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    USA, New Jersey, Man paying bills online
    Getty Images
    The best part about saving money and being financially secure isn't all the things you can afford to buy; it's the peace of mind and lack of financial stress. This is why wealthy people don't take tax refunds and buy new cars or TVs. After all, that money isn't a windfall -- it's your money to begin with. Instead, that cash injection goes straight into their investment portfolio or bank account.

    With the five ways to save more money below, you will quickly notice that none of the tactics suggest you forgo that $4 cup of coffee you get once a week at Starbucks or try to cancel your $9 a month Netflix service. Unless you're spending $10 a day -- or over $3,500 a year -- on Frappuccinos, these minor lifestyle changes aren't going to launch you into the 1 percent club.

    1. Negotiate Everything

    When you call customer service for any large corporation, their goal is to keep you happy, unless you're Comcast. Fortunately, other telecom providers regularly offer promotions for their cellphone and Internet services. My friend Gary Dek at Gajizmo has been able to annually negotiate his AT&T DSL service to $35 from $65 a month.

    He says the trick is to keep calling till you find a friendly customer service rep who is willing to look through their list of promotions and get you the one that saves the most money. Remember, for an hour of your time, you could save $360 a year or more depending on your service plan.

    The same "negotiate everything" strategy can apply to buying a new car, finding a cheap cellphone plan, switching car insurance carriers or any monthly expense that could be draining your bank account. The higher the dollar amount or longer the commitment, the more time you should spend finding ways to save.

    2. Lower Your Investment Fees and Commissions

    Broker commissions, mutual fund loads and investment fees can significantly reduce your overall returns. Looking at these costs annually, you may think about ignoring them, but if you consider that your lost capital could have earned compounded returns over the course of 30 years, the numbers balloon quickly. For this reason, it is important to thoroughly research discount brokerage firms before opening an account.

    Even after you open an account with one of the best online brokers, beware of your financial adviser or account representative. Like anything else in life, you are accountable for your choices, so don't let a sales pitch convince you of anything until you research the facts for yourself.

    3. Avoid Debt, Unless It's for an Appreciating Asset or Investment

    One of the best reasons to stay debt free and save money is to have the capital for when investment opportunities present themselves. Buying real estate or equities five years ago would have resulted in huge investment gains, but most American households just didn't have the cash available to take advantage of fallen prices.

    As the American economy continues to thrive, don't get too comfortable and confident by overspending on your next car purchase or home renovation. All great bull markets come to an end, and there will be another recession somewhere in the future. Be prepared. In the end, a 20 percent return on $500,000 is much greater than a 20 percent return on $250,000.

    4. Don't Mix Your Investments and Life Insurance

    We all have that relative or friend who is a financial planner selling life insurance. He touts whole life insurance as a great investment with a guaranteed 4 percent rate of return. Unless you're wealthy and have a large enough estate to trigger estate taxes, start running because permanent whole life insurance isn't for you. Whole life policies cost 3 to 5 times more than term life policies, you won't be able to afford the coverage you need, and your insurance agent is going to net thousands in commissions.

    Instead of mixing insurance and investment products, buy the more popular and affordable term policy from one of the best life insurance companies. If you're a healthy, non-smoking 35-year-old male, you can buy a 30-year, $500,000 term life policy for less than $500 a year in premiums. The 30-year policy will cover you into your retirement, past your children becoming financially independent, and give you plenty of time to create a nest egg.

    In the meantime, your saved premiums can be invested in the stock market, which has yielded over 10 percent a year since 1980.

    5. Research and Comparison Shop

    Buyer's remorse is one of the worst feelings a consumer can have, especially on a large purchase. The easiest solution is to avoid impulsive purchases and thoroughly research and comparison shop any big-ticket items. Always ask yourself these questions:
    • Do I really need this or is it something I just want in the moment?
    • If I bought it, how often would I use it?
    • Does the price justify the benefits?
    • Are their maintenance costs or recurring expenses associated with my purchase?
    • How many hours of work would it take to pay off the expense?
    The last question has always helped me put the price of something in perspective -- if I converted my income into an hourly wage, how many hours would it take for me to pay off something? The psychological aspect of translating your hard work and time into the purchase process can help consumers avoid impulsive purchases.

    However, if a product or service passes all these tests, then it's time to immerse yourself in consumer guides, reviews, and ratings.

    Anyone Can Achieve Financial Independence

    Ultimately, I strongly believe anyone can achieve financial independence. The only difference between households who gradually become millionaires and others who fall short is the time, energy and patience invested in making important financial decisions.

    If you are mindful of your budget, you won't overspend. If you don't overspend, you will have more cash to invest. When your investments are growing, you won't withdraw the cash, forgo the gains and trigger taxes. Over time, you will find this process has put you in a position to retire comfortably.

    John Schmoll is the founder of Frugal Rules, a finance blog that regularly discusses investing, budgeting and frugal living. He is a father, husband and veteran of the financial services industry who's passionate about helping people find freedom through frugality. He also writes about wise ways to manage your money at


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    A Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Location Ahead Of Earnings Figures
    Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
    By Cameron Huddleston

    If you had to name stores known for their large selection of organic items, you'd likely say Whole Foods, The Fresh Market or perhaps Trader Joe's. Walmart probably wouldn't come to mind, though. The retail giant is known for its low prices. But organic food?

    Walmart actually offers 1,600 organic grocery items, including a line of packaged goods from the Wild Oats brand, which once was a chain of natural-food stores that was bought by Whole Foods. And its size and scale allows the retailer to make organic items available at affordable prices, says Walmart spokesperson Molly Blakeman. "We don't think people should have to pay more to put organic on the table," she says.

    Walmart started carrying the Wild Oats brand in 2014. Now about 3,800 of its stores stock at least 30 Wild Oats products and 2,200 stores have more than 70 of the brand's items on shelves, Blakeman says. The prices are on par with similar conventional items and at least 25 percent lower, on average, than national organic brands, she says. Walmart also offers 50 organic produce items under its Marketside private-label brand along with a variety of other organic items from national brands.

    We wanted to find out if the prices on Walmart's organic offerings were lower, so we did some comparison shopping at several grocery stores (Kroger, Meijer, Trader Joe's and Whole Foods). On the whole, the organic produce prices were almost the same at the Walmart Supercenter and the supermarkets we checked. Trader Joe's had lower prices on several of its organic fruits and vegetables (see Best and Worst Buys at Trader Joe's). Prices on organic dairy products and eggs also were consistent across the stores we checked -- with the exception of milk. The Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value Brand was about $1 less than a gallon of organic milk at Walmart and the other stores we checked (see Best Things to Buy at Whole Foods).

    Standout items in terms of price at Walmart were, indeed, the Wild Oats organic offerings. The prices on many (but not all) of these organic products were lower than competitors' prices and often not much higher than the prices on their conventional counterparts at Walmart. The following 10 Wild Oats organic items, in particular, were a good deal at Walmart. Because they are pantry-stable packaged items, the quality should be consistent from store to store.

    Applesauce. At $2.14, a 23-ounce jar of Wild Oats applesauce was about $1 less than organic applesauce at the supermarkets we checked. Considering that conventional apples are at the top of the Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen list of produce items with the highest pesticide loads, applesauce might be a good item to buy organic.

    Canned beans. A can of Wild Oats organic beans (all varieties) costs just 20 cents more than a can of Walmart's Great Value brand conventional beans, about the same as other brand-name conventional beans and at least 40 percent less than organic brands at the other supermarkets we checked.

    Coconut oil. This oil can be used for cooking as well as skin and hair care. A 29-ounce jar of Wild Oats organic coconut oil was $2 to $4 less than brands sold at other supermarkets we checked.

    Fruit spread. Strawberries are another item on the Dirty Dozen list. So if you like to add a little jelly to your toast, an 11-ounce jar of Wild Oats organic strawberry fruit spread was almost $2 less than a similar jar of organic jelly at Kroger.

    Ketchup. Tomatoes also make the list of produce that test high for pesticides, so you might want to consider ketchup made with organic tomatoes. A 24-ounce bottle of Wild Oats organic ketchup costs about 65 percent less than a bottle of Annie's brand organic ketchup and 10 cents less than a 20-ounce bottle of Kroger's Simple Truth brand ketchup.

    Olive oil. A 17-ounce bottle of Wild Oats organic extra virgin olive oil was about $1 less than brands at other supermarkets we checked.

    Pasta. Organic penne, spaghetti and other pastas sold in 16-ounce packages under the Wild Oats brand were more than 25 percent cheaper than Kroger's and Meijer's private-label brands of organic pasta.

    Pasta sauce. Wild Oats marinara sauce was the only organic pasta sauce we found priced less than $2 at the stores we checked. At $1.95 for a 25-ounce jar, the Wild Oats sauce was at least 15 percent cheaper than brands at other supermarkets.

    Salsa. At $2 for a 16-ounce jar, Wild Oats organic salsa was about $1 less than organic salsas sold at the other supermarkets we checked.

