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    Yuri Arcurs/Shutterstock

    By Ilana Polyak

    Call it the retirement that never was. The oldest baby boomers are turning 69 years old this year, yet many are still working and have no plans to go anywhere.

    In 1990 just 12.1 percent of workers were 65 and older; by 2010 more than 16 percent were, according to the Census Bureau. That number is likely to grow as more boomers move into the over-65 demographic. Modern retirement calls for different rules, so it's no wonder that boomers are redefining retirement.

    "To think that you can finance a 40-year retirement is mathematically impossible," said Catherine Collinson, president of the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. A Transmerica survey shows that almost two-thirds of baby boomer workers plan to stay on the job beyond age 65-or don't plan to retire at all. "Baby boomers do not envision not working," Collinson said.

    People who are at least 65 can expect to live another 19 years, and those who make it to 75 should plan to live well into their 80s, reported the Centers for Disease Control. At the same time, the average account balance for workers in their 50s and 60s is less than $150,000, according to the Employee Benefits Research Institute.

    "Unless you socked away a lot of money, retirement for many is just not going to be what we grew up believing retirement was," said certified financial planner Mark Singer, president of Safe Harbor Retirement Planning, author of "The 6 Secrets to a Happy Retirement" and himself a boomer, at age 60. As a result of working longer, boomers are transforming not just retirement, but the workplace itself.

    Benefits of Working

    Working longer is the most obvious solution to the retirement savings problem. Among all of the options available to pre-retirees, it's the one that has the biggest impact on a nest egg, said Judith Ward, a senior financial planning with T. Rowe Price. Working three years longer and contributing 15 percent of income can grow a 401(k) by 22 percent; working five years more can increase savings by 39 percent. Combining more years of work with a bigger retirement-plan contribution (say, 25 percent) has an even more powerful impact.

    Of course, not all boomers will be content to continue pounding out 40-hour weeks, said Kerry Hannon, a jobs expert with AARP and author of "Love Your Job: The New Rules for Career Happiness." Some will opt for phased retirement schemes, where they're able to cut back on their hours but still stay employed. Depending on the number of hours, they may be able to hold on to crucial health insurance and retirement-plan perks. Most important, however, is that even part-time work can keep boomers from tapping their nest eggs too soon.

    However, employers may not be so quick to jump on the phased-retirement bandwagon. "The trend is happening so quickly that employment practices have simply not kept pace with the changing times," Collinson said.

    There are some legal obstacles in switching from full-time to part-time work-specifically, how to account for insurance and pensions for part-time workers-noted Mark Schmit, executive director of the Society for Human Resource Management Foundation. What's more, these arrangements could be seen as unfair to younger workers. "They might be thinking, 'These older folks are getting a perk that the rest of the organization is not getting,'" he said.

    Some industries, however, are more open to it, said Schmit, especially if they have a looming brain drain, as is the case in health care and mining. Phased retirement might give businesses time to accelerate their recruiting efforts while still benefiting from the talents of boomers.

    Intergenerational Conflicts Loom

    Of course, staying in the workplace longer is not without glitches. According to Dan Schawbel, founder of, a research and advisory firm focusing on millennials in the workplace, every generation has a negative view of the generation that's coming up but a positive view of their elders'. "The younger generation is seen as more connected and they're cheaper to hire, so they're seen as a threat [by boomers]," he said.

    In SHRM's survey of human resource managers, more than a quarter reported some level of intergeneration conflict in their organizations. Dress code is a particular issue, with millennials advocating for casual dress and boomers insisting on business attire. "Millennials want you to appreciate what's coming out of your head, not the costume they're wearing," said Anne Donovan, a managing director and millennials expert at accounting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers.

    Focusing on dress code might seem trivial, said Donovan, but it speaks to workplace culture. Businesses that cling to formal dress will continue to lose young talent to companies that do not, she said. Few would argue that the hoodie-wearing engineers in Silicon Valley aren't getting the job done.
    Communication style, too, causes conflicts. "The technology divide is getting wider," said Schawbel. "[Younger people] don't use email; they're texting and using Snapchat, and voice mail's dead."

    These issues come to a head in particular when millennials supervise workers 20 years or more their senior. "We're seeing more and more of that, and that's just life," said AARP's Hannon. Boomers lamenting this reality, she added, are just "going to have to get with the program."

    Reverse Mentoring

    To quell these conflicts, some companies have instituted reverse mentoring programs -- pairing up boomers with younger workers who can help guide them in today's technology and communications.

    At Pricewaterhouse Coopers, where 80 percent of workers belong to the millennial generation, boomers in the company's Atlanta office can get help with their technology questions through their millennial mentors. "What we've done is taken the stigma away for the boomers, and millennials want to have that interaction with leadership," Donovan said.

    Philips, a Dutch lighting company that's a client of, uses cross-generational teams of millennials who manage employees nearing retirement. "The millennials are learning from the baby boomers, but the baby boomers are also learning from the millennials," Schawbel said.


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    washington  dc   january 12  ...
    By Elyssa Kirkham

    In the personal finance world, there aren't many names more divisive than Suze Orman. In fact, even Orman doesn't always seem to agree with herself, often giving her audience one piece of financial advice and then later suggesting the opposite course of action. "Orman is nothing if not a contradictory personality," as The New York Times put it in a feature on Orman.

    Orman has justified her evolving advice in the past by saying, "Financial advice needs to change according to what is happening in the economy," according to CNBC. But sometimes it's not only Orman's advice that can be contradictory but also her actions. From launching a financial product she had previously railed against to endorsing products she'd often criticized as bad deals, here's a look at five times Orman didn't follow her own advice.

    1. She Recommended Her Approved Prepaid Card

    Orman often tells her audience to avoid fees on financial products, advising listeners to cancel credit cards with annual fees, shop around for a bank with low fees and avoid high-cost prepaid cards.

    But in 2012, Orman launched her own prepaid card, the Approved card. She said that consumers who used the card as she prescribed would only ever pay $3 a month and she touted a partnership with TransUnion that she said would give cardholders unlimited access to their TransUnion credit scores and credit reports.

    After the launch, however, the card was found to charge numerous fees, according to NerdWallet, from $2 to contact the customer help line -- the first call every month was free -- and $4.95 to make over-the-counter deposits to the highest fee on the account, a whopping $30 bill payment fee. The partnership with TransUnion also fizzled and nothing came of it despite Orman's hopes that the bureau would one day factor the card usage data into credit score calculations. In June 2014, Approved cardholders received letters notifying them that their Approved cards would soon be shut down and Orman's prepaid card was officially dead.

    2. She Taught at a For-Profit University

    Orman has often preached the evils of student debt. "Student loans can be the most dangerous loans anybody ever takes out because, in most cases, they are not dischargeable in bankruptcy," she said in a "Money Tips" segment on her website. She advised students to do careful math to figure out what monthly payments would be and decide whether they could afford them once they left college.

    Orman's aversion to student loans didn't prevent her from partnering with University of Phoenix to create a credited personal finance course, however. Orman made this move despite statistics that show University of Phoenix and other for-profit schools account for 47 percent of student loan defaults, even though only 13 percent of college students attend such institutions, according to The Huffington Post.

    Students at for-profit schools are for more likely to end up with student loan debt they can't afford, yet Orman still chose to join the school's faculty and even praised University of Phoenix in a 2011 USA Today article for requiring all of its students to "go through a free and mandatory three-week orientation course to make sure they understand the full costs of college before they sign on the dotted line."

    3. She Sold Her Gold

    In 2011, Orman was preaching the virtues of gold. Demand for this precious metal was surging, and it was quickly racing up in value. That year, gold reached a peak value of around $1,900 a troy ounce, an incredible rate of increase from about $1,350 in January 2011.

    In August 2011, shortly before the price of gold peaked, Orman announced via Twitter that she had sold her gold. "I sold my gold today only because I had a tremendous gain and had way too much money in gold," Orman tweeted.

    Orman continued endorsing gold as a smart investment even though she'd just sold hers at a price that would turn out to be just under an all-time high. In September 2011, she tweeted, "Gold should make up at least 10-20% of your portfolio," and predicted on Twitter that gold would reach $2,100 an ounce by November 2012, though she included the caveat "time will tell." It never reached $1,800 in 2012.

    4. She Endorsed a New Car

    It's no secret that buying a used car instead of a new car can mean several thousands of dollars in savings, and this was the reasoning behind Orman's frequent suggestions to her audience to buy used. In a 2010 article for O, The Oprah Magazine, she wrote, "Since the most significant drop in a car's value occurs in the first two or three years, buying one that's just a few years old means you avoid paying for those early years of big depreciation."

    Then in 2012, Orman landed an endorsement deal for Acura's "Season of Reason" marketing campaign, giving advice to "spend smart." Acura and Orman were sending the message that smart spending apparently included spending $40,000 for a new Acura TL, reported Forbes, even though that contradicted Orman's earlier advice.

