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    USA, New Jersey, Jersey City, Couple talking on sofa
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    By Molly Triffin

    When Ali Green* and her husband, Craig, met, she was a recent grad earning $28,000 a year as a newspaper columnist, and he was a chef pulling in $50,000.

    But before long, Ali's paycheck started to climb-moving well past Craig's.

    In 2012 she got a huge promotion and began raking in $90,000 a year. The income gap between them had turned into a chasm-and it was taking a serious toll on their relationship.

    "He'd always been excited whenever I got a salary boost, but now I noticed there was an edge to his comments," Ali, 34, says. "Once, he mentioned that if we weren't together, he'd have to live with four people in a studio. He said it jokingly, but there was tension."

    And her salary has only continued to climb-she now owns an SEO consulting company-while 33-year-old Craig's earning potential is limited.

    "He makes one third of what I make now, and will often compare us, griping that even though he works long hours, he earns a fraction of what I do," Ali says.

    "When there's a big difference between a couple, the inequality can threaten to erode your bond, unless you address it head on," says psychotherapist Kate Levinson, Ph.D., author of "Emotional Currency." "Unfortunately, we don't like to acknowledge that money influences our intimate relationships-it's like a hidden operating system whose presence is undetected, but has the potential to influence everything."

    The need to constantly compare salaries isn't the only issue that can creep into a relationship. With the help of relationship and money pros, we dig into four common dilemmas that couples often face when the digits on their paychecks don't align.

    Dilemma #1: The High Earner Makes Unilateral Money Decisions

    Joseph Morgan*, 34, a real estate investor who makes five times as much as his freelance writer wife, Jenny, 34, once purchased pricey concert tickets for them and two friends. When Jenny asked whether their friends had paid him back, he told her that he'd never asked them.

    "I was annoyed that she was making such a big deal about it," Joseph says. "So I replied, 'Why do you care how I spend my money?'"

    Big mistake.

    Jenny then asked if he believed that she shouldn't have a say in such situations because he made more money.

    "I realized that she was right, and apologized on the spot," Joseph says.

    While the Morgans addressed their power imbalance head on, many couples either avoid the matter-or may not even realize it exists.

    "We often make tiny bargains that are largely unconscious," Levinson explains. "But each time the underearner feels disempowered, it builds a brick of resentment."

    If you feel like your voice is being ignored-or perhaps you're the one taking advantage of the extra digits on your paycheck through power plays-Levinson suggests jotting down your thoughts about a recent decision-making scenario like the one the Morgans had.

    And before you roll your eyes at the idea, consider that numerous studies have shown that expressing your emotions on paper can help you better process them.

    "Ask yourself how the influence of money played out in the situation," Levinson says. "The goal is to really shine a light on the problem, so you can begin to disentangle it."

    So let's say your partner is footing the bill for the family vacation-and feels the destination is his decision to make. Even though you'd rather go to the sea than the mountains, you give in and Tahoe it is.

    Once you've had time to put pen to paper to reflect on how finances factored into the outcome, then broach the topic with your partner. "And be sure to harness an attitude of curiosity, rather than confrontation," Levinson says.

    You may have to go through this exercise a few times before the real equity lessons seep in, says Levinson, but in time, whenever you have a difference of opinion, you'll likely both be more cognizant of how money may be affecting your dynamic.

    RELATED: The Savings Habits of the New Rich: Why You Should Be Living Paycheck to Paycheck

    Dilemma #2: One Person Ends Up Paying All the Bills

    When it comes to managing household finances, it isn't just the breadwinner who's guilty of missing the big financial picture.

    "One of the most common issues I see is that the person who earns less views the breadwinner's income as 'our money,' but considers their own salary 'their money,' " says Deborah Price, author of "The Heart of Money. "If left unmanaged, this attitude can start to fracture the relationship."

    One culprit, say our experts, is a sense of entitlement. The underearner may feel jealous and think that they shouldn't be expected to pitch in, since their partner makes so much more. Or the non-contributor may be doing it because they feel financially vulnerable, and hoarding their own cash gives them a sense of security.

    The solution?

    Well, it's not that simple. Understanding what's driving the behavior is the first step toward changing it. But it can take a long time to overhaul deep-rooted patterns, so start by tackling the problem from a more practical place.

    One strategy, says Price, is to have the lower earner manage the household budget-and help decide who's going to pay for what.

    "Often, [individuals who exhibit this behavior] tend to be avoidant about financial matters," Price says. "But in order to move from a place of helplessness to empowerment, you need to be knowledgeable about money."

    In the Green household, for example, Craig keeps track of the family's bottom line, paying bills and even depositing Ali's paychecks. "It allows him to take responsibility and have a more equal say," Ali explains.

    RELATED: Balanced Breadwinning: Does It Matter Who Makes More?

    Dilemma #3: The Breadwinner Feels Burdened-and Resentful

    For breadwinners, feeling like they are responsible for supporting the whole family can be overwhelming.

    "Animosity can arise if you start to feel like you're keeping everybody else afloat," Levinson says.

    It's a sentiment that certainly resonates with Ali.

    "A couple of years ago, I was stuck in a job I hated, but I couldn't leave because we had a mortgage," Ali says. "While Craig was supportive, he also reminded me that we needed to make a certain income. The responsibility is always hanging over my head. If I lose my job, we're screwed. If he loses his, it's just a blip."

    Ali's annoyance over Craig's paycheck came to a head when they were forced to move because they couldn't afford the cost of living in their area.

    "I felt frustrated knowing that if he made as much as I did, we could send our kid to a better day care, and we wouldn't have to leave this place that we loved," she says.

    If you're in this predicament, one thing that can help diffuse your anger is to recognize there are more ways to contribute than simply opening a wallet.

    Perhaps your partner supports you emotionally, keeps the household running smoothly, or takes care of time-consuming projects such as vacation planning and home repairs. So try to shift your focus from how they fall short fiscally to where they excel in other areas.

    And whatever you do, don't just sit there seething.

    "Talking about your worries with your partner can bring some comfort," Levinson says. "Your spouse might be limited in terms of how much they can contribute financially, but at least you can split the emotional load."

    You can also discuss reworking your current arrangement. "Even if you came to an agreement when one person was making more in the beginning of your relationship, you aren't beholden to that forever," Price points out.

    One way to bring more balance to the equation is to periodically revisit your household budget-especially when one of you changes jobs or nabs a raise or promotion-by setting ongoing monthly money meetings.

    Dilemma #4: One Person Isn't Pulling Their Weight ... at Home


    Another common issue that can creep up for couples with uneven income situations: The high earner skips out on household cleanup detail and child care duties.

    Just take it from Monica Miller*, a 26-year-old entrepreneur in Cheyenne, Wyoming, who's still building her business and only makes several hundred dollars a month-compared to her engineer husband's $35,000 salary.

    "Even though I'm busy working during the day, the brunt of household chores falls on me," Monica says. "At times I feel taken advantage of, like a maid instead of a wife."

    According to Price, this imbalance often manifests when the underearner feels guilty about their lack of earning power. "They overcompensate by pitching in more around the house, but may end up doing the equivalent of two jobs," she says.

    Miller can relate.

    "I sometimes feel like a burden to my husband," she says. "I want to put money on the table, too-and when I can't, I get frustrated. Even though my husband is very kind, I feel like I'm failing him and not showing him my true worth."

    Price's advice to Miller? Resist the urge to make up for the lack of zeroes in your paycheck by overdoing it on the home front.

    While things don't necessarily have to be split down the middle, she says, both of you should be doing a reasonable amount respective to your other obligations.

    To get back on even footing, tell your partner, "I've been feeling stressed out lately about managing things. Can we talk about how to divide and conquer a bit better?"

    Chances are, your spouse isn't upset that you're not pulling your weight financially-and simply hearing them say so can help you devise a more equal household workload plan.

