchase and thus pad their profits.

    The next time this happens to you, hit up Google and do a search for "[store name] free shipping coupon" and see if you can dig up a coupon code for free delivery. If that doesn't work, many websites employ live chat operators who have a select number of coupons to hand out if you politely ask. Just start a chat session, explain your situation and tell the operator how you'd like to complete your purchase but can't justify the shipping charge since you're so close to the minimum order threshold. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised with your result and stand a great chance of scoring a free shipping coupon without adding something to your cart that you don't need.

    4. Percent-off coupon with minimum order size. Another retail trick is to release "percent off" or "dollar off" coupons with a minimum dollar amount required to score the discount. Whether you need to spend $49, $75 or $99 to get the discount, it's important to realize that retailers are attempting to get you to spend more in order to "save" some money. This is often a bad proposition for consumers and can easily lead to overspending. A smart workaround is to never walk into a store with one of these coupons unless you're sure you'll meet the minimum. If you do walk in and are determined to redeem the coupon, make sure you're buying items that you actually need or can use as a gift down the road.

    5. Coupons you buy can expire. Popular websites like Groupon and LivingSocial allow you to buy deals and coupons for experiences like golfing, sky diving, cooking classes, yoga classes and the like. But what many consumers don't know is that many of these deals have expiration dates. They're banking on you buying the offer and forgetting to use it or deciding later that it's not your cup of tea.

    Avoid this expiration trick by instituting a "30-day" policy. If you know you'll use the coupon within 30 days, then go ahead and purchase it. If you're on the fence in the slightest, pass on the offer as it'll probably go unused. Once you buy the experience or class, book it right away and get it on your calendar to make sure it gets used and doesn't end up in your desk drawer for all eternity.

    By being aware of why retailers release certain coupons and deals and how they can make you overspend, you stand a great chance of actually saving money on the things you need.

    What other ways have retailers used coupons and "deals" to get you to spend more?

     

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    Money Strategy
    Getty Images
    By Scott Gamm

    NEW YORK -- The whiplash seen in stocks over the last week means your retirement savings strategy needs a little extra care.

    If you're still searching for a strategy or the markets meltdown makes you a wary of your current plan, here are three ways to bulletproof your retirement savings:

    1. Dollar cost averaging. Dollar cost averaging is a classic technique. It simply involves contributing a fixed amount of money into a retirement account.

    When stocks rise, so does your wealth. But when stocks drop, your money is able to scoop up more shares for less.

    "You get different bites at the market at different prices," said Tom Mingone of New York-based Capital Management Group.

    You may not have a lump sum of money to throw into the markets, but you may have a few hundred dollars each month to invest.

    "Plus, most people suffer from inertia, and with dollar cost averaging, your investments are on autopilot and before you know it, the money you're investing becomes another bill that you're used to paying," Mingone added.

    If you have a 401(k) account, chances are you're already employing dollar cost averaging.

    "Most have a 401(k) plan through an employer that invests on a consistent basis," said Grant Engelbart, portfolio manager at CLS Investments based in Omaha, Nebraska.

    But Engelbart said fixed monthly amounts of money can also be contributed each month to a Roth or Traditional IRA, which you may also have in addition to a 401(k). "Sticking with that investment plan will ensure that you are both taking advantage of market selloffs and participating in strong, trending markets," he added.

    2. Target-date funds. Albeit generic, target-date funds account for one key part of any retirement investing plan: time.

    Target-date funds start out heavily exposed to stocks and as you near retirement, the balance shifts to bonds, which are considered safer and less volatile than equities.

    The thinking is, as you near retirement, you have less time to recoup potential losses in the stock market.

    But not all target-date funds are created equal. If you're buying target-date funds on your own, make sure you know what the balance between stocks and bonds is, especially as you get older.

    "Some target date funds have more exposure to equities than others -- to hedge against inflation," Mingone said. "So you could be in your 60s and have a pretty significant exposure to stocks, which might be concerning to some people."

    He said it wouldn't be out of the ordinary to have a 50 to 60 percent exposure to stocks while you're in retirement.

    This is because people are living longer and calibrating your investments until age 65 (or whenever you stop working and enter retirement) may not be plausible if you live until 85 or 90.

    "We like when people invest during their retirement, so they ensure they don't outlive their money," Mingone added.

    A caveat with target date funds: interest rates. Interest rates have been at record low levels since the recession but are bound to rise again. Higher rates threaten bond values, as rates and prices move in opposite directions.

    3. Keeping up with costs. A guarantee is a good thing -- especially in retirement.

    Instead of relying on the interest generated from the principal of your investment portfolio, try to fund your monthly expenses from as much guaranteed income as possible. This could be from Social Security or a pension - sources that don't drop in value should the stock market crash.

    But with fears Social Security is running on empty and pensions hard to come by these days, there is a way to keep your income afloat, even if stocks drop.

    "If you own bonds that don't default and dividend stocks that pay income, even if a stock loses 30 percent of its value, you're still upset, but it won't change how you're living in that moment in time," said Rick Salus, senior vice president and investment officer at St. Louis-based Wells Fargo Advisors.

    Companies like utility Southern Company (SO) and Kimberly-Clark (KMB) actually raised its dividends during the 2008 recession, a time of unprecedented volatility and uncertainty.

     

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    Consumer Spending
    David Goldman/AP
    By Lucia Mutikani

    WASHINGTON -- U.S. consumer spending picked up a bit in July as households bought more automobiles, offering further evidence of strength in the economy that could keep the door open to a Federal Reserve interest rate hike this year.

    The Commerce Department said Friday consumer spending increased 0.3 percent after an upwardly revised 0.3 percent rise in June. Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, was previously reported to have gained 0.2 percent in June.

    Economists polled by Reuters had forecast consumer spending rising 0.4 percent last month.

    It was the latest report indicating momentum in the economy as it confronted recent global financial markets turbulence, sparked by concerns over a slowing Chinese economy, which has diminished the chances of an interest rate increase next month.

    New York Fed President William Dudley said this week that prospects of a September lift-off in the central bank's short-term interest rate "seems less compelling to me than it was a few weeks ago."

    Some economists, however, believe the U.S. central bank could still raise interest rates in September if financial markets settle down and the streak of fairly strong data continues.

    Economists say that underlying strength, also highlighted by a rebound in business spending, buoyant housing and labor markets, as well as bullish consumer confidence, gives the economy muscle to weather the fallout from the markets rout.

    U.S. Treasury debt prices were little changed on the data, while the dollar slipped against the euro and the yen. U.S. stock index futures pared losses.

    The fairly upbeat consumer spending report also suggested the economy maintained some of its vigor from the second quarter, when it expanded at a 3.7 percent annual rate.

    Last month, spending on long-lasting goods such as automobiles increased 1.1 percent, reversing June's 1.1 percent drop. Auto purchases accounted for about half of the increase. Outlays on services like utilities rose 0.2 percent.

    When adjusted for inflation, consumer spending rose 0.2 percent after being flat in June.

    Personal income increased 0.4 percent in July, rising by the same margin for a fourth straight month. Wages and salaries shot up 0.5 percent, the largest rise since November 2014, after advancing 0.2 percent in June.

    With income gains outpacing spending, the saving rate increased to 4.9 percent from 4.7 percent in June.

    Despite the steady increase in consumption, inflation remained muted. Inflation, which has persistently run below the Fed's 2 percent target, dominated the discussions at the Fed's July 28-29 policy meeting.

