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    Caucasian mother and son working at table
    Getty Images
    By Molly Triffin

    Groceries, car payments, the mortgage, clothes for the kids.

    If you're like most families in America, that's just a fraction of what you need to take into consideration when mapping out your monthly budget.

    And these days, unless you or your spouse is commanding a high salary, the idea of stretching one paycheck to cover an entire family can be daunting.

    Still, some folks -- more than you may think -- are finding crafty ways to make it work. Here's just how many more: According to a Pew report, the ranks of stay-at-home moms are on the rise, with some 85 percent making the choice to care for their families. And being a stay-at-home dad is now almost twice as common as it was in the '80s.

    To hear firsthand what it's like to make the leap to single-income status, we asked families across the U.S. to share their stories -- and their best money tips.

    Courtesy: Sarah Prince
    'We're a Family of Five Who Live on Less Than $50,000'

    Who: Sarah Prince, 29, project manager for a genetics company, Salt Lake City.

    "My husband, Trevin, and I met in college, and when we got married 10 years ago, I became the primary income earner while he pursued a career as an artist.

    We now have three little boys, ranging from 3 years old to 7 weeks. But even before we welcomed our first child, we felt the best thing was to have a parent at home. Plus, if we opted for day care, it would eat up Trevin's earnings.

    Sometimes one of his art shows would do well, and we'd have extra income. And sometimes he wouldn't sell anything.

    So we both came to the decision that he'd care for the kids and do art on the side.

    Our single salary secrets: I've changed jobs and gotten a few raises, so I now earn about $47,000. Although money has been tighter than we'd like, we've managed to stick to a budget and provide for our family.

    Our situation is pretty great. Trevin is incredibly close to all three of our boys -- most kids only see their father for an hour or two at night after work.

    Feeding five can be a budget buster, so I buy our most expensive items -- like diapers -- at Costco. We have the executive membership, in which you get 2 percent back, and that always covers the $110 annual fee.

    Our go-to supermarket sends me coupons based on our regular purchases, and I use for alerts about which stores have the best prices that day.

    When I cook I always make extra, saving the leftovers to take to work instead of buying lunch. And we only eat out for special occasions.

    I also shop at thrift stores and use hand-me-downs -- I've never had to buy new clothes for my youngest son.

    What I love about our life: I'm lucky to have a flexible work schedule, so I go in really early in the morning and come home at 3 P.M. That means I can still bring my kids to doctors' appointments and take care of things around the house.

    Trevin and I also make sure to communicate openly about finances. Each month I put aside $100 for him (sometimes $200 if things are going great), so that we each have our own spending money.

    In the future, I'd love to be able to work from home. I have a website, and I do affiliated marketing that brings in a few hundred extra bucks a month. Eventually, I hope it can become a viable source of income.

    But, for now, our situation is pretty great. Trevin is incredibly close to all three of our boys -- most kids only see their father for an hour or two at night after work."

    Courtesy: Daniel Ruyter
    'We Pad Our Income With Side Gigs'

    Who: Daniel Ruyter, 40, digital marketing manager, Orlando, Florida.

    "My wife, Jen, left the workforce two years ago, when our sons were 3 and 11.

    Although she has a degree in communications, she'd been working at a restaurant so that we could better juggle out schedules to avoid paying for child care.

    But that proved stressful for both of us. She'd wake up early with the kids, and often wouldn't get home until 2 A.M. And I had to rush back from the office so that she could leave for work.

    Something needed to change.

    Either we'd put our youngest in day care, or we'd see if we could swing it with one income. In 2013 I got a pay increase -- and although it didn't offset the loss of Jen's income, we made the joint decision that she'd quit.

    Our single salary secrets: There was definitely an initial learning curve. We hadn't trained ourselves to adjust to one income -- and our budget took a hit. So we sat down with our financial planner and discussed where to cut back.

    The dynamic in our relationship was awkward at first -- even though Jen staying home was a mutual decision, it felt a little 'Leave It to Beaver.'

    One area was eating out. We were spending $200 to $400 a month on lunch, and another $200 on dinner. Now I pack my lunch, and we have a monthly $50 date night.

    We also watch our frivolous spending. I was always an early adopter of gadgets, but I'm no longer the first or even second person to have the latest iPhone. I choose my purchases carefully, and think about the long-term.

    For Christmas we realized we'd been shelling out upward of $1,000 on our kids -- some of which has gone unused. So this year we set a limit of $100 per child. We'll put the savings toward a family cruise.

    We've also been able to save on home improvement costs, since Jen has tackled some projects during the day, like painting, landscaping and refinishing furniture.

    And I've started doing consulting on the side, which has bumped my overall earnings to nearly $100,000.

    I do design work or write content for a client after the kids are in bed, early in the morning, and on Saturdays. The income from 20-plus hours of weekly consulting goes toward savings and big-ticket items.

    What I love about our life: The dynamic in our relationship was awkward at first -- even though Jen's staying home was a mutual decision, it felt a little 'Leave It to Beaver.'

    Her role is to take care of the kids, have dinner ready and clean up afterward. My role is to provide income for the family. But, overall, we're happy with this setup.

    Still, I want to work toward increased financial independence so that we can ramp up our savings and take more vacations. With that goal in mind, now that my youngest is in kindergarten, we're looking to build a home-based business for Jen helping people plan weddings on a budget.

    Ideally, she'd be able to make money, while also being available to pick up our kids from school, help with homework and take them to playdates. That was my experience growing up, and we'd love for them to have that too."

    'We Made a Cost-of-Living-Based Move'

    Who: Sarah Gumina, 42, president of Sarah Gumina Public Relations, Conifer, Colorado.

    Courtesy: Sarah Gumina
    "When I got pregnant with my daughter in 2007, my husband, Joe, and I were living in Southern California.

    I was climbing the ladder at a PR agency in the entertainment field, and he was working with special needs kids at a middle school.

    We looked into child care options, but the cost was the same as Joe's salary. He always wanted to be a stay-at-home dad, so he jumped at the chance to do so.

    Our single salary secrets: Bringing in the income for the whole household has been stressful. For example, if a client was upset, I'd get really nervous about the possibility that they'd jump ship. I never used to let that kind of thing get to me, but there was so much riding on my salary.

    I think it has been a great experience -- and sets an example for our kids that women can be breadwinners and dads can change diapers.

    In 2011, when I was on maternity leave after my son's birth, a major client left the agency -- and we had layoffs. I lost my job a month after I returned to work. As a family, we were in a really tight financial position.

    I started doing freelance work, but it took us two years to recover to the point where we felt stable. Even now, as the owner of my own PR company, my income fluctuates.

    So we learned to be very frugal. Our vacations are never farther than a two-hour drive, and we stay in condos that friends let us borrow.

    We also signed our kids up for a co-op day care, where parents take turns working once a week to keep costs down.

    But the biggest budget game-changer was the fact that we moved to Colorado and bought my childhood house from my parents for less than $300,000. Our mortgage is half of what we spent renting in California, and the cost of living is generally cheaper.

    What I love about our life: Despite our efforts, we're still living paycheck to paycheck, and don't have a huge amount in savings. This has occasionally led me to make difficult decisions, like taking on a lackluster client for the money.

    Joe always planned to go back to work eventually, and now that our youngest is in kindergarten, he just started as a special ed paraprofessional at our kids' school. His income will go to savings and health insurance.

    One of the biggest challenges was dealing with some of Joe's macho guy friends, who would make backhanded jokes about him being Mr. Mom. It didn't affect our relationship, but I got tired of defending him all the time.

    Still, I think it has been a great experience -- and sets a terrific example for our kids that women can be breadwinners and dads can change diapers."


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    Sale sign in the clothing shop
    Getty Images
    I used to think of outlets as a repository of amazing deals on brands I love. But after researching this story and making a trip to an outlet mall, my opinion has changed.

    I recently trekked to a Gap outlet store hoping for big savings on their pants. But I was surprised by what I found: jeans that looked noticeably different and of lower quality than the pairs I'd purchased from the mall back home. How could this be?

    As it turns out, I wasn't mistaken. According to Consumer Reports, Gap is one of several retailers that manufacture clothing specifically for their outlets, and these items may be different and of lower quality than what is in regular stores. This isn't the only trick retailers pull at their outlet stores, either.

    Outlets still offer plenty of great deals that can make the trip worthwhile, but some savings aren't always what they seem.

