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    chick-fil-a new york city restaurant nationwide push
    Mark Lennihan/APPedestrians look at a costumed Chick-fil-A cow in the window of a new Chick-fil-A restaurant in New York City.

    NEW YORK -- Chick-fil-A will open an outpost Saturday in New York City, marking a high-profile milestone in its push to become a bigger national player.

    The Atlanta-based chain known for its fried chicken sandwiches with pickles has been stepping up its expansion and is opening nearly 100 new locations a year. The chain now has more than 1,900 stores in 42 states, although its heaviest presence is in the South.

    "We feel like we're pretty small and we could build restaurants for a long time," said David Farmer, Chick-fil-A's vice president of menu strategy and development. "There are so many places where we have no presence, or limited presence. It's just a lot of opportunity."

    Among the areas the company doesn't have as many stores are New England and the Northwest.

    chick-fil-a new york city restaurant nationwide push
    Mark Lennihan/APAn employee breads chicken breast prior to frying it in the kitchen of a new Chick-fil-A restaurant in New York City.
    For those who don't live near a Chick-fil-A, the chain may be better known for the Christian beliefs of its founder Truett Cathy than for its sweet tea and waffle fries. On its website, the privately held company says its corporate purpose is to "glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us."

    Its stores are closed Sundays, and the New York City location won't be an exception.

    In 2012, Chick-fil-A touched off protests by gay rights advocates after CEO Dan Cathy voiced support for "biblical families." The company has since tried to draw a distinction that the beliefs of its ownership and its business.

    In a fact sheet for the media, Chick-fil-A notes that it "does not have an opinion as an organization."

    Regardless, Chick-fil-A restaurants continue to outperform other chains. Last year, its stores on average pulled in $3.2 million in sales, according to industry tracker Technomic. That's compared with $2.5 million for McDonald's (MCD), $1.2 million for Burger King (QSR) and just $960,000 for KFC (YUM).

    Part of the attraction might be that Chick-fil-A is known for its friendly service. When a customer says "thank you," for instance, workers are trained to respond with "my pleasure" instead of a phrase such as "no problem." The latter suggests that the service provided might have been an inconvenience, said Farmer.

    Chick-fil-A expects its menu and service to win over New Yorkers as well. The location opening Saturday will be its largest in the country, spanning 5,000 square feet over two floors and a basement with an extra kitchen.

    Over the next two years, the company plans to open several more locations in New York City. The company already has a location on the campus of New York University, but the menu is limited.

    Even when Chick-fil-A opens in new markets, the company says transplants from its regional strongholds help generate excitement for its arrival. That is the case for Amanda Haas, a 25-year-old administrative assistant in New York City who grew up in Texas.

    Haas said she likes that the cuts of chicken seem like quality meat, and that there's just "something about the breading." She already mapped the subway route from her apartment to the restaurant.

    "It's a trek to get there, but it's one of those treks I'd make," she said.

    For now, Chick-fil-A is still comparable in size to Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG) and Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen (PLKI), which each have roughly 1,800 locations in the U.S., according to Technomic. By comparison, McDonald's has more than 14,300 locations, and KFC has more than 4,300.


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    Financial Markets Wall Street
    Richard Drew/AP
    By Noel Randewich

    NEW YORK -- U.S. stock indexes jumped more than 1 percent Friday as worries about the economy after a disappointing jobs report gave way to a robust rally in energy and materials stocks.

    The three major indexes clawed back losses of more than 1.5 percent as poor payroll data hinted at economic weakness while strengthening the argument for delaying a long-awaited interest rate hike.

    The recently beaten-down S&P energy index surged 4 percent following a rise in oil prices, while the materials index jumped 2.4 percent.

    The silver lining with this disappointing jobs number is that possibly this could push the rate hike off to the first quarter of 2016.

    "The silver lining with this disappointing jobs number is that possibly this could push the rate hike off to the first quarter of 2016," said Jake Dollarhide, chief executive of Longbow Asset Management in Tulsa.

    Friday's strong performance follows over a month of turbulence in global markets that has seen the S&P lose 7 percent of its value over fears that troubles in China's economy could spread around the world.

    Now, with the third-quarter earnings season starting next week, investors are starting to factor in what might be the biggest decline in profits for S&P 500 companies in six years.

    Analysts on average expect third-quarter earnings to decline 4.2 percent, according to Thomson Reuters (TRI) data.

    "There are a lot of concerns that a weakening global economy may be impacting the U.S., so that certainly doesn't bode well for earnings," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital in New York.

    'More Volatility'

    "It's going to be a market where we're going to see more and more volatility and major support levels being tested," Cardillo said.

    Nonfarm payrolls rose by 142,000, far below the 203,000 economists had expected, and August and July figures were revised down. But the jobless rate held at 5.1 percent.

    The report, the last before the Federal Reserve's meeting at the end of October, appeared to contradict Fed Chair Janet Yellen's comment last week that the economy was strong enough to withstand a rate hike this year.

    Odds of a December rate hike fell to a little over 27 percent from 44 percent before the report.

    Following a steep sell-off since late August, the S&P 500 is trading at 15.1 times expected earnings, slightly below the long-term median of 15.6.

    The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) rose rallied 1.2 percent to end at 16,472.37 points. The Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GSPC) gained 1.4 percent to 1,951.36. It bounced about 3 percent from its intra-day low to its closing level. The Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) jumped 1.7 percent to finish at 4,707.78.

    For the week, the Dow and S&P both rose 1 percent. The Nasdaq added 0.5 percent.

    Of the 10 major sectors, only the financial index failed to advance Friday.

    Chevron (CVX) rose 4.1 percent and ConocoPhillips (COP) jumped 2.1 percent. Alcoa (AA) jumped 2.8 percent.

    About 8.3 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, above the 7.25 billion average for the previous 20 sessions, according to Thomson Reuters data.

    NYSE advancing issues outnumbered decliners 2,321 to 753. On the Nasdaq, 1,930 issues rose and 882 fell.

    The S&P 500 index showed four new 52-week highs and 56 lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 13 new highs and 189 lows.

    -Charles Mikolajczak, Tanya Agrawal and Abhiram Nandakumar contributed reporting.

    What to watch Monday:
    • Institute for Supply Management releases its service sector index for September at 10 a.m. Eastern time.


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  • 10/02/15--22:00: What to Buy in October
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    happy woman holding halloween...
    By Raechel Conover

    By shopping standards, October is that odd month sitting smack in the middle of the back-to-school frenzy and the holiday shopping extravaganza. But cost-conscious shoppers need not despair -- there are plenty of October deals to be had. The best buys range from leftover items from previous months to goods discounted in advance of the big shopping days to come. And don't forget, Halloween erupts in October.

    Halloween gear. Unless you thought way ahead and bought a costume and decorations last November when prices were at their lowest, you'll need to be on the lookout for bargains this month. The longer you wait, the bigger the deals. There is a time constraint, however -- you won't find many costume choices and sizes if you wait too long. The best time to buy Halloween gear is mid-month when selection is still decent and prices are lower.

    Denim. Back-to-school shopping is over and the holiday shopping season is just about due and much like the month of October, denim is stuck in the middle. Retailers want to sell off back-to-school denim and make room for holiday trends, so keep your eye out for October deals on jeans.

    Cars. This is the month when auto dealers are eager to make room on their lots for new models. October is prime time for striking a deal on a new car that happens to be stamped with last year's date.

    Summer gear. This is most likely the last month shoppers will see patio furniture, summer yard tools and summer-themed decorations in stores until next spring. And you know where to look: the clearance bins. Add window air conditioner units to the list of October deals and get ready for next summer now, for less.

    Camping gear. With the best of summer hikes and campouts now a memory, camping gear will go on sale this month. Find cheap and discounted sleeping bags, tents and other camping equipment.

    Vacations. Cruises and vacations take a dip in prices in October, the shoulder month between summer vacations and holiday travel. School is back in session but many destinations still enjoy balmy and temperate weather and won't be very crowded. In other words, prices will be significantly lower.

    Food. October is a month to celebrate a couple of food favorites. With football in the air, naming this National Pizza Month makes sense. Check out how ranked low-cost frozen pizzas and four pizza chains during blind tastings. October is also National Cookie Month and Cheapism's chocolate chip cookie taste-off stacked 10 well-known brands against each other.

    Seasonal produce. October is the month when the fall bounty begins coming in even as some warm-weather plants produce their final yields. Look for cheap apples, beets, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, cranberries, grapes, honeydew melon, kale, leeks, lettuce, oranges, pears, spinach, squash, sweet potatoes and yams. If there's an apple orchard nearby, picking your own is cheaper yet. Sometimes the same can be said for pumpkins. Such outings in search of fresh fall produce to incorporate into nutritious and budget-friendly meals make for a fun time with family and friends on a weekend morning.