    5. She Supported Mortgage Default

    Over the years, Orman's advice on mortgages has changed. In the early 2000s, Orman told people to aggressively pay down their mortgages and even went as far as to say homes offered a "known return." But this came with a big risk, wrote MarketWatch columnist Chuck Jaffe in 2003: Paying down a mortgage "to the exclusion of other investments is all-eggs-in-one-basket investing. It's a dangerous strategy being pitched as the ultimate safe one." Jaffe was unfortunately proved right when the 2008 housing market collapse leveled home values, and wiped out equity and investments many homeowners had poured into their homes.

    After the collapse, Orman changed tacks on mortgages. In 2011, she recommended a strategic mortgage default as a smart option for homeowners with underwater mortgages. Then, in a 2013 episode of "The Suze Orman Show," Orman told her audience that it was all right to buy a home with only a 10 percent down payment, reported CNBC.

    For her own real estate portfolio, however, Orman pays cash. She told The Wall Street Journal in 2014, "If I can't write a check for it, I can't afford it." Of course, with Orman's net worth estimated to be about $35 million, what the personal finance expert can afford is very different than what the average American can afford.

    This story originally appeared on


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    Things Worth Paying More For

    By Maryalene LaPonsie

    During the lean, early years of my marriage, saving pennies was a necessity. However, as we got older and our financial situation improved, I found I continued to pay as little as possible for everything and anything. It wasn't that I couldn't afford more; it was that I didn't want to spend more. You understand, right?

    But my shopping philosophy eventually began to shift. After years of being surrounded by poorly made stuff that never seemed to work as I had hoped, I decided just because something is cheap, it isn't necessarily a good value. Some of you may be saying "duh," but it took me a while to accept that simple truth.

    Now, I value quality over price, especially for certain items. Here are seven things that are often worth the higher price:

    1. Quality Tools

    Whether we're talking about power tools or kitchen tools, you want the best items you can afford if you'll be using them regularly. Thin pots and dull knives will have you running to the takeout line rather than cooking at home. Anemic power drills and flimsy hand tools will leave you cursing and make your weekend projects all that more of a chore.

    If you need an item for a one-time use, you can probably get by with a cheaper version, although renting might make even more sense in some cases.

    2. A Vehicle That Goes Beyond the Basics

    There was a reason the Yugo was so cheap. Low-end cars come with low-end parts. They are uncomfortable to drive and may end up needing multiple repairs before dying prematurely. Rather than buying the cheapest vehicle possible, look for one with a reputation for reliability and safety. It will likely last you longer and need fewer repairs.

    You'll spend more on a better car, but it doesn't have to put you in the poorhouse. Because cars tend to hold up for many more miles than they used to -- according to the New York Times, 200,000 is the new 100,000 -- go ahead and find a used car that combines quality and lower price. You can check out Consumer Reports for a list of the most reliable used cars to purchase.

    3. Services From Competent Professionals

    It would really stink to pay someone to do your taxes and then find out they filed the paperwork all wrong. And yet, that's the sort of thing that happens when you go the bargain-basement route for professional services.

    From accountants to lawyers to mechanics, you want to spend extra to get someone who knows what they're doing. It could cost more upfront but save money in the long run. You'll also skip the aggravation and stress that would come from scrambling to clean up the mess created by a cut-rate professional.

    4. The Best House You Can Afford

    Like cheap cars, some cheap houses may cut corners on quality. You get new construction but with paper thin walls and chintzy cabinets. They may be expensive to heat and uncomfortable to live in.

    Or you could buy a cheap old house, one with fantastic bones. However, the cheap price could be because it's in a neighborhood plagued by crime, traffic or some other undesirable element. Again, going cheap in this case could make for a poor living environment. Plus, your house will be a lousy investment if later no one wants to buy it from you because of the neighborhood.

    Instead of seeking out the cheapest house possible, buy the best house you can afford. Even if you only plan to stay there a few years, you want those to be comfortable and enjoyable years, not time spent completing repair after repair or stressing about the revolving door of questionable guests visiting next door.

    5. A Lifetime of Memories

    Staycations are popular (and great!) but don't overlook the importance of sometimes splurging on memorable experiences. After my husband's death at age 37, I began questioning the wisdom of waiting to enjoy life. It seems like we often want to put off the good life until we have a little more money or until the kids get older or until the stars align and angels sing.

    Now, I'm not recommending that people who are deeply in debt jet off on a world tour or spend two weeks in Hawaii. But if your budget will allow a weekend at the beach or even only a day at the zoo, it can be money well-spent.

    6. Clothes That Will Last

    Clothing is what first made me rethink my "cheaper is better" philosophy of spending. My closet was (and still largely is) filled with hand-me-downs. The price was unbeatable, but nothing fit right and I often felt frumpy and self-conscious.

    The same happened with my kids' clothes. We would load up at the bag sale at the thrift store, but many of those bargain items wouldn't last the season. While I haven't sworn off thrift store shopping, I'm much more particular about the brands I buy. For kids, Lands' End and The Children's Place seem to be good bets. However, I'm still sorting out the best brands for myself.

    As with the other items on this list, paying more doesn't necessarily mean buying the most expensive item available. You'll need to find the sweet spot at the intersection of price and quality. For example, I've discovered a $50 pair of jeans is infinitely better than a $20 pair of jeans. However, the difference between the $50 pair and one costing $75 isn't so great.

    I don't need a whole closet full of clothes. It's actually much easier to have a handful of good quality items that fit well and make me feel together than to have a closet full of not-quite-right bargain items.

    7. A Mattress for a Good Night's Sleep

    Finally, life is so much better when you're well-rested, and it's hard to feel well-rested when your mattress is thin or lumpy or uncomfortably stiff.

    Find the best mattress to support your back and sleeping style and buy it, even if it costs a little more. Again, I'm not saying you have to buy the most expensive one. I'm only saying you should be willing pay more to get what you need rather than settling for less.

    Those are seven things we think you should pay more for. What's on your list? Leave a comment below or head to our Facebook page to share the items you think are worth spending extra on. Like this article? Sign up for our newsletter and we'll send you a regular digest of our newest stories, full of money saving tips and advice, free! We'll also email you a PDF of Stacy Johnson's "205 Ways to Save Money" as soon as you've subscribed. It's full of great tips that'll help you save a ton of extra cash.


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  • 05/31/15--22:00: What to Buy in June
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    Young People Spinning in the gym
    Getty Images
    By Raechel Conover

    If you're thinking about what to buy in June, take comfort in knowing that the warm weather, wedding season and hurricane season all bring discounts this month. You'll find sales on things like gym memberships as well as continuing specials on some items that were worth buying in May. Early summer also begins the prime fruit and vegetable season, with affordable prices on grill-worthy corn on the cob.

    Tropical Vacation. June signals the onset of hurricane season and sweltering temperatures in the Caribbean. If you're willing to take your chances with the weather, this is the perfect time to scoop up deals on cruises and tropical vacation packages. And given the various cruise catastrophes in recent years, cruise companies are trying extra hard to get you back on board with even lower prices. Check out our cheap cruises guide for a fun June getaway.

    Gym Membership. As the temperatures climb and people move their workouts from inside to outside, June sales will surface at gyms and health clubs that are running hard to sign up new members. If you enjoy haggling you should be able to negotiate a larger than normal discount on a gym membership.

    Lingerie. Victoria's Secret's famed semi-annual sale kicks off this month, making June the moment to score cheap lingerie from the lingerie giant -- and from its competitors. A few new pieces may compliment your newly toned body acquired with the cheap gym membership you also just landed.

    Dishes and Cookware. May brought deep discounts on cookware, between Mother's Day and the dawn of wedding season, and many of those deals will continue through June. Prices on dishware also start dropping as wedding season gains momentum. Dishes and cookware make practical graduation gifts for all those young adults moving out on their own.

    Tools and Paint. The absolute best tool deals are typically found in October or November, but if you're shopping for Father's Day and tools are on dad's list, look for a few bargains this month. DIY projects often call for a coat of paint, and discounts pop up along with the summer heat. Do some comparison shopping at the home improvement chains first to be sure you're getting the best price.

    Laptops. Whether you want to believe it or not (it's only June!), back to school is right around the corner and already in retailers' sights. This is the kickoff month for bundle deals on laptops. That said, avoid the temptation now and wait until July or August to splurge, as the offers will only get better as the official start of the school year approaches.

    Movie Passes. Beat the heat and enjoy a movie for less this month. June signals the beginning of summer and the onslaught of blockbusters. With big budgets and an audience with extra time on its hands, you're likely to find movie ticket discounts, free preview passes, and even some freebies when buying a ticket.

    Foods in Season. June marks the dawn of the fresh fruit and vegetable boom, and is an ideal time to get in the habit of buying local produce. (Be sure to visit your local farmer's market.) At the start of peak season, the fruits to buy (depending where you live) include melons (watermelon and cantaloupe); berries (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries); and stone fruits (apricots, peaches, and nectarines). Kick off the grilling season with sales on the first crop of sweet corn, summer squash, green beans, and tomatoes, plus lettuce and cucumber for salads.

