Friday, December 11, 2009

Is overseas the better option for ball players?

By Jameel Murray

Recently there has been a sudden influx of professional basketball players opting to take their game to many leagues overseas. The dream of playing in the NBA and basking million dollar contracts are becoming a bit watered down. Some current players in the NBA are making less than $800,000 annually, well below the $4.9 million dollar average. Although there are talented players that enter the league every year, the NBA dream is somewhat short-lived with an average career span of 5years. During that 5-years span, players make an adequate amount of money but also have to pay off multiple expenses such as personal training, taxes, high auto insurance rates, and other significant expenses such as food and housing. After analyzing this data, one has to question whether the NBA offers the world’s best talent the dream and fortunes of a lifetime. There are thousands of talented players who may never experience the NBA dream but may be provided with a potentially better option; overseas basketball.
Although making the transition from the United States to a country thousands of miles across the globe may be quite extreme to pursue a career, the opportunity to build wealth is extremely blatant. One of the main differences between NBA basketball and overseas basketball lies in the fame that each league creates for its players. The NBA has many of the word’s most well known players while overseas basketball may be occupied with unknown talent. However, many international teams provide players with a car, a house, a chef, and substantial contracts that are paid in Euros without a salary cap. These international contracts offer players an array of wealth while cutting back on some of the expenses that an NBA player has to come to terms with. If a player can earn an annual contract worth 800,000 Euros, then that player would be making more than $ 1 million in the United States. Many notable NBA players such as Josh Childress and Linas Klieza have made the jump to international careers.

Lessons from recession

By Alma Zhumagulova

This recession has taught American people to manage their finances better, to spend less, save more and to be financially responsible for them. However, now that the economy is recovering many people might go back to their old habits of impulsive purchases, not keeping track of spending, not saving etc. This is called the “wealth effect” and is commonly observed after the times financial distress.
However, people should not forget the lessons they learned from this recession. So even though it might seem that you don’t need to worry anymore about your finances, you should still set aside some portion of your income – at least 10%. Restrain yourself from unnecessary purchases; think where else you could have used that money. However, avoid being too frugal; have a small portion of income set aside for impulsive purchases and NEVER go beyond that number.
Another advice is to treat your money well: pay attention to how you treat it, keep them “neatly sorted in your wallet”, and not stuffed in random places, balance your checkbook regularly, and pay your bills on time.
In order to be on the same page with your partner, have the “money talk” and make sure you both have the same financial goals and objectives and follow the “rules and regulations” on how, where and when to spend your money. Your financial future depends on the decisions made by both of you, so ensure that you are both on the right track.

Tiger Woods and the financial reality

By Jonathan Tse

Recent news relating to Tiger Woods' has shocked everyone with his reputation shattered after numerous news stories reveal scandal after scandal. Tiger Woods is arguably the best golf player in the world and also a great marketing icon to companies like Gatorade and Nike. These companies have invested heavily on him and if he leaves the golf world, much revenue will be lost from these companies who draw on his reputation for high sales. Once news of these scandals came out, companies began to reduce their Tiger Woods-related ads in an effort to reduce the effect that he would have on their reputation and sales. Also, the golf world will suffer from this as well, since many golf fans are interested in golf because of Woods. Without Woods, the golf world will still survive and move on, but it definitely will not be as popular as it used to. In the financial perspective of Woods himself, this would severely hurt his reputation and his wealth. Most of his earnings come from corporate sponsorships, so without them his earnings will be severely cut. The most effective thing that he can do to preserve his reputation and his salary is to apologize to the public and admit his wrongdoings. Sadly, he has waited much too long and his reputation is now tarnished by the media. This has ultimately forced him to declare in his website on Friday that he has decided to an “indefinite break from golf.” Now all fears have become a reality. Things will go on, but the future of the golf world and everyone linked to it will be greatly impacted by this decision.

Best Degrees to Graduate With

By: Nicole Nelson

These days, with rising costs of secondary education, it is important to make sure that the degree you are paying for is worth what you are actually paying for. CNN money has made a list of the fifteen top earning degrees. Not so surprisingly, different types of engineering degrees take twelve of these fifteen spots with Petroleum, Chemical and Mining Engineering topping the list. The other three include computer science, actuarial science and construction management. These top fifteen’s average starting offers range from $54,200-$83,121. One thing that all of these degrees have in common though are the fact that they are based primarily on math skills. A director of research at NACE said “Math is at the crux of who gets paid, if you have those skills, you are an extremely valuable asset.” The reason some of these top the list is because their industries resources are becoming more and more scarce. Although engineering takes most of this list, it isn’t to say recent graduates haven’t felt the pinch of fewer job offers. But, since there are fewer and fewer people graduating with math-based majors compared to those graduating with liberal-arts majors, the math majors are being paid at such large premiums. So, if you are somewhat good at math and are looking to declare a major, engineering may be the way to go.