    Appliances. September and October used to be the prime time to buy big appliances because this is when new models are introduced. In recent years, however, the best big-appliance deals have been popping up in November, so hold off a few weeks before hitting the stores.

    Cookware. Deals on pots, pans and small appliances are also more enticing next month, so don't bother searching right now. Better yet, wait for Black Friday sales.


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    Social security card and American money dollar bills
    Getty Images
    By Brian O'Connell

    NEW YORK -- Considering so many Americans rely on Social Security for a good piece of their retirement funding, you'd think retirees would know more, or want to know more, about maximizing their Social Security benefits.

    For example, a 2015 Fidelity Investments study states that 60 percent of couples and 49 percent of baby boomers don't have any idea how much their Social Security benefit might be, "even though the information is readily available on the Social Security website."

    That's just for starters. A separate study from AARP reveals some additional, eye-opening statistics on what Americans "don't know" about Social Security.

    For instance:
    • Only 9 percent of U.S. consumers say they are "very knowledgeable" about how their Social Security benefits are calculated.
    • Only 1 percent of U.S. certified financial planners say their clients are "very knowledgeable" about their Social Security benefits.
    • Only 39 percent of Americans think Social Security will comprise at least 50 percent of their income, even as AARP reports "that as Americans age, their reliance on Social Security increases significantly, with nearly 6 in 10 Americans relying on Social Security for at least half of their retirement income after they reach 80 years of age."
    • 83 percent of Social Security recipients "overestimated or underestimated the amount of money they would receive if they waited to become beneficiaries at their full retirement age."
    • 39 percent of American adults AARP surveyed didn't know that 62 is the age they can first claim early Social Security retirement benefits.
    Social Security experts say future retirees are using some fuzzy math -- and fuzzy logic -- in figuring out when to start taking Social Security, and in many cases that mindset is working against them, financially.

    Andrew McFadden, who teaches Social Security workshops and classes in Fresno, California, has a front-row seat on how many Americans get Social Security wrong. "One big misconception is that Social Security is going bankrupt," he says. "Actually, it's not. The surplus in the [Old Age and Survivor Income] trust fund is expected to run out in 2035."

    There's a negative effect to that skewed line of thinking. "Because of this misconception, people believe that they need to claim benefits as early as possible -- age 62 -- to avoid getting snubbed by Social Security," McFadden says. "As a result, they collect less benefits over their lifetimes than they could have."

    Retirees may not understand how much can be gained by delaying the year they begin taking Social Security.

    If you do take Social Security proceeds out early, as McFadden states, know that you're leaving money on the table after you walk away.

    "Retirees may not understand how much can be gained by delaying the year they begin taking Social Security," says Sean Condon, a financial adviser with Windgate Wealth Management in Chicago. "Every year retirees delay Social Security after full retirement age -- 66 years old if born between 1943 and 1954, 67 years old if born in 1960 or after -- their annual benefit increases by 8 percent. Compared to potential investment returns, this guaranteed return can be very favorable."

    Another Social Security workshop leader, Sev Meneshian, of Chicago-based Public Retirement Planners and a professor of retirement planning at Northwestern University, says there is big confusion among consumers about lump sum payments. "I just did a Social Security workshop, and not one of the 50 attendees knew you can get a lump sum payment for deferred earnings," Meneshian says. "The amount can be over $120,000."

    Confusion plays a role, too, Meneshian says. "For instance, married couples have over 1,500 ways to file for benefits, oftentimes putting over $50,000 more in their pockets by picking a superior filing strategy," he says. Getting professional financial advice can break those options down for you, Meneshian adds.

    With retirement funding options so scarce for many Americans, not knowing what Social Security offers (and when) can lead to big problems down the path into retirement. "Social Security can be viewed as an annuity, and for many, this is the only guaranteed lifetime income they will have, it is important to make the right decision," says Chris Blackmon, a financial planner at Biggers Blackmon Wealth Management in Atlanta.

    But without the right data, that decision might cut into your retirement income, and leave you wondering one day why you weren't paying attention to Social Security -- until it was too late.


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    close up of credit card on a...
    Using a credit card in stores is now more secure. But for a little while, you might be better off paying with cash, or avoiding shopping altogether.

    That's because today is the credit card industry's self-imposed deadline for providing cardholders with upgraded cards that contain a computer chip. They're called EMV cards and also known as "chip cards."

    The microchip is intended to help reduce fraud. But some customers have yet to receive an EMV card, and those who have are discovering it often takes longer to check out when paying with an EMV card. "EMV" stands for Europay, MasterCard and Visa, and the technology is becoming the new global standard for fighting credit-card fraud, reports that the magnetic stripes on traditional credit and debit cards contain unchanging data:

    Whoever accesses that data gains the sensitive card and cardholder information necessary to make purchases. That makes traditional cards prime targets for counterfeiters, who convert stolen card data to cash. ...

    Every time an EMV card is used for payment, the card chip creates a unique transaction code that can't be used again. If a hacker stole the chip information from one specific point of sale, typical card duplication would never work.

    But a survey by found that more than 6 in 10 U.S. cardholders have yet to receive a microchip-enabled card. People who are using EMV cards -- and the people in line behind them -- are learning that it takes a few seconds longer for stores' credit-card terminals to process the new technology compared with the magnetic strip.

    Cardholders also face a learning curve after receiving their upgraded cards, which are inserted into the front of the terminal rather than swiped on the side.

    Justin Guinn, a market researcher at Software Advice, a company that advises businesses on payment software, tells CNN Money:

    "Until consumers and retailers get used to dipping the credit card as opposed to the autonomic swiping, shoppers (and retailers) can probably expect checkout processes to take a bit longer."

    Have you experienced any issues with EMV cards? Or are you among the majority of cardholders who have yet to receive one? Sound off in our Forums. It's the place where you can speak your mind, explore topics in-depth, and post questions and get answers.

    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!

    Sneaky Credit Card Tricks


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    APTOPIX Financial Markets Wall Street
    Richard Drew/APHistory shows the stock market is a solid predictor of recessions, but a correction doesn't always signal an upcoming recession.
    By Kira Brecht

    Have the recent stock market declines made you queasy? Over the past six weeks, stocks have lurched lower -- down 12 percent from their May high -- bounced back, then fallen again. The roller-coaster ride is enough to make even seasoned thrill-seekers a bit jittery.

    The stock market is a leading indicator for the economy; in fact, it is one of 10 components of the Conference Board Leading Economic Index. So should investors be worried about the economy slipping into recession?

    "The stock market is the best economic barometer out there," says Jeffrey A. Hirsch, editor at Stock Trader's Almanac & Almanac Investor. "In conjunction with the bond market, it is where all the biggest money managers lay their bets on the economic future."

    Pullbacks, corrections and bear markets. How low is low? Market analysts generally define a zero to 10 percent decline in the stock market as a pullback, a retreat of 10 to 20 percent as a correction, and a drop of 20 percent or more as a bear market.

    Now that we've had a correction, it's like the first snowstorm you get for the year in New England -- people forget how to drive in the snow.

    In August, the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GSPC) dropped 12 percent, which counts as a correction. But sometimes a market just needs to let off a little steam, which can actually be a good thing. "On average, once a year, you will see a 10 percent or more correction. The last one we had was 2011," says John Canally, economist at LPL Financial in Boston. "Now that we've had a correction, it's like the first snowstorm you get for the year in New England -- people forget how to drive in the snow."

    In other words, the market was overdue, and since it's been awhile since we've seen a correction, investors may be a little unnerved. While history shows that the stock market is a good predictor of recessions, not all corrections signal that a recession is ahead.

    "Does a 10 percent-plus decline in the S&P 500 predict that a U.S. recession will soon be at hand? Not according to history, which shows that while all recessions were preceded by corrections or bear markets, there were nearly three times the number of 10 percent-plus declines than there were recessions since 1948," says Sam Stovall, managing director at S&P Capital IQ in New York.

    Canally says that generally, "you get a recession once about every 10 years, but you get a 10 percent correction about once a year." Investors can take some comfort that the recent volatility and stock market weakness doesn't necessarily spell economic recession ahead.

    What's behind the recent stock market nervousness? Pick your poison. Uncertainty about the Federal Reserve and upcoming rate hikes is one factor, but there are plenty of other triggers. "The correction was due to a decrease in investor confidence, lowering valuation levels, caused principally by events in China and emerging markets rather than by a decline in the U.S. economy," says Brad McMillan, chief investment officer for Commonwealth Financial Network in Boston.

    But looking ahead, stock market bulls remain optimistic. Canally points to a year-end target on the S&P 500 at 2,050. McMillian also expects a rebound by year's end in the S&P 500, which is down about 8 percent year to date.