    Soup. Wild Oats organic soups in 18.6-ounce cans were at least $1 less than 17-ounce cartons from Campbell's line of organic soups in stores we checked.


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    Auto Sales
    Carlos Osorio/AP
    By Bernie Woodall and Ben Klayman

    DETROIT -- Consumers emboldened by easy-to-get loans and cheap gas pushed U.S. auto sales in May to their strongest pace in a decade, countering weakness in other economic indicators.

    U.S. May auto sales hit 17.79 million last month on a seasonally adjusted annualized basis, according to Autodata, the highest since summer 2005.

    As automakers reported robust sales Tuesday, data showed new orders for U.S. factory goods in April fell 0.4 percent, a day after a Federal Reserve official said second-quarter growth may be slower than expected.

    Sales of pickup trucks and SUVs in May led the way again, which bodes well for profit margins of the major automakers. Consumers are snapping up trucks and sport utility vehicles as the national price of gasoline averaged $2.75 a gallon, nearly a dollar less than this time last year.

    Consumers are finding it easier to obtain auto loans. Experian said nearly 30 percent of new-vehicle loans have payback periods longer than six years.

    Industry sales are expected to top 17 million vehicles this year, besting the 16.94 million reported in 2005.

    Return to Showrooms

    General Motors (GM) sales rose 3 percent in May, while Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' (FCAU) increased 4 percent, the automakers said Tuesday.

    Ford Motor (F) sales fell 1 percent as its F-Series pickup trucks declined 10 percent. Its primary model, the F-150 pickup truck, remained in high demand and the company said it is reducing downtime at two plants this summer. Ford said F-150 sales will rise as production ramps up at its Kansas City, Missouri, plant.

    For the second year in a row, May auto sales were boosted as more consumers returned to showrooms after a harsh winter, a GM spokesman said.

    GM sales reached 293,097 vehicles on strong pickup truck and crossover sales. GM said its average sale prices in May rose $550 to about $34,000 a vehicle.

    May sales for Toyota Motor (TM) and Nissan Motor both slipped less than 1 percent. Honda Motor (HMC) sales rose 10.6 percent.

    Fiat Chrysler's U.S. sales hit 202,227 vehicles in May, the first time above 200,000 in any month since March 2007.

    Automakers are still benefiting as consumers who put off buying new vehicles from 2008 to 2013 return to showrooms, said Dave Fish of MaritzCX, a market research firm. Maritz estimated that if automakers sell 17.1 million cars and light trucks this year in the United States, another 13 million older vehicles would still need to be replaced.

    But he cautioned there were signs the recovery could have limits. Many younger consumers are delaying getting driver licenses or buying new cars, and households aren't adding more cars, on average.

    "It looks like the good times may roll for some time into the future," Fish wrote in a report.

    -With additional reporting by Joseph White.


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    Budget Battle
    J. Scott Applewhite/AP
    Fresh off its tax windfall in April, and flush with funds, the Department of Defense spent with abandon throughout the month of May. After laying out $35.4 billion for purchases of military goods and services in April, the Pentagon signed contracts worth a further $26.1 billion in May.

    And no, none of this includes the cost of paying servicemembers' salaries, which added billions of dollars more to the expense.

    That said, let's give credit where credit is due. The Pentagon may be a big spender (of your money). But at least it's more open about how it spends that money, and on what, than most government agencies are. Every day of the week, the Department of Defense tells U.S. taxpayers what contracts it's issued, to whom, and for how much -- all right out in the open on its website.

    Here are the top five items that jumped out at us last month.

    Every Little Boy Wants to Grow Up to Be a Fireman ... or a Soldier

    Lucky for the Pentagon, they get to be both. One of the earliest contracts handed out at the Pentagon last month went to Wisconsin-based Oshkosh (b'gosh!). Valued at just $9 million, it will purchase "13 low-rate initial production vehicles" for the U.S. Navy, and pay for their "vehicle federal retail excise tax" as well.

    The Pentagon didn't actually say what those "production vehicles" were in the contract announcement. But with a little digging, we were able to come up with the likely answer: fire trucks (for extinguishing fires on crashed fighter jets).

    Pants -- Everybody Needs 'Em

    And when you're based in an area with lots of ticks, mosquitoes and other pesky critters, you really want a pair of pants soaked in insect repellant. That's why in early May, the U.S. Army awarded Tennessee trouser-tailor Tullahoma Industries a $59 million award to supply it with a (presumably large) number of "various permethrin trousers" for use in Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina and Puerto Rico.

    This is the third such pants purchase the Army has placed with Tullahoma in the past three years.

    Napoleon's Army Marched on Its Stomach. Today's Army Travels by Air

    Moving rapidly up the dollar-value ladder, we come next to a big order placed by the U.S. Army, which will be buying $2 billion worth of T700 701D/401C helicopter engines from General Electric (GE) over the next five years. Although the money's being routed through the Army, the Pentagon states that these engines are actually destined for buyers in the Navy, Air Force and foreign militaries as well.

    The wide usage is explained by the T700's wide-ranging capabilities. This engine powers everything from Army Black Hawk helicopters to Navy Seahawks to Bell Vipers for the Marine Corps.

    What Flies Higher Than a Helicopter?

    Nearly as big as the GE contract, Lockheed Martin (LMT) won a $735 million award from the U.S. Air Force this month. In exchange for the money, Lockheed will maintain the Advanced Extremely High Frequency, Milstar and Defense Satellite Communications System III satellite systems for the Air Force. Lockheed describes AEHF as a "jam-resistant" system used by U.S., Canadian, U.K. and Dutch commanders and warfighters to communicate securely on the ground, at sea and in the air.

    AEHF is expected to become operational this year, when its six satellites will begin replacing the legacy five-satellite Milstar secure communications satellite constellation, and the broader, less secure Defense Satellite Communications System III as well.

    Military Mad Men

    Last but not least, in one of the final contract awards of the month, the U.S. Navy contracted with British advertising firm WPP (WPPGY) -- more specifically, with its New York City subsidiary, Young & Rubicam -- to run "advertising and marketing services in support of the Navy Recruiting Advertising Program" for the next year. Initially valued at $84 million, the Navy has the option of extending WPP's contract by as much as four more years -- for a total potential contract value of $457 million. Apparently, it takes more than a few dollars to locate "a few good men."

    These contracts represent only a small sampling of the hundreds of awards your tax dollars funded last month. To see the rest, check out the Department of Defense contracts website.

    Intrigued by the recruiting contract, Motley Fool contributor Rich Smith did some digging, and discovered that the U.S. Navy aims to recruit 43,798 sailors and officers this year. That means it will cost taxpayers more than $1,900 to find each one. Interesting.

    Rich has no position in any stocks mentioned. Follow him on Facebook for more defense news. The Motley Fool owns shares of General Electric Co. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days and check out our free report on one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.


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    Billionaire Politics
    Phelan M. Ebenhack/APBillionaire David Koch, along with brother Charles, has pledged $900 million to influence races in the 2016 elections.
    By Emily Flitter

    NEW YORK -- Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has one; Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has one; even former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, considered a longshot for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, has a billionaire in his corner. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has two.

    Campaign finance watchdog groups fear heavy spending by these ultra-rich Americans will warp the election -- already expected to be the most money-soaked in history. The idea that billionaires can buy elections has taken root in the public imagination.

    Those billionaires are now seeing small, early signs of a pushback. Whether these are the beginning of a new trend is far too soon to say, but polls show there is wider discontent about the perceived influence of big money in U.S. politics and a growing gulf between the country's very rich and very poor.

    These nascent rumblings -- along with evidence that the super-rich are inefficient political spenders -- raise questions about how effective billionaires will be in the 2016 elections.

    There's growing public awareness about rich people trying to buy elections and that makes the task of winning all the more difficult.

    Some voters in Philadelphia, for example, were turned off by the billionaires backing a top candidate in the city's May 19 mayoral race. And a Silicon Valley startup, Crowdpac, is hoping to bank on public ire against big political spenders to attract small donations to its new for-profit election campaign crowdfunding platform.

    "There's growing public awareness about rich people trying to buy elections and that makes the task of winning all the more difficult," said Darrell West, the author of "Billionaires: Reflections on the Upper Crust" and the director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution think tank.

    Potential big donors dispute the notion they are trying to buy elections and say they are simply using their positions to try to influence the future of the country in a positive way.

    "I do believe -- and I've told my kids this -- that I can do more for them by giving money to the right presidential candidate in 2016 than by leaving them double that amount in my will," said David Walsh, a retired investor living in Jackson, Wyoming, who wouldn't disclose his net worth but has given several multimillion dollar gifts to charitable causes and said he planned to donate heavily to candidates in 2016.

    Miami car dealership mogul Norman Braman has been outspoken about backing his longtime protege Rubio; financial investor Foster Friess was in the audience cheering Santorum on when he announced his presidential bid two weeks ago; and Bob Mercer, the founder of a New York hedge fund, has been identified as supporting Cruz. The billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch have publicly vowed to spend nearly $900 million influencing races in 2016.