Best Jobs

BY: Nicole Nelson

Money/ has come out with the best jobs in America for 2009. The top fifty take into account great pay and growth prospect. Systems Engineer, Physician Assistant, College Professor, Nurse Practitioner, and Information Technology Project Manager top this list. When just looking at the highest pay, Anesthesiologist, Physician/Ob-Gyn, Psychiatrist, Nurse Anesthetist and Sales Director have the highest median salaries. The median salary for Anesthesiologist was $292,000 and this job was ranked eleventh on the full list. When looking strictly at job growth, Telecommunications Network Engineer tops this list with 21,000 total jobs and a 53% 10-year growth. This job ranks 30th on the full list. Following this on the best jobs based on Job Growth is Systems Engineer, Personal Financial Advisor, Veterinarian and Senior Financial Analyst. When just considering the job with the least stress, an Education/Training Consultant tops the list with 60% of people who have this job saying it is low stress. This is followed by a Physical Therapist with 59.5% of workers saying their job is low stress. Security wise, Emergency Room Physician and General Surgeon top the list of Job Security with 100% of workers saying their job is secure. If you are looking for a job with flexibility, 40-43% of Sales Directors, Software Product Managers and Software Development Directors say their jobs are flexible. If you would like to work in a position with future growth, 87-93% of Product Management Directors, Intelligence Analysts and Psychiatrists believe their jobs will grow in the future. Finally, on the basis of satisfaction, Nurse Anesthetists, Anesthesiologists and Training and Development Managers seem to be the most satisfied.

Tips for Estate Planning

By Jonathan Tse

It is very important to make an estate plan in the event that you die and leave behind loved ones who depend on you greatly. Many people lack a comprehensive and adequate estate plan that outlines how all wealth is allocated. In the case that this happens, everything goes into the hands of the government who will take on the task of dividing up wealth that is left behind, or even worse, will take possession of the wealth.
The estate plan should not only consist of a will but also a durable power of attorney and also a health proxy. For some people, it would also be beneficial to have a trust as well if one’s estate is more complex and could be liable for more taxes. One important tip is to take an inventory of all the assets in possession so that it would be easier to allocate them to your heirs. A big problem with estate planning is that there may often be things that are left out and are not allocated. Also, in order to simplify one’s will, one can try to get rid of assets before death through joint tenancies or transferring ownership to trusts. In order to avoid confusion and conflicts about who gets what after your death, it may be good to speak to your heirs to clearly outline who will receive what. If you do not want to allocate wealth to a certain child of yours, you must clearly state that in your will.
One last tip relates to tax laws. Since all income is taxable, for properties with lots of taxable profit, it will be beneficial to keep the property until death so that the taxable income will disappear and your heirs will gain the property with the basis at fair market value. For property with a deductible loss, it is important to sell the property before death to take advantage of the deduction otherwise it will be lost after death.

Holiday Credit Card Tips

BY: Nicole Nelson

Many stores offer discounts or special deals if you sign up for their credit card. This practice is even more prevalent around the holidays since they realize many people are buying now more than ever, they are putting it on credits and most likely not paying it off for a couple of months or longer. But, although it may seem good to save money by opening up a card, you may actually save money by using the card you already have. Most store cards carry very high interest rates and low credit limits. When purchasing, it is also smart to check out which of the cards you already have has the lowest interest rates. This includes checking the fine print to make sure this rate won’t all of a sudden rise drastically. It is also important to keep track of your credit card limits. Your credit score depends on the amount of your credit that you are actually using. Also, some people do not realize or take advantage of return policies. Major credit cards offer “return protection”. This means the issuer will take back items that the store will no longer take, up until 90 days after the purchase. The last tip seems like a simple one but is most of the time forgotten. This is taking note of how much you are charging. This will save you time and money after the holidays have ended.

Best Stocks for 2010

By: Nicole Nelson

Although the financial crisis has caused some people to be weary of investing their money, business magazines have posted their opinions on stocks that will do well in 2010. They believe that these stocks will prosper even if the market does not do so. Topping the list is MasterCard. MasterCard had surprisingly good results in 2009 considering it is a consumer-dependent company. They believe if more people use cards and total dollar volume increased (like most analysts believe it will), MasterCard will earn more. In second is Amedisys. Amedisys is a health care company that has suffered greatly in the past year. But, with our population aging, our country is in more need for health services. Analysts believe this company will thrive and recover in the upcoming year. Qualcomm comes in third for best stocks for 2010. This company’s chips are in one third of the world’s cell phones today. Although the past year hasn’t been the greatest for mobile phones, it is expected that people will start buying again once the world economy stabilizes and more companies adapt 3g networks. Other stocks rounding out the top 10 include less known businesses such as Vorndao, American Tower,, Baxter Industries and Petrowhawk Energy. So although the market has obviously had its ups and down the stocks discussed are believed to thrive in the next year.

The Simple, But Rarely followed tips

By Shawn Chandok

The following list is a list of tips that we as humans take for granted. Some of them can be induced as basic knowledge; however you will be surprised to see how many people don’t follow them.
1. Pay Yourself First: What this means is before you deduct any expenses from your income, the first thing you should do is take a percentage (usually 10-20%) out for your savings account.
2. Spend Less than you earn: Although this may seem less, Americans are notorious for doing just the opposite. Do not fall for luring advertisements on credit cards, and try to use them as little as possible (only for emergencies in my opinion).
3. Pay Bills on time: This is one of the biggest mistakes you can make during your college life if not followed because it can ruin your credit history for your upcoming future, which means it will be very hard to get a loan for a house, car, etc.
4. Plan a budget: Always record your daily expenses in either a small book or computer program and constantly analyzer where you can reduce expenses.
5. Set Goals: Although last on the list, this is probably one of the most important things to consider because setting goals allows you to achieve more exhilaration in life and not live check by check.


