Monday, November 30, 2009

"Black Friday"


Posted By Pete Hill


Following Thanksgiving, one of the biggest shopping days of the year occurs. This date is called “Black Friday.” Many people head out in the middle of the night to find the best deals at best selection at stores. Coming with that are articles describing the best ways to get the most for your money, and at times avoiding the traffic.

According to retail-pricing expert and partner at marketing consultants, this year more retailers are trying to sell products using an actual dollar price point, versus a certain percentage discount. This would show a much larger decrease for a higher priced item than a cheaper item. Also, using facebook and twitter can give you updates on sales on Black Friday, as long as an iPhone application that will scan the barcode and tell you if it can be sold for cheaper anywhere else.

Another way to find deals and avoid the traffic and lines, is to shop online. The day after Thanksgiving the malls were packed, but there was no reason you had to go there to get the benefit of the deals. Plenty of sites offer coupon codes for online and brick-and-mortar retailers.
However, despite all of the frenzy and craze associated with “Black Friday”, many people showed up but did not open their wallets as much as last year. Spending went down and as a result, many stores will probably have to add additional discounts to ensure their Christmas inventory gets sold.

Sources:
http://money.cnn.com/2009/11/25/pf/saving/hot_black_friday_deals/index.htm
http://money.cnn.com/2009/11/24/pf/saving/shop_online/index.htm
http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1943398,00.html

How to Save Money While Shopping Online


Posted by: Pete Hill


The online holiday shopping season officially begins Monday. So in this week’s Your Money column, I explored different ways to get cash back on your online purchases, earn extra credit-card rewards, or land other discounts.
The savings strategies I examined all had one thing in common: using an indirect route to get to a retailer’s Web site. That might include a site like FatWallet, Upromise, or your credit-card issuer’s shopping portal. By accessing the retailers through these sites, you can earn extra savings.
I surveyed about 10 of these programs, which I outline in the column. Which did we miss? What are some of your favorite ways to save money when shopping online? Please share your tips in the comment section below.

Click Here to Read More

Sunday, November 29, 2009

HSBC Makes a Profit in its Third Quarter



By Rico K Setyo

HSBC, the London based bank had a very surprising third quarter. Their third quarter pretax profit was significantly ahead of the bank’s expectation and of a year earlier. This improvement came from a few factors, one being lower loan provisions and the stability of its corporate and investment banking division. Another factor that helped HSBC with beating expectations was the profitability of their credit card division in the US.

HSBC North America Chief Executive Brendan McDonagh mentioned that the improvements are early signs of a recovering consumer confidence. However, he stresses the idea that the recovery in consumer spending was at "very early, early stages," adding that the means for a stronger recovery in consumer spending would be a drop in unemployment, which could take place in the future, possibly 2010.

The bank is said to be the favorite choice of many analysts because of its heavy exposure to Asia and other emerging markets, and because it never had to turn to the government for bailout money. Since there is evident stability, there is no question that the bank will not be able to continue this trend in the future.

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Agents without principals



Posted by Rico K Setyo
By Harrison Hong

What a year! Lehman Brothers collapsed on Sept. 15th, 2008. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped by 43 percent. And since March 2009, the market has rallied and made up a significant fraction of its losses. The basic storyline for the financial crisis and recovery is familiar. The housing bubble deflated. Banks were caught holding over-valued exotic mortgage instruments bought using short-term debt. The Federal Reserve Bank and the Treasury bailed out finance firms both directly through giveaways and indirectly through the purchase of an array of assets. It’s anybody’s guess whether this crisis will return when the government withdraws its support.

What is clear is that this crisis reveals deep flaws in the financial system. In light of the millions of Americans out of work and the costly bailouts, many understandably believe one of these flaws to be bankers without principles who took excessive risks and endangered the economy. Reforms proposed by the Obama administration reflect this perspective. These proposals include a new consumer finance protection administration, attempts to link pay to longer-term stock performance and capital regulation to limit access to extreme leverage.

Some version of these proposals will likely be implemented, but its ability to prevent another crisis is far from clear. First, many of the subprime loans that are thought to be predatory and would presumably be forbidden by the new consumer finance administration actually gave many families free housing for some time. Second, these free homes ultimately came at the expense of sophisticated bankers (at least those who were not bailed out) who owned lots of shares of their company’s stock. And third, there have already been several attempts at improved capital regulation, known as the Basel Agreements.

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Black Friday Boasts $595 Million in U.S. Online Holiday Spending, Up 11 Percent Versus Year Ago


Posted by Stefanie Marty

RESTON, Va., Nov. 29 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- comScore (Nasdaq: SCOR), a leader in measuring the digital world, today reported holiday season retail e-commerce spending for the first 27 days of the November - December 2009 holiday season. For the holiday season-to-date, $10.57 billion has been spent online, marking a 3-percent increase versus the corresponding days last year. Black Friday (November 27) saw $595 million in online sales, making it the second heaviest online spending day to date in 2009 and representing an 11-percent increase versus Black Friday 2008.

"Black Friday, better known as a shopping bonanza in brick-and-mortar retail stores, is increasingly becoming one of the landmark days in the online holiday shopping world," said comScore chairman, Gian Fulgoni. "The $595 million in online spending this Black Friday represents the second heaviest online spending day of the season-to-date and a double-digit increase from last year. While this acceleration in spending suggests the online holiday season may be shaping up slightly more optimistically than anticipated, it may also reflect the heavy discounting and creative promotions being put forth by retailers that now encompass the use of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Cyber Monday - the traditional kick-off to the online holiday shopping season - and the subsequent weeks will be the real test for how online retailers fare this season. That said, this is a very encouraging start."

Click here to read more

Black Friday



By Stefanie Marty

When thinking of Black Friday people think more of big sales rather than just the day after Thanksgiving. Black Friday is traditionally known as the biggest shopping day of the year and even this year during the recession not only retailers, but also consumers were excited for the day to come about.