    "Right now, 2,000 is the most probable level," he says. "This is the upper end of the current range. I do not expect confidence to rise enough to justify breaking this level, but I also expect market improvement toward the end of the year as the U.S. economy continues to grow."

    Moving ahead. The stock market may be taking your 401(k) balance for a roller-coaster ride, but the chance of a recession is remote. "We see the odds of a recession in the next 12 to 18 months as pretty low. History shows the odds of recession are about 10 percent," Canally says.

    If you are a long-term investor with a time horizon of five or more years, sit tight, McMillan says. "You can do more damage to your portfolio than the market can over the long term. For money you need in the short term, reduce your risk exposure to something you feel comfortable with in the event of a market downturn."

    The price retreat also means there could be bargains to be found. "A number of high-quality stocks have fallen more than 20 percent from their 52-week highs, meaning they themselves have undergone a bear market and represent a buying opportunity," Stovall says. He points to the energy sector, where earnings are expected to be off nearly 66 percent in the third quarter. "But that will likely be the trough quarter for that sector, and things will gradually improve from here," he says.

    Continue to stay the investment course if you are fully invested, Stovall says, adding: "Don't let your emotions become your portfolio's worst enemy."


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    I knew you could do it!
    Getty Images
    By Janet Bodnar

    Several members of our staff recently went to an investment conference at which a hot topic was women and money, and they suggested that we do a story on the subject. The office reaction was mixed. "It sounds patronizing," said one female colleague.

    For me, it was a case of déjà vu. Ten years ago, I was asked to write a book about women and money, and I had a similar discussion with my editor at the time. Money is gender-neutral, he argued, so any financial story we did should apply equally to men and women. Wouldn't it be unnecessary, even insulting, to suggest otherwise? I replied that it certainly would be insulting if we adopted the attitude that financial information needed to be dumbed-down (or softened up) for women. But we'd be doing a real service if we reflected reality: Women often need specific financial advice tailored to their needs.

    In the end, I wrote the book, originally titled "Think Single! The Woman's Guide to Financial Security at Every Stage of Life." The idea of "thinking single" had nothing to do with a woman's matrimonial state. Rather, it referred to a state of mind in which women think independently about money -- even if their lives are bound up with parents, spouses or children -- and are confident of their ability to manage and invest it. A reviewer praised the book for "avoiding the patronizing finger-wagging and sticking to advice that women can use."

    That has always been our philosophy here at Kiplinger for both men and women. But women often use financial products in different ways than men and have different priorities, depending on the situations they face.

    Retirement is a perfect example. Despite the influx of women into the workforce, women still tend to have more-checkered work careers and amass less in savings than men. As a result, certain retirement products are a boon for women. For instance, a stay-at-home mom can establish a spousal IRA funded by her spouse's earnings. The account lets the couple double down on saving, but it also lets her control money of her own if something should happen to her spouse.

    Similarly, both men and women are eligible to make catch-up contributions to IRAs and 401(k) accounts once they reach age 50. But the extra savings can be particularly valuable for a woman if she has been out of the workforce and is making up for lost time.

    Upbeat outlook. Statistically, women live longer than men. So it's not surprising that in one Fidelity study, 60 percent of the women interviewed said they worry about outliving their money. Our cover story on making your money last in retirement isn't specifically aimed at women, but it addresses their concerns head-on.

    Senior editor Jane Bennett Clark, our retirement specialist, says covering the subject has made her more optimistic about funding a secure retirement. "Many people I talk to make the point that people are flexible and adjust," says Jane. "They find places where they can spend less, or get a part-time job, or take less out of their investments if the market is down."

    As a woman who found herself single and planning her own retirement at age 60, Jane is equally upbeat. "It's satisfying to feel you have control over your own destiny," she says. That's what it means to think single.


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    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.

    Horsehead Holding (ZINC) -- Up 125 percent last week

    Last week's biggest winner was Horsehead Holding, more than doubling after a larger rival announced that it would be scaling back its zinc production. Horsehead is a producer of zinc, zinc oxide and nickel-cadmium batteries. It's also a recycler of electric arc furnace dust and metals-bearing waste. Glencore's decision to slow its production sent zinc prices higher. That naturally benefits Horsehead, as it's able to command more money for its wares.

    One company hating the big move is Wall Street firm Oppenheimer. The analysts there downgraded Horsehead a week earlier, missing out on the big pop.

    Lumber Liquidators (LL) -- Up 34 percent last week

    The hardwood flooring retailer has been walking the plank all year, but it caught a break last week after settling a case on illegally sourced wood from Eastern Russia and Myanmar. This was the scandal at Lumber Liquidators before this year's fallout on safety concerns of its Chinese-sourced laminates and putting it to rest helps. However, the stock continues to be one of this year's biggest disappointments, off 72 percent so far in 2015 even after last week's settlement-driven pop.

    Customers still need some time before trusting Lumber Liquidators again for their flooring needs. The retailer did the right thing by eventually nixing all ties to Chinese laminates, but public opinion is usually slow to come around.

    LGI Homes (LGIH) -- Up 21 percent last week

    Some homebuilders are doing just fine these days. LGI Homes announced that it closed on 303 homes last month, up from just 200 a year earlier. It wraps up what has been a solid quarter for LGI Homes, with 934 homes handed over to new owners -- and 2,458 through the first nine months of 2015. That's 44 percent more than it did during the first nine months of 2014.

    Container Store (TCS) -- Down 21 percent last week

    The retailer of home storage solutions couldn't find a place to stash its latest quarterly report. Container Store shares slumped after falling short of Wall Street expectations. Sales inched marginally higher to $195.5 million and profitability was shaved by more than half to 6 cents a share. Analysts were holding out for net income of 7 cents a share on $197.7 million in sales.

    Yum Brands (YUM) -- Down 14 percent last week

    The parent company of Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut also came up short in its latest quarter. Yum Brands' profit of $1 a share was well below the $1.07 a share that analysts were targeting. It's a big disappointment for a fast-food giant that had blown through Wall Street forecasts with ease in the two previous quarters.

    Shake Shack (SHAK) -- Down 12 percent last week

    Finally, we have trendy burger-flipper Shake Shack getting smacked down after filing to sell 26.2 million shares. Secondary offerings are often dilutive, but that's not the case this time. All 26.2 million of the shares are being sold by existing investors. Shake Shack won't receive any of the proceeds, and the share count will remain the same. This still leaves investors' faith rattled given the sheer volume of insider bailing.

    Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Horsehead Holding, Lumber Liquidators, and The Container Store Group. 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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    Fed Bank Of Atlanta Conference On Federal Reserve: Past and Present
    Stephen Morton/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesRichard Fisher, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, left, and Dennis Lockhart, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta at a conference in Georgia in 2010.
    By Ann Saphir and Lindsay Dunsmuir

    CHICAGO and ORLANDO, Fla. -- Two Federal Reserve policymakers whose views are often at odds both suggested Monday they could well support an interest rate hike in December, as long as the economic data don't disappoint and that rate hikes once begun are gradual.

    While two doesn't make a crowd, their apparent agreement on the plausibility of a December rate increase came just a day after Fed Vice Chair Stanley Fischer said he, too, expects a 2015 hike.

    Indeed a large majority of Fed officials believe it will be appropriate to raise rates this year, but after the Fed opted to keep rates near zero at their meeting last month, investors have been increasingly doubtful. Weaker-than-expected data on job creation since the Fed's most recent meeting has fueled their skepticism, along with few signs that the global economy is poised to pick up.

    Traders see about a 40 percent chance the Fed will hike in December, and give about even odds for the January meeting. For October they see a less than 1 in 10 chance, though both Dennis Lockhart, the centrist chief of the Atlanta Fed, and Chicago Fed president Charles Evans, whose views are more dovish, sought to keep even October in the market's sights.

    "I think October is a live meeting, clearly there is the potential that the data coming in, in advance of the October meeting will be sufficient we have a lot more in December," Lockhart said in Orlando, Florida.

    Speaking separately in Chicago, Evans said that while for him waiting until mid-2016 to raise rates would be the "best choice," doing so earlier wouldn't necessarily adversely affect his forecast for the economy.

    "There is wiggle room" on the timing of the rate hike, he told reporters after a speech, and the economy could probably even withstand a slightly steeper set of rate increases than he, personally, would view as optimal.

    It is "way too early," he said, to know whether a December rate hike, or even an October one, would be appropriate.

    The Fed next meets Oct. 27-28.


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    Financial Markets Wall Street
    Richard Drew/AP
    By Caroline Valetkevitch

    NEW YORK -- Gains in utilities offset a retreat in energy shares Monday, leaving U.S. stocks slightly higher as investors remained nervous about third-quarter corporate results.

    The Dow rose for a seventh straight session, led by gains in UnitedHealth Group (UNH), which rose 2.7 percent at $122.51.