    A price index for consumer spending rose 0.1 percent, slowing from a 0.2 percent increase the prior month. In the 12 months through July, the personal consumption expenditures, or PCE, price index rose 0.3 percent for a second straight month.

    Excluding food and energy, prices edged up 0.1 percent for the fourth straight month. The so-called core PCE price index rose 1.2 percent in the 12 months through July, the smallest rise since March 2011. It increased 1.3 percent in June.

     

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    Inside A Best Buy Co. Store Ahead Of Earnings Figures
    David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
    There were plenty of winners and losers this week, with the leading consumer electronics retailer surprising the market with a quarter of growth and a floral delivery specialist wilting in its sales performance.

    Best Buy (BBY) -- Winner

    Shares of the consumer electronics retailer posted their largest single-day gain in nearly two years after posting better-than-expected quarterly results. Analysts were holding out for a 7 percent year-over-year slide in sales and an even larger drop in profitability. Best Buy came through with year-over-year growth on both ends of the income statement.

    Best Buy also announced that it would be expanding its presence as an Apple Watch retailer. It began selling Apple's (AAPL) smartwatch this summer at some of its stores, becoming the first national chain outside of Apple to stock the device. Best Buy will make it available at all of its stores by October.

    Stop-Loss Orders -- Loser

    Some financial advisers suggest that stock investors set up stop-loss orders, executing the automatic selling of a stock if it drops to a certain price. The purpose of the stop-loss is to limit downside during a market crash or correction, but those investors found out about the practice's shortcoming the hard way on Monday.

    When the market plunged at the open, the "flash crash" sent many stocks lower, cashing out many worrywarts with stop-loss orders at the very bottom of the trading day. It's not a coincidence that so many stocks hit lows that were round numbers. Disney (DIS) at $90, Baidu (BIDU) at $100 and Apple at $92 were likely stop-loss orders that tossed out those investors just before all three stocks came roaring back to life.

    Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG) -- Winner

    They're hiring at Chipotle. The fast-growing burrito roller announced Monday that it will host its first-ever National Career Day on Sept. 9. All of its restaurants will interview as many as 60 potential employees at each location from 8 a.m. until the restaurants open for lunch at 11 a.m. Interested job seekers can sign up for an interview slot at NationalCareerDay.com.

    It may very well be little more than a publicity stunt, but announcing that it expects to add as many as 4,000 new employees to its existing workforce of 60,000 can't hurt the brand. Folks who associate Chipotle with tasty rice bowls and paying extra for guacamole can now view it as an active employer at a time when many chains are hesitant to take on new hires in this climate of escalating labor overhead.

    1-800-Flowers.com (FLWS) -- Loser

    Some bouquets don't always bloom. Shares of the floral arrangement delivery specialist slipped Thursday after it posted a quarterly loss and fell short of Wall Street's revenue forecasts. The guidance at 1-800-Flowers.com for the new fiscal year also finds its projected revenue falling short of where analysts were perched.

    1-800-Flowers.com had bad news on a day when the markets were rallying, but obviously the rally wasn't enough. Let's see if it can send itself a "Get Well Soon" bouquet.

    United Continental (UAL) and Activision Blizzard (ATVI) -- Winners

    The S&P 500 has two vacancies, and they will be filled by air carrier United Continental and video game giant Activision Blizzard. United has been flying high since merging with Continental in this climate of high fares and cheap jet fuel. Activision Blizzard is the PC and console gaming publisher behind the "World of Warcraft" and "Call of Duty" games.

    Getting added to the S&P 500 is a pretty big deal because of the many index funds that track the popular index. They will have to buy chunks of both stocks in the coming days, likely pushing the two blue chips even higher.

    Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns and recommends Activision Blizzard, Apple, Baidu, Chipotle Mexican Grill and Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Looking for a winner for your portfolio? Check out The Motley Fool's one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.

     

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    China Stock Markets Remain Volatile Amid Economy Fears
    Kevin Frayer/Getty ImagesChinese day traders watch stock tickers at a local brokerage house Thursday in Beijing.
    By Kevin Yao

    The global stock market rout of the past week was sparked by concerns over a possible interest rate rise by the U.S. Federal Reserve and not by the devaluation of China's yuan currency, a senior Chinese central bank official told Reuters on Thursday.

    Yao Yudong, head of the bank's Research Institute of Finance and Banking, said the U.S. central bank should delay any rate hike to give fragile emerging market economies time to prepare.

    He said Beijing's decision to let the yuan fall in value against the dollar shouldn't make it a scapegoat for the sell-off.

    China's exchange rate reform had nothing to do with the global stock market volatility, it was mainly due to the upcoming U.S. Federal Reserve monetary policy move.

    "China's exchange rate reform had nothing to do with the global stock market volatility, it was mainly due to the upcoming U.S. Federal Reserve monetary policy move," Yao said.

    "We were wronged."

    Yao's comments, which came on the same day that state media issued commentaries defending China's policy making, show Beijing's sensitivity to suggestions it may have fumbled economic policy. The ruling Communist Party has drawn much of its legitimacy in past decades from fostering economic growth and raising incomes, and wants to be seen as a responsible player in the global economy.

    Many analysts, however, say a key factor roiling markets is worry China's economy might be slowing sharply despite Beijing's efforts. That could have a significant impact on global growth, hitting company earnings and reducing demand for commodities.

    Yao said China's economy remains on a sound footing, though some emerging market economies face a possible financial crisis in the years ahead stemming from liquidity stresses if the United States raises rates.

    "So we hope the Federal Reserve could further delay its interest rate rise, giving emerging markets ample time to prepare. The Fed should not only consider the U.S. economy, but should also consider the global economy, which is very fragile," he said in an exclusive interview.

    The Fed, which has been prepping investors for a possible rate hike, declined to comment.

    Fed policymakers acknowledge their actions can stir global markets, but argue they need to stay focused on growth at home.

    "This isn't about us. This is about developments abroad and I think what we have to assess is how those developments abroad potentially could impinge on us," New York Federal Reserve Bank President William Dudley said on Wednesday as he acknowledged the market turmoil had made a U.S. rate hike in September "less compelling."

    Policy insiders have told Reuters that China has been so surprised by the global reaction to its yuan devaluation that it's likely to keep the currency on a tight leash in the near-term to head off any currency war that could spark a broader financial crisis.

    China had said the revamp in its foreign exchange regime that opened the gate for the yuan's sharp decline was an effort to let market forces play a greater role in setting the currency's value.

    Officials in Washington, who had long pressed Beijing to move toward a more market-determined exchange rate, greeted the shift with some scepticism and indicated they would watch to make sure it wasn't meant simply to prop up China's exports.

    Yao said the yuan is likely to see two-way moves in the near term and may resume its appreciation over time. "The [yuan] exchange rate will be basically stable with two-way volatility. We cannot rule out the possibility of yuan appreciation after 2-3 years."

    Still on Track for 7 Percent Annual Growth

    The surprise devaluation of nearly 2 percent on Aug. 11 stoked global concerns about slowing growth in the world's second-biggest economy, coming just days after poor trade data.

    But Yao shrugged off concerns about a possible 'hard landing' in China, saying growth was still underpinned by more resilient services and consumption. "China's economy is in good shape. I'm very confident full-year growth will reach 7 percent," he said.

    Many economists fear China may miss its 7 percent annual growth target as recent data showed the economy, which officially grew at 7 percent in the first half, has lost steam.