    The Democrats have billionaire supporters too -- most prominent among them is former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer. The billionaires George Soros, Alice Walton and Marc Benioff made small donations in 2014 to an outside spending group, Ready for Hillary PAC, backing Hillary Clinton, now the front-runner in the Democratic presidential primary contest.

    Philadelphia Story

    Amid the populist outcry against CEO pay and income inequality there may be some risks in candidates being so publicly linked to the extremely rich.

    In Philadelphia, Anthony Hardy Williams was considered the favorite for the city's next mayor. He won support from three billionaires, Joel Greenberg, Jeff Yass and Arthur Dantchik, founders of the Susquehanna International Group, a global financial firm headquartered in a Philadelphia suburb. The three backed Williams, encouraging voters to support his views on a hot-button education policy issue.

    They spent nearly $7 million on television ads promoting Williams. In response, unions and other community groups, who opposed Williams's education platform, coalesced around another candidate, Jim Kenney. One of the groups, Action United, organized a march in front of SIG's offices with placards that said, "Stop billionaires from buying our next mayor!"

    "I would have looked seriously at Williams if not for the money," said JoAnn Seaver, 85, a retired teacher who voted for Kenney. She was one of several Philadelphia voters Reuters interviewed on election day who said Williams' billionaire backers were a turnoff. "You don't think that money should govern people who are elected, but what do you do, just let the billionaires take over?"

    A spokesman for Williams declined to comment. Through a spokesman, the three billionaires declined to comment.

    Fighting Back

    Crowdpac, an online political fundraising platform that works like Kickstarter -- an online tool that lets entrepreneurs gather funding for new projects through small donations -- sees fighting billionaires as part of its business model. Mason Harrison, the site's political director, says Crowdpac wants to get more middle-class people involved in politics by hosting smaller donation drives for candidates.

    "We have a lack of money from small donors in American politics, and if we have more people involved in the political process we can make great strides in terms of diluting the influence from special interests," he said.

    A veteran of Republican Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign, Harrison is not the typical liberal voice decrying money in politics. But Crowdpac's Twitter tagline sounds very similar to the calls from non-profit watchdog groups to level the political playing field. It reads: "Together we can beat the big donors."

    Big Money, Not Smart Money

    Inefficiency could also dampen the effects of billionaires' political spending.

    "When you have political amateurs or novices with a strong issue or ideological position in which they have intense belief and are willing to put their money behind it, the money itself is no guarantee of victory," said Michael Traugott, a political science professor at the University of Michigan who studies the influence of money on political races.

    Studies of the 2012 and 2014 elections by the Sunlight Foundation, a Washington-based non-profit that tracks political spending, show most groups backed by billionaires had less success swaying election outcomes than groups controlled by trade organizations or professional political strategists. The Sunlight study does not offer any explanation for this difference.

    Steyer, who backed Democrats through his Nextgen Climate Action Committee, spent $79 million in the 2014 congressional elections, $17.9 million of which was directed toward influencing specific races. Sunlight found Steyer had a 32 percent success rate on the $17.9 million spent.

    For some, failure was total. Evidence from news reports shows that casino magnate Sheldon Adelson spent more than $100 million in 2012 in donations to trade groups, political action committees and candidates, only to watch virtually all his chosen candidates -- including presidential hopefuls Newt Gingrich and Romney -- lose.

    Other groups have seen more success. The Kochs' Americans for Prosperity saw a 95 percent success rate in 2014.

    But its string of victories isn't flawless. It ran negative TV ads against Ethan Berkowitz, a candidate in this year's mayoral race in Anchorage, Alaska. Local strategists said the ads only increased Berkowitz's name recognition.

    Jeremy Price, the state director for Americans for Prosperity in Alaska, said the ads were meant to show Berkowitz's record on spending, highlighting an issue rather than a candidate.

    Berkowitz won the race.


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    Pay The Right Price for Pots and Pans
    Shopping for pots and pans can be confusing. Some sets cost as little as $30, while others can run you as much as $2,000. With such a huge difference in price, you can't help but wonder if paying more means you'll actually be getting more. Here are a few tips to help you figure out which pots and pans are right for both your kitchen, and your wallet.

    First, consider what material the piece is made from. Copper looks pretty and conducts heat the best, but unless you're a pro chef, it might not be worth it to pay over a thousand bucks for a top-of-the-line set.

    Cast iron is really durable and great at cooking your food evenly. However, it's also heavy and tough to clean, which might not be appealing if you plan on using it a lot. The most popular aluminum options are coated in Teflon because it keeps food from sticking, but over time the pan's surface will peel and flake off into your food.

    So, what are we left with? Stainless steel. his can be a great choice since it's affordable, sturdy and, no matter how many times you use it, it won't peel or rust. It's also great for browning and searing meat.

    And while you're shopping, don't feel pressured to buy an entire set. If you're not going to doing anything too fancy, you only really need three pieces: A 2-quart saucepan for cooking rice, soup and sauce; astockpot for boiling water to make pasta or steamed vegetables; and a sauté pan that you can use to sear and sauté meats and vegetables, deep-fry chicken or even to make stir-fry dishes. The best part is, you can usually find deals on all three of these for around $150.

    Regardless of what you choose, shop carefully -- sometimes, the numbers on the box can be deceiving. Some manufacturers will advertise a 10-piece set, but what you may not realize is that each lid counts as a piece.

    Finally, don't look past the handles -- they matter, too. Plastic handles are the least reliable because they crack easily and can't be used in the oven if the temperature is over 350 degrees. Wooden handles are a decent middle-of-the-road option, as they're sturdy and will stay cool to the touch. However, you can't put them in the oven, or the dishwasher. So, if it's all around durability you want, metal handles can be a great choice. Just be sure to use a rubber grip or a potholder since they can heat up fast while cooking.

    As you shop for pots and pans, remember these tips to help you buy the right piece for the right price. You'll find that you can heat up your cooking skills, without burning your budget.

    View Poll


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    Wal-Mart Announces Its Increasing Wages
    Joe Raedle/Getty Images
    By Sruthi Ramakrishnan

    Walmart Stores (WMT) will raise minimum wages for more than 100,000 of its U.S. workers in some departments starting in July, the second time the world's largest retailer has announced a wage hike this year.

    Walmart, the largest private employer in the United States with 1.3 million U.S. workers, has been targeted by labor groups in the past for its minimum wages.

    The company said in February that it would raise minimum wages for 500,000 U.S. employees, triggering a wave of wage hikes by retailers and restaurant chains including McDonald's (MCD), Target (TGT) and TJX (TJX).

    Walmart said Tuesday that it would increase the wages of managers of service-oriented departments such as electronics and auto care to $13 to $24.70 an hour from $10.30 to $20.09 currently.

    Hourly wage of managers of departments such as clothing and consumer products will rise to $10.90 to $20.71 from $9.90 to $19.31.

    At specialized areas such as the deli sections, workers will earn $9.90 to $18.81 an hour compared with $9.20 to $18.53 currently.

    The Associated Press first reported the news.

    Labor and other groups have been pushing for a higher federal minimum wage, which was last raised in 2009 to $7.25 an hour. In the 2014 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama called on Congress to raise the national minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

    "[Walmart's wage increases] pretty much ends the debate about whether there should be a minimum wage increase, the question now is exactly how much," Gary Chaison, professor of industrial relations at Clark University, told Reuters.

    Walmart will also start paying store associates 10 percent more an hour when they are promoted, starting with their Aug. 13 paycheck, Walmart spokesman Kory Lundberg said.

    This means the minimum increase in hourly wages of an associate who has been promoted will rise to 90 cents from about 50 cents currently.

    The wage increases seem aimed at discouraging unionization among workers, Chaison said. "The general feeling is, 'Why join the union to negotiate with Walmart when Walmart takes care of its own?' " he said.

    Walmart has 4,540 Walmart stores and about 650 Sam's Club stores in the United States.

    The company said in February that it would raise hourly entry-level wages for half a million U.S. employees to at least $9 starting April and then to $10 by Feb. 1, 2016.

    Walmart's shares were little changed at $74.61 in late morning trading Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange.

    -With additional reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bangalore.


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    TV-Americas Got Talent-Stern
    Charles Sykes/Invision via APHoward Stern arrives at "America's Got Talent" 10th season kick-off in New Jersey last March.
    Howard Stern loves to work himself into fits of righteous anger.

    Not long ago, the management of his present employer, Sirius XM (SIRI) satellite radio, became the target of his ire. Stern was upset that, according to him, they had agreed to a later start for his regular live broadcast, but then conditioned this upon his renewing his current contract with them.

    Since then, Stern has strongly hinted that he won't do so. What's inconvenient about that, as far as Sirius XM is concerned, is that the agreement expires at the end of this year. And Stern hasn't only been arguably its top attraction, he's one of the main reasons for its success.

