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    woman lying in bed sleepless at ...
    Shutterstock
    By Brian O'Connell

    NEW YORK -- Halloween is still six weeks away, but Americans don't need a horror-themed holiday to mull over some frights on the personal financial front.

    Having enough money for retirement, covering college costs, stashing enough cash away for long-term care -- all, and more, are issues that can keep average Americans up at night.

    The financial news and advice website GOBankingRates.com has broken the money "scare factor" down into a list of the financial issues that are both the biggest frights, and the biggest priorities, for U.S. adults.

    As part of the site's 2015 Life + Money survey, here are some of the most troubling financial factors keeping U.S. consumers pacing the floor at 3 a.m.
    • Always living paycheck to paycheck is the No. 1 financial fear of Americans today, followed by living in debt "forever."
    • 20 percent of people say their biggest money challenge is "sticking to a budget."
    • 20 percent of Americans say "planning for retirement is their primary financial focus."
    • More women than men say their "number one" thought is money.
    • Men are more afraid than women of "losing money in the stock market, losing their jobs and not being able to retire."
    • Women are "more fearful" of always living paycheck to paycheck than men (25 percent vs. 18 percent).
    • Planning for retirement is "more of a financial challenge for men than it is for women "(20 percent vs. 17 percent).
    An interesting takeaway from that study, and from conversations the MainStreet recently had with other financial industry professionals, is that fear actually extends out over the long term, with retirement and long-term medical care huge, anxiety-provoking issues among U.S. adults.

    "The biggest fears I see include having to rely on your kids to support you in your old age and having to live in a dirty, dark nursing home," says Laurie Itkin, a San Diego, California-based financial adviser and founder of the financial advice website The Options Lady. "You'd also have to include losing everything in a divorce, and having to sell your home at a loss because you need the money."

    Katherine Gauthier, a Baton Rouge, Lousiana, single mother has both short-and long-term financial fears that any single parent can relate to. "At the top of my list is catastrophic illness, or an injury of my child or myself that demands all of my income and restricts my ability to earn," she says. "As a single parent, there's always the threat of discovering yet more unknown debt that my ex left me ultimately responsible for by defaulting, as Louisiana is a community property state."

    "I never forget that I am one downsizing move or one car accident away from losing financial stability -- that's my reality," Gauthier adds.

    Medical care that could drain a bank or retirement account, even for consumers with health care coverage, is also a common fear among average Americans. "Everyone says the biggest fear is outliving their money, but that's not true," says Alan N. Canton, founder of A.N. Canton Insurance Services, in Fair Oaks, California.

    If people have to live on half of what they have now, they do adjust -- they become vegetarians or move to city where no car is needed, or relocate to a place where the cost of living is low, Canton says. "The real fear is that people will get sick and lose all of their money to the medical system and end up on welfare," he adds. "Sure, they have Medicare, but many don't find out until it is too late that Medicare does not pay 100 percent of everything, and that there are some major gaps."

    Losing a job and having to find a new one, especially at an older age, also haunts Main Street Americans. "Being unable to find a job after being dismissed from one is a big threat," says William L. Seavey, owner of a bed-and-breakfast in Cambria, California. "Older workers are not likely to be able to play the new social media game well when it comes to job seeking."

    Clearly, bogeymen living under your bed are no match for the real financial fear factors in regular Americans' lives -- not having enough cash in retirement, the inability to pay for medical care, and loss of a job, among others. With Halloween now on the horizon, those are the income issues real nightmares are made of.

     

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    iPhone 5 Launch
    Nati Harnik/AP
    By BARBARA ORTUTAY

    NEW YORK -- Each year, Apple dazzles its devoted fans with faster, sleeker, more powerful iPhones with better cameras and a bevy of bells and whistles. So, what's to become of last year's model?

    Instead of sentencing it to a lonely existence in a desk drawer, there are plenty of ways to reuse, recycle or resell older phones. Here are a few:

    Donate to Charity

    Several charities accept old phones for donation, though it's worth remembering that these groups probably won't physically give your old phones to people in need. Rather, they work with phone recyclers and sell your donated phones to them.

    A nonprofit group called Cell Phones for Soldiers will take your "gently used" phone and sell it to a recycling company. It will then use the proceeds to buy international calling cards for soldiers so they can talk to their loved ones back home.

    The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence works in a similar manner. About 60 percent of the phones it collects are refurbished and resold. The money goes toward supporting the coalition. The remaining 40 percent of the phones are recycled, according to the group's website. It pays for shipping if you are mailing three or more phones. The group also accepts other electronics such as laptops, video game systems and digital cameras.

    $ell for $ome Ca$h

    You can always join the eBay (EBAY) hordes and sell your phone on the site for a few hundred bucks, if you are lucky. There will likely be a flood of the gadgets soon after people start getting their new phones, so it might make sense to wait a little.

    There are also plenty of other options. A company called Gazelle will make an offer for your old phone based on its condition, your phone carrier and other information. For example, a 64 gigabyte iPhone 6 on AT&T (T) in good condition (no cracks, major scratches or scuffs, turns on and makes calls), would get you $305 this week. The same phone on Sprint (S), meanwhile, would rake in $220.

    Glyde.com also offers to help you resell your old phone. A recent check showed the same iPhone, with charger included, getting you $376.10 -- provided there is a buyer.

    Trade In for Something Else

    Apple will give you store credit for old devices that you can then use for new gadgets. You can do this in a retail store or online, where you'll get an estimate before mailing in your phone. An online check for the phone above yielded an estimated $325 Apple Store gift card this week.

    The video game retailer GameStop (GME), meanwhile, offers cash or store credit for old iPhones (along with iPods and iPads).

    Reuse, Repurpose

    Even without cellular service, you old phone will be able to get on Wi-Fi, so you can use it to stream music, post on Facebook (FB) or do pretty much anything else you want provided you are in Wi-Fi range. Keep it for yourself, or load it up with kid-friendly apps and games and hand it down to your children.

     

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    Producer Prices
    Stephan Savoia/APWorkers at athletic shoemaker New Balance's manufacturing facility in Boston.
    By Lucia Mutikani

    WASHINGTON -- U.S. consumer sentiment hit its lowest in a year in early September and producer prices were flat in August, signaling moderate economic growth and tame inflation that could weigh on the Federal Reserve's decision whether to hike interest rates next week.

    The slump in consumer sentiment and persistently weak inflation reported Friday are in stark contrast with a tightening labor market. Sentiment was likely undermined by recent stock market volatility amid worries over China's slowing economy, while a strong dollar is dampening price pressures.

    "The sharp deterioration in consumer confidence and the re-emergence of the disinflationary thrust in goods prices will factor prominently in the Fed's deliberations next week, and both are likely to add to the case for caution as they consider raising rates," said Millan Mulraine, deputy chief economist at TD Securities in New York.

    The University of Michigan said its consumer sentiment index fell to 85.7 early this month, the lowest since September last year, from a reading of 91.9 in August.

    The survey's gauge of consumer expectations also dropped to a one-year low, as households expected slower growth overseas to hit the U.S. economy. Consumers' expectations for current and future personal finances also took a knock.

    But even as households took a dim view of the economy's outlook, there were only mild declines in sentiment towards motor vehicle and home purchases.

    "We look to the final September survey results for any evidence of significant pass-through from weaker sentiment to actual purchasing activity, but expect robust income and job growth to outweigh these factors in actual consumption data," said Jesse Hurwitz, an economist at Barclays in New York.

    In a separate report, the Labor Department said its producer price index was unchanged in August after gaining 0.2 percent in July. The drag on producer prices from lower crude oil prices and a buoyant dollar was offset by an increase in margins for apparel, footwear and accessories retailing.

    In the 12 months through August, the PPI fell 0.8 percent after a similar decline in July. It was the seventh straight 12-month decrease in the index.

    Fed's Conundrum

    The ebb in consumer sentiment and benign price pressures despite a rapidly tightening labor market pose a dilemma for Fed officials who are contemplating raising rates for the first time in nearly a decade.

    Though job openings are at a record high and the unemployment rate is at a 7½-year low, wage gains have been lackluster. Tepid wage growth and dollar strength have combined to keep inflation well below the Fed's 2 percent target.

    The U.S. central bank's policy-setting committee meets Sept. 16-17. The likelihood of a lift-off in the Fed's benchmark overnight interest rate has been diminished by recent financial market turbulence.

    Stocks on Wall Street were trading lower on the data. Investor sentiment was also hurt after Goldman Sachs said crude oil prices could fall to as low as $20 a barrel, citing oversupply and concerns over China's economy.

    The dollar was little changed against a basket of currencies and prices for U.S. government debt rose.

    Producer inflation is likely to remain muted in the near term after a report Thursday showed import prices fell 1.8 percent in August, the largest drop since January.

    The index for final goods fell 0.6 percent last month, with a 7.7 percent decline in gasoline prices accounting for nearly two-thirds of the drop. There also were decreases in the cost of jet fuel, grains, light motor trucks, and iron and steel scrap.

    The volatile trade services component, which mostly reflects profit margins at retailers and wholesalers, shot up 0.9 percent in August after rising 0.4 percent in the prior month.

    Almost half of the increase in August was attributed to a 7 percent surge in margins for apparel, footwear and accessories retailing.

    A key measure of underlying producer price pressures that excludes food, energy and trade services edged up 0.1 percent in August after rising 0.2 percent in July.

    The dollar's 17.5 percent rise against the currencies of the United States' main trading partners since June 2014 is restraining gains in the so-called core PPI. Core PPI was up 0.7 percent in the 12 months through August.

    -Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss contributed reporting from New York.

     

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    US-IT-APPLE-NEWS-FEED
    Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty ImagesEddie Cue, senior vice president of Internet software and services for Apple, speaks Wednesday during a media event in San Francisco.
    There were plenty of winners and losers this week, with the world's largest consumer electronics company introducing plenty of shiny new gadgetry and a once high-flying yoga apparel retailer stumbling in its latest quarter.

    Apple (AAPL) -- Winner

    Wall Street wasn't impressed with Apple's iPhone 6s event Wednesday. The stock actually fell on the day. However, Apple had one of its more productive media events in some time. It obviously introduced the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus with an upgraded processor, camera and display. It also introduced an updated Apple TV, the iPad pro and nifty $99 stylus to go with the new high-end tablet.