    This week brings results from some toup U.S. banks, among other companies, and investors are eyeing a projected 4.8 percent year-over-year decline in third-quarter S&P 500 earnings, according to Thomson Reuters data. That would be the worst earnings season in six years.

    Given how strong last week was, and we're going to get into the heart of the Q3 earnings season, the market has been relatively resilient.

    A 1.1-percent drop in the energy index was the biggest drag on the S&P 500 as oil prices retreated 5 percent. The utility index jumped 0.9 percent.

    Traders are "taking profits on some very nice moves, particularly on the oil patch," said Jim Paulsen, chief investment officer at Wells Capital Management in Minneapolis. Gains in utility stocks showed "people are getting a little defensive."

    Other analysts said it may be a somewhat bullish sign that the market did not sell off after last week's sharp gains.

    "Given how strong last week was, and we're going to get into the heart of the Q3 earnings season, the market has been relatively resilient," said Michael James, managing director of equity trading at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles.

    "As long as the tone of the guidance isn't totally negative, I think we have a decent chance of having an OK fourth quarter."

    The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) rose 47.37 points, or 0.3 percent, to 17,131.86, the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GSPC) gained 2.57 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,017.46 and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) added 8.17 points, or 0.2 percent, to 4,838.64.

    Trading volume was light with the bond market, banks and the government closed for Columbus Day.

    Earnings Season

    Focus will be on results from banks this week. JPMorgan (JPM) reports Tuesday, with Goldman Sachs (GS), Bank of America (BAC), Wells Fargo (WFC) and Citigroup (C) posting results through the week.

    Third-quarter earnings for the S&P financial sector are expected to have grown 7.6 percent versus a year ago, Thomson Reuters data showed.

    Along with the banks, several Dow 30 components are scheduled to report results this week, including Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), Intel (INTC) and General Electric (GE).

    Eli Lilly's (LLY) shares fell 7.8 percent to $79.44, its biggest single-day percentage decline in seven years, after the drugmaker said it was scrapping an experimental heart drug.

    EMC (EMC) shares were up 1.8 percent at $28.35 after Dell said it would buy the data storage company in a $67 billion deal.

    NYSE advancers outnumbered decliners 1,584 to 1,441, a 1.10-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, 1,435 issues fell and 1,328 advanced, for a 1.08-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.

    The S&P 500 posted 25 new 52-week highs and 1 low; the Nasdaq recorded 78 new highs and 30 lows.

    About 5.1 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, below the 7.6 billion daily average for the past 20 trading days, according to Thomson Reuters (TRI) data.

    -Abhiram Nandakumar contributed reporting from Bangalore.

    What to watch Tuesday:
    • The Treasury Department releases the federal budget for September at 2 p.m.
    Earnings Calendar
    These selected companies are scheduled to release quarterly financial results:
    • CSX (CSX)
    • Fastenal (FAST)
    • Intel (INTC)
    • JPMorgan Chase (JPM)
    • Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)


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    Expect Scary October but Happy Holiday Markets: Pro

    By Lou Carlozo

    Who needs scary vampires and Frankenstein monsters to spook even seasoned traders when October could bring a month of tricks and no treats? To be sure, a 2015 stock market crash is highly unlikely. But there's always the chance it can be ghoulish for some sectors or off-guard traders.

    'October Surprise' In 1972, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger pointed to Vietnam and declared, "Peace is at hand" in what has become known as the October Surprise, a news event deliberately created to have a deciding impact on a presidential election. But when money is on the line, October has often meant blood in the trading pit. Consider these wretched events.
    • In 1869, October saw jittery markets a week after the first infamous Black Friday, which occurred on Sept. 24 after the gold market collapsed. Harper's Weekly ran an editorial cartoon immortalizing the event on Oct. 16, 1869.
    • With the October Panic of 1907, multiple bank runs and heavy panic selling threatened to engulf Wall Street. In an age before the Federal Reserve, it took a consortium led by tycoon J.P. Morgan to save the market from certain collapse.
    • Wall Street suffered the worst crash in U.S. market history in October 1929, an event so gruesome that starting on Oct. 24, it spawned its own Black Thursday, Black Friday, Black Monday and Black Tuesday. Banks began to fail. Big shots rolling in dough one day were beggars standing in bread lines the next. The Dow lost 89 percent of its pre-crash high in the years that followed the Great Depression.
    As October approaches, here are five signs that the month could usher in market madness.

    1. China Breaks, Wall Street Quakes

    There's no Great Wall of Wall Street that can keep China's economic woes from impacting U.S. markets. The China stock market crash happened less than two months ago, leading to a tumble that's since been dubbed "the Flash Crash of 2015." For brief a period, the Vanguard Consumer Staples fund (VDC) was down 32 percent. That was all many market watchers needed to make them wary of "the China Syndrome."

    "It happened so fast and was so powerful that no one could've predicted it even a week earlier," said Jay Sukits, a clinical assistant professor of business administration finance at the University of Pittsburgh's Katz Graduate School of Business. "But the worst thing you can do is panic: to sell right at the bottom of the market."

    2. Technology Goes Haywire

    The Flash Crash in August also demonstrated that Wall Street can suffer from technology woes. Published reports described how, amidst the commotion, traders were frozen out as they attempted to execute the simplest of moves. The impact was horrific. In six minutes, the Dow suffered its biggest drop in history. Millions of investors were locked out as markets opened and stocks tumbled. Popular trading platforms run by TD Ameritrade, Scottrade and others ran slow or not at all as panic ensued.

    The computer crash scenario isn't nearly as far-fetched as you might think. In July, the New York Stock Exchange computers went down for four hours. Traders began to go green -- not with money or envy but with nausea. The disruption rattled investors already on edge with the Greek debt crisis and an overnight market rout in China. For this to happen in October, you would have to witness a big-time tech foul-up combined with unwelcome news from China, Greece, the European Union or Russia.

    3. Interest Rates Rise

    The possibility of interest rate hikes continues to make investors nervous. Most everyone who owns even a single share of stock has watched the Federal Reserve meetings as though they were lost episodes of "Breaking Bad." Not that the Fed broke bad when it held the line on rates at its September meeting, but a future rate hike is now all but certain. Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen indicated Sept. 24 that the Fed still intends to raise its benchmark rate this year.

    Does that late month assertion set the stage for October panic? "I would encourage investors to act as if the Fed has already begun to raise rates," said Robert R. Johnson, president and CEO of The American College for Financial Services in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, and co-author of the book "Invest With the Fed."

    4. Recession Redux

    The Great Recession has been over for six years but it's possible that investors could see a brief rerun in the next few months if foreign turmoil kicks up. "Things are slowing down everywhere and the U.S. won't be unscathed," said David Twibell, president of the Custom Portfolio Group. "In fact, there's a decent chance the U.S. economy will tip into recession sometime in the next few quarters.

    "If so, the U.S. stock market is going to go much lower than most analysts expect. So buckle up, look for buying opportunities later this year but don't jump the gun," he said. "Now more than ever, patience is a virtue."

    Twibell isn't the only one who sees uncertainty in the economy. "There are a number of indicators that point to a potential fall in stock prices as early as October," said Derek Peterson, president and CEO of Terra Tech and a former vice president with Morgan Stanley (MS).

    He pointed out that while the U.S. unemployment rate has fallen to 5.1 percent in August, about 10 percent of workers, or 6.5 million people, are underemployed. Moreover, wages have been flat and 22 million households, or nearly 20 percent, are on food stamps.

    5. October Is Historically Horrible

    While the stock market crash of 1929 is etched in most everyone's memory, investment experts have more detailed knowledge of disastrous sessions where stock prices fell faster than dead autumn leaves.

    "October tends to stick out in people's memories because of the memorable crashes that have occurred," says Scott Laue, a senior adviser with Savant Capital Management in Rockford, Illinois.

    He recalled "Black Monday" on Oct. 19, 1987, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI) sank by 508 points, a drop of more than 21 percent. He also cited these events: "The markets bottomed out in 1990; in 1997 the 'Asian Contagion' dropped the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GSPC) by 11 percent in 4 days; in 2002, there was a technology bubble bottom; and in 2008, after Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, the S&P dropped by 26 percent during October." Yikes. Why not sell everything now and move to a hut in Maui? As Laue put it, "The month of October has had some challenging periods. But we always need to remember that 'past performance is not indicative of future results.' "

    This story, 5 Signs the Stock Market Will Crash in October, originally appeared on


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    Pricing Tricks That Make You Spend More

    By Renee Morad

    If you find yourself reaching for a $39.99 sweater or loading up on $11.99 albums on iTunes, you're not alone. The strategy of ending prices with 99 cents has been around for decades and has worked its magic on almost all of us. But it's certainly not the only trick retailers use when pricing products.