This year different bargains were expected with some of the lowest prices in recent years offered on electronic items. But it is important for consumers not to just go and buy stuff, there are some guidelines that should be followed. Online there are different tips about Black Friday shopping given to consumers.

As a consumer research the offerings online in advance and if possible, pre-order the products online. Dealnews.com or theblackfriday.com are two websites that contain information about the available discounts.

Futher it is important to make your Black Friday sales early because bargains will sell out faster than ever. This year consumers are really looking for bargains and since the levels of inventory are lower than ever, not a lot of massive markdowns will be available. But it is also important not only to look at the bargain and thus the price. Have a plan and think of what you really need, in other words think of value instead of savings and know what you are looking for.

A certain pattern was noticeable at this year’s Black Friday shopping. Even though there were some great electronic bargains offered, consumers stuck to the basics (clothing, sports gear, and watches). This shows that due to the recession more money is spent on practical gifts rather than on games and just fun items.

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"Free" credit reports- just not true



Written by Michael Rivezzo

The term "free" is a popular buzz word for consumers, every company would use the term loosely in their commercials if it was legal, but companies can't just use the word "free" lightly, it actually has to mean something for nothing. Now the government is taking the initiative to investigate those annoying commercials offering "free" credit reports. After 11,000 complaints have been filed with the Better Business Bureau stating that consumers where actually charged a monthly fee of $15 dollars. Many complaints stated that the commercials are actually misleading and that the true information lies in the the small print.

The truth is there is only one website where people can actually obtain a free credit report, with no strings attached. Its a government owned website: AnnualCreditReport.com. Through this website everybody is allowed one free credit report a year. The credit-monitoring business is a $700 million dollar a year industry, where analyst saw that people do not need to be checking their credit so much, they can simply get by with the one free credit report a year.

Decision are soon to be made on whether the government will allow these "free" credit report ads to continue. I think they should allow the companies to change the way they market their service, then disallow them from using that stupid jingle.

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/11/22/eveningnews/main5739490.shtml

http://blog.nj.com/njv_editorial_page/2009/11/free_credit_report_websites_wh.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/03/your-money/credit-scores/03scores.html

Instant approval credit cards



by Tiffany Mann

Posted by Michael Rivezzo

Qualifying for an instant approval credit card is much more difficult today than it has ever been. We can all remember getting offers in the mail for 0% APR for an introductory period on credit cards. It was almost a given if we applied for these cards we would receive the card in the mail a few weeks later. That is no longer the case today.

There many bad credit borrowers out there who are being denied credit cards. If your credit score has declined over the last few months you may find that credit cards are very lenient when deciding to give you access to lines of credit. They realize that missing payments from borrowers is causing them to lose money over the long run.

If you have missed a credit card payment
or any type of loan payment over the last year you are likely going to find your credit score has greatly dropped. If your credit score has dropped you are also going to find that the interest rate on your credit cards increase drastically. If you apply for a new credit card you are also going to find that the interest rate is much higher than you would have ever imagined.

Click here to read more Link 1

Consumer Finance Tips for Holiday Shoppers



Written By: Lisa Matthys

We all know Christmas is coming when retailers start putting up festive decorations and advertisements drawing consumers into their special deals only available on Black Friday. Even most employers give Black Friday off to employees as it is the day after Thanksgiving, initiating the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. As the economy continues to struggle, the unemployment rate rests at an all-time high, giving consumers very little savings to spend on gifts this holiday season.

With the economy in a recession, consumers need to find other ways to give their family the gifts they want. Many turn to credit cards to help finance the lack of immediate capital. However, experts say to try to limit your credit card use to online purchases and big ticket items. If you do use your credit card this holiday season, make sure to pay on time to avoid any extra penalty fees.

Many shoppers, approximately 43%, plan to use debit cards instead of credit cards. However, there are drawbacks to using debit cards over credit cards. When purchasing online and your security is compromised, your entire bank account can be withdrawn without protection. Likewise, if you spend more than you have in your account, heavy overdraft fees will apply. So shop wisely this holiday season!

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Harvard Business School's New Curriculum: Everyday Finance



Posted By: Lisa Matthys

Written By: David K. Randall

Harvard Business School is the place where the chief executive officers, hedge fund stars and Goldman Sachs ( GS - news - people ) partners of tomorrow learn their craft. Now, in a break from tradition, a new course is focusing on the troubles of everyday consumers.

Consumer Finance, as it is known, will look at topics ranging from the best ways to boost the savings rate to how banks can deliver better products for low-income customers. Instead of proceeding along the conventional HBS path and delving into corporate case studies, students will focus on the financial lives of real middle-class families. In one exercise, they create a budget for a Boston family of average means, figuring in costs for such everyday staples as food, transportation and insurance.

"By the time our MBAs graduate, they will have looked at financial statements for hundreds of companies," said Peter Tufano, the professor who teaches the course along with Howell E. Jackson, a faculty member at Harvard Law. "Other than in our course, they would have never looked at the financial statements of a single household."

Traditionally, business schools have shied away from teaching consumer finance, despite the fact that households represent $61 trillion in assets. As business schools grew in the 19th century, they traditionally taught men how to run corporations, while the study of household finances became the focus of programs tailored to women.

Click here to read more!

Friday, November 27, 2009

When Marriage Means Medical Bills


Posted By Pete Hill

Q: My fiancé, Alan, recently had a heart attack. If we go ahead with the wedding, he will be covered by my health insurance (he has none), but I'll become liable for all his current medical bills. What should I do?
A: Like Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, you've been misinformed. Individuals are not legally liable for debts their spouses incurred before they were married. As a practical matter, though, those bills do indeed come with your fiancé. The fact that you're not personally on the hook doesn't mean that, as a couple, you won't have to figure out how you're going to pay them off.
We understand why you're reluctant to put yourself in this kind of hole. But before his heart attack, Alan was the man you were committed to spending the rest of your life with, and now he really needs you. Are you obligated to marry him? No. But you do have a big-time moral obligation to help the guy out.