    Apple also launched a clever in-house iPhone upgrade program, taking what many wireless carriers are doing but making it its own. It was a great day for Apple to shine, even if the stock chart says otherwise.

    Lululemon Athletica (LULU) -- Loser

    If quarterly reports were yoga positions, the latest financials out of Lululemon would have to be a downward-facing dog. Shares of the high-end yoga apparel retailer took a hit Thursday after it posted a rough report.

    Sales were weak, margins contracted, and inventory levels ballooned. The spike in inventory suggests that Lululemon is going to have to do some discounting to get its merchandise stock down to a reasonable level. The chain also lowered its fiscal guidance.

    Stephen Colbert -- Winner

    David Letterman's replacement at CBS (CBS) is off to a strong start. Stephen Colbert took over Tuesday as host of "Late Show," drawing 6.6 million viewers. That may not seem like a lot of homes tuning in, but keep in mind that it was more than twice the viewership of any rival's late-night audience. It was also three times what Letterman himself drew a year earlier and a lot more than Colbert was drawing at Comedy Central.

    The real challenge here is to see if he can keep it going. That's no easy task in the competitive late-night market, but at least Colbert and CBS are kicking things off the right way.

    United Continental (UAL) -- Loser

    There's turbulence at a major air carrier. United Continental CEO Jeff Smisek resigned this week. Given the federal probe surrounding the airline's dealings with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, it isn't a surprise.

    Moving on could be seen as a smart move, but the abrupt departure leaves investors with even more questions and doubts about the situation.

    Keurig Green Mountain (GMCR) -- Winner

    Sales of Keurig's single-cup brewers may have peaked -- judging by the surprising dip in sales in its most recent quarter -- so Keurig Green Mountain is turning to a new brew. Keurig is teaming up with Campbell Soup (CPB) to roll out soups that come in the form of K-Cups, just like Keurig coffee, tea and hot cocoa. The brewed broth is accompanied with packets that are stirred in containing noodles, spices and other garnishes.

    The partnership is old news: It was originally announced two years ago. However, the new Campbell soups will improve the value proposition of owning a Keurig. It's not just about morning beverages anymore, justifying the initial investment for the brewer.

    Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Keurig Green Mountain. The Motley Fool owns and recommends Apple and Lululemon Athletica. The Motley Fool recommends Keurig Green Mountain. 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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    Shutterstock
    By Ellen Chang

    NEW YORK -- Student loan borrowers can expect the interest rates of their current private loans to rise slightly once the Federal Reserve increases rates.

    Although it is uncertain how much the Fed plans to hike interest rates, many experts have said they believe it will be 0.25 percent. While some experts still predict the rate hike won't take place until 2016, others say a hike could still occur this fall. The good news is that the majority of borrowers will only see a minimal increase in their monthly payments unless a particular graduate borrowed larger amounts.

    "A potential Fed rate increase of 0.25 percent wouldn't have much of an impact on the monthly payment for the average student loan borrower," said Bruce McClary, spokesperson for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization.

    Students do not react to rate changes the way auto or homebuyers might, because their needs are more static.

    The interest rates of federal student loans don't change during the duration of a loan. Individuals who took out a private loan with a fixed interest rate won't have to worry about having to pay extra either.

    Borrowers who took out a private student loan with a variable interest rate should expect an increase in rates and their monthly payment, because the variable rate is tied to the prime rate, said Jason Vasquez, a spokesman for Wells Fargo (WFC), the San Francisco-based financial institution.

    Interest rate increases are never favorable for the borrower whether they are student loans or credit cards, said Raj Rajan, CEO of Ceannate, a Rolling Meadows, Illinois, company that works with the U.S. Department of Education on student loan and default issues. Graduates can look into plans which offer a reduction in monthly payment amounts, he said.

    "Students do not react to rate changes the way auto or homebuyers might, because their needs are more static," he said.

    Refinancing Loans

    Refinancing current student loans is another option since the amount students are borrowing to pay for their four-year undergraduate college degrees in escalating across all income groups. The current low interest rates are also an advantage for graduates considering refinancing.

    Many private lenders including Wells Fargo also offer modification programs based on employment status, salary amount or other variables, said Vasquez. "Wells Fargo customers who find themselves having difficulty making their monthly payments as a result of the change in the interest rate can contact us to see if they qualify for the modification program," he said. Private student loan lenders determine the interest rate a borrower will pay based on his credit score, said Andrew Hopkins, vice president of Discover Student Loans, based in Riverwoods, Illinois. Although variable rates can be a good option, because the rates are lower than fixed ones, they tend to rise during the term of the loan.

    "Unlike federal student loans, the interest rate is not the same for every borrower," he said. "Students applying with a creditworthy cosigner may receive a lower interest rate."

    The variable rates for Discover's range from 2.99 percent APR to 9.12 percent APR or the three-month Libor plus 2.62 percent to the three-month Libor plus 8.74 percent. The unknown factor with variable rates is that the three-month Libor rate could increase due to market condition, Hopkins said.

    Advantages of Fixed Rate Loans

    The fixed rates at Discover range from 5.99 percent APR to 11.49 percent APR, also depending on the credit score of the borrower.

    Fixed rate loans give borrowers "a sense of stability" because the monthly payment amount is never altered unless the individual choses a period of deferment or forbearance, he said.

    Benefits of Variable Rates

    The advantage of variable interest rates is that they start lower than fixed interest rates, but the majority are likely to increase over the life of the loan, Hopkins said.

    "While a variable rate loan can help save money as rates drop, the reverse is possible when market conditions send the prime rate up," said McClary. "Variable rate student loans are considered most beneficial to consumers when the trend indicates decreasing interest rates while fixed rate loans are the preferred option when rates are on the increase."

     

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    Budget Deficit
    Andrew Harnik/AP
    By MARTIN CRUTSINGER

    WASHINGTON -- The federal government ran up a much smaller budget deficit in August than a year ago, remaining on track to record the smallest annual deficit in eight years.

    The Treasury Department said Friday that the deficit in August totaled $64.4 billion, a drop of 50 percent from the same month a year ago.

    Much of that improvement reflected quirks in timing related to the calendar. Some $42 billion in August benefit payments were made in July because Aug. 1 fell on a Saturday.

    Through the first 11 months of this budget year ending Sept. 30, the deficit is running 10 percent below last year's level. The Congressional Budget Office is forecasting that the deficit for the full year will drop to $426 billion, down 11.8 percent from the previous year as a stronger economy brings in more tax revenue.

    The 2014 deficit was an improvement from a deficit of $679.5 billion in 2013. For the four years before 2013, the deficit ballooned to annual deficits above $1 trillion, reflecting a deep recession that cut into tax revenues and expanded government spending on such programs as unemployment benefits and a stimulus package aimed at jump-starting growth.

    Through the first 11 months of this year, government revenues total $2.88 trillion, up 8 percent from the same period a year ago. Government spending over the past 11 months is up 4.8 percent to $3.41 trillion.

    The CBO's forecast of a 2015 deficit of $426 billion would be the lowest imbalance since the deficit stood considerably lower at $160.7 billion in 2007.

    The huge deficits over the past eight years pushed the national debt up to a current level of $18.1 trillion, $25 million below the current debt limit set by Congress. Since March, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has been employing emergency measures to keep the government from going over the debt limit.

    In a letter to Congress on Thursday, Lew estimated that the emergency measures he is now employing will last until late October or possibly into early November. He urged Congress to move to increase the debt limit to avoid the brinksmanship that occurred in August 2011 when a standoff over raising the debt limit prompted the first-ever downgrade of the nation's credit rating by Standard & Poor's.

    Republicans in the House Ways and Means Committee passed legislation this week which supporters said would take the threat of an unprecedented default by the United States on its debt obligations off the table. The bill would allow the government to keep borrowing to pay investors in Treasury bonds as well as Social Security recipients. Federal workers and retirees, soldiers and veterans would not get paid until the debt limit was raised.

    All Democrats on the committee voted against the measure, and the Obama administration has rejected a piecemeal approach to meeting the government's obligations. The bill now goes to the full House.

    In addition to facing a fall deadline for raising the debt limit, Congress also faces an Oct. 1 deadline for approving a budget for the start of a new budget year. Without a new budget, portions of the government would be forced to shut down until the spending impasse is resolved. The last partial government shutdown lasted for 16 days in October 2013.

     

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    Moment Of Silence In Honor Of 9/11 Victims Held At New York Stock Exchange
    Spencer Platt/Getty ImagesTraders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange stop for a moment of silence Friday, in remembrance of the events of September 11, 2001.
    By Caroline Valetkevitch

    NEW YORK -- U.S. stocks rose Friday and the S&P 500 posted its biggest weekly gain since July as investors weighed whether the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates next week.

    Energy shares dropped after Goldman Sachs (GS) cut its oil price forecast through next year.

    Eight of the 10 S&P 500 sectors closed higher, led by gains in utilities, which tend to rise as bond yields fall. The index ended up 0.8 percent, while 10-year note yields fell.

    It's really Fed watch. That's what traders are waiting for.

    Investors are awaiting next week's Federal Reserve meeting and news on whether it will raise rates for the first time in almost a decade.

    "It's really Fed watch. That's what traders are waiting for," said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer of Solaris Group in Bedford Hills, New York.

    "There's speculation the Fed might hold off, and if they do, I think we'll see stocks rally. But to us, it's not a question of if the Fed raises rates but when. It's going to happen."

    The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) rose 102.69 points, or 0.6 percent, to 16,433.09, the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GSPC) gained 8.76 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,961.05 and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) added 26.09 points, or 0.5 percent, to 4,822.34.

    For the week, the Dow was up 2.1 percent, the S&P was up 2.1 percent and the Nasdaq was up 3 percent.

    Rate Watch

    The Fed has said it will raise rates when it sees a sustained economic recovery, especially in the job market.

    The day's data signaled moderate economic growth and tame inflation. U.S. consumer sentiment dropped to its lowest level in a year in early September, while producer prices for August were flat.