    Ultimately, regardless of your unique income dilemma, it all comes down (surprise! surprise!) to communication, which can help minimize the fiscal gulf in any relationship.

    RELATED: The One-Number Strategy: A New Approach to Budgeting

    *Names have been changed.

     

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    Parents and child talking to financial advisor
    By Kaitlin Pitsker

    Applying for financial aid will soon be less of a hassle for college students and their families for Federal Student Aid-used to determine financial aid from the government as well as colleges-can be filed three months earlier, or as early as October 1, nearly a year before a student would start classes the following fall. This shift in timing will allow completed tax returns to be used to report income and assets on the FAFSA.

    Under current rules, families have to wait until January 1 to start filling out the FAFSA and often file the aid application before completing the income tax return required to verify income for the previous year. For example, if you file the FAFSA in January 2016 for the 2016-17 academic year, you'll have to scramble to file your tax return early or estimate your 2015 income and verify it later, after you've filed your 2015 tax return. But under the new rules, when you file the FAFSA for the 2017-18 academic year, you'll use your 2015 tax return rather than your 2016 return to report income and assets.

    With the new FAFSA schedule, you'll be able to start thinking about financial aid earlier in order to maximize an aid award. You'll still have until June 30 to complete the form, but applying as early as possible remains important. Most schools dole out financial aid on a first-come, first-served basis, and a college's free money runs out fast.

    Steps to Take Before the End of 2015

    If your child is currently a high school senior, college freshman or college sophomore, your 2015 tax information is doubly important because 2015 income will count twice for financial aid purposes-first for the 2016-17 academic year, before the FAFSA changes go into effect, and then again for the 2017-18 academic year, when FAFSA switches to the new timeline. Taking steps to reduce income before the end of 2015 could lower your expected family income and boost your student's financial aid award two years in a row.

    Few colleges fill all of the gap between your expected family contribution and the cost of attendance, but lowering your income can lead to substantial increases in financial aid. Income, not assets, is by far the biggest factor in financial aid. "Generally, every $10,000 increase in parent income will cause about a $3,000 decrease in need-based financial aid," says Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of Edvisors.com, a college planning Web site. If possible, hold off on taking distributions from retirement plans or realizing capital gains because the money will count as income on the FAFSA.The financial aid formula excludes assets held in retirement accounts, the cash value of life insurance policies , and the value of your home and other personal property (including cars, clothing and furniture). So consider directing a larger portion of your paycheck to your retirement accounts during your FAFSA-filing years.

    A fat savings account can also lower financial aid because the federal financial aid formula considers up to 5.6% of parents' assets to be available to pay for college. If you're planning to use cash to buy a new car, do a home-renovation project or make some other large purchase-even to pay down debt-pull the trigger before you file the FAFSA.

     

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    Portrait of senior man in front of home

    Build a sizable nest egg? Check. Purchase a new set of golf clubs? Check. Plan for taxes on your retirement income? Chhhh...Wait a minute. Plan for what?

    Lots of retirees are surprised by the big bite that taxes can take out of their savings . And depending on where you live, the tax hit can be especially painful. In fact, some states even tax Social Security benefits , the most important source of income for many retirees.

    The 13 states that tax Social Security are Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and West Virginia.

    But just because a state taxes Social Security doesn't mean it's a bad place to retire. Overall, Colorado and West Virginia are actually tax-friendly places to live in retirement despite the tax on Social Security. Weigh a state's entire tax picture-from income tax to sales tax to property tax-to better understand how your money will be taxed and how you can budget for those costs.

    Kiplinger's tax maps can help. Check out the most tax-friendly states for retirees and the least tax-friendly states for retirees to identify your best place for retirement.

     

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    Woman at table paying bills
    Add it the list: women are better than men at stewarding their retirement accounts, at least if we define better as "more likely to be in the game."

    Earlier studies have already indicated that women outperform as hedge fund chiefs and as stock traders, but now a study from Vanguard shows they do better in important respects with their 401k accounts too.

    Crucially, not only are women saving at higher rates within given income bands, they are 14 percent more likely overall to participate in workplace savings plans.

    If, as the saying goes, you miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take, participating has to have an outsized value when it comes to retirement saving.

    Compared to men, women trade less, about a third less among the more than 3.6 million plan participants for which Vanguard directly provides record-keeping. As the typical investor destroys value through frequent trading, that's a wise choice.

    Women also save more, at least as a percent of their incomes, which are lower. When you control for wages, age, tenure on the job and other factors, women 401k savers defer salary into plans at a rate 3 percent higher than men.

    Interestingly, that's true up and down the earnings scale, including at lower wage levels, where saving for retirement can be difficult.

    Crucially, not only are they saving at higher rates within given income bands, women are 14 percent more likely overall to participate in workplace savings plans. Interestingly, the spread of automatic enrollment in plans is therefore likely benefiting male employees more because more of them would, for whatever reason, otherwise pass.

    "Despite a commonly held view that women are more risk-averse than men, equity allocations for women and men are similar in their defined contribution plan accounts," according to the study. (here)

    Women are more likely to use target date plans, which shift allocations gradually ahead of a planned retirement date. Those plans have their shortcomings, but they are usually far better than simply making your own trading decisions. Women overall are more likely to turn over their asset allocation decision to a professional, and as a result tend to have better constructed portfolios.

    Men also are more likely to hold shares in their employers in retirement accounts. Employees are already making a substantial bet on their company by working there. From a diversification and risk management point of view owning too much of an employer's stock can be a mistake.

    BEING RIGHT VS MAKING MORE

    Here is the funny thing: at least during the period the survey covered, men did slightly better in terms of annual return. The average annualized five-year total return for men was 10.1 percent for the period ending 2014, against 9.7 percent for women. Data wasn't supplied for the rockier previous five-year period.

    None of this should be surprising, particularly the propensity to not trade needlessly. A survey by hedge fund research company HFR released this year showed that hedge funds run by women racked up 59 percent total returns since 2007, against 37 percent for the average fund.

    It also tends to rhyme with a 2014 report from Merrill Lynch based on a survey of their investors showing that women were less likely to want to personally make regular changes to their investment approach in order to beat the market. Women were also more likely to say that they know less than average about finance and investing. Given how poorly the typical investor does on his or her own, that kind of humility is a good thing.

    (here)

    Analysis firm Dalbar, which for 21 years has been monitoring how poorly individual investors actually do, found that in 2014 the average investor in a stock market mutual fund underperformed the market by 8.19 percentage points. Fixed income investors also trailed. Both do poorly mostly because of bad decisions about getting in and out.

    Far be it from me to say why women are less overconfident, but men, if they'd like to be better investors, might want to take note.

    Knowing that you don't know is the difference between a settled ignorance and a proper caution. For women as investors, it seems, that makes all the difference. (At the time of publication James Saft did not own any direct investments in securities mentioned in this article. He may be an owner indirectly as an investor in a fund. You can email him at jamessaft@jamessaft.com and find more columns at blogs.reuters.com/james-saft)

    (Editing by James Dalgleish)

     

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    Bride and groom figurines standing on two separated slices of wedding cake
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    By Krystal Steinmetz

    If you and your spouse are headed to Divorceville, it's often necessary to have someone - or some people - in your corner, looking out for your best interests. Although hiring an attorney seems the most obvious choice, contracting with a financial adviser is often equally as important.

    Hiring a financial adviser is critical if you have been married for a long time or you're part of a high-net-worth household, according to MarketWatch. While some people do seek out the help of a financial adviser, it's often after the divorce, when many financial matters - short-term cash needs, insurance, child support, trusts and retirement - have already been finalized.

    And relying on an attorney to counsel you on financial matters could end up costing you.

    "Too many people rely on an attorney to assist them in dividing assets, without having a clear financial plan that takes in all of the future needs - college plans, home maintenance, retirement income needs, insurance, long-term care, Social Security, and more," MarketWatch explains.