    1. Give outlet goods a closer look. Outlets aren't just for items that didn't sell at the retail store. Some offer seconds or B-grade goods, and many stores stock items that are only made for outlets, sometimes with noticeable differences in quality from what you'd find at the mall.

    According to The Dallas Morning News, Saks outlets -- Saks Off 5th -- says only 12 percent of its goods are overstock from Saks Fifth Avenue stores. The rest was made specifically for the outlet location. Gap, Brooks Brothers and Coach admit they manufacture separate lines of goods exclusively for their outlet stores. Only 20 percent of what Nordstrom Rack sells is clearance merchandise from Nordstrom stores and website, according to this report, while the rest is bought expressly for the outlet.

    Outlet-only clothing and goods vary in quality, so be sure to take a close look. Does the item feel like it's lighter? Does it look low quality? Some items might say "outlet" or "factory line" right on the tag. Here's a tip from Buzzfeed: "J.Crew Factory (the outlet for J.Crew) puts two diamonds under the "r" on its labels, while the Gap Outlet label uses three dots."

    It's possible the outlet version is cheaply made and won't last as long as what you'd buy from the regular store, so factor in quality as well as price. On the other hand, some differences might be insignificant, and the savings may outweigh them.

    2. Compare prices beforehand. Retailers know you're looking for savings at outlet stores, and many try to make these discounts seem as deep as possible. You may see signs at the outlet store suggesting prices are 65 percent off, but those only apply to the sorts of things that haven't sold despite repeated markdowns. Consumer Reports says the average savings are closer to 38 percent. You'll often see markdowns off the manufacturer's suggested retail price, but outlet or not, customers rarely pay this suggested price.

    If you want to know what you're really saving, check the retailer's website and compare prices. You may be surprised to find outlet discounts aren't as big as they claim.

    3. Join online outlet clubs. Premium Outlets and Tanger, two of the largest outlet operators, with 70 and 35 malls respectively, offer exclusive promotions when you become a member of their clubs.

    With Premium Outlets' free VIP Club, you'll receive online coupons and notifications of special events.

    Tanger charges a one-time $10 fee to join TangerClub, but you'll get a $10 gift card in return along with exclusive member offers and savings.

    4. Get the best deals off-season. Shop for your winter clothing in the summer and for summer items in winter to bring outlet prices down even further.

    5. Time your shopping trip. Outlets can be very busy, so you'll do best by avoiding both congestion and picked-over shelves by shopping at off-peak times. Experts suggest stopping in on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and shopping early in the day. If you're not a morning person, avoid the early afternoon and wait until dinnertime.

    6. Check retail stores before outlets. Try shopping the local mall during sales or with coupons, where you might find the prices to be comparable but the quality better. Don't forget to look at clearance items both in the store and online.

    7. Check with outlet centers for coupons and circulars. Coupons and other discounts can make outlet shopping an even better deal. Call or go online to see if any coupons or circulars offer additional savings. Senior and military discounts might also be available.

    8. Watch the return policy. Unless you don't mind driving back to the outlet mall, check the return policy before loading up on discounted goods. Many regular stores don't take returns from outlet locations.

    9. Ask outlet staff. If you have questions about the quality of outlet items, don't be afraid to ask store staff. Some employees may tell you if it's made for the outlet or offer other valuable information.

    10. Don't fall into the daytrip trap. Don't see anything you like? Don't be afraid to leave empty-handed.

    Outlet malls are typically placed in far-away locations. Not only is this real estate cheaper, but shoppers may also look at outlet shopping as investing in a full-day trip. With the expenses of gas, time and energy, shoppers may feel they need to justify the sunk costs and end up spending more than they would otherwise.

    Ignore the impulse to spend more just to make the trip feel worthwhile. Shelling out more money for unneeded stuff won't make you feel better, no matter how much you spend on gas.

    Outlet stores are just one way to find bargains, of course. If treasure hunting is your passion, don't forget to check our tips on shopping at thrift stores, Not Your Grandma's Goodwill, consider Rebate Sites that Pay You for Shopping Online and peruse the 10 Best Buys at Warehouse Clubs.

    What's your approach to outlets? Are they part of your bargain-hunting strategy? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

    -Ari Cetron contributed to this report.

    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!

    Five Tips for Outlet Shopping


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    Young adults examining documents and calculating
    Getty Images
    By Brian O'Connell

    OK, it's early November, and there's plenty of time left on the calendar until year-end, right?

    Maybe, and maybe not -- at least when it comes to tidying up your household money matters. You'll need more time than you think to get your financial house in order by Dec. 31, and the clock is ticking. Time constraints with Thanksgiving and Christmas beckoning will surely swallow up some valuable time, as will end of the year (and quarter) workplace deadlines, leaving less time than you think to make financial decisions that could mean big bucks (and less in taxes) to the financial side of your life.

    Financial consumers should take end-of-the-year financial deadlines seriously, as tax, retirement savings and other household financial decisions can spell the difference between sizable individual assets, and missed opportunities that curb the size of those assets.

    No worries, though, as help is on the way. In the latest edition of Fidelity Investments Viewpoints report, the Boston-based mutual fund behemoth lists its top 10 end-of-the-year "smart financial moves," including a thorough review of your investment portfolio for asset allocation purposes (that's number one on the Fidelity list.)

    Turning investment losses into tax gains, choosing a charity to maximize tax gains, using any money left in a flexible spending account and taking required distributions at age 70½ also make the list.

    While the Fidelity year-end "to do" list is well worth a look, other financial experts off their best bets for a year-end household financial checklist:

    Start with your budget. Your budget is the best place to start your financial goal evaluation, says Katie Ross, education and development manager at American Consumer Credit Counseling. "Paint a clear picture of your financial situation right now," she said. "This budgeting and daily expense worksheet might be a good resource for you to use. Once you know where your money is going, you can identify areas to cut back. That will also help you find more money to apply towards your debts, or add to your savings and get a good head start for the new year."

    Pencil in some 'quality time' with your financial adviser. This tip comes from Taylor Schulte, founder of Define Financial in San Diego. "While you are most likely in touch with your financial planner throughout the year, December and January are good times to get a face-to-face meeting on the books, if possible," Schulte says. "Use the time together to ensure he or she is up to speed on all of your 2015 life updates and start discussing your 2016 goals. Do you need to start thinking about your child's college education? Have your insurance needs changed? Have your career ambitions changed? Do you anticipate a significant change in income or expenses?"

    Have a thorough list. That's the advice from Stuart Ritter, a financial planner and vice president of T. Rowe Price Investment Services, who provided the following to-do list to MainStreet.
    1. Check your asset allocation; rebalance if necessary.
    2. Review beneficiary designations.
    3. Make sure you are saving 15 percent of income.
    4. If you are saving enough, contribute to a Roth IRA, you can contribute until April 15, but the sooner the better.
    5. Use a donor-advised fund for charitable contributions to avoid capital gains tax.
    6. Consider a 529 plan for your child's college education.
    7. Gift up to $14,000 without gift tax consequences.
    8. Be aware of capital gains distributions.
    Maximize your 401(k) contributions. Margaret J. Smith, director of tax and financial planning at Canal Capital Management in Richmond, Virginia, advises topping out on your retirement plan by year-end. "Employees can defer up to $18,000 each year, $24,000 if over 50, resulting in significant tax savings this year," Smith says. "Also, if you expect 2015 to be a large income year, and 2016 may not be the same, consider accelerating deductions such as charitable contributions, your January mortgage payment/interest expense and medical expenses into 2015 to receive a larger tax benefit this year."

    Time is on your side right now, with eight weeks or so left until Dec. 31 -- use the time wisely and get your financial life in order for 2016.


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    Can You Really Retire?

    By Liz Weston

    LOS ANGELES -- Even people decades away from retirement should pay close attention to how Congress just ended two lucrative ways of taking Social Security benefits, known jointly as the "claim now, claim more later" strategy.

    One big lesson: Once claiming methods are seen as benefiting the affluent, they are labeled loopholes, and that puts them on the chopping block.

    "They can go away, and they can go away fast," says Michael Kitces, a partner and director of research for Pinnacle Advisor Group in Columbia, Maryland.

    Typically, Congress foists big Social Security changes on younger people and phases them in over time, such as when it voted in 1983 to increase over the course of 22 years the age for full retirement benefits to 67 from 65 for people born in 1960 and later.

    This time, though, Congress killed the maneuvers quickly. They will be gone in six months since President Barack Obama signed the bill Monday, and the decision affects people close to retirement age.