    Merchants use a variety of strategies to get us to spend more -- from labeling prices without dollar signs to setting a per-customer limit. And this takes place at all ends of the spectrum -- from buying food and toys to cars and houses.

    Whether you're shopping for the holidays or for everyday items, even you could be susceptible to simple pricing tricks, warns Money Talks News money expert Stacy Johnson.

    "While you probably don't stop to consider the pennies on a price tag, let me assure you, your friendly merchant does," Johnson says.

    1. Prices ending in 9, 99 or 95. Known as "charm prices," prices ending in 9, 99 or 95 make items appear cheaper than they really are. Since people read from left to right, they are more likely to register the first number and make an immediate conclusion as to whether the price is reasonable.

    When professor Robert Schindler of the Rutgers Business School studied prices at a women's clothing store, he found the 1 cent difference between prices ending in .99 and .00 had "a considerable effect on sales," with prices ending with .99 far outselling those ending with .00.

    While this works right down to the last digit on a product as small as a $1.29 iTunes download, it's also effective on anything from a pair of jeans to a car or house. Homes selling for $299,000 often sell faster than those costing $300,000. The reason? It's under, rather than at, the upper limit of those shopping for houses in the $250,000 -- $300,000 price range.

    Pricing that doesn't end in 9 also tells our minds a story. If a price ends in 4 or 7, for example, it's likely to stand out because it doesn't end in 9. And it subliminally suggests the seller has seriously considered the price.

    2. Dollars without cents. If you see prices with no change, the retailer or restaurateur is sending the message that you're in a high-end place. The implication is that if you're concerned about pocket change, you should move on.

    3. Prices without dollar signs. In Tricks of the Trade: Restaurants, we explained the rationale behind restaurants intentionally leaving dollar signs off menus: It makes customers spend more. In a Cornell study, guests given a menu with only numbers and no dollar signs spent significantly more than those who received a menu with either prices showing dollar signs or prices written out in words.

    The same tactic translates to retail stores. When items are marked, say, "20" without the dollar sign, retailers are hoping customers won't associate the amount with money and thus be less likely to keep a running tally of how much they're spending as they shop.

    4. 10 for $10 trick. Stores push deals like "10 for $10," aiming to get shoppers to buy items like soup, cereal, etc., in bulk. But here's something stores don't advertise: You don't always have to buy in bulk to get the deal. In many cases, you could just as easily buy 1 for $1. It's something worth asking your retailer about before loading up your cart.

    5. Per-customer limits. When stores add limits to products, like "limit 4 per customer," it tricks shoppers into thinking the product is scarce, the price low, or both. It also gives the impression of big demand. You find yourself buying several when you would normally buy just one, to avoid missing out.

    6. "Free" promotion. Retailers know "free" is the magic word. So they roll out deals like buy-one-get-one-free -- sometimes persuading us to buy things we wouldn't normally purchase. Free shipping incentives requiring us to spend a certain amount of money also draw us in.

    7. Simple prices. Simple prices, especially on products susceptible to future markdowns, allow shoppers to quickly compare how much they're saving. It's easy to compute the discount on a product originally priced at $50 that now costs $35, as opposed to an item originally priced at $49.97, now on sale for $34.97.

    The bottom line. These tricks are so simple, it's easy to believe you're too sophisticated to fall for them. Odds are, however, you do, and so do millions of other people. Otherwise, they wouldn't be used. The psychology of shopping affects virtually everything you buy from toys to houses and food to Ferraris.

    But being aware they exist -- and work -- may help you overcome them and make you a smarter shopper.

    -Jim Gold contributed to this report.

    How do you resist pricing psychology? Share with us in the comments 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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    the tiny house on a hot summer morning
    nicolas.boullosa/FlickrThe tiny house movement isn't for everyone.
    By John Schmoll

    Tiny house living has been a growing trend over the past few years. In fact, there are numerous television programs that follow supporters of the lifestyle. In an effort to scale back, live in a more environmentally friendly way and be more frugal, tiny house supporters have cast aside sprawling homes in favor of much tighter living quarters. For those of you still unfamiliar with the concept, it's a house that is 500 square feet or less in size.

    According to the American Enterprise Institute, the average house size has increased by more than 1,000 square feet from 1973 to 2013. With that fact in mind, it's understandable why some people pursue the tiny living model instead. A starter home for a couple or small family doesn't need to be nearly 3,000 square feet.

    A smaller house can mean less consumption and mindless spending and a more positive impact on the environment. But there are also other factors to consider when weighing whether it makes sense for you and your budget to join the tiny house movement. Here are three reasons why living in a tiny home can end up costing you more money, not less:

    1. It's not sustainable. The main argument against living in a tiny home is that it's not sustainable. That argument makes sense. Consider some of the following questions: Will your family grow to include additional members? Do you or your family members prefer privacy? What are you going to do when you're too old to climb over your kitchen to get in your bed? Where are you going to store personal keepsakes that you don't want to part with?

    Those are just but a few of the questions to consider. For some people, answering these questions might confirm that a tiny house is right for them. But that will be true for a very small portion of the population.

    2. It's too expensive. How can a tiny house be expensive? Many who pursue tiny house living do so to spend and consume less. When you look at the cost of an average tiny house compared to more traditional homes, you actually see tiny houses often cost more, relatively speaking.

    Forbes reports the average cost of a tiny home is $200 to $400 a square foot. Compare that against what a standard house costs per square foot. The 2010 Census breaks down the average cost of a new, single-family house at just over $84. The highest region of the county, the Northeast, averages just over $110.

    A quick check reveals that a tiny house is anywhere from two to nearly five times higher than the cost of a single-family home. They also tend to come with less land attached.

    3. Potential legal issues. Zoning related to tiny houses pose another issue. As many tiny houses come on wheels, they can run into issues with municipalities who have little to no legal establishments for tiny house dwellers.

    This isn't meant to say living in a tiny house is illegal, per se, but rather that many regions of the country simply aren't set up to allow for tiny house living. Safety issues, potential difficulties hooking up to utilities and more can lead to expensive and time-consuming legal challenges.

    As long as you are mindful of these challenges to frugality, then tiny house living might still make sense for you. The point is to be mindful. Benefits include lower utility bills, less of a temptation to fill your home with expensive things and a lower or no mortgage.

    The desire to live more frugally and be free of debt are great things to pursue. But you can also reduce your impact on the environment while living in an average-sized house.

    Living in a tiny house has been glamorized as a way to cut down. That might work for some people, but for others, the factors mentioned above can change the equation. Be sure to consider all costs, including long-term ones, before deciding to move into a tiny house. Ultimately, the best frugal choice for you depends on more than just the size of your home.

    John Schmoll is the founder of Frugal Rules, a finance blog that regularly discusses investing, budgeting and frugal living. He is a father, husband and veteran of the financial services industry who's passionate about helping people find freedom through frugality.


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    Nest egg IOU.
    Getty Images
    By Ellen Chang

    NEW YORK -- Tapping into your 401(k) plan for a loan or a distribution should be considered only as a last resort for consumers who are short on cash.

    Faced with long-term unemployment or an emergency, some consumers turn to taking out a loan or a distribution from their 401(k) if they lack enough savings. A 401(k) loan can appear to be a good option because the interest rates are relatively low, but the ramifications can put you in a jam: if you leave your job for any reason, the loan must be repaid back quickly -- within 60 days. If you are under 59½ years old and miss that mark, you'll typically be on the hook for a 10 percent early withdrawal penalty on the outstanding loan amount, plus federal and state income tax on the distribution.

    When 401(k) Loans Are a Good Option

    The lower interest rates make these loan an attractive option, especially for people planning to pay down their credit cards, which typically carry rates into the teens.

    "For those really serious about paying off credit card debt, by all means, take the 401(k) loan, pay off credit card debt and repay yourself," said Bill DeShurko, a portfolio manager at Covestor and president of 401 Advisor, a registered investment adviser in Centerville, Ohio.

    While the terms for each plan varies, the rate on a 401(k) loan is "usually a few percentage points above the prime rate, which is currently 3.25 percent," said Canon Hickman, regional director at Equity Concepts, a Richmond, Virginia-based investment and financial services company. One benefit is that the interest payments "will go back" to the individual once the entire loan is repaid.

    "It's also helpful for short-term needs if you can't qualify for a traditional loan," he said. "Since there's no underwriting process, getting the money you need isn't limited by your credit score."

    401(k) Loans Are Risky

    The duration on 401(k) loans has a much shorter span, and they must be repaid within five years. These loans aren't a good alternative to pay for large ticket items, because your monthly payments will still remain high.

    "For big expense items, that is typically too short of an amortization period to keep payments low enough to consider a 401(k) loan as an option," DeShurko said.

    In this current environment of stagnant job growth, these loans should be avoided if "there is any chance of wanting to change jobs or being laid off," he advised.