    If you already have a financial planner, one you've shared with your spouse, you may also want to divorce that adviser and hire somebody else. Although it's legal for a financial adviser to advise opposing parties in a divorce, it creates a conflict of interest, or an awkward situation at the very least.

    "You want your financial adviser to represent your interests, and your interests alone," MarketWatch explained.

    There are several divorce scenarios where hiring a new financial planner is especially important, including this one: "Some women, particularly in older generations, may not have been part of the budgeting or bill-paying process while married," MarketWatch explained. "They need the education a financial planner can provide to be prepared to go out on their own."

    Getting a divorce is often a stressful and emotional time, which makes hiring objective professionals all the more important.

    "One of the biggest reasons people should work with a financial planner is so that they don't make emotional mistakes," Richard Wald, managing director of Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management, told U.S. News & World Report.

    Wald said an example of a costly emotional mistake in a divorce could be when one partner feels attached to a family home and insists on keeping it as part of a divorce settlement. Although that situation isn't inherently bad, it could be an expensive mistake if the partner agreed to keep the home and as a result, ended up losing out on retirement savings that could prove to be much more valuable in the long run.

    It's important to do your homework before you hire a financial adviser. While word-of-mouth recommendations are typically the best way to find a good adviser, the Financial Planning Association can also help. MarketWatch said:

    There are different types of advisers. Some are fee-only; others charge by assets under management. Some manage money; others provide only advice. A few also specialize in financial planning during a divorce, working with your divorce attorney to make sure you are protected.

    For more details, and questions you should ask when shopping for an adviser, check out "How to Choose the Right Financial Adviser."

    Are you divorced or going through a divorce? What's your experience in dividing the property and financial assets? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

    Sign up for our free newsletter

    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! We'll also email you a PDF of Stacy Johnson's "205 Ways to Save Money" as soon as you've subscribed. It's full of great tips that'll help you save a ton of extra cash. It doesn't cost a dime, so why wait? Click here to sign up now.

     

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    USA, New Jersey, Jersey City, Female doctor in hospital hallway
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    By Karla Bowsher

    The average amount that employees contribute to their health care has increased by more 134 percent
    over the past 10 years - and is projected to increase again next year.

    That's according to Aon Hewitt, which analyzed data for more than 600 large U.S. employers representing 11.7 million participants, more than 1,200 health plans and nearly $59 billion in 2015 health care spending.

    The firm found that in 2015 employees contributed a total of $4,698 for their share of the premium cost ($2,490) and their out-of-pocket costs such as co-payments and deductibles ($2,208). In 2005, their premium and out-of-pocket costs totaled $2,001.

    From our Solutions Center: How to quickly shop insurance

    Next year, the average employee's share of the costs is projected to continue to increase to a total of $5,068 ($2,635 toward the premium and $2,433 in out-of-pocket costs).

    The employer share of health care costs also has been increasing, and that rise also is projected to continue next year.

    The increase in costs was actually relatively modest in 2015. The 3.2 percent rise was the lowest increase since Aon began tracking the data in 1996.

    Mike Morrow, senior vice president of Aon Health, attributes the slower growth in costs to a couple of factors:

    "The sluggish growth in the economy has deterred many individuals from using medical services, and there's also been modest price inflation - both factors have been primary drivers for the low rates of premium increases over the past few years."

    However, he adds that premium rates are expected to climb in the future partly due to prescription drug costs continuing to grow at a double-digit pace and to the economy picking up steam.

    According to data recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau, employer-based plans are the most common type of health insurance. They comprise 55.4 percent of plans - more than twice as much as any other type of insurance.

    To learn more about health insurance costs, check out:

    "Obamacare Open Enrollment Is Coming: 5 Things You Need to Know"
    "Ask Stacy: Can Obamacare Help Me Retire Early?"
    "5 Health Care Myths Debunked"
    "10 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Buying Health Insurance"

    Do you obtain your health insurance through your employer? If so, have your costs increased? Let us know 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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    DIY Spice Blends for Thanksgiving
    Buying spices at the store can be expensive. Spice up Thanksgiving dinner for only a fraction of the cost with these easy, low-cost recipes you can make yourself.

    First, to give your classic pumpkin pie that fresh flavor, try this easy blend. Just mix 4 teaspoons of cinnamon, 2 teaspoons of ginger, 1 teaspoon allspice and 1 teaspoon nutmeg.

    And for an Apple pie spice that's easy to make, simply mix 1 tablespoon ground of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg, 1 teaspoon of allspice, half a teaspoon of ground cloves and 1 dash of cardamom.

    This year, keep these quick blends handy. You can spice up Thanksgiving, and your savings, by making your own spice blends.

    View Poll

     

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    By LIZ WESTON

    It is National Scholarship Month, which means high school seniors are being exhorted to scoop up free money for college.

    What they are often not told is that scholarships won from corporations, non-profits and other "outside" sources can reduce - dollar for dollar - the grants and cost-reducing financial aid they might get from colleges.

    Students with financial need should be aware of this potential disincentive before they spend countless hours pursuing scholarships that may leave them no better off. The same scholarships could, however, benefit affluent families by reducing the amount they have to pay or borrow.

    Casey Lu Simon-Plumb, a sophomore at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, won more than a dozen scholarships during her senior year of high school, including a $20,000 Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation award.

    She thought her winnings would dramatically reduce the $60,000 annual cost of attending the school. Instead, the outside money replaced other aid Swarthmore had offered her, leaving her family's contribution about the same.

    "I felt it was so unfair that I'd worked so hard and was bringing a huge amount to the school but not seeing it reflected in my own package," said Simon-Plumb of Hampden, Massachusetts.

    Federal rules require schools to reduce need-based financial aid when students win outside scholarships to ensure that their total financial aid does not exceed their costs by more than $300.

    Colleges have some flexibility in how they implement this "award displacement," said financial aid expert Mark Kantrowitz, co-author of the book, "Filing the FAFSA."

    If the college does not meet students' full financial need - and most do not - it may opt to let the outside money help fill that gap.

    "But most will reduce aid dollar for dollar," Kantrowitz said.

    Swarthmore's policy is more generous than many. The small liberal arts college uses outside scholarships first to reduce the earnings students are expected to contribute from summer jobs, said Varo Duffins, the college's financial aid director.

    Once those expected earnings are offset, the next category of aid to be reduced is federal work study, in which students contribute to the cost of college through part-time jobs. After that, the college reduces the institutional scholarships it offers students.

    Like many elite schools, Swarthmore meets 100 percent of student financial need and does not include loans as part of its need-based financial aid packages, Duffins said.

    When colleges do include loans as part of a need-based package, some use outside scholarships to reduce those loans and thus the ultimate cost of going to college. Others do not.

    Because colleges' policies vary so much, the only way to know how an outside scholarship might affect financial aid is for families to ask the individual schools, said Lynn O'Shaughnessy, a college consultant and author of "The College Solution."

    Kantrowitz recommends doing so early enough in the application process that the colleges' scholarship policies can be factored into the decision of where to go to school.

    If outside scholarships can reduce the loan portion of an aid package or out-of-pocket costs, personal finance author John Wasik, author of "The Debt-Free Degree," recommends casting a wide net. FinAid (finaid.org), FastWeb (fastweb.com) and Sallie Mae (bit.ly/1ObNYvS) all offer search engines.

    Simon-Plumb said some of her scholarships offered other benefits, such as networking or prestige, which made the hours spent writing essays and filling out applications worthwhile.

    Had she known about award displacement, she said she would have focused more on landing those awards and not bothered with the rest.

    "You don't have to kill yourself doing it if there's no payoff," Simon-Plumb said.

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

    (Editing by Beth Pinsker and Dan Grebler)

     

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    By MARIANNE HAYES

    John Livesay was the West Coast director for a major women's magazine who was tasked with snagging new advertisers.