    The company isn't as dependent as it once was on the controversial DJ's audience. Nevertheless, it goes almost without saying that his departure to another media outlet would hurt its results. But more broadly, it would almost certainly reshape the industry the company operates in.

    Changing the Dial

    For evidence of how much broadcast media has changed in a short space of time, look no further than the part of it that made Stern (in)famous. When he was coming to prominence in the early 1980s, the only choice for talents like himself -- gifted of voice but not handsome enough for TV -- was terrestrial radio.

    It's no stretch to say that Stern was a key figure responsible for taking that medium out of this world -- literally. Satellite radio came into its own near the end of the 20th century, but it wasn't really a viable business until he became part of it.

    He signed his first contract with Sirius Satellite Radio (as it was then officially known) in 2004, and for several years was one of its few bankable stars in the years before the company acquired other big-name voices (such as Jenny McCarthy and Dr. Laura Schlessinger).

    In that time, the company grew its revenue to over $4 billion last year from $242 million in 2005, and has been consistently profitable on the bottom line for years. Total subscribers over that stretch of time grew to 27.3 million from 3.3 million.

    The Many Stations of Broadcast Media

    Stern has even more of a chance to shift the industry's gears today.

    That's because a wide range of media is readily available for talents like his. This includes podcasts, internet broadcasters such as Google's (GOOG) YouTube, and websites custom-built for any purpose a talent like his might require.

    If he were to ditch Sirius XM, Stern would have no shortage of venue choices for broadcasting his show. He'd likely want a rich patron to shell out for it -- it's estimated to cost Sirius XM around $100 million per year.

    That's a lot of scratch, and it's assuming that he's happy to work for his present budget. A company would need deep pockets not only to afford him, but to build out the assets and marketing that it would need to retain an audience once he retires (he's 61 years old).

    The most likely suspects are companies in the tech sector that could conquer new worlds with Stern-powered momentum. For instance, both Google and Apple (AAPL) have or are planning to roll out streaming audio services in the not-too-distant future, and have nascent car media platforms. What better way to leverage these elements than by making the shock jock the top live broadcast attraction?

    With many quarters of good financial performance behind them, both companies are sitting on a mountain of money -- Apple's cash and marketable securities at the end of its most recently reported quarter stood at more than $33 billion, while the same figure for Google was over $65 billion.

    If one of them could nab Stern, it could instantly establish itself as a big player in the broadcast world, in addition to its dominance in other businesses. As we've seen with Sirius XM, once Stern's on board, it becomes easier to attract other big-name voice talent.

    Before long, if such a company played its hand well, its chosen platform might become the go-to choice for "radio" broadcasting, leaving its predecessor technologies in the dust.

    To Control the Airwaves

    No one needs to be told that technology is evolving at an ever-speedier rate. This is especially true of broadcast media. If Stern moves his show to a new home, the company managing that asset will become what, to a degree, Sirius XM is now -- a cutting-edge form of media dominating its corner of the broadcasting scene.

    Motley Fool contributor Eric Volkman has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Apple and Google (A and C shares). 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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    Financial Markets Wall Street
    Richard Drew/AP
    By Caroline Valetkevitch

    NEW YORK -- U.S. stocks fell Tuesday as a jump in bond yields hit utilities and other top dividend payers, but energy gains and optimism Greece is near a deal with creditors limited losses.

    The S&P utility index fell 1.4 percent, leading losses among S&P sectors, after U.S. long-dated Treasury debt yields rose to two-week highs. Utilities and other dividend paying shares tend to compete with bonds as investments.

    Today the utilities are way underperforming, obviously because people are thinking rates are going to go up sooner rather than later.

    Energy shares gained along with oil prices. The S&P energy index rose 0.5 percent, leading the day's gainers.

    "Today the utilities are way underperforming, obviously because people are thinking rates are going to go up sooner rather than later," said Uri Landesman, president of Platinum Partners in New York.

    Greece's creditors drafted the broad lines of an agreement to put to the leftist government in Athens in a bid to conclude four months of acrimonious negotiations and unlock aid.

    "I don't think Greece is going to be the thing that upsets this market," Landesman said.

    The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) fell 28.43 points, or 0.2 percent, to 18,011.94, the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GSPC) lost 2.13 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,109.6 and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC)
    dropped 6.40 points, or 0.1 percent, to 5,076.52.

    Stocks Making Gains

    Shares of Macy's (M) rose 2.5 percent to $68.49. Reuters reported several hedge funds have asked the U.S. department store company to consider options for its real estate, including selling some major sites and then leasing them back.

    Other gainers included shares of General Motors (GM), up 0.1 percent to $36.22, after it forecast U.S. industry sales to finish May at the strongest pace since January 2006.

    Worries about when the Federal Reserve will bump up interest rates added to caution in the market. Fed board member Lael Brainard said the economy's recent poor performance may be more than transitory, as the full impact of weak consumer spending, low investment and the strong dollar become apparent.

    Shares of steel companies gained, with U.S. Steel (X) up 7.9 percent at $25.78 in its biggest daily percentage gain since January.

    Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 1,648 to 1,385, for a 1.19-to-1 ratio on the upside; on the Nasdaq, 1,594 issues rose and 1,149 fell for a 1.39-to-1 ratio favoring advancers.

    The S&P 500 posted 3 new 52-week highs and 1 new lows; the Nasdaq recorded 93 new highs and 42 new lows.

    About 5.5 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, below the 6.3 billion daily average for the last five sessions, according to BATS Global Markets.

    What to watch Wednesday:
    • The Commerce Department releases international trade data for April at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time.
    • the Institute for Supply Management releases its service sector index for May at 10 a.m.
    • The Federal Reserve releases its Beige Book survey of regional economic conditions at 2 p.m.


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    businessman hand write make money online on virtual screens.Dollar symbol.
    Getty Images
    What do you do when you read a great new book or try out a new gym? You probably start talking about it, right?

    Well, if you're going to tell your friends how awesome your gym, bank, app or hosting company is, you might as well earn a little something in return. Many companies offer cash, store credit or other bonuses for referring their product to other people, so it's worth your time to know what kind of bonuses you can receive.

    This doesn't mean promoting anything and everything that has a referral program. It's just a nice way to get a bit of a bonus when you recommend products and services you genuinely enjoy.

    I put together a list of 30 referral programs that can help you earn money and other rewards. The next time you're sharing your experience about one of these service providers or opportunities, make sure to get credit for your advice.


    Banks are great places to score referral bonuses, whether you convince your friends to sign up for a new account or get friends to open up a new credit card. These are just a handful of the bank referral programs out there; check with your bank to see what referral options they offer!

    1. U.S. Bank offers 5,000 FlexPoints when you refer a friend to sign up for their credit card.

    2. If you have PNC WorkPlace Banking, you can earn $100 for each co-worker who signs up for an account, up to $500 total.

    3. Capital One 360 will give you $20 for every friend who opens an account using your link, up to $1,000 total.

    4. Citi International Personal Bank offers some amazing referral rewards, from $500 cash to a Kindle Fire HD.

    5. The Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card is offering 5,000 bonus points for each friend you refer, up to 30,000 bonus points total.

    6. In addition to the Southwest Rapid Rewards card, other Chase credit cards also come with referral bonuses, so check out their Refer a Friend site and see if your card is on the list!


    Gyms want to get as many new members as possible, so they provide great incentives to people who can get new customers in the door. Plus, you'll have a gym buddy to keep you on target with your workout goals!

    We've listed a few chain gym referral programs for you, but local gyms often have great referrals as well. Many gyms choose not to publicize their referral bonuses, but most offer some form of bonus -- so make sure to ask the next time you stop by!

    7. Chattanooga, Tennessee's Urban Rocks climbing gym offers a sliding scale, depending what kind of membership your friend chooses.

    8. Equinox gives you a gift card for every new member you refer.

    9. Women-only fitness center Healthworks offers $50 in Club Cash, which you can use toward your own membership, for every friend you refer.

    10. 24-Hour Fitness gives you a $20 MyStore coupon or a 50-minute personal training session for every friend you refer.

    11. Gold's Gym lets you choose from various non-cash rewards after successfully referring a friend. Sounds like a nice surprise!


    Believe it or not, some companies offer serious referral bonuses to employees who bring in talented new hires.

    12. San Francisco company Thumbtack offers $15,000 bonuses or paid vacations to people who make successful hiring referrals, according to SFGate.

    13. ThoughtSpot, a Palo Alto, California, startup, offers $20,000 to people who refer successful candidates, reports SFGate.

    Your job might not offer a five-figure bonus, but many companies do offer smaller referral bonuses to people who bring in new hires. Ask around and see if there are referral bonuses available, or see if your human resources department is open to the suggestion.

    Digital Tools and Web Hosting

    If you have a website or blog, chances are your web hosting company has a referral program. Likewise, digital tools like Dropbox give you more space for every friend you invite. Here are some of the more popular ones:

    14. Dropbox gives you up to 16 GB of space if you get your friends to join -- plus, with your friends on Dropbox, you can create shared folders and quickly share files.