    Food Holidays. This buying guide would not be complete without mentioning one major holiday in June: National Doughnut Day, which falls on June 5 this year. Be on the lookout for free glazed goodness from places like Tim Hortons, Krispy Kreme, and Dunkin' Donuts.

    Grills: Don't Bother. As noted in the May roundup of what to buy, hold off on a new grill or patio furniture until after July 4, when summer season begins winding down and retailers turn their focus to fall items and slash prices on summer goods.


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    Olive Garden Breadsticks
    Mary Altaffer/APOlive Garden's new chicken parmigiana breadstick sandwich goes on sale starting Monday.
    From Olive Garden trying to make some more dough with new Italian sandwiches to a food giant with a healthy streak of dividend hikes checking in with quarterly results, here are some of the things that will help shape the week that lies ahead on Wall Street.

    Monday -- Breaking Breadsticks

    Darden Restaurants (DRI) has a lot riding on Olive Garden these days. The casual Italian dining chain now makes up more than half of the restaurants in Darden's empire, and it's making a big menu addition this week. Sandwiches featuring the chain's signature breadsticks as the bun will start being served Monday.

    The two sandwiches -- meatball and chicken Parmesan -- are served with seasoned fries and, yes, unlimited breadsticks. Darden's chain can use the boost: Traffic trends have been negative at Olive Garden for nearly two years.

    Tuesday -- Truth or Conn's Sequences

    Things haven't been going well for Conn's (CONN), and the specialty retailer of furniture, mattresses, home appliances, and consumer electronics reports quarterly results Tuesday. Comps have been sluggish at Conn's, but the more problematic nugget is that default rates are on the rise.

    A whopping 8.4 percent of its sales made on credit are currently in default past 60 days, up from an 8 percent delinquency rate a year earlier. Conn's is a provider of consumer credit to its shoppers, so it's the one on the line for deadbeat customers.

    Wednesday -- Gimme Five

    One of the faster-growing discount retailers is Five Below (FIVE), a chain that, true to its name, stocks items selling at $5 or below. Expansion and strong store-level performance have combined to generate healthy double-digit sales growth. Analysts see 20 percent year-over-year sales growth when Five Below reports on Wednesday afternoon.

    Thursday -- In a Jam

    J.M. Smucker (SJM) does more than just make its namesake jellies. It's also the company behind Folgers coffee, Jif peanut butter and Hungry Jack pancake mix. Another thing it does is pay out consistently higher dividends. J.M. Smucker has come through with 13 consecutive years of payout hikes. It reports quarterly results on Thursday.

    Friday -- Beyond the Matrix

    This has been a strong year for original programming at Netflix (NFLX), and its latest series debuts on Friday. "Sense8" is a series from "The Matrix" trilogy creators Andy and Lana Wachowski and "Babylon 5" creator J. Michael Straczynski.

    Yes, it's sci-fi, a niche that Netflix hasn't really tackled with its first-run content. The show's premise revolves around eight strangers who become emotionally linked. The initial 12-episode season will be available in its entirety on Friday.

    Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Netflix. The Motley Fool recommends Five Below and Netflix. The Motley Fool owns shares of Netflix. The Motley Fool is short Five Below. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days, and click here to check out our free report for one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.


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    bank branch entrance in urban...
    By Brian O'Connell

    NEW YORK -- Bank branches are disappearing from the financial services landscape, but will they go away entirely?

    With a 40 percent decline in U.S. bank branches since 1991 and a projected continuing decline of 25 percent by 2018, according to banking industry business intelligence firm FMSI, it's a fair question to ask. In a wide-ranging study, FMSI says the drop-off in branches may prove to financial institutions that keeping bricks-and-mortar local banking centers running isn't sustainable or cost efficient.

    With transactions dropping and staffing levels remaining the same, the inevitable outcome is costly overstaffing in the branch environment.

    "Our study reveals a declining branch transaction trend of which senior management at financial institutions should take note," says W. Michael Scott, chief executive at FMSI. "With transactions dropping and staffing levels remaining the same, the inevitable outcome is costly overstaffing in the branch environment."

    Obviously, the rise of online and mobile banking has taken a toll on bank branches, but that's not the only reasons for the decline. "We suspect this trend has to do more with the market correcting itself from an over-branched environment, as opposed to alternative channels replacing the branch," the report says. "Regardless, online and mobile banking are on the rise, with no signs of letting up."

    FMSI analysts aren't sold on the notion of branches drying up completely. Instead, they see banks morphing their branches eventually from deposit centers into sales centers. "The complete transformation of the typical branch to a more sales-centric operation will not happen in the near future," FMSI reports. "Today, the significant majority of interactions in the branch are still simple deposits and withdrawals."

    "The reality is, no matter how simple the other channel technologies are, there will always be some that will never adopt it. If you continued the rate of decline as recorded by our study out another 20 years, you would still have an average [monthly] branch transaction volume of approximately 3,500."

    Banking customers seem to agree. "I still walk in to cash in checks for my business," says Anthony Simola, CEO of Simola Technologies, a New York City technology consulting firm. "It's convenient and quick."

    Others see bank branches moving toward a hybrid customer service location, as in the supermarket models of recent years.

    "Banking has gone the way of the self-service supermarket checkout through a combination of mobile and online portals, as well as more convenient ATM access, meaning less need for physical branches and less need for staff," says Dan Blacharski, spokesman at "In addition, the traditional bank loan officer has long been deprived of discretion in decision-making and has been reduced to serving as little more than an application-taker in a suit. Those looking for consumer loans are instead turning to online lending portals which offer more variety, access to a wider selection of lenders and lending products and even access to alternative lending vehicles like peer-to-peer options."

    While the number of bank branches in the United States has fallen in the past 15 years, and suggest a further decline, says Kartik Ramakrishnan, a senior vice president at Capgemini Financial Services, the trend suggests an "evolution," not "elimination" of the branch model. "Despite the growth of low-cost Internet and mobile channels, branch usage hasn't decreased, contrary to the expectations of the banks," Ramakrishnan says, referring to customers relying on branches for more complex transactions and advice, adopting mobile for simpler interactions.

    Most likely, bank branches will still be around, although you soon may not recognize one when you walk into the building.

    "There is further evidence that banks are updating their branch experience and recognizing this trend," Ramakrishnan says. "For example Vancouver-based North Shore has a spa-like experience in their branches, while Metro Bank refers to their branches as stores."

    -Written by Brian O'Connell for MainStreet.


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    Tesla-Battery Power For Homes
    Ringo H.W. Chiu/APTesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled the company's Powerwall energy storage system last month.
    Elon Musk created a media firestorm recently when he announced the rollout of Tesla Motors' Powerwall energy storage systems for the home. Now that we've had some time to digest what exactly this product is and how it would work in the home, it's time to ask the all-important question: Should you buy a Tesla Powerwall?

    Here's what you need to know before joining the more than 38,000 other people who have reserved Tesla Motors' (TSLA) newest product.

    The Powerwall Costs a Lot More Than $3,500

    Elon Musk was happy to announce a $3,500 price tag for the 10 kilowatt-hour energy storage system, but that's hardly the total it will cost you to get one. A battery is direct current and electricity in the U.S. is alternating current, so every battery has to have an inverter, which costs around $4,000 by the time it's installed. SolarCity (SCTY), which has to include an inverter with its solar systems, says it will install a Powerwall for an additional $5,000, but that's only if you're adding solar through them.

    So the cost of adding energy storage is really in excess of $7,500 if you want a functioning Powerwall. And keep in mind that 10 kWh is only enough to power the average home for about eight hours. If you really want to leave the grid, you're going to need a lot more than one Powerwall -- even SolarCity says so.

    How Are You Going to Pay for That?

    The bigger challenge is how you're going to justify a Powerwall financially.

    Unlike solar power systems, energy storage isn't creating energy, it's just moving energy consumption from one point in time to another. The reason Musk's sister company SolarCity and other residential solar competitors have been successful in the last few years is that they can offer rooftop solar for zero down and charge customers less than grid prices for energy produced on their roof. The customer saves money and SolarCity makes money, so it's a win-win. This is possible because solar panels produce energy and are compensated for that energy through what's called net metering. A consumer is able to send extra solar electricity generated during the day to the grid and only pay for the net usage they have every month.

    But that's where the problems with energy storage begin. With net metering, there's no financial incentive to store the energy you create during the day and use it at night, because you can just send it back to the grid. So, there's no financial justification for an energy storage system.

    This could change as rate structures evolve to higher rates during peak hours, but today there's little financial reason to justify buying a Powerwall.

    Why You Might Want a Powerwall

    There might not be a solid financial reason for most people to own a Powerwall today, but for a small subset of people there are still two good reasons to buy one. The first is if you really want to consume only the energy you produce at home or potentially want to go off-grid. The Powerwall could make both possible, although then you might want to look at the $3,000 7 kWh-cycle product that's designed to be charged and discharged daily. And, as I mentioned above, it'll take a lot more than one Powerwall to go off-grid. Considering the fact that the average U.S. home consumes 30 kWh of electricity a day, you might want nine Powerwalls for three days of backup power to augment solar power, just in case it's cloudy.