    Borrowing money from your retirement plan for a personal loan isn't a good strategy, because if you not have paid off the entire loan when you quit or are laid off, the remaining balance is taxable as income.

    "Even if things seem solid, I would eliminate personal loans as a valid use for this reason," DeShurko said.

    401(k) Distributions

    All employer-sponsored 401(k) plans have their own rules. Some of them may not allow employees to take loans. In that case, some employees opt to take out an in-service distribution during a hardship or even to pay for their child's college tuition.

    "All plans do not allow for in-service withdrawals, but if they do, its often for financial hardships, which can be college education, first-time homebuying or medical expenses," said Jamie Hopkins, retirement professor at the American College of Financial Services in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.

    Withdrawals from your 401(k) plan are frowned upon, because of the 10 percent early withdrawal penalty, plus federal and state income tax for investors younger than 59½.

    There are some exemptions for the 10 percent penalty tax, and they include people who become disabled or to help pay for reimbursed medical expenses over 10 percent of your adjusted gross income, he said.

    "It is important to remember that access is different than taxation," Hopkins said. "While you might have access to your 401(k) funds through the hardship provision, a withdrawal for college education expenses before you are 59.5, you will not be exempt for the additional 10 percent penalty tax for early withdrawals."

    Another huge catch is that the money you withdraw from your 401(k) can't be replaced, so you can't simply catch up on your retirement savings later on when you get raise or a bonus.

    "Withdrawals are permanent," he said. "Once you take the money out of your 401(k) and use it, you will no longer be able to get that money back into the 401(k) or into an IRA."

    Why Loans Are Better Than Withdrawals

    For consumers who are strapped for cash, getting a loan is a better bet, because there are no limitations on what the purpose of the funds and doesn't get taxed as income.

    "Usually the best way to get access to your 401(k) while you are still working is to take a loan from the plan," Hopkins said. "Loans give you much needed access to funds today without excessive taxes and penalty fees. Remember that the loan will need to be paid back into your account, usually through payroll deductions over a five year period."

    Withdrawing Money From Your IRA Instead

    Although you can't take out a loan from an IRA, you have greater flexibility in accessing funds from it. You are allowed to withdraw money from it any time.

    "In some cases, you just won't have access to the funds in your 401(k) immediately while an IRA is a much more liquid account, so for fast or short-term use it can be the best way to go," Hopkins said.

    Another benefit of an IRA is that if you borrow the money for less than 60 days, you can withdraw money from it and pay it back within that time period without being subject to the 10 percent penalty tax. The catch is that the IRS only allows you to do this once a year and if you fail to repay all the money, it will be treated as a taxable distribution.


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    Friends sitting on mattress in furniture store
    By Louis DeNicola

    Buying a mattress is generally an unpleasant experience, with the kind of high-pressure salesmanship associated with buying a used car. Comparison shopping is all but futile; many mattresses from different brands or lines are essentially the same inside.

    Shoppers anxious to make a good investment -- considering how much time they spend lying in bed and the importance of sleep for physical and mental health -- can easily overspend. Certain Serta, Simmons and Royal-Pedic models cost upward of $4,000 and are hardly the fanciest available. Constant "blowout" sales offering 50 percent or more off the list price suggest substantial retailer markups.

    By contrast, a growing number of online mattress sellers price their products under $1,000. They keep costs low by bypassing showrooms and commission-driven sales. The best ones offer high-quality products with free shipping, long test periods, free returns and 10-year warranties. compared the offerings from six companies with predominantly 4- and 5-star ratings in online reviews.

    The Mattresses. Boutique online retailers generally sell foam mattresses, often a combination of high-density polyurethane (memory) foam and latex foam. Casper, Tuft and Needle, Leesa and Yogabed take a one-mattress-fits-all approach and offer a single product in different sizes.

    Mattresses from Helix Sleep are customized along four dimensions -- feel, support, temperature regulation and point elasticity -- based on answers to a short questionnaire. For couples, both partners can take the survey and the middle point can be used or the mattress can be split into two sides (which costs another $100 for queen size and larger).

    The cheapest option is a foam mattress from Signature Sleep. With 4.5 out of 5 stars based on thousands of Amazon reviews, the 8-inch Signature Sleep Memoir may be a good option for some frugal consumers. A 12-inch version represents a step up in comfort and still offers significant savings over other companies' products.
    Brand Full Queen King Shipping Return Shipping Trial Period Warranty Height
    Signature Sleep Memoir
    Included (from Amazon)
    30 days
    1 year
    8 inches
    Tuft and Needle
    100 days
    10 years
    10 inches
    100 days
    10 years
    10 inches
    100 days
    10 years
    10 inches
    101 days
    10 years
    10 inches
    Helix Sleep
    100 days
    10 years
    10 inches

    How does shipping work? Mattresses bought online are rolled and vacuum sealed for shipping. When unpacked, they expand slowly, reaching their general form within a few minutes, although some may take days to reach full size. They sometimes have a strong odor that can take several days to dissipate.

    Dissatisfied customers can return mattresses to many online sellers for a full refund within the first 100 days. Mattresses returned in good condition are often given to local charities, although in some places laws require that they be recycled or thrown out.

    Does one size really fit all? Buying a mattress online can be nerve-racking; it's a product many shoppers are inclined to try before buying. Testing a mattress at home for weeks or even months is likely the best way to see if the mattress is a good fit and many online retailers make this easy.

    But if customers' experiences are a good indication, it is unlikely a mattress purchased online will need to be returned. There might be some slight differences between the products, but all the mattresses listed here consistently earn positive reviews from consumers -- with expectations somewhat narrowed by the fact that the buyers had already decided on a foam mattress (as opposed to a traditional innerspring or other type of mattress).

    Additional Discounts. Online mattress retailers don't have the same negotiable prices and clearance sales found at the local mall. But many offer $50 to $75 off with the use of a coupon code or referral from a "friend" (there are many people eager to supply one online). Some also include add-ons such as a pillow or set of sheets with a purchase.


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    Social Media Illustrations
    Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images
    By Lehar Maan and Abhirup Roy

    Twitter will lay off up to 336 employees, or about 8 percent of its workforce, as co-founder Jack Dorsey readies to revive growth in the microblogging service provider's user base in his second stint as chief executive.

    The layoffs, primarily in the company's product and engineering functions, come a week after Dorsey took over as permanent CEO.

    Shares of Twitter (TWTR), which had about 4,100 employees globally as of June 30, rose as much as 6 percent in morning trading Tuesday.

    "We feel strongly that engineering will move much faster with a smaller and nimbler team, while remaining the biggest percentage of our workforce," Dorsey said in a letter to employees. "And the rest of the organization will be streamlined in parallel."

    FBN Securities analyst Shebly Seyrafi, however, said the company needed to focus also on "rationalizing sales" along with engineering to achieve its margin targets.

    The general thinking is that Twitter has a product problem, which is why they picked Jack to come in.

    Dorsey, who took over as Twitter's interim CEO in July after Dick Costolo resigned, has been candid about the company's problems.

    Twitter's second-quarter growth in average monthly users was the slowest since the company went public on Nov. 7, 2013. Its stock nearly tripled to a record high of $74.73 in December 2013, but has fallen about 60 percent since.

    "The general thinking is that Twitter has a product problem, which is why they picked Jack to come in. You would normally not be cutting in engineering if you have a product problem. So I scratched my head a little bit on that," Seyrafi told Reuters.

    Since Dorsey took over as CEO for the second time, Twitter has rolled out a "buy now" button that allows users to make purchases and a feature that highlights the best tweets and content.

    The company said it expected about $10 million to $20 million in severance costs and $5 million to $15 million in restructuring charges. Twitter expects to record most of these pretax restructuring charges in the fourth quarter.

    Technology news website Re/code first reported the planned layoffs on Oct. 9.

    Twitter also estimated its third-quarter revenue at or above the higher end of its forecast range of $545 million-$560 million, and adjusted EBITDA at or above the higher end of its forecast range of $110 million-$115 million.

    The company will report its third-quarter results on Oct. 27.

    -Devika Krishna Kumar contributed reporting.


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    playboy no more nude women
    Ian West/PA via APPlayboy founder Hugh Hefner signs copies of the Playboy calendar and Playboy Cover To Cover: The 50's DVD box set in Los Angeles.

    LOS ANGELES -- Playboy is about to find out how many people really do read it for the articles.

    The magazine that helped usher in the sexual revolution in the 1950s and '60s by bringing nudity into America's living rooms -- or at least its sock drawers -- announced this week that it will no longer run photos of naked women.

    Playboy has seen its circulation plunge in recent decades as it has fallen victim to some of the very forces it helped set in motion. First it had to deal with competition from more sexually explicit magazines like Penthouse and Hustler. Now the Internet is awash in high-definition porn.