    15. When you invite friends to Evernote, you can both earn access to Evernote Premium.

    16. When you refer people to DreamHost, you get up to $97 plus an additional $5 for every referral those friends make! It's the referral that keeps on giving.

    17. HostGator increases your bonus the more people you sign up. If you sign up 5 people, you get $50 a person; if you sign up 21 people, you get $125 a person. Spread the word!

    18. Media Temple gives you free hosting in exchange for referrals, and the people you refer get 20 percent off.


    Traveling is expensive, so why not earn a little extra money where you can? Whether you're taking an Uber to the airport or listing your basement suite on Airbnb, here are a few ways to refer friends and get rewards.

    19. Airbnb lets you send friends $25 in Airbnb credit and earn $25 when those friends stay at an Airbnb, and $75 when they host people in an Airbnb.

    20. Uber lets you earn credit for future rides by referring your friends.

    21. If you're a Lyft driver and you refer another driver to join Lyft, you can both earn up to $500 in bonuses.


    If you find yourself buying and reselling clothes constantly, you need to know about these referral programs. (And if you never knew there were sites that let you resell your old clothes for cash, make sure to read The Penny Hoarder's clothing resale guide!)

    22. StitchFix sends new fashions right to your door. Convince a friend to sign up for a StitchFix shipment, and you can earn $25 in StitchFix credit.

    23. Fashion resale site Poshmark sometimes offers referral codes, so if you use the site, watch for chances to earn Poshmark credit.

    24. Another resale site, Twice, has a great referral program. You can earn up to $500 in Twice credit by referring friends to either buy or sell Twice clothing.

    Affiliate Programs

    When you sign up for an affiliate program, you earn money by linking to products on your personal website. It is very important to always disclose when you use affiliate links, which usually means writing something like "the following links are affiliate links." Check out the FTC's disclosure guidance for more info.

    25. Amazon's affiliate program is one of the best out there. When you use an affiliate link to reference an Amazon product on your website, you earn money not only if a person clicks that link and buys the product, but also if they buy anything else on Amazon's website.

    26. If you prefer Barnes & Noble, they have an affiliate program, too.

    27. ITunes also has a great affiliate program, and you can link to songs as well as apps, TV shows and more.

    28. Fitbit gives you 12 percent commission on Fitbit items you sell through your personal website.

    29. and 30. Walmart and Target also both have affiliate programs, and you can earn up to 4 percent on Walmart sales and up to 5 percent on Target ones.

    These are only a small percentage of the numerous referral and affiliate programs out there. If you like a product or service, chances are there's a way to get paid by recommending it to someone else. So start referring -- and start earning!

    Have you ever used a referral program? Which ones do you recommend? Tell us in the comments section below.


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    Cutting Cable Step By Step

    By Karla Bowsher

    You may have heard about the multibillion-dollar deal that Charter Communications (CHTR) made last week.

    Time Warner Cable (TWC), as well as a smaller cable provider, Bright House Networks, will essentially be merged into Charter.

    It remains to be seen whether this will be good news for consumers. The Washington Post reports that the merger of the fourth- and second-largest cable providers will create a new contender for the likes of large providers like Comcast (CMCSK).

    On the other hand, the proposed merger consolidates three providers into one. And as CBS News points out, consolidation ultimately decreases the total number of telecom companies from which consumers have to choose.

    Consolidation also usually requires merging companies to spend money, which pushes them to charge consumers more, CBS reports.

    CBS has outlined several reasons why Internet service is getting increasingly expensive. Consumers have little control over some of these factors.

    For example, Wall Street is pushing Internet service providers to increase profits. Companies like Charter and Time Warner are publicly traded, and thus accountable to stock-holding investors.

    In addition, demand for Internet services from cable companies is increasing as demand for TV services from cable companies is decreasing.

    In 2014, more Americans paid for cable Internet than cable TV, the first time that has happened, according to an analysis by Quartz, on online business news publication.

    These trends give companies leeway to raise Internet prices.

    Quartz reports that over the past two years, Time Warner's residential customers have seen their average monthly TV costs increase less than 2 percent, while their Internet costs have increased 21 percent.

    Although Internet prices are rising, you can still keep a lid on costs. Two ways to keep costs low are:
    • Refusing to be upsold. Upselling is a tactic used by companies like telecommunications providers to sell consumers on pricier packages. Unless you really need all the bells and whistles, avoid purchasing the most expensive packages, especially if your Internet use is mostly limited to casual surfing and using email.
    • Cutting the cable cord. Cord-cutters ditch cable TV for Internet-streamed video. While dropping cable won't lower your Internet bill, it will trim your overall costs.
    If you haven't yet joined the cord-cutting club, start with our guide "How To Choose The Right Cord-Cutting TV Service."

    If you simply can't bear the idea of dropping cable altogether, check out the following: "Lower Your Cable Bill With Techniques A Hostage Negotiator Uses."

    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!


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    frozen credit card in a block...
    The old trick of placing your credit card in water and freezing it into an ice cube is one way some people opt to prevent themselves from running up credit card debt. However, if you're more concerned about someone else using your credit profile to line their pockets, freezing your entire credit report could be a better choice.

    Recent data breaches at Target (TGT), Home Depot (HD) and Anthem (ANTM) have created concern among consumers about their vulnerability to identity theft and how to protect their financial and medical information. While stopping shopping and eliminating your use of identifying information is an impractical reaction to ID theft, limiting your exposure at the credit reporting level might be a wise idea for some.

    All three credit reporting bureaus -- TransUnion, Experian and Equifax (EFX) -- offer consumers protection through credit monitoring, fraud alerts, and credit or security freezes. The option you choose could be free (as is the case for a fraud alert, which is simply a statement attached to your credit report that says you believe you are a fraud victim) or can cost you several hundred dollars a year.

    Freezing your credit report is one tool consumers can use to protect themselves, but it is an extreme measure and not as great as it sounds on the surface.

    "Credit monitoring alerts you when an account has been opened in your name so you can contact the company if the account isn't yours," says Ken Chaplin, senior vice president at TransUnion. "Putting a freeze on your report means that no one can open a new account at all -- not even you."

    Chaplin says that a credit freeze prevents unauthorized new activity on your credit report, such as a credit inquiry for a new credit card or loan. However, it doesn't stop someone who already has your credit card or bank account information from using that information to commit fraud on those open accounts.

    Freezing your credit limits access by potential creditors to your credit report, but it may not be the ideal solution for every scenario.

    "Freezing your credit report is one tool consumers can use to protect themselves, but it is an extreme measure and not as great as it sounds on the surface," says Rod Griffin, director of public education for Experian. "First of all, it doesn't prevent identity theft; it just reduces the ability of someone to use your stolen identity to open new lines of credit. Consumers need to understand that ID theft isn't the same as credit fraud. Credit fraud is just one symptom of ID theft."

    Griffin points out that the need for access to your credit report is more ubiquitous than people realize.

    "Anyone who is actively involved in the credit marketplace will need their credit report available, such as when you buy a new cell phone, apply for a retail store credit card for the instant discount, or set up phone or utility services in a new apartment," he says. "If you know ahead of time that you're applying for new credit, then you can have the freeze lifted, but that often requires an additional fee and can take time."

    How to Freeze Your Credit

    If you've been a victim of identity theft and can produce valid identification, by law you are permitted to request a free security freeze on your credit report. If you are attempting to prevent a criminal from opening accounts in your name but have not been victimized, the amount you will be charged varies by state law.

    "The fee to set up a security freeze varies, but it's typically around $10," says Griffin. "While that doesn't sound like much, it actually can add up quickly because you need to pay separately for your credit report to be frozen with each of the three credit reporting bureaus. You also have to pay each credit reporting bureau to lift your freeze, so that adds up to about $60 right there. You can reinstate the freeze once for free, but if you needed to lift it again that would be another $30."

    When you freeze your credit, you must provide identification to the credit bureau, and typically you're provided with a personal identification number, or PIN, that can make it easier to "thaw" your credit report when you want someone to be able to review it. Griffin says with the PIN it can take as little as a few hours to lift your freeze, but without a PIN it could take several days.

    Freezing your credit still allows for current account holders to check your credit report and for you to use your credit accounts. You just won't be able to open new accounts without thawing your credit report.

    Freezing Your Credit with an App

    Both Experian and Equifax offer credit or security freezing services that can be activated online, by mail or by phone, but TransUnion recently introduced an instant, app-based credit freezing capability called Credit Lock as part of their credit monitoring service.

    "Consumers can download the app, log in and swipe right to lock their credit and swipe left to unlock it," says Chaplin. "This eliminates the lag time that usually makes freezing your credit cumbersome and puts the power back in consumers' hands."

    The app is a free benefit for consumers who purchase the TransUnion credit monitoring service for a monthly fee of $17.95, says Chaplin.

    Alternative Protection Mechanisms

    All three credit reporting bureaus offer credit monitoring systems for a monthly fee that offer unlimited access to your credit report and alerts to any unusual activity on your report, which they say provide a more thorough level of protection against ID theft since they monitor your current accounts as well as new accounts.