    The other reason would be to provide backup power in case of emergencies. When a winter storm, hurricane, tornado, or other natural disaster strikes, having the Powerwall fully charged could provide some backup power for your home. But so could a generator, which would likely be lower cost and provide longer-lasting backup power.

    Powerwall May Not Be Right for You ... Yet

    In today's world, there's not a great reason to have a Powerwall system unless you really want to "go green" or are extremely worried about blackouts. But that doesn't mean there won't be a reason to buy one in the future.

    Energy storage companies are reducing costs dramatically, and as they do it'll become far more economical to have backup power in your house. And utilities are changing rate structures in ways that may make it more worthwhile to put solar panels on your roof, a few Powerwalls in your basement, and cut the cord to the grid altogether.

    Elon Musk is right; there will be a time when energy storage will be in every home in the country. But that time isn't here yet, and unless you fit into a small category of people, the $3,500 Powerwall probably isn't for you right now.

    Motley Fool contributor Travis Hoium has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of SolarCity and Tesla Motors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Check out our free report on one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.


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    AUCKLAND - SEP 2014:Man hand out credit card.Credit cards are the most profitable sector of the American banking industry, with
    By Lucia Mutikani

    WASHINGTON -- U.S. consumer spending unexpectedly stalled in April as households cut back on purchases of automobiles and continued to boost savings, suggesting the economy was struggling to gain momentum early in the second quarter.

    But there are signs a rebound from the first-quarter's slump is under way, with other reports on Monday showing manufacturing activity picked up in May for the first time in seven months and construction spending surged in April to a near 6½-year high.

    The construction and manufacturing data cast a bit of sunshine on an otherwise cloudy day for economic data.

    Still, soft consumer spending and muted inflation pressures, after a price index for consumer spending in April recorded its smallest gain since late 2009 on an annual basis, suggest the Federal Reserve probably won't raise interest rates before the end of the year.

    "The construction and manufacturing data cast a bit of sunshine on an otherwise cloudy day for economic data. We need to see more of a rebound in growth before the Fed pulls the trigger on interest rates," said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial in Chicago.

    The Commerce Department said April's flat reading in consumer spending followed a 0.5 percent increase in March.

    Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, was also curbed by weak demand for utilities as temperatures warmed up. It had been forecast rising 0.2 percent.

    In a separate report, the Institute for Supply Management said its national factory activity index rose to 52.8 last month from 51.5 in April.

    The index had been declining since November as manufacturing battled a strong dollar and deep spending cuts in the energy sector in response to a plunge in crude oil prices. A reading above 50 indicates expansion in the manufacturing sector, which accounts for about 12 percent of the U.S. economy.

    The index, which was also restrained by labor disruptions at the West Coast ports, was last month boosted by a surge in new orders and factory employment.

    Fourteen out of 18 industries reported growth last month, including electrical equipment, appliances and components; primary metals, machinery and transportation equipment.

    Another survey from financial data firm Markit showed factory activity improved toward the end of May.

    "After transitory weakness in the first quarter, the manufacturing outlook has improved. But the dollar and lower oil prices continue to be a drag on some select industries," said John Silvia, chief economist at Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte, North Carolina.

    The dollar firmed against a basket of currencies, while prices for U.S. government debt fell. U.S. stocks were modestly higher.

    Sturdy Construction

    Gross domestic product contracted at a 0.7 percent annual rate in the first three months of the year.

    But given that a confluence of temporary factors conspired to depress the output figure, including a problem with the model the government uses to smooth seasonal fluctuations, the decline in GDP likely overstates the economy's weakness.

    In a second report the Commerce Department said construction spending jumped 2.2 percent to an annual rate of $1 trillion, the highest level since November 2008. The percent increase was the largest since May 2012 and reflected broad gains in both private and public outlays.

    Forecasting firm Macroeconomic Advisers raised its second-quarter GDP growth estimate by four-tenths of a percentage point to a 2 percent rate on the construction report.

    Morgan Stanley (MS) lifted its estimate to a 2.1 percent rate from a 1.6 percent pace, while Goldman Sachs (GS) bumped up its estimate by 0.1 percentage point to a 2.5 percent rate.

    The manufacturing and construction reports added to business spending plans, employment and housing data in suggesting some momentum in the economy even as consumer spending and industrial production have been soft.

    The weakness in consumer spending is puzzling given that wages are rising and households accumulated hefty savings from cheaper gasoline.

    "Most likely, Americans are using their pump price savings to pay down debt, increase the money they put aside and for dining out," said Chris Christopher, an economist at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts.

    In April, personal income rose a solid 0.4 percent and the saving rate increased to 5.6 percent from 5.2 percent in March.

    With consumption soft, inflation pushed further below the Fed's 2 percent target.

    The personal consumption expenditures price index edged up 0.1 percent in the 12 months to April, the smallest gain since October 2009, after rising 0.3 percent in March.

    Excluding food and energy, the core PCE price index increased 1.2 percent from a year ago after being up 1.3 percent in March.

    The PCE price indices are the Fed's preferred inflation measures. The soft readings are in sharp contrast with April's consumer price index report published in May, which showed a pick-up in inflation over the last couple of months.

    The differences reflect medical care prices, which are treated differently in both reports.


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    Memorial Day Travel Expected To Increase Due To Drop In Gas Prices
    Win McNamee/Getty Images
    By Richard Leong

    The average price of a gallon of regular-grade gasoline rose 4 cents from two weeks ago to $2.84 a gallon, which was the highest since Nov. 21, the Lundberg survey released Sunday showed.

    The average price a gallon in the week ended May 29 was about 85 cents lower than a year ago.

    Rising crude prices, refinery maintenance and other factors that caused the recent spike in gasoline prices have subsided, said Trilby Lundberg, publisher of the survey.

    "Prices have peaked or will likely peak," she said.

    Refinery capacity was about 93.6 percent in the latest week, 3 percentage points higher than a year earlier, she added.

    Nationally, among the panel of U.S. cities included in the survey, the cheapest gasoline was found in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at $2.36 a gallon, while Los Angeles had the most expensive at $3.83.


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    David Zalubowski/AP2008 Silverado Crew Cabs in a row at a Chevrolet dealership in Denver.

    DETROIT -- General Motors (GM) and Subaru are adding vehicles to the growing list of models being recalled by 11 automakers due to potentially exploding air bags.

    The U.S. government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released the model information on Friday. The vehicles are equipped with air bag inflators made by Takata of Japan that can inflate with too much force, spewing shrapnel into the passenger compartment.

    Six people have been killed and more than 100 injured due to the problem.

    Last week NHTSA and the government agreed to double the number of inflators it recalled to 33.8 million. But the makes and models weren't available. The increase made it the largest auto recall in U.S. history, according to the agency.

    The best way to tell if your car or truck is being recalled is to key in the vehicle identification number at The number is stamped on the driver's side of the dashboard near the windshield and also is on many state registration cards. Automakers are still posting recall information by number, and the task may take several days or even weeks. So it's wise to keep checking periodically.

    Here's a breakdown of the vehicles added to the recall Friday:
    • General Motors: About 375,000 Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra HD trucks from the 2007 and 2008 model years to replace passenger air bags, mainly across North America. About 330,000 of the trucks were sold in the U.S. Dealers will replace the inflators at no cost to customers. GM says it knows of no crashes or injuries due to performance of the air bags in these vehicles.
    • Subaru: About 60,000 vehicles added to a previous recall along the Gulf Coast for passenger air bag inflators. Recall now expanded nationally. Brings total Subaru vehicles recalled to about 81,000. Additional models include 2004-2005 Impreza and the 2005 Saab 9-2X, which was manufactured by Subaru.
    On Thursday, Honda, Fiat Chrysler, BMW, Ford and Mitsubishi released their models added to the recall. Eleven automakers have vehicles included in the Takata recall expansion. Other companies include Daimler Trucks, Mazda, Nissan and Toyota. Nissan said it wouldn't add U.S. vehicles in the latest recall expansion. Vehicles from other automakers will be announced later.

    For more details on the recall, go to


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    Close up of the Geeknet logo as seen on its website. (Editorial use only: ­print, TV, e-book and editorial website).
    Plenty of stocks go up and down in any given week. The gainers inspire us to keep investing. The decliners keep greed in check while reminding us about the risks of the equity markets.

    Let's go over some of last week's best and worst performers.

    GeekNet (GKNT) -- Up 152 percent last week

    The market's biggest winner was GeekNet, soaring after a bidding war broke out for the parent company of the ThinkGeek online store specializing in all things geek. Where else can one get a Tardis waste bin or a pizza cutter shaped like Star Trek's U.S.S. Enterprise?

    Goth apparel retailer Hot Topic kicked things off earlier in the week by announcing an offer to buy GeekNet for $17.50 a share. GeekNet received a rival offer for $20 a share later in the week, asking Hot Topic to top the offer Friday. We'll see where this battle ends in the coming days, but for now GeekNet's popping faster than you can say "Bazinga!"