    Oil prices fell after the Goldman Sachs forecast, which cited oversupply and concerns over China's economy. Goldman said crude oil could fall as low as $20 a barrel. ConocoPhillips (COP), down 2.2 percent at $47.36, was the biggest drag on the S&P 500.

    Stocks have been volatile since China devalued its currency in August amid concerns of sputtering growth in the world's second-largest economy. The S&P 500 has had moves of at least 1 percent in 11 sessions since Aug. 20.

     

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    USA, New Jersey, Jersey City, Couple working in living room
    Getty ImagesYou should look back to review your spending and look ahead to make needed tweaks to money goals.
    By Kimberly Palmer

    With just a few months left until the end of the year, it's time to squeeze in some last-minute retirement savings, revisit financial goals from the beginning of the year and update your insurance accounts, among other tasks. U.S. News reached out to financial planners about the action steps you should take now to make sure your money is in tiptop shape for the new year. Here are their suggestions:

    1. Squeeze in more retirement savings. When it comes to maxing out your 401(k), you still have time to increase your savings rate into your employer-sponsored retirement accounts before the end of the year. For 2015, those under age 50 can contribute up to the maximum of $18,000, which is an increase of $500 over last year. For those age 50 and over, the maximum is an additional $6,000. Mary Beth Storjohann, certified financial planner in the San Diego area and founder of Workable Wealth, recommends checking your account to see how close you are to the maximum and to increase contributions accordingly. Another option, she says, is to contribute to a Roth IRA, which has a maximum of $5,500 for the year (and an extra $1,000 for those age 50 and over). "If you can't do the maximum, work to put as much as you can away," she says.

    2. Don't forget to check your accounts. Daniel Wrenne, a certified financial planner and founder of Wrenne Financial Planning in Lexington, Kentucky, says people often forget to check in on their retirement accounts, which are often housed in separate financial institutions than checking and savings accounts used for daily expenses. He points out that you might even need to pull out a calculator to make sure you're hitting your maximum contribution limits. "You'd think there'd be a box to check that says, 'Max it out,' but it requires a little bit of planning," he says. Another risk is maxing out too early in the year, which in some cases can mean earning less of your company's matching plan. He recommends a slow and steady approach, contributing the same percentage from each paycheck throughout the year.

    3. Consider a conversion. Ben Wacek, certified financial planner and founder of Wacek Financial Planning in Minneapolis, says anyone who has a lower income this year, perhaps because of a gap in employment, should consider converting money from a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. That way, you'll pay taxes on that income during a year when your tax rate is lower than usual. The deadline for Roth conversions is Dec. 31, he adds, not April 15 like regular Roth IRA contributions. "It's a great chance to pay tax in the year that you're in a lower tax bracket," he says.

    4. Think big. Katie Brewer, certified financial planner and founder of Garland, Texas-based Your Richest Life, suggests stepping back and examining your overall financial situation. If you changed jobs, sold or bought a house, or expanded your family, you might need to add new insurance policies, adopt a more ambitious savings policy or rebalance your long-term investments. "Life changes almost always necessitate a review of your financial situation," she says.

    5. Give yourself assignments. Storjohann adds that after holding a money review with yourself, you can give yourself one assignment a week for the rest of the year. That could include creating a plan for paying off debt, reviewing investments or calculating your net worth. The weekly approach helps prevent you from feeling overwhelmed and also guarantees that you'll end the year on strong financial footing.

    6. Change up your goals. Eric Roberge, certified financial planner and founder of the firm Beyond Your Hammock in the Boston area, says he often finds that clients' goals have changed by the time fall rolls around. If you've already achieved your target for funding an emergency savings account, for example, then you can shift the excess savings into a more aggressively invested account to maximize returns. ​After one client reviewed his goals set earlier in the year, he realized he no longer wanted to be saving for a home, so he shifted his savings into other investments. "You might want to be putting that money toward something else," Roberge says. "If the goal is ​10 years down the road, then maybe shift some money into the stock market."

    7. Rebalance accounts. In light of the recent market volatility, now is a great time to rebalance your investments, suggests Kristi Sullivan, ​ a certified financial planner based in Denver. ​"Rebalancing means taking those assets that are above your target percentage and selling what you have too much of to buy what you have too little of," she says. "Professional money managers usually do this quarterly for clients, but once or twice per year will do the trick, too." If you're selling positions at a loss in a taxable account, then you can take advantage of a tax write-off for 2015, she adds.

    8. Look back at spending. Reviewing where your money has gone so far in the year will help you plan for next year, Brewer says. "Figure out if you need better systems in place, like a separate savings account for travel and vacations, or ​putting business expenses on a separate credit card," she says.

    9. Rein​ in kid-related expenses to prioritize college savings. If you have children, then you are probably familiar with the exorbitant expenses that can come with a new school year and new activities. Kevin Reardon, ​ president of Shakespeare Wealth Management in Pewaukee, Wisconsin, warns that many parents end up overspending on club sports in particular at the expense of college savings. He has spent thousands of dollars on his three children's athletic pursuits and questions the high school culture that encourages that kind of spending. "If I hadn't spent $25,000, that money could have gone elsewhere," he says.

    10. Watch monthly costs. If you haven't reviewed your cable and wireless bills recently, now is a good time to do so, suggests Andy Tate, a certified financial planner at Tate & Setterlund ​in Minneapolis. He calls his providers at least once a year to request a lower rate​ and saves money every time, he says. When he called his phone company, he got a new and cheaper data plan that still fit his needs. When he called his cable company, he mentioned a competitor's offer and received a matching offer. "They almost always are willing," he says.

    11. Dream of next summer's vacation. It might seem early, but planning for next year's summer vacation now can help ensure you have the funds to pay for it, says Jason Reiman, ​ a certified financial planner based in the Tucson, Arizona area. He adds that by encouraging clients to focus on such an enjoyable goal -- vacation -- it gives them more positive feelings around saving and budgeting.

    12. Save any surplus. Employees earning over $118,500 will get a boost in their paycheck toward the end of the year after they've maxed out their Social Security contributions for the year. "Instead of just consuming this 'bonus,' put it to work to increase your emergency reserves, pay down any consumer debt, fund a Roth IRA or set it aside for a vacation or holiday travel," suggests Charleston, South Carolina-based Tim Maurer, ​director of personal finance for the BAM Alliance, a community of investors and advisers, and author of the forthcoming book, "Simple Money."

    13. Contribute to a 529 account. Evan Beach, ​ a certified financial planner and wealth manager at Campbell Wealth Management in Alexandria, Virginia, suggests contributing to a 529 college savings plan to help pay for children's or grandchildren's future educations. He points out that for grandparents, the annual gift limit of $14,000 a child can actually​ be combined up to five years in advance. That means you can put $70,000 in a 529 account in one year without triggering federal gift taxes. That way, the money gets into the market more quickly.

    14. Check your emergency fund. Artie Green, ​ a certified financial planner at Cognizant Wealth Advisors in Palo Alto, California, encourages clients to have at least three to six months' worth of expenses in the bank and to adjust the amount based on family size and current savings. "It should be kept in very liquid and very safe investments," he says.

    15. Review beneficiaries. Tate says clients often forget to update their employer benefits after marriage or other major life events. "It's good to align beneficiary designations with your estate planning documents," he says. Similarly, he suggests reviewing your current insurance coverage to make sure you're not overpaying for coverage you no longer need (or are underinsured because you've acquired new assets).

    16. Get more insurance. On the same note, Maurer recommends making sure you have enough auto coverage and checking that your liability limits are sufficient. Some people, especially those with significant assets, might want to also take out an umbrella liability policy for more coverage. Disability insurance is also an important category to review to make sure you and your family would be protected in the event of a disability interfering with your ability to work.

    17. Organize your taxes. Sure, April 15 is still a long way off, but Brewer says if you start collecting information now, including any relevant receipts, then it will be much easier to submit your taxes early in the new year -- and get any refund earlier, too.

    18. Take advantage of tax credits. Also with taxes in mind, Charlotte Dougherty, ​a certified financial planner based in Cincinnati, recommends using your credit card to purchase items in December that might be tax deductible, even if you'll pay the bill in 2016.​ "If you are able to charge some deductible expenses on your credit card prior to Dec. 31, then it can generate deductions for this year," she says. Examples of deductibles or tax credits include investments in energy-efficient home improvements or certain school expenses ​. "Taxes are something that many of us don't want to think about, but you can get a lot by paying a little more attention to your tax return," she says.

    19. Make donations. Mitchell Kraus, ​ a certified financial planner at Capital Intelligence Associates in Santa Monica, California, encourages clients to finalize their charitable plans this fall and make contributions by Dec. 31 so it counts toward your 2015 contributions for tax purposes​. Charitable giving can also be a great way to teach children about the value of giving back, he adds.

    In the spirit of giving back, Lynne Strang, a Washington-based author who used to work in the financial services industry, says that as a result of her and her family's love of reading, they have a lot of books around the house. "I usually donate some of them to a public library during the last quarter of the year, which provides a charitable donation and more room on our shelves."

    20. Make preventive care appointments. You have until March 2016 to spend any remaining money in your health care flexible spending account, says Pamela Capalad, ​certified financial planner and founder of financial planning firm​ Brunch & Budget in Brooklyn. She suggests replacing your contact lenses​, as well as making any preventive care appointments you need.

    Kimberly Palmer is a senior editor for U.S. News Money. She is the author of the new book, "The Economy of You." You can follow her on Twitter @alphaconsumer, circle her on Google Plus or email her at kpalmer@usnews.com.

     

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    Expectant and excited parents!
    Getty Images
    By Rebecca Reisner

    It goes without saying that sometimes life, well, happens.

    It could be that you're joyfully expecting the birth of your first baby, or reeling from something unexpected (and less happy), like losing your job.

    Perhaps it's simply that you've moved onto a new phase in life -- be it that you're becoming an empty-nester or inching ever closer to retirement.

    Whatever it is, big life changes can bring on the need for equally significant financial adjustments.

    Once you've had time to process what's coming, it's natural to begin thinking about all of the money moves you have (and haven't yet) made to date that could help set you up for success in this new chapter of life.

    Do you have enough in savings? Should you consider buying a bigger -- or smaller -- house? Is it time to sit down with a financial pro and review your investment portfolio?