The Cost of Dining Out

By Shawn Chandok

As college students, we love to make excuses. One mantra for life is “I was too busy and didn’t have time.” However, there is 1 big cost associated with this problem, and that is dining out. We all complain how much we hate the dining hall food; however that doesn’t make any change. Using that as another excuse, we love to splurge our money and eat out. It is averaged that each dining out meal costs an average of $26, however since we are in Syracuse and close to a university this number is most likely around $20. Ask yourself how many times you eat out a week? 2? 3? 4? Not taking into consideration anything else, that is almost $60/week of simply food that you could be saving by cooking yourself. Not only that, but by staying home and cooking you are also learning to cook and are at a lower risk of eating unhealthy foods. Furthermore, when you waste such money on eating out you may feel satisfied the moment after you ate, however you always feel stupid for wasting money. In conclusion, it is always more healthy and cheaper to eat in and not splurge unnecessary money on outside meals. This is a very important consideration to take into account during finals week when everyone is in the library till 4 am and have food cravings.


Financial Advice for Mrs. Tiger Woods

Posted by Ahmed Al-Salem

Everyone has their own opinion on the Tiger Woods scandal. There are so many differing reports and theories about the incident and one can get lost in all the details. All we know for sure is that Tiger did something bad and his wife is upset. What should she do? Below is advice from two experts on money and divorce.

• Don't give in to anger or rush your decision: "My first recommendation would be: Take your time, go slow, don't do anything precipitously," says A.J. Barranco (a partner at Barranco & Kircher in Miami, is an experienced Florida matrimonial lawyer and represented Hulk Hogan's wife in their recent divorce) "Try to save your marriage if you can, and if you can't, explore your options." Mark Hill agrees. "Don't listen to your girlfriends and go out and get the most aggressive lawyer in your jurisdiction," he says. He's seen it too many times. Most people are hurt, angry or scared, he says. "They hire an aggressive attorney because they feel that will protect their rights more. But that tends to push their spouse to hire an even more aggressive attorney."

• Get this out of the public eye as fast as you can, and keep it there: "You want to prevent this from becoming any more public than it's become already," says Mr. Barranco. This is turning into a public-relations fiasco, and that's bad news for everyone involved. And by damaging Tiger Woods's reputation, it may be damaging all of their financial interests. Your willingness to take this private and play ball is probably your strongest financial card—and can give you a lot of leverage. Tiger Woods does not want to suffer any more damage in public.

• Even if you do decide to divorce your husband, "choose how you are going to divorce first," says Mark Hill (Certified Financial Divorce Analysts with more than 20 years' experience advising high-net-worth individuals). "Realize that you have that decision to make first." That means looking at nonconfrontational options, such as mediation, before you even think about going to war. One nonconfrontational option: so-called "collaborative divorce," in which the two parties hire lawyers, personal counselors and a neutral financial expert such as a CPA to help them sort through all the issues—but sign an agreement at the outset not to go to court. It's not cheap, says Mr. Hill, but most times it's cheaper than a messy legal fight.

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Stock Options as Part of Compensation

By: Kelsey Hoffman

When taking a job, it is very important to look at the compensation package that you will be receiving. There are tangible and intangible benefits with each offer including your starting salary, commission, bonuses, paid sick or vacation days, and very often stock options. Many companies give stock options as part of their compensation plan in order to make employees more part of the company. These stock options usually have restrictions on them though and can only be exercised after the employee has worked for the company for a certain amount of time.

There are some issues though with stock options and discrepencies as to whether or not they are good motivation for employees as compensation. What if an executive had these stock options and decided to exercise and sell them immediately? Doesn’t he want a part of the company? Doesn’t he think these stocks are worth money? With these questions it makes shareholders weary of whether or not this company is a good investment. For this reason, Goldman Sachs decided that top executives would only receive stock options as a part of their bonuses as it made them more exclusive compensation. Financially this is a very smart idea because if the company goes under then the shares can be repossessed.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Year End Tax Tips

Posted by Chris O'Sullivan

Time to Review Your Taxes — Before It's Too Late

Year-end tax planning always makes sense, but this year it's especially vital.

Convulsions in the markets and the economy have shifted the ground beneath many taxpayers, and next year may bring major tax changes as lawmakers confront the record deficit.

Bottom line: review your taxes before it's too late. "Too often, I can't do anything for people who come to me in February," says Douglas Stives, an accountant with Curchin Group in Red Bank, N.J.

Here are areas especially relevant now. (For more details, go to

First-Time Home-Buyer Tax Credit

Congress has just extended and altered this benefit, making it more generous for many. The new rules took effect on Nov. 6. The provision is a true dollar-for-dollar tax credit of up to $8,000 for 10% of the cost of a home. The credit is also refundable, meaning that even if a buyer doesn't owe $8,000 of tax, she can claim the full benefit and receive a refund check.

The new law has more generous phase-outs. The credit now begins to disappear for single taxpayers with modified adjusted gross incomes of $125,000 and married couples with incomes of $225,000. It is available for purchases through July 1, 2010 if the buyer has a contract in place before May 1, 2010. Unlike the prior law, however, this credit is capped: those buying homes for more than $800,000 get no credit at all, as of Nov. 6.

Click here to read more....

Is Wall St Ready to Start Hiring?

Article by Matthew Maillet

Unemployment indicators tell us that company layoffs bottomed out in early 2009, which may give promise to the idea of finding a job in the business service sector. The Johnson Assosciate, a compensating consulting firm, announced that investment banks alone are expected to increase their workforce by 40% from its 2008 levels.