Click Here to Read More

Guide to Online Holiday Shopping

By Quang Nguyen



With the advancement of the Internet, there are many ways to save money on online shopping for this year's holiday sales. Instead of going straight to the store's website, there are other websites that help you compare prices. You can go to FatWallet.com, Ebates.com, or a credit card issuer's online shopping portal to help you make intelligent decision. Beside getting a better deal, you can also earn extra rewards or get cash back from your credit cards.

In order to reach out to the new generation of Internet users, companies are now on sites such as Facebook and Twitter to promote their products. When you get connected to their pages, they will offer you special promotions that you don't see on regular ads. National stores such as JCPenney and Best Buy are part of this innovation.

Credit card companies also try to push sale through the use of their cards. Chase recently has a program where they pay for a random's customer bill when he or she use Chase card. Bank of America has a program called Add It Up where you get point on the amount of money you spend on their card.

However, customers need to be smart when making decision. There are a lot of scams on the Internet. For example, they could get fake products. The popular hamster toy Zhu Zhu now has an imitated version called Zhu-Zhus. Some websites also appears just for this holiday sale season to steal people's identities and credit card information. In addition, beware of phishing emails from eBay and PayPal. Moreover, sites that are collecting donations are mostly fake.

Sources:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/28/your-money/28money.html?ref=business
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33670121/ns/technology_and_science-tech_and_gadgets/
http://www.katv.com/news/stories/1109/681903.html

Do Not Overspend during the Holiday Season!

Post by David Held

With the Holidays coming around consumers must be careful in regards to what they spend. It is expected that everyone will be spending, but some people will spend more than they can afford. It is crucial that consumers monitor what is in their bank accounts and budget accordingly.

Credit cards and debit cards can become a recipe for disaster. If I had to pick between the two I would go with a debit card because one you use the card it directly takes the money out of your bank account. Credit cards allow people to spend money that they do not have. I prefer cash over both types of plastic because when purchasing with cash it actually fells like you are giving up something for something in exchange, which is not the case when you use plastic.

If consumers overspend using their debit cards they will be hit with overdraft fees. If people overspend with credit cards, at first nothing will happen, but if the consumer cannot afford to pay back credit card companies their credit scores will decrease. Having your credit score go down makes it extremely difficult to take out loans, mortgages, etc (which can be a real problem if you are young). It is crucial that consumers not overspend this holiday season, especially since the economy is miserable.

Sources #1, #2, #3

U.S. Looks to Australia on Credit Card Fees




Post by David Held
By KEITH BRADSHER

When Steve Franklin bought four plane tickets on Qantas last June, he faced an unexpected expense: a surcharge of 7.70 Australian dollars on each of the 136.70 dollar ($126) tickets — just for using his Visa credit card.

Mr. Franklin, who planned to fly his parents and his 7-year-old twin daughters from Sydney to Adelaide, knew that changes to credit card rules had affected the cost of using plastic, but the extra 5.6 percent seemed excessive.

The charges were the consequence of changes in credit card rules in Australia that were aimed, in part, at reducing the cost of hidden fees for using plastic. But the law, passed six years ago, also allowed merchants to tack on new charges, and many have done just that, in some cases with fees that exceed the old ones.

Click Here to Read On!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

China Seeks to Slow Rapid Growth of Lending





Post by Shawn Chandok

Article by Keith Bradsher

Chinese banking regulators are putting pressure on the country’s banks to raise more capital and temper their rapid growth in lending, in a clear sign of official concern about the sustainability of the nation’s credit boom, senior Chinese bankers said on Monday.

United States and European officials have also pressed their banks to shore up their finances in recent months, but the reasons behind the Chinese regulators’ capital-raising push are very different. In some ways, the regulatory pressure reflects the robustness of the Chinese economy, in contrast with lingering economic weakness in the West.

Western regulators have put pressure on the banks they oversee to raise money, often through the sale of overseas units and other assets, to rebuild capital bases depleted by losses on mortgage-backed securities and other investments. Western banks have moved to raise the money even as they have slowed their issuance of new loans, which has helped hold up their capital as a percentage of assets.

Regulators in Beijing have a different concern, Chinese bankers said. As bank lending has soared this year, banks’ capital has risen less quickly, so their capital adequacy ratios have begun to slip.

While China’s regulators are comfortable with current capital adequacy levels at the nation’s major banks, they want them to have plenty of capital to be able to continue lending briskly next year without difficulty if needed to sustain economic growth, bankers said.

Click here to read more!!

New agency tackles consumer finance


Posted By Ahmed Al-Salem
Article By: Jane Smith

The Government has announced plans to set up a new agency to take over the role of consumer financial education from the City regulator.

The Consumer Financial Education body will promote financial literacy and provide financial information for consumers and oversee the rollout of the Government's Money Guidance service.

The service will offer free financial advice - on topics such as mortgages, pensions and savings accounts - which was previously only available to people who could pay for it.

The new agency will be funded through a levy on financial services firms.

The Government also plans to help consumers get redress more easily by introducing US-style class actions under which a consumer representative will be able to bring an action to court on behalf of a group of consumers.

The FSA will also have its powers strengthened enabling it to force banks to set up damages schemes when large numbers of customers have the same valid complaint, to make it easier for people to get compensation.

Read On

Buy to let and consumer finance group Paragon full year pre-tax profits rise 1%


Posted By Ahmed Al-Salem

In its full year results for the period ended 30th September, specialist buy-to-let and consumer finance lender, the Paragon Group of Companies said it has fared well with increased profits and above-industry-average arrears performance.