    The outgoing strategies consisted primarily of "file and suspend," which allowed married couples to start a spousal benefit while allowing the primary earner's benefit to continue to grow. That worked in conjunction with "restricted application," which let people collect spousal benefits for a few years and then switch to their own, maxed-out benefits at age 70.

    Economist Laurence Kotlikoff, who co-wrote a best-selling book about Social Security claiming strategies, estimated that together, the two strategies could add $50,000 to many couples' payouts.

    The Obama Administration criticized such tactics as "aggressive claiming strategies" that allowed high-income households to maximize their benefits, although in reality any dual-income couple could benefit, Kitces said.

    How popular the strategies actually were is open to debate. Most people currently file for benefits too early to take advantage of the tactics, which require waiting until full retirement age (currently 66).

    But Mary Beth Franklin, a columnist who writes about Social Security for trade publication Investment News, said she is hearing from many people who had planned to use the strategies "and many of them are very upset that they won't get the chance to execute their plan."

    No Rush to Benefits

    The fear that claiming strategies might go away could tempt some people to think they should "lock in" their benefits by applying as early as they can, but that is the wrong lesson, said Franklin.

    People who delay taking Social Security benefits will still come out ahead, even if they won't be as far ahead as they would have hoped using the claim now, claim more later strategy. And lower-earning spouses can still file for up to half of the primary earner's benefit; they just have to wait until the primary earner files.

    Putting off filing for as long as possible is still the best way to maximize Social Security checks and protect against the risk of being poor in retirement.

    Another lesson to take from the budget deal: Congress can fix Social Security, but it will not be pretty. The budget deal helped Congress avoid a big hike in Medicare premiums and a 20 percent drop in benefits for disabled people. But lawmakers waited until nearly the last minute to deal with the fact that both the Medicare and Social Security Disability Insurance programs were running short of money.

    Making Social Security itself solvent will require changes that are much more controversial: cutting benefits, increasing taxes, further raising retirement ages. The longer Congress dithers, the more dramatic those changes will have to be.

    The moral of the story is to not rely on any particular claiming or retirement strategy to remain unchanged. But that should not prompt you to make decisions that will leave you worse off.

    (The author is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.)


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    Inside A Car Dealership Ahead Of Motor Vehicle Sales Figures
    Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
    By Bernie Woodall

    DETROIT -- The U.S. auto industry is on track for a record year of annual sales, General Motors said Tuesday, as the top U.S. automaker and its rivals reported October sales that far exceeded expectations.

    GM said the six-month rolling average for U.S. auto sales is 17.8 million on an annualized basis, which means the industry is on its way to beating the 1999 annual sales record.

    October sales will come in around 18.2 million vehicles on an annualized basis, their highest level since 2001, when automakers offered 0 percent financing in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, the company said.

    In 2009, at the depth of the Great Recession, U.S. auto sales fell to 10.4 million vehicles.

    October was a huge month for the industry, smashing expectations and continuing its hot streak.

    Analysts had forecasted October sales to be between 8 percent and 12 percent higher than last year. A Reuters poll of 45 economists showed expectations of a seasonally adjusted annualized sales rate of 17.7 million vehicles for last month.

    "October was a huge month for the industry, smashing expectations and continuing its hot streak," said Bill Fay, Toyota's U.S. general manager.

    The booming October sales materialized despite concerns about a slowdown in consumer spending and stagnant wages.

    U.S. economic data suggests consumer spending lost momentum at the end of the third quarter, with consumption in September posting its smallest increase in eight months. Personal incomes also barely rose that month.

    GM said its sales rose 16 percent to 262,993 vehicles last month, marking its best October since 2004. GM (GM) shares slipped 4 cents to $35.53 on the New York Stock Exchange.

    Ford Motor, No. 2 in the U.S. auto market by sales, reported it sold 213,938 vehicles last month, a 13 percent rise from the same period last year. Ford's U.S. sales chief, Mark LaNeve, said the company commanded record average selling prices for its vehicles, at $34,600 a vehicle.

    Ford (F) shares were up 3 cents at $14.78 on the NYSE.

    Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCAU) reported its 67th straight month of year-over-year gains, selling 195,545 vehicles in October, up 14.7 percent from a year earlier.

    The company's sales were led by a 33 percent increase for its Jeep brand. Fiat Chrysler's car sales fell 3 percent, but its SUV and truck sales rose 20 percent.

    Toyota Motor (TM) said it sold more than 200,000 vehicles in October, which would be a double-digit rise from the 180,580 vehicles sold in the same period last year.

    Nissan Motor said its U.S. sales rose 12.5 percent to 116,047 vehicles in October, led by its Rogue small SUV, which had a 70 percent increase to nearly 25,000. The company's best-selling car, the Altima sedan, had sales of nearly 21,000, down 11 percent from a year ago.

    Mitsubishi Motors reported record October sales in the United States, up 19.8 percent at 7,426 vehicles from last year.


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    Factory Orders
    Tony Gutierrez/AP
    By Lucia Mutikani

    WASHINGTON -- New orders for U.S. factory goods fell for a second straight month in September as the manufacturing sector continues to struggle under the weight of a strong dollar and deep spending cuts by energy companies.

    Motor vehicle production, however, remains a bright spot as orders surged in September. That trend is likely to continue, with early reports Tuesday showing auto sales on track for another strong month in October.

    The Commerce Department said new orders for manufactured goods declined 1 percent after a downwardly revised 2.1 percent drop in August.

    Factory activity, which accounts for about 12 percent of the economy, is also being constrained by efforts by businesses to reduce an inventory overhang and tepid global demand. But the worst could be over for the sector after a report Monday showed new orders rose in October for the first time since July.

    U.S. financial markets were little moved by the report.

    Factory orders were previously reported to have declined 1.7 percent in August. The dollar has gained 16.8 percent against the currencies of the United States' main trading partners since June 2014, which has undercut export growth and weighed on the profits of multinationals.

    Orders for transportation equipment fell 3.1 percent in September, largely reflecting a drop in aircraft orders. Orders for automobiles and parts rose 1.5 percent in September.

    The Commerce Department also said orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft -- seen as a measure of business confidence and spending plans -- slipped 0.1 percent instead of the 0.3 percent drop reported last month. This also supports the view that the worst of the manufacturing slump might be over.

    Shipments of these so-called core capital goods, which are used to calculate business equipment spending in the gross domestic product report, increased 0.5 percent in September as reported last month.

    Inventories of factory goods fell 0.4 percent after a similar drop in August, also an encouraging sign for the sector. That left the inventories-to-shipments ratio unchanged at a still lofty 1.35.

    Manufacturers reported Monday a decrease in the share of customers who believed inventories were too high, and a fall in the stock of unsold goods at factories in October.

    Unfilled orders at factories fell for a second straight month in September, Tuesday's report showed.


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    LL Bean
    Robert F. Bukaty/AP

    FREEPORT, Maine -- Outdoors retailer L.L. Bean is going outside the company for the first time in its 103-year history for its new CEO, tapping the chief merchandising and marketing officer of a Chinese e-commerce business, officials said Tuesday.

    L.L. Bean Chairman Shawn Gorman made the announcement to workers in a memo, telling them the L.L. Bean family and board unanimously agreed to hire Stephen Smith from Chinese online grocer Yihaodian.

    "Hiring a CEO who embodies the values of Bean was a top priority for the family and the Board, and I am confident we have done just that," Gorman told workers Tuesday in the memo provided to The Associated Press.

    This photo released Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015, by L.L. Bean shows new CEO Stephen Smith outside the outdoor retailer's flagship store in Freeport, Maine. For the first time in its 103-year history, L.L. Bean named a CEO from outside the company. (Alan Boutot/L.L. Bean via AP)
    Alan Boutot/L.L. Bean via APNew L.L. Bean CEO Stephen Smith
    Smith will take over his duties in January, replacing Chris McCormick, who has served as CEO for 14 years.

    McCormick, who last year announced his plans to step down, was the first person outside the Bean family to serve as president and CEO. However, he'd worked at L.L. Bean for more than a decade before being tapped to lead the company. He took over from L.L. Bean's grandson Leon Gorman, who retained the title "chairman emeritus" when he died in September.

    Last year, Gorman said the retailer would look for a successor both inside and outside the company, but he said his preference was to promote someone from within L.L. Bean who's familiar with company culture and "the Bean way of doing things."