    To help you navigate some of the most significant life-changing moments, we spoke to certified financial planners for their thoughts on how you may want to reboot your finances for what's to come.

    Life Changer No. 1: You're Expecting a Baby

    Considering that the average cost to raise a child now clocks in at over $245,000, it's safe to say that this milestone tops our list of moments in life when your finances could probably use a reboot.

    Step 1: If you haven't already started estate planning, and named a guardian for your baby, now's the time.

    "You don't want your child to end up a ward of the state if you [and your partner] should die," says Michael Goldman, a certified financial planner and founder of Goldman Financial Planning in Falmouth, Maine.

    And while we're on the topic, you should also give thought to life insurance, which can help take care of your child should something unforeseen happen to you. A policy that's active and in good standing can make up for your lost income, as well as help provide for your family's future living and educational expenses.

    Step 2: Your next new-parent to-do is to consider starting a college fund when your little one is still in diapers.

    You heard right. That early.

    According to FinAid, if you start socking away for college with the birth of a child, the money saved during that first year could be worth about five times as much (assuming a 10% return) than if you were to begin saving the year before your kid heads to college.

    Similar to a 401(k), a 529 college savings account enables you to funnel up to $14,000 a year, per parent, into a tax-deferred account. And although you can't deduct the contribution from your federal taxes, you won't owe taxes on the growth -- as long as it's used for qualified educational expenses.

    Life Changer No. 2: You Nab a New Job -- or Lose One

    If you're like many people riding the high of scoring a new, higher-paying gig, your first inclination may be to book a trip to Rio or upgrade your wheels.

    And that's exactly why now's a prime time to take another look at your investment game plan before that first fatter paycheck hits your checking account.

    "It's actually an ideal time to raise your savings because you won't even notice it," adds certified financial planner Chuck Roberts, founder and CEO of Financial Freedom Planners in Richmond, Virginia.

    Step 1: Aim to create a plan that enables you to use 10 percent of your extra income for indulgences -- and earmark the rest for paying off debt, padding your emergency savings, and investing for the future, suggests Goldman.

    And be sure to also think about new I.R.S. implications, particularly if your salary now bumps you into a different tax bracket.

    For example, you can consider contributing a greater portion of your paycheck into your 401(k) plan, especially if you're eligible to receive an employer match.

    "The 401(k) max is $18,000 for the year," Roberts says. "And the truth is that most people aren't maxing it out."

    Step 2: If you're planning for a shorter-term goal -- like buying a house -- consider funneling some of your increased earnings into a traditional savings account designated specifically for that financial goal.

    If you have a longer time horizon of at least five years, you can also consider investing in a high-quality, higher-yield mutual fund or an exchange-traded fund, or ETF.

    But keep in mind that other financial priorities should come first -- such as building up a healthy rainy day fund of ideally six months' worth of your take-home pay.

    While you-and your kids-can take out loans to finance everything from college to a home, you can't take out a loan to finance your golden years.

    Bottom line: Your employment situation could change at any time, says Goldman, so don't get too used to living on that plum raise.

    To that point, if you do find yourself suddenly unemployed, experts say that it doesn't necessarily signal a time for drastic action.

    "If you've done your job in regard to having a sufficient emergency fund, you may not need to change your investment strategy -- at least initially," Roberts says.

    For example, if you receive a severance package, Roberts suggests keeping that money in liquid form until you find new employment. "Then when things get back to normal, you can focus on investing as you did before the job loss," he adds.

    This approach helps buffer you in the event that you burn through your emergency funds because it takes longer than you anticipated to secure a new gig.

    Life Changer No. 3: You Become an Empty Nester

    Whether you have one child or several, sending your grown kid off into the world can be an emotionally charged time -- so it's not surprising that personal finances can be the last thing on Mom and Dad's mind.

    But the minute your kids are on firm financial footing as adults, you should consider taking stock of your own money situation -- particularly what you might need to do to ramp up saving for retirement.

    Step 1: "At this point in their lives, people should start catching up on their savings," Goldman says.

    So in addition to ramping up your 401(k) contributions, says Goldman, you should consider putting money into a Roth IRA, if you're eligible.

    A Roth differs from a traditional IRA in that you pay taxes upfront at today's tax rates. In return, you don't have to pay taxes on your investment earnings when you withdraw the funds at retirement.

    But there are specific rules and income limits for opening a Roth, so be sure to do your research first. If and when you do become eligible, you can also consider doing a Roth conversion from a traditional IRA, if you've held the funds in a non-deductible IRA for a year.

    Step 2: While it may be tempting to funnel all of your money into retirement savings the moment junior nabs his first post-college gig, it might not be your best bet just yet.

    Translation: You don't want to get overconfident about your child's independence.

    "After their college years, your kids may need more help than just a roll of quarters for laundry, so you may want to keep some of your assets available," says Sarah Maskill, a certified financial planner and founder of Financial Answers in Somers, Connecticut.

    Just remember this one golden rule of financial planning: While you -- and your kids -- can take out loans to finance everything from college to a new home, you can't take out a loan to finance your golden years.

    Life Changer No. 4: You Cycle Into the 'Sandwich Generation'

    According to a Pew Research Center study on the sandwich generation, about 15 percent of adults between the ages of 40 and 59 find themselves having to provide support to an aging parent and a minor child -- at the same time.

    In other words, they've joined what's often referred to as the sandwich generation -- an unenviable membership that can take a toll on your finances.

    Step 1: "If you are indeed supporting both sides, you may need to build up your emergency fund," Roberts says.

    So, maybe instead of having three to six months of net take-home pay saved up, you have nine.

    And as tempting as it may be to dip into your retirement nest egg to help pay for eldercare expenses as they crop up, resist the urge and find time to talk to a financial pro before you make any such moves.

    Step 2: It's also important to think about what may need to be done to safeguard your parents' finances -- to help keep them from putting undue strain on yours.

    "It's best to have conversations with your parents early, when everyone is still healthy," Goldman says.

    So do a deep dive into their finances as a team, making sure to compile an inventory of all your parents' bank, retirement and investment accounts -- along with the necessary passwords.

    It's also helpful to broach executorship decisions, end-of-life wishes and, perhaps most important, long-term care plans.

    Long-term care insurance, says Goldman, can help pay for such costly eldercare expenses as regular home visits from a nurse.

    Another key to-do? Figure out who has power of attorney, adds Goldman, especially if your parents are contending with Alzheimer's or dementia.

    Life Changer No. 5: You're Getting Close to Retirement

    Congratulations! According to the calendar, you are just a few years out from calling it quits -- and doing that daily commute for the last time.

    To help protect yourself from market volatility, dial down the aggression in your portfolio by rebalancing your asset mix to focus on less volatile investments.

    But in order to help set yourself up for a successful new chapter of life in your golden years, you may want to consider making some fine-tune adjustments to your investment strategy.

    Step 1: You're now at a stage when you may not have time to wait for the market to recover from downward swings.

    So to help protect yourself from market volatility, dial down the aggression in your portfolio by rebalancing your asset mix to focus on less volatile investments.

    Step 2: It's also time to start thinking about when you or you and your spouse will start taking advantage of your Social Security benefits -- ideally in conjunction with a financial professional.

    It all depends on your individual financial situation as you near retirement, but you may opt for anywhere between the ages of 62 and 70.

    "There is strategy as far as coordinating with the benefits of a spouse, and there are thousands of permutations on what is the best thing for you to do," Goldman says.

    To help keep track of your money, and get an estimate of future benefits payouts, you can sign up for a My Social Security account.

    Life can pose all sorts of ups and downs -- some welcome and others less so -- but if you thoughtfully navigate these reboots, you can help keep your finances on track.

     

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    Pending Sales Of Previously Owned U.S. Homes Rises
    Ron Antonelli/Bloomberg via Getty Images
    By Ellen Chang

    NEW YORK -- The housing market has been rebounding and the increased competition is leaving the number of available homes scarce in many cities.

    Home prices also have risen compared to last year as the number of homes sold rose in all parts of the country except for the Midwest, according to a recent report from PNC, the Pittsburgh-based financial institution. The median sale price for an existing single-family home was $288,300 in July, up from $279,700 in June.

    The housing market continues to gradually recover from the Great Recession, supporting economic growth.

    "The housing market continues to gradually recover from the Great Recession, supporting economic growth," Stuart Hoffman, chief economist for PNC. "Stronger demand and good affordability are supporting home sales and pushing up house prices."

    Many economists are predicting that home prices will continue to increase this year. PNC said prices will rise by 3.7 percent in 2015 and 2.7 percent in 2016, down from 6.6 percent in 2014.

    "This year we [saw] inventory continue to grow in August and while overall demand is strong, the trend in median days on market is suggesting that the market is finding more of a balance," said Jonathan Smoke, chief economist of Realtor.com, the San Jose, California, real estate service company. "This bodes well for would-be buyers who have been discouraged by the inability to find a home to buy this spring and summer."

    Consumers who are still eager to purchase a home still have many opportunities left to negotiate a deal within their price range. While it is tougher to buy a house in a tight market, here are some tips to give homebuyers a head start.

    Looking for a house in the fall is generally a better bet. Even though there are fewer homes on the market right now, there are "definitely less buyers, so there's less competition," said Mark Lesses, a broker with Coldwell Banker in Lexington, Massachusetts.

    Buying a Townhouse

    Opting to buy smaller houses such as a townhouse might give you more possibilities. Townhomes tend to be more affordable than single family houses, he said.

    "There will be people living on one or both sides of you, leading to a more congested living experience," Lesses said. "In addition, you don't have control over what you can do to the exterior of your home. For example, you usually can't garden or landscape. If you can, it's very limited and restrictive."

    Moving to the Suburbs

    If commuting to work daily doesn't pose itself as a stressful issue, then buying a house in the suburbs could make sense.

    "There are quality of life issues on both sides of this conversation," he said. "It's more about lifestyle. If you work downtown and live in the city, you're going to have a shorter commute, but your experience of living in the city can be more stimulating to you."

    Having a larger yard is more appealing to many people, so living in the suburbs isn't only more affordable, it is also practical, said Lesses.