    After he had been there for a decade, the company was restructured in 2009-and he got caught up in a round of layoffs.

    But while most of his co-workers were storming out in a rage, Livesay did something that really caught his manager off guard-he offered to create a detailed turnover report to make sure his clients continued to get the care they deserved.

    "I became very close to a lot of the big advertisers," Livesay explains. "I'd gone to some of their weddings, and watched them have kids. I cared about them too much to just walk out."

    That professionalism paid off: Two years later, Livesay's old boss remembered his good attitude and extra effort and rehired him for a new job at the company.

    Livesay is what experts call a "boomerang employee," or someone who leaves a company and then rejoins it down the line.

    And that situation is not as uncommon these days as you might think.

    According to a recent survey put out by Kronos and Workplace Trends, over three-quarters of HR professionals say they're more open to the idea of rehiring a past employee than they were five years ago. Meanwhile, 40% of workers say they'd consider taking a boomerang position.

    Numbers like these drive home just how important it can be to exit a company on a high note-which is why it's critical to have a strong exit strategy in place before you turn in your notice.

    To help you craft one, we tapped a handful of workplace pros to get the inside scoop on how to leave a company with grace-and under great terms.

    #1 Stay Mum Until You Break the News to Your Boss

    If you know you're about to quit, it can be soooooo tempting to divulge your secret to a work friend-changing jobs is a big step, and it's only natural to want to talk it through with someone in your inner circle.

    But as much as you want your work buddy to tell you that you're doing the right thing, fight the temptation to dish.

    The Better Strategy: Kick off the quitting process the right way by telling your manager first.

    "Many people make the error of whispering over the water cooler about how nervous they are to quit. Then their manager hears about it before they even step foot in their office," says career pro Dana Manciagli, author of "Cut the Crap, Get a Job! A New Job Search Process for a New Era."

    Not only could this irritate your boss, but you've lost your chance to manage the narrative of why you're leaving. Once word of your quitting has become office gossip, it can take a life of its own.

    Instead, go into your manager's office with a clear story line about why you are resigning, when you want your last day to be and how you want the news communicated to others in the company.

    The last point is particularly important, because as Manciagli notes, there may be organizational or political issues to manage, and your manager may need to alert HR and others in the company before word gets out.

    Whatever the case, work with your manager to clarify the timing and public details surrounding your decision so that you're both sharing the same story.

    As Harvard business administration professor Len Schlesinger told the Harvard Business Review last year: "There is only one story, told one way, and you stick to it. That way nobody can ever say they heard anything different."

    #2 Don't Immediately Consider a Counteroffer

    We all want to be so essential to a company that it can't run without us-which is why a counteroffer can be so appealing.

    But our pros caution against going into your manager's office thinking your resignation is really just the beginning of a negotiation.

    The Better Strategy: "I always recommend that folks go in confident-with their minds made up that they are leaving," Manciagli says.

    If the company does come back with a counteroffer, be realistic about why your boss is making it.

    While it may be true that you're a vital pillar of the organization, it's more likely that your manager would rather throw money at the situation than deal with the turmoil caused by your departure.

    And remember that a counteroffer isn't a magic wand that will fix anything other than how you are being compensated. If there are other reasons why you want to leave, they are likely to remain, so you should weigh the pros and cons.

    And, Manciagli says, if you do accept the counteroffer, you need to be prepared to recommit to your current job for a solid year-no more job hunting.

    "You've got to show for at least the next year that you are fully committed-not one foot in and one foot out," she says.

    RELATED: The Psychology of Negotiation: 4 Ways to Get What You Want

    #3 Be a Ray of Sunshine After You Give Notice

    If your current job is a drag, calling it quits doesn't give you free rein to talk poorly about the company or a colleague-to anyone.

    "You may think there's no way on earth you're ever going to see this person again, and then-sure enough-they show up in another capacity five years later," says Judy Robinett, a networking expert and author of "How to Be a Power Connector: The 5+50+100 Rule for Turning Your Business Network Into Profits."

    The Better Strategy: Off-the-cuff remarks or jabs made on social media are sometimes all it takes to burn a potentially important bridge.

    So John Sullivan, an HR expert and professor of management at San Francisco State University, suggests adopting the "it's not you, it's me" mantra.

    Translation: You guys are great. It's nothing personal.

    "If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all," says Sullivan, adding that this is especially important if you have any hopes of being rehired in the future. "When you leave a job, you want people to say, 'Good for you.' "

    #4 Try to Ensure a Smooth Transition

    Sure, you may be fantasizing about how lost people will be without you, but if you want to keep that business relationship strong, you should put together a thoughtful action plan for those you leave behind.

    Your decision to leave may mean that your manager will have to reshuffle your workflow so the ship doesn't sink in your absence. If you help manage the situation, you'll also help manage their feelings about you.

    The Better Strategy: Draft a solid transfer plan outlining all of your pending projects, your recommendations for wrapping them up and specific employees you plan to brief on what you've got cooking. You can even include a retooled job description.

    Making your transition seamless is something your colleagues-and your boss and your boss's boss-will appreciate.

    "Imagine this as being the playbook that someone else picks up," Manciagli says. "Show your manager you understand their situation-and that you want to be part of helping to fill that gap."

    #5 Don't Use Your Exit Interview as a Therapy Session

    That last meeting with HR can be a potential minefield. While it may be tempting to unload about the company or share details about toxic colleagues, try to refrain.

    That's because there's no such thing as anonymity or off-the-record comments.

    The Better Strategy: "You're giving feedback to the company, and that HR person absolutely can and will share what they heard in some format," Manciagli says. "So unless you have a positive, constructive solution to something you observed, don't throw anybody under the bus."

    Sullivan takes it a step further, saying that effective action is rarely taken after the fact in these situations.

    So if you drive home that your boss is ineffectual, not only will they hear about it-which burns a bridge-but, Sullivan says, it isn't likely that HR will actually penalize that person.

    "I'm not a fan of dishonesty, but usually nothing happens," he says. "More often than not, it's written down and put in a file."

    #6 Remain Valuable Post-Departure

    Chances are you've made some important connections at your current job, and it's crucial to keep those relationships going strong.

    "The most powerful asset you have is your network," Robinett says. "It only takes 25 to 50 key people to get you anywhere you need to go."

    So don't say sayonara to your daily duties-or your colleagues.

    The Better Strategy: In addition to being positive in those final weeks at a job-and creating a smooth transition-put in the effort to continue to build your reputation in your colleagues' eyes even after you leave.

    Start by considering how to add value to the picture they already have of you. So instead of just periodically checking in with a here's-what's-going-on-with-me email, elevate your approach by thinking of little ways to be helpful.

    For example, send them news about relevant trends in your industry, forward useful articles or even facilitate key introductions when possible.

    "Those are terrific value-adds you can do for people that will put you in their upper 5%," Robinett says. "They'll remember you and keep you top of mind."

    And who knows, that may just lead to your next great job.

     

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    Pink piggy bank on wood table
    Getty

    By MATT SHAPIRO

    In our "Ask a CFP" Q&A series, we cede the floor to a Certified Financial Planner[TM] who will address what we think are some of the trickiest money topics out there.

    Today, Matt Shapiro, a CFP(R) with LearnVest Planning Services, delves into whether there's ever a point when you can comfortably consider yourself finished with building your nest egg.

    "From the time you earned your first paycheck, you likely heard the same advice over and over: Start putting away for retirement-now!

    And it is sage advice to consider, especially when you look at the stats: The median nest-egg balance for American households last year was a mere $2,500, according to the National Institute on Retirement Security.

    Data like this shows just how imperative it is to make your golden years a priority-and may lead you to believe there's no such thing as saving too much for retirement.