    ITT Educational Services (ESI) -- Up 76 percent last week

    The for-profit post-secondary educator soared after providing audited financials for 2014. ITT confirmed that revenue took a 10 percent hit last year, and that's something that isn't really a surprise given how student enrollments have tailed off sharply at post-secondary institutions. It sees another 10 percent to 15 percent slide in enrollment for 2015.

    However, ITT also came through with a profit of $1.23 a share for all of 2014. That's a lot more than analysts were forecasting. ITT may not be any closer to a turnaround, but at least it's not faring as badly as worrywarts had feared.

    MannKind (MNKD) -- Up 15 percent last week

    An upbeat analyst report on MannKind helped push the shares 13 percent higher a week earlier. It followed that up with a 15 percent pop last week after announcing that it would be making appearances at three different health-related investor conferences this week.

    MannKind's been making waves since receiving FDA clearance to market Afrezza, an inhaled insulin that's growing popular with diabetics.

    Michael Kors (KORS) -- Down 25 percent last week

    It was a rough week for the maker of the once-trendy premium handbags. Kors took a hit after announcing the first year-over-year decline in comparable-store sales in its tenure as a public company.

    It gets worse. Guidance for its current quarter suggests that comps will continue to be negative. Fashion can be fickle. Investors in Kors rival Coach (COH) saw it turn negative two years ago, and it has yet to bounce back. Now it's Kors that is suffering from waning popularity in the U.S. market.

    United Rentals (URI) -- Down 15 percent last week

    An analyst downgrade slammed shares of United Rentals. Bank of America Merrill Lynch lowered its rating on the stock to underperform -- and its price target to $80 -- on concerns that the renter of industrial and construction equipment is losing its pricing power. An oversupply of rental gear in the industry poses a threat to near-term results.

    Shake Shack (SHAK) -- Down 11 percent last week

    The rally in shares of Shake Shack took a breather last week. The stock had soared a week earlier after reports suggested that it might open up a sister chain specializing in chicken, but the real spike was likely the result of a short squeeze.

    Given Shake Shack's thin float of shares available for trading and the high short positions, it's not a surprise to see any whiff of bullish news trigger a wave of shorts scrambling to cover their positions. That's been a big driver in the recent gain, but the rally came undone by the middle of last week with the stock giving back some of its earlier gains.

    Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Coach and Michael Kors Holdings. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Check out our free report on one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.


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    Sorting out car finances
    Getty Images
    By Bernie Woodall

    DETROIT -- The average length of loans for new and used vehicles in the U.S. in the first quarter hit record highs, and nearly 30 percent of new-vehicle loans have pay-back periods longer than six years, Experian Automotive said in a report issued Monday.

    The average term for a first-quarter new-vehicle loan was 67 months and for used vehicles, 62 months, Experian said.

    Experian found that in the first quarter, 29.5 percent of new-vehicle loans in the U.S. market were for term of 73 months to 84 months.

    While longer term loans are growing, they do not necessarily represent an ominous sign for the market.

    Experian has been tracking the length of auto loans since 2006.

    "While longer term loans are growing, they do not necessarily represent an ominous sign for the market," said Melinda Zabritski, Experian's senior director of automotive finance. "Most longer-term loans help consumers keep monthly payments manageable, while allowing them to purchase the vehicles they need without having to break the bank."

    The average age of cars and trucks on U.S. roads is about 11 years.

    The average new-vehicle loan in the first quarter this year was $28,711 in the first quarter of 2015, up from $27,612 a year earlier. The average monthly payment for new vehicles rose to $488 from $474 a year earlier, Experian reported.

    Leases accounted for 31.5 percent of new vehicles financed in the first quarter, up from 30.2 percent a year earlier. The average monthly payment for a new leased vehicle fell to $405 from $412 a year earlier.


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    Luxury home
    Getty Images
    By Clayton Collins, as told to Marianne Hayes

    In our Money Mic series, we hand over the podium to people with controversial views about money. These are their views, not ours, but we welcome your responses. Today, one man shares how stretching his budget to buy a big home left him and his wife financially -- and emotionally -- strained.

    Once upon a time purchasing a home landed at the very top of my bucket list.

    At 25 years old it felt like the next logical step in growing up -- a move that would inch my wife, Jessica, and me closer to the American dream.

    From the outside it appeared we were ready for it. We'd built up our emergency fund, paid off our car loans, and started setting aside cash for a down payment. We did everything by the book.

    Well, not everything.

    When it came time to pull the trigger on our new home, we completely maxed out our budget -- effectively signing ourselves up for months of financial strain, emotional stress and major regret.

    Landing Our Dream Home -- $50,000 Over Budget

    In 2009 Jessica and I were living in the Dallas-Forth Worth area. At 23 and 24 years old, respectively, we were doing great.

    I was a firefighter/paramedic, and Jessica was studying photography at the University of North Texas while working as a preschool teacher. Together, we pulled in $75,000 -- and had zero debt, no kids, and about $25,000 saved up between our emergency fund and retirement accounts.

    We were renting a one-bedroom apartment for $750 a month, but loved the idea of putting down roots and moving into a home where we could eventually raise a family.

    Courtesy: Clayton CollinsAs new homeowners, Clayton and Jessica went from financially flush to living paycheck to paycheck.
    So, with giddy excitement, we began house hunting for properties in the $150,000 to $170,000 range -- a number we settled on after plugging our finances into an online mortgage calculator.

    We also decided to look into an FHA loan for first-time homebuyers, which would only require us to make a 3 percent down payment. I knew 20 percent was the rule of thumb, but it just wasn't really something I saw other first-time buyers my age doing. Plus, putting down 3 percent would preserve some of our savings, and I liked having a reliable cushion to cover us in emergencies.

    Two months into our search, we noticed a "for sale" sign on a stunning house just a few doors down from a home we'd just viewed. When our realtor offered to give us a peek on the spot, it was love at first sight.

    The house was enchanting: It was just a few years old, with four full bedrooms, 2,400 square feet, and a lush backyard. We couldn't find anything wrong with it, until we heard the price -- $206,000.

    We knew it was well over our budget, but couldn't bear the thought of letting it go. Plus, we'd been pre-approved for a $200,000 loan, which felt like permission to purchase a home of that size.

    In hindsight, I know this was a terribly risky move, but at the time I didn't know any better. And none of our friends or family advised us against buying the home.

    After the closing costs were said and done, the total came to around $207,000. We plunked down $7,000 -- and moved in August 2010.

    Plenty of House, Not Enough Cash

    Although we loved the home, we were instantly struck by our high expenses.

    While our original $150,000 to $170,000 price range would have put our housing costs at a manageable 30 percent of our total income, springing for a $200,000 loan shot that number up to just shy of 50 percent.

    But we felt confident we could handle the expenses, since I was banking on a steady flow of raises from my employer. (Spoiler alert: They didn't.)

    We'd just have to tighten our belts to sustain our $2,000 housing bills, which included the mortgage, insurance, taxes and utility bills.

    That meant some serious lifestyle changes, like declining after-work drinks with friends and passing on the dinner date nights we loved. We couldn't even afford to fully furnish and decorate the place -- inviting friends over to an empty house was really tough on my pride.

    Living out of a backpack for two years really changes your priorities. Having financial security and a better quality of life now means much more to us than a fancy house.

    Even worse, our new bills put an end to the $250 savings contribution we used to make every month. And forget about retirement -- our nest eggs were put on hold entirely after moving into the house.

    In a matter of months, we had gone from feeling financially flush to pinching every penny -- a change that put unnecessary stress on our marriage. More and more we found ourselves nitpicking and bickering with each other.

    Over the next nine months, as Jessica and I had many conversations about our decision, it became more apparent that we were being seriously weighed down by the house. We felt stuck, and began to wonder: Had we made a huge mistake?

    About a year and a half after moving in, we made the drastic decision to put the house on the market in August 2012. There was no straw that broke the camel's back -- you can only go so long living paycheck to paycheck before you realize that something's got to give.

    While waiting for it to sell, we did everything we could to start saving again. We had a feeling we might take a loss on the house, and wanted to lessen the sting. So we began selling our belongings -- our boat, TV, cars -- and socked away the profits.

    Jessica and I also explored ways of bringing in additional money on the side. She picked up freelance photography work, while I began building websites. All in all, we were able to shore up an additional $15,000.

    We finally sold the house at the beginning of 2013, taking a $10,000 loss. While the hit didn't feel good, the sale took a massive weight off our shoulders.

    Our New Life: House Poor, Cash Rich

    Armed with about $30,000 in savings and two travel backpacks, Jessica and I did something even crazier after giving up our homeowner status: We left our jobs -- and decided to travel the world.

    For two years we went all over Europe and South Asia, mastering the art of budget travel. We picked up odd jobs teaching English, painting houses -- and even herding sheep! I also continued to do some Web development work and invested in a few blue-chip stocks.

    By the time we returned to Texas in the fall of 2014, we had about $100,000 to our names -- and were ready for a fresh start.

