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- 11/06/15--21:00: _Consider Yourself a...
- 11/06/15--21:00: _10 Creative Ways to...
- 11/06/15--21:00: _The Downside of Che...
- 11/08/15--21:00: _3 Money Lessons I L...
- 11/08/15--21:00: _5 Tips for Using Di...
- 11/08/15--21:00: _A Guide to Discount...
- 11/08/15--21:00: _10 Savings Tips for...
- 11/08/15--21:00: _How Social Security...
- 11/08/15--21:00: _Wall Street This We...
- 11/08/15--21:00: _6 Ways to Land Your...
- 11/09/15--21:00: _How to Save Money o...
- 11/09/15--21:00: _10 Best and Worst D...
- 11/09/15--21:00: _Give Your Investmen...
- 11/09/15--21:00: _Buy Your Medicare P...
- 11/09/15--21:00: _Amazon's a Better F...
- 11/09/15--21:00: _First Jobs of 4 Ent...
- 11/10/15--01:00: _7 Best Rewards Cred...
- 11/10/15--02:12: _Taking the really l...
- 11/10/15--06:52: _Smartwatches for al...
- 11/10/15--07:00: _Save With Homemade ...
- 11/06/15--21:00: Consider Yourself a Super Saver? It Could Be Costing You
- 11/06/15--21:00: 10 Creative Ways to Cut Costs This Winter
- 11/06/15--21:00: The Downside of Cheaper Gas
- 11/08/15--21:00: 3 Money Lessons I Learned Driving My Grandma's '98 Chevy
- 11/08/15--21:00: 5 Tips for Using Dividend Stocks to Pay for Retirement
- 11/08/15--21:00: A Guide to Discounts for Military and Veterans
- 11/08/15--21:00: 10 Savings Tips for Holiday Shopping
- 11/08/15--21:00: How Social Security Cuts Your Benefits If You Still Work
- 11/08/15--21:00: Wall Street This Week: SeaWorld Rebuilds, Homebuilders Build
- 11/08/15--21:00: 6 Ways to Land Your Dream Job in Retirement
- 11/09/15--21:00: How to Save Money on Thanksgiving Dinner
- 11/09/15--21:00: 10 Best and Worst Deals at Walgreens
- 11/09/15--21:00: Give Your Investment Portfolio a Stress Test
- 11/09/15--21:00: Buy Your Medicare Plan ... on the Home Shopping Network?
- 11/09/15--21:00: Amazon's a Better Fit for Clothing Shoppers Than You Think
- 11/09/15--21:00: First Jobs of 4 Entrepreneurs Who Changed the World
- 11/10/15--01:00: 7 Best Rewards Credit Cards for Holiday Shopping
- 11/10/15--02:12: Taking the really long view on long-term care insurance
- 11/10/15--06:52: Smartwatches for all kinds this holiday season
- 11/10/15--07:00: Save With Homemade Spice Blends -- Savings Experiment
Filed under: How to Save MoneyBy Nancy Mann Jackson
Sometimes, even the best intentions can backfire.
The latest proof?
Researchers at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business find that being determined to save for a goal can lead to poor decisions in other areas of your finances -- like using a high-interest credit card just to avoid tapping any of those sacred funds.
"We're constantly told that it's important to save money, which it is, and people believe that having savings makes them responsible," says Abigail Sussman, assistant professor of marketing at Booth and co-author of the study.
"But people become overly focused on this version of responsibility," she adds. "Healthy finances mean more than just having money in savings."
The Unintended Consequences of Super Saving
Study participants were presented with an emergency -- needing a $5,000 replacement furnace -- as well as a savings account (earmarked for a child, a car, or an unspecified goal), and a credit card with a low, medium or high interest rate.
Turns out people were inclined to pull out their plastic to cover an unexpected cost, rather than dip into savings -- even if the interest rate they'd pay for credit was much higher than the interest earned on their savings in the bank.
And participants were even more likely to use credit over savings if the account was specifically dedicated to a "responsible" goal like a child's college tuition.
Considering that a typical savings account yields less than 1 percent interest while average credit card rates top 16 percent, super savers can pay a hefty price for those responsible intentions.
The Value of Seeing the Full Financial Picture
It certainly is possible to work toward a goal and still deal responsibly when an emergency strikes -- especially, as this study suggests, if you avoid an unhealthy attachment to your savings.
"An important takeaway is to keep an eye on overall wealth, rather than focusing exclusively on a specific target," Sussman says.
If you want to refocus your financial game plan, read up on five more money mistakes that even good savers can make.
Filed under: Life Stage LessonsBy Kimberly Palmer
The winter months can be expensive: They often encompass holiday shopping, travel, splurges that cheer you up on cold days and larger-than-usual electricity bills. Even winter clothing can be pricier than summer apparel, since outfits include bulky jackets and boots. U.S. News Frugal Shopper contributors offer ideas to keep your costs down as the temperature drops.
By Dandan Zou
With gas prices down by more than $1 a gallon in the past year, Americans collectively are spending $350 million a day less at the gas pump than they were a year ago, says the American Automobile Association. But the drop in gas prices, along with a stronger economy, has led to more driving -- and more accidents. And that's adding up to higher insurance costs.
Through the first seven months of 2015, U.S. drivers put a record 1.8 trillion miles on the road, says the Federal Highway Administration. The National Safety Council estimates a 10 percent increase in traffic fatalities over that time compared with a year ago. Geico and Allstate (ALL) have already reported an increase in the frequency and severity of claims, and both have announced that they are hiking rates. Morningstar (MORN) analyst Brett Horn expects other insurers to follow suit.
It might pay to reshop your policy and to drive as if gas were still expensive. When it is, drivers tend to accelerate and brake gradually and maintain a steady speed to save gas, says Pennsylvania State University professor Guangqing Chi, who has studied the correlation. That's a good way to keep your record clean and your rates low.
Filed under: Life Stage LessonsI don't know about you, but I've always wanted to drive a foreign sports car.
Imagine the moonroof open, accelerating like there's no tomorrow and the breeze blowing through your hair -- it's a dream worthy of pursuit. Or, so I thought.
My first car was a 1996 red Pontiac Grand Am. I bought the car back in college -- it was the first car that was fully my responsibility. I made the payments that I believed were just part of owning a car. Looking back, I laugh.
Now, I don't know about you, but I had an awesome grandmother. You know, the kind of grandmother that you wish was your grandmother, too. How did she display her awesomeness? I'll tell you.
My grandmother offered to pay off my Pontiac Grand Am as a gift for my graduation. This was amazing. Upon graduation, I no longer had a car payment. Most drivers today can't say they have a car they own outright -- having no payments whatsoever! I felt as if I had hit the lottery. Later I would learn that I practically did.
The sad day eventually came when my grandmother passed away. Kindly, she bequeathed her car -- a 1998 Chevy Lumina -- to my care. I nicknamed it "The Lu" and had some decisions to make. Should I keep the car or sell it?
While I was driving The Lu, I learned a few valuable lessons -- at least they became more cemented in my mind. Today I'd like to share with you the lessons I learned. If you learn these lessons too, who knows, you just might end up with more wealth than you ever thought possible.
1. Car payments stink. When I was driving The Lu, an important lesson pierced my soul: car payments stink. Sure, The Lu had a wet cat smell at times, but it smelled better than having a car payment when I was first starting out as a financial advisor.
Back in college, I took a finance class in which the professor asked a question:
I raised my hand along with many of my classmates. Then my professor said:
"How many of you plan on buying a new car every three to five years?"
At first, I was confused. Later, I discovered he had a point. But his point didn't fully sink in until I had a few years of experience driving cars like The Lu which had no car payment. When you don't have a car payment, you save a whole lot of money.
"Enjoy making your car payments for the rest of your life while I take my family to Europe on vacation whenever I want."
Imagine saving $400 a month because you don't have a car payment. That's $4,800 a year. Imagine doing that for three years straight -- you would have $14,400. That will get you a pretty decent vehicle if you ask me!
2. Saving for retirement trumps having a car with a car payment. What if you took the money you're saving on car payments and put it toward your retirement? Let's say you have 30 years until you retire and you're expecting an 8 percent annual return on your investment. If you invest $400 a month, guess how much you'll have in your portfolio when you retire?
I'll give you a moment to guess.
If you just put it into a savings account that yields no interest, you'll have $144,000 at retirement. Not bad!
But how about that investment account? If you put it in there, you'll have $587,260.29 at retirement. Now, this isn't figuring in inflation or the effects of volatility, but it should give you a good idea of what you're giving up by driving a car with a payment.
When I was driving The Lu, especially when I became a financial adviser, I kept in mind my professor's advice and fully realized that saving for retirement is more important than a car payment.
Now, am I saying that you should never have a car payment? Not at all. But I am saying that there are more important financial goals than having a car payment, and saving for retirement is certainly one of them.
3. Learn early. I'm convinced that driving The Lu without a car payment enabled me to put what I would have been spending on car payments to better use. But I'm also convinced that learning this lesson early in life has and will have unforeseen benefits into the future.