    "If you are a victim of an ongoing ID theft scheme, then freezing your credit report makes sense," says Griffin. "If you are extremely concerned about someone gaining access to your credit report, then it's probably worth putting up with the potential day-to-day hassles of a credit freeze. But for most people, this is an extreme step that won't necessarily prevent fraud."

    Motley Fool contributor Michele Lerner has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Anthem. 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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    Getty ImagesCreating a budget can help you align your spending and saving with your short-term and long-term financial goals.

    As most everyone understands in theory, it is smart to be prepared for anything in life -- whether it occurs personally, financially or professionally. The unexpected happens to people just like you and me every day.

    But for many, good financial preparation, including establishing and maintaining solid financial habits or retirement readiness, isn't as easy as it sounds.

    According to the Voya Retire Ready Index, only 17 percent of workers have a formal written financial plan, while nearly half (48 percent) have less than $49,000 in retirement savings. The study, which focuses on the retirement readiness of workers and retirees, found that 27 percent of retirees and 59 percent of workers were extremely or very concerned about outliving their savings.

    Given these concerning statistics, how should you become financially prepared? Here are three tips that can help get your planning and saving on track.

    Establish (and write down) your financial goals. Planning involves setting short- and long-term goals. It also involves investigating different ways to reach those goals. You need to explore and be open to different options when planning to have the best outcome.

    Ask yourself: What are my financial goals? Do you want to make a big purchase in the near future, such as an engagement ring, house or a child's braces? For those closer to retirement, you may be thinking about a goal of retiring by age 65 with a certain amount of money saved.

    Most of us are on a quest to become financially independent, but many lack the planning know-how to get there. Writing down your goals is a great first step.

    Prepare a budget. The best way to establish a budget is, quite simply, to start keeping track of your money. Track your income, expenses and savings for two to three months, and then analyze the numbers to see how you are doing. While a budget may be easy to establish in theory, it can be difficult in practice because execution requires dedication and can involve cutting back on spending.

    There are plenty of tools that can help you, such as online home budget calculators. Find resources that work for you so you can accurately track where your money is going and determine where you can save more.

    Don't forget to aim to align your spending and saving with your long-term and short-term financial goals.

    Understand your emotions and money. The path to financial preparedness isn't easy, and there are many unexpected turns. Since you'll experience ups and downs, it helps to better understand how you react to money issues.

    Money is such an important part of our lives because it affects our relationships, career choices, education, family, retirement, charitable giving and much more. A lack of money can place us in vulnerable situations, which can lead to emotional, knee-jerk actions and make the situation worse.

    It's important to know what it takes to rattle our own emotional cage. It could be a sudden drop in the stock market, a large, unexpected bill, conflicting financial priorities or something else. Once you identify your emotional trigger spots, you can create a plan to steer yourself away from making bad decisions in crunch times.

    Despite the financial world becoming more complicated, the way to financial independence still remains pretty straightforward and simple. Save, plan and get professional help when you need it.

    Above all, to achieve your financial goals, choose the right path for you and stick to it. Being financially prepared doesn't happen overnight. It's a journey with many opportunities to revisit, adjust and then march forward to financial security.

    Jacob Gold is a Voya Retirement Coach, a third-generation financial adviser and President of Jacob Gold & Associates Inc. He is the author of the upcoming book, "Money Mindset: Formulating a Wealth Strategy for the 21st Century" and "Financial Intelligence: Getting Back to Basics after an Economic Meltdown," which was published in August 2009. Gold is a certified financial planner practitioner and is Series 7, 24 and 66 securities registered. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.

    Securities and Investment advisory services offered through Voya Financial Advisors Inc. (member SIPC).

    Jacob Gold & Associates Inc. is not a subsidiary of nor controlled by Voya Financial Advisors.


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    Keynote: Sally Hogshead - Social Media Marketing World 2013
    toprankonlinemarketing/FlickrSally Hogshead speaking at Social Media Marketing World 2013 in San Diego.
    For most of us, pay raises don't come as often as we'd like. We can do something about that if we take the time to become fascinating, says bestselling author Sally Hogshead.

    Speaking at the recent Authority Rainmaker conference here in Denver, Hogshead used a multitude of examples to demonstrate how brands that stand out earn more. For example, sunglasses featuring the Coach (COH) logo command 400 percent more than unbranded pairs. Morton Salt is priced 200 percent higher than generic alternatives.

    Yet none of the examples hit home so much as her spiel about Jagermeister, since it included Hogshead joining a member of the audience in taking a shot of the stuff minutes after the conference's 8:30 a.m. kickoff. Of course, what matters is that sales of Jagermeister rose 40 percent annually during Hogshead's time working for the company as a brand steward. And they continue to grow to this day. Why? She says it's because Jagermeister is fascinating -- a brand so different that it has to be tried to be believed. "And different is better than better," Hogshead said her in speech.

    In her latest book, "How the World Sees You: Discover Your Highest Value Through the Science of Fascination," Hogshead lays out a process for helping workers unleash their own fascination advantages to earn more and live better.

    Wait. Fascinating? Me?

    Hogshead is a marketer and advertising copywriter by trade, so it's not surprising that what she's pitching is a process for helping workers market themselves. "If you can find a way to take who you are and what you're already doing right and then condense that into a marketing message, it becomes really easy for your ideal clients and customers to come find you," she said in her speech.

    Call it a plea to become more fascinating.

    After studying more than 600,000 people, Hogshead says she's certain that everyone has "Fascination Advantages." She cited seven, specifically, noting that we all have two primary advantages and one dormant advantage from this list: Innovation, Passion, Power, Prestige, Trust, Mystique and Alert. Performing work that highlights your greatest advantages is the key to earning more. Performing work that requires your dormant advantage is often exhausting, Hogshead said.

    Put differently: A test pilot whose primary advantage is Alert should be able to spot even the slightest aerodynamic flaws at high speed without so much as a nervous tic. But delivering an impassioned keynote speech if he were required to do so might induce night sweats.

    What You Do Differently, What You Do Best

    Putting yourself in the right circumstances is only part of the process, unfortunately. In her speech, Hogshead argued that workers should be thinking like marketers. How do we add distinct value? The answer, she said, is in defining what we do differently than our peers, and what we do best -- and then rolling that up into an "anthem" for use on a resume, in an interview, or in a new business pitch.

    "When I was a copywriter and a creative director, I was figuring out what makes the brand different and what the brand does best," Hogshead said. "The breakthrough I had five years ago is that the same is true for us. If we can identify what makes us different and what we do best, then it's really easy to position ourselves in a crowded marketplace."

    Different Is Better Than Better

    How can you create your own anthem? Simple. Answer Hogshead's two key questions and then combine the results into a phrase:
    1. What makes me different? You're looking for an adjective because it's a descriptor. It's relative to the competition. For a writer, it most likely describes style: witty, educational, structured or, for me, off-the-wall.
    2. What do I do best? Here, you're looking for a noun because it describes the action or the deliverable that you provide. For a writer, this is the type of content being offered: news, analysis, training or, for me, financial content.
    So my anthem is "providing off-the-wall financial content." Is that saleable at a good rate? I've been supporting a family of five writing for The Motley Fool for the better part of 12 years, so I'd say yes. And why not? It's a different approach, and as Hogshead puts it, "different is better than better."

    Motley Fool contributor Tim Beyers is fascinated by chinchillas. Especially the fuzzy ones. Find him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Coach. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Check out our free (and fascinating!) report on one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.


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    Money Moves to Make in Your 40s

    By Donna Freedman

    For many people, hitting the big 4-0 can actually be quite freeing. You're in your peak earning years, and your home is likely close to being paid off. The kids are out of that house -- or nearly so -- and you're enjoying more of the other things life has to offer: hobbies, travel, restaurants that don't serve French fries, maybe even a new career.

    To be sure, the 40s are tough for some people, especially following the recession.

    Although U.S. salaries tend to peak in this decade (between 39 and 48 according to Forbes), that doesn't mean much if you're unemployed or underemployed. Those who weren't able to buy homes or who lost them during the recession may be seeing rising rent rather than equity increases.

    Folks who had their kids later in life may be hitting the wall in terms of salary right when their children are getting the most expensive. (Raising a kid costs $245,340 from birth to age 18, according to the U.S. government).

    Avoiding the 'Cliff Retirement'

    Whether you're riding high or barely making it, however, you should be saving for retirement. (Can't find the money in your budget? We'll talk about that later.)

    Maybe you're one of those unemployed or underemployed folks and have been for years. If you don't have much to spare, how can you save for retirement?

    Or perhaps you're part of the "sandwich generation," someone who's providing physical and financial support to your kids and your parents. Funny how often that leads to having more month than money.

    But a less-than-ideal financial situation doesn't mean you can ignore future needs. It's human nature to want to believe that everything will work out somehow. Fail to plan, and you might find yourself scrambling to fund retirement in your 50s and 60s.