Companies responded to the economic downturn by cutting down on their workforce in specific company sectors that they deemed unprofitable, however, one can expect an increase in other business areas that they see as a source of company value. For example, Citigroup responded to their financial struggles by cutting down significantly on their total workforce; however, certain sectors such as capital markets and mortgage modification will soon be bulking up in new hires. Citigroup spokesman Alex Samuelson reported that they are still actively seeking to “hire the best financial advisors for our private wealth management.” This trend is expected to be industry-wide. This trend gives promise to entry level applicants fresh out of college. Focus on certain sectors that companies wish to expand. Even more promising, the Johnson Associates firm predicts substantial increases in bonuses for investment bank employees—they predict an average of 40% from 2008 levels.

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Why You Don't Always Need A College Degree

Posted by Lindsey Connell

For years, I told friends and family that I wouldn’t go to college if it wasn’t required in order to practice law. When I decided that law wasn’t for me, I seriously considered giving up on college altogether.

My reasoning was fairly simple, though the reaction I get from most people is something along the lines of: “What? You can’t be serious! A college education is the only way to make money! People without degrees fail!” Heeding this fear-mongering myth, many students my age are spending $50,000+ each on their degrees; some will spend more with graduate and post-graduate studies. But is it worth it?

College has become a kind of a rat-race; the value of a degree is often based on social perception rather than concrete education. The nicer the college one is accepted to, the better one looks, the more likely one is to get a job — at least, thus goes the general belief. This is actually not entirely true, as we’ll be discussing in a bit.

How To Plan Financially for a Baby

Posted by Lindsey Connell
There are many things that you can financially plan for in the future, and planning for a baby is no exception. The first thing to consider is that while you may be making good money now, when you are pregnant or having the baby, you will be working far less hours. Some companies offer short term disability insurance which covers a portion of the pregnancy for six weeks following the birth of the baby. You also could be granted Family Medical Leave Act but it only guarantees that your position will not be filled while you are on leave and does not grant you any money. One of the biggest expenses is child care and is very high when the child is an infant. It is imperative that once you decide to have a baby that you put aside money in a separate savings account because the expenses of having a baby are almost always underestimated. Besides the obvious expenses such as food, diapers, and clothes as the baby constantly grows there are smaller expenses such that add up quickly such as toys and additional clothes and shoes. Although the baby may look adorable in these accessories, it is important to budget for not only the necessary expenses but also for minor ones.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Money Monday: The Best Personal Finance Stories from the Weekend

Posted by Ka Lee Angel Lee

Some of the best personal finance stories you might have missed this weekend:

In Forbes, we identified eight last-minute ways to cut your 2009 taxes, how self-employed workers can boost their retirement savings if they act before December 31st, and how to be a tax-smart charitable giver.

The Seattle Times wrote about a single mom with two children who was audited because the IRS didn’t think she could live on $10 an hour in Seattle, an expensive city that's home to corporations like Amazon, Starbucks and Nordstrom.

The New York Times, meanwhile, puzzled over why those who make financial resolutions have such a hard time following through with them, noticed that companies with high-quality balance sheets like Wal-Mart and Apple have not risen as much in the stock rally as those laden with debt, and showed that buying a foreclosed home can help you find a bargain but can come with risks. For more on buying your first home, check out this package from Forbes.

click here to read more

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Cash is KING!

Post by David Held

I walk into a McDonald’s and a lady swipes her American Express for a $2.68 meal, I look to my friend and say, “Isn’t it easier to pay in cash, than worrying about paying a three dollar credit bill?” I then proceed to get my meal and pay in cash. I wonder, does anyone carry cash on them anymore? Every day I see more credit cards being used and less cash being used. The truth of the matter is when people use credit cards they feel as if they are not giving anything up in exchange for what they purchase. Even when paying the statement, the cash is never seen, it is just deducted from your bank account.

When paying in cash people tend to be more conservative with what they buy. Cash feels more value than a piece of plastic. The problem with credit cards is that they can get you into a lot of trouble, especially when you are spending money that you do not have! Paying for everything in cash will not allow you to overspend, because once you run out, you cannot buy anymore.

Having a credit card means you will spend more. “The average family today carries $8,000 in credit card debt according to the American Bankers' Association.” If you are going to buy, start spending cash, it could ultimately help your financial future!

Sources #1, #2, #3

American’s Are Still in a Charitable Mood: Other Way to Give

By: Sara Sindelar

The Holidays are a time for giving to the less fortunate. Though, this year there may be many more who are in need, only 20% of Americans say they are reducing what they will be giving to charity this year. People feel that due to the economy it is more important to give to those in need more than ever, states the American Red Cross poll.

With giving comes tax deductions which help both those receiving the gift and those giving. Those giving to individuals receive an annual gift tax exclusion which allows one to give up to $13,000.

Though many people may be able to keep up with their charitable contributions many are becoming their own charity. With the economic hard times people are struggling to donate the way that they always have to charities and individuals. Though, money is not the only way to give back to your community and foundations. Places are looking for volunteers and any other way you can give time or help to their organization. Here are some suggestions on how to get involved passed money with your favorite organization.

First, Take your professional skills and use them to help out. Second, Clean our your own attic or garage and donate things you never use or sell them and give the money to the foundation. You can see if your credit card gives points to donate to your charity or partner with your company for matching-gift programs. Ask your family to donate to your charity of choice instead of getting you a gift. You can also organize your own fundraiser like a walk a thon or bake sale. There are still many other ways to give in a hard economic time during this holiday season.

Debit or Credit: What to Choose?

By: Laura Reginelli

Debit versus credit. Sometimes it can be difficult deciphering between the two and knowing which one fits your lifestyle better. Both are relatively new to the financial world; however, debit cards have been available for a shorter amount of time. Either way, both options allow you the freedom of not carrying cash and still being able to make purchases. When deciding between the two there are a few things that you should acknowledge and take into consideration.