By learning these valuable lessons early in life, the rest of my life will naturally be easier than if I hadn't learned the lessons. In a way, lessons learned early have similarities to the concept of compounding.
How many more times will a young person be able to put into good use the lessons they learned earlier than those who are older? How many ripple effects will make their way through time and space to make that young person's life so much more productive and satisfying?
Now, you might be saying: "Okay, Jeff, I understand I need to learn early, but you're missing something -- I'm not so young anymore. Is there hope for me?"
Of course there's hope for you. But there's going to be less hope if you take action later instead of now.
When I was driving The Lu, I realized that I was going to benefit from learning a few financial lessons about vehicles early in life. If I had shrugged off my professor's advice, I probably would have been driving a BMW with a big fat car payment that I really couldn't afford. That might have led to me buying other things I couldn't afford.
It's almost as if small decisions -- like the decision to keep The Lu for a few years -- can put people on a course that changes the rest of their lives. One little change now may result in a very different future.
What Should You Do?
Perhaps you have a few decisions you need to make regarding your vehicles. Maybe you have car payments and you'd like to experience the freedom that I found. It could be that there are a few other financial changes you need to make, too.
Whatever it is that's on your mind, think about your future. Are you doing yourself a favor over-consuming instead of saving and investing? Of course not. While nobody can predict the future, there are some things you can do to slightly change your course to -- in all likelihood -- discover a better financial future.
You should do the right thing. Sell the expensive car you can't afford. Pay off your debt. Learn about investing. Make long-term goals an immediate concern along with your short-term goals. I promise you, those are decisions you'll never regret.
Filed under: Dividend StocksBy David Ning
With many savings accounts paying less than 1 percent interest, some retirement savers are turning to dividend stocks to provide a more reasonable return. Dividend stocks provide a stream of income as well as the potential for capital gains, but they also carry more risk than a savings account, certificate of deposit or bonds. Here's what you should know about using dividend stocks to pay for retirement.
Dividends can stop at any time. Dividends are distributions of company profits to shareholders. Using the income derived from dividend paying stocks to fund retirement is a viable strategy for many people. However, if profits decline, your dividend might also decrease or even be eliminated. You have to be prepared for the possibility of a surprise dividend cut in the future. If the companies you choose have a bad year, your retirement income might suffer as well. Of course, the reverse could also be true. A company that performs well might provide an increase in dividend payments.
Diversification difficulties. Companies that pay significant dividends are concentrated in a few industries. Investing exclusively in dividend stocks isn't likely to provide adequate diversification of your investments. It's difficult to make a diversified portfolio of stocks that currently sports a high yield and has the ability to grow its dividend for the foreseeable future. You may have to spend time researching and monitoring these stocks during your retirement years.
Less volatility. Dividends are less volatile than stock valuations. Dividend stocks tend not to increase as quickly as the market as a whole, but they also tend to hold their value a little better when the market goes down. However, dividend stocks are not a risk-free investment, and carry more risk than high-quality bonds. The business landscape is always changing. Investing in a single stock always carries the risk of something going wrong at that company. A stock that does extremely well for decades could suddenly start declining because innovations are disrupting that industry. You may be able to mitigate some of the risks by building a diversified portfolio with many stocks or investing in high-dividend mutual funds or ETFs instead of picking stocks on your own.
Tax efficiency. Dividends are typically taxed at a lower rate than bonds or other ordinary income, which makes dividend stocks a tax-efficient source of retirement income. However, when you sell the investment you may also owe capital gain taxes. If you are forced to sell all of your stock in a company years from now at a tremendous gain because the prospects are no longer bright for that company, it could result in a large tax bill. Selling only a portion of your investments every year, and spreading out the capital taxes to be paid in multiple years and possibly within a lower tax braket, could result in a smaller overall tax bill.
Spending only income will result in money for heirs. If you spend only the dividends your investments generate, you will almost certainly leave money behind for heirs. This may be desirable to parents who want to pass on wealth to their children, but it also means that you aren't spending as much as you could in retirement.
David Ning is the founder of MoneyNing.com.
By Elizabeth Harper
Many retailers offer discounts on goods and services for active duty or veteran military personnel out of respect for those who serve, and some of these discounts are well worth taking advantage of. But with dozens of deals and policies varying by business, it can be tough to navigate.
With Veteran's Day right around the corner, we thought it was high time we update our guide to where you can find military discounts, and how they might apply.
How to Get Military Discounts
Some businesses advertise their military discounts prominently, but at many you may have to ask, show ID or other proof of service, or even be in uniform to get a discount. Complicating matters further, many national retailers (particularly franchises) offer discounts that may vary from location to location; you're most likely to find deals at locations near military bases.
So despite what's on this list, you'll want to check with your local retailer to be sure what discount is offered.
What Discounts to Expect
The discounts available, when you're willing to jump through the hoops to get them, can vary greatly in quality. But many retailers will offer around 10 percent off. If you're a military member or veteran, you can usually find car manufacturers willing to offer you $500 or more off, though deals depend on what make you're shopping for as well as when you're shopping for it.
Travel deals are also common, but typically vague. Many hotels offer discounted rates for military members and families on leisure travel that are based on government per diem rates, which may or may not be the best deal you can find.
No matter where you're shopping or what you're shopping for, be sure to ask about a military discount before you buy. Even retailers who aren't on this list may offer military discounts -- you just don't know until you ask.
Here's a look at the deals.
|24 Hour Fitness||Discounted membership||Active duty|
|Alamo Rent A Car||Discounted rates||Active duty|
|AMC Theatres||Discounted tickets||Active duty, retirees, and family||Typically after 4PM|
|Apple||Discounted products||Active duty, veterans, reservists, National Guard members, and family|
|Applebee's||10% off, free entree on Veterans Day||Active duty and veterans|
|AT&T Wireless||15% off phone plans||Active duty, veterans, and qualified military spouses||In-store only|
|Bass Pro Shops||10% off||Active duty and retired||For one week, beginning on the 15th of every month|
|Best Buy||Up to 10% off||Varies|
|Best Western||Based on government per diem||Active duty|
|Burger King||10% off||Varies|
|Carl's Jr./Hardee's||10% off||Varies|
|Chick-fil-A||Discounted pricing, free meals on Military Appreciation Nights||Varies|
|Choice Hotels||Based on government per diem||Active duty, retired, and family|
|Chrysler||Up to $500||Active duty, active reservists, retirees, and veterans discharged within the last 12 months|
|CiCi's Pizza||10% off||Varies|
|Cinemark Movie Theatres||Discounted tickets||Active duty|
|Dairy Queen||10% or more off||Varies||May only be available certain days of the week or to uniformed personnel|
|Dell||Up to 30% off||Active duty, veterans, and families|
|Ford||$500 bonus cash||Active duty, reservists, National Guard members, veterans (within 180 days of discharge), and family||Offer only good on eligible models|
|Geico||Up to 15% off||Active duty, National Guard members, reservists, and retired|
|General Motors||Discounted pricing, up to thousands off||Active duty, active reservists, National Guard members, retirees, veterans discharged within the last 12 months, and spouses|
|Greyhound||10% off||Active duty, retired, and family|
|Hard Rock Cafe||15% off||Varies|
|Hertz||Discounted rates||Active duty|
|Hilton Hotels & Resorts||Based on government per diem, 10% off leisure stays with Military Family Rate||Active duty, reservists, retired, and family|
|Home Depot||10% off||Active duty, reservists, retired, disabled veterans, and family|
|Honda||$500 off||Active duty, reservists, spouses, retirees, and veterans (within 180 days of discharge)||Only available if you finance or lease from Honda|
|Howard Johnson||Based on government per diem||Active duty||Depending on availability|
|Hyundai||$500 off||Active duty, reservists, National Guard members, retirees, veterans, and spouses||Only for select 2014, all 2015, and all 2016 models|
|Jiffy Lube||Up to 15% off||Varies|
|La Quinta Inns & Suites||Based on government per diem||Active duty|
|Lowe's||10% off||Active duty, reservists, National Guard members, retirees, veterans receiving VA benefits, and family|
|Marriott Hotels||Based on government per diem||Active duty|
|Mazda||$500 off||Active duty; reservists, veterans, and retirees (within 12 months of discharge/retirement)||Only for 2015 and 2016 models|
|Motel 6||10% off||Active duty, retirees, and family|
|National Car Rental||Discounted rates||Active duty, retired, and family|
|National Park Service||Free Annual Pass||Active duty, family, reservists, and National Guard members|
|Nike||10% off||Active duty, reservists, and retirees|
|Nissan||Varies||Active duty, reservists, retirees, veterans (within 12 months of discharge), and spouses and partners|
|Old Navy||10% off||Varies||Mondays|
|Pep Boys||10% off||Active duty, National Guard members, reservists, and retired||Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays|
|Regal Entertainment Group||Varies||Varies|
|Scion||$500 off||Active duty, reservists, National Guard members, retirees and veterans (within one year of service), and family|
|Shoney's||15% off||Varies||May have to wear a uniform|
|Showcase Cinemas||$5.50 or $7.50 per ticket||Active duty and family|
|Sprint||Monthly service discount||Active duty and retirees|
|Starwood Hotels & Resorts||Based on government per diem||Active duty|
|Toyota||$500 rebate||Active duty, retirees and veterans (discharged within 12 months), and family|
|Verizon Wireless||15% off monthly plan and 25% off select accessories||Active duty and veterans|
|YMCA||Free membership and child care||Families of active duty service members|
Filed under: Holiday ShoppingBy Raechel Conover
Christmas is weeks away, but many consumers are already prepping for the annual holiday spending extravaganza -- and they may be on to something. Retailers, to be sure, are revving up the profit engines and setting their sights on Black Friday, traditionally the single biggest shopping day of the year. In the not-too-distant future, Christmas decor will be hanging from store rafters and weekly circulars will be advertising deals on coveted items. These tips can help consumers get their budgets in order, their money saved up and their plans in place for a smooth and financially sound holiday shopping season.