    "It's going to be really hard to catch up -- if you even can," personal finance expert Liz Weston said on Marketplace, by American Public Media. The result of failing to save, she says, is a "cliff retirement," i.e., one in which your lifestyle falls off a cliff.

    Ideally you would have been saving for years and years. If not, enroll right now in any company retirement plan.

    And, importantly, enroll for an employer match, if one is available. It's crazy: U.S. workers lose an estimated $24 billion in free money every year because they fail to contribute to their 401(k) plans.

    What part of "free money" is so hard to understand? Don't let this happen to you! If company matches exist, get yourself signed up for automatic increases so that you'll ultimately receive the full match. Each time you get a raise, increase the percentage of your own paycheck that goes in there. If your employer offers pro investment advice, then by all means take advantage -- that is, as long as it's the right kind.

    And if there's no match, or even a company plan? Start your own 401k or Roth IRA with a company like Vanguard or Fidelity. The nuts and bolts of the most popular retirement accounts can be found at "Confused by IRAs and 401(k)s? Roth and Regular Accounts Made Simple."

    College and Insurance: Niceties or Necessities?

    How lovely it would be to have both a healthy retirement fund and a 529 plan or some other mechanism to save for your children's college educations. But if that's not possible, you must prioritize retirement. The reality is, you can finance an education, but you can't finance the last few decades of your life.

    Be upfront with your kids so they can choose colleges accordingly. If you can offer little to no help, then it's up to them to apply for scholarships and select schools that are affordable. For more tips, see "Go To College Without Borrowing A Dime."

    Another hot-button topic you should at least consider is whether you should invest in long-term care insurance. This is coverage designed to cover the cost of daily support -- helping you with things like bathing, dressing and eating -- in the event that you become incapable of doing these things independently. Some say you shouldn't be without it; others are willing to roll the dice.

    Stacy Johnson has researched this type of insurance and decided to go without it. However, he stresses the importance of educating yourself on the ins and outs and considering your own situation very carefully before deciding. For specifics, see his column, "Ask Stacy: Should I Have Long-Term-Care Insurance?"

    Learn about life insurance as well if you have dependents, a spouse or anyone else who will struggle financially after you die. Need to know more? See "8 Ways To Save On Life Insurance" and the Money Talks News Solutions Center.

    Can't afford life insurance? If you earn less than $40,000 a year you might be able to get free coverage through MassMutual's LifeBridge program, which pays $50,000 toward your children's education if you die before they finish school. Follow that link to see if you qualify.

    What If You Can't Afford to Invest?

    Finding money to put away is a challenge, but it's almost always doable. Not necessarily fun, but possible.

    Start by tracking your spending, either on paper or with an online tool like PowerWallet or Once you find money leaks, start plugging them. Every dollar you don't let trickle pointlessly away is a dollar that can go toward your retirement plan.

    Next, create a workable budget. That means funding your needs -- food, shelter, utilities, debt service -- and a certain number of wants. Any "extra" money you've found can help cover your future in the short term -- by establishing an emergency fund -- and in the long run, in the form of a retirement fund.

    Is it annoying to add "retirement funding" to your already long list of money musts? Probably. Is it necessary for you to do so? Definitely.

    Think of these savings as improvements to your quality of life: Having an emergency fund will make it easier to deal with any surprises life throws your way. Putting money away for retirement helps eliminate the insomnia-inducing worries that you won't have enough or will become a burden on your kids in later years.

    Being careful with your money does not mean you can't enjoy life. You just need to get creative with your fun as well as your funds.

    More good news: A minimalish lifestyle means that indulgences seem way more awesome. For example, if you've cut way back on sweets, bringing home a quart of ice cream will seem like a tremendous luxury.
    Where there's a will...

    If you're in your 40s, then your parents are likely approaching retirement age or already finished working. Time to have what may be the most uncomfortable chat you'll ever have with Mom and Dad.

    Yes, it's worse than the facts of life talk. This time you're discussing things like money, health care directives, power of attorney and where your parents will live out their final years.

    Awkward! They (or you) might want to put this talk off indefinitely. Don't. Trying to figure out what your parents would want after they become ill or are injured is not the way to go about this. You need to know if they have plans in place.

    This might also be the time when you discover they're spending like drunken sailors because they plan to move in with you once they're broke. That's an entirely different talk, but better to have it now than 10 years from now when they show up on your doorstep.

    Speaking of wills: If you haven't made your own, do it now. Your loved ones will be traumatized by your death. Don't make it worse by leaving zero instructions about who should get what and who should be in charge of distributing your worldly goods.

    Only 26 states recognize "holographic" wills, i.e., those you write yourself. A lawyer can create a will for anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on the complexity. For a cheaper alternative, check out services like Nolo, LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer, where you'll pay anywhere from $35 to $80 or so.

    Those with minor children must designate legal guardians in their wills, so figure out who you'd want those people to be -- and then ask them if they'd be willing to do it. Never just assume that your sister can take your three kids, and remember that some people consider the term "godparent" to be someone who cares for a child spiritually, not physically.

    Finally: Don't let your fear of the future keep you from planning for it, even if you haven't saved a dime thus far. As the saying goes, the best time to have planted a tree is 10 years ago. The second-best time is today.

    If you didn't lay the financial groundwork in your 20s and 30s, resolve today to start making smarter decisions. Future You will be very, very glad that Current You put forth the effort.

    Be sure to check out Money Talks News' financial advice for people in their 20s and 30s.

    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!


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    Trade Gap
    Stephen B. Morton/AP
    By Richard Leong

    NEW YORK -- The U.S. trade deficit narrowed in April on a drop in imports, which surged in March following the end of a West Coast ports labor dispute, while companies picked up their hiring in May after a pullback the previous month.

    The data supported the notion the U.S. economy has recovered somewhat from a first-quarter contraction and bolstered expectations the Federal Reserve may consider raising interest rates later this year.

    Economists cautioned that a second-quarter economic rebound remains modest due to a strong dollar, a recent rise in oil costs and sluggish demand abroad.

    "The takeaway for now is that the massive drag from trade activity is beginning to unwind, though this sector is likely to remain a modest drag on activity this quarter on account of the strong dollar, higher energy prices and weak global demand," said Millan Mulraine, deputy head of U.S. strategy at TD Securities.

    The Commerce Department said Wednesday the trade gap narrowed to $40.9 billion from March's revised deficit of $50.6 billion. The March deficit was previously reported at $51.4 billion.

    The 19.2 percent drop in the April trade deficit was the largest decrease since early 2009.

    Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast the trade deficit falling to $44 billion.

    Imports fell 3.3 percent to $230.8 billion as West Coast ports, a key entry point for goods to and from Asia, cleared a backlog created by a labor dispute that was settled earlier this year.

    Exports increased 1 percent to $189.9 billion in April. A stronger U.S. dollar has in recent months made U.S. goods and services less affordable abroad.

    Exports of U.S. services edged up to $60.9 billion, the highest ever recorded.

    The April petroleum deficit stood at $6.8 billion, the lowest since March 2002.

    Improved Hiring

    Meanwhile, private employers added 201,000 jobs in May, the most since January, payrolls processor ADP said Wednesday.

    That was in line with analyst forecasts and higher than a revised 165,000 jobs in April, which were the fewest since January 2014.

    U.S. stock indexes were trading higher after the data, while prices for U.S. Treasuries fell. The dollar was weaker against a basket of currencies.

    The ADP data came ahead of the U.S. Labor Department's more comprehensive non-farm payrolls report Friday, which includes both public and private-sector employment.

    Economists polled by Reuters are looking for total U.S. employment to have grown by 225,000 jobs in May, largely in line with April's 223,000 increase. The unemployment rate is seen holding at a near seven-year low of 5.4 percent.

    -With additional reporting by Elvina Nawaguna in Washington.


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    In this April 2, 2015, photo, David Dunn from Chickamauga, Ga., right, stands in line with hundreds of other job seekers at The Colonnade in Ringgold, Ga., to attend a huge 15-county job fair. Payroll processor ADP reports how many jobs private employers added in May on Wednesday, June 3, 2015. (Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP) THE DAILY CITIZEN OUT; NOOGA.COM OUT; CLEVELAND DAILY BANNER OUT; LOCAL INTERNET OUT
    Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press via APJob seekers at in Ringgold, Ga., attend a huge 15-county job fair.

    WASHINGTON -- U.S. companies stepped up hiring in May, a private survey found, evidence that employers remain confident in the economy even after it contracted at the start of the year.

    Payroll processor ADP (ADP) said Wednesday that businesses added 201,000 jobs last month, up from just 165,000 in the previous month. April's increase was the smallest in a year and a half.

    The figures suggest that the economy is recovering after it shrank at a 0.7 percent annual rate in the first quarter. On Friday, the government will issue its official jobs report for May. Economists forecast it will show that employers added 227,000 jobs, and the unemployment rate remained 5.4 percent.