According to Paragon, it has emerged strongly from ‘a deep UK recession and continuing turmoil’ among credit and banking markets. The specialist lender said its business strategy was established well before the crisis took hold; it has a fully securitised book with a high credit quality loan portfolio and strong operational management.

Group pre-tax profits increased by around 1% from the previous year to £54.3 million, earnings per share(‘EPS’) was lower at 13.9p, compared with 17.9p compared with 2008, however, the EPS figure was influenced by a rights issue in February 2008. Paragon increased the final dividend to 2.2p per share, the total full year dividend for 2009 will now be 3.3p per share.

Paragon Chief Executive, Nigel Terrington commented on the group’s performance over the full year and its outlook going forward:

"In a year which has seen a deep UK recession and continuing turmoil in credit and banking markets, the Group has fared well, significantly strengthening its position at a time when many of its competitors have failed. The Group enters the new financial year well capitalised, with the loan portfolio match funded to maturity, no debt maturing until 2017 and a strong cash position ... Whilst these are early days, recent improvements in funding markets will encourage us to look more confidently to reinstating the funding programme to support new lending going forward."

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

PersonalFinance: Card tricks for managing credit



Posted by Stefanie Marty

Written by Linda Stern

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - You're not the only one whose credit cards seem to be getting worse; it's happening to everybody. For those who find solace in that, the Federal Reserve Board has delivered it with a new survey of bank lending practices.

The Fed found the vast majority of banks increasing interest rates on credit cards, even on good-credit customers. Issuers are cutting borrowing limits for many customers and raising the credit scores they'll require before approving new card applications. They're adding annual fees to rewards cards and hiking the costs of cash advances and balance transfers. And those great zero percent deals? Dead, dead, dead.

Much of this is happening as bankers position their cards for the tougher new regulations that take effect next summer. By the time those rules kick in, cardholders will have had to swallow most of these new policies and practices. Who knows what will be left to regulate?

You don't have to wait until then to fight back. Here's how to take back control of your cards now.

Click here to read more

Decline in U.S Consumer Credit

Written by Stefanie Marty

Statistic from the Federal Reserve shows that U.S. consumer credit has fallen in twelve of the past 14 months to a current amount of $2.46 trillion. This amount is 4.7% lower than a year ago. Alone in September consumer credit fell by a 7.2 percent annual rate. This change of credit includes revolving as well as non-revolving debt. Revolving debt credit includes most credit cards and accounts for an amount of $889 billion. This kind of consumer credit fell at a 13.3 percent annual rate in September. On the other side the non-revolving debt, which includes auto and personal loans, fell at 3.7 APR to $1.57 trillion.

Different factors account for this decline in consumer credit over the last year. During the recession unemployment increased, incomes stagnated in many job segments, lenders tightened their credit conditions and consumers got more conservative with their money.

In the long-term the declining balances are seen as a positive sign by most economists. But in the short-term consumer spending and thus the U.S. GDP will suffer. With 70% of the GDP consumer spending accounts for the bulk of the U.S. economy and with the new development economists wonder whether consumer spending will occupy such a large space in the U.S. economy in the future. People are concerned about the U.S. GDP growth, which decreased due to the decline in consumer credit. But still, this development is new and it is too early to worry already about the U.S. GDP growth.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

California Tuition Increase



By Shawn Chandok

On Thursday November 29th, the Regents Board of California state once again agreed upon raising tuition for University of California colleges by 9.3% or approximately $662 dollars per credit by fall 2010. The increase in cost was due to the current $450 million dollar deficit. Currently more than 884 employees statewide have been fired due to budget cuts in and the number is expected to increase to over 1000 by the end of December 2009. University of California President Mark Yudof hopes “The student fee hike will generate approximately $152 million in revenue, and has $54.2 million designated for undergraduate and graduate student financial aid. The rest will be to cover state budget reductions, student support services, mental health services, and other mandatory cost increases.” Furthermore, Yudof mentioned the tightening on admissions for California residents in order to attract out of state students whom would pay full out of state tuition costs. As expected, this has caused quite a bit of commotion amongst students who have begun protesting outside the Regents building with signs labeled “RIP Our Future, and Stop Increasing the price of our dreams.” The biggest fear students face currently is the fact that they might have to stop attending collages anywhere from 1 semester to a year, simply to get another job to pay the tuition costs.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Where to Get a Loan?



Post by David Held

About three years ago any bank, credit union, finance company, etc was willing to give almost anybody a loan (and even mortgages), but currently not many people can get loans. Since the economy crashed, about a year to date, it has been extremely hard to borrow money from anyone, especially a large sum of money such as a mortgage. This reason for this was because banks had an abundance of money and were willing to lend it to subprime clients (clients who have bad credit). Once the loan was given than the banks would pool the loans, give them a rating (A, B, C), and sell them to investment companies or the general public. Sooner or later most of these people couldn’t pay back the loans so the only option they would have is to default. Now we are currently feeling the wrath of the poor decisions that the banks, credit unions, finance companies, etc made.

Unless you have a perfect credit rating you cannot get a loan. Now the loan terms are not going to be favorable for a long time. The best advice is to save up until loan terms become favorable. If you do decide to invest in a time like this, make sure you have a diversified portfolio!

Sources #1, #2, #3

Credit Card Companies Willing to Deal Over Debt



Post by David Held
By ERIC DASH

Hard times are usually good times for debt collectors, who make their money morning and night with the incessant ring of a phone.

But in this recession, perhaps the deepest in decades, the unthinkable is happening: collectors, who usually do the squeezing, are getting squeezed a bit themselves.

After helping to foster the explosive growth of consumer debt in recent years, credit card companies are realizing that some hard-pressed Americans will not be able to pay their bills as the economy deteriorates.