Make a budget. Hold a "state of the union" about holiday expenses with your spouse, significant other or anyone with whom you expect to buy gifts this year. It may not be fun, but knowing in advance how much you can spend will alleviate a lot of stress. Make your holiday budget all-inclusive: gifts and holiday cards for everyone on your list, wrapping paper and stamps, decorations, food and drinks for parties and during shopping excursions and whatever else requires a cash outlay during the holiday season. Don't budget for more money than you have or know you can save by the deadline.
Save now. Like, immediately. There is still a month to go and for anyone paid weekly, that's five paychecks before Black Friday. Fix a budget now and stash some cash for the big day. Given the magnitude of many holiday discounts, $30 out of each paycheck stretches pretty far. To ensure the savings intended for Black Friday are actually used for that purpose, consider setting up a targeted bank account. Many employers let employees divvy up their take-home pay into multiple accounts.
Save up gift cards. Any cash-like asset can be put toward a holiday shopping budget, so get in the habit of saving up gift cards. Dig out old ones that may still hold a few dollars and take them along when you shop; every little bit helps. Alternatively, search a site such as Gift Card Granny and buy a few unwanted gift cards from a marketplace that sells the plastic at a discount off its underlying value.
Pay with cash. Once you've decided on a holiday budget, stick to it. Credit cards are the enemy here -- they tempt you to spend now and worry later. Be firm and reject the siren call of credit when hitting the holiday sales. Pay for this year's goodies with cash, check or debit card so you don't spend more than you have. Steel yourself to walk away from holiday sales once you've hit your holiday budget limit.
Purge to make room for new. Everyone has something to get rid of and there's still time to try selling it. In some parts of the country it's still warm enough to host a garage sale. You can also post sale items to Craigslist or with a local buy/sell/trade group on social media. You'll make room for the flood of new gifts while padding the holiday budget with a spot of extra cash.
Make a list and check it twice. Holiday spending, especially on Black Friday, can easily turn into a cash-flow catastrophe. Seemingly everything is on sale everywhere, luring too many consumers to spend, spend, spend. To help stanch the outflow, make a list of recipients and the amount you're willing to shell out -- and then stick to it. Have a plan of action ready even before the Black Friday ads start rolling out.
Clip and save. No need to go coupon crazy here, but if you spot a coupon for something on your list, use it now. It's always worthwhile to check some of the best coupon and deal sites. The same goes for store cash: Investigate the offerings from local merchants. Kohl's, for example, frequently runs Kohl's Cash promotions. If you have a similar medium on hand, spend it now on something for the holidays.
Shop early. Once confined to the Friday after Thanksgiving, big discounts are increasingly leaking into the rest of November. Some retailers now offer a few "Black Friday" deals in advance. In the past, Amazon has released deals all week leading up to Black Friday and Walmart has hosted a "Super Saturday" sale in early November featuring Black Friday-like deals. Similar promotions from these and other retailers are likely this year. If an item on your list is advertised for less than your budget allotted, grab it. You'll get a running start on your shopping and save along the way.
Sign up for alerts. Want to be among the first to glimpse those coveted Black Friday ads? There's little time for browsing once the crowds descend, so sign up for email lists, "like" retailers on Facebook and follow them on Twitter for an early look-see. Signing up for a Google Alert with the search query "Black Friday" will fill up your inbox with Black Friday ads and related coverage. With all that information at your fingertips, you'll know which items to target long before Black Friday arrives.
Track your budget. Even if you shop early, be sure to keep your budget up to date. Print out a copy or store it on your smartphone and always carry it with you. Mark down how much you're spending and where and regularly check your progress against the plan. Accountability goes a long way toward keeping your finances straight during the holiday shopping season.
Filed under: Life Stage Lessons
By Kimberly Lankford
Q. If I sign up for Social Security at age 62 but am still working, will that affect my benefits?
A. Yes. If you sign up for benefits before your full retirement age (age 66 for workers born in 1943 through 1954), your benefits will be reduced by as much as 25% for claiming early -- and reduced further if you earn more than a certain amount of money from a job or self-employment. (Investment earnings, pension benefits or withdrawals from an IRA or 401(k) don't count; pretax contributions to a 401(k) or other retirement plan do count if the amount is included in your gross wages.)
For 2015 and 2016, you'll lose $1 from your benefits for each $2 you earn above $15,720. Say, for example, you turn 62 in January 2016 and plan to take Social Security benefits. If you were to fully retire, you would receive $600 a month ($7,200 for the year). You know, however, that you will be working and earning $20,800 (which is $5,080 above the $15,720 limit). In that case, you should let Social Security know about the estimated extra income when you apply for benefits. Social Security will then withhold $2,540 of your Social Security benefits ($1 for every $2 earned over the limit).
Rather than withholding a portion of your benefits each month, Social Security will withhold all benefit payments from January 2016 through May 2016. (Because benefits will be withheld for the full month of May, the total amount withheld will, in this example, be $3,000 rather than $2,540.) Beginning in June 2016, you will receive your $600 benefit and continue to receive that much every month for the rest of the year. In 2017, you will receive the additional $460 that was withheld in May 2016. For more examples, see Social Security's How We Deduct Earnings From Benefits.
A different limit applies in the year you reach full retirement age. In that year, you'll lose $1 for every $3 in earnings over $41,880 until the month you reach full retirement age. At that point, there's no earnings test; you can keep all of your benefits, no matter how much you earn.
What happens if you are subject to the earnings test and you make more or less than you estimated? When you file your tax return, the IRS will let the Social Security Administration know how much wage and self-employment earnings you report. That figure will be compared with your estimate, and the government will reconcile the books by either sending you a check -- if your estimate of earnings was too high and the earnings test withheld too much of your benefits -- or requiring you to pay the balance.
If you unexpectedly return to work and anticipate exceeding the earnings test, let the SSA know of the change in circumstances as soon as possible so your benefits can be withheld. If the tax return you file shows earnings that should have triggered reduced benefits, you'll be asked to pay back the excess in a lump sum or see future benefits reduced.
Even though the earnings test affects your benefits, the money isn't lost forever. If your retirement benefits are withheld for several months because of your earnings, then your monthly benefit will be recalculated at your full retirement age and increased to make up for the months when your benefits were withheld because of the earnings test.
For more information, see the Social Security Administration's How Work Affects Your Benefits.
Monday -- Splash Zone
There's no denying that SeaWorld Entertainment (SEAS) is a controversial name among theme park operators. The chain has struggled since the "Blackfish" documentary criticized SeaWorld for having killer whales in captivity.
CEO Joel Manby -- who joined the company earlier this year after leading the less controversial parent company of Dollywood -- has scheduled a presentation on Monday afternoon to offer up his vision for SeaWorld. Chances are slim that he will be announcing the release of orcas and dolphins into the wild, but it wouldn't be a surprise if his new strategy emphasizes the non-animal attractions.
Tuesday -- Home on the Range
Homebuilders will be in the spotlight Tuesday. Beazer Homes (BZH) and D.R. Horton (DHI) report their latest quarterly results Tuesday morning. The summer quarter appears to have gone well for both real estate developers. Analysts see both companies posting revenue growing in the double digits, with profitability growing even faster.
Wednesday -- Fried Chicken on the Menu
Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen (PLKI) reports Wednesday. The popular chain specializing in fried chicken, cajun sides, and buttery biscuits has grown its empire to 2,443 operated and franchised locations worldwide.
A lot of chicken chains have gone public recently. One of them -- El Pollo Loco (LOCO) -- reports on Thursday, just in case a single day of poultry restaurant earnings isn't enough to satisfy your appetite.
Thursday -- Pump You Up
Investors will get to see if Planet Fitness (PLNT) is in shape when it reports fresh financials on Thursday. The gym operator has grown quickly, fueled by the attraction of its low rates. Folks pay just $10 a month to join, and the modest $10 initiation fee makes it easy to drop out at any point. That's a lot less than traditional fitness centers. There may not be any workout classes, but if all one needs is access to treadmills and other cardio equipment, it should fit the bill.