    But the company was impressed by both Smith's understanding of L.L. Bean's culture as well as his background in multi-channel retailing, having worked for international supermarket owner Delhaize and Walmart International subsidiaries before going to work for Yihaodian in Shanghai. Before that, he worked for the Resort Sports Network and the Hannaford supermarket chain in Maine.

    Leon Gorman met Smith before his death and gave his approval, said Shawn Gorman.

    "Leon is one of the best judges of character that I know," Gorman said Tuesday. "Coming out of that meeting with Steve, Leon's words were, 'Steve's the real deal.' That carries immensely. It's high praise for someone who is somewhat reluctant with high praise. Leon is a tough guy. So to hear that it's reassuring."

    Smith said he believes in the company's customer-first philosophy and brings to the job a requisite love of the outdoors, having grown up fishing, skiing, snowboarding, canoeing and kayaking.

    "Trust me, I feel the responsibility of being a great brand steward. I want to continue the legacy. You can't underestimate it. You have to understand that's what you're signing up for," he said.

    Smith joins L.L. Bean as the company prepares for the largest number of store openings in its history.

    McCormick previously announced plans to triple the number of stores to at least 100 by 2020. The push will include L.L. Bean's first West Coast presence with the opening of stores in the Pacific Northwest.

    The Maine-based company was founded in 1912, when Leon Leonwood Bean sold his original Maine Hunting Shoe. The company had $1.6 billion in sales last year and has more than 5,000 workers.


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    Unexpected Uses for Petroleum Jelly
    We often use petroleum jelly to relieve cracked skin or chapped lips, but the product has several other handy uses. Here are some unexpected ways you can use petroleum jelly that will help you save big.

    First, if you color your hair you can use a little jelly to help keep your skin stain-free. Simply smooth a layer along your hairline before applying the dye and you'll avoid hard-to-remove splatters on your skin.

    Petroleum Jelly can also breathe new life into your old shoes. To make your patent-leather footwear shine like new again, simply buff them with petroleum jelly. You can also use this trick to soften other dried leather items: like a baseball glove, or a leather jacket.

    Lastly, a little petroleum jelly can go a long way to help around the house. If your key isn't sliding into that rusty lock, spread a very thin layer over the key to get it to slip right in.

    Also, to keep ants away from your pet food dishes, spread a thin layer around the outer sides your pup's bowl. Ants won't cross the jelly and your pet can eat or drink in peace.

    Give these tips a try, and you'll see that if you use it in unexpected ways, petroleum jelly can lead to big savings.

    View Poll


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    Takata Air Bags
    Alex Brandon/APNHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind, left, along with Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, speaks Tuesday at a news conference about Takata air bags.

    DETROIT -- U.S. auto safety regulators fined Japan's Takata Corp. $70 million for lapses in the way it handled recalls of millions of explosion-prone air bags that are responsible for eight deaths and more than 100 injuries worldwide.

    Regulators also ordered Takata to stop making the air bag inflators at the heart of the problem unless the company can prove they are safe.

    Under a five-year agreement reached with Takata, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has the authority to add up to $130 million to the penalty if the company fails to abide by the terms. In the deal, Takata admitted that it knew the inflators were defective, but failed to recall them in a timely manner.

    The penalty would be a record if it grows to $200 million.

    Takata's air bag inflators can spew shrapnel into drivers and passengers in a crash. So far, about 23.4 million driver and passenger inflators have been recalled on 19.2 million U.S. vehicles sold by 12 automakers.

    Takata's air bags are inflated by an explosion of ammonium nitrate, and investigators so far have found that prolonged exposure to airborne moisture can cause the propellant to burn too fast. That can blow apart a metal canister designed to contain the explosion and shoot out metal fragments. Most of those injured or killed live in high-humidity states that border the Gulf of Mexico.

    Unless new evidence emerges, the company will have to recall all of its inflators.

    Still, the company and investigators have yet to discover the exact cause for the rupturing of the inflators. Because of that, the agreement announced Tuesday "lays out a schedule for recalling all Takata ammonium nitrate inflators now on the roads, unless the company can prove they are safe or can show it has determined why its inflators are prone to rupture," NHTSA said in a statement.

    "Unless new evidence emerges, the company will have to recall all of its inflators," said Anthony Foxx, head of the Department of Transportation, at a press conference to announce the agreement.

    Regulators will also monitor the recalls to ensure replacement inflators are first sent to regions with the greatest chance of inflator problems.

    Takata also still faces hundreds of lawsuits and a criminal investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.

    NHTSA continues to investigate whether the company's side air bag inflators also should be recalled.

    The order calls for an independent monitor who would make sure Takata abides by the terms. The monitor could be extended to a sixth year.

    A total penalty of $200 million would be the largest ever imposed by NHTSA, surpassing the record $105 million penalty levied against Fiat Chrysler (FCAU) earlier this year for failing to report safety issues and follow through on 23 different recalls.

    But Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., a frequent NHTSA and Takata critic, said the $70 million fine seems like a slap on the wrist and should be larger. "The penalty seems small compared to the consequences of the concealment and disregard" for the law, he said.

    Those injured, mainly in driver's seats, have suffered severe neck cuts and facial injuries and have lost eyesight and hearing due to the explosions.

    The agency also could announce additional recalls. It has sent letters to seven more automakers warning them that their Takata inflators could be subject to recall.

    Shortly after the NHTSA investigation began in June of last year, Takata resisted and said NHTSA didn't have the authority to make it do any recalls. But the company later relented and agreed to the agency's demands.


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    Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman Rings NYSE Opening Bell
    Andrew Burton/Getty Images
    By Lewis Krauskopf

    NEW YORK -- Big tech and energy sector gains drove U.S. stocks higher Tuesday, as an index of 100 major Nasdaq companies finished at a record closing high.

    The three major indexes continued a positive start for November, after posting their best monthly performances in four years in October. The Nasdaq 100 index closed up 0.3 percent at 4,719.05, surpassing for the first time levels reached during the dot-com boom in 2000.

    The S&P energy sector rose 2.5 percent, its fifth straight daily increase, as crude prices rallied. Oil majors Exxon (XOM) and Chevron (CVX) rose 1.8 percent and 3.3 percent, respectively, making both stocks among the top influences on the Dow and S&P.

    People are looking for beaten down names in industries that may represent value.

    While energy stocks have risen about 22 percent since late August, the sector is still down roughly 10 percent year to date.

    "People are looking for beaten down names in industries that may represent value," said Robert Pavlik, chief market strategist at Boston Private Wealth in New York. "Towards the end of the year, the market starts to move up and people are fearful they're going to be left behind."

    The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) rose 89.39 points, or 0.5 percent, to 17,918.15, the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GSPC) gained 5.74 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,109.79 and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) added 17.98 points, or 0.4 percent, to 5,145.13.

    Six of the 10 S&P sector groups ended positive, including a 0.6 percent rise for the tech sector. Apple rose 1.1 percent to $122.57 and Microsoft (MSFT) rose 1.7 percent to $54.15, with both companies the most positive influences on the S&P and Nasdaq.

    Big Game Deal

    Activision Blizzard (ATVI) rose 3.6 percent to $35.82 and was the sixth biggest boost on the Nasdaq after the video-game company said it would buy "Candy Crush" maker King Digital for $5.9 billion. King (KING) soared 14.9 percent to $17.85.

    As the third-quarter earnings season winds down, investors will be looking to Friday's employment report and other economic data for clues as to whether the Federal Reserve will raise rates in December.

    U.S. companies have posted stronger-than-expected quarterly results in general so far this earnings season. As of earlier Tuesday, of the 379 S&P 500 companies that had reported results, 70 percent beat profit estimates, compared with 63 percent in a typical quarter, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

    One exception was insurer AIG (AIG), whose shares fell 4.4 percent to $60.96 after the insurer's quarterly profit missed estimates by a wide margin. CEO Peter Hancock said Carl Icahn's proposal to break up the company didn't "make financial sense."

    Agribusiness Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) dropped 6.8 percent to $43.15 after missing profit estimates. Altria fell 4.4 percent to $57.85 after a rating cut. The two were the biggest drags on the consumer staples sector.

    Sprint (S) fell 7 percent to $4.51 after the wireless carrier reported lower-than-expected results.

    Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 1,789 to 1,283, for a 1.39-to-1 ratio on the upside; on the Nasdaq, 1,676 issues rose and 1,124 fell for a 1.49-to-1 ratio favoring advancers.