So lenders and their collectors are rushing to round up what money they can before things get worse, even if that means forgiving part of some borrowers’ debts. Increasingly, they are stretching out payments and accepting dimes, if not pennies, on the dollar as payment in full.

Click Here to Read On!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

College Expenses



Article by Tamar Lewin

Post by Shawn Chandok

The price of a college education rose substantially last year, despite a 2.1 percent decline in the Consumer Price Index from July 2008 to July 2009.Hit hard by state budget cuts, four-year public colleges raised tuition and fees by an average of 6.5 percent last year. Prices at private colleges rose 4.4 percent, according to a report issued Tuesday by the College Board.

Patrick Callan, president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, called the increases “hugely disappointing.”

“Given the financial hardship of the country, it’s simply astonishing that colleges and universities would have this kind of increases,” Mr. Callan said. “It tells you that higher education is still a seller’s market. The level of debt we’re asking people to undertake is unsustainable.

“A lot of people think we can solve the problem with more financial aid, but I think we have to have some cost containment. For all the talk about reinventing higher education, I don’t see any results.”

With room and board, the average total cost of attendance at a public four-year college is now $15,213, the report found. At private nonprofit colleges, which enroll about one in five college students nationally, the average total cost of attendance is now $35,636.

Click here to read more!!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Stick with Stocks


Posted By Pete Hill


If you're depending on your investments for spending cash in retirement and you don't want your spending power to fall behind inflation, then you want your portfolio to have the potential for capital growth over the long term.
Getting enough growth to maintain your purchasing power throughout a lengthy retirement is difficult if you invest only in cash equivalents like money-market funds and CDs. Although there are no guarantees, investing a diversified portfolio of stocks and bonds gives you a much better shot at getting the long-term gains you need.
Yield stocks always make sense. And even in tough times you can find companies with solid payouts. This is shaping up as the worst year for dividend cuts in three generations. Striving to conserve cash amid the most severe slump since the Depression, companies are reducing or eliminating their payouts to shareholders.

But dividends are not dead. Some companies maintained or raised them in the past year, indicating that their payouts can survive even the worst markets. And dividend investing remains a sound course amid market turmoil.

Even though stocks are still well below their 2007 peak, they can no longer be considered cheap, with the price/earnings ratio for companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 now nearly 20% higher than its long-term average.
The good news is that those profits will probably materialize. Analysts look for operating earnings for S&P 500 companies to rise 27% from recession-battered levels, fueled primarily by improving economic growth overseas and a further weakening of the U.S. dollar which would increase exports.


Sources:
http://money.cnn.com/2009/11/05/pf/expert/retirement_stocks.moneymag/index.htm
http://money.cnn.com/2009/11/06/pf/dividends.fortune/index.htm

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Consumer Financial Protection Agency



By Rico K Setyo

The initial purpose of proposing to create an oversight group of consumer lending was to protect the average American consumer. The original bill was pushed by House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, a democrat from Massachusetts. He believes that this bill will be able to regulate how consumer focused financial products is administered and protect consumers from fraudulent activities.

However, many republicans have opposed Frank’s original proposal because of one aspect of the bill. In Frank’s original bill, he wanted the agency to be run by a single director, but the idea of giving one person an immense amount of power struck people with concerns. Joe L. Barton, a republican and Henry Waxman , a democrat wanted to amend the current proposed bill which “would replace that single director with a five-member bipartisan commission”.

The single directorship is not the only issue many people are arguing about. Many republicans are just arguing the fact that Frank and President Obama are proposing to create another agency to oversee consumer lending. Eric Cantor, a republican states that “increased government regulation isn’t always the answer… we need, perhaps, smart regulation, but more [isn’t always] the right solution.”

Many people are still proposing different changes to the current bill. As of now nothing has been finalized yet, the creation of a consumer financial protection agency might not be anytime soon since it still has a lot of work ahead of itself.

Source 1
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Invest like Warren Buffet



Written by Michael Rivezzo

No,it's probably not economically possible for you to actually invest like Warren Buffet. His trading volume is in the billions and his investments usually signify ownershop of a company. He even gets a price that is strictly for the "VIP" investors. These stocks are commonly known as preferred shares.

Warren Buffet appears to have some cult like following in the business world. His books become instant New York Times Bestsellers and everytime he invests it makes the front page on every business journal. His company Berkshire Hathaway is currently trading over 100,000 dollars. Investors who are financially able to afford one share make it every year to the shareholder's meeting to hear Warren speak. He owns over 5% of Coke and didn't follow the whole dot come phase of the late 90's.

But yet its still possible to invest like him regardless of assets. His strategy is yet simple for even the common investor. Invest in companies that are well-established, while yet undervalued. In the slang of investors, Buffet is a long trader, he holds shares for the long run. He learned the hard way that you must have patience with the stock market and he is known for several quotes regarding this.

""The stock market is designed to transfer money from the active to the patient."

Link 1
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U.S. consumer spending will likely influence markets



Posted by Rico K Setyo

By The Canadian Press

The latest reading on consumer spending activity in the United States will likely set the tone for trading on stock markets this week.

U.S. retail sales for October are released Monday and economists expect to see a rise of 0.9 per cent following a drop of 1.5 per cent during September.

"It looks like that's going to be the big one," said Colin Cieszynski, market analyst at CMC Markets Canada.

Stock markets ended last week higher for a second consecutive week, largely on investor relief from indications that U.S. interest rates will stay low for an extended period.

Markets were also lifted by last weekend's G20 meeting where leaders made it clear that government stimulus measures will not disappear any time soon.

But critical to that growth on markets has been the hope that the end of recession will be followed by a strong recovery.

While retail sales are important in any economy, they're particularly important in the United States where consumer spending accounts for about 70 per cent of the economy.