Planet Fitness went public at $16 this summer, and this will be its first full quarter as a public company.
Friday -- Mining for Box Office Gold
Friday is always busy at the local multiplex, and this week's big debut will be Time Warner's (TWX) "The 33." The movie is based on the real-life 2010 incident in which 33 coal miners in Chile were rescued 69 days after the mine's collapse.
It was a global news event with "make a movie out of this" written all over it, especially since every single trapped coal miner was saved. It makes sense for "The 33" to roll out just ahead of the holidays. A feel-good survival story seems to just work this time of year.
Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of SeaWorld Entertainment. The Motley Fool recommends Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen and Time Warner. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days, and click here to check out our free report for one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.
One retiree profiled here is fulfilling a longtime goal. Several others are taking a hobby to a new level. Still others are starting a business or enjoying an engaging, part-time job. Whatever the gig, these people have found pastimes that not only deliver a paycheck (or the promise of it) but also are downright fun.
Retirement can be an ideal time to pursue your dream and thrive. Think about it: You've had years to build savings and home equity, establish a credit history, and nurture social and professional networks -- all of which can be key to launching a business or a new career. Starting at 62, you also have access to Social Security benefits if you need them (although full retirement age is currently 66), and you may have income from a pension or a still-working spouse. Plus, you're rich in the one asset that full-time workers lack: time. "At this stage of life, you can really be in control," says Jeff Bucher, a registered investment adviser in Perrysburg, Ohio, who specializes in retirement planning. "Now is the time to branch out."
Here's how several post-careerists pulled off their dream jobs.
Build Something Big
Ephraim King, 65, retired from his job as a senior manager at the Environmental Protection Agency four years ago. His initial plan: hike the Appalachian Trail and then return home to Takoma Park, Md., to work as a consultant on clean water, his area of expertise. The hike, which took five and a half months, went fine, but consulting proved to be as stressful as his career job. After a few months, he announced to his wife, Carol Lindeman, "That's it. I'm done."
His neighbor, Stephen Brown, 63, had already retired from his job at a family-owned printing company. Having spent his early career in construction and working as a carpenter, he was a natural to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity; he enlisted King, who had spent years rehabbing his own home, to do the same. The two worked on several projects for the home-building nonprofit.
When those projects ended, they decided to go into the home-rehab business on their own. "Both of us really enjoy the complexity and variety a large house project offers," says King. "It's not just painting or sanding a floor; it's everything coming together."
King and Brown each tapped home equity to come up with about $390,000 (split evenly) to buy, fix up and then sell a small, three-bedroom home in nearby Hyattsville. The house, a foreclosure, needed to be totally gutted.
King and Brown took on the project partly as a pastime, but they treated the business side seriously, hiring a business lawyer and forming a limited liability corporation to protect their assets. Both men were mindful that they were tapping family resources. "The money we're using isn't coming out of nowhere," says King. "We're fortunate that we have spouses who understand what we're doing and are supportive."
Playing the role of owner, general contractor and worker requires setting priorities, says Brown. "You learn a lot of lessons about sequence. The guy can't wire the walls if you haven't put them up." The pair have also had to get up to speed on new standards for safety and energy efficiency. Despite their best efforts, says Brown, they've had to redo some work. Then there's their own, uh, aging infrastructure. "It's easy to say 'I can do this and this and this,' but I'm in my sixties. I can't do as much as when I was younger," says Brown.
The best part? Working alongside the subcontractors. "It's fun. You meet great people. They're good at what they do," says King. As for the dollar payoff, their expectations are modest, at least for this go-round. "Our purpose is to work through the learning curve and to break even," says King.
Create New Works of Art
When Deborah Nolan, 68, retired eight years ago from her job as a New Jersey deputy attorney general, she couldn't wait to pursue her longtime avocation -- writing -- full-time. Nolan had been meeting with a group of fellow writers for almost 30 years and had already written a young-adult novel, which she stashed in a desk drawer. Her focus now: writing romance suspense novels.
Nolan had always enjoyed reading the genre, and "I wanted to write what I like," she says. She also realized that her chances of succeeding were better with romance than with other types of fiction. "The romance-writer community is very welcoming, and the conferences are fabulous. Everyone is willing to talk to you and be helpful. It's much easier to find an editor and get your foot in the door."
Nolan's plan to write full-time didn't pan out, however. "I'm too social to be writing every single day. It's not my personality," she says. At loose ends, she took part-time work as a family court lawyer in upstate New York, where she and her husband, Frank, have a weekend home. (The couple also have an apartment in Manhattan.) She settled on a routine of appearing in court a few days a month and writing two days a week.
That combination was serendipitous: "The stimulation of being in court helped my writing," she says. It also provided fodder for her novels, whose protagonists are female lawyers. Nolan's first romance novel, Suddenly Lily, was published by Avalon in 2009, followed by Conflict of Interest in 2011 and Second Act for Carrie Armstrong (published by Desert Breeze Publishing) in 2014.
Nolan doesn't have to make a living at her dream gig. She collects a pension as well as Social Security benefits, and she has the post-careerist's dream asset: a working spouse. (Frank is a partner in a law firm.) Her first check, from Avalon, was a modest $500 when she submitted the manuscript; she received another $500 when it was published. But bigger checks started rolling in after Amazon
purchased Avalon in 2012. Last year, Nolan made more than $10,000 in royalties. As far as she's concerned, that qualifies as a happy ending (and maybe a promising prequel). "I like to write anyway," says Nolan, who is working on a sequel to Suddenly Lily. "Making some money at it is really nice."
Develop a Product
Dave and Pam Barret, of Temecula, California, were still working as educators -- he as a special education teacher, she as an educational consultant -- when they came up with the idea of creating and selling a board game about the U.S. Constitution. They had found games to be good teaching tools and had already devised several of their own. "We thought, When we retire, let's put our games out there," says Dave.
They learned that developing a board game is no stroll along Boardwalk. They spent a year researching and brainstorming questions and answers about the Constitution as well as distractor answers -- those that are incorrect but not obviously so. They wove elements of chance into the game, so the history buffs wouldn't always win, and they took pains to write clear directions. Then they invited players of all ages to try out their masterwork. Says Dave: "We had people in different rooms of our house playing different versions of our game. We wanted to know: Is it fun? Are you learning? That was really important to us: making learning fun."
They also enlisted experts, including mentors from Score to help with their business plan; a graphic designer to create a prototype of the game; and a team of lawyers to help them get a copyright, a design patent and four trademarks. A local printer produced the first run of 2,500 games. Their initial costs totaled about $70,000, which they charged to credit cards after finding that local banks were unwilling to lend money to untested entrepreneurs.
The financial risk paid off: The Constitution Quest Game, $50 at www.cognitivesquare.com, has racked up more than $700,000 in sales, allowing the Barrets to retire from their career jobs. The couple fields about 100 orders a day. Their five grown children and two older grandchildren occasionally pitch in to get the orders out.
One lesson they learned from Score early on: "Don't let the business run you," says Pam. The couple close up shop at noon so they can also appreciate the relaxing side of retirement. "We want to see the grandchildren and enjoy life," she says.
Go Back to School
John Graves was 22 when he was accepted to the University of Michigan Law School, in 1968. At age 63, he dug out his acceptance letter and enrolled in the law school full-time.
Graves, now 70, had planned to postpone law school for just a few years while he scraped together the money to cover tuition. As a stopgap, he accepted a teaching job, and he ended up staying in the profession, earning a doctorate in education. He later became a school superintendent, most recently in Jackson, Michigan.
By Kendal Perez
Whether your Thanksgiving plans include hitting the stores early or intentionally boycotting "Black Thursday" sales, most Americans have at least one thing in common on Turkey Day: the preparation of an epic meal. This year, some unwelcome news is wafting into households: According to the Department of Agriculture, the price of turkey will increase as much as 19 percent, or to a $1.36 a pound, thanks to the avian flu that's impacted poultry prices all year.
Despite the turkey shortage, early sale prices are similar to what they were last year, with King Soopers currently offering USDA Grade A frozen turkeys for 69 cents a pound.
Still, finding the best deals on holiday dinner fare can be complex, depending on your menu and how many people you're feeding. To help control the cost of your Thanksgiving dinner, I consulted the thriftiest grocery shopper I know: my mother-in-law Connie Perez.
Raised by small business owners in the small town of Silver City, New Mexico, Perez's frugality and skills in the kitchen were cultivated at a young age. "Growing up in a family of seven, we had to be frugal," Perez says. "My parents were on a limited income when I was a small child, but we never went hungry and we always ate nutritious meals." Perez credits her parents for her thriftiness and non-wasteful habits, highlighting her father's creativity in the kitchen. "My dad would make the most delicious soups and stews that he could never remake because he would use whatever leftovers we had at the time."
These days, family gatherings can reach up to 40 people all clamoring for Perez's famous brisket or roasted turkey. Hosting such a crowd isn't cheap, so she employs the following strategies to keep costs low.