    The S&P 500 posted 20 new 52-week highs and 1 new lows; the Nasdaq recorded 82 new highs and 29 new lows.

    -Sinead Carew, Rodrigo Campos and Abhiram Nandakumar contributed reporting.

    What to watch Wednesday:
    • The Commerce Department releases international trade data for September at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time.
    • The Institute for Supply Management releases its service sector index for October at 10 a.m.

    Earnings Season
    These selected companies are scheduled to report quarterly financial results:
    • Facebook (FB)
    • Honda (HMC)
    • Liberty Media (LMCA)
    • MetLife (MET)
    • Prudential Financial (PRU)
    • Qualcomm (QCOM)
    • Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (REGN)
    • Time Warner (TWX)
    • Twenty-First Century Fox (FOX)
    • Whole Foods Market (WFM)


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    Holiday Shopping
    Robert F. Bukaty/AP
    By Krystal Steinmetz

    Christmas is still about eight weeks away, but retailers and many shoppers don't seem to care. Holiday shopping is in full swing.

    Gone are the days when shoppers waited until Black Friday, once revered as the biggest shopping day of the year, to hit the stores and snatch up great deals on everything from clothing to electronics. Instead, early-bird shoppers are purchasing items off their holiday lists earlier than ever.

    According to a new survey from coupon destination site RetailMeNot, just 10 percent of consumers today believe that Black Friday savings are really worth the wait and 85 percent of shoppers expect retailers to start their holiday promotions before Black Friday. "Consumers in record numbers are questioning the value of offers on Black Friday," said Trae Bodge, senior lifestyle editor at RetailMeNot. "While early bird behavior is beneficial for the strategic buyer, RetailMeNot's offer data still suggests that deals during the five days of savings from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday are stronger on a percent-off basis than in prior weeks."

    For example, RetailMeNot said the deepest discounts on electronics and computers -- ranging from 38 to 40 percent off -- can be found between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, and oftentimes into the first week of December.

    But if you're shopping for little ones this holiday season, RetailMeNot suggests that you "act fast and purchase toys early." Because toy prices remain relatively stable throughout the holiday season, if you wait too long you might not have much to choose from if inventory runs low.

    RetailMeNot said it's easy to score Black Friday-worthy discounts whenever you want if you follow this simple approach:
    • Purchase a discounted gift card, which are typically sold post-Cyber Monday, at your favorite retailer and get an instant savings of 2 to 20 percent.
    • Use the discounted gift card in conjunction with a coupon code or digital rebate. "RetailMeNot users report an average savings of $20 per transaction," said Kristen Larrea, RetailMeNot shopping expert. If you want to score even bigger savings, pay for your purchase with a cash-back credit card.
    The survey also found that the most attractive promotions to shoppers are: money-back purchase options (44 percent), holiday sales (37 percent), flash-sale deals (31 percent) and door-buster offers (27 percent). Consumers said they can also be lured into stores by gift-wrapping services (24 percent) and good holiday music (16 percent).

    When do you do most of your holiday shopping? Are you an early-bird shopper or a last-minute bargain hunter? Share your 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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    Men doing finances
    By Ellen Chang

    Same sex couples who are married can purchase a family health insurance plan without being concerned about any restrictions.

    The landmark Supreme Court case that legalized same sex marriage in June, Obergefell v. Hodges, paved the way for consistent insurance options for married same sex couples.

    "This provided same sex couples with the same access to family health insurance as heterosexual couples and uniform access from one state to another," said Nate Purpura, vice president of consumer affairs at, an online health insurance exchange based in Mountain View, California.

    The Supreme Court ruling protects against discrimination and insurance companies must offer the same coverage for both same sex and opposite sex spouses, according to

    "This is true regardless of the state where: the couple lives, the insurance company is located and the plan is sold, issued, renewed or in effect," the website says.

    Married same sex couples can also qualify for subsidies, which lower the amount of their monthly premiums, making them more affordable and accessible.

    "Like other married couples, married same-sex couples who file taxes jointly may be eligible for government subsidies, if they meet the income requirements of the Affordable Care Act," Purpura said.

    Moving to another state is no longer an issue with the Supreme Court ruling and couples can buy comparable coverage in another state.

    Is Family Coverage the Right Option?

    In many cases, seeking family coverage saves people money on not only monthly premiums, but also deductibles. With most plans, you typically "share a family deductible equivalent to two individual deductibles," said Purpura. "If you have children and hence have three or more persons on your plan, you can potentially save a significant amount of money in terms of your annual deductible."

    It may make more sense to cover your dependent spouse on an individual plan of his or her own.

    Depending on the coverage offered at your company, family coverage may not prove to be the best financial decision as individuals determine what plan to purchase since open enrollment began on November 1. Some employers will pay a larger share of your health insurance premium but offer little for your dependents. In these instances and similar to many heterosexual couples, you might determine that it is better to have separate individual plans financially, he said.

    "It may make more sense to cover your dependent spouse on an individual plan of his or her own," Purpura said.

    Only couples who file their taxes together can qualify for subsidies. The government subsidies help lower the cost you pay each month for health insurance and married families with household income of 400% of the federal poverty level or less may qualify for them. In order to qualify, the federal tax return must be filed as "married filing jointly.

    Companies don't need to ask employees for documentation of a domestic partner either in civil unions or registered domestic partnerships in order to be eligible, said The Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the Washington, D.C.-based lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization.

    "The Human Rights Campaign Foundation encourages employers to treat all beneficiaries equally when requesting documentation to determine eligibility," said the civil rights organization. "In other words, documentation should not be required of partners if it is not required of spouses."

    Domestic partner coverage for couples who aren't married might be facing the possibility that it might be phased out in the future. Some state and federal entities are reconsidering the domestic partner laws or policies which existed before the Supreme Court ruling that gave same-sex couples access to coverage.

    "To learn more about your options, contact your state's department of insurance," Purpura said. "If you're in a legal same-sex domestic partnership, you may need to get married in order to keep your family covered under a family health insurance plan."

    What the Previous Health Insurance Market Was Like

    Before the ruling in June, same sex couples faced a myriad of inconsistent policies when they were choosing health insurance options. Moving to another state often meant even more confusion and headaches, depending on whether same sex marriage was legal.

    "There was a patchwork of laws and regulations that often varied significantly from one state to the next," Purpura said.

    When couples lived in states that already deemed same sex marriage as legal, married couples could purchase family health insurance plans like heterosexual couples. In a state where legal same sex domestic partnerships were recognized, but not marriages, often family health insurance plans were also made available.

    Residing in a state without any recognition for same sex domestic partnership or marriage, finding a family health insurance plan was nearly impossible unless the insurer or sponsoring employer chose to offer the coverage, he said.

    Moving meant many couples lost their coverage for health insurance, leaving them vulnerable and at risk of having no coverage, putting them at greater risk financially.


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  • 11/03/15--21:00: 5 Surprising Sources of Debt
  • Filed under:

    Caucasian car driver woman smiling
    Getty ImagesWith strict mileage limits and a slew of fees, leasing a car can significantly add to your debt burden.
    By Maryalene LaPonsie

    Unemployment, medical bills, a shopping addiction -- these all may be obvious causes of debt, but they certainly aren't the only ways people end up in the red.

    Other forms of debt are more insidious. They arrive looking like a big break or a money-saving option. But instead of getting you out of your financial hole, they actually dig you in deeper.

    Don't let these five hidden sources of debt say "Gotcha!"

    Your New Job

    The problem: Your new job is supposed to be your ticket out of paycheck-to-paycheck living, but a big boost in income is often accompanied by a big boost in spending.

    "When people get a new job, it looks like a limitless amount of money so they splurge on a new car or a buy a lot of clothes," says Joe Heider, founder of Cirrus Wealth Management in Cleveland.

    Cecilia Beach Brown, a certified financial planner at Lincoln Financial Securities in Annapolis, Maryland, says it's a common trap. "When the money's there, it's hard to say 'no.'" Then people lose their job or are otherwise unable to maintain their new lifestyle.

    The solution: Rather than increase your spending, continue to budget based on the amount you previously earned. Then, bank the extra for retirement, travel or a big spending goal, whether that be paying cash for a car or a 20 percent down payment on a house.

    A Financial Windfall

    The problem: Like a new job, a windfall can be your financial undoing. Whether it's an inheritance, divorce settlement or lottery winnings, Brown says people notoriously mishandle large sums of money that fall into their laps.

    "People tend to spend money more than once in their head," Brown says. "It's the mental accounting that gets them in trouble."