    That's why I sometimes get asked:

    [Matt-Shapiro-Retirement]

    Why So Many People Ask This Question Few of today's workers have access to pensions, and the future of Social Security remains uncertain-leaving the onus of planning and saving for retirement largely in your own hands.

    Plus, when you see headlines about how Americans aren't saving enough for retirement, it's only natural to feel stressed about making sure you're setting aside enough in your 401(k) or IRA.

    What I Tell Them From time to time, I do see people in their 30s or 40s who may be able to stop saving for retirement early-the ones who receive a large inheritance.

    For the rest of us, figuring out when exactly we could be 'done' is hard to do without first doing a reverse calculation, based on your target retirement number.

    To get to your number, you need to determine how much income you think you'll need to live on each year, based on your retirement lifestyle goals, then multiply that by the number of years you expect to be retired.

    And if you don't yet know how you envision your future retirement lifestyle, consider basing your calculations on the assumption that you'll need to replace 85% of your income in your golden years.

    So let's say you think you'll need $4 million to retire comfortably at age 67. Assuming a hypothetical 7% annual return on your retirement investments, you could, in theory, stop contributing to retirement if you had close to $500,000 in your nest egg by 35.

    Realistically, few of us reach that level of retirement savings so early in life-most of us will likely have to keep contributing up until close to the age we intend to retire.

    So the question you probably should be asking yourself instead: 'Am I saving enough now to retire by my desired timeline?'

    Of course, the answer to that will vary by individual, but generally the younger you are when you start saving, the sooner you'll likely be to reach your goals-thanks to the longer amount of time you have to take advantage of compound growth.

    Let's look at another example: Say a 25-year-old man wants to save $1 million to retire by age 67. If he starts to set aside $500 a month right away in a 401(k) that returns a hypothetical 7% a year, he could surpass the $1 million mark by 63. If he keeps saving for another four years, he could reach $1.4 million-and that's not even taking into account any company match.

    However, if he waits until 40 to start saving but doubles that contribution to $1,000 a month, he'll only have earned about $927,000 at 67-$73,000 shy of his initial goal.

    So by starting early, the man is able to surpass his goal without having to raise his retirement contribution over time-and making it potentially easier to devote increases in income toward other goals, like contributing to a kid's college fund.

    By starting later, he may have to decide if he'll retire later-or choose to live off a smaller retirement number.

    The Bottom Line There's no hard-and-fast rule when it comes to knowing when you can consider yourself 'finished' with saving for retirement-it all depends on the progress you're making toward your retirement number.

    So consider doing the calculations now to see whether you're a few years ahead of schedule-or need to step up your savings game."

     

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    October CPI Up 0.2%

    By Lucia Mutikani

    WASHINGTON -- Consumer prices increased in October after two straight months of declines as the cost of health care and other services rose, evidence of firming inflation that further supports views that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates next month.

    The economic outlook also got a boost from other data Tuesday showing a fairly solid increase in manufacturing output in October after dropping for two consecutive months.

    There is nothing that derails a December Fed rate hike in today's data.

    "There is nothing that derails a December Fed rate hike in today's data. Inflation is starting to turn a corner and manufacturing production remains resilient," said Thomas Costerg, an economist at Standard Chartered Bank in New York.

    The Labor Department said Tuesday its Consumer Price Index rose 0.2 percent last month, reversing September's 0.2 percent drop. In the 12 months through October, the CPI advanced 0.2 percent after being unchanged in September.

    Signs of stabilization in prices after a recent downward spiral are likely to be welcomed by Fed officials and give them some confidence that inflation will gradually move toward the central bank's 2 percent target.

    Inflation has persistently run below target. In the wake of a robust October employment report, the U.S. central bank is expected to raise its benchmark overnight interest rate from near zero at its Dec. 15-16 meeting.

    There is hope tightening labor market conditions, characterized by a jobless rate now in a range that some Fed officials view as consistent with full employment, will put upward pressure on wages and drive inflation toward its target.

    A report from the Fed showed manufacturing production increased 0.4 percent as the output of both long-lasting and nondurable goods rose.

    Manufacturing, which accounts for 12 percent of the U.S. economy, declined in both August and September. The sector has been hobbled by a strong dollar, spending cuts by energy firms and efforts by businesses to reduce an inventory bloat.

    However, further declines in mining output and a weather-related drop in utilities production weighed on overall industrial production last month.

    Still, the increase in manufacturing output was another indication that economic growth would accelerate in the fourth quarter after braking to a 1.5 percent annual rate in the July-September quarter.

    Abating Headwinds

    "The healthy rise in manufacturing sector production is a welcome sign that the headwinds to this sector are beginning to ease," said Millan Mulraine, deputy chief economist at TD Securities in New York. "The outlook for the industrial sector is becoming incrementally more favorable."

    The dollar was trading higher against a basket of currencies, while prices for U.S. Treasuries fell. U.S. interest rate futures implied a 70 percent chance of a December rate hike, up from 68 percent on Monday, according to CME Group's FedWatch. Stocks on Wall Street rose, boosted by better-than-expected earnings from Walmart (WMT) and Home Depot (HD).

    In October, the so-called core CPI, which strips out food and energy costs, gained 0.2 percent after a similar rise the prior month. Rents and medical costs accounted for much of the increase in the core CPI last month.

    The rental index increased 0.3 percent after rising 0.4 percent in September. Medical care costs rose 0.7 percent, the largest increase since April.

    In the 12 months through October, the core CPI increased 1.9 percent after rising by the same margin in September.

    The Fed tracks the personal consumption expenditures price index, excluding food and energy, which is running below the core CPI. The dollar's 18 percent rise against the currencies of the United States' main trading partners since June 2014, has made imports such as apparel and automobiles less expensive.

    Inflation should get a boost next year as the weak readings from late 2014 and this year drop out of the calculation.

    Energy prices, including gasoline and electricity, rose last month. While food prices rose marginally, four of the six major grocery store food group indexes increased, with cereals and bakery products posting the largest increase since August 2011.

    Hospital costs increased 2 percent in October and airline fares rose 1.5 percent, ending a string of three consecutive declines. There were also increases in recreation costs, but apparel prices recorded their biggest decline since December. Prices for used cars and trucks fell for a sixth straight month.

     

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    Wal-Mart's Q3 Beats Street

    By Nathan Layne

    Walmart Stores reported slightly stronger-than-expected quarterly earnings Tuesday as it booked its fifth straight gain in U.S. same-store sales, sending its shares up more than 4 percent.

    However, the company also said it expected sales at stores open at least a year to grow more slowly during the current quarter, which includes the crucial holiday shopping season, and that business would remain competitive.

    Walmart's earnings have been under pressure from costs to boost entry-level wages and spruce up stores. Last month it warned that those costs would lead earnings to decline by as much as 12 percent next year, prompting many investors to dump the stock.

    The company has also said that those investments, while hitting profits, are also starting to translate into better customer service and helping to lift sales.

    "We are starting to get some good momentum," Greg Foran, chief executive of U.S. operations, said on a call with reporters.

    Net profit attributable to the world's largest retailer fell to $3.304 billion, or $1.03 a share, in the third quarter ended on Oct. 31 from $3.711 billion, or $1.15 a share, a year earlier.

    Analysts on average had expected 98 cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

    The results included a boost of 4 cents a share from an adjustment of accounting for leases.

    Sales at U.S. stores open at least a year rose 1.5 percent, while customer traffic increased 1.7 percent. The company said food, apparel and home goods performed well, while its entertainment department struggled due in part to a lack of blockbuster products on the market to drive demand.

    Walmart said inventory on a comparable store basis fell by 1.9 percent, a sharp contrast with Macy's and other retailers that warned of a build-up of stock in recent weeks.

    In a note to clients, Cowen & Co. analyst Oliver Chen wrote that Walmart's "clean inventory position" should somewhat limit promotional pressure among discounters during the holiday season. He also said Walmart's sales growth, driven by sales and apparel, should generally bode well for Target (TGT), which reports quarterly results Wednesday.