And there are searing memories of what happens when consumer strength collapses.

"When the U.S. consumer got tapped out, that was one of the big things that led to the collapse of the housing market and that dragged down the whole banking system with it," observed Cieszynski.

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Most bank customers use online banking regardless of risks



Posted by Michael Rivezzo

GE Capital Retail Consumer Finance Extends Credit Card Program with Meijer



Posted by Ahmed Al-Salem

GE Capital Retail Consumer Finance, a consumer lending unit of General Electric Company has announced a 5-year extension of its credit card program with family-owned, Midwest retailer Meijer, providing credit services and valuable programs to shoppers.
The program started in 2003 with the launch of their first-ever private label credit card program for Meijer.

In a release, the Company noted that since launching the private label credit card with GE, the relationship has expanded to include a general purpose Meijer MasterCard, and a prepaid card program both accepted at establishments outside of Meijer's.

With 190 super-center locations and 174 gas stations in 5 states, Meijer credit cardholders enjoy a wide range of valuable benefits. The credit card program features a first purchase discount, monthly sale events, and 5 cent/gallon gas discount. The Meijer MasterCard also provides cardholders rewards on purchases made at Meijer as well as at other retailers.

"The Meijer Card allows us to help our loyal customers save even more money at Meijer in ways that only Meijer Card customers can. Meijer Credit Cards make a dollar go further on purchases that every family needs, helping them in these tough economic times. We are pleased to be extending our relationship with GE which provides customers with a program that enhances our sales and provides unique benefits to cardholders," said Jeff Handler, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Advertising.

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Banks Intend to Buckle Down in the Face of Credit Card Legislation


Posted by: Lisa Matthys

Written by: Garrett W. McIntyre

In the FED’s most recent bank survey they asked how the banks indented to deal with the Credit CARD Act of 2009. The Act meant to protect users from sudden interest rate spikes on their credit cards. Its main provisions limit when lenders can raise rates on existing balances and also require lenders to alert card holders of increases.

Of the banks surveyed, 75% of respondents did not expect to be in compliance with the legislation until February 2010 when most of the Act takes effect. Banks reported that they intended to, or already have, tighten the terms of credit card loans to both prime and nonprime borrowers. About half of the respondents indicated that they would increase interest rates and reduce credit limits for prime borrowers. A bit less than half intend to raise the minimum credit score required to obtain a loan. 75% of respondents indicated that they would raise rates on nonprime borrowers.

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Fed Tightens Rules on Overdraft Fees


Written by: Lisa Matthys

Are you one of those consumers who look at their bank account to find that they had overcharged their account by $0.01? Many consumers, who purchase small ticket items with their debit cards, have the impression that the transaction simply won’t go through if there is not enough money in the account. However, that isn’t the case.

Some banks offer consumers an option for overdraft protection upon establishing their account with the bank. If declined, consumers who run their accounts close to zero are at a high risk of paying an additional fee if they overcharge their account (between $25 and $35). Banks generate approximately $38 billion a year nationwide. So for example, going over your account by $0.01, you will have to pay approximately $35.01 if you didn’t agree to an overdraft protection program.

However, not all banks market overdraft protection programs. Most banks silently and automatically enroll their customers into overdraft programs, and charge large fees for each overdraft purchase. The Federal Reserve has put in place new finance rules to ensure consumer protection. Customers will have to opt-in to overdraft protection programs before banks can charge them with overdraft fees on debit purchases and ATM withdrawals. These new rules will be implemented next summer.

Banks will be sure to complain, fight, and find loop holes, against this new financial rule because the overdraft charges account for a bulky portion of their profits. However, finance leaders in Congress feel that more needs to be done to protect consumers such as capping the number of overdraft fees allowed per year and prohibiting banks from manipulating the chronology of purchases in order to maximize the number of overdraft fees.

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How to Invest Your 401(K)


Posted By Pete Hill

NEW YORK (Money) -- Question: I've got many investing options in my 401(k) -- small caps, large stocks, emerging markets, fixed-income, etc. What would be the ideal portfolio for me considering that I'm 51 and plan to retire at 65? --D.D., Anaheim, Calif.
Answer: While it may be theoretically possible to create an ideal investment portfolio, it ain't gonna happen in the real world.
More than 50 years ago, Nobel Laureate economist Harry Markowitz created a technique known as mean-variance optimization, which investing firms use today to create "optimizer" software designed to pick your ideal portfolio. You get a combination of investments that will generate the best possible return for whatever level of volatility you're willing to accept.
But the problem is that the portfolio you get is designed to excel under a very specific scenario -- the exact volatility, correlations and returns you stipulate. If your predictions about those things don't pan out -- which is invariably the case -- the portfolio's performance may not only be less than optimal, but downright abysmal. It's sort of like designing a bike to maximize performance in the Tour de France but then finding out the race will be held not on paved roads, but on a rutted dirt track.

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Posted by Stefanie Marty
Robyn Davis Sekula of New Albany, Ind., gives gift cards to friends, family and clients every year, and this year will be no different. Many people on her gift list live far away, and gift cards are easy to ship. But the main reason she gives gift cards is that she loves receiving them and believes others – especially her "mom friends" – do, too.
"For me, a gift card is a license to shop with somebody else's money," says Sekula, a 38-year-old marketing consultant. "It's a wonderful excuse for me as a mom of three little kids to go into a store and shop and do all the things I don't do when my kids are with me."

With the holidays approaching, retailers hope gift cards will provide one of the few sparks in a shopping season that's otherwise likely to be lackluster. Gift cards remain the most-requested item on consumers' gift lists, according to the National Retail Federation, making them attractive to value-conscious shoppers who don't want to waste money on unwanted presents.