Credit: Credit cards appeared first in comparison to debit cards. Essentially when using a credit card you are using someone else’s money to make a purchase and then promising to pay the bill later. Most credit cards generally have very high interest rates, which can be a major drawback if you have trouble paying your bills.

Debit: Debit cards carry the same convenience that credit cards do but you are not borrowing the money. Instead the money from a debit card is coming directly from your bank account. This eliminates the hassle of paying the credit card bill or having high interest rates accumulate debt. When using a debit card you generally have a choice of how you want the payment to go through, either debit or credit. With debit you have to enter a PIN number and the money is taken directly from your account.

When choosing between debit and credit take a look at your spending habits and determine what is most important to you.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

How to Lower Credit Card Rates

Posted by Lindsey Connell

If you are unhappy with your credit card rate and wish for it to be lowered, the solution may be just as simple as you asking the company. In a survey conducted, half of credit card users lowered their credit rates simply by asking for it. If you think about it, credit card companies want to make money so they will not lower rates unless they know that they may lose you as a customer if they don’t. If a credit card company denies this lowering, maybe you can make a deal so that it is temporarily reduced and that is better than nothing. A major reason as to why credit card companies may cut you a deal is because there is so much competition among them and other credit card companies. If their rates are too high than they will lose customers so once complaints begin flowing in about how their rates are too high, they may drop them lower for all their customers in fear that they will lose them. Also, if you are denied this low interest rate, the company is legally obligated to explain why to you so you can take that feedback, improve or change what you did before and reapply.

Debit Cards: A safe way to pay

Posted by Lindsey Connell

We seem to see this controversy all the time: Debit cards vs. Credit cards. The truth is that they can’t really be compared too closely because they are used very differently and while some people may be responsible with one of the cards, they may be unable to keep themselves out of debt with the other one. We will take a close look today at debit cards, because while they have their negative side, they are also a very beneficial and convenient thing to have. One major benefit to having a debit card is that you are spending the money you have at the moment. By only spending money that you have in your possession, you don’t have to worry about making payments to the credit card company or deal with the stress of debt. These cards are also similar to credit cards in the fact that they provide security and rewards. Certain banks match a percentage of the money you spend with a debit card and deposit it directly into your bank account. Another benefit is that if you spend more money than you have in your bank account, you simply have to pay a fee but are not considered in debt.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Personal Finance: To buy or not to buy an extended warranty?

Posted By: Scott Graulich

It's a classic shopper's dilemma. No, we're not talking paper vs. plastic. How about: Do I buy the extended warranty or not?

With Black Friday behind us and Cyber Monday ahead, the holiday season is in full cash-register mode. And even in a recession-addled year, personal electronics – laptops, Blu-ray players, iPhones and Xboxes – still top many gift lists. And that's where extended warranties come into play.

Click here to read more

Set aside time for financial housekeeping

Posted By: Scott Graulich

When times are tough or life is busy, it's easy to lose track of time and the commitment to all the necessities in life that need to be accomplished. But like a datebook or online calendar that you fill up daily, adding tasks important to your personal finances are one way of making sure they get done.

Your calendar for living has 168 hours a week. Take away 56 of those for 8 hours of sleep each night; take 40 of those if you work full time; and you have 72 waking hours to get stuff done. Your sleep and work hours may be different so adjust accordingly.

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Personal finance books for everyone

Posted by Ka Lee Angel Lee

The Associated Press

Posted: 11/30/2009 08:41:53 PM PSTc

The approach of a new decade means a chance for a fresh start with your financial habits. Maybe your loved ones could use a nudge in that direction, too.

Either way, it's time to cast out any idea that books about money have to be boring. There's an abundance of well-written, even entertaining books on the market that could make savvy holiday gifts for either the personal finance nerd in your life or that special someone who could benefit from good information.

What follows is a sampler of books for all ages to whet your per-fi appetite.

click here to read more

$123.5 million in tax refunds unclaimed

Posted by: Lily Mei

What could you do with $1,148?

Find missing money
That's the average amount of the tax refund checks that were returned in 2009 to the Internal Revenue Service because they were undeliverable.

Whether your unclaimed refund is less or more, any amount would be nice with the holidays just around the corner.

In all, the IRS has 107,831 refund checks totaling $123.5 million in missing money.

The main reason the checks were returned is simple: The taxpayers moved after filing their 2008 tax returns and forgot to give the IRS their new addresses.

In some cases, the addresses on people's tax forms were illegible, causing the checks to be issued to wrong addresses.

Let the IRS know where you live
Whatever the reason, the IRS has money that could be yours. All you have to do is let the agency know where to send it.

The simplest method is to provide your address electronically, via the agency's refund-tracking Web page.

Taxpayers can also call 1-800-829-1954 to check on a refund and receive instructions on how to update an address.

And the IRS still accepts a mailed Form 8822 (.pdf download) for address changes, but this method will take longer.

More from MSN Money and
10 ways to lower your 2009 taxes now
Uncle Sam wants a slice of prize winnings
How to find lost life insurance policies
Legal tax havens? Thank heaven!
2010: The best year to die?
The best way to invest a windfall
.Tracking down your refund
When using either the Web or phone option, have your 2008 return handy. You'll need to provide your Social Security number, your filing status and the amount of the refund shown on your tax return.

If the money went back to the IRS, you will be prompted to enter your correct mailing information during the tracking process.