    China has plenty of policy room to cope with expected liquidity strains following any U.S. rate rise, Yao said, though he didn't explain why he still urged the Fed to delay any move.

    "China has sufficient policy room and adequate policy tools to respond," he said.

    The People's Bank of China cut interest rates Tuesday and lowered the amount of reserves that banks must hold for the second time in two months, ratcheting up support for a stumbling economy and a plunging stock market.

    The yuan's inclusion in the International Monetary Fund's currency basket, known as Special Drawing Rights, will help ease a shortage of liquidity globally, but may not happen for another 20 years due to China's sustained current account surplus, Yao said.

    "China's high savings rate means China cannot provide liquidity to the world via the current account right now," he said.

    -Jason Lange in Washington and Jonathan Spicer in New York contributed reporting.

     

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    Consumer Sentiment
    Michael Dwyer/AP
    By CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER

    WASHINGTON -- Plummeting stock prices have taken a toll on U.S. consumer confidence, though there are signs the setback may be temporary.

    The University of Michigan says its consumer sentiment index fell to 91.9 this month from 93.1 in July. The index is still up 11.4 percent from a year ago.

    The figures provide an early read of the impact on consumers from the 1,900 point drop in the Dow Jones industrial average over six days through Tuesday. Stock prices have since recovered some of those losses.

    The University of Michigan surveys consumers throughout the month and so some of the responses were tallied as stock prices plunged. The University said it extended its interviews until Aug. 23.

    Many economists were reassured by the limited drop in the index.

    The relatively small adjustment augers well for how consumers are taking the news.

    "The relatively small adjustment augers well for how consumers are taking the news," Tim Quinlan, an economist at Wells Fargo, said.

    The survey also found that Americans remain confident about the U.S. economy and their personal finances.

    Richard Curtin, director of the survey, said the decline in confidence occurred late in the month, as global financial markets fell sharply. The volatility was driven by mounting evidence that China's economy, the world's second largest, is faltering, and by growing uncertainty about the Federal Reserve's next move on interest rates.

    William Dudley, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, said earlier this week that he would watch the University of Michigan's index closely to get a sense of how Americans were reacting.

    The drop is in contrast to the Conference Board's consumer confidence index, which was released earlier this week and found that confidence rose to its highest level in seven months in August. But that survey was completed before the stock market's gyrations.

    About 61 percent of U.S. households own stocks, Curtin said, so plunging stock prices can broadly affect the consumer outlook. Most Americans own equities in their retirement accounts, so the impact of lower stock prices on actual spending is limited. And the dollar value of stock holdings is highly concentrated: the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans own 80 percent of shares.

    As a result, consumer sentiment may bounce back, assuming the stock market stabilizes or recovers. Americans remain optimistic about their own financial health: 45 percent said their financial situation has improved, just below a recent peak of 47 percent in April. And half expect their incomes to increase in the year ahead.

    In contrast to the stock market's violent fluctuations, recent economic data has largely been positive. The economy expanded at a 3.7 percent annual rate in the April-June quarter, the government said Thursday, a much healthier pace than its previous estimate of just 2.3 percent. Stronger consumer and business spending boosted output.

     

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    Couple Behind Ashley Madison
    Eugene Hoshiko/APNoel Biderman, CEO of Avid Life Media, poses during a 2014 photo session.
    By BREE FOWLER

    NEW YORK -- The CEO of the company that runs adultery website Ashley Madison is stepping down in the wake of the massive breach of the company's computer systems and outing of millions of its members.

    The abrupt departure of Noel Biderman, which came without the appointment of an interim replacement, could be another sign that the website's days may be numbered, experts say.

    "Unless they can immediately assure the public that their information is protected, then their business is over," says Lawrence Kellogg, a partner with the law firm Levine Kellogg Lehman Schneider & Grossman, who specializes in class action lawsuits.

    The only reason for an adulterer to join the service is to keep their information private. Absent that, they don't have a business.

    "The only reason for an adulterer to join the service is to keep their information private. Absent that, they don't have a business."

    Kellogg says that if the lawsuits from Ashley Madison members keep piling up, Avid Life Media Inc., Ashley Madison's parent company, may ultimately end up filing for bankruptcy protection.

    And while those who sue the company may have a tough time proving their claims, costs related to the court fights could drain the company dry, he says.

    In its statement, Avid Life says Biderman's departure is effective immediately and was a mutual decision. The company will be led by its senior management until a replacement is named.

    "This change is in the best interest of the company and allows us to continue to provide support to our members and dedicated employees," Avid Life's statement reads. "We are steadfast in our commitment to our customer base."

    Biderman didn't immediately return an email sent to his work account seeking comment.

    Biderman, who touted himself as "the king of infidelity," made millions off the philosophy that cheating is a natural part of married life. The site charges a fee each time a member sends a potential lover a message.

    Biderman has written books espousing his views on adultery, including one published in 2011 titled: "Cheaters Prosper -- How Infidelity Will Save The Modern Marriage." At the same time, the married father of two has claimed to be a devoted husband and that his wife of 12 years would be heartbroken if he ever broke his vows to her.

    Privately held Toronto-based Avid Life grossed $115 million in earnings last year, according to tax documents and figures shared by Biderman with Forbes.

    'Actively Adjusting'

    Avid Life's statement released Friday went on to say that it's "actively adjusting" to the fallout from the hacking and continues to provide access to its services. The company, which has offered a $500,000 Canadian (U.S. $378,204) reward for information leading to the arrest of the hackers, adds that it continues to cooperate with international law enforcement in their investigations.

    While Biderman's departure was a necessary move, it alone won't be enough to save the company, given how much it marketed its promises of confidentiality, says Aaron Gordon, a partner with Schwartz Media Strategies, a Miami-based public relations firm that does crisis management.

    "They can fold up and call it a day, but realize that there's a demand for these kinds of services and that something else will bubble up and take over the market," Gordon says.

    "Or they could rebrand and come back to the market with a new brand centered on trust and security, but not confidentiality."

    Gordon pointed to ValuJet as an example of a company that was able to successfully remake itself after a disaster.

    After a Florida plane crash in 1996 that killed all 110 people aboard, ValuJet bought AirTran, adopted the smaller rival's name and moved its headquarters to Orlando, Florida. The company was subsequently acquired by Southwest Airlines Co. (LUV).

    Fake Profiles

    Hackers originally breached Avid Life's systems in July, accusing it of filling the site with fake profiles and charging fees for wiping profiles that were never truly deleted. The hackers posted the information online a month later after the company didn't comply with their demands to shut down.

    The posting of the data -- including names, emails, home addresses, financial data and message history -- has so far resulted in a flurry of lawsuits throughout the U.S. There also have been reports of extortion attempts and two unconfirmed suicides, according to Canadian police.

    The credit-card information of U.S. government workers -- some with sensitive jobs in the White House, Congress and the Justice Department -- also was revealed in the breach. And hundreds of email addresses in the data release appear to be connected to federal, provincial and municipal workers across Canada.

    Ashley Madison, whose slogan is "Life is short. Have an affair," purports to have nearly 40 million members.

     

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    Federal Reserve
    Susan Walsh/APFederal Reserve Vice Chair Stanley Fischer
    By MARTIN CRUTSINGER

    WASHINGTON -- Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer said Friday that incoming economic data and market developments will likely determine whether the Fed boosts interest rates in September.

    Before the recent turbulence in financial markets, there was a "pretty strong case" for starting to hike rates in September, Fischer said in an interview with CNBC. But he stressed that the Fed is watching how events unfold following the surprise Aug. 11 move by China to devalue its currency.