    Jessica is still doing freelance photography work, as well as running a few photography workshops. And I continue to take on Web development projects.

    But, in a strange twist of fate, I also decided to break into the real estate industry. A few months ago, I earned my realtor's license and was recently hired at a national agency. I'm looking forward to helping guide other first-time buyers to find a great house -- in their budget.

    Although we're certainly not in any hurry to buy another home, if we ever do I'll definitely be taking my own advice: Buy only what you can afford.

    As you might imagine, living out of a backpack for two years really changes your priorities when it comes to material possessions. Having financial security and a better quality of life now means much more to us than a fancy house.

    In the end, our version of the American dream has turned out to be different from most. But I'm happy that it's ours.


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    House For Sale sign and daffodils, Spring of 2010
    By Jennifer Liu

    Back in the day, moving out of your parents' home probably meant you were moving into one of your own.

    But whether you blame it on the economy or just a generational shift in values, young adult homeowners are becoming increasingly rare.

    Case in point: recent stats find that only 38 percent of millennials between the ages of 25 and 34 owned homes in 2012, compared to 52 percent of the same age group in 1980.

    So just why is "generation rent" so adverse to home-buying?

    Well, that depends on where they live. A survey from Carrington Mortgage Services found that the underlying causes actually vary from region to region.

    In the Western states, for example, millennials are most worried about being able to shore up enough for a down payment. That makes sense -- considering the region's average down payment amount tends to far exceed the national average.

    Moving over to the Midwest however, millennials have misgivings for a much different reason: student loan debt. Experts suspect this is because salaries tend to be lower here, leaving student loan debt taking a greater chunk of the generation's take-home pay -- and making homeownership a more daunting challenge.

    In the Northeast, Gen Y is most concerned with credit card debt, while Southern millennials actually shy away from homeownership for two reasons: concern about low credit scores, as well as simply not knowing where to start.

    But not everyone is ditching the white-picket fence altogether. Despite their current low confidence, more than half of millennials surveyed said that they plan to buy a home within the next two years.


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    Kroger Huber Heights
    Nicholas Eckhart/Flickr
    By Dan Sewell

    CINCINNATI -- Grocery giant Kroger Co. (KR) plans to bring nearly 650 jobs to new centers in a suburban city in southwest Ohio.

    Kroger and Ohio officials announced Monday the $46 million investment by Kroger in buildings and renovations for a distribution center and a business administration center for customer service, human resources recruiting and digital innovation in Blue Ash.

    Kroger spokesman Keith Dailey said the new jobs will represent a cross-section of positions including workers involved in mobile shopping technology and call-center employees for Kroger pharmacy customer service.

    The Ohio Tax Credit Authority approved a 10-year tax credit for the project. JobsOhio, the state's private economic development agency, says it will also provide assistance.

    Cincinnati-based Kroger employs nearly 400,000 employees across operations that generated $108.5 billion in sales last year.


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    Dow Jones Average Closes In On Record
    Andrew Burton/Getty Images
    By Caroline Valetkevitch

    NEW YORK -- U.S. stocks ended with modest gains Monday, recovering part of last week's losses in a session marked by cautious trading as investors reacted to mixed economic data.

    A report from the Institute for Supply Management showed the pace of manufacturing growth rose in May. Other data showed construction spending surged in April but consumer spending was unexpectedly flat.

    Investors are weighing data to try to guess how soon the Federal Reserve might raise interest rates. Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren said with little evidence of a rebound, the Fed is in no position to start raising interest rates for the first time since 2006.

    The risk is that the Fed raises interest rates into a slowing economy.

    "The things that seem to be driving the market today are a bounce-back from the selling and some pretty good economic data. But as the day has progressed, some of the enthusiasm has worn off since the debate continues as to when the Fed is going to raise rates," said Bucky Hellwig, senior vice president at BB&T Wealth Management in Birmingham, Alabama.

    "The risk is that the Fed raises interest rates into a slowing economy."

    Eight of the 10 major S&P indexes were higher, with health, industrials and technology among sectors with the most gains.

    Transportation stocks rebounded from recent losses. The Dow Jones transportation average, which last week came within a hair of correction territory, was up 1.1 percent.

    The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) rose 29.69 points, or 0.2 percent, to 18,040.37, the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GSPC) gained 4.34 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,111.73 and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) added 12.90 points, or 0.3 percent, to 5,082.93.

    Mover and Shakers

    Immunogen (IMGN) surged more than 70 percent, leading a rally in cancer drugmakers' stocks after they presented positive data at a conference.

    Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY) shares jumped 2.9 percent to $66.48, giving the S&P 500 its biggest boost, after the Food and Drug Administration accepted its application for a combination melanoma treatment.

    Intel (INTC) fell 1.6 percent to $33.90 and was the biggest drag on the three major indexes after the company agreed to buy programmable chipmaker Altera for $16.7 billion. Altera (ALTR) rose 5.8 percent to $51.68.

    Amid mounting worries of a Greek default, Athens missed a self-imposed Sunday deadline to reach an agreement to unlock aid.

    Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 1,630 to 1,417, for a 1.15-to-1 ratio on the upside; on the Nasdaq, 1,371 issues fell and 1,363 advanced for a 1.01-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.

    The S&P 500 posted 15 new 52-week highs and 6 new lows; the Nasdaq recorded 100 new highs and 51 new lows.

    About 5.9 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, below the 6.1 billion daily average for the last five sessions, according to BATS Global Markets.

    -With additional reporting by Tanya Agrawal.

    What to watch Tuesday:
    • Automakers report May vehicle sales.
    • The Commerce Department reports factory orders for April at 10 a.m. Eastern time.
    Earnings Season
    These selected companies are scheduled to release quarterly financial results:
    • Conn's (CONN)
    • Cracker Barrel Old Country Store (CBRL)
    • Dollar General (DG)
    • G-III Apparel (GIII)
    • Guess (GES)


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    Best Tips: Saving on Food

    By Krystal Steinmetz

    I enjoy cooking, but I despise the preparation for making dinner. It can be expensive and time-consuming to find a recipe, go grocery shopping and then prepare the ingredients to be cooked. But there are increasing number of alternatives.

    Plated, for instance, aims to simplify the process by providing subscribers with the recipes and fresh ingredients needed to make a wholesome homemade dinner with a minimum of stress. Most of Plated's meals are designed to go from refrigerator-boxed ingredients on your doorstep to a hot-cooked meal on your dinner table in 20 to 40 minutes.

    According to Real Simple, Plated takes the hassle out of making dinner, so you can enjoy cooking again (or maybe for the first time). Here's how it works: "The idea behind Plated is amazingly simple: Every week you go on the site, choose the recipes you'd like, and on your selected delivery date your Plated box arrives with everything you need to prepare your meals. If one of the dishes you chose calls for 2 wild-caught salmon fillets and 3 ounces of foraged mushrooms, you will get the exact amount needed of each ingredient with absolutely zero waste or excess ingredients."

    More Choices

    Epicurious describes Plated as "meal kits for the adventurous." If that's not your style, there are other options for meal delivery kits. Here's the scoop on some of the services available:
    • Plated. Cost: $12 a plate, minimum order of four plates of one recipe or two portions of two recipes. Plated is available across 95 percent of the country. Click here to get four free Plated meals with the purchase of two meals.
    • Blue Apron. "A weekly box of everything you need to make at least three meals for two people, customized based on your dietary preferences and including calorie counts," Epicurious said. Cost: $60 (minimum order) a week. Blue Apron is available everywhere except the Midwest.
    • Peachdish. This option includes Southern-inspired recipes and the (Southern-sourced) ingredients to cook the meal. Cost: $50 (minimum order) a week, or $12.50 a serving. Peachdish is available nationwide.
    • Scrumpt. This is designed for kids, with weekly deliveries of pediatrician- and nutritionist-curated lunch ingredients. "A complete lunch kit with perishable ingredients is available in San Francisco for $34 a week; a basic lunch kit of nonperishables is available nationwide for $13.50," Epicurious said.
    • HelloFresh. If you're a "food lover who is also concerned about nutrition," then HelloFresh is for you, Today said. The cost is $69 a week for three two-person meals.
    I've considered signing up for a service like It's a low-cost meal planning service that lets you select one of 50 meal-plan options (I would likely choose the family-inspired meals), and then it emails you the recipes and a grocery list so you can shop and cook without the hassle of planning the meals. I have friends who have used the service and loved it.

    What do you think about meal kit deliveries? Have you tried any? Share your comments below or the Money Talks News Facebook page. Like this article? Sign up for our newsletter and we'll send you a regular digest of our newest stories, full of money saving tips and advice, free! We'll also email you a PDF of Stacy Johnson's "205 Ways to Save Money" as soon as you've subscribed. It's full of great tips that'll help you save a ton of extra cash.


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    Joplin Adli Reopening
    Beth Hall/AP Images for Aldi
    By Ashley Lutz and Hayley Peterson

    The way people shop is changing every day. Thanks to the proliferation of smartphones and innovations in delivery and data, the retail landscape is evolving like never before. From an established e-commerce giant deploying drones to an inventive pizza chain, here are 25 companies that are revolutionizing the industry.