However, if you moved and simply want to use the online or phone option to let the IRS know about your new address, you're out of luck. You'll have to use Form 8822 to ensure future refunds make it to your new home.

Click here to read more

Monday, November 30, 2009

Credit Cards: how the disadvantages may outweigh the benefits for some

Posted by Lindsey Connell

Credit card companies try to get you to spend as much as possible because the more you spend, the more they benefit. Credit card companies receive a percentage of each transaction a credit card holder has and these companies bank on the fact that the more a holder spends, the better chance that they will borrow more money with the company’s high interest rates. If the holder then exceeds their credit limit, the companies charge additional fees, which can be expensive. By relying on a credit card for most purchases, it makes budgeting and saving money more difficult and can often times lead to debt. Although carrying a credit card seems more convenient than money, the disadvantages of it seem to weigh heavily over the advantages. Hidden fees and penalties associated with credit cards often surprise many card holders because making purchases with a piece of plastic doesn’t always feel like spending money. Although credit cards seem dangerous, they are also useful for people who are responsible and stay on top of their payments. For those who have a secured amount of money coming into their possession soon but not at the moment, they can purchase something on credit now and pay for it when they get the sum of money. This is a major advantage that credit cards have over cash.

2009 Christmas Spending Plans Slightly Below 2008 Levels

Posted by Lindsey Connell

Shoppers around the country say they are planning to spend an average of $417 for gifts this holiday season, down from $431 last year and $859 in 2007 according to the twenty-fourth annual survey on holiday spending from the American Research Group, Inc. The overall average planned spending is down a little over 3% from 2008 and it is the lowest level of planned spending recorded by the American Research Group since 1990 when planned spending was $399 (planned spending was $419 in 1991).

Results from the 2009 survey show that:
Those planning to shop on the Internet (42%) have surpassed those planning to shop from catalogs (36%) for the first time in the history of the survey.
Planned spending among those shopping on the Internet ($641) exceeds planned spending among those saying they will shop from catalogs ($450) for the first time.
Shoppers saying they will wait for sales say they will spend more ($439) than those saying they will pay full price for gifts ($402) for the first time.

Shoppers saying they will use the Internet to purchase gifts will spend on average $641, compared to $536 in 2008, an increase of nearly 20%.
Shoppers saying they will wait for sales will spend on average $439, compared to $382 in 2008, an increase of nearly 15%.
In telephone interviews with a random sample

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Personal Finance: Manage Your Money Better Online

Posted by Ka Lee Angel Lee
By Bill Snyder

Mon, November 23, 2009CIOLet's be honest. Most of us could do a better job handling our money. When times are good, we probably spend too much. When times are bad, too many of us stick our heads in the sand. Both, of course, are bad ideas. The Web has a wealth, indeed a surfeit, of tools and information to help you manage your personal finances.

To get an idea of just how much, simply take a look at Google's personal finance directory. It's overwhelming. So I've culled the list to find Web sites and tools that you'll find helpful and I find trustworthy. This is by no means "a best of the Web" list. It's too difficult to make that call, and I've avoided sites that have no free information.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Personal finance: Keep holiday spending under control this season

Posted by: Andrew Pia
Written by: Kathy DiCenso

As the year comes to a close, spending in most households heads up -- on holiday gifts, entertainment and, depending on where you live, on already high energy costs.

It's easy to lose control. So make a plan now to minimize debt while putting money where it absolutely needs to go.

Put your current finances under a microscope

Call it a gift from you to you. If you're trying to get your finances in order, plan a visit now with a financial adviser, such as a certified financial planner professional. This meeting should extend beyond your holiday spending to setting goals for saving, investing and extinguishing debt and setting financial goals for the future. You also can examine your spending patterns and the emotional drivers behind many of our financial decisions.

Create a holiday budget

If you have credit card debt now, you don't want to elevate those numbers. Set a spending number you will not exceed and start setting aside cash in an account to cover it. When should you make the budget? As early in the year as possible, but if you haven't started shopping yet, figure out how much money you can realistically set aside and stay as close to that number as you can.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Money Monday: The Best Personal Finance Stories from the Weekend

Posted by Ka Lee Angel Lee

Here is a run down of the personal finance stories you might have missed this weekend:

In Forbes, we wrote about why long-term investors might want to think twice before investing in gold (whether the metal itself or stocks from gold mining companies), how to push for a better retirement plan at work and how to avoid costly mistakes in your Individual Retirement Account.

The New York Times, meanwhile, discussed how investors are in better shape with the Dow at 10,000 now than they were with the Dow was at 10,000 in 1999.

Los Angeles Times columnist Kathy M. Kristof (a sometimes Forbes contributor) listed steps to take before the end of the year to lower your tax bill.

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Choosing the right card

By Alma Zhumagulova

There are many payment options available nowadays: cash, checks, credit and debit cards and other types of cards. Soon after their invention, credit cards became widely popular in American society – one of the top payment methods. However, after the financial crises hit the wallets of consumers, the statistics have shown that now credit cards are out and debit cards are in.
While it might seem that debit cards are very safe and convenient, there are several cons to this payment option too. On the plus side, debit cards are very easy to obtain and are equivalents of cash, i.e. they let you pay for your purchases with your own money while not having to carry vast amounts of cash. However, if your debit card information is stolen, then you have much more responsibility for unauthorized payments than with the credit card. So paying with a debit card for online transactions is not the best idea. Another drawback is that debit cards don’t help you improve your credit score while they might “help” you worsen it: overdraft and other debit card fees are reported to credit bureaus and you cannot dispute them once they are incurred. Before choosing one or another method of payment you should consider all the pros and cons of each and also the purposes that you use them for as well as your long term goals.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Parking Payout