Make a plan. When it comes to saving money on Thanksgiving, Perez says you have to be organized. "It takes a lot of planning," she says. "You can't just make a list and go to the store." She suggests starting with a menu and evaluating whether traditional recipes are actually popular. "Be careful in your meal selection, making sure it's food you're going to eat," she advises.
With that in mind, think about those dishes that went mostly untouched last year and don't prepare them again. This will save you time and money, plus you'll avoid storing leftovers of something no one liked well enough to eat the first time around.
Review store ads to compare deals, especially on turkeys. While the Internet makes comparing grocery store deals a bit easier for some, Perez prefers the more traditional approach. "I'm old-school; I like to use flyers because they're right in front of me," she says. Determining who has the best price on the ingredients you need will make your shopping experience easier and cheaper.
This time of year, many grocers offer free or reduced price-per-pound turkeys when you spend a certain amount. For example, Safeway and Albertson's stores are currently offering a free frozen Honeysuckle turkey (up to 16 pounds) when you spend $100. "You can easily spend that much if you're preparing a Thanksgiving dinner for a lot of people," Perez says. Still, she suggests shoppers do their homework on other store deals to ensure they're getting the best price.
Know your local stores' prices. This is probably Perez's top piece of advice for shoppers. "You have to know your prices where you shop to compare," she says. "Otherwise, you have no idea if what's on sale is actually a good deal."
Buy-one-get-one deals are popular with consumers, but Perez warns these sales don't always represent the best price. For example, a buy-one-get-two-free deal on a package of chicken breasts may seem like an outstanding deal, until you do the math. "If you have to pay $9.99 per pound and you get three packages, you're really paying about $3.33 per pound," she says. "But if another local store has chicken breasts on sale for $2 per pound, you're not saving money."
Dollar deals also seem like a good buy, but again, knowing your local prices is key. "Sometimes a grocery store will have 10 for $10 cans of green beans," Perez says. "If you go to Walmart, they have their green beans for 78 cents per can." So, you'll save over $2 if you just buy the regular-priced canned green beans from Walmart compared to the "sale" price from your grocer.
Swap brand-name for generic brands on select ingredients. When shopping for basic ingredients like salt, sugar and spices, try the generic brand for big savings. "With flour or any of those dry things, I don't need to have Morton's or Gold Meadow," Perez says. "I usually go with the store brands."
Not all store brands are created equal, though. "Some items are not the same," Perez admits. "I'll pay extra for products if the generic brand is not a good match." But some products are just as good and nearly half the price. "For flavor, the store brand of frozen vegetables are just as good as Birds Eye or some of those more expensive brands," she says.
Accept help. Perez enjoys being the host, but she always accepts help when it's offered. "In our community, people always volunteer to bring stuff and I always take them up on it." In addition to saving money, this strategy allows guests to feel like they're contributing and reduces the stress of having to prepare everything. "As the host, you're not so exhausted," Perez says. "You can truly enjoy your guests and your family."
Enjoying family and friends and being thankful for your bounty is what Thanksgiving is all about, after all.
Kendal Perez is a spokeswoman for CouponSherpa.com, a popular source for online, in-store and mobile coupons. She also blogs at Hassle-Free Savings and enjoys yoga, decluttering, craft brew and obsessing over her dogs.
By Terence Loose
Founded in Chicago more than a century ago by Charles R. Walgreen Sr., Walgreens is now at the top of the drugstore chain with more than 8,200 U.S. locations. The store's rise to dominance was built on good products with solid deals.
But not everything in the drugstore giant's aisles is healthy for your wallet. So to find out how to make the most of your next trip to Walgreens, we asked savings experts to clue us in on the 10 best and worst Walgreens deals. Read on to discover what we found.
10 Best Walgreens Deals
Ready for convenience and great deals? Here are 10 Walgreens deals you shouldn't pass up.
1. Makeup. Want to look your best but don't want to pay top dollar to do it? "Be on the lookout for designer makeup swaps at Walgreens," said Kerry Sherin, a senior content manager at savings site Offers.com.
Here are a few favorites she found: Wet N' Wild Pinkerbell ($2 at Walgreens) vs. Mac Viva Glam Nicki ($15); Wet N' Wild Sugar Plum Fairy ($2 at Walgreens) vs. Mac Rebel ($15); and L'Oreal Paris Extra-Intense Liquid Pencil Eyeliner ($5.99) instead of Lancôme Artliner Precision Point EyeLiner ($30.50).
2. Over-the-counter medications. Got a headache? Don't make it worse with high-priced aspirin. Teri Gault, savings expert and CEO of TheGroceryGame.com, said that Walgreens is a great choice for over-the-counter medications. And the generic counterparts of the name brands are even better deals. "They often run buy-one-get-one-free sales on them," she said.
3. Cereal, peanut butter and more. You might not think of Walgreens as a great spot to pick up staples like cereal, peanut butter and other pantry items, but Gault said it's surprising what you can do at the store with a few coupons. "I have been successful in asking if I can use two coupons and get the deal twice," she said. "So instead of a limit of three cans of salmon for $1.99, I got six."
4. Paper products. Saving money on paper towels, napkins, tissue and more can be really nice. Perhaps that's why the Walgreens brand of these products is called Nice! and is a great deal, said Gault. "Nice! brand paper products are good quality and frequently go on sale for 99 cents," she said. Examples include Nice! storage, freezer or sandwich bags, paper plates, napkins and facial tissue.
5. Photo printing. If you want to print a few photos, create photo books and more, Gault recommended Walgreens as way of getting top quality at a great price.
"Walgreens has my personal favorite photo services," she said. "I've ordered prints online super cheap and picked them up within an hour. I also used their online tools to design books and photo albums at great savings, and I'm always happy with the result."
6. Holiday gifts. Sure, your spouse and kids get big holiday gifts, but what about all those clients, office mates and friends you have to get gifts for? Try Walgreens. Gault said the drugstore has some good deals on those and stocking stuffers.
Her finds include: 50 percent savings on Halston and Stetson colognes, as well as Liz Claiborne and Vera Wang fragrances; 18-ounce jar candles for only $5; and Royal Dansk Cookies in a 12-ounce tin for $2.25 to $2.50. Also, "find sales for 50 to 70 percent off boxes of Russell Stover or Whitman's chocolates," she said.
7. Contact lenses. Seeing clearly is important, but it doesn't have to be painfully expensive if you shop at Walgreens, said savings expert Jeanette Pavini of Coupons.com. "Walgreens has extremely competitive prices on contact lenses, especially when you combine it with a coupon code from Coupons.com," she said. "We found 20 percent off and free shipping good through Dec. 21."
8. Canned foods. Stocking up on canned foods when they're a good deal is smart, and Walgreens is a good spot for it, said Pavini. "The key is to check out Walgreens' weekly ad and shop for what's on sale," she said. "For example, Progresso soup was on sale for four for $5. We combined it with a $1 off coupon on four cans from Coupons.com to bring the price down to $1 per can."
Other notable deals in a recent weekly ad included a can of tuna for 69 cents and black olives for 99 cents, Pavini added.
9. Vitamins and supplements. If you do your homework, shopping Walgreens' vitamins and supplements can keep your wallet as healthy as your body. "Look for buy-one-get-one-free deals on vitamins," said Pavini. The drugstore also has a rewards program with a lot of earning potential, she added. "For example, spend $25 on certain prenatal supplements and get 10,000 rewards points. That's $10 in rewards you can use on your next purchase," she said.
10. Laundry detergent. The cost of washing can pile up as fast as the laundry itself, so it helps to catch a break on laundry detergent. Gault said Walgreens is a good place for that. Specifically, she said to wait for rebates and in-store Walgreens coupons, along with checking TheGroceryGame.com and other sites for coupons. "I also prefer the smaller [laundry detergent] containers over club store size because they're easier to handle and store," said Gault.
10 Worst Walgreens Deals
And now for the less-than-stellar performers. Unless you have a super-awesome Walgreens coupon, stay clear of these 10 non-deals.
1. Batteries. Batteries are pricey, and Pavini said you won't get much relief at Walgreens. "Though Walgreens had several battery deals on ad, the price was still significantly more than when you bought batteries at a warehouse club," she said. So, try Costco or Sam's Club for more powerful savings.
2. Gift wrap. Spend the money on the gift, not the bag or wrapping paper that it comes in. To do that, you might want to avoid Walgreens, said Pavini. According to her, you will typically pay a premium for gift bags, bows and wrapping paper at Walgreens. "You don't want a $10 gift to turn into a $20 one simply because of wrapping supplies," she said. "One of the best places to find a bargain on wrapping paper is at designer discount stores."
3. Housewares. Looking for some new stemware for that big holiday party? Or maybe some Tupperware for the leftovers? Don't look to Walgreens, said Lindsay Sakraida, director of content marketing with DealNews.com. She said most housewares found at Walgreens will be much more expensive than at stores like Target or Walmart.