    Walmart said operating income fell 8.8 percent to $5.7 billion. Foran said the company had added more labor hours than initially planned during the quarter while also making investments in customer-facing parts of the store.

    Walmart said consolidated revenue fell 1.3 percent to $117.4 billion, weighed down by international operations, which have been hurt by a stronger dollar. It said online sales increased 10 percent in the quarter, slower than its plans for growth in the mid-to-high-teens this fiscal year. It cited weakness in Brazil, China and the U.K.

    The company forecast same-store U.S. sales growth would slow to 1 percent in the fourth quarter due to a tough comparison from last year when a big drop in fuel prices and food inflation boosted sales.

    Walmart narrowed its forecast for earnings per share in the full fiscal year to end-January to $4.50 to $4.65 from $4.40 to $4.70. The market consensus was for $4.50.

    Walmart (WMT) shares were up 4.4 percent at $60.43 in morning trading.

     

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    Weather impacts Thanksgiving travel.
    Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post via Getty Images
    By SCOTT MAYEROWITZ

    NEW YORK -- A stronger economy and lower gas prices mean Thanksgiving travelers can expect more congested highways this year.

    During the long holiday weekend, 46.9 million Americans are expected to go 50 miles or more from home, the highest number since 2007, according to travel agency and car lobbying group AAA. That would be a 0.6 percent increase over last year and the seventh straight year of growth.

    While promising for the travel industry, the figure is still 7.3 percent short of the 50.6 million high point reached in 2007, just before the recession.

    Like on every other holiday, the overwhelming majority of travelers -- almost 90 percent -- will be driving. And they will be paying much less at the pump.

    AAA says the average retail price for gasoline is now $2.15 a gallon, 74 cents cheaper than the same time last year. With the average car getting 18.5 mpg, that means a family driving 300 miles will save $12 in fuel this holiday.

    Airlines for America, the lobbying group for several major airlines, forecasts 25.3 million passengers will fly on U.S. airlines, up 3 percent from last year. (AAA's forecast shows fewer numbers of fliers because it looks at a five-day period while the airline group looks at the 12 days surrounding Thanksgiving.)

    Airfare is basically flat compared to last year, with a mere 0.3 percent or 69 cent average increase, according to the Airlines Reporting Corp., which processes ticket transactions for airlines and travel agencies.

    Traveler counts are little fuzzier when it comes to other forms of transport.

    Bus use will continue to grow, according to the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development at DePaul University. The school expects 1.2 million to take buses, up 1 percent to 2 percent from last year. However, AAA says travel by cruises, trains and buses will decrease 1.4 percent this Thanksgiving to 1.4 million travelers.

    Air Travel Tips

    Since flying can often cause the most disruptions and leave travelers feeling helpless, here are some tips to cope with any delays. Flights are packed around the holidays and if there is any hiccup, the difference between getting home and not can come down to asking the right questions and acting fast.

    Delays
    • At the first sign of a serious mechanical problem, call the airline to have it "protect" you on the next flight out. That way if the mechanical problem leads to a cancellation, you are already confirmed on a new flight and can just print a new boarding pass.
    • If you miss your flight connection -- or bad weather causes delays -- get in line to speak to a customer service representative. But also, call the airline directly. If the phone lines are jammed, try the airline's overseas numbers. You'll pay long-distance rates, but might not have to wait. (Add those numbers to your phone now.) Finally, consider sending a Tweet to the airline.
    • Consider buying a one-day pass to the airline lounge. For one thing, there are usually free drinks and light snacks. But the real secret to the lounges is that the airline staffs them with some of its best -- and friendliest -- ticket agents. The lines are shorter and these agents are magically able to find empty seats. One-day passes typically cost $50 but discounts can sometimes be found in advance online.
    • If weather causes cancellations, use apps like HotelTonight and Priceline to find last-minute hotel discounts for that night. Warning: Many of the rooms are non-refundable when booked, so only lock in once stuck.
    Luggage
    • Weigh it at home first. Anything over 50 pounds (40 pounds on some airlines like Spirit) will generate a hefty overweight surcharge, in addition to the checked bag fee.
    • Before your bag disappears behind the ticket counter make sure the airline's tag has your name, flight number and final destination. Save that sticker they give you -- it has a bag-tracking number on it.
    • Place a copy of your flight itinerary inside your suitcase with your cellphone number and the name of your hotel in case the tag is ripped off.
    • If you can't live without it, don't check it. It might take days to return a lost bag. Don't pack medication or outfits for tomorrow's meeting or wedding. Never check valuables such as jewelry or electronics.
    • Prepare your carry-on bag as if it will be checked. You might not have planned to check your bag, but given today's crowded overhead bins many fliers don't have a choice. Pack a small canvas bag inside your carry-on so if you are forced to check it, you can at least keep your valuables with you.
    Seats
    • Set up alerts for seat openings. ExpertFlyer.com offers free notifications when a window or aisle seat becomes vacant. For 99 cents, it sends an email if two adjacent seats become available. The service is available for Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, JetBlue Airways, United Airlines and Virgin America but not for Delta Air Lines and some smaller carriers.
    • Check the airline's website five days before the trip. That's when some elite fliers are upgraded to first class, freeing up their coach seats. Another wave of upgrades occurs every 24 to 48 hours.
    • Check in 24 hours in advance when airlines start releasing more seats. If connecting, see if seats have opened up 24 hours before the second flight departs.
    • Keep looking for new seats. Even after checking in, seats can be changed at airport kiosks and on some airlines' mobile applications.

     

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    Federal Building DOJ
    Andrew Harnik/AP
    By Siddharth Cavale and Diane Bartz

    USPlabs, which made the workout supplement Jack3d, and six of its executives face criminal charges for the unlawful sale of the nutritional supplement, the U.S. Justice Department said Tuesday in announcing a larger probe by multiple federal agencies aimed at stemming the sale of unproven nutritional supplements.

    Six executives with USPlabs and a related company, S.K. Laboratories, face criminal charges related to the sale of unlawful dietary supplements. Four were arrested Tuesday and two are expected to surrender, the Justice department said.

    The defendants knew of studies that linked the products to liver toxicity.

    The indictment says that USPlabs used a synthetic stimulant manufactured in China to make Jack3d and OxyElite Pro but told retailers that the supplements were made from plant extracts.

    "The defendants knew of studies that linked the products to liver toxicity," the department said in a press statement.

    News of the impending press conference earlier sent share prices of GNC Holdings, Vitamin Shoppe and Herbalife lower. But those companies were not named in the subsequent announcement and all recovered to close down slightly.

    GNC Holdings (GNC) closed down 6.4 percent, Vitamin Shoppe (VSI) ended down 5 percent and Herbalife (HLF) slipped 1.5 percent.

    Along with the Justice Department, the news conference was attended by representatives of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Defense and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

     

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    Top 3 Ways to Save on Thanksgiving Dinner
    Thanksgiving is right around the corner and if you're cooking a big holiday feast, it could gobble up your cash. Thankfully, we compiled some of the best ways to save from previous episodes, that will help you save this holiday season.

    First, weigh your food to find the best deals. Pre-bagged produce all costs the same, so pick out the heaviest of the bunch to get more food for your money.

    Next, don't be afraid of the canned food aisle, it's there to save you cash. A 1.5-cup can of store-bought, canned cranberry sauce costs $1.89, or only $1.26 per cup, whereas 3.5 cups of homemade cranberry sauce cost $10.25, or $2.93 per cup. That's a savings of nearly 57 percent.

    Gravy doesn't have to strain your budget either. Turkey gravy by the jar or packet can cost up to $2.50. That may seem like a good deal, but if you're already cooking a turkey, just strain the pan drippings, skim the fat from a heated saucepan, add flour, whisk and then add the drippings back in. You can also add water or, preferably, stock to homemade gravy that can't be beat.