    The relative strength in today's report is an encouraging sign that the labor market, and the economy, is reaccelerating.

    "The relative strength in today's report is an encouraging sign that the labor market, and the economy, is reaccelerating," Dan Greenhaus, chief strategist at brokerage BTIG, said in a note to clients.

    The ADP survey covers only private businesses, however, and frequently diverges from the official figures.

    Employers added jobs last year at the strongest pace in 15 years, putting 3.1 million people to work, or an average of 260,000 jobs a month. Yet hiring has slowed a bit in 2015, with job gains averaging 194,000 a month through April.

    Much of that slowdown occurred in March, when only 85,000 net jobs were created. Hiring rebounded to 223,000 in April.

    The Federal Reserve is closely watching the health of the job market as it considers when to begin raising the short-term interest rate it controls from nearly zero.

    Construction companies added 27,000 jobs, ADP said, the most in four months. That's a sign that developers are ramping up homebuilding, an important driver for the economy.

    Manufacturers cut 5,000 jobs, the third straight decline. The drop in factory jobs likely reflects the impact of the stronger dollar, which makes U.S. goods more expensive overseas and cuts into export sales.

    Services were the main driver of job growth, adding 192,000 jobs. Those gains were led by shipping, retail, and professional and business services, which includes higher-paying industries such as accounting and engineering.

    Other recent reports have painted a mixed picture of the economy. Consumers remain cautious and are reluctant to spend their savings from lower gas prices, which are about $1 a gallon cheaper than a year ago. On Monday, the government said consumer spending was unchanged in April. Instead, the saving rate rose to 5.6 percent from 5.2 percent.

    Yet Americans were willing to spend more on cars last month. Auto sales rose 2 percent in May to 1.64 million cars and trucks, according to Autodata Corp. That was the fastest sales pace since July 2005.

    And a survey of manufacturing firms showed that factory activity grew at a faster pace in May than the previous month, driven higher by more new orders and greater hiring.

    Overall, analysts expect the economy will expand at about a 2 percent annual pace in the second quarter. That would leave growth in the first half of the year barely above 0.5 percent, down from a 3.6 percent pace in the second half of last year.


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    Wal-Mart Shipping Service
    Damian Dovarganes/AP
    Every physical retailer wants to be the next (AMZN), but now a brick-and-mortar chain that can actually do it is ready to give it a shot. Walmart (WMT) has gone public with its plans for ShippingPass, a subscription-based program that it hopes will unseat Amazon Prime.

    Everyone knows Prime by now, Amazon's flagship offering where customers pay $99 a year for unlimited two-day shipping on Amazon-warehoused goods at no cost. Amazon also includes a ton of digital goodies in its subscription plan. The company doesn't reveal the actual number of Prime memberships on its rolls, but it has announced that its subscriber base numbers in the tens of millions.

    In other words, there are at least 20 million folks paying Amazon $99 a year to be a part of the loyalty shopping club. Many analysts and researchers feel that the reach of Prime is closer to 40 million in the U.S. alone.

    That's a pretty big captive audience. Once you sign up for a buffet of subsidized shipping, you're likely to find yourself turning to first when you're looking to buy something, and studies show that Prime members spend two to three times as much on Amazon as non-Prime shoppers do over the course of a year.

    That's a pretty big incentive to take on Amazon, and now Walmart is ready to give it a shot.

    Wall-to-Walmart accidentally leaked a signup page last week. It was only supposed to be part of an internal test, but now that the cat's out of the bag, the company has rolled out a page allowing folks to be added to a waiting list for what the world's largest retailer is calling ShippingPass.

    There are some pretty big differences between ShippingPass and Prime. For starters, Walmart's service is offering three-day shipping instead of two-day turnarounds. Orders also have to be placed by noon, several hours earlier than Amazon's typical cutoff. However, Walmart is sweetening the deal by pricing its plan at just $50 a year, with no minimum order requirements.

    Given Walmart's historically low pricing, this will certainly make things interesting. If the selection and pricing is competitive, Amazon Prime may finally have a worthy adversary on its hands. At the very least it will keep Prime's pricing in check. The e-tail giant raised the price of its annual memberships by 25 percent to $99 last year.

    Digital Goodies

    Amazon learned that physical goods aren't enough to sway shoppers into subscriptions. It's been adding compelling digital features to Prime -- including a Netflix-like streaming platform, a growing catalog of digital music, monthly Kindle e-book rentals, and unlimited photo storage -- making it that much harder for members to cancel as they start relying on these online platforms.

    Walmart's ShippingPass isn't making any initial promises on digital perks, but it will be interesting to see if it follows suit if it fails to drum up enough interest to its rival offering. Time isn't on Walmart's side. Prime's membership user base continues to grow. Then again, Walmart realizes that it's going to have to make a big splash as a way to pick up its otherwise stagnant sales. There's an online battle about to take place, and consumers could be the real winners as Amazon and Walmart bend over backward to line up members.

    Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of and Netflix (NFLX). Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Want to make 2015 a winning investment year? Check out The Motley Fool's one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.


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    This undated product image provided by Beats by Dre shows the Beats Pill XL speaker. Apple, which owns Beats, on Wednesday, June 3, 2015 said it is recalling its Beats Pill XL speakers after a customer reported getting burned when it overheated. (Beast By Dre via AP)
    Beats By Dre via AP
    NEW YORK -- Apple said it is recalling its Beats Pill XL speakers after a customer reported getting burned when it overheated.

    There were eight reports of the speaker's battery overheating, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said Wednesday. One person's finger was burned and another reported damage to a desk.

    Apple said customers can apply for a $325 refund on its website. They can also elect to receive Apple Store credit for the same amount. Apple, based in Cupertino, California, said it will send customers boxes for free to return the speakers.

    About 222,000 of the speakers are in the U.S., and 11,000 are in Canada, the CPSC said. They were sold at Apple's stores and websites starting in January 2014. It was also sold at other retailers.

    Beats, which also makes headphones and has a streaming music service, was bought last year by Apple Inc. (AAPL) for $3 billion.


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    Dining Out Is In As Tax Cuts Lift Americans' Restaurant Visits
    Matthew Staver/Bloomberg via Getty Images
    By Reem Nasr

    Eating out can pack a big calorie punch, but these restaurant dishes take it to the extreme.

    The Center for Science in the Public Interest has chosen the winners of its annual Xtreme Eating Awards for the "worst chain restaurant meals of the year."

    The results? Red Lobster, The Cheesecake Factory (CAKE) and Sonic (SONC) are the top "dishonorees," as CSPI calls them.

    Red Lobster topped the list with its "Create Your Own Combination" dish. The combination of Parrot Isle Jumbo Coconut Shrimp, Walt's Favorite Shrimp, and Shrimp Linguine Alfredo, Caesar salad, French fries and one Cheddar Bay Biscuit add up to 2,710 calories and four days' worth of sodium at 6,530 milligrams.

    This nutritional shipwreck from Red Lobster exemplifies the kind of gargantuan restaurant meal that promotes obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related diseases.

    You can add another 890 calories with the Lobsterita, a 24-ounce margarita. That brings the meal's grand total to 3,600 calories.

    "This nutritional shipwreck from Red Lobster exemplifies the kind of gargantuan restaurant meal that promotes obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related diseases," said Paige Einstein, CSPI registered dietitian, in the press release.

    "If this meal were unusual, that would be one thing, but America's chain restaurants are serving up 2,000-calorie breakfasts, 2,000-calorie lunches, 2,000-calorie dinners and 2,000-calorie desserts left and right. Abnormal is the new normal," she added.

    In an email, Red Lobster Director of Communications Erica Ettori wrote the meal chosen for the award is "just one atypical combination" out of more than 500 possible creations "and as a result inaccurately portrays the nature of this menu item." Other calorie-laden meals to make the list include IHOP's Chorizo Fiesta Omelette, which can come with three buttermilk pancakes and syrup for a total of 1,990 calories and two days' worth of saturated fat.

    Kevin Mortesen, a spokesman for IHOP, wrote in an email, "At IHOP, we're all about choice ... we offer a complete menu that includes entrees in every category that are under 600 calories, in addition to our more indulgent items. Our menus also feature tips on how our guests can control the calorie counts in their selections, if they choose."

    Sonic's Pineapple Upside Down Master Blast in the large size clocks in at 2,020 calories with 61 grams of saturated fat. It also has about 29 teaspoons of added sugar.

    Sonic spokeswoman Christi Woodworth told CNBC the calorie count for the drink in the report is the 32 ounce size, "which is frequently shared between friends and family" and "customers may choose from a variety of sizes." Alethea Rowe, senior director of public relations at The Cheesecake Factory, said calorie-conscious customers can choose from the chain's SkinnyLicious menu, "which is actually larger than many restaurants entire menus."

    She added that "a large percentage of our guests take home leftovers for lunch the next day."

    The Food and Drug Administration's rules that require calories to be listed on chain-restaurant menus should take effect in December. CSPI recommends consumers order from "light" menus at these restaurants when possible.


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