    Look for pockets in various neighborhoods that are starting to gentrify because fewer people will be putting in offers.

    "I always recommend buyers look in fringe or up and coming areas of a town because common sense would say that if they are on the verge of becoming more popular and in demand, prices will strengthen and increase down the road," said Monica Webster, a licensed real estate salesperson at William Raveis in New York City and Greenwich, Connecticut.

    Or look for the least expensive property in a more expensive neighborhood, said James Simpson, CEO of SQFT, a Boulder, Colorado-based company that offers an app that allows sellers to create home listings on hundreds of real estate sites.

    "Buy a place you can afford, so that if the market does correct, you can ride it out," he said. "It always comes back."

    Higher Down Payment

    Being able to afford a higher down payment for a house that is on the top of your list means you might beat out offers from potential buyers who have less savings.

    Having all of your savings tied up on your house can prove to be an issue if the market hits a downturn or you lose your job, Lesses said.

    That's why it's important to get your finances in order.

    Obtain a pre-certified or pre-approved mortgage and not just a pre-qualification, because it shortens the approval process, said Webster. A pre-certified mortgage means there is a written commitment from a lender who has verified your income and creditworthiness.

    "Most lenders now offer a full pre-approval in which you go through the whole underwriting process ahead of time," said Bill Golden, a real estate agent with RE/Max Metro Atlanta Cityside. "When you find the right house, the only thing that will need to be done is the appraisal. That will also give you a leg up in the eyes of a seller."

    While a pre-qualification is helpful, it is just an estimate on whether a consumer would likely be able to obtain credit. If you are sure this is the right home for you, aim to put the first offer in, because "time delays allow other buyers to enter the process," she said.

    Potential homebuyers also need to determine what they can afford to pay monthly, because the tax savings from a mortgage means they could increase their current offer.

    "When homes are selling over the asking price, many people are afraid to come in with a stronger offer because they haven't done the actual math of what owning a particular home will cost," said Sean Nagy, executive vice president of operations for The Money Source, Melville, New York mortgage loan servicer. "Taking the extra 30 minutes to lookup the property tax rate can mean the difference between putting an offer in at the asking price or actually getting the house by putting in an offer $10,000 over the asking price."

    Renters Who Wait Can Benefit

    Buying a house during a tight market could prove to be an expensive endeavor. Staying out of the market might be a good option, because housing prices could level off and decline, said David Reiss, a law professor at Brooklyn Law School in Brooklyn, New York.

    "Sometimes it is cheaper to rent," he said. "Don't try to time the real estate market. Look at your needs and what you could afford, and consider if it is a good choice."

    The pent-up demand has made buying a home to be a challenging process, lengthening the "selling season."

    "With such low inventory, homes are being snatched up the day they come on the market or before, and most have multiple offers," said Golden. "During the winter holidays, you may have less competition, as people tend to be distracted with other things."

    A competitive real estate market dictates that buyers must "get out of their comfort zone" such as being flexible with the closing date, said Jeremy Swillinger, an agent with Level Group, a New York City-based brokerage firm.

    "I believe that purchasing a home in a tight market is part art and part science and is really about doing whatever possible to find the right balance that makes the sale terms attractive on both sides," he said.

     

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    Learning How to Pay Off Debt

    By Karla Bowsher

    Consumer debt reached a new high in July -- and economists say it's a good sign.

    Borrowing by consumers increased by $19.1 billion in July to reach a total of $3.45 trillion, according to the latest monthly report from the Federal Reserve, which was released this week.

    The increase came from auto and student loans (up $14.8 billion) and consumer credit card debt ($4.3 billion). The Fed's credit reports don't include loans that are secured with real estate, such as mortgages and home equity loans.

    While debt is generally bad news for personal finances, it reflects good news about the economy, CBS MoneyWatch reports:

    Economists believe strong job gains will support increased borrowing and consumer spending, which accounts for nearly 70 percent of economic activity.

    During the first quarter of this year, the economy grew by only 0.6 percent, according to CBS. During the second quarter, however, it grew by 3.7 percent, and economists believe growth will average about 3 percent in the third and fourth quarters of 2015.

    As we reported this week, 173,000 jobs were added to the economy in August and 245,000 jobs were added in July, according to the latest unemployment report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That brought the jobless rate down to 5.1 percent -- the lowest it's been since 2008 -- and the BLS expects job growth to continue.

    If you're among the many Americans carrying debt, be sure to visit the Money Talks News Solutions Center, where you can find help with credit card, student loan and tax debts as well as several types of loans.

    How do you feel about the record increase in consumer borrowing in the Fed's latest report? Let us know what you think in a comment below or on our Facebook page.

    Like this article? Sign up for our newsletter and we'll send you a regular digest of our newest stories, full of money saving tips and advice, free!

     

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    A Home to Retire In

    By Maryalene LaPonsie

    Nick Pronovich has three words for anyone thinking about retirement: "Don't do it."

    The 74-year-old found himself forced into an early retirement in 2001 when his job was eliminated as a result of that year's recession. He spent the next year doing freelance work and trying to find a new position but soon learned it was hard for someone pushing age 60 to compete with 30-something job applicants. In 2002, after a career in advertising that spanned 40 years, Pronovich hung up his hat for good and decided to make his retirement permanent.

    What the New Normal for Retirement Looks Like
    Courtesy: Allan TannenbaumFrom left to right: James Weldon, Nick Pronovich and Gunar Skillins, co-owners of Dancing Moon Coffee.
    Years went by, but retirement never seemed to agree with Pronovich. "There was always a part of me that really missed [work]," he says. "I had a feeling that there was something missing."

    So this year, Pronovich and two friends launched Dancing Moon Coffee, a company selling coffee beans on Amazon.com. He no longer considers himself retired and says it's better that way. "I don't know anyone who's really happily retired," he says.

    Pronovich and his friends are examples of the new normal that's emerging for our nation's seniors. No longer are older Americans quitting their jobs by age 65 and riding off quietly into the sunset. Instead, they are starting businesses, writing books and cycling across states.

    Not Retirement, a New Life Stage

    Carey Kyler, vice president of consumer experience and strategy at AARP's Life Reimagined, says her group's research points to older Americans, particularly those between ages 45 and 65, swapping out traditional retirement for a new life stage. According to Kyler, this time in a person's life is when they may embrace their passions, explore new ideas and set out on adventures they never would have attempted in their younger years.

    "This is a life stage generations before didn't have," Kyler says. "The boomers and the Gen-Xers will have to be very creative about what they do with it."

    Getting creative is exactly what Harry Edelson, 82, has done. Like Pronovich, he doesn't consider himself retired and sees no reason to stop working. "Nothing has changed from age 65 to 82," Edelson says. "For me, getting old is a mistake."

    While Edelson can't stop his chronological age from advancing, he says being old is a state of mind he refuses to adopt. "I play softball every Sunday with people in their 20s through 40s," he says from his summer home in Boothbay, Maine. "I climbed a small mountain here in Maine yesterday."

    After a long career as a financial analyst working for major firms on Wall Street, Edelson founded Edelson Technology Partners and moved into self-employment. Today, he provides investment services, travels the country as a speaker and will be publishing a book -- "Positivity: How to be Happier, Healthier, Smarter, and More Prosperous" -- this fall.

    Edelson feels strongly that seniors who lay low during their later years are missing out. "I would admit it is difficult to get a job as [people] get older, but everyone can get a hobby," he says. "There's so much to do nowadays; it would be a shame to think I'm going to pack up and just play golf every day."

    Forget the Stereotypes of Retirement

    Even seniors who have taken a more traditional approach to retirement say it's not what you might think, and it's definitely not a time to be lazily puttering around the house.

    "It seems like we're busy from sunup to sundown," says Don Eckler, a 78-year old retiree in Portland, Oregon.

    What the New Normal for Retirement Looks Like
    Courtesy: Michael MoralesRetirement hasn't slowed down Don Eckler and his wife Elsie.
    Eckler left the U.S. Coast Guard in 1976 at age 38 and considers that his retirement year. Then he and his wife Elsie met in the South Pacific while working with the Peace Corps and later settled in Hawaii for 30 years. In 2009, they decided their advancing age meant it may be smarter to move to the mainland where they could more easily get any care they needed.

    The couple selected the Rose Villa retirement community and say they have seen a shift in attitudes among retirees since they arrived. "When we first came in, [it seemed] people came here to waste away their lives slowly," Eckler says, "but our group, now in our 70s, is very active."

    Rose Villa provides facilities such as a wood shop and arts studio, and Eckler enjoys trying his hand at Chinese brush painting, canoeing and other pursuits organized by the community. He and his wife also spend plenty of time exploring the Pacific Northwest. He participated in the Cycle Oregon ride, a seven-day event in which bicyclists pedal their way across the state, and the couple are members of the American Association for Nude Recreation as well.

    "We have a mentality in this age where you can do whatever you want without being looked down upon," Eckler says, explaining that he's never felt as though certain activities were off-limits because of his age.

    Seniors: Having the Time of Our Lives

    Most importantly, seniors say retirement is fun. Millennials might wonder what older Americans do with all their free time, but those who are in the thick of this life stage say they've been given the opportunity to do things they couldn't during their younger years.

    "We started talking about 'couldn't we do something that could be fun?'" says 67-year-old James Weldon, a partner with Pronovich in Dancing Moon Coffee Co. "If it weren't fun, I'm not sure we'd want to do it."

    "Fun" is a word used repeatedly by other seniors as well. "I love getting up every morning," Edelson says. "[My work] is great fun."

    Whether working or playing, today's seniors are embracing their later years as a time to shine. As Kyler says, "Recognize that age doesn't limit abilities; it can expand your options."

     

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    Denver, Colorado - Mariel West, 26, who is pregnant with her first child, shops for baby clothes at a resale shop.
    Jim West/Alamy
    By Kentin Waits

    In the hierarchy of frugal strategies, buying secondhand has always been one of my favorites.

    I love the idea of dodging depreciation on everything from furniture to sweaters, and from dishes to tools.

    So how can you buy better and smarter inside that bastion of frugality, the humble thrift store? It's half art and half sport -- and with the right frame of mind, you can master the game.