4. 'As Seen On TV' items. You know these: the products where the cheesy voice says, "Wait, there's more! Buy in the next 10 seconds, and you'll get not one, but 52 hairdryers for the same price!" Well, you might see some of these "As Seen on TV" items at Walgreens, but don't be tempted to purchase them without comparing prices at Amazon first. According to Sakraida, the online retailer is more likely to offer a slight discount on these types of items.
5. Electronics. Just like those expensive batteries that power them, most electronics found at Walgreens are going to be pricey, said Sakraida. As an added insult, they'll likely be low quality, too. So, unless you need one of these items right away, she suggested going online to find much better deals on anything tech.
6. Cleaning products. Everything from Clorox to Simple Green is likely going to cost you more at Walgreens, said Sherin of Offers.com. "Drugstores consistently charge more for items like these, and you will be paying more for these than at the big box stores," she said.
7. Soda. You're better off quenching your thirst for Coke, Sprite and the rest of the sugary drinks at the grocery store than at Walgreens, said Gault. Walgreens and other drugstores rarely have deals, and supermarkets have better regular prices and run specials all the time. So, they're virtually always a better bet.
8. Spatulas, strainers and spoons. When it's time to replace any of your kitchen gadgets, Walgreens and other drugstores are not the place to do it, said Gault. Drugstores know that if you're buying it in their store, it's probably for convenience or an urgent need. So, prices are high on everything from wine and bottle openers to knives and whisks.
9. Holiday decorations. Walgreens might not be the best place to get your home into the holiday spirit, said Gault. You could score some deals on holiday decorations after the holiday, but not right before when drugstores like Walgreens will be more expensive than stores like Kmart, T.J.Maxx and Ross, she explained.
10. Small appliances. When it's time for a new mixer or coffeemaker, Walgreens might be convenient, but it likely won't be a great deal maker, said Regina Conway, consumer expert for SlickDeals.net. She said rather than hit drugstores for these and other small appliances, try Walmart or Target -- especially during Black Friday.
This story, 10 Best and Worst Deals at Walgreens, originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com.
Filed under: Life Stage LessonsBy Ryan Derousseau
When John Navin, a certified financial planner based in Nashville, Tennessee, meets a new client, the first thing he does is run his or her portfolio through a series of stress tests.
"We test the portfolio against 60 different circumstances that could happen in the economy," says Navin, who owns John Navin & Associates. "It can tell us exactly what the portfolio will do."
Navin and his team aren't alone. Financial advisers have software to provide detailed analyses about how a portfolio will react as different scenarios unfold in the world. Will China's slowdown turn into a recession or worse? Will the Federal Reserve raise rates half a point? Will the market turn down by 10 percent? Twenty percent? It's important to know how your portfolio will react to these scenarios.
As stocks have ridden an almost seven-year bull market, there hasn't been too much reason to know about potential disruptions to your returns. Even as Europe, particularly Greece, has struggled, the U.S. market has barely hiccuped.
But all good things do come to an end. And with slowdowns in the Chinese economy, the Fed considering interest rate hikes, weak oil prices and baby boomers leaving the workforce, there are concerns that the market could soon hit a speed bump. If it does, you should know how your retirement savings would move.
A stress test sets expectations. Testing your portfolio against a fall -- or rise -- based on real-world scenarios uncovers and highlights your risk if the worst happens. "Most people are taking on significant more downside risk than they think they are," says Michael Reese, a certified financial planner and owner of Centennial Wealth, an advisory firm based in Austin, Texas.
While most of us think we're comfortable with risk, it's often not true. Many investors pulled out altogether when the markets fell into turmoil in 2008. This proved to be the worst decision possible, because investors left the market as it hit bottom. Within three to four years, they would have regained their losses, but they weren't around to participate in the rally since the fall scared them off.
Stress testing shows what a 10 percent drop in the market will do to short-term gains, allowing you to understand what the loss may mean, Reese says. "If you see where you're at, and it's not a position you're comfortable with, then you need to revise the portfolio to take the risk off the table."
This is another reason why advisers run these scenarios. If clients see the market drop, their initial call will be to their money manager wondering what they should do. If advisers prepared them for such a scenario, then the drop is not as likely to draw that gut urge to react.
Test your whole portfolio, then test individual buckets. You want to test your whole portfolio because an event could affect parts of your portfolio differently. While a drop in energy prices could hurt the energy companies in your portfolio, it can also help many sectors that benefit from lower energy costs, for example. Yet, you would still want energy company exposure if prices rise again. You won't see the overall impact, unless you test it all at once.
Navin begins by testing a portfolio as one cohesive unit. Then he breaks it down, examining areas that his customers typically have money in, including cash and income-generating devices such as annuities, equities and bonds. By testing each individual bucket, he can discover the impact of fees.
This fee analysis can "factor in the management fees, cost of turnover and impact of taxes," Navin says. "You can really come back with a clear number."
It's important because over the long term, fees destroy a portfolio better than nearly any other factor, including short-term tumbles in the market.
Be careful how you react. Stress testing can serve many benefits, including providing data about your risk tolerance and setting clear expectations for your returns. But if you react wrongly to what you discover, then it could cause damage to your portfolio that you may never recover from.
For instance, someone in his or her 30s or early 40s probably still has one goal: Save as much as possible. Movements in the market shouldn't have any impact on this person's long-term strategy. "If you're well in your savings mode, then stress testing your portfolio is a fun exercise," Reese says. "But it's better to put your blinders on, [place] your money into an allocation, then letting it go."
On the other hand, if you're within 10 years or less of retirement, stress testing can dramatically change your strategy. Those thinking they wanted to retire shortly before the 2008 downturn hit had their plans cut short. The recession delayed retirement for many older Americans, and the number of 62- to 64-year-olds in the workforce actually increased during this period.
"When something happens that close to retirement, it can mess with your plans," Reese says. For near-retirees, stress testing can help this planning.
Don't test too often. Most financial advisers use two models to test their clients' portfolios. They judge them against historical numbers - like what would happen if another dot-com crash occurred - and they measure against hypothetical scenarios. Test both.
To get a comprehensive analysis, it's best to go through your adviser. But HiddenLevers also offers software that many advisers use to run the scenarios. There's a free account on its website, which will allow you to test different situations based on your portfolio allocation.
In terms of how often, Navin runs scenarios for clients once a year. Anything more, and you might be looking for a reason to make a change when there isn't any. Unfortunately, there's no scenario to test that mistake.
Ryan Derousseau is a journalist with nine years of experiencing writing about investing and leadership issues. His work has been read in Fortune, Money, CNNMoney and Fast Company, among other publications. You can find more from him on Twitter @ryanderous.
Filed under: Health InsuranceBy Krystal Steinmetz
The Home Shopping Network, well-known for hawking wares such as jewelry, electronics and kitchen accessories, will be selling something entirely out of the ordinary for the network Nov. 7: Medicare insurance plans.
If you think HSN and Medicare are an unlikely pair, you're not alone; it took me awhile to wrap my head around this. The network is taking advantage of the Medicare Annual Enrollment period, which runs through Dec. 7, and partnering with Aetna and the American Grandparents Association to promote and sell Aetna's Medicare options, according to a press release.
It's the first time that HSN viewers have been able to access insurance through the network. It's also a novel way for Aetna to educate baby boomers about its Medicare plans. Said Nancy Cocozza, president of Aetna Medicare:
On Saturday, Nov. 7, Aetna representatives will be featured live on HSN cable channel, online and via mobile. Viewers can call and talk to Aetna licensed agents about their Medicare needs and options.
As part of Aetna's mission to build a healthier world, we are committed to helping consumers make smart health care choices. This means simplifying consumers' insurance-buying experience so they can focus on achieving their best health. Aetna's collaboration with AGA and HSN is a new way for consumers to learn about Medicare options with Aetna and have their questions answered directly by Aetna's representatives.
"We are proud of the ongoing relationship we have established with Aetna and AGA to better inform those who are considering their health care options -- one of the most important decisions they make each year," Bill Brand, president of HSN, said in a statement. "Through informational content and engaging experiences we can demystify the process and provide a unique service to our customers."
For information on Medicare, including eligibility, coverage choices and how to apply, go to Medicare.gov.
What do you think about Aetna peddling its Medicare plans on HSN? Share your thoughts below or on our Facebook page.
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By Rebecca Borison
Amazon has long been seen as a predator to brick-and-mortar stores, but operators in one category in particular may have thought they were in the clear. Clothing retailers assumed they'd have an easier time keeping consumers because they'd want to try on clothing before making a purchase.
Unfortunately for those retailers, it's getting harder and harder to buy into that line of thought as Amazon's apparel business continues to grow by leaps and bounds, and customers become more comfortable buying apparel and accessories online.
Amazon (AMZN) will sell about $16 billion in apparel this year, or about 5 percent of the U.S. apparel industry, according to Cowen analyst John Blackledge, and Blackledge predicts that percentage will rise to 14 percent by 2020. Following that trajectory would mean that Amazon would displace Macy's (M) as the No. 1 U.S. apparel retailer by 2017.
But the belief that shoppers will be reluctant to buy clothes online still persists in some quarters.