    The Chinese action has roiled markets around the globe because it raised concerns that the world's second largest economy is sliding into a steeper-than-expected slowdown that could threaten global growth.

    Fischer said that the Chinese slowdown was unlikely to have major direct impact on the U.S. economy. But it could ultimately hurt the U.S. if it dragged down the rest of Asia.

    Central bank officials haven't made a decision yet on whether to raise rates, Fischer said. But he added that they will be closely following data such as next week's jobs report and market moves before the Sept. 16-17 meeting.

    The Fed hasn't raised interest rates in nearly a decade, and its key rate has been at a record low near zero since December 2008.

    Fischer reiterated that once it begins raising rates, the Fed plans to move very slowly and gradually. He said the first hike would likely be a quarter-point increase followed later by another quarter point move.

    "We are adjusting the knob slightly," Fischer said, noting that rates would remain at historically low levels that will continue to provide support through low borrowing costs for consumers and businesses.

    The immediate market reaction to Fischer's comments sent stock prices down slightly and pushed the dollar up -- signals that traders were interpreting Fischer's remarks as boosting the likelihood of a September rate hike.

    Fischer said his "level of confidence is pretty high" that U.S. inflation will move back to the Fed's preferred target of 2 percent annual prices increases. The big drop in energy prices, which has been a major factor keeping inflation below target, was a temporary factor, he said.

    Fischer was interviewed in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where central bank officials from around the world are attending an annual conference sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. Fischer is scheduled to deliver a speech Saturday on inflation to conference participants.

     

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    APTOPIX Financial Markets Wall Street
    Richard Drew/AP
    By Noel Randewich

    NEW YORK -- Wall Street ended a tumultuous week with a flat close Friday as investors shrugged off concerns that a September rate rise was more likely than some investors expected.

    Shares traded lower earlier in the session after Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer told CNBC the Fed hadn't yet decided whether to raise interest rates in September. However, the market largely recovered in the final moments of trade.

    After several volatile sessions that at one point pushed the S&P 500 to its lowest level since October 2014, the three major U.S. indexes ended the week with gains.

    A lot of investors are rebalancing their portfolios before going into the weekend.

    "A lot of investors are rebalancing their portfolios before going into the weekend," said Randy Frederick, managing director of trading and derivatives for Charles Schwab (SCHW) in Austin.

    Many on Wall Street have been hoping the recent global market turbulence and worries about China's economy would lead the Fed to hold off raising rates. This expectation was reinforced Wednesday by comments from New York Fed President William Dudley.

    However, following Fischer's comments Friday, overnight indexed swap rates implied traders now see a 35 percent chance the Fed would raise rates in September, up from 22 percent earlier in the week.

    The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) ended down 0.07 percent at 16,643.01 while the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GSPC) edged up 0.06 percent to 1,988.87. The Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) added 0.3 percent to end at 4,828.33, driven by a 2.5 percent rise in Intel (INTC).

    For the week, the Dow gained 1.1 percent, the S&P rose 0.9 percent and the Nasdaq added 2.6 percent.

    Still in the Red

    The S&P remains down more than 5 percent from when the market began to sell off on Aug. 18. The turmoil has prompted several strategists to cut their end-of-year forecasts for indexes.

    Credit Suisse (CS), for example, cut its year-end target for the S&P 500 to 2,100 from 2,200 Friday.

    Half of the 10 major sectors rose, with the energy index jumping 2 percent as oil added to gains. The utilities index lost 0.4 percent.

    Chevron's (CVX) 3.6 percent gain provided the biggest boost to the Dow and the S&P 500.

    Data released Friday showed consumer spending picked up a bit in July, further evidence of strength in the economy.

    Autodesk (ADSK) dropped 5 percent after the maker of computer-aided design software cut its full-year profit and revenue forecast.

    Big Lots (BIG) was jumped 15.7 percent after its second-quarter profit beat expectations and the company raised its full-year adjusted profit forecast.

    While the Dow and S&P were negative, advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,917 to 1,114. On the Nasdaq, 1,882 issues rose and 877 fell.

    The S&P 500 index showed one new 52-week high and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 21 new highs and 22 new lows. Volume was lighter than in recent days. About 7.8 billion shares traded on U.S. exchanges, compared to an average of 11.2 billion in the past five sessions, according to BATS Global Markets.

    -Tanya Agrawal contributed reporting.

    What to watch Monday:
    • The Institute For Supply Management - Chicago releases its regional purchasing managers index for August at 9:45 a.m. Eastern time.
    • The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas releases its survey of manufacturing conditions in Texas at 10:30 a.m. Eastern time.

     

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    By Ellen Chang

    NEW YORK -- Americans are still woefully lacking in their retirement savings with only 19 percent who are saving more this year compared to last year.

    One in 10 working Americans didn't contribute to their retirement this year or even last year, putting them at risk of not having enough money once they stop working, according to an August survey conducted by Bankrate.com, the North Palm Beach, Florida-based financial content company. The report found that 14 percent of consumers are saving less while 55 percent are saving about the same amount.

    With millions of Americans behind in their retirement savings, it is important not only to save, but to save more each year.

    "With millions of Americans behind in their retirement savings, it is important not only to save, but to save more each year," said Greg McBride, Bankrate.com's chief financial analyst. "Even for those saving the maximum, 401(k) contribution limits increased for 2015, affording the opportunity to put more away for retirement. The keys to successful savings are paying yourself first and automating the process as much as possible."

    The report found that while 14 percent of Americans are currently saving less for retirement, this is a massive improvement from 2011 when 29 percent of Americans were saving less for their golden years.

    The Financial Security Index by Bankrate slipped for a third consecutive month to 101.2 and demonstrates the lowest reading since October 2014. Any number above 100 indicates improved financial security compared to one year ago. The Financial Security Index has been above 100 every month since June 2014, a long streak of 15 consecutive months.

    While feelings of job security rebounded from last month's decline, the readings for each of the other components -- savings, debt, net worth and overall financial situation -- have all declined.

    Women's feelings of financial security turned negative for the first time this year, the report said. While men's feelings remain positive, they tied the lowest reading of the year. Both men and women continue to say they feel less comfortable with their savings now as compared to one year ago. Women's comfort level with the amount of debt also turned negative this month for the first time since December 2014.

    Catching Up on Savings

    Amid the negative sentiment consumers have about their savings, increasing their allocation for their retirement portfolio can be an easy feat.

    The easiest way for the majority of employees to save each month is to sign up for their company's 401(k) plan, which takes the money "automatically from your paycheck and getting it to work for you without having to think about it," said McBride. Many plans now automatically enroll employees into the 401(k) plan and other companies have opted to increase the amount employees save by increasing it each year.

    "The increasing use of auto enrollment and auto escalation in 401(k) plans has helped increase plan participation and increase the amount participants are saving each year," he said. "Auto enrollment defaults new employees into the 401(k) plan without them having to take action and auto escalation increases their deferral percentage by one percentage point each year."

    While many people rely on their company 401(k) to amass a retirement portfolio, consumers whose employers don't offer one should still contribute to an IRA.

    "Even if your employer lacks a 401(k) or similar plan, if you or your spouse have earned income, you are eligible to contribute to an IRA," McBride said. "Particularly if you don't have a workplace plan, grab the bull by the horns and open an IRA. Many mutual fund companies will permit you to open an IRA with regular monthly contributions in lieu of an initial opening investment."