    After 25 years of avid thrifting -- with the bargains and bruises to prove it -- here are my top five strategies to land sweeter deals at any thrift shop:

    1. Understand that each store is unique. If you're an experienced thrift shopper, you know that every secondhand store has its own distinct personality. Some seem to get better furniture, others pull in a better selection of books.

    Respect and capitalize on the vibe of each store and use it to inform your shopping strategy.

    2. Go with the flow. Understanding your local thrift and secondhand market is key to scoring the best items before anyone else.

    Which days of the week do folks in your area typically have yard sales? Look for an influx of unsold yard sale items to hit the shelves a day or two after those sales close.

    Also, pay special attention to larger stores' shipment and processing schedules. Learning which days and times your favorite thrift stores restock with fresh donations can keep you one step ahead of the competition.

    3. Develop primary and secondary shopping patterns. Popular secondhand stores can be a bit chaotic. From the die-hard shoppers on a mission to merchandise in a constant state of disarray, thrift stores are an exercise in shopping endurance.

    To keep my head about me, I like to give each store a quick once-over the moment I arrive. This primary search is my chance to gauge the general quality of the merchandise and see if there are any obvious treasures waiting to be plucked.

    Once the primary search is over, I can relax and go deeper into each section of the store that interests me. During this secondary search, I focus on individual items. I thumb through books, try on a coat or two, and compare prices. Here, the goal is to get granular and sift efficiently through the junk to find the gems.

    Admittedly, I probably think about my strategy far more than the average thrifter. But the primary and secondary shopping approach takes a lot of the stress out of my thrifting experience. Shoppers who don't pace themselves in this way tend to get overwhelmed.

    4. Shop for tomorrow ... every day. It's nearly impossible to find what you need at a thrift store on demand. Unlike department stores, the inventory in secondhand stores is inconsistent, unpredictable and completely random.

    If your kid needs a white oxford shirt with a 15½-inch neck and 32-inch sleeves by tomorrow morning, you'd better beat a hasty path to Target. But if you know a week or two in advance, it's entirely possible to find the perfect shirt for $3.

    That's why successful thrifting requires planning ahead and predicting with some level of accuracy what you and your family will need next month, next school year and next summer. Doing so ensures that the bargains you score today will be put to good use tomorrow.

    5. Check and double-check for quality. Intoxicated by the heady mix of a finder's high and bargain prices, it's easy to gloss over an item's flaws. Don't let that happen.

    Most thrift stores don't allow returns or refunds, so unless you're a whiz with a sewing machine or a stain stick, pay attention to such details as split seams, missing buttons, stuck zippers or discoloration on clothing. Likewise, understand your handyman limitations on furniture, appliances, bicycles and other items.

    Even the best bargain sours if it's left to languish as an unfinished project on a to-do list. Focus on items in good, serviceable condition, or those with only minor defects that you'll have the time, skill and motivation to address yourself.

    What's your best thrift store find? Share your thoughts in our Forums. It's a place where you can swap questions and answers on money-related matters, life hacks and ingenious ways to save.

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    Stylish Ways to Dress for Less

     

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    pumping gas at gas pump....
    Shutterstock
    By David Henry

    The average price of a gallon of gasoline in the United States fell 27 cents in the past three weeks as refiners and retailers gave up some of their profits margins to sell more fuel, according to the Lundberg survey released Sunday.

    Regular grade gasoline fell to $2.44 a gallon in the Sept. 11 survey from $2.71 on Aug. 21, when the previous survey was taken before the Labor Day holiday.

    The decline for consumers came as refiners and retailers passed along earlier decreases in crude oil prices, Lundberg said. Increases in gasoline supply across the country and profit margins that Lundberg called "healthy" gave the refiners and retailers leeway to take pump prices down.

    Consumers are winners at this point. It is a big historical discount to last year.

    Compared with one year ago, the $2.44 average price was lower by $1.02 a gallon.

    "Consumers are winners at this point," survey publisher Trilby Lundberg said. "It is a big historical discount to last year."

    The latest decline came despite crude oil prices having gone up between surveys, she said.

    Gas prices could slip another 4 to 10 cents in coming weeks, as long as crude prices do not surge, Lundberg said. "The price trend is probably still down from here."

    Production costs for many refiners across the country should go lower because many will see anti-smog regulations ease on Sept. 15 allowing them to operate in the winter with higher vapor pressures than in the summer, she said.

    Drivers in Indianapolis saw one of the biggest declines in the last three weeks in the survey area, which covers the 48 contiguous states. Gas prices there fell 73 cents to $2.13 a gallon as BP's (BP) Whiting, Indiana, refinery came back online following repairs, Lundberg said.

    The lowest average price, as in the previous survey, was in Charleston, South Carolina, and the highest was again in Los Angeles. The latest prices in Charleston were $1.94, compared with $3.31 in Los Angeles.

     

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    Wall street, New York, USA.
    Alamy
    Plenty of stocks go up and down in any given week. The gainers inspire us to keep investing. The decliners keep greed in check while reminding us about the risks of the equity markets.

    Let's go over some of last week's best and worst performers.

    Vitae Pharmaceuticals (VTAE) -- Up 88 percent last week

    The market's biggest gainer last week was a biotech company that got some good news on an early-stage clinical trial. Vitae's VTP-43742 is an inhibitor being developed to treat a wide range of autoimmune disorders that could potentially include psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and irritable bowel disease.

    The test is still in the first of three clinical trial phases, and as any biotech investor knows, things can always fall apart in later trial stages. However, with so much riding on the potential treatment, it isn't a surprise to see the stock take off after an upbeat test -- just as it could give it all away and then some if things don't go well in the next phase.

    Dave & Buster's (PLAY) -- Up 16 percent last week

    Shares of Dave & Buster's hit the jackpot after the chain of "eatertainment" restaurants posted blowout quarterly results. Comparable-restaurant sales soared 11 percent since a year earlier, and the strong showing finds it boosting its guidance for all of 2015.

    Dave & Buster's went public at $16 late last year, and it has gone on to soar 167 percent. It hit another new high last week.

    JinkoSolar (JKS) -- Up 13 percent last week

    Solar energy stocks tend to run hot and cold, but JinkoSolar came through with a bright week, posting double-digit gains. The provider of solar cells, modules and other related solutions introduced a new line of photovoltaic modules with integrated single-chip electronic optimization. JinkoSolar also took out a credit line with a major Chinese bank, arming itself with the means to ramp up production.

    Cherokee Global Brands (CHKE) -- Down 42 percent last week

    Sometimes you miss the Target (TGT) in more ways than one. Brand marketer Cherokee posted year-over-year declines at both ends of the income statement in its latest quarter, but the real dagger was the revelation that Target won't be renewing its license of the Cherokee brands in the U.S. when it expires in early 2017.

    That's a pretty big deal, since most shoppers of Cherokee-branded apparel associate the brand with the cheap-chic retailer. This will end a licensing relationship -- and royalty-generating stream for Cherokee -- that has lasted for roughly two decades. Target also has a licensing agreement with Cherokee for the Liz Lange brand and that remains in place at this time.

    Mattress Firm (MFRM) -- Down 22 percent last week

    It was hard for Mattress Firm investors to get any sleep after a poorly received financial report. The retailer of bedding products may have seen sales soar 61 percent in its latest fiscal quarter since the prior year, but that is largely the handiwork of sector consolidation in a highly fragmented niche. Mattress Firm loves to gobble up smaller, regional mattress chains. It's now up to 2,223 stores under its belt. Comparable-store sales were positive, but up a modest 2.8 percent.

    Mattress Firm's operating margins declined, with adjusted earnings ultimately falling short of analyst forecasts. Mattress Firm is lowering its earnings guidance for the entire fiscal year. It's also discontinuing its Mattress Pro concept.

    Barnes & Noble (BKS) -- Down 21 percent last week

    The last major retail bookseller turned into a hard read for its shareholders after posting disappointing quarterly results. Sales at Barnes & Noble's namesake stores and its Nook e-book operations slipped 3 percent since the prior year to clock in at $994.3 million. That was less than what analysts were expecting.

    Sales may have risen at the individual store level -- new releases by Harper Lee and E.L. James will do that -- but store closures, a surprising drop in online sales and the Nook's continual fade weighed on results. Barnes & Noble spun off its college bookstore business last month and that's rough since it was the only segment of Barnes & Noble to post year-over-year growth for the period.

    Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Barnes & Noble and recommends Dave & Buster's Entertainment. 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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    Apple Unveils New Versions Of iPhone 6, Apple TV
    Stephen Lam/Getty Images
    By Julia Love

    Apple (AAPL) said Monday that advance orders of its new iPhones were on pace to beat the 10 million units the previous versions logged in their first weekend last year, a feat that analysts attributed to the inclusion of sales from China.

    The Chinese debut of the prior models, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, was delayed last year as the company awaited approval from regulators. Many analysts say China is poised to overtake the United States as Apple's biggest market.

    Searching for signs of whether Apple can top its 2014 performance, investors were initially encouraged by the company's remarks but later tempered their enthusiasm. Apple shares were up 0.7 percent in afternoon trading after rising as much as 2.3 percent earlier in the session.

    Apple didn't disclose the specific number of advance orders it received for the new iPhone 6S and 6S Plus. Analysts had expected about 4.5 million for the first 24 hours, compared with 4 million during the first day last year.

    Apple began taking preorders on Saturday for the phones, which will begin shipping Sept. 25.

    The company said it was working to catch up to demand for the iPhone 6S Plus, the larger of the two new phones, which exceeded its forecasts for the preorder period.

    Will these phones have the same staying power as the iPhone 6? It's still going to be a challenge.

    "Preorders this weekend were very strong around the world," Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller said in a statement. After shattering sales records last year with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, Apple has been dogged by questions of whether it can sustain the momentum this year.

    BGC Partners analyst Colin Gillis said the company had always enjoyed a burst of sales of new phones from die-hard fans and customers who are due for an upgrade.

    "Will these phones have the same staying power as the iPhone 6?" he asked. "It's still going to be a challenge."

    The exclusion of the Chinese market last year set a low bar Apple to clear with preorders this year, he added.

    However, John Jackson of IDC said the 6S and 6S Plus' strong early performance dampened concerns on Wall Street.