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Credit Cards at Department Stores

Written by Stefanie Marty

Last week GE Capital Retail Consumer Finance renewed its private label credit card programs with the two US retailers Meijer for five years and JCPenney for four years. Meijer’s management said that such a program helps loyal customers to save even more at its store. Such programs provide credit to millions retail customers and have attracted a lot of attention in the market. Even though such a card may seem a great deal at the first glance people warn consumers of such credit cards because of different reasons.

By applying for a JCPenney card you get 10% off your first purchase and it allows you to be on the list for some promotions and events held at the store. These are the characteristics that attract a lot of consumers.
But if you take a closer look, you will see that there are many negative features that lower your spending power. First, the credit limits on JCPenney and other department stores credit cards are very low. Even people with good credit records cannot cover their monthly shopping expenses with their credit limit. Second, the interest charged at such credit cards are ridiculously high, up to 21.99%, and unless you can pay the outstanding amount at the end of every month, such a credit card is nothing for you. Third, once they signed up many consumers complain about insufficient support.
Before you apply for a credit card at any department store, consider all your other options. Many times there are other options that give you much better rewards and a higher spending power.

Source 1
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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Teaching Kids Finance



Posted by Chris Keeler

Viewers share money-saving tips

Posted By: Jessie Bruyn

Saving for a house isn't that hard



Posted by: Jessie Bruyn

NEW YORK (MONEY Magazine) - Where the hell did you get the money?" That question has been popping into my head as more of my friends tell me that they're buying a house.

Social graces and feelings of inadequacy stop me from saying it aloud, but come on, I think to myself. You work for a nonprofit and your husband's a teacher. You're telling me you scrounged up 50 large for a down payment by eating out less and clipping coupons?

Their parents probably helped (not that there's anything wrong with that) or they got an inheritance (that either), I think to myself. Or maybe they're part of the increasingly - and disturbingly - high number of first-time home buyers who put no money down (43 percent, according to the National Association of Realtors).

But recently, another possibility struck me: What if they really did save it up themselves? What if they actually made some smart moves to rack up a down payment quickly?

At first, this possibility caused me some dyspepsia - the closest thing my wife and I have to a down payment is whatever's in the coffee can on the dresser.

But after that feeling passed, I had a wonderful revelation: My God, it's possible! Now that I - and, I hope, you - are seeing that coffee can as half full, where to begin?

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Monday, November 9, 2009

Finding a Job In a Recession

By Nicholas Vanikiotis

Landing a job in a down economy can be extremely difficult, especially if you happen to be much older. Times are rough and budgets are tight from large companies all the way down to the mom and pop shops. The unemployment rate is the highest it has been since the great depression. And for those unlucky workers who are out of a job and don’t have enough money to make it through the next few months, now is the time to shine and stand out in that interview.

Having a stellar resume just isn’t enough to land you jobs anymore. There are over 12 million other Americans looking for a job so standing apart from the crowd is crucial now more than ever. There are many key things to do as preparation for a job interview, such as the following:

1. BE PROACTIVE

2. Network

3. Call your friends, families, and former colleagues about opportunities

4. Perfect your resume-short and to the point

5. Prepare for the interview by researching the company-be ready to talk about the industry of the job you are applying for

6. Hone your Communication skills

7. Demonstrate how you will impact the company with your position within the first 30 days

8. Be Confident

Once you land the job it doesn’t mean that you set, it can be taken from you if you do not perform. This is why it is important to put forth 110% effort onto the job and let your boss know that you are constantly thinking outside the box. One example is of a man who, on CNN.com, said that he would periodically send his boss interesting news articles with a few comments.

Sources:

http://money.cnn.com/2009/03/27/news/economy/yang_jobhunters.fortune/index.htm

http://www.cnn.com/2008/LIVING/worklife/09/29/cb.job.searching.recession/index.html

http://blogs.wsj.com/laidoff/2009/11/09/advice-seeking-work-at-a-small-company/?mod=blogmod


Businesses get a break in unemployment bill

Posted by Nicholas Vanikiotis

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The unemployment insurance bill that President Obama signed Friday won't just help the jobless and the homebuyer. It also includes a long-awaited break for businesses that will let them quickly turn their recent losses into cold cash.

The bill will let all businesses apply their losses from either 2008 or 2009 to any five years prior to 2008. By doing so, they can get a refund from the IRS on the taxes they paid for those five years.

A loss is defined as the amount by which a company's tax deductions exceed its gross income.

Under current law, the so-called "net-operating loss carryback" is only allowed for two years.

There are only two restrictions to the new provision. The first is that no business that has accepted funding from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) would be eligible for the break. And the second is that any refunds for taxes in the fifth year would be reduced by 50%.

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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Dodd Seeks to Freeze Credit Card Rates

Posted by: Janielle Viggiano

WASHINGTON -- A top Senate Democrat moved Monday to impose an immediate freeze on credit-card interest rates, as congressional Democrats continued pushing to rein in financial-sector practices.

Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, who heads the Senate Banking Committee, introduced a measure that would freeze rates on existing card balances until February, when tough new rules for the industry are slated to go into effect.

Mr. Dodd said he was making the move because companies are using the delayed implementation of the new standards, passed by Congress in May, to push through aggressive rate and fee increases. "No sooner had it been signed into law, but credit card companies were looking for ways to get around the protections," Mr. Dodd said in a written statement.

The measure is part of a populist push by Mr. Dodd, a fifth-term senator facing a tough re-election battle against former Republican U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons next year. Mr. Dodd's ties to the financial-services industry and his receipt of a home loan from former Countrywide Financial Corp. have hurt his standing with voters. He was cleared of violating Senate ethics rules in the mortgage issue.