    Investors who are just starting out in their career might not be able to max out their 401(k) or fully fund a Roth IRA, but that shouldn't prevent them from getting started, said J.J. Montanaro, a certified financial planner at USAA, a San Antonio, Texas-based financial institution. Even contributing as little as 1 percent into the plan at work or $50 a month into an IRA can "provide a retirement beachhead that you can expand in time," he said. A Roth IRA also gives investors some flexibility because you have the option to withdraw your contributions without having to pay taxes or penalties anytime.

    Instead of spending your annual tax refund, turn it into retirement savings during the year, Montanaro said.

    Tracking Spending

    "Adjust your withholding and bump up your contribution to your retirement instead of waiting for the big refund that's usually a reality each year for many people," he said. "Before you can save, you've got to know where your money is going, so tracking your spending can actually yield some low hanging fruit and opportunities to cut back or cut out to free up money for retirement."

    Consumers who have improved their credit scores should look into refinancing their mortgages or even car loans. The money saved from paying less interest and lower payments could be allocated toward a retirement portfolio, Montanaro said.

    A recent survey from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling found similar results with nearly 3 in 10 people who don't save any money for retirement. Out of the people who are saving money, 65 percent are stashing it in a savings account and only 30 percent have investments or mutual funds, 29 percent have a 401(k) plan and 25 percent save their money in IRAs. A surprising 9 percent are keeping their savings in their home.

    Learning to cut back on expenses can yield extra money each month that can go towards retirement, said Bruce McClary, spokesman for the NFCC.

    "Living lean is the key to maximizing every opportunity for retirement savings," he said. "Place reasonable limits on discretionary items like eating meals out, trips to the grocery store and use of electricity in the home."

    Also, watch out for unintended fees that you incur from making late payments on utilities or credit cards which add up quickly and leave you with less money for retirement contributions.

    "It is also a good idea to steer clear of unnecessary fees by keeping scheduled medical appointments and practicing safe driving," McClary said. "Limit the use of high interest credit cards by consolidating accounts into the lowest available rate and paying the balances before interest starts to accrue."

     

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    money background of american...
    ShutterstockWith companies seeking to lock in long-term borrowing costs, corporate bonds have gained popularity.
    If it's fizzy, it's iffy. That's the key thing to know about bond funds this week.

    With drama engulfing the stock market, bonds look safe. But all bond funds aren't the same, and analysts say it's imperative to understand what's in a bond fund before shifting money into it -- especially if you are seeking stability.

    Right now, the most unsettled segment in bonds is funds comprised of "illiquid, lower-rated bonds in exchange-traded funds," says Dan Heckman, senior fixed-income strategist at U.S. Bank Wealth Management, based in Kansas City, Missouri. The problem there is that the funds are difficult to value and even harder to sell, but the funds trade minute by minute. That's a profound mismatch, he says, that explains why some of these funds dropped on Monday by as much as 25 percent of their underlying value.

    Another sore spot is foreign bonds, thanks to turmoil in currency markets. "You can pick up some yield, based on the volatility, but that's dangerous until currencies are on firmer ground," Heckman says.

    Attempting to reap high yields through bonds invariably translates to low credit quality, especially in this cycle, and that means those bonds will be more volatile and harder to manage.

    Corporate bonds have been popular recently as companies seek to lock in long-term borrowing costs, says George Rusnak, co-head of fixed-income strategy at Wells Fargo Investment Institute. He anticipates a little bit of fizziness if companies in troubled sectors default, triggering shudders of additional problems. Usually, analysts say, a rush of selling indicates that a category was fizzy, though at that point there's little investors can do but gain insights to apply to the next cycle of high-yield bond excitement.

    Mortgage bonds are one subsector that looks a bit carbonated, Rusnak says. Residential mortgage-backed bonds are less of a worry than bonds backed by commercial properties. "The lending standards are loosened, so there's probably going to be a little more volatility," he says.

    Energy and mining is another sector that has analysts worried. Falling energy commodity prices could result in some corporate defaults. As well, the unusual turmoil in those categories ripples through related categories, such as shipping, which could undermine debt repayment for business partners.

    The current conflagration is a bit of a distraction from the ongoing debate about the existence -- or not -- of a bond bubble.

    The classic definition of a bubble is a disconnect between the underlying value of the bonds and the momentary market value of the bonds or bond fund. "It's when they're not being valued properly in the short term versus what they should be in the long term," Rusnak says. At the moment, rates are very low, compared with norms over the last three decades.

    That's largely because the Federal Reserve and central banks of other major countries have been buying their own countries' bonds. That keeps interest rates low and stable, but it also raises the question of what will happen when the central banks sell those bonds.

    Pent-Up Demand

    "They took bonds from the market last year, but they'll be adding them to the market this year. Will those bonds then flood the market, so prices will be weak? We don't believe that will happen. The Fed is now discussing how it will go about selling those bonds," Rusnak says.

    As well, there's plenty of pent-up demand for Treasury bonds, especially from retiring baby boomers looking for safe investments and institutions craving stable returns. "They'll easily absorb those extra Treasuries coming on board," Rusnak says.

    Corporate bonds and high-yield bonds, though, react more quickly to momentary market trends, Rusnak says, and that's the issue for this week's market.

    Safety can be at odds with risk.

    He's on the lookout for a "liquidity event" within the high-yield bond sector. That could pinch some investors that had temporary amnesia about risk in their pursuit of yield. "We're trying to get people to rethink -- did you buy high-yield bonds because of the income, and did you know about the potential vulnerability?" he says.

    "Safety can be at odds with risk," says Ike N. Ikeme, assistant professor of finance and economics with Salt Lake Community College. For most people, the goal is to maintain the right balance of income, growth and stability for the long haul -- a sustainable strategy that overrides momentary market bumps, he adds.

    Heckman recommends sticking with domestic bonds: Treasury and municipal bonds. Analysts agree that rising interest rates are likely, but say the role of traditional bonds is still invaluable for most individual investors.

    "You have to be very diversified and lean in to credit quality," Heckman says. "You may not like the returns, but you'll like the return of your principal."

     

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    By Marilyn Lewis

    Stockpiling food and water is like buying insurance. Your household may never face a devastating earthquake, a crippling storm, a flu pandemic or other disaster, but if it does, and you are cut off even for a week from food and services, your stored food and water may be priceless to you.

    Beyond Paralysis

    Many of us are paralyzed by the job of home emergency planning. We have good intentions, but it's hard to plan for the unknown in any case and even harder to imagine an extraordinary event. If your money is tight, it's understandably difficult to spend it on food you might not ever need. And where will you find room for all those emergency supplies, anyway?

    Fortunately, none of these obstacles is insurmountable. You don't have to do it all at once. Here are 14 easy ways to jump-start your process and get going:

    1. Set a goal. Begin by deciding how much you ultimately want to store. Should you aim for three days' worth of supplies? Or three weeks? Or three months? Advice varies, depending on the kind of emergency that might strike where you live and how long you anticipate being cut off from supplies.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that a flu pandemic is bound to hit eventually, and so it advises stockpiling a two-week supply of food and water:

    Although the flu pandemic may last several months, buy and store at least two weeks' supply of food, water, medicine and face masks. (Food and supplies may be hard to get during a pandemic.) When you have to stay home, these supplies will support your family and pets.

    On the website for Latah County, Idaho, a writer calling herself "Average Concerned Mom" describes her plan for a two-week stockpile (although a six-to-12-week supply is ideal, she says) for households on a limited budget and with limited space.