    By spending without a plan, people blow through their money and end up financing big purchases they can't afford that push them into debt.

    The solution: Brown advocates that everyone use the one-third rule when dealing with an inflow of cash of any kind. One-third of the money should be set aside for taxes, the second third should be put in savings for the future and the final third can be used for fun.

    Leasing a Car

    The problem: Leasing seems like a good way to get more car for your money, but contracts can include expensive provisions that make it difficult to simply turn in a vehicle without owing cash.

    When people lease a car, they're excited and don't pay attention to what happens when they turn it in.

    "When people lease a car, they're excited and don't pay attention to what happens when they turn it in," Heider says.

    Leased cars have strict mileage limits, and people who go over could get hit with fees that run from 10 to 20 cents a mile driven over the limit. In addition, there may be acquisition fees, disposition fees and early termination fees. In many cases, Heider says drivers roll one lease into another to avoid paying fees out of pocket. Then, they never get out from under their monthly vehicle payment. The solution: Think twice before leasing a vehicle, or at least read the fine print more carefully. Be realistic about how many miles you drive, and add up the total cost, including taxes and fees, to determine whether buying a reliable used car is a better deal.

    A New Cellphone

    The problem: You want that shiny new smartphone, and the cellphone company is happy to give it to you -- provided you sign up for a two-year contract. The phone seems like a freebie, but you have, in fact, just signed up for more debt.

    "Really what you're doing is taking a loan out to pay for the phone," says Phil Jacobson, managing director at United Capital in Rockford, Illinois. You're not getting the phone for free; you're financing it with your cellphone contract.

    Your new phone could also cause further problems if you have an expensive data plan you can't afford. There's no way to cancel most cellphone contracts without paying a sizable fee.

    The solution: Reconsider contracts. Many wireless providers now offer non-contract service options, and those may be a better choice. While it costs more to buy a new phone out of pocket, you might save money on a monthly plan. If you still want a new phone, look for a cheaper, refurbished one or get a used one from a trusted source.

    Buying a House

    The problem: Obviously, buying or building a house typically comes with the debt of a mortgage. However, some people compound that debt by insisting on new furnishings or expensive renovations before moving in.

    "What's a couple hundred here? What's $500 there?" Heider says of many people's mindset when constructing a new home. "Then they realize they're $20,000 to $30,000 over budget."

    Buying or building a house can feel like permission to replace appliances, furniture and electronics. However, it's a trap that can create a vacuum of debt and turn a dream home into a nightmare.

    The solution: Having a written budget for building or renovating a house is the first step to avoiding this debt trap. The second step is to stick to the budget. Also, consider whether an existing home will have expensive maintenance issues in the near future and look for a house that is move-in ready. If you don't start a renovation project, you can't overspend on it.


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    Long-Term Care Insurance Policy
    Getty Images
    By Beth Pinsker

    NEW YORK -- As a financial planner who also sells long-term care insurance, Regi Armstrong always planned to buy a policy at some point. The only question was when.

    The Florence, South Carolina, resident and his wife made the leap early, when they were still in their 40s, and today he is glad they did. Three years into paying premiums of $3,800 a year, his wife, now 49, got diagnosed with a serious auto-immune disorder that would have disqualified her.

    Life is fickle. You don't know when you are going to get sick.

    "Life is fickle," says Armstrong, who is 50. "You don't know when you are going to get sick."

    Of the 4.8 million people who have long-term care insurance, the average age to purchase it is 57. More than 80 percent of buyers are 50 or older, according to financial services research group LIMRA.

    Among the chief arguments for buying long-term care insurance early is that you could, at any time, develop an illness that would disqualify you while forcing you to incur tremendous expenses.

    Care costs an average of $46,000 a year in the home and $80,000 in a nursing home, according to a survey from Genworth (GNW), one of the largest long-term care insurers.

    The danger in waiting jumps by age, said Jesse Slome, president of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, a trade group.

    Between ages 60 and 69, 27 percent of individuals who applied were rejected for health reasons. Go up a decade, and the decline rate is 45 percent. But below 50, it is just 14 percent.

    Comparing Costs

    The other main concern is price. The earlier you sign up, the less you pay.

    A 45-old-woman would pay on the order of $215 a month for a fairly typical policy from Genworth. A 55-year-old would pay $250.

    But wait a few years and the numbers multiply. Armstrong regularly prices coverage for clients who are trying to see if they can get better deals. His rule of thumb is that if a policy is older than two years, it is hard to improve on it.

    One client, who is now 66, is paying about $1,000 a year for a policy he got about 15 years ago. "He's paying half of what I'm paying, and he's 16 years older," Armstrong said.

    According to a study by insurance carrier John Hancock, a 50-year-old would pay 15 percent less over a lifetime of premiums than a person who started a policy at age 55, while a 40-year-old would pay 40 percent less than that 55-year-old.

    Group policies can offer more savings. Most carriers have stopped offering them, although Genworth is starting to expand in that area again, said Chris Conklin, senior vice president of product development.

    (The premium on my own group policy, which I bought into a few jobs ago when I was in my 30s, hasn't yet cracked $25 a month after 10 years.)

    Benefit of Planning

    The argument to buy early isn't likely to sway most people because long-term care insurance itself is pretty much a non-starter for non-planners, says Robert Applebaum, professor of Gerontology at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

    For one thing, it is a costly monthly reminder of all the bad things that can befall you before you die -- even more of a downer than thinking about life insurance.

    Also, policy parameters and the companies offering them change often, so it isn't always easy to compare deals. Some carriers are now bundling long-term care insurance features with life insurance or annuities, Applebaum said.

    These are increasing in popularity, according to LIMRA, while stand-alone long-term care policies are declining.

    Many people don't like the idea of paying premiums for years and never getting the benefit, either because they won't need it or because they won't be able to keep up payments.

    Slome's suggestion for managing costs: Buy a policy that is expandable. Start with a limited benefit when you are young to keep premiums low, and then pay up as you age.


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    The Most Effective Ways to Blow Your Money

    By Donna Freedman

    Money. Just about everybody has an opinion on it, and most of us wish we had more of it.

    Look around you, though. Doesn't it seem like a lot of us can't spend our funds fast enough? From cash advances to time shares and constant tech upgrades, we fall for that old rationalization: "It's only money -- I can always make more of it."

    What is money for, anyway, except to enjoy? You work hard for a living and deserve all the perks that salary will buy. Be daring, not dull.

    Thinking like that is a great way to put yourself perpetually into debt, or at least living paycheck to paycheck. With tongue firmly planted in cheek, here are 10 surefire ways to blow your money.

    1. Drive a super-hot car. It goes without saying that your wheels will be expensive. The best always costs more, right?

    So what if a high-octane sports car or top-of-the-line luxury vehicle is a bit beyond your price range? These days you can get an eight-year car loan. Drive on!

    2. Buy a huge home in a posh neighborhood. Many of us believe that where we live should make a statement: "I'm successful! Look at my house!"

    With this mentality, bigger always be better. After all, you might decide to have kids someday. Each child will need his or her own room. You'll also want a hobby room, a man cave, a family room ...

    Don't worry about saving up a large down payment, or having to swing a monthly payment that leaves you at the edge of your budget. Remember, you've got the rest of your life to work and pay it off!

    3. Decorate on a grand scale. Think how much fun you and your significant other will have making that house your own. Start by buying a bunch of home decor magazine and books. Then, watch as much HGTV programming as one human possibly can stand.

    Maybe you can hire an interior decorator to come up with grand designs that will make family and friends ooh and ah. No money? No problem! Just sign up for zero percent financing for three years and get all the furnishings you want.

    Yes, the bill will come due someday. But that is just some other time, right?

    4. Eat out often. Why spend your valuable free time slaving over a hot stove. Sure, it's less costly than eating out. But by spending at every dining option in your area, you are doing your part to help the local economy.

    Your kids will benefit by having tried varied cuisines, even if they refuse to eat a lot of it. Making cooking more of a hobby than a habit is a time-honored way to blow money.

    5. Try new stuff, constantly. Hobbies are good for you! Whether it's taking up a new sport, art or craft, learning new things keeps life interesting.

    Sure, it can be expensive, especially if you splurge for top-of-the-line supplies. But that's the price you pay -- you can't impress everyone on the golf course by pulling around a bag of bargain clubs, can you?

    And what if most of these new hobbies come to nothing, and those expensive golf clubs or quilting fabrics end up collecting dust? Oh, well -- you only live once.