Posted by Shawn Gao

When I came back from NYC, I drove with two parking violation tickets in car, which is 100 dollar each. Without knowing any parking policy, I was fined in front of parking signs, which said “No Parking Without Commercial Vehicle”, but before I parked in that place with asking one police in that area. I cannot see why the parking violation fee in NYC is so expensive by comparing with violation fee in Syracuse, which is 35 dollar each.
People in cities also claim what they happened when they got the violation tickets. For example, Mr. Robert who did not find out a violation ticket which was find 5 years ago, and received a letter from city collection agent for his added- up penalty $1,012. Only choice that he had is either write a check to payout or hire a lawyer. As that second option would have cost at least twice as much, he really had no choice at all.
What can people do? City councilman Bernard argue if collection agent could limit fines to no more than five times the original penalty. However, other officials are considering whether limiting fines would decrease the parking revenue or not.
I would hope the city will still choose to do the right thing.

Tips for making college more affordable

Posted by Lindsey Connell

(CBS) For many parents, saving for college is a daunting task. Stephanie AuWerter, Editor of, has some tips for making college more affordable.

Between inflation, student competitiveness and school selectivity, college costs are rising - fast. Your best bet is to start saving now so that you have some money put away for your children when they're ready to start college. "In 18 years, these numbers could be $175,000 for a public school and $375,000 for a private school [for four years]," says AuWerter.

For starters, try a 529 college savings plan. "The account grows tax deferred and withdrawals taken for college costs are tax free," says AuWerter. Picking the right plan, however, can be a little tricky. AuWerter suggests looking at your home state's plan first, but if the investments aren't great or the fees are too high, look elsewhere. For a breakdown, click here to visit's article on the best and worst 529 plans.

What to do to save for college

Posted by Lindsey Connell

It is important to know both how to save and when to start saving for college. The first important thing to know is that the sooner you begin saving, the better. Parents should begin putting money aside for their child’s college fund the moment they are born. Also, once the child begins working, they should immediately begin putting aside a percentage of their income for college. Another helpful tip is to invest in stocks because stocks are best for your college saving portfolio. Besides this, most people saving for college think they have to have the entire amount saved, but loans and grants can bridge the gap between what you have saved and what the school costs. Even with this in mind, it is important to save as much money as possible because with the economy down and more people requesting scholarships and loans, the chance of getting one is slightly more challenging. Another tip is to consider 529 college plans but it is important to know that they can be extremely expensive. With this plan, the account grows tax deferred and withdrawals taken for college costs are tax free.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Do not let money ruin your honey

By Jameel Murray

Money issues are often cited as one of the top reasons for divorce in the United States. Recently, Shaquille O’neal and his long time wife Shaunie O’neal filed for divorce. Shaunie O’neal claimed that her former husband hid and kept money away from her while the Cleveland Cavaliers star claimed his wife mismanaged funds which included her buying a house for their personal trainer. The couple did not sign a prenuptial agreement, which would give Shaunie O’neal half of the couple’s assets. This story is yet another example of how important financial responsibility is to keeping a healthy relationship.
Managing finances as a couple is extremely important. Whether a couple both are financially well off or not, differences in the money management of a couple would cause major difficulties in a relationship. Money is one of the most sensitive subjects of any relationship. Studies have shown that the spouse that makes the more money tends to control all the financial decisions in a relationship. Many financial advisers suggest that couples have two separate checking accounts. This would allow both couples to individually manage their funds.


Asian Real Estate Investment Market Buoyed in 3Q

Posted By Shawn Gao

The Asian real estate investment market continued to gain momentum in the 3Q of 2009 as capital values generally stabilised, sentiment improved and the bid-ask spread narrowed, particularly for quality yield-accretive assets in prime locations.

Direct real estate investment in Asia jumped 25 percent quarter-on-quarter to an estimated US$9.1bn. Hong Kong accounted for 36 percent of the total volume followed by China, Korea and Taiwan. However, overall transaction volume remained low in the first nine months of 2009, falling by 49 percent year-on-year according to CB Richard Ellis’ 3Q 2009 Asia Investment MarketView report.

The office sector attracted US$4.7bn of investment during the quarter, or 52 percent of the total flow of capital. Residential properties accounted for 16 percent, with the retail sector comprising 13 percent of the total volume. Despite the relatively low transaction volume in the hospitality sector, a total of six hotel transactions worth a combined total of US$300m were concluded during the quarter, surpassing within three months the five transactions recorded in the first six months of 2009. Transactions involving industrial properties also showed signs of improvement with a total of 24 deals concluded between July to September, a similar figure to the total number of deals completed in the first six months of the year.
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Thursday, November 12, 2009

There is hope

By Jonathan Tse

On the week of November 7th, there was an all time low of 502,000 first-time claims for unemployment insurance since the week of January 3rd. Some believe that this could be a sign that the problem of joblessness is beginning to be solved and that unemployment rates may begin to decline. This number of first-time job claims was much lower than expected since the estimate for this week was 510,000. It is believed that this is a sign that companies are cutting jobs at a slower pace than at the beginning of the year, but economists say that joblessness rates are expected to rise until they peak during mid-2010. The reason for this is that analysts say that claims must fall to approximately 450,000 or below to indicate that the economy is adding jobs. The concern that there will be a jobless recovery still worries many, but the government is working to improve the situation. President Obama announced that he plans to hold a new jobs forum and economic growth in December. Also, last week President Obama signed a bill that would provide 20 more weeks of jobless benefits to the unemployed. This plan will be funded by extending the long-standing unemployment tax on employers to 2011.