    2. Start small. Make it cheap and easy to get started by setting your initial goal low. Just aim at first for enough food to keep your household going for three days, for instance. When you hit that goal, you can keep going, moving the goalposts to one or two weeks. Keep it up until you've reached your ultimate goal, whether it's two weeks, three months or three years.

    3. Stockpile water. The Federal Emergency Management Agency says a normally active person will drink two quarts of water a day. You'll need more than that, though. The CDC recommends storing one gallon a day for each person and each pet. Set a goal of stockpiling at least a two weeks' supply of water.

    If you have to choose, it's better to stockpile water than food. Both are necessary, of course. However, humans can make it for three weeks without food but only for three days without water, says LiveScience.

    4. Store your water safely. "Unopened commercially bottled water is the safest and most reliable emergency water supply," says the CDC, which offers these storage tips:

    • If you use store-bought water, check expiration dates and replace regularly.
    • Replace water you've stored yourself every six months.
    • Keep a bottle of unscented liquid chlorine bleach with your water supply for cleaning and sanitizing and for disinfecting water.
    • Don't use scented bleach or types with color-safe or cleaning additives. Look for a bleach label that says the product is safe for disinfecting water.
    5. Make a 72-hour emergency kit. Rebecca Mongrain, a news writer with Seattle's KOMO News, started on her stockpile by building a 72-hour emergency kit that fits easily in a compact space. She includes a useful list of nonfood supplies she put in the kit and points to the Red Cross' online store, which sells emergency kits and supplies.

    6. Buy everything at once. If you have the money and space, one way to go is to purchase a large amount of commercially prepared emergency supplies. A few examples: 7. Invest in these foods. Eating from a stockpile can get boring. Real Simple lists great foods to include that are nutritionally dense, provide a lot of food value for the bulk, are tasty and need no cooking. The list includes: peanut butter, whole wheat crackers, nuts and trail mix, power bars and granola bars, dried fruit and canned meat, tuna, vegetables, chili and beans, sports drinks, sugar, pepper and salt, powdered milk and multivitamins.

    8. Include seeds for sprouting. Seeds, beans and nuts for sprouting are a good addition to your stockpile. Snapguide tells how to sprout fresh greens in a Mason jar. Vegetarian Times lists seeds and nuts that make good sprouts. Noting that sprouts can become contaminated with dangerous bacteria such as E. coli, the article tells how to safely make and consume sprouts.

    9. See trouble? Stock up on these items. If you see trouble coming and are able to buy fresh foods, Real Simple recommends these items that store well in a cool, dry, dark place: apples, citrus, winter squashes, unripe avocados, potatoes, sweet potatoes and yams, unripe tomatoes and dry salami, which lasts up to six weeks without refrigeration.

    10. Buy dried foods for the long haul. Cans and granola bars are fine for the short term. But stockpiling economically for weeks or months means you'll need to include dried grains, powdered milk and dehydrated vegetables and fruits.

    Latah County's Concerned Mom's plan (on page 6 of her article) includes a list of ingredients to nutritiously feed two adults and two children for two weeks. The entire supply fits in a 66-gallon storage box, including these five groups of foods:
    • Starches. Rice, flour, cornmeal, pasta, dried potatoes and oatmeal, for example.
    • Proteins. Like beans, lentils, dried milk, canned fish and meat, seeds, nuts, dry cheese, boxed tofu, powdered eggs and powdered cheese.
    • Vitamin foods. Canned tomatoes and pumpkin, dried vegetables and fruit.
    • Vitamins.
    • Flavorings. Cooking oils, chocolate, jam, salsa, seasonings, yeast and spices, for instance.
    Using this system, Concerned Mom suggests starting your stockpile by making one two-week box. As money and space permit, you can add identical boxes, building the stockpile two weeks at a time.

    11. Economize by buying in bulk. To stockpile affordably, shop around, comparing costs. Food cooperatives, buying clubs and warehouse stores all are good sources for lower prices. Shop sales and learn where to get discounts for bulk purchases. Walmart sells bulk quantities of emergency foods like mixes for bread and pancakes, dehydrated onions, powdered honey and butter and dehydrated stews.

    12. Stockpile protein bars. An odd but possibly practical approach is stockpiling protein bars. They cost around $2 each. U.S. News writes about a Baltimore couple who:

    ... eat a Quest protein bar from GNC every three hours from the time they wake up until they go to bed. They started this habit in April, and he's lost 78 pounds so far.

    They also eat Power Pak pudding once a day, which contains 30 grams of protein per can and less than 200 calories. The protein bars have 20 grams of protein and less than 200 calories. They estimate that they spend less than $400 per month on food and drinks, saving money by buying in bulk during sales.

    13. Economical supplies of dried foods. Dried foods may not be the tastiest items you'll eat in an emergency, but they provide concentrated nutrition and can be purchased less expensively in bulk. They are long-lasting when kept dry and consume less space than cans.

    14. Rotate stored foods. To make sure your stored food is safe and nutritious when you need it, pay attention to the shelf life of each item. Rotate foods near the end of their shelf life by using them in your kitchen and adding fresh foods to the stockpile.

    Properly prepared and stored, food can last a long time. Some examples:
    • Manufactured emergency supplies. Manufacturer Mountain House, for example, says its buckets and pouches of emergency food last 12 years when handled correctly and its #10 cans last 25 years.
    • Dry staples. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), on its site encouraging stockpiling food and food safety, says staples such as wheat, white rice, and beans last 30 years when packaged and stored correctly. Nonfat milk and dehydrated carrots have a 20-year shelf life. Other foods -- vegetable oil, for example -- should be rotated every year or two.
    • Cans. "Most expiration dates on foods in cans range from one to four years -- but keep the food in a cool, dark place and the cans undented and in good condition, and you can likely safely double that shelf life from three to up to six years," says Mens Health.
    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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    Food Katrina Restaurant Scene
    Max Becherer/APNames restaurant owner Hieu Doan talks with customers in New Orleans. The Vietnamese restaurant infuses the famous flavors of New Orleans with traditional Asian favorites.
    By REBECCA SANTANA

    NEW ORLEANS -- Talk to folks on the street about the "holy trinity" and you're as likely to get a lesson on onions, celery and peppers as you are Catholicism. That's New Orleans, a city where eating has long been a serious business.

    But 10 years ago, that seemed imperiled. Hurricane Katrina and the levee breaches that flooded the coast threatened that rich culinary history. Restaurants were shuttered amid the chaos and destruction; waiters, bartenders and chefs -- along with the institutional memory of the cuisine they held -- dispersed across the country; customers were nowhere in sight.

    There would be restaurants again, of course. But many wondered whether the food scene truly could recover and return.

    It has indeed. Since Katrina, the city's food scene not only recovered, it grew. And it changed, becoming more ethnically diverse.

    I don't know if there has ever been a transformation of an inner city in the U.S. quite like this one.

    "I don't know if there has ever been a transformation of an inner city in the U.S. quite like this one, and it's really a story told through food," said New Orleans restaurateur and celebrity chef John Besh.

    He's seen and often led the resurgence. When Katrina hit, he ran two restaurants, had 124 employees and plenty of debt. Worried he'd have to close, he nonetheless pitched in, feeding red beans and rice to first responders and others for free. But he didn't close, and today he has 12 restaurants, about 1,000 employees and has another cookbook, "Besh Big Easy," that focuses on New Orleans recipes coming out in September.