    6. Dress to impress. Stay out of discount stores. Instead, wear designer fashions that you get from specialty shops. At a more exclusive boutique, you get one-on-one attention from a sales associate who takes time to get to know you. You might hire a personal shopper to make sure you look your best.

    Put the new duds on a credit card. Wear now, pay eventually.

    7. Waste money perfecting your body. Great-looking clothes on a so-so body would be jarring. Sign up for a personal trainer at the best gym in town.

    If the gym seems like too much of a hassle, consider plastic surgery and Botox injections. Get your hair cut and styled frequently so that you always look freshly coiffed. Change the color now and then because ... well, why not?

    Isn't it fun to waste all this money?

    8. Be an early adopter. Stay on top of the latest technology and purchase each iteration for every member of the family. You don't want your children's classmates looking down on them.

    Keep your own iPhone or e-Whatever fresh, too. Suppose your boss saw you using an 18-month-old smartphone: The horror!

    9. Indulge your children. In addition to those gadgets, make sure your kids have lots of expensive clothing and toys.

    That goes for college, too. Make sure they go to their dream schools. If a bank is willing to finance their educations, so much the better!

    10. Get away from it all. Take plenty of vacations. You deserve them! Stay in the nicest places you can find. Better yet, buy a time share in a luxury resort because -- again -- you only live once.

    It doesn't matter if you don't have the ready cash for any of this. Let someone else -- a credit card company, bank or credit union -- finance your good times.

    Follow these 10 spending patterns is a guaranteed way to impoverish your future. But look on the bright side -- the fond memories of all those good times and fancy toys will comfort you during retirement, when you are eating ramen noodles in your dorm-sized apartment.

    What are some of the ways you've seen friends and family blowing cash? 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.

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    Trade Gap
    Nick Ut/AP
    By Lucia Mutikani

    WASHINGTON -- Private employers maintained a steady pace of hiring in October and the trade deficit hit a seven-month low in September as exports rebounded, suggesting the economy was strong enough to support an interest rate hike from the Federal Reserve in December.

    The ADP National Employment Report showed Wednesday that private payrolls increased 182,000 last month on top of the 190,000 jobs added in September.

    "The private sector continues to add jobs at a healthy pace and I think it's likely strong enough that if this pace of job growth continues -- if this continues over the month -- it will be enough to justify a rate hike in December," said Omer Eisner, chief market analyst at Commonwealth Foreign Exchange in Washington.

    The ADP report, which is jointly developed with Moody's Analytics, was released ahead of Friday's more comprehensive employment report from the Labor Department. According to a Reuters survey of economists, nonfarm payrolls increased 180,000 jobs in October, well above the monthly average of 139,000 jobs for August and September.

    While below 200,000, economists say the expected job gains in October would be seen as sufficient for the Fed to raise its benchmark interest rate from near zero at its Dec. 15-16 policy meeting. The unemployment rate is forecast steady at 5.1 percent.

    U.S. stock index futures held gains after the data, while yields on shorter-dated Treasuries jumped. The dollar was stronger against a basket of currencies.

    Trade Deficit Lowest Since February

    In a second report, the Commerce Department said the trade gap fell 15 percent to $40.8 billion, the smallest deficit since February. Lower crude oil prices also helped to curb the import bill.

    The drop in the trade deficit reversed the widening seen in August, though the prior month's figure was revised slightly down to $48 billion from the previously reported $48.3 billion. When adjusted for inflation, the deficit fell to $57.2 billion in September from $63 billion in the prior month.

    Trade had a neutral impact on gross domestic product for the third quarter, which expanded at a 1.5 percent annual rate. The sharp step-down in growth from the second quarter's brisk 3.9 percent rate mainly reflected a slow pace of inventory accumulation and ongoing spending cuts by energy firms.

    The dollar has gained 16.8 percent against the currencies of the United States' main trading partners since June 2014, undercutting export growth. Lackluster global demand also has put a damper on exports.

    Exports in September rose 1.6 percent to $187.9 billion, with exports of services hitting a record high. There were increases in exports of capital goods and automobiles. Exports of industrial supplies and materials, however, were the lowest since October 2010.

    Exports to Canada, the European Union and China rose in September. Exports to Japan, however, fell 13.8 percent to their lowest level since April 2010.

    Imports fell 1.8 percent to $228.7 billion, the lowest level since February. They had received a boost in August from Apple's (AAPL) new iPhone model.

    Imports of industrial supplies and materials fell to the lowest level since August 2009. Petroleum imports were the lowest since May 2004, reflecting increased domestic energy production and lower oil prices.

    The price of petroleum averaged $42.72 a barrel in September, down from $49.33 in August and $92.52 in September 2014.

    Imports from China hit a record high in September, leaving the politically sensitive U.S.-China trade deficit at an all-time high of $36.3 billion. That was up 3.8 percent from August.

    -Rodrigo Campos and Dion Rabouin contributed reporting from New York.


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    san atanasio's  church  los...
    Sleepy La Villa de Los Santos played an important role in Panamanian independence.
    By Kathleen Peddicord

    November in Panama is the Mes de la Patria, the month when Panamanians celebrate their country's road to freedom. Nov. 3 is the first of two independence days, this one remembering the break from Colombia in 1903. This is followed by Flag Day on Nov. 4 and Colon Day on Nov. 5. That last is like Columbus Day in the United States, remembering Christopher Columbus's arrival in the New World.

    Then comes the Primer Grito de la Independencia on Nov. 10. In English, this means the first cry for independence. It is the starting point in Panama's history as an independent nation, and it took place in the village of La Villa de Los Santos on the eastern coast of Panama's Azuero Peninsula. On this day in 1821, the people of Los Santos wrote a letter to Simón Bolívar complaining about the Spanish and asking for some revolutionary assistance. Eighteen days later, on Nov., 28, the country officially declared its independence from Spain. Needing a protector to help face whatever conflict might follow, the fledgling country aligned itself with Bolívar as part of the Gran Colombia. That didn't work out so well from Panama's point of view. Thus, there was a second declaration of independence about 80 years later.

    Understandably, La Villa de los Santos holds a sentimental spot in the heart of every Panamanian. But few people outside the country have heard of it. In this part of the country, Pedasi, Las Tablas and Chitre get all the attention. However, depending what kind of lifestyle you're looking for, La Villa, as it's known among the locals, could top them all.

    La Villa was home to the oldest civilizations in Panama almost 11,000 years ago. The Smithsonian Institution manages an archeological dig here. It was only about 500 years ago that the Spanish Conquistadors arrived on the scene.

    La Villa, with its long and noteworthy history, is today a sleepy town that has managed to retain its authentic local charm. Unlike Pedasi and Las Tablas, La Villa has no established community of expats or foreign retirees. Living in La Villa, your neighbors would be Panamanians and your way of life would be local.

    The cost of living in La Villa is exceedingly affordable, and has much lower costs than more established communities of expat retirees. But you still get to enjoy the same package of benefits and tax breaks for Panama resident retirees. When you want a dose of more developed world living, you could travel the half-hour south to Pedasi or four hours up the peninsula and then east along the Pan-American Highway to Panama City. Comfortable air conditioned buses service the route daily.

    Not much goes on in La Villa most of the year. Then, in November, businesses close, the streets are shut off to traffic and people from across the country make their way here to celebrate their country's heritage. The town's year-round population of 9,000 explodes to many multiples of that. Party goers fill the central square and the surrounding neighborhoods.

    After the Mes de la Patria celebrations, La Villa goes to sleep again until April, when it reawakens for the annual Azuero Fair. As during the month of independence, La Villa's population expands into the hundreds of thousands for this once-a-year agricultural festival. It's like a state fair in the Midwest, with livestock exhibits, roping competitions, games, rides and live music. Farmers and ranchers come to shop for farm equipment, cattle, seeds, plants, even boots and belt buckles. It wouldn't be a party in Panama without drinking and dancing in the streets, so there's plenty of that, as well.

    Outside those two festival months, life in La Villa is simple and quiet. This is Panamanian country living without any frills. It's not for everyone, but it'd be hard to imagine a sweeter, safer lifestyle or one that's more affordable. A couple could live in La Villa on $700 a month. The cost of living is low largely because rents are low. You can also live here without owning a car, and food is local, organic and a bargain. Frankly, there just isn't much to spend money on.