    So, when you shop for your Thanksgiving dinner, remember these tips. Because knowing which ingredients to buy, will make you thankful for all the money you'll be saving.

    View Poll

     

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    Financial Markets Wall Street
    Richard Drew/AP
    By Noel Randewich

    NEW YORK -- U.S. stocks forfeited gains Tuesday after a soccer match between Germany and the Netherlands was called off over fears of a bombing.

    All three major U.S. indexes had ventured into positive territory following upbeat earnings reports from Walmart and Home Depot. But they quickly relinquished those gains after the friendly match was canceled less than two hours before its start due to indications of a planned attack with explosives at the stadium in Hanover.

    That added to apprehension following last week's attacks in Paris that killed 129 people.

    "These situations create uncertainty and in uncertain times everyone goes to cash," said Mohannad Aama, managing director at Beam Capital Management in New York.

    Despite the broad market's reversal, Walmart (WMT) ended 3.5 percent higher and Home Depot (HD) climbed 4.4 percent, pushing the S&P 500 retail index up 1 pct.

    There's a shift in consumer behavior, but the consumer is still spending.

    The healthy quarterly performance of Walmart and Home Depot stood in contrast to results from department stores Macy's (M) and Nordstrom (JWN) last week that sent some retail stock sharply lower.

    "There's a shift in consumer behavior, but the consumer is still spending," said Steve Goldman, principal of Goldman Management in Short Hills, New Jersey. "They're just spending differently, whether on restaurants or travel."

    Home Depot rival Lowe's (LOW) rose 1.7 percent and Target (TGT) added 0.8 percent. Both report their quarterly results Wednesday.

    Data released Tuesday offered a mixed view of the health of the U.S. economy -- consumer prices increased in October after two straight months of declines, while industrial production fell.

    The modest rise in inflation could bolster chances of the Federal Reserve raising interest rates next month, but weak industrial output raised concerns about the robustness of fourth-quarter economic growth.

    The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) rose less than 0.1 percent to end at 17,489.50 and the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GSPC) lost 0.1 percent to finish at 2,050.44. The Nasdaq composite (^IXIC)
    was essentially flat, ending at 4,986.02.

    Seven of the 10 major S&P sectors fell, with the utilities sector's 1.9 percent drop leading the decliners.

    Criminal Probe

    Shares of dietary supplement-makers sank after federal agencies, including the Department of Justice, said they would announce criminal and civil actions related to unlawful advertising and sale of dietary supplements.

    GNC Holdings (GNC) dropped 6.4 percent, Vitamin Shoppe (VSI) fell 4.9 percent and Herbalife (HLF) lost 1.5 percent. None of the companies were named in the subsequent Justice Department release.

    Underscoring the uneven performance among retailers, Urban Outfitters (URBN) dropped 3.8 percent and Dick's Sporting Goods (DKS) lost 9.4 percent after handing in quarterly report cards that disappointed investors.

    Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 1,934 to 1,126. On the Nasdaq, 1,501 issues fell and 1,290 advanced.

    The S&P 500 index showed 10 new 52-week highs and 16 new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 46 new highs and 148 new lows.

    About 7.5 billion shares changing hands on U.S. exchanges, compared to the 7.2 billion daily average for the past 20 trading days, according to Thomson Reuters (TRI) data.

    -Abhiram Nandakumar contributed reporting from Bangalore, India.

    What to watch Wednesday:
    • The Commerce Department releases housing starts for October at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time.
    • The Federal Reserve releases minutes from its October policy meeting at 2 p.m.
    Earnings Season
    These selected companies are scheduled to report quarterly financial results:
    • Aramark (ARMK)
    • Keurig Green Mountain (GMCR)
    • L Brands (LB)
    • Lowe's (LOW)
    • NetApp (NTAP)
    • Salesforce.com (CRM)
    • Staples (SPLS)
    • Target (TGT)

     

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    Fortune Global Forum - Day 2
    Kimberly White/Getty Images for FortuneYahoo CEO Marissa Mayer speaks during the Fortune Global Forum in San Francisco, California, earlier this month.
    By Devika Krishna Kumar and Lehar Maan

    Activist investor Starboard Value asked Yahoo to drop plans to spin off its stake in Alibaba Group due to tax concerns, and instead urged the company to sell its core search and display advertising businesses.

    Yahoo's current net cash holding and the funds raised from a sale of the business could be returned to shareholders through buybacks and dividends, Jeff Smith, Starboard's head, said in a letter Thursday to Yahoo.

    The hedge fund, calling itself a "significant shareholder" in Yahoo, said it made the letter public as its efforts to talk to the company privately over the past year hadn't borne fruit.

    Starboard had supported the planned spinoff of the Alibaba stake, currently worth about $30 billion, before the U.S. Internal Revenue Service in September denied Yahoo's request for a private letter ruling on whether the transaction would be tax free.

    Yahoo's shareholders could end up paying roughly $12 billion in taxes if the IRS deems the transaction taxable after the spinoff, expected to close by end-December. Yahoo was worth about $31 billion as of Wednesday's close.

    "If you stay on the current path, we believe the potential penalty for being wrong is just too great, and the potential reward for being right is not materially better than the other alternative," Smith said.

    Yahoo declined to comment. Yahoo (YHOO) shares rose as much as 1.6 percent, but were flat at midday. Alibaba (BABA) was up 1.4 percent.

    Starboard said Yahoo had snubbed its requests to appoint Smith as a board member at least four times in the last four months.

    Pivotal Research Group analyst Brian Wieser said Yahoo shareholders would likely back Starboard over the company's board if a proxy fight ensued.

    "It wouldn't be a very hard proxy fight for Starboard."

    Yahoo's search and display ad businesses, which account for a lions shares of total revenue, has been struggling and Chief Executive Marissa Mayer's efforts to revive the business have yielded little results.

    Many analysts attribute little or no value to the business and say Yahoo's worth lies in its Asian assets: the Alibaba stake and a 35 percent stake in Yahoo Japan Corp.

    Yahoo's core business could attract private equity firms, media and telecom companies as well as firms such as Softbank Group, SunTrust Robinson Humphrey's Robert Peck said.

    The Wall Street Journal reported on Starboard's proposals earlier Thursday.

     

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    Square Inc. Begins Trading On The NYSE Following IPO
    Getty ImagesJack Dorsey, CEO of Square Inc., stands outside the New York Stock Exchange. Shares of Square jumped more than 60 percent Thursday - the stock's first day of trading.
    By Noel Randewich

    NEW YORK -- Wall Street ended a little lower Thursday as falling health care stocks offset gains in Intel and other technology names while investors eyed an expected rate hike in December.

    A profit warning by UnitedHealth (UNH) led to a 5.7 percent drop in its stock, making the health insurer the biggest drag on the Dow Jones industrial average and the S&P 500. It also sent the shares of competitors Anthem (ANTM) and Aetna (AET) down more than 6 percent each.

    The S&P health care sector was the worst performer among the 10 major S&P sectors with a 1.63 percent decline.

    We think the Fed will raise rates in December, but it will be more important how they set expectations about subsequent rate increases.

    Adding to the pain in health care, Pfizer (PFE) fell 3.1 percent after reports that its talks to buy Allergan and redomicile in Ireland were in final stages. Allergan (AGN) lost 2.8 percent.

    Intel (INTC) jumped 3.4 percent after boosting its annual dividend. The chipmaker and Apple (AAPL), up 1.3 percent, added more upward pressure to the S&P 500 than any other stocks.

    Mobile payments company Square (SQ) soared 45 percent in its highly anticipated market debut, while dating website operator Match Group (MTCH) popped 23 percent on their first trading day.

    Data released Thursday appeared to support the Federal Reserve's view of a strengthening labor market ahead of its meeting next month. The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell last week.