    And Besh is just one example. The U.S. Census Bureau reports there are 11 percent more restaurants in the metro area than in 2005 -- even though the population is smaller than pre-Katrina. Tom Fitzmorris, who wrote "Hungry Town" detailing the comeback of the city's restaurant scene post-Katrina, has kept a detailed count of the number of independent sit-down restaurants in the city. By his count, there are roughly 1,400, about 600 more than before.

    Not surprisingly, the established powerhouses of New Orleans cuisine -- Commander's Palace, Galatoire's and Antoine's, where you can get classics like turtle soup, shrimp etouffee and bread pudding with warm whiskey sauce -- weathered the storm and thrived. But the growth is coming in more casual, mid-range restaurants, and it's fueled largely by a rebound in tourism as well as an influx of millennials seeking an affordable city with culture.

    The cuisine also has evolved. Restaurants serving Vietnamese food and Latin American food, previously found mostly in enclaves off the beaten track, have become mainstream and upscale. Restaurants like MoPho, Mint and Namese sell the traditional pho, but also Vietnamese tacos and basil-lemon grass martinis.

    When people dispersed after Katrina, they were exposed to new cuisines, then brought those flavors back when they returned, said Amy Sins, chef at Langlois, a cross between cooking school and dinner party. She and her staff prepare Creole and Cajun food that goes far beyond the traditional gumbo and jambalaya. A recent meal featured cold smoked rib-eye with mojo verde sauce, cold corn soup and Canary Island potatoes -- reflecting the city's Spanish and Caribbean influences.

    Food Katrina Restaurant Scene
    Gerald Herbert/APChip Apperson, left, stands outside his High Hat Cafe with his head chef, Jeremy Wolgamott, on Freret Street in New Orleans.
    Food is ever-evolving in New Orleans, said Sins, who pointed out the influence of Germans (sausages) and Sicilians (canned tomatoes) on the city. The next transition? Honduran food reflecting more recent immigrants, she said.

    "We have this internal conflict," said Sins. "We want to hold on and preserve and embrace but we're kind of excited about the new things that we get to try."

    The geography of the food scene also has expanded. At High Hat Cafe on Freret Street, diners dig into shrimp Creole accompanied by summer squash fritters and followed by a slice of peach and fig pie. Don't want to choose between whipped cream or ice cream? You get both. High Hat, with its catfish baskets, fried chicken and Delta hot tamales, is now one of the anchors on a street that years ago was a culinary ghost town.

    "The renaissance has happened faster than we thought it would," said High Hat co-owner Chip Apperson.

    Not that any of this has been easy. Chefs and restaurateurs across the city say life has become more financially difficult for their staffs. At Maurepas Foods in the Bywater, chef Michael Doyle said wages have remained stagnant as rents have skyrocketed, forcing many people to live father from their jobs.

    Chefs also mourn the restaurants that didn't survive. Besh used to take visiting chefs to Mandich on St. Claude Ave., but they never reopened. Neither did Christian's, a Mid-City restaurant in a former church. Doyle said many of the neighborhood places that served hot lunches and daily specials also didn't survive. "We definitely lost a lot of places that were the foundations, and I worry about that," he said.

    For now, the restaurant boom has only one outpost in the Lower 9th Ward, one of the city's hardest-hit neighborhoods. Longtime resident Keisha Henry opened Cafe Dauphine with relatives -- marking a rare sit-down restaurant in an area that traditionally has had only corner stores and takeout.

    As the Katrina anniversary approaches, she wants people to realize that some areas of the city are still recovering. But in her corner of the ward, where local families gather for a Sunday brunch of well-seasoned New Orleans home cuisine, she also wants people to realize there's a growing community here as well.

    "I feel like we deserve the finest things just like anybody else," she said.

     

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    Forbes' 2015 Philanthropy Summit Awards Dinner
    Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty ImagesWarren Buffett speaks during the Forbes' 2015 Philanthropy Summit Awards Dinner in June.
    By Laurie Kulikowski

    NEW YORK -- When it comes to Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathway (BRK-A), the numbers are often mind-boggling: $70 billion net worth; shares that sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars each; dozens of portfolio companies and more.

    To top it all off, Berkshire Hathaway is getting even bigger, with the $37.2 billion purchase of Precision Castparts announced less than three weeks ago: It's the biggest deal yet for Buffett, who turns 85 on Sunday.

    If you're feeling a bit overwhelmed, here's a handy visual guide to bring some of those numbers back down to earth. Below, you'll find a bevy of Buffett facts culled by our editors, and organized into a neat infographic that you can save and share. It's a ready reference to key dates in the 85-year life of the "Oracle of Omaha" and his company, along with key statistics and the company's biggest investments.

    Have other facts you'd like to see visualized? Let us know in the comments below.
    TheStreet.com

     

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    Hackers Release Confidential Member Information From The Ashley Madison Infidelity Website
    Carl Court/Getty Images
    TORONTO -- Hundreds of thousands of people signed up for infidelity website Ashley Madison in the last week, parent company Avid Life Media said Monday, even after hackers leaked data about millions of its clients.

    The company also struck back at reports that the site had few genuine female users, saying internal data released by hackers had been incorrectly analyzed.

    "Recent media reports predicting the imminent demise of Ashley Madison are greatly exaggerated," the company said in a statement. "Despite having our business and customers attacked, we are growing."

    Recent media reports predicting the imminent demise of Ashley Madison are greatly exaggerated.

    On Aug. 18, hackers who claimed to be unhappy with Avid Life's business practices released Ashley Madison customer data. A second data dump contained thousands of emails and other company documents. Reuters hasn't independently verified the authenticity of the data, emails or documents.

    Last week, tech blog Gizmodo published a widely cited analysis of the customer data. It said thousands of users had listed email addresses that ended with ashleymadison.com and that very few, about 1,500, female members had ever checked the site for messages.

    Avid Life said Monday that an unnamed reporter had wrongly concluded that the number of active female members on Ashley Madison could be calculated based on assumptions about the meaning of fields contained in the leaked data.

    "Last week alone, women sent more than 2.8 million messages within our platform," Avid Life said, adding that 87,596 women had also signed up for Ashley Madison last week.

    On Friday, Avid Life said Chief Executive Officer Noel Biderman had left the company by mutual agreement.

    For at least three years before the publication of details about its members, Avid Life had been struggling to sell itself or raise funds, according to internal documents and emails that hackers also released. (Reporting by Allison Martell;

     

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    Is Cheap Gas Worth the Trip?
    Driving around for cheap gas doesn't always take your budget the extra mile. Here's when you should make the trip.

    If you're filling up you're tank and saving 10 cents per gallon, it's probably worth taking the detour. However, if you're only filling up the tank half way, and prices are only 3 cents cheaper, you're likely not saving much time or money.

    So, incorporate nearby gas stations during your day instead of going out of your way. If you're smart about where you fill up, your bank account won't have to run on empty.

    View Poll

     

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    Fiat Chrysler
    Carlos Osorio/AP2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk
    DETROIT -- Fiat Chrysler (FCAU) is recalling 206,668 Jeep Cherokee SUVs because the windshield wipers can stop working unexpectedly.

    Cherokees from the 2014 model year are affected. There are 158,671 in the U.S., 18,366 in Canada and 3,582 in Mexico. The rest were sold outside North America.

    Fiat Chrysler says static buildup may occur if the wipers are used when it's dry. Static buildup can affect the module that powers the wipers and potentially disable them.