    "Apple has this track record of outperforming its own outperformance, but the iPhone 6 looks like an extraordinarily tough act to follow," he said. "The fact that they are fast out of the gate with this refresh is a very encouraging sign."

    FBR Capital Markets senior analyst Daniel Ives said he was encouraged by the response in China, where Apple's website showed particularly long wait times for the phones.

    "It shows that they are off to a white-hot start, with China really being front and center as a main driver of initial demand," he said.

    After last year's redesign, the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus feature more modest updates, such as improved cameras and 3D touch, a display technology that responds according to how hard users press their screens. But Apple executives have stated that only a fraction of users have upgraded to the iPhone 6, suggesting the company has ample room to grow.

    Last week Apple announced the phones, as well as a new TV set-top box that responds to voice commands, but the new products underwhelmed many social media commentators and investors.

    Apple relies heavily on the sale of its flagship iPhones, which generated nearly two-thirds of its revenue in the latest quarter.

     

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    Federal Reserve Yellen
    Manuel Balce Ceneta/APFederal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen
    By John Mason

    NEW YORK -- It's unbelievable, the position that the Federal Reserve is in right now.

    As the markets wait for the results of the U.S. central bank's policy setting meeting this week, there has been a "destabilizing period of uncertainty over the Fed's intentions" and "weeks of mixed signals from the central bank," according to an article Sunday in the Financial Times.

    This situation calls into question Fed Chair Janet Yellen's leadership and highlights the need for the Fed to get its act together.

    True, some of the current uncertainty and complexity in the global economy is due to the behavior of China and other emerging-market nations. But the Federal Reserve has been a big contributor, too, with its three rounds of quantitative easing. And the Fed's attempts to provide financial markets with "forward guidance" have been a disaster.

    A decision to raise short-term interest rates has been on the Fed's menu since it ceased its quantitative easing programs last October. The Fed was going to start raising short-term rates in the first quarter of this year. Then it was going to raise them in June. Then, for sure, in September. As each meeting approached, the noise surrounding the possible increase got louder and louder, and financial markets became more and more volatile.

    The fear of many analysts is that a move by the Fed in current conditions will result in even more volatility. The chief economist at the World Bank has even said that a move on interest rates by the Fed could trigger "panic and turmoil" in emerging markets.

    Others, attempting to quiet the markets, have suggested that the interest rate move being discussed is so small, only 25 basis points, and has been discussed for such a long time, that any Fed movement to raise rates will be a nonevent, a fait accompli.

    The problem is that it should never have come to this.

    The Federal Reserve has brought this burden upon itself. By creating market expectations, the Fed sets itself up for criticism if those expectations are not met. If expectations are not met a second time, the Fed just opens itself up for further criticism. And so on and so forth.

    If Fed continues to act like this, then it will become clear that it doesn't understand leadership and is failing the economy.

    Yes, the economy is at a new place, a place that it has never been before. Yes, over the past seven years or so, the Federal Reserve acted in a way it never had acted before. Yes, the Fed is going to have to use new thinking and new tools to move us on into the future. (Binyamin Appelbaum addresses these new tools in an article in The New York Times titled "Retooling the Fed for Liftoff.") The key issue going forward, however, is leadership.

    Right now Federal Reserve policymakers look like a herd of cats. They don't seem to have any idea where they're going or any idea how they got here. And reliance on "data guidance" contributes little to leadership vision and market stability.

    Yes, these are difficult, confusing times. Yes, there are a lot of problems out there in the world that must be taken into account. Yes, models that have been used in the past are incomplete or out of date.

    Leadership must be exerted, however. The U.S. is still the No. 1 economic power in the world, and the U.S. economy is growing, while much of the rest of the world seems to be going in the opposite direction.

    Speak With One Voice

    In a complex economy, forward guidance isn't going to carry the day. Also, the Fed needs to speak with one voice for a while. Having several different members of the Federal Open Market Committee discussing their own views on random occasions doesn't help.

    The Fed also needs to determine what it can and can't do. The Federal Reserve played a big role in preventing the Great Recession from becoming worse. It helped to sustain the banking system over the past seven years after several decades of "irrational exuberance" underwritten by the economic policies of the federal government.

    The Fed can't do a whole lot in attaining faster economic growth. There was only so much that it could do anyway, but the credit inflation of the past 50 years taught the economy that it could earn more money through financial investment than through investment in plant and equipment.

    Meanwhile, the global economy is changing, bringing on a new economic era. This new era is going to require new central bank goals. For example, Paul Volcker, former Federal Reserve chairman, has written in his book "Changing Fortunes: The World's Money and the Threat to American Leadership" that the price of a country's currency is the most important price in the economy of that country. Maybe the Fed should focus on the maintenance of a strong dollar. If Federal Reserve leadership doesn't establish its goals, express them clearly and firmly, and then act in a way that is consistent with achieving the goals, the discussion of Fed actions are going to become even more vocal and the markets are going to become even more volatile. The world can't afford that.

    This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.

     

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    Moment Of Silence In Honor Of 9/11 Victims Held At New York Stock Exchange
    Spencer Platt/Getty Images
    By Sinead Carew

    NEW YORK -- U.S. stocks closed down Monday as investors put off making big bets ahead of the Federal Reserve's policy meeting this week and others worried about weak economic data from China.

    Stocks are expected to stay volatile ahead of a Federal Reserve announcement scheduled for Thursday after a two-day meeting at which it will decide whether or not to make its first interest rate increase since 2006.

    The Fed's sitting around singing that tune, 'Should I stay or should I go now. If it stay it will be trouble. If I go it will be double.'

    "There's absolutely no conviction up or down. Everybody's waiting on the Fed. The Fed's sitting around singing that tune, 'Should I stay or should I go now. If it stay it will be trouble. If I go it will be double,' " said David Spika, global investment strategist for the GuideStone Funds, in Dallas, Texas, citing lyrics from a popular song by The Clash.

    The Fed has said it will raise rates when it sees a sustained economic recovery with emphasis on jobs and inflation but while the jobs market has improved inflation has been held down by weak oil prices.

    A broad group of economists polled by Reuters last week bet on a September move by a slim margin; economists at banks that deal directly with the Fed, known as primary dealers, picked December as more likely; and traders of short term interest rate futures were giving a rate rise this week only a one-in-four chance.

    Stocks have been volatile since China devalued its currency in August. The S&P 500 has had moves of at least 1 percent in more than 10 sessions since Aug. 20.

    "Because of the volatility in the market and the conflicting data points on the U.S. economy, it's really difficult to get a firm handle on what the Fed's likely to do," Spika said.

    Trading was slow with about 5.4 billion shares changing hands on U.S. exchanges, below the 8 billion daily average for the previous 20 sessions, according to Thomson Reuters data.

    More China Woes

    Also weighing on stocks was data showing China's investment and factory output in August missed forecasts, raising chances China's third-quarter economic growth may drop below 7 percent for the first time since the global crisis.

    "China continues to be a concern as investors look for a bottom in regard to the country, even though the government has a lot of room to stimulate growth," said Chris Bertelsen, chief investment officer of Global Financial Private Capital in Sarasota, Florida.

    The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) fell 62.13 points, or 0.4 percent, to 16,370.96, the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GSPC) lost 8.02 points, or 0.4 percent, to 1,953.03 and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) dropped 16.58 points, or 0.3 percent, to 4,805.76.

    Nine of the 10 major S&P sectors fell, led by the materials index. Utilities rose 0.2 percent while the energy index fell 0.8 percent as U.S. crude oil prices settled down 1.4 percent.

    Apple (AAPL) shares ended up 1 percent at $115.31 after it said iPhone pre-orders were on track to beat last year's first-weekend record.

    NYSE decliners outnumbered advancers 2,044 to 971, for a 2.11-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, 1,709 issues fell and 1,068 advanced for a 1.60-to-1 ratio.

    The S&P 500 posted 2 new 52-week highs and 6 lows; the Nasdaq recorded 42 new highs and 72 lows.

    -Tanya Agrawal contributed reporting.

    What to watch Tuesday:
    • At 8:30 a.m. Eastern time, The Commerce Department releases retail sales data for August, and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York releases its survey of manufacturing conditions in New York state.
    • The Federal Reserve releases industrial production for August at 9:15 a.m.
    • The Commerce Department releases business inventories for July at 10 a.m.

     

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    Super Bowl Sounds Football
    Joe Mahoney/AP
    By Jason Notte

    NEW YORK -- With tonight's first two Monday Night Football contests of the season -- the Eagles vs. the Falcons and the Vikings vs. the 49ers -- Americans are at the line of scrimmage, waiting to pounce on getting televised access without spending lots of cash. The good news is that getting streaming access is possible, even if it is a game of inches for consumer strategy.

    Of course, the NFL loves itself some television revenue, which is why it's increasingly making its game broadcasts as widely available -- and free -- as possible.

    Last September, the Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously against government protection of a provision of the National Football League's television blackout rule that prohibited cable and satellite providers from switching to another feed of a home team's game if the local feed was blacked out. Under the NFL's blackout rule, which dates back to an act of Congress in 1961 that created the league's current antitrust agreement, home games couldn't be shown on TV stations that broadcast within a 75-mile radius of the stadium if non-premium tickets weren't completely sold out 72 hours before kickoff. Perhaps sensing some level of consumer disgust with that rule, the NFL shelved it during the offseason and ensured all games would be televised in 2015.

    Thanks to financial information released by the publicly owned Green Bay Packers, we know that their share of the 2014 television revenue evenly divided among the league's 32 teams was $226.4 million -- far more than the Packers' $149.3 million in local revenue. Multiplied by 32, that's a $7.2 billion from television alone. That's up from $3 billion in 2010 and represents a 120 percent increase over the last 11 years.

    That isn't exactly surprising. New television deals with Fox (FOXA), CBS (CBS) and NBC kicked in last year and will pay the NFL and its teams $28 billion -- or roughly $1 billion a year -- for NFL broadcast rights through 2022 that include playoff games and rotating Super Bowl hosting duties. ESPN, meanwhile, pays $1.9 billion each year -- or more than double what any network pays for a season of Major League Baseball -- just to host Monday Night Football through that same span.