At a conference in October, panelists were discussing innovations in retail and the connected store, when one speaker singled out clothing retailers.
"Retail is going to win out against Amazon because you're not going to buy your jeans off of Amazon if you can't try them on and touch them, feel them," said Steve Cheney, co-founder and SVP of Estimote, a company that makes beacons that can communicate with customers' smart phones when they're in stores.
But Cheney's comments seem outdated in a world where 69 percent of consumers in the U.S. regularly buy products online, according to Forrester Research (FORR). U.S. consumers spent $52.2 billion online on apparel and accessories last year, up from $28 billion in 2010, according to eMarketer. That number is expected to grow to $86.4 billion in 2018.
"With free returns it's very easy for someone to purchase two items, try them on in the living room, and send back the one they don't like," Gartner analyst Gene Alvarez said. "To think Amazon or another online retailer will not figure this out and make it attractive to consumers is a dangerous position."
Not only does online shopping tend to offer free returns, but it also offers a larger selection compared to a finite physical store.
"Much of what you find in stores may not fit you and isn't exactly what you're looking for anyway," Forrester analyst Sucharita Mulpuru-Kodali said. "Online actually offers you much greater and more appropriate selections online."
Amazon has also been working on ramping up its fashion efforts for years, and is even considering creating a fashion label of its own. At the WWD Apparel and Retail CEO Summit in October, Jeff Yurcisin, vice president of clothing at Amazon Fashion and CEO of Amazon's Shopbop unit, said that 40 million customers shop Amazon Fashion.
Cathy Beaudoin, president of Amazon Fashion, was hired by Bezos in 2008 to help grow the company's fashion business. "We needed to be important to customers in categories that they buy from every day," she told The New York Times.
Amazon has also taken steps to break into the fashion world through moves such as sponsoring the 2015 New York Fashion Week for men and the 2012 Costume Institute Benefit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and hiring a former fashion director for Barneys, Julie Gilhart, as a consultant for three years.
And while there are many online retailers that sell clothing, Amazon, as always, maintains a key advantage with Prime. Prime members can easily get free shipping and returns, which makes it that much easier to buy a dress and return it if it doesn't fit.
Sure, there may always be a group of consumers that prefer visiting a physical store and shopping at a designer brand as opposed to Amazon.com, but the idea that clothing is inherently safe from the threat of e-commerce is becoming increasingly untenable.
"While there will always be a desire to try things on in the flesh, the increasing availability of next day delivery and free returns means customers can act on the instant gratification of buying online at any time, in any place," ABI Research analyst Patrick Connolly said. "As a result, clothing cannot rest on its laurels."
In the days of railroad barons and oil tycoons, it might have meant amassing the most cash possible. These days, the idea of true success has shifted toward the "social entrepreneur" -- those who can create thriving enterprises while bringing about positive social change.
Everyone from Microsoft's Bill Gates to Virgin's Richard Branson are deploying their business acumen to help the causes that are most meaningful to them. We talked to a few of the world's top social entrepreneurs about how they got their start.
Founder, charity: water, which brings safe drinking water to the developing world
First job: McDonald's
"I was around 15 in Flemington, New Jersey, and applied for the job cold. I ended up taking orders and working the takeout window for absolute minimum wage. They did sweeten the pot with free food, though, which for me usually meant Quarter Pounders with cheese.
"Once I volunteered to dress up as the Hamburglar to hand out coupons because you got paid time-and-a-half. It was a pretty ridiculous costume, with a hat so big that it was difficult to get through doors. I had to tilt my head to one side. I was so terrified of getting recognized by my friends.
"I remember that the restaurant floors were always slippery with grease, which was kind of gross. And the uniform was not very attractive on me, topped by that plastic webbed hat, not a good look. Nowadays, I'm a pretty infrequent visitor to McDonald's, usually in an airport somewhere. But I am partial to McFlurries."
Co-founder: Kiva, a microfinance site, and author of "Clay Water Brick"
First job: Art teacher
"I always had a real passion for art. Where I grew up, in a suburb north of Pittsburgh, there was a little family-run art studio. So after 10th grade, I started teaching skills like drawing and painting to kids as young as three.
"Nowadays, my life has been taken over by my own boys - four-year-old twins and a nine-month-old baby - so that art job has served me well. As a parent, I am always walking around with a long list of arts-and-crafts projects in my head.
"What I took away from that job was the ability to teach: To be able to meet somebody where they are and walk them through something totally new. I am also pretty good at getting people inspired about something. I like to face a problem together and help them figure out where they want to go."
Founder: TOMS, a retailer that provides shoes and other services to those in need, and author of "Start Something That Matters"
First job: Doing laundry
"I was going to Southern Methodist University in Dallas and injured my Achilles tendon playing tennis. I couldn't carry my laundry to the basement, so I looked in the Yellow Pages for a company that could do it for me and nothing like that existed. So I decided along with my college roommate to start a laundry service.
"We bought an old FedEx truck for $1,500. Our innovation was that we recognized the target customer was the parent, not the student. So we set up a table at check-in at the beginning of the year, and charged one price for an entire semester of laundry, something like $300. We were basically selling parents peace of mind.
"We were pretty successful, eventually expanding to six universities with 50 employees, and sold it after a few years. But I absolutely refuse to do laundry now. I did more laundry than you can ever imagine. At the time it really sucked, but like anything in life, you look back on it with nostalgia."
President and Chief Executive: Skoll Foundation, which invests in social entrepreneurs, and author of "Getting Beyond Better: How Social Entrepreneurship Works"
First job: Swimming teacher
"I was 16, and I taught swimming with the Parks & Rec department of Huntington Township, on the north shore of Long Island, New York. The kids were between 5 and 9 years old. The first thing you had to do was put your face in the water and blow bubbles: Some took to it like ducks to water, and some were absolutely terrified.
"In order to teach swimming, you had to get lifeguard certification, and that was a frightening business. The woman who put me through my paces was quite testy, and her job was basically to try to drown me. I had to do a ju-jitsu move and then rescue her. It wasn't fun.
"The thing I remember most was that fear, and the courage it takes to overcome it, is huge. Whether it is learning to ride a bike, or putting your face in the water for the first time: To know that you have the capability of conquering your fears is an essential life skill."
From presents for the kids to special food for family get-togethers, holiday traditions have the potential to put a significant dent in your wallet. However, you can take the sting out of that spending by earning rewards for every purchase.
Rewards credit cards come in many flavors, with some offering cash back and others providing miles or points that can be redeemed for travel, gift cards or merchandise.
U.S. News spoke to four credit experts to learn which cards they recommend consumers use this holiday season. They say shoppers shouldn't only worry about which card they select, but to also focus on how to maximize rewards.
"I'm a strong believer that rewards cards are best used by people who pay off their balance each month," says Jason Steele, the credit card expert at CompareCards.com. If you fail to pay off your balance, you could get charged interest that will negate any rewards you earn.
Online shoppers should also always visit their card's website to look for special offers before making a purchase. "A credit card bonus mall is an online portal that allows you to get extra points or cash back on your online purchases," says Sean McQuay, a credit card expert for NerdWallet. "But remember, the consumer has to use the card associated with that bonus mall to take advantage."
Beyond that general advice, McQuay and Steele say it helps if you are swiping the right card for you. Here are their picks for the best rewards cards for holiday shopping, along with those of Bethy Hardeman, chief consumer advocate at Credit Karma, and Jill Gonzalez, credit card analyst for WalletHub.
Best rewards credit card for online shopping: Chase Freedom
Any rewards credit card can be used online, but Hardeman, Steele and McQuay all single out the Chase Freedom card as a particularly good choice this holiday season.
The card offers 5 percent cash back on categories that change quarterly. This quarter's bonus retailers include Amazon, a go-to destination for many holiday shoppers, as well as Zappos, diapers.com and Audible. "[The current bonuses] are very helpful for those who like to do shopping online with ease and convenience," Hardeman says.
For all other purchases, Chase Freedom offers 1 percent cash back. Plus, you get a $100 bonus if you spend $500 in the first three months after you open your account.
Best rewards credit card for in-store shopping: Blue Cash Preferred from American Express
If you'd rather shop in stores, Steele recommends using the American Express Blue Cash Preferred card.
The 3 percent cash back you get for department store purchases is nice, but the 6 percent offered at supermarkets is even nicer. "While you may not think of supermarkets as a place for gifts, you can find a lot of gift cards there," Steele says. You can either give those gift cards as presents, or use them to buy presents at other retailers.
You may need to register for cash back promotions on the American Express website, and the supermarket cash back offer is limited to $6,000 in purchases. Other card perks include a $150 statement credit after you spend $1,000 on your card in the first three months and a 0 percent APR in the first 15 months.
Best rewards credit cards for cash back: Discover it and U.S. Bank Cash+
For those who split their shopping between online and brick-and-mortar retailers, the Discover it and U.S. Bank Cash+ cards are two solid options.