    The company says it's not aware of any accidents or injuries related to the issue.

    Customers will be notified and dealers will repair the vehicles for free.

     

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    Will Fed Raise Rates in September?

    By Jeff Cox

    For months, Federal Reserve officials have been urging investors to shift their focus from the timing of rate hikes to the path the central bank expects to take toward normalcy.

    In effect, they've been trying to quell speculation over whether they vote to move in September, that it really doesn't matter when the rate-hiking cycle begins because it's going to happen slowly no matter what.

    That's wrong.

    The date for liftoff will matter tremendously, particularly if the central bank's Open Market Committee decides to move in a month that's likely to be a highly volatile one for financial markets. And if we've learned one thing from this supposedly data-dependent Fed, the most important data point of all is how markets react.

    September is setting up as a difficult month for a variety of reasons: Expected continued volatility in stocks, weak corporate sales figures and an economy likely to give back at least some of the gains it achieved in the second quarter.

    Throw in some fairly daunting historical trends and it probably adds up to a Fed that stays on hold still longer in the midst of an unprecedented nearly seven-year run of zero interest rates.

    Low consumer price inflation as the Fed prefers to measure it provides plenty of cover for the Fed to talk a lot and do nothing.

    "The Fed's foremost goal is to support asset prices, and recent market volatility is likely to make the Fed cautious," David Santschi, CEO of market data firm TrimTabs, said in his weekly report for clients Monday. "Low consumer price inflation as the Fed prefers to measure it provides plenty of cover for the Fed to talk a lot and do nothing."

    Equity market volatility increased a record 36.4 percent last week, according to Goldman Sachs (GS), as investors contemplated global economic softness, particularly in China, against a backdrop of potential Fed tightening in September.

    Though the week ended up being a tale of two markets -- plunges in the first two days, rallies in the next two and a flat Friday -- Monday started on a rough note and was threatening that August would be the worst month since May 2010, when the Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) slumped nearly 8 percent.

    Bad Augusts frequently lead to bad Septembers, and in this case a particularly difficult backdrop for the Fed.

    "Is the worst behind us? Possibly not. On Tuesday, we start a month with a bad reputation," Sam Stovall, U.S. equity strategist at S&P Capital IQ, said in a note to clients Monday. "September is the only month in which the S&P 500 (^GSPC) fell more frequently than it rose."

    That's bad enough in itself, but here's another statistic from Stovall: In Augusts when the index fell more than 5 percent (it was down 6 percent by around lunchtime Monday) September followed with a decline 80 percent of the time, with the average drop almost 4 percent.

    The rest of the macro picture doesn't get any better.

    While corporate profits overall in the second quarter ended up just above flat, the third quarter is expected to show a decline of about 4 percent, according to the latest numbers from S&P Capital IQ that are heading still lower. At the beginning of the year, quarterly earnings were projected to rise more than 6 percent for the period, so even if companies beat expectations by the usual 3 or 4 percentage points, that still makes for a dismal quarter.

    Missed Opportunity

    The broader economic outlook isn't much better, either. After a second quarter where gross domestic product unexpectedly jumped 3.7 percent, the third quarter is tracking at just a 1.2 percent gain, according to the latest reading from the Atlanta Fed. A stronger dollar, the slowdown in China and notoriously volatile payroll growth figures from August further compound things.

    In short, the Fed appears to have missed its window for raising rates.

    Since the officially stated end of the Great Recession in 2009, corporate profits had been steadily climbing, albeit amid slow revenue gains, the stock market had soared more than 210 percent and GDP growth held around 2 to 2.5 percent while the economy has been adding jobs at a regular clip. During that time, the Fed chose to keep rates anchored near zero while pumping in $3.7 trillion of liquidity through its monthly bond-buying program called quantitative easing.

    The climate for a rate increase could well be better later in 2015 or in early 2016, but September appears to be creating the perfect storm of headwinds for a Fed move.

    "Although we continue to see economic activity in the U.S. as solid and justifying modest rate hikes, we believe the Federal Reserve is unlikely to begin a hiking cycle in this environment for fear that such a move may further destabilize markets," Barclays economists said in a note last week in which they pushed the expected date for hiking out to March 2016. "Given the uncertainty around the current global outlook, the timing of the rate hike seems more uncertain than usual."

     

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    Financial Markets Wall Street
    Richard Drew/AP
    By Noel Randewich

    NEW YORK -- Wall Street ended lower Monday and wrapped up its worst month since 2012 after a senior Federal Reserve official heightened fears among investors of a potential U.S. interest hike in September.

    Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer said Saturday that U.S. inflation would likely rebound as pressure from the dollar fades, allowing the Fed to raise interest rates gradually.

    Many analysts took Fischer's comments as a sign the Fed would raise rates in September, instead of December. That shook investors who were already jumpy after weeks of turbulence caused by concerns about a stumbling Chinese economy.

    What you see in the market today is caused by Fischer's comments over the weekend.

    "What you see in the market today is caused by Fischer's comments over the weekend. If they move in September, it's going to cast a lot of doubt about where they will stop," said Stephen Massocca, chief investment officer at Wedbush Equity Management in San Francisco.

    Fischer's remarks at the global central banking conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, suggested the Fed doesn't see the recent stock market drop and concerns about China as reasons that would keep it from raising rates.

    A decade of near-zero interest rates has helped the U.S. stock market stage a spectacular bull-run since the financial crisis and investors are worried those gains many end once rates start to climb.

    The CBOE Volatility index, known as Wall Street's "fear gauge," rose about 9.1 percent to 28.43, above its long-term average of 20. It spiked to as high as 53.29 last week.

    Investors will keep a sharp eye Friday on the Labor Department's monthly jobs report, which will be the last one before the Fed meets Sept. 16-17.

    "We can still expect to see some significant drops in the market until we get some direction from the Fed regarding a rate increase," said John DeClue, chief investment officer of U.S. Bank Wealth Management.

    The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) lost 0.7 percent to end at 16,528.03 points and the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GSPC) fell 0.8 percent to 1,972.18. The Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) dropped 1.1 percent to 4,776.51.

    Nine of the 10 major S&P sectors were lower with the health index's 1.85 percent fall leading the decliners.

    Energy Gains

    The S&P energy index rose 1.1 percent and was on track for its best four-day gain in seven years, boosted by ConocoPhillips (COP) and Phillips 66.

    Crude oil prices jumped after data indicated surprise cuts to U.S. oil production and as OPEC said it was ready to talk to other producers about the recent drop in prices.

    In August, the S&P lost 6.3 percent, the Dow fell 6.6 percent and the Nasdaq declined 6.9 percent.

    On Monday, Celgene (CELG) fell 4.8 percent, weighing the most on the S&P 500. Phillips 66 (PSX) rose 2.4 percent after Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-B) disclosed a $4.48 billion stake in the oil refiner.

    Declining issues outnumbered advancers on the NYSE by 1,724 to 1,339. On the Nasdaq, 1,432 issues fell and 1,380 advanced.

    The S&P 500 index showed one new 52-week high and two new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 24 new highs and 22 new lows.

    -Tanya Agrawal contributed reporting.

    What to watch Tuesday:
    • Automakers release vehicle sales data for August.
    • At 10 a.m. Eastern time, the Institute for Supply Management releases its manufacturing index for August, and the Commerce Department releases construction spending for July.
    Earnings Season
    These selected companies are scheduled to release quarterly financial results:
    • Dollar Tree (DLTR)
    • H&R Block (HRB)

     

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