    1. Zulily Applies T.J. Maxx Model to E-Commerce

    Similar to discount retailer T.J. Maxx, Zulily (ZU), founded in Seattle in 2010, creates a daily treasure hunt for the mothers who shop its site. While T.J. Maxx offers close-out discounts on various brands in its stores, Zulily's website offers flash sales on apparel, home goods, toys, and more. The deals and constantly changing selection keep shoppers coming back, and the e-commerce site, which went public in 2013, has nearly 4 million users.

    2. Kroger Writes Playbook for Grocery Industry

    Cincinatti-based Kroger (KR) has reported positive comparable-store sales for 45 straight quarters and is expected to surpass Whole Foods Market (WFM) within two years to become the nation's top seller of organic and natural food. The chain, which dates back to 1883, is renowned for its excellent customer service and extensive selection. The retailer is a leader in offering private-label products to keep prices low and is known for its loyalty program, which makes customers eligible for discounts and fuel savings.

    3. Brandy Melville Caters to Teens on Instagram

    Fashion retailer Brandy Melville was founded in Italy more than two decades ago, and it brought its tiny crop tops, high-waisted bottoms, and slouchy sweaters to the U.S. just five years ago. Thanks to a brilliant Instagram account, which features a mix of professional models and real customers, the retailer is now ranked in the top 10 teen clothing brands, and has a major e-commerce presence. The brand is also notable for offering "one size fits all" clothing.

    4. Bigcommerce Is the Brains Behind Online Stores

    Bigcommerce is helping retailers adapt their businesses to an online format. Bigcommerce users rave about the company's features, including better search engine optimization than other platforms -- meaning that it's more likely to get at the top of an online search. The Texas firm supports more than 70,000 retailers from 150 countries and has processed more than $5 billion in sales.

    5. Starbucks Revolutionizes Mobile Payments, Delivery

    Starbucks (SBUX) is responsible for making coffee shops ubiquitous. Now the Seattle icon is leading the charge on mobile payments at its 21,000 locations. The company's mobile app allowed customers to pay for their coffee beverages by smartphone before Apple Pay. An impressive 16 percent of transactions are now mobile. The company is also testing delivery in Seattle and New York.

    6. Poshmark Created a Reliable Resale Clothing Market

    Poshmark uses an Instagram-like platform for users to sell used clothing. For a fee, users can easily upload pictures of their items. Unlike eBay (EBAY), which can be overwhelming with its broad array of products, the California firm is focused on clothing and accessories. Users can shop by brand or see what their friends are selling, giving a social aspect to the app. One DailyFinance contributor tested Threadflip and Tradesy, and another tried Twice and ThredUp.

    7. Under Armour Challenges Athletic Brands

    The Baltimore company, which put performance wear on the map, recently surpassed Adidas to become the second-biggest sportswear brand in the U.S. by sales. When it was founded in 1996, it had $17,000 in revenue. This year, it is expected to bring in $3.76 billion. Under Armour (UA) has been investing in high-profile endorsement deals with athletes like Stephen Curry and Muhammad Ali and building up its women's business.

    8. Pirch Creates New Home-Shopping Experience

    San Diego-based Pirch is a high-end home store whose founders strive to make the experience of shopping "inspirational and joyful." The retailer builds stunning, expansive showrooms. Baristas greet customers by offering them a custom latte. Shoppers can try out all of the products, including an aromatherapy shower and a heated toilet. Pirch is a pioneer in making its stores a destination when shoppers are increasingly going online.

    9. Kohl's Reinvents the Department Store

    Kohl's (KSS) is American women's favorite place to shop for clothes, according to a recent survey. The department store chain, which traces its roots to Wisconsin in 1962, offers deep discounts on national clothing brands such as Nike (NKE), Vera Wang and Izod. Analysts say the thrill of finding good deals keeps bargain hunters coming back for a savvy mix of brands and value.

    10. EDITD Shows Real-Time Purchases

    EDITD is a technology company that helps retailers like Target (TGT), Gap (GPS) and Asos have "the right products, at the right place, at the right time." The English company tracks what people are buying in real time. This helps retailers make better merchandising decisions and restock items faster.

    11. Trader Joe's Makes Brand Names Obsolete

    Trader Joe's sells twice as much a square foot as Whole Foods yet offers very few brand names. Consumers view the 57-year-old California firm as high-quality but inexpensive (many staple products are half the price of other retailers). The creativity of the in-house products is also important. Some of the most popular products include Chili-Lime Chicken Burgers, Cookie Butter (a cookie-flavored nut butter), corn and chili salsa.

    12. Lululemon Defines Athleisure

    Lululemon (LULU), which started in 1998 in British Columbia, was arguably the first company to offer women workout clothes they wanted to wear all the time. Now, analysts say the "athleisure" trend will likely become a permanent part of the retail landscape. The company now counts Nike and Under Armour among its copycats. Lululemon is continuing to innovate -- its "anti ball-crushing" pants have become hugely popular with men. It's also expanding ivivva, its line for young girls.

    13. Pet Food Express Leads in Conscious Capitalism

    It's easy to see why Pet Food Express, which has more than 50 stores in California, has a huge cult following. The 19-year-old company will undercut competitors' prices by 10 percent and welcomes pets into its stores. It also pours profits into pet rescue and adoption, having donated more than $1.7 million in 2013 alone. Pet Food Express is known for offering workers excellent pay and benefits, and is routinely ranked as one of the best companies to work for.

    14. Swipely Offers All-in-One Marketing, Payment Platform

    Swipely is a platform that helps thousands of small retailers and restaurants attract and retain customers. The company, founded in 2009 in Rhode Island, tracks point-of-sale, sales, and customer data so retailers can see what's working -- services that were previously only available to larger companies. Swipely's companies now post $4 billion in annual sales.

    15. GameStop Prospers in Digital Transition

    In the age of e-commerce, many people assumed that video game retailer GameStop (GME) -- which dates back to 1984 -- would go the route of book, music and video stores. But the Texas firm has been able to get customers in stores to purchase digital content. It's cultivated retail locations as places where young men can socialize, meaning that online competitors haven't made a dent in business. The company also has trade-in and loyalty programs that are unrivaled by competitors.

    16. Stitch Fix Changes How Women Shop for Clothes

    Stitch Fix eliminates the hardest part of shopping: making choices. With its services, women don't have to step foot inside a store or browse shopping websites to find clothes they like. The San Francisco company's stylists curate items for customers based on an extensive profile of their style preferences, sizing, and body types, and send them a box of selections every month. Customers can try on the clothes at home and send back whatever they don't want to keep. Over time, the service gets increasingly accurate in predicting specific customers' style preferences, thanks to an algorithm that learns from customer feedback.

    17. Aldi Figures Out How to Be Cheaper Than Walmart

    Aldi -- a German firm that has been called the best grocery chain in the U.S.-- offers cheaper prices than Walmart (WMT) by offering a lean selection of items that's heavy on house brands. Aldi also saves money by requiring customers to bring their own shopping bags and bag their own groceries. The chain, which dates back to 1913, has nearly 1,300 US locations, mostly in the Midwest and East, and plans to open 650 more U.S. stores within the next five years.

    18. Abine Protects Consumers With 'Fake' Credit Cards

    The privacy firm Abine, founded in Boston in 2008, has developed a service called Blur that generates "fake" credit-card numbers to protect consumers from hackers. When a user is ready to make a purchase, Blur will randomly generate a masked card -- a one-time-use credit card number, expiration date and security code. The card is only authorized for a specified amount and after a single use, it will be destroyed. That way, no customer information can be stolen.

    19. Interior Define Makes Customizable Furniture Affordable

    Interior Define, founded in 2014 in Chicago, builds every piece of furniture on demand and will customize everything, including size, shape, color, fabric, filling, and frame. With an average price point of about $1,700, Interior Define is targeting customers who have graduated from Ikea furniture but can't afford designer brands.

    20. Amazon Pioneers in the On-Demand Economy

    Since its 1994 founding, (AMZN) has continued to innovate This year, the company started offering one-hour delivery for members of its Prime service and expanded its grocery delivery business to New York City. The company also announced a new gadget called the Dash Button, which will make it easier for consumers to order household items, such as detergent, when they are running low.

    21. CVS Stops Selling Cigarettes

    CVS (CVS) shocked the retail industry last year when it made the decision to stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products at its stores, saying tobacco has "no place in an environment where healthcare is being delivered." The decision was expected to cost the 52-year-old Rhode Island company about $2 billion in annual revenue, but the pharmacy chain made up some lost revenue by charging a new premium to Caremark customers who fill prescriptions at pharmacies that sell tobacco products. The change gives Caremark customers a major incentive to fill their drug orders at CVS.

    22. Restoration Hardware Opens Design Galleries

    At a time when many retailers are shutting down physical stores or downsizing existing ones, Restoration Hardware (RHI), which was founded in 1980, is opening even bigger stores -- and sales are booming. The California company has been opening massive "design galleries," which are larger than its typical stores, and have a much wider selection of products. Restoration Hardware's same-store sales soared 20 percent in 2014.