The Discover it card offers 1 percent cash back for most purchases with the exception of three bonus categories that rotate quarterly. For the current quarter, cardholders can get 5 percent back at Amazon, department stores and clothing stores. "It also offers one of the best bonus malls in the industry so it's an awesome choice for shopping online for the holidays," McQuay says
The bonuses are even better if you use Apple Pay, Steele says. Currently, Discover it offers 10 percent cash back for up to $10,000 of in-store purchases made with the mobile payment service through the end of the year. New card members also receive double cash back for their first 12 billing cycles, which means you could earn a whopping 20 percent cash back before 2016.
For those who'd prefer a Visa to Discover, the U.S. Bank Cash+ card offers 5 percent cash back on two categories of your choice, on the first $2,000 in purchases. You can also earn 2 percent cash back on one category, such as gas or groceries, that you select. On top of that, you get 1 percent back on all other purchases.
Hardeman likes the card because it allows consumers to evaluate where they will spend the most and select the appropriate categories.
Best rewards credit card to help you stay out of debt: Citi Double Cash
The Citi Double Cash card gets a nod from McQuay as having one of the highest flat cash back rates in the industry. Users get 2 percent cash back on all purchases, with no rotating categories to worry about.
However, the catch is the card gives you 1 percent when you make a purchase and 1 percent when you pay your bill. For those tempted to carry over some debt into the new year, the card's structure could provide a little motivation to pay off the balance ASAP.
Best rewards credit card for big spenders: Chase Sapphire Preferred
If you have a long gift list, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card could be a good choice, according to Gonzalez.
New account holders who charge $4,000 in the first three months receive 40,000 bonus points, worth $500 of travel through Chase. The card also offers other perks for travelers, including 2 points per dollar spent on travel expenses and restaurants, point transfers to eligible frequent flyer and hotel rewards programs and a 20 percent discount on travel redemptions.
The card is free for the first year but charges a $95 annual fee after that.
Best rewards credit card for those with average credit: QuicksilverOne from Capital One
Not everyone has stellar credit and for those with a few dings on their record, Gonzalez recommends the QuicksilverOne from Capital One. "It is a bit easier to get your hands on," she says.
The card has a $39 annual fee and doesn't offer any upfront bonus like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, but it does come with 1.5 percent cash back on all purchases. Not too shabby for a card that may be willing to approve customers who wouldhave their applications rejected elsewhere.
Before you start applying for cards, check your credit score to find out whether you should start with a card like QuicksilverOne or if you can apply for a more lucrative account. Hardeman points out too many applications at once could drop your score. "You don't want a bunch of inquiries on your report and nothing to show for it," she says.
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," 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, 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.
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 per 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, has not yet cracked $25 per month after 10 years.)
BENEFIT OF PLANNING
The argument to buy early is not 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 is not 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 do not like the idea of paying premiums for years and never getting the benefit, either because they will not need it or because they will not 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.
(Editing by Lauren Young and Lisa Von Ahn)
SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (AP) -- If you're looking for a device to track your fitness, alert you to incoming messages and occasionally let you buy stuff with a scan or a tap, there's no shortage of computerized wristwatches to choose from.
Over the past several months, I've tested numerous smartwatches for iPhones and Android devices, along with fitness trackers that have some smarts. I've even worn six watches at once during three marathons over the past month, courting both ridicule and some lousy times. (I'm blaming the extra weight.)
Smartwatches and fitness trackers are relatively early devices with a lot of growing up still to do. Temper your expectations, and you might be pleasantly surprised. Just don't go in expecting magic, because that's a recipe for disappointment.
Your options will vary depending on whether you use an iPhone or Android, as most of these watches require a companion phone for their smarts. There are also big differences between all-in-one smartwatches and simpler gadgets that primarily track fitness.
SMARTWATCHES FOR ANDROID:
- Samsung's Gear S2 (starts at $300)
Samsung smartwatches have improved tremendously. Instead of swiping through screen after screen, you now rotate the watch's circular outer ring to select apps or view notifications. The watch faces can display information ranging from stock quotes and headlines to sports scores. I tracked some Mets games that way, though the watch doesn't guarantee a win.
The main shortcoming: limited apps. The Gear S2 works with Android phones but doesn't run Android apps, putting it in a kind of limbo. A few apps from big-name partners like Yelp, The Wall Street Journal and Nokia's Here (for maps) are available, and Uber is coming soon. But most apps I looked for weren't there.
As for exercise, the watch mostly tracks footsteps and heart rate. Its mileage calculation is way off unless you're also carrying a phone with GPS. Alternatively, you could consider the Gear model with both GPS and 3G data for about $50 more, plus an additional $5 or $10 a month for the data plan.
The Gear S2 works with most Android phones, though some features specifically require a Samsung phone.
- Android Wear (starts at $129)
Several companies make smartwatches that run Google's Android Wear software. I tried the cheapest, Asus's ZenWatch 2, as a starting point. You can pay more for better bands, features such as built-in GPS or sheer luxury - right up to $1,500 for a model Tag Heuer developed with Intel and Google.
Android Wear has also gotten better. One swipe gets you apps, with recently used ones on top. Swipe again for contacts and again for common tasks. The screen can stay on without draining the battery, something rare in a smartwatch. App selection has also improved; many apps available for the Apple Watch now have Android Wear versions.
Sony's GPS-enabled SmartWatch 3 worked well for me while running, but other non-GPS devices, including the ZenWatch, were more frustrating. The main health app, Google Fit, doesn't let you start or stop workouts manually, with or without GPS. It relies on automatic detection and accused me of walking parts of my marathons, even though I didn't (really!). Several apps offer manual controls, but require built-in GPS or a phone, which can be a pain to carry on a run.
You need an Android phone for full functionality. Android Wear works with the iPhone, but it's handicapped. You don't get turn-by-turn navigation on the watch, for instance, as I learned the hard way driving to Toronto with a Moto 360.
SMARTWATCHES FOR IPHONES:
- Apple Watch (starts at $349)
Android Wear will work, but Apple Watch is the one you need for full functionality. Apple put a lot of thought into it, with the inclusion of a lefties mode and a passcode in case you leave it on a bathroom sink somewhere.
Apple Watch stands out in fitness. Although the watch doesn't have GPS, it learns your walking and running patterns when you have the phone with you, so it's more accurate than other non-GPS watches when you leave the phone at home.
Apple's smartwatch doesn't just count steps. Instead, it challenges - or nags - you to exercise at least 30 minutes a day and to take 12 walk breaks throughout the day. For a perfect score, you also need to burn a certain number of calories - determined by your age, sex, weight and fitness level. With rival devices, I meet my default goals easily. With Apple Watch, even an eight-mile morning run isn't enough. Bring on the challenge!
Apple Watch lacks advanced features found in sport-specific devices. I rely on a Garmin running watch during workouts, but Apple Watch nudges me the rest of the day.
Battery life isn't as good as Samsung and many Android Wear devices, though I made it through the recent marathons with plenty to spare by turning off the heart-rate monitor.
FITNESS FOCUSED, FOR IPHONE, ANDROID OR WINDOWS:
- Microsoft Band 2 and Fitbit Surge ($250 each)
These are among the few fitness trackers with built-in GPS and heart-rate monitors. Don't confuse the Surge with cheaper Fitbit models, which mostly track footsteps. The Surge and the Band are limited smartwatches that can, for instance, notify you of new texts or calls. The Band also offers news headlines and a few apps from the likes of Starbucks and Facebook.
But the Band's battery life doesn't cut it for heavy exercise. I outlasted the Band for all three 26.2-mile races. Even turning off the screen didn't keep it from dying before the finish, in one case just a third of a mile short. By contrast, the Surge lasted each race with plenty of charge to spare. Under normal use, the Surge lasts up to a week.
Both are solid fitness companions - at least for shorter workouts, in the case of the Band. But neither is a replacement for a sport-specific device.
Let's start the fiesta with some taco seasoning. Get the list of spices below, measure them out, put them in a jar and mix them up. In addition to tacos, this mix is great for popcorn, soup and scrambled eggs.
For a delicious chili seasoning that will heat things up, just mix paprika, ground cumin, cayenne pepper, oregano and garlic powder. You'll love the added flavor this adds to your chili, burgers and french fries.
For that New Orleans kick, try some Cajun seasoning. This seasoning will give an edge to your jambalaya or shrimp dishes that will be absolutely irresistible.
And finally, no party dip is complete without Dill Seasoning. This mix is perfect for Mediterranean dishes that call for Tzatziki sauce along with tuna and chicken salads.
All this might seem like extra work for some, but buying spices at the dollar store and mixing at home can save you up to 90 percent compared to store bought blends. Give these recipes a try and you'll see that making your own seasoning can spice up your savings.
1 tbsp chili powder
¼ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp onion powder
¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
¼ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp paprika
1 ½ tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp paprika
2 tsps ground cumin
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp oregano
2 tsps garlic powder
1 tsp cayenne
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 ¼ tsp dried oregano
2 ½ tsp paprika
1 ½ tsp cumin
2 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1 tsp dried dill
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 tbsp dried onion flakes
1 tsp salt