    Minutes from the Fed's October meeting, released Wednesday, hardened expectations of a December interest rate hike and hinted at a cautious approach after that.

    Investors are increasingly pondering the pace of more rate increases in 2016, said David Carter, chief investment officer at Lenox Wealth Advisors in New York.

    "We think the Fed will raise rates in December, but it will be more important how they set expectations about subsequent rate increases," Carter said. "If the Fed sets an expectation that subsequent rate increases will be modest and measured, we think the equity markets can rally for some time."

    The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) closed 0.02 percent weaker at 17,732.75 points while the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GSPC) lost 0.1 percent to 2,081.24. The Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) edged 0.03 percent lower to 5,073.64.

    Seven of the 10 S&P sectors ended higher, led by utilities, up 1 percent.

    Winners and Losers

    After the bell, Nike (NKE) jumped 3.5 percent after it increased its dividend and announced a two-for-one share split.

    Gap (GPS) posted quarterly results that sent its shares down 4 percent.

    Tax software company Intuit (INTU) posted fiscal first-quarter results that pleased investors, pushing its stock 10 percent higher.

    During Thursday's trading session, Salesforce (CRM) jumped 4.3 percent after its quarterly adjusted profit beat estimates and the online sales software maker raised its full-year revenue forecast.

    NYSE advancing issues outnumbered decliners 1,585 to 1,478. On Nasdaq, 1,553 issues fell and 1,250 advanced. The S&P 500 showed 24 new 52-week highs and six lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 66 new highs and 109 lows.

    About 6.5 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, below the 7.3 billion daily average for the past 20 trading days, according to Thomson Reuters data. (Additional reporting by Abhiram Nandakumar

    Earnings Season
    These selected companies are scheduled to report quarterly financial results.
    • Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF)
    • Footlocker (FL)

     

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    Money Monitor: Organizing Your Finances Before Tying the Knot

    When my husband popped the question and I said yes, we saw it as nothing more than a deep commitment to each other. It was the most meaningful way we knew to express that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. It was all about love.

    But once we were married, we realized there was much more to marriage than just loving the other person. We had to pick out an apartment together. Buy furniture together. Grocery shop together. We were put in situations with each other that allowed our personalities to really shine through. And we learned a little something: We were two very different people.

    Never did this fact become clearer than when we approached spending money together. I kept my life stress-free by not worrying about costs or prices when I shopped. If I liked it and had the money, I bought it. My husband, Johnny, kept his life stress-free by analyzing and reanalyzing costs until he found the best deal. We were at extreme ends of the spending spectrum, and we were desperate to find some middle ground before our newlywed bliss became blissless.

    Budgeting Creates Our Path for Future Bliss

    We finally found one thing we both agreed on wholeheartedly: what we wanted for our future. And we realized that had to create a budget if we wanted to reach our goals. There'd be no more "he says" or "she says," just "the budget says." Here's what worked best for us.
    • Compromising. We worked on our budget together. It wasn't one person telling the other person what to do. Giving every dollar a name required compromise and lots of trial and error.
    • Goal setting. We set specific financial goals. We both wanted to become debt-free, but we needed a plan to get there. We decided how much debt we wanted to have paid down by the end of the month, by the end of six months, by the end of a year. Our big goal was to retire our combined $20,000 in debt in less than two years, all while saving money for retirement and a rainy day.
    • Keeping track. Even after we created a budget, there was still the matter of sticking to it. And we did that by tracking every cent. As soon as we spent money, we wrote it down to enter into a spreadsheet later. These were the days before nifty budgeting apps, and we weren't perfect, but we were consistent, which was the key to our success.
    Keeping a budget ended up strengthening our marriage since it helped to teach us communication and compromise. We went through some growing pains, but that spender and saver who married over seven years ago met that big goal, and we still compromise every day to save for the future. Thank goodness we decided to give budgeting a try.

     

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    Mature couple sitting on hall stairs at home
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    Talk about back from the dead. About 15 years ago, so-called reverse mortgages -- which let senior citizens pull out equity from their homes to supplement retirement income -- were just about buried in bad press. Too many bad products and bad deals gave them a terrible rep, said Casey Fleming, a mortgage adviser in Northern California.

    But that was then. Now there's a shift. "Reverse mortgages are becoming more popular, as baby boomers retire," said Jamie Hopkins, a professor of retirement at the American University of Financial Services in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. "In the next two to three years you will see a tremendous amount more. A lot of our wealth is built into home equity. This will be a saving grace for a lot of baby boomers."

    Both experts are right, but many things have happened that effectively have put reverse mortgages on the financial planning agenda for some baby boomers. The main thing is: boomers may need the money. Many are coming up woefully short when it comes to retirement savings and investments. But many have substantial equity in a home. They don't want to sell that home in many cases. Enter the reverse mortgage, which lets them pull out money to augment their other sources of retirement income. It is a loan that does not involve repayment, except out of the home's equity -- which happens only when the senior dies or moves out of the house (into assisted living, for example).

    Reverse mortgages also can be structured as a lump sum payout up front or -- what experts said is an increasingly popular option -- as a home equity line of credit, drawn on as needed.

    Understand: a generation ago, some seniors lost their homes in reverse mortgage deals gone bad. In other cases, after their death, heirs were dunned to make up losses on the home. Thus the bad rep -- very well deserved.

    But that can't happen now, said Hopkins, who elaborated that new rules issued by the federal government provide many protections for seniors who use a so-called HECM, a home equity conversion mortgage, available only through FHA approved lenders. Among the key changes: the FHA insures the loan, said Hopkins. "It's a non-recourse loan," he said. "If money is owed at death it's covered by the FHA insurance."

    Hopkins pointed to two more key changes:
    • Reduced the ability to take a large upfront sum out. "Borrowers can't pull all their equity out immediately," said Hopkins. When some seniors did that they found they had run out of money long before they were ready to leave their homes -- but they might have had to anyway. That is less likely now.
    • Income testing. "borrowers have to qualify for the HECM," said Hopkins.
    Qualify for a reverse mortgage? That's not how they once were structured but, said Fleming, that lack triggered a world of pain. Low income retirees would pull income out of their home, spend it, and then, sometimes, lose their residence because they could not pay property taxes, homeowners insurance, and ordinary maintenance.

    Added Fleming: "Creditworthiness is essentially not factor with a HECM, if they can meet their other obligations."

    That said, noted Fleming, reverse mortgages aren't for everyone. A boomer who wants to leave a generous inheritance to his kids may flinch at a reverse mortgage because it will eat into the nest egg.

    Another reason to look twice at reverse mortgages, per Fleming: "They are very expensive." He pointed to the cost of title insurance, the FHA insurance premium and an origination fee that can be up to $6,000. Those expenses quickly cross $10,000 and that is money subtracted upfront from the home's value.

    And yet there also are prime cases where a HECM loan makes perfect sense, said Hopkins. He pointed to the for instance of a boomer who wants to start drawing on Social Security at the earliest possible age -- 62 in most cases. Do it then and there is a huge economic penalty (25 percent off the full retirement benefit payable at 66). Also lost is an 8 percent a year bonus for those who are 66 who delay drawing Social Security until 70. Wait until 70 and Social Security may be twice what it is at 62. Every month. That's a chunk of change. "If a HECM lets you delay getting Social Security, it could be a very sound strategy," said Hopkins.

    Another case might be dealing with large dental bills (not ordinarily covered by Medicare). An HECM might be the easy way to smile.

    The take-away: once scorned as predatory ripoffs, revamped reverse mortgages just may make sense for seniors whose homes are paid off (or close to it) and whose lives would be a lot more enjoyable with a steady stream of money going into their pockets from that house. They aren't for everyone -- they aren't cheap -- but they now deserve a place in retirement financial planning, Hopkins said.

    This article is commentary by an independent contributor.

     

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