How to Budget Money During College

Posted By,
Meredith Anderson

College tuition is expensive enough these days. When we budget our money we might not realize how much er spend on our daily expenses. Rent, eating out, books, clothes, alcohol, and daily coffee runs, are expenses that we might not always budget for but in reality probably spend the most on.

There are a couple things that will help reduce our expenses by a lot. Reducing your meal plan to only purchasing a realistic amount is a good start. Most of us have double the meals we actually use a week. Right there is hundreds of dollars a month we can save. Buying used books is not as fancy as brand new ones, however each semester you can save a couple hundred on books that are already highlighted, and you probably won't look at ever again! Of course then there are the simple things that can save us over time. Making our own snacks, coffee, and evening reusing notebooks will add up after four years.

Its important to stay informed about your finances. Try to use cash as much as possible and make simple lists and spread sheets to keep track of your expenses. It is true that not everything we learn in college will matter after graduation, however the way you manage your money will be a life time lesson to remember.


Personal Finance: Time to get serious about Roth IRAs


For so many years, people have planned for retirement thinking that they would pay lower taxes than they paid while working. However, it’s no longer a sure thing.

Many people have saved money toward their retirement by putting it into tax deferred accounts. They will have to pay taxes on that money as they take withdrawals. Approximately 85 percent of Social Security benefits will be taxed for many of these tax deferred savers.

In 2001, the federal deficit was out of control and tax cuts were set by President Bush that are set to expire in 2010. This creates a chance that tax rates will be much higher than they were over the last decade.

Roth IRAs were created in 1997 tax legislation. Roth IRAs allow workers to put away money that could build tax-free for retirement. Contributions to Roth IRAs do not qualify for tax deductions, but the money that is withdrawn years later, in retirement, is not taxed. That is especially beneficial to younger savers whose accounts have many years to earn interest, dividends and gains that can compound over time. The law that created Roth IRAs also included provisions for allowing taxpayers to convert their existing tax-deferred IRAs into Roths.

But Roth IRAs have had their limits, too. Only taxpayers who earn less than $105,000 ($166,000 for joint filers) in 2009 can contribute the maximum amount ($5,000 per person, with a $1,000 additional catch up contribution for folks 50 or older) to a Roth IRA. And only people earning less than $100,000, single or married filing jointly, can convert their traditional IRAs to Roths.

In 2010, some of those rules will change. That $100,000 limit disappears, so folks with higher incomes can convert traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs. Deciding whether to do that, and how to go about it, is going to be difficult and complex. Here are some considerations.

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Posted By: Amy Nightingale

Celebrities are in Debt Too

In our current economy, we all seem to focus on the common persons’ financial issues. Yet we should keep in mind that celebrities get hit just as hard, maybe even harder, than us. They are human too and have the same financial issues as others whether they are bogged down from the stock market decline or are obsessed with purchasing items that they know they can’t afford. Anyone can get wrapped up in a specific lifestyle and lose track of their budgets and overall financing. For example, Mike Tyson was commonly known to make outrageous purchases which put him into some major debt over the years. His most news worthy purchase was a set of tigers! Apparently he was paying about $500,000 per month to keep up his lavish lifestyle, even though he couldn’t afford it. He was a person who spent money on whatever he wanted. Another celebrity who was financially hurting a few years ago is Donald Trump. Even though this man owned multiple hotels, plazas and casinos his own personal liabilities came to $900 million alone. About a decade ago, Trump’s three casinos and Plaza Hotel were pushed into bankruptcy. He also lost his yacht and Trump shuttle, and lost his mansion and $14 million in his divorce. It goes to show that the common person is not the only one with financial issues.


By: Kelsey Hoffman

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Investing by burgers and beer

By Beth Kowitt, reporter
November 3, 2009
Posted by Alma Zhumgulova

NEW YORK (Fortune) -- You decide you're going to have some friends over to watch a little NASCAR. You hit the supermarket and buy some burgers, hot dogs and a 12-pack. You get home, fire up the grill, turn on the tube and let your dog out.

What does all this have to do with investing?

Steaks, beer, cable, car racing, pets -- those are all businesses that Intrepid Capital (ICMBX) fund manager Mark Travis owns stock in. They don't exactly fit the traditional definition of consumer staples, but even in an economic downturn, he says they're not going away.

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How to invest $10,000 right now

By Harry Domash

Posted by Lily Mei

You're not rich. You own a few mutual funds in a 401k or an individual retirement account. And you're ready to take the next step: to buy a few stocks with $10,000 or so sitting in certificates of deposit or languishing in a bank account.

But how do you get started?

Let's begin by admitting this much: All of us, no matter how good we are at stock picking, are going to pick an occasional loser. That's why diversification is important. How many stocks must you own? Opinions vary, but dividing your $10,000 into 10 chunks of $1,000 each is probably sufficient. With many discount brokers charging less than $10 a trade, the commissions won't be significant.

However, different folks have different investment needs. I'll describe three strategies, including links to screens to see today's picks. Feel free to mix and match the stocks turned up by the screens or stick with the strategy that best suits your needs.

I used free online tools to build these three screens. The first two use StockScreen123, arguably the most capable free screening tool available on the Web. The third uses the screener, which I find easier to use but not as capable.

As tools, screens work best if rebalanced every six months. Rebalancing means that after six months, you'd rerun the screen and update the portfolio based on the new screen results.

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