    You're now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free. And so it's just passe at this juncture.

    Playboy has decided that the answer is less skin, not more.

    "You're now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free. And so it's just passe at this juncture," Playboy Enterprises CEO Scott Flanders told The New York Times.

    Starting in March, Playboy's print edition will still feature women in sexy, provocative poses, but they will no longer be fully nude. It will become more like Esquire and other magazines with PG-13-type pictures.

    The Times said the magazine has not decided whether to continue having a centerfold.

    Playboy became famous for publishing nude photos of some of the world's most famous women. Marilyn Monroe was its first centerfold, 62 years ago.

    Although the change represents a major shift for the magazine, it is also the latest step away from full nudity, which was banned from Playboy's website in August 2014. That helped make the site safer for work and public places, and enabled Playboy to get onto Facebook, Twitter and other platforms.

    The magazine has said its online audience soared with that move, averaging a fourfold increase in monthly unique visitors.

    During Playboy's print heyday, readers could plausibly, if not always convincingly, claim they read it for its fiction, journalism and interviews.

    It published the work of such writers as John Updike, Jack Kerouac, Norman Mailer, Ray Bradbury and Joseph Heller, and interviewed the likes of Jimmy Carter, Fidel Castro, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Miles Davis, Frank Sinatra and Bob Dylan.

    One of the magazine's veteran contributors, celebrity interviewer David Rensin, praised the move away from full nudity as something Playboy should have done years ago.

    "It's a good business move. The magazine's got to keep up with the times," said Rensin, whose long list of interview subjects includes Bill Gates, Jerry Seinfeld, Martin Scorsese and, more recently, Lena Dunham and Scarlett Johansson.

    For every newsmaker or celebrity who said yes to a Playboy interview, Rensin told The Associated Press on Tuesday, there were others who said no because they didn't want their words to appear next to or near photographs of naked women.

    The Times said taking full nudity out of the magazine was something the 89-year-old Hugh Hefner signed off on when Playboy editor Cory Jones ran the idea by him.

    "The political and sexual climate of 1953, the year Hugh Hefner introduced Playboy to the world, bears almost no resemblance to today," Flanders said in a statement. "We are more free to express ourselves politically, sexually and culturally today, and that's in large part thanks to Hef's heroic mission to expand those freedoms."

    The shift will be accompanied by other changes in the magazine, including a slightly larger size and heavier, higher-quality paper meant to give the magazine a more collectible feel.

    Playboy's print circulation, measured at 5.6 million in the 1975, is now about 800,000, according to Alliance for Audited Media, the Times reported.


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    The headquarter of GE Money Bank, sign Prague Czech Republic
    By Lewis Krauskopf and Ankit Ajmera

    General Electric (GE) took a big step Tuesday in its plan to unload most of its financing operations, saying it has agreed to sell commercial lending and leasing businesses worth more than $30 billion to Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC).

    The U.S. conglomerate has now inked $126 billion in transactions -- more than half of its overall target -- since announcing in April it would seek to reduce its GE Capital financing business to less than 10 percent of earnings as it focuses more on industrial manufacturing. GE Capital accounted for 42 percent of the company's profit in 2014.

    Only one remaining significant GE Capital business in the United States remains: its franchise finance unit, which has about $5.5 billion worth of assets.

    The ability to move fast on its U.S. transactions is critical because once those deals close, GE plans to apply to shed GE Capital's regulatory designation as a Systemically Important Financial Institution, or SIFI, a label it gained after the 2008 financial crisis.

    The sale to Wells, the price of which wasn't disclosed, involves three lines of business: commercial distribution finance, vendor finance and corporate finance.

    Commercial distribution finance offers lending to dealers and manufacturers of durable goods, such as boats, recreational vehicles and off-road vehicles. Vendor finance involves dealer networks for commercial equipment such as copiers, materials handling and construction machines.

    Corporate finance includes asset-based loans and equipment leasing to a range of mid-size and larger companies.

    About 3,000 GE employees of the 3,500 in those businesses will shift to Wells through the deal, GE said.

    The transaction is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2016, GE said.

    Reuters first reported last week that GE was nearing a deal to sell the massive portfolio of loans to Wells.

    Goldman Sachs (GS) and Credit Suisse (CS) advised GE on the deal.


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    Netflix Price Increase
    Elise Amendola/AP
    Netflix (NFLX) moving to increase its monthly rate for new subscribers last week came as a bit of a surprise. Didn't CEO Reed Hastings say just this summer that he wants his company "to take it slow" with any potential increases?

    Obviously, Netflix thinks that the time is right to give the monthly rate for its standard streaming plan a boost. This is the second time in two years that Netflix has jacked up its fees, but -- deep down inside -- you know that you're not going anywhere.

    You will continue to be a Netflix subscriber. Let's go over a few reasons that last week's move may not be enough to scare you away.

    1. The New Rate May Not Apply to You Just Yet

    Keep in mind that Thursday's push to charge $9.99 a month is just for new subscribers. Existing customers won't be hit with the new price until next October, and that's probably a pretty good incentive to stick around.

    If you were planning on canceling the service after you got up to speed with "Orange Is the New Black," you may want to rethink losing your place at $7.99 or $8.99 a month. Netflix seems to have a steady flow of original programming and existing content. You may as well stick around.

    2. Netflix Is Honest About Investing in Its Catalog

    Netflix is justifying the increase by saying that it's investing in content. That's not lip service: We've seen its streaming content obligations balloon from $7.7 billion to $10.1 billion over the past year. Armed with more money being paid by a wider user base, it's a safe bet that the tab will continue to move higher.

    3. Customers Didn't Bail Last Time

    Browse the comments section of stories detailing last week's move and you'll find a few people threatening to cancel. That may seem ominous, but there was a similar level of mumbling last year, too.

    Folks stuck around then. Netflix has 15.5 million more subscribers now than it had a year earlier. It's a safe bet that the count will continue to rise beyond the 65 million streaming accounts that it was watching over at the end of June.

    4. Movies Could Be a Game Changer

    Folks pay more for a single premium movie channel than they do for Netflix. The appeal is mostly that HBO has "Game of Thrones" and Showtime has "Homeland," but those channels also have a steady flow of recent releases.

    Netflix is about to shake up that market. Friday's debut of "Beasts of No Nation" is the first original film that the video service is bankrolling, but it won't be the last. We have several original Adam Sandler flicks, and even the long-anticipated sequel to "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" that will debut exclusively on Netflix next year. This is a new page in the Netflix playbook, and since it's incremental, it will make it that much harder to quit the platform.

    5. Even at $9.99 It Is Still a Good Value

    It's hard to complain about Netflix at $9.99. Rival Hulu just rolled out a higher-priced ad-free version of Hulu Plus at $11.99, and even that's a reasonable ransom for a growing catalog of digital content.

    Cable bills run several times what Netflix is now charging, which basically is about the price of a single movie ticket. It's true that Netflix going from $7.99 to $8.99 last year and $9.99 now represents a 25 percent overall increase, but if your $100 cable bill went up by two bucks, would folks be bothered by the 2 percent increase? As far as monthly costs go, it's the same thing.

    We may very well get to the point where Netflix is charging too much, but that isn't happening now.

    Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Netflix. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Netflix. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Check out The Motley Fool's one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.


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    DEM 2016 Iowa
    Charlie Neibergall/APDemocratic presidential candidates, from left, Bernie Sanders, Martin O'Malley, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Lincoln Chafee.
    By Linda Keslar

    With the larger-than-life personalities that are the Republican candidates dominating the media spotlight as of late, it's easy to forget about that other political party -- you know, the Democrats. Perhaps that's because the Democratic race hasn't been as unpredictable as that of the GOP: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has yet to give up her lead, appearing unbeatable ... for now.

    After all, it's still early in the race. Vice President Joe Biden hasn't officially announced his candidacy. And Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has shed his dark-horse status as more voters become intrigued by his populist stance.

    So as a follow-up to the cheat sheet we brought you last month on the Republicans, here's a rundown on where the Democratic hopefuls stand on five key personal-finance issues -- from taxes to health care -- just in time for tonight's CNN debate.

    They are listed in order of their average poll rankings as of Monday. Tune in tonight to see which candidate could win your vote -- and who might fall to the bottom of your ballot.

    1. Hillary Clinton

    Thousands of pages of her emails are being released every month as part of the ongoing investigation into her use of private email as secretary of state -- yet Clinton is "[still the] most likely nominee for the Democrats," says Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

    That said, Clinton's lead over Sanders is narrowing -- so tonight's debate will be crucial to this former FLOTUS hoping to become the next POTUS.

    Here's where Clinton stands ...

    Taxes: Wants to roll out a 39.6 percent short-term capital gains tax rate for top earners on investments held for up to two years (the current short-term capital gains period is one year) -- and a lower, sliding-scale rate (down to 20 percent) on investments held for at least six years. She'd also cap itemized tax deductions for higher earners at 28 percent.