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New Law on Credit Card Rates

Posted by: Janielle Viggiano

The U.S. House voted on Wednesday to freeze credit-card interest rates and fees for nine months and to immediately impose strict new credit card rules currently set to take effect on February 22nd or later. According to the Wall Street Journal, “the 331-92 vote comes after lawmakers have been flooded with complaints from consumers furious that issuers raised interest rates, increased minimum payments and lowered credit limits. Dozens of Republicans joined Democrats to approve the measure (2009).”

Credit card companies are getting ahead on restrictions and boosting interest rates. Bugg’s stated, “The average rate offered to a consumer with a solid 700 credit score is now 11.51 percent on a variable rate card, up from 10.66 percent in March, according to Bankrate.com. And a report released last week found that 100 percent of credit cards offered online by the largest 12 bank issuers in the United States continue to include practices that will be illegal when the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act, passed in May, takes full effect next year (2009).” In some cases rates are doubling as high as 30 percent or more even for people who are paying their bills.

According to the Associated Press, “The changes required under the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act, or CARD Act, could go a long way to stop deceptive practices in the card industry. But before that happens, card issuers are grabbing what they can from the millions of Americans who are their customers (2009).”


Sources: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125736960554828923.html?mod=WSJ_hpp_sections_business

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/business/buggs/6697892.html

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iZnfNIDibBZ2lgBu_KVRX_wauO2AD9BLGMAG0

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Saving for College


By: Laura Reginelli


Paying for college is enough to make even the wealthiest families feel the pinch. Many wonder when they should start to save for the children’s college expense. The answer is as soon as they are born, if not earlier! As discussed previously, the sooner one starts saving, the more return they will see. So if you invest even small amounts now, you will see better returns than those who start saving ten years later than you.

So where to begin you must be wondering- well there are several resources you can turn to in order to fulfill this duty.


· Consider taking on a 529 plan. According to savingforcollege.com, a 529 plan is “an education savings plan operated by a state or educational institution designed to help families set aside funds for future college costs.” These allow you to start saving early and they do not limit what college you have to send your child to.


· Don’t panic if you can’t pay the full bill of tuition, many people have to seek outside assistance. There are several loans that are available solely for educational purposes for both independent and dependent children.


· Do not forget about saving for your retirement. Although planning for you children’s college tuition is important, you can obtain a specialized loan, unlike retirement funding.


· The burden shouldn’t only fall on the parents. Make sure your children study hard, seek out scholarship opportunities and apply to a wide array of institutions.


Although funding college may be a scary endeavor, it is important to break it down piece by piece and consider all the alternatives. So just remember, it pays to start early and seek out the options that are available for funding higher education.

Sources: http://www.savingforcollege.com/college_savings_201/

http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/money101/lesson11/

http://www.usnews.com/blogs/college-cash-101/2008/12/15/the-4-rules-of-paying-for-college-in-a-recession.html

Correlation between College Loans and Increasing Tuition

Posted by: Laura Reginelli


It’s safe to say the hardest part to stomach about college is the tuition fees.

In order to combat the rising tuition rates, students engage in a staple ritual of college life: obtaining student loans.

Without them, most of us wouldn’t be able pursue a college career or afford the outrageous tuition. But most of us never thought one major culprit contributing to rising college costs may actually be the loans themselves, government-guaranteed student loans in particular.

College tuition increases all the time, and as we know, UC is no different, with a possible increase in tuition for the 2010-11 school year.


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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Credit Card Companies to Raise Interest Rates




Article by: Harkamal Singh
Posted by: Srividya Srinivasan



In a new development, which has come as credit card companies' strike back to the latest legislation proposed by the Government which will make them cut back on their "unfair practices", credit card companies are now looking to increase their interest rates before the law is actually enforced.

In the legislation put forward, it was detailed that credit card companies are taking undue advantage of the current economic situation and looking to make more and more gains on the back of consumers who are finding it difficult to pay back the ever mounting credit card payments.

“Since passage of the Credit CARD Act, we found that credit card issuers have done little to remove practices deemed unfair or deceptive by the Federal Reserve”, said Shelley Hearne, managing director of the Pew Health Group, which recently conducted a study regarding the waycredit card companies have been slapping higher interests. “In fact, some of the most harmful practices have actually grown more widespread". The study took into consideration a dozen big banks nation-wide which held over 90% of the outstanding credit card debt.


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Paying for College



By Nicholas Vanikiotis

One of the largest expenses a family will have to make is putting their children through college. College tuition has skyrocketed over the past decade and it is just going to keep getting more expensive. Fortunately there are ways to pay tuition that make it easier on the family finances. The most common way students pay their tuition is by getting a student loan from either the government of a private lender.

In order to be approved for a federal loan you must first fill out a FASFA form. Your family income must also meet a requirement in order to be considered. With private student loans students need a co-signer most of the time because their credit score is not established. The great thing about private loans is that you can get on a deferred payment plan that postpones payments up to 6 months after graduation. There are also interest only loans where you pay the interest only while in school and begin paying off the loan balance after you graduate college.

http://money.cnn.com/2009/07/17/pf/saving/student_credit_card_questions/index.htm

http://money.cnn.com/2009/11/02/pf/tuituion_help.moneymag/index.htm

http://www.nytimes.com/info/student-loans/?scp=1-spot&sq=student%20loans&st=cse

4 smart ways to reduce your tax bill




Posted by Nicholas Vanikiotis

NEW YORK (Fortune) -- We spoke to several leading financial advisers about the strategies they were recommending their clients adopt to cut their taxes now and in the future.

Harvest your stock market losses

"We have been aggressively harvesting tax losses for our clients over the last year or two, and of course the market environment has assisted us with that," says Gregg Fisher, president of financial advisory firm Gerstein Fisher.

"Those losses can be used to offset capital gains in the future, and if you think capital gains rates might be higher in the future, those losses become even more valuable," he says.

And for clients who still like the battered stock they just sold, no problem. IRS rules allow an investor to buy the asset back after 31 days.


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