    Last year, the NFL also got DirecTV (DTV) to pay $1.5 billion a year over the next eight years for the rights to the NFL Sunday Ticket multi-channel out-of-town games package. Though DirecTV executives initially refused to go above the $1 billion they were paying annually in their previous deal, losing NFL Sunday Ticket would have scuttled AT&T's $48.5 billion takeover of the company that included a no-penalty out clause if Sunday Ticket negotiations went south. Meanwhile, the league was also able to pry $275 million more out of CBS for partial rights to Thursday Night Football games in 2014. The NFL and CBS renewed the deal at a "slightly higher" rate for this season.

    Why do networks shell out that much for football? Because absolutely nothing else draws football's ratings. Last year, NFL regular-season games averaged 17.6 million per broadcast, second only to the 17.9 million average in 2010. Games on "free" TV -- CBS, Fox and NBC -- averaged 19.2 million viewers. The Top 20 television broadcasts last fall were all NFL games. Game 7 of last year's World Series (23.5 million viewers) was less watched than an early September matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos (25 million). The only non-sports event to join the NFL in the Top 25 was the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (22.6 million viewers), and nearly 10 million more viewers (32 million) tuned in to watch the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles later that day.

    However, if you really don't want to pay extra fees for cable or satellite television service, the NFL has no problem with that, either. It has positioned itself in such a way that the overwhelming majority of its games are available without having to subscribe to a single channel. There's a chance you'll miss the occasional NFL Network game here or there, but if it features a team in your market, the NFL is forced to simulcast it on a local affiliate.

    The NFL knows that sports make up a huge part of the average monthly cable and satellite bill, and it has no interest in giving the middlemen at the networks anything more than they're already getting. According to media research firm SNL Kagan, sports channels made up $947.6 million -- or roughly 17 percent -- of the $5.5 billion multichannel television industry in 1995. By 2012, sports channels took in $15.3 billion -- or a whopping 38 percent -- of the overall $40.3 billion multichannel take. The earning power of the only other category that even came close, general variety channels such as TBS and AMC, grew from $820 million to $5.5 billion over the same span, but dropped from nearly equivalent to sports to roughly a third of that genre's value.

    Meanwhile, sports now accounts for nearly $2 out of every $5 spent on pay television. Its monthly cost has risen as well. In 1995, the average monthly cable bill was $6.83, $1.17 of which went to sports channels. That's still a hefty 16 percent, but it lagged behind the $2.82 movie channels charged at the time. Now, that $1.17 spent on sports wouldn't even cover 20 percent of the cost of ESPN alone.

    Of the average $34 spent each month on multichannel television, nearly $13 pays for sports channels. That's 38 percent of the average cable bill, though sports are on only 14 of the average 94 channels offered by multichannel providers. On top of that, Nielsen estimates that only 20 percent of all multichannel viewing time is spent watching sports. Nobody is making out in that deal.

    Considering that the league is not really interested in putting money in anyone's pockets other than its own -- it's in the NFL's best interest to keep Time Warner (TWX), Comcast (CMCSA), DirecTV, Dish Network (DISH) and others as small a portion of its business as possible. There's always the local bar that is sure to be showing any number of contests on the gridiron for your televised enjoyment. But if you want to cut the cord and still watch the NFL in the comfort of your own home, the league is happy to help. Here are just a few of the options available:

    An Antenna

    As we mentioned earlier, the overwhelming majority of the NFL's games are still on network television. If you're OK with staying within the local market for coverage, you'll get the Fox and CBS games of the week, NBC's Sunday Night Football and CBS's Thursday Night Football via antenna.

    Now the antenna can still get a little tricky, especially if you're living in a fairly remote location, but if you're in a city within short range of affiliates, a $7 generic antenna will get you there. If you're a bit more remote, amplified indoor flat antennas will run you about $15 to $70, while outdoor antennas can run from $40 to $160 (not including a preamplifier for weak-signal areas).

    "But what about DVR? I don't wanna watch commercials 'n' stuff." It's O.K. -- the manufacturers have you. TiVo will sell you its Roamio OTA recorder for $50, but that requires a $15 monthly fee for at least a year. Tablo makes a $250 device called Tablo TV that will get the job done, but requires a Roku, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, mobile device or computer to connect. However, antenna maker ChannelMaster makes a $250 over-the-air DVR called DVR+ that connects through your TV's HDMI port, and that can store more data with a USB hard drive.

    NFL Mobile

    The great news is that you can stream every live NFL game broadcast on CBS, NBC, ESPN, Fox and the NFL Network to your wireless devices and to your AppleTV box or Microsoft Xbox 360 or Xbox One.

    The bad news is that it's only available to Verizon customers, who get to watch all regular-season games for free, but still have to pay extra ($1.99) for the NFL RedZone Channel and the NFL Game Pass ($100) replays of every game from 2009 to the present. That latter feature is available at the same cost to non-Verizon customers with Android, iOS, Windows Mobile, XBox or AppleTV devices, but you have to wait for the live game to end before you can see it.

    Streaming Apps

    Both NBC and CBS apps will allow you to stream games for free as long as you have an Internet connection, but you're on your own to figure out how to get them onto a larger screen. Yahoo will not only stream NBC's NFL games, but it has exclusive access to the October 25 game between the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars in London.

    And that's about all you're getting, since ESPN requires users to have a cable or satellite subscription to stream Monday Night Football through its Watch ESPN app. There used to be a loophole for Xbox owners who paid for a one-time $50 subscription to XBox Live Gold, but that's now closed.

    Fox takes a similar approach, streaming games through its Fox Sports Go app only for fans who subscribe to any number of cable partners. Yes, the Fox broadcast is still free, but Fox clearly considers digital rights part of its cable and satellite universe.

    NFL Sunday Ticket

    Yes, DirecTV will sell you NFL Sunday Ticket without a full satellite subscription. No, it isn't for everyone and it isn't cheap. DirecTV offers a $200 version of Sunday Ticket that allows buyers to access games, the RedZone Channel, a fantasy football channel, a channel of 30-minute condensed games and more through their laptop or desktop. However, you have to be somewhere without access to DirecTV, and unless you're in a dorm (where DirecTV offers students Sunday Ticket streaming for $99) or a dense downtown littered with skyscrapers, this likely doesn't mean you.

    And mobile devices? $360. Yes, the promotional rate for DirecTV satellite service and Sunday Ticket is only about $240 right now, but that's contingent on a two-year contract with an inflated rate for the second year. DirecTV has caught on to just about every Sunday Ticket loophole and isn't about to make it easy for cord cutters to do away with the dish.

    Dish Network's SlingTV

    If you aren't eligible for Sunday Ticket streaming and aren't a Verizon customer, SlingTV is the only way you're going to get ESPN's "Monday Night Football" without a subscription.

    At $20 a month, it's also easily the cheapest. ESPN and ESPN2 come as part of the basic package, though other sports channels including Universal Sports and BeIn Sports are available as part of a $5 upgrade. It's available on all iOS and Android devices, all Macs and PCs, all XBox One devices and all Amazon Fire TV and Roku players. It's a lot to pay for strictly ESPN -- considering that channel's average monthly fee to cable providers is roughly $6 -- but it beats carrying a full cable package of $100 or more.

     

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    House on pile of money
    Getty Images
    By Chris Metinko

    NEW YORK -- Homeownership may be part of the American Dream -- but many are waiting longer to achieve that dream.

    "I am seeing people wait longer to buy a home, particularly those from their late-20s into their mid-30s," said Arvin Sahakian, vice president at mortgage site BeSmartee.

    In fact, Americans are now nearly 33 when they realize their homeownership goals, compared to 29 in the late 1970s, according to new data from real estate firm Zillow (Z). People are also renting longer, with the median amount of years renting reaching six -- nearly a 33 percent increase from the late 1970s.

    "Most young Americans should realize that homeownership is within reach," said Kelly Hager, CEO of Kelly Hager Group Real Estate Services in Missouri. "However, it's often a matter of rising non-housing expenses and evolving societal norms that keeps them from purchasing their first home."

    Hager said several factors are playing into Americans staying away from homeownership, including the increasing price of energy, medical care and college.

    Since 1970, the price of U.S. colleges has increased on average 400 percent, and since 2000, college has increased 112 percent, Hager said.

    "In a nutshell, escalating real estate prices are not the reason why people are waiting longer," she added. "In many markets real estate prices are just now getting back to normal amounts of appreciation pre-housing bubble."

    Generally speaking, millennials are more interested in experiences than material things.

    Brian Koss, executive vice president of Mortgage Network in Massachusetts, said millennials are putting off buying for multiple reasons -- some are financial, some are emotional and some are quality of life issues.

    "Generally speaking, millennials are more interested in experiences than material things," Koss said. "They prioritize time with friends and personal time over financial achievement. For example, they will choose living somewhere that is convenient and suits their lifestyle, rather building equity in a less exciting town or neighborhood."

    Koss said since many millennials choose to live where they can't afford to buy -- it's easier to rent. However, on the other hand rent is so high, it makes saving for a home impossible.

    "Emotionally, many millennials view homeownership as a huge risk," Koss added. "Because they saw family members deeply affected by the housing crisis, the American Dream is not only unattractive to many, but seems like a nightmare."

    John William Barger, a realtor in Tampa Bay, Florida, not only sells mainly to millennials, but is one himself.

    "I can say without a doubt that my generation is waiting longer and longer to buy a home, and as prices continue to rise, it is becoming harder and harder to find anything in the $100,000 to $200,000 range," Barger said.

    Several factors have contributed to this trend, he said.

    First, most millennials graduated college during the Great Recession, and most didn't find suitable employment out of college. Couple that with crippling monthly student loan payments, and most people under the age of 35 can barely afford to rent an apartment, let alone save up for a down payment on a home.

    He added that, culturally, millennials like instant gratification which translates to move-in ready homes, though at their price level, a fixer-upper is the best most can afford, he adds.

    "This generation more and more eschews debt as well, tainted by their experience both with student loans as well as what they may have seen and experienced in their own families during the past five to ten years," Barger said.

    "As a result, I have several clients who have elected to live with their parents until 28 or even 30, choosing to take the money they would have been applying to rent and utilities towards a down payment on a home," he said.

     

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