    23. T.J. Maxx Redefines Discount

    T.J. Maxx-parent TJX Cos. (TJX) has been called the most powerful apparel retailer in the U.S. The Massachusetts company, which also owns the discount retailers Marshalls and Home Goods, frequently floods its stores with new merchandise but limits the amount of each product it sells to keep bargain hunters coming back again and again. The company, founded in 1976, also aggressively trains its buyers to keep costs low.

    24. Wanelo Make It Really One-Click Easy

    Wanelo, founded in 2011 in San Francisco, is a popular online shopping community where users find and share images of cool products. Unlike Pinterest, clicking on a product's image on Wanelo will take users right to the website where they can purchase it. From August 2013 to August 2014, Wanelo grew from 1 million members to 11 million.

    25. Adore Me Brings New Strategies to Lingerie

    Adore Me, founded in 2011 in New York, has applied the strategies of fast-fashion retailers like Zara and Forever 21 to the lingerie business. Adore Me bras and panties run about $39 total, while a single bra at Victoria's Secret costs between $50 and $60. The brand sells plus sizes, while Victoria's Secret is criticized for its limited selections.


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    By Krystina Gustafson

    For more than a year, retailers' play-calling has centered on deluging shoppers with discounts and other money-saving bargains-a tactic that resulted in a sea of sameness from one brand to another.

    While it's true that deals are still prevalent, with retailers like Bloomingdale's and J.C. Penney (JCP) ramping up their promotions at the end of the month, several companies are tapping into more unique tactics to lure shoppers.

    Whether it's a short-term strategy such as better-targeted emails, or a long-term bet on delivering better customer service to shoppers, below are four ways retailers are adjusting their game plans to be less focused on price slashing.

    1. Making Retail More Than Just Shopping

    Shoppers -- millennials, in particular -- have become more interested in collecting experiences than spending money on physical goods, said Virginia Morris, vice president of global consumer and innovation strategy at Daymon Worldwide. As a result, smart retailers have recognized that creating a sensory experience in their stores can help create buzz by engaging consumers, and encouraging them to spread that experience across social media.

    She pointed to a recent campaign by The North Face as an example. Last month, the outdoor apparel retailer launched a virtual reality initiative at its Chicago store, through which shoppers are virtually placed in Yosemite National Park and Moab, Utah, via 360-degree 3-D audio and video. The technology is expanding. "It's all about that thrill-seeking, man-over-nature kind of approach," Morris said. "For a lot of these brands yes, lots of eyeballs are great, but what I want as a brand is I want a connection."

    2. Getting Customers Into the Stores -- Now!

    It can be tough to get shoppers to part with their hard-earned cash when they know the dress they're eyeing will still be there next week -- and there's a good chance it'll be on sale. In fact, one differentiator that's helped make fast-fashion names including Forever 21 so successful is that it stocks a wide variety of merchandise but in a more limited quantity. Therefore, if consumers don't snatch up an item they want quickly, they know it could be gone the next time they visit the store.

    Target tapped into this buy-it-now mentality with its recent Lilly Pulitzer for Target collection, which had shoppers lined up around the block ahead of the limited-edition collection's launch. Although the retailer received some backlash from consumers, who were upset that the items were nearly sold out the first morning, analysts said the collection's popularity showed that Target is starting to get its mojo back. "Bottom line, we believe the buzz is more likely positive than negative to revitalize Target's fashionable, signature category brand image," Cowen & Co. analyst Oliver Chen wrote in a note to investors following the launch.

    3. Focusing on the Product, Not the Price

    It's easy to get sucked into the habit of promoting your brand on price, not product. Although the number of email promotions traditionally ticks lower following the holiday push, the first quarter saw a 12 percent year-over-year increase in the number of email campaigns with offers for more than 50 percent off in the subject, according to Experian Marketing Services. Experian's Spencer Kollas said that new deliverability standards are rewarding brands for sending more relevant messages.​

    Specialty apparel retailer Express is one company that's shifted away from messages focused solely on discounts. Instead, its recent email blasts focus on new arrivals, the latest trends, and how to wear them. Liz Crystal, chief marketing officer at Express, said the retailer is also better segmenting its messages to highlight specific categories or products that shoppers are interested in. The changes are part of a company-wide campaign that started in 2015. "As a brand we are focused on being a fashion authority and communicating fashion trends and categories that are relevant to our customers," Crystal said.

    4. Playing the Long Game

    Several retailers are taking a longer-term approach to improving the store experience. Earlier this year, Walmart announced that it would raise its hourly pay for 500,000 employees to $9. In following months, TJ Maxx parent company TJX Cos. (TJX) and Target (TGT) followed suit.

    While the raises will weigh on the retailers' cost structures, analysts viewed the moves as an investment in their workforce-and therefore, an investment in their stores. That's because boosting employee pay encourages sales associates to stick with the retailer longer, thereby lowering turnover costs and resulting in a better-trained workforce. "A happy workforce helps build the brand," Morris said.


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    By Kathryn Tuggle

    NEW YORK -- If you're going through a divorce, your future financial well-being may be the last thing on your mind. Unfortunately, when emotions get in the way, it's easier to make mistakes that may cost you for years to come. Here's a look at three of the worst financial mistakes you can make during a divorce.

    1. You don't know where the assets are or you lack an understanding of the household finances.

    Dividing assets can be "simple math," as alimony and child support are dictated in most states by a formula, says Michael Rosenberg, managing director of wealth management firm Diversified Investment Strategies.

    "By financial professionals, divorce is viewed purely as an economic divide," he says.

    You have to have a game plan going in as to what you want, and the only way to know what to negotiate for is to have an understanding of what's there.

    But when one spouse doesn't have an understanding of the household or business assets, they often don't know the basis for the concessions they might be called to make, says Derek Gabrielsen, a wealth adviser at financial management firm Strategic Wealth Partners.

    "Things can get pretty crazy when you're in the negotiating room," he explains. "You have to have a game plan going in as to what you want, and the only way to know what to negotiate for is to have an understanding of what's there."

    The first step is simply asking your spouse to allow you more involvement in the family finances or just looking at all the accounts to get a better handle on things, he says. If that's not possible, it may be time to hire a forensic accountant.

    "They can dig through everything, including any 401(k)s or IRAs as well as other accounts that may exist," he says. "They can go back through your tax history and ask questions and make assumptions. If they find holes then they will investigate further, just like what a private detective would do, but for finance."

    Even so, it can be hard to find money your spouse is trying to hide. The best remedy is prevention, Gabrielsen says, and you don't have to be an accountant to gain a decent understanding of your household's money.

    "It all comes down to this: You love your children more than you dislike your spouse," clinical psychologist Barbara Greenberg says. Because you're not just going to be taking care of yourself, you're also going to be caring for your children, "you have to educate yourself."

    There's nothing beneficial about one spouse being rich and one being poor, she stresses.

    "A lot of people say, 'I just want out, I'll deal with this later,' but then they regret that once they have more energy and more time to think. You don't want to be one of those people who wake up one day and realize they should have done it differently," Greenberg says.

    "This is not the time to be spiteful and hateful. It is, however, a time to remember that everything you do today has a long-range impact. Divorce is not a single event, it's a journey."

    2. You don't have a good financial adviser or legal team.

    Everyone going through a divorce should have a team who can answer their financial and legal questions, Gabrielsen says.

    "You should have someone who can help you dig deeper into your household finances if you need it. You need professionals who can explain everything to you," he says.

    With the average divorce, you don't need a huge law firm, but when there are assets at stake you do need a firm with a three- to four-person team who can makes sure everything gets done properly, he says.

    Having a trusted financial adviser before and after the divorce is also important. If you and your spouse use the same adviser, it's OK for you both to continue a relationship with him or her. There are no conflict of interest concerns as with an attorney.

    "The financial adviser is legally able to give both spouses advice all the way through," he says. "They won't have a role in the divorce proceedings, but before and after they're going to work to make sure all the assets are explained and to get both spouses settled into a new financial plan, with asset allocation based on their new situation."

    3. You agree to things or expect things that aren't written in the divorce decree.

    "So many times people say, 'Well, I conceded to this because I thought you were going to do this for me,' but that wasn't in writing, so it ended up never happening," Gabrielsen says.

    With the emotions that so often surround divorce, you can't count on the other person always acting rationally, he says. That's why everything needs to be in writing.

    Inheritance is a good example here," he says. "Your spouse may say that when he passes, he's going to pass an asset to your children. Well, that's something based on a promise that may or may not happen if it's not written down. There can be no handshake agreements here," he says.

    You can't know what's going to happen over time, Greenberg says. In another year, your spouse may have a new family and they may be feeling far less generous.

    "I can understand that people want to avoid conflict, so they don't want demand that something is written down, but things will change," she says. "Remember that you are not married to this person anymore, and there is a reason why."

    -Written by Kathryn Tuggle for MainStreet.


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