    Change is coming, though, as this Panamanian coastal region attracts more attention. La Villa still has no real estate agency. However, five housing developments are under construction, and a small mall is scheduled to open next year. But for the moment, La Villa remains one of the friendliest and most affordable spots in all of Panama.

    Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group.


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    Janet Yellen Testifies Before House Financial Services Committee
    Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesFederal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen testifies Wednesday before the House Finance Committee in Washington.
    By Howard Schneider

    WASHINGTON -- Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen pointed Wednesday to a December interest rate "liftoff," but a slow path of increases from then on as the central bank continues to nurture an economic recovery.

    "What the committee has been expecting is that the economy will continue to grow at a pace that is sufficient to generate further improvements in the labor market and to return inflation to our 2 percent target over the medium term," Yellen said during the question and answer session of a congressional hearing on financial regulation. "If the incoming information supports that expectation then our statement indicates that December would be a live possibility."

    The economy, she said, is "performing well," but the Fed would still take a gradualist approach to raising rates once the first step is taken.

    "The whole path matters," Yellen said.

    Her remarks are the first since a Fed policy meeting last week in which the central bank gave a stronger-than-expected hint that it will hike rates next month. That would be its first hike in a decade, and an important sign that the Fed feels the economy is returning to normal after the worst downturn since the Great Depression.

    Her comments pushed bond yields higher and also caused investors to reset their expectations of a December rate hike above 60 percent - a sign that markets are finally taking the Fed's language seriously.

    -Jason Lange and Jonathan Spicer contributed reporting.


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    Earns Kraft Foods

    IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Kraft Heinz (KHC) will close seven plants in the U.S. and Canada as part of a downsizing that will eliminate 2,600 jobs, or roughly 14 percent of its North American factory workforce, the newly merged food company announced Wednesday.

    The company said the closures, which will take place over the next two years, are part of a plan to save $1.5 billion in operating costs by the end of 2017. The plants slated for closure are in California, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Ontario.

    Among the hardest hit cities will be Madison, Wisconsin, where a nearly century-old Oscar Mayer plant that employs 700 production workers will close. Kraft Heinz said it would also move about 250 corporate jobs from Madison to Chicago, the company's co-headquarters along with Pittsburgh.

    One of the plant's workers, 46-year-old Rick Schroeder, said he was stunned to hear about the closing through news reports rather than from the company. He said his father also worked at the plant for 35 years and operated a pig farm, and remembers going with his father to deliver pigs to the plant.

    "They always say when one door closes, another opens," said Schroeder, a janitor at the plant. "Gotta have faith. Move on, that's all you can do. Sad day in Madison."

    The company said it would also close plants in Fullerton and San Leandro, California; Federalsburg, Maryland; St. Marys, Ontario, Canada; Campbell, New York; and Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania. The plants make a range of products, including cold cuts, salad dressing, macaroni and coffee.

    The company also will shift meat production from its Oscar Mayer plant in Davenport, Iowa, to a planned $203 million plant that will be built several miles away. City and state officials said the new plant is expected to retain at least 475 jobs, compared to more than 1,200 jobs at the existing plant, which is touted as the world's largest bologna factory.

    "Our members are scared of the unknown," said Jerry Messer, president of the Davenport chapter of the United Food and Production Workers, which represents employees. But he said he was glad jobs weren't expected to be cut for two years, and he hoped the new factory would eventually bring growth.

    The Iowa Economic Development Authority will meet Thursday to consider approving a package that includes $1.75 million in tax benefits for the new plant and a $3 million forgivable loan to the company to demolish the old one. The city is expected to add a 15-year tax rebate worth an estimated $10 million.

    Authority spokeswoman Tina Hoffman defended the investment, despite the expected job cuts.

    "It's certainly an unfortunate situation," she said. "We have been working closely with the community to make sure we could position Davenport to retain as many jobs as possible and position that facility for future growth."

    Some downsizing had been expected following the merger of Kraft and Heinz earlier this year. After the facilities close, Kraft Heinz will have 41 plants in North America that employ about 18,000 people.

    "Kraft Heinz fully appreciates and regrets the impact our decision will have on employees, their families and the communities in which these facilities are located," Michael Mullen, a senior vice president, said in a statement.

    He said affected workers would be offered severance benefits, and that the changes were "a critical step in our plan to eliminate excess capacity and reduce operational redundancies for the new combined company."

    In Madison, Mayor Paul Soglin said the local plant will be hit in three waves of layoffs. He called the workers the "heart and soul" of the city's north side.

    "It's an institution for the city of Madison," added state Sen. Fred Risser, 88, who said he worked at the plant as a teenager during World War II. "We're going to miss it. It's like a death in the family."

    -Associated Press reporter Todd Richmond in Madison, Wisconsin, contributed to this report.


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    Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Rings The NYSE Opening Bell For The First Day Of Regular-Way Trading
    Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images
    By Caroline Valetkevitch

    NEW YORK -- U.S. stocks edged lower Wednesday, retracing recent gains along with energy shares, while comments by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen pointing to a possible rate hike in December added to investor caution.

    S&P energy, down 1 percent, led the day's decline.

    The fall snapped a run of five straight days of gains for the index, with shares of Chevron (CVX) down 1.4 percent at $96.77 and Exxon Mobil (XOM) down 1 percent at $85.98.

    Stocks added to losses after Yellen's comments, which caused investors to reset their expectations of a December rate hike above 60 percent.

    Yellen said December remains a "live possibility" for a rate increase, and William Dudley, the president of the New York Fed and a permanent voting member of the Fed's policy panel, said later on Wednesday that he would "completely agree" with Yellen.

    Still, S&P utilities, which tend to fall in a higher-interest rate environment, were up 0.4 percent, the day's best-performing sector.

    The market is consolidating after a big rally, said Michael O'Rourke, chief market strategist at JonesTrading in Greenwich, Connecticut.

    "The gains have been strong over the past five weeks and we're due for more of a breather here," said O' Rourke.

    The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) fell 50.57 points, or 0.3 percent, to 17,867.58, the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GSPC) lost 7.48 points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,102.31 and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) dropped 2.65 points, or 0.05 percent, to 5,142.48.

    Stocks rallied after the Fed's statement last week, when it signaled a December rate hike was still on the table, yet the ongoing debate over when the Fed will actually make its move has added uncertainty to the market.

    "It's really that uncertainty -- investors don't know whether to applaud a rate hike or to fear it," said Bruce Zaro, chief technical strategist, Bolton Global Asset Management in Boston.

    A raft of data released Wednesday suggested the economy was strong enough to support ending an era of near-zero interest rates.

    The ADP National Employment Report showed U.S. private employers maintained a steady pace of hiring in October, while data from the Institute for Supply Management showed a jump in new orders buoyed activity in the services sector.

    The reports come ahead of Friday's nonfarm payrolls data, the most widely watched U.S. economic indicator.

    Movers and Shakers

    Time Warner (TWX), down 6.6 percent at $72.20, weighed on the S&P 500 the most after the company said ratings for its "key" domestic entertainment networks have dropped more than anticipated, while shares of Twenty-First Century Fox (FOXA) dropped 5.2 percent to $29.65 after it reported lower-than-expected quarterly revenue.

    Other media stocks such as Disney (DIS), Viacom (VIA) and Discovery (DISCA) also fell.

    U.S. health insurers also slid, with UnitedHealth (UNH) falling 2.6 percent to $114.64.

    Groupon (GRPN) lumped 26.3 percent to $2.97 after it forecast weak fourth-quarter and 2016 revenue.

    Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 1,849 to 1,214, for a 1.52-to-1 ratio on the downside; on the Nasdaq, 1,398 issues fell and 1,362 advanced for a 1.03-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.

    The S&P 500 posted 16 new 52-week highs and 1 new low; the Nasdaq recorded 69 new highs and 43 new lows.

    -Sinead Carew contributed reporting from New York.

    What to watch Thursday:
    • At 8:30 a.m. Eastern time, the Labor Department releases third-quarter productivity data and weekly jobless claims
    • Freddie Mac releases weekly mortgage rates 10 a.m.
    Earnings Season
    These selected companies are scheduled to report quarterly financial results:
    • Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCAU)
    • Kraft Heinz Co. (KHC)
    • Molson Coors Brewing Co. (TAP)
    • Monster Beverage (MNST)
    • Nvidia (NVDA)
    • Ralph Lauren (RL)
    • Symantec (SYMC)
    • Toyota Motor (TM)
    • TripAdvisor (TRIP)
    • Walt Disney Co. (DIS)


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