    Also proposes big banks pay a "risk fee" designed to discourage reckless financial practices on Wall St.

    Jobs: Raise federal minimum wage to $12 an hour. Supports President Barack Obama's efforts to expand the definition of who qualifies for overtime. Also advocates for better paid family and medical leave policies.

    Health care: Defender of the Affordable Care Act. Critical of what she sees as drug-industry price gouging -- with a proposal to cap out-of-pocket prescription costs at $250 a month.

    Student loans: Her proposed $350 billion New College Compact plan would provide states with funding to help students pay for tuition, make community college free, cut student loan interest rates, cap loan payments at 10 percent of income -- and forgive loans after 20 years of payments.

    "This would have an incredible impact on [enrollment numbers at] private universities, since she's advocating that the government subsidize tuition at public schools, so students don't have loans," says Donald Williamson, a professor and executive director of the Kogod Tax Center at American University.

    Big-picture economy: Plans to invest federal funds in infrastructure, research and education. Also wants to make America a clean-energy leader by, for instance, installing more than half a billion solar panels across the country.

    2. Bernie Sanders

    The former Vermont mayor, congressman, and second-term senator's straight-talking ways have made him every progressive's hope for the White House.

    "He's the left wing of the Democratic party -- very much a populist," says Elaine Kamarck, a senior fellow in the governance studies program at the Brookings Institution. "He's the 'get corporations' guy, the pro-union guy -- and he's doing extremely well ... to the horror of Clinton."

    Here's where Sanders stands ...

    Taxes: Plans to create a progressive estate tax on people who inherit more than $3.5 million -- and apply a payroll tax on earnings above $250,000 a year to buoy Social Security.

    Also proposes levying a small "Robin Hood" tax on Wall Street trading to help fund public tuition.

    "So every time you trade a stock, there would be a fee -- [even] for individuals," Williamson says. "It's feasible in this day and age, and could be easily collected by brokerage houses."

    Jobs: Raise minimum wage to $15 an hour, and invest $5.5 billion in a jobs program for young people. Would also require companies to provide 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave.

    And wants to put the kibosh on offshore corporate tax havens to keep jobs from going abroad.

    Health care: Would transform the Affordable Care Act into a single-payer system funded by the federal and state governments. Wants to push Medicare to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices, as well as allow Americans to import lower-priced medications from Canada.

    Student loans: With the help of the Robin Hood tax, would make tuition free at public colleges and universities. Also plans to help student loan borrowers refinance at lower rates.

    Big-picture economy: Would spend $1 trillion over five years to improve America's infrastructure -- and break up "too big to fail" banks.

    Also wants to create a U.S. Employee Ownership Bank that would provide loans to help workers buy businesses through employee stock ownership plans or worker-owned cooperatives.

    3. Joseph Biden

    Will he or won't he?

    Apparently, many voters are hoping Biden's answer is "I will!" given his number three spot in the polls -- despite not having officially entered the race.

    Until he decides later this month, his supporters are keeping his spot warm, in the hopes that a third presidential run will be the charm.

    Here's where Biden stands ...

    Taxes: Supports current White House plan geared toward the middle class, including improving tax breaks for middle-income earners, increasing taxes for those making more than $250,000 a year and closing loopholes for top-bracket investors.

    In favor of a 0.07 percent tax on liabilities held by banks, in an effort to discourage them from taking on too much debt.

    "That new bank tax could [raise a lot of revenue] since there are trillions of dollars being traded," Williamson says.

    Jobs: Leads the White House's Ready to Work Initiative to help workers develop skills for higher-paying jobs. Supported Gov. Andrew Cuomo's push to raise New York's minimum wage to $15 per hour.

    "He's been pro worker, pro union," says Baker, noting that Biden was a big proponent of Obama's proposal to raise the salary threshold for who qualifies for overtime.

    Health care: Played key role in campaigning for the Affordable Care Act and raising public awareness around the health exchanges.

    Student loans: Supports Obama's plan for two years of free community college. And was chair of the task force that created rules expanding income-based repayment plans and forgiving loans after 20 years.

    Big-picture economy: Took the lead on implementing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a stimulus package aimed at promoting infrastructure projects across the country.

    Will likely continue to run on White House platform of strengthening the middle class.

    "I would expect he'd run on the Obama administration's record," Baker says. "That doesn't mean he has to say he'd back everything Obama did, but I'd expect that would be the main theme of his campaign."

    4. Jim Webb

    Despite the fact that Webb is a Vietnam War hero, former Virginia senator and author of 10 military-themed books, it's likely that many viewers will be getting their first glimpse of him at tonight's debate.

    "We've heard little about him, so it's hard to take him seriously," Baker says.

    That said, Webb knows a thing or two about being a long-shot -- he won his Senate seat by upsetting an incumbent Republican.

    Here's where the more conservative Webb stands ...

    Taxes: Favors raising capital-gains taxes -- but is against raising regular income taxes. Wants to reform and simplify the tax code to focus less on income and more on consumption.

    Jobs: Webb's a lifetime union member, so he's pro labor and supports workers' collective bargaining rights. Also supports job training and creation through infrastructure spending programs, similar to the Civilian Conservation Corps created by Franklin D. Roosevelt.

    "That's a common Democratic [platform] -- having some sort of universal national service," Kamarck says. "But you always run into trouble from organized unions with this, over fear of undercutting union jobs and pay."

    Health care: Voted for the Affordable Care Act, but was critical of its implementation -- and voted for more than a dozen Republican-sponsored amendments to the bill.

    Student loans: Was the only Democrat to vote against his party's 2012 bill to keep student-loan interest rates from doubling. Favors public service as an incentive for student-loan forgiveness -- as senator, he created a bill that expanded education benefits for veterans.

    Big-picture economy: Supports cutting the federal budget and reducing the national debt. Advocates for the construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

    5. Martin O'Malley

    The former Baltimore mayor and two-term Maryland governor is known for inspiring the ambitious politician character Tommy Carcetti on the HBO series "The Wire."

    His biggest campaign hurdle, however, may be that "he's hard to distinguish from Clinton," Kamarck says. "[So] he wants to challenge Hillary from the left."

    Here's where O'Malley stands ...

    Taxes: In favor of raising capital-gains taxes, and supports a tax on Wall Street transactions. To expand Social Security, would lift the cap on the payroll tax for those earning more than $250,000.

    Also isn't hesitant to raise taxes to fund government projects: As governor, imposed 40 new state taxes to help balance the budget -- like a "rain tax" on property owners to help fund storm-water management.

    Jobs: Would raise minimum wage to $15, and increase the cap on overtime pay to $1,000 per week. Also plans to help cut the gender pay gap in half through paycheck-fairness laws and better access to family leave and affordable child care.

    Health care: Advocated for the Affordable Care Act. As governor, overhauled the Maryland hospital system to an "all payer" model, in which all patients pay the same amount for services based on rates set by the state. Has said he'd like it to be a health care model for the entire country.

    Student loans: Would allow borrowers to refinance student loans at lower rates, and automatically enroll grads in income-based repayment plans. Also believes private borrowers should be allowed to refinance into federal programs.

    Big-picture economy: Wants to increase the number of Americans with adequate retirement savings by 50 percent over eight years by expanding Social Security and access to employer-based retirement plans.

    Would revive the Glass-Steagall Act, which separated investment and commercial banking activities. And wants to achieve 100 percent clean energy by 2050 through a clean-energy job corps.

    6. Lincoln Chafee

    Like Webb, the former mayor, governor and senator from Rhode Island has flown under the radar.

    He's known for taking over his late father John Chafee's Senate seat in 1999, and for crossing multiple party lines -- he's been a Republican, an independent and a Democrat.

    Here's where Chafee stands ...

    Taxes: Would reduce tax cuts and loopholes for the wealthy and corporations -- and add a new 45 percent tax bracket for those earning more than $750,000. Those taxes would fund a $1,000 increase in the personal exemption.

    Jobs: Plans to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10. Supports passage of a Paycheck Fairness Act to close the gender wage gap.

    Health care: Supports the Affordable Care Act, but wants to expand it to provide universal coverage. As senator, wrote legislation that pushed for insurers to cover pre-existing conditions.

    Student loans: Wants to make higher education more affordable by increasing Pell grants and reducing student-loan interest rates.

    Big-picture economy: Supporter of immigration reform that provides a path to citizenship. Opposes the Keystone XL pipeline -- as an environmentalist, wants to reduce greenhouse gases.

    But he's perhaps most infamous for his push to move the U.S. to the metric system.

    "I don't think that would go very far," Baker says. "We did have a commitment to do that back in the '70s -- and people rebelled against it."


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