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DailyFinance.com

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    Financial Markets Wall Street
    Seth Wenig/AP
    There were plenty of winners and losers this week, with a family entertainment media giant announcing a new movie and an iconic trading exchange experiencing a prolonged outage.

    Disney (DIS) -- Winner

    We're now just five months away from the new Star Wars movie, but Disney isn't done milking its $4 billion purchase of George Lucas' film company. Disney confirmed reports this week that it's developing a new movie centering around the origin story of Han Solo.

    This goes beyond the final trilogy in the Star Wars series. Disney had already announced that it would be spinning off new theatrical properties from the Star Wars universe, including a movie about rebels trying to steal plans for the Death Star and an origin story for bounty hunter Boba Fett. However, now Disney is giving a new spin to one of the franchise's most significant characters. The movie won't hit theaters until 2018, but it's a good bet it will be that summer season's top draw.

    New York Stock Exchange -- Loser

    There's never a good time for a technical glitch, but Wednesday's three-hour trading halt on the New York Stock Exchange was pretty bad. It came at a time when confidence in the market was getting dicey.

    It was also bad timing since there were other problematic glitches taking down The Wall Street Journal's website and temporarily grounding United flights.

    Netflix (NFLX) -- Winner

    The leading premium video streaming service has been striking deals for original movies in recent months, and this week we finally got some firm release dates.

    Cary Fukunaga's "Beasts of No Nation" will come first, debuting on Oct. 16. In a unique twist, it will also hit movie theaters at the same time. Two months later we get the first of the flicks out of Adam Sandler's multi-movie deal when "The Ridiculous Six" premieres on Dec. 11. "Pee-wee's Big Holiday," with Paul Reubens reprising his signature role, will hit Netflix next March.

    It remains to be seen if original movies will fare as well as original shows that have proven so magnetic for Netflix, but it could be another game changer for a dot-com darling that's already changed the game a lot. At least one Wall Street pro seems to like Netflix's prospects following the release dates: An analyst at Raymond James bumped his price target on the stock to $730 from $585.

    A. Schulman (SHLM) -- Loser

    There weren't a lot of companies reporting quarterly results this week, giving A. Schulman the perfect opportunity to shine. It didn't. The maker of high-performance plastic compounds and resins was once again held back as the stronger dollar resulted in sales drying up overseas. That's a pretty big deal, since international orders make up the lion's share of its business.

    A. Schulman missed Wall Street's revenue and profit targets. Making matters worse, it also hosed down its forecast for the entire fiscal year. A recent capital restructuring and challenges in incorporating a recent acquisition are weighing on its performance. It's hard to shine in that scenario when you have the stage practically all to yourself.

    Carnival (CCL) -- Winner

    There will be a new port of call at the world's largest cruise line next year: Carnival will begin taking travelers to Cuba come May. It was granted approval by the Treasury and Commerce departments after meeting all 12 criteria for authorized travel.

    Yes, there may be some backlash in Carnival's home turf of Miami, where many exiles naturally aren't warm to the communist regime. Many were imprisoned, and far more had their properties seized. It's a safe bet that the first wave of cruise passengers will have to drive past picketing protesters to go on a sailing.

    However, Carnival will still be a winner here. Adding Cuba to some of its sailings should result in an uptick in traveler interest, and given that fuel costs are a big part of Carnival's operations, it's worth noting that Cuba is just 90 miles off the coast of Key West.

    Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Netflix and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Netflix and Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Looking for a winner for your portfolio? Check out The Motley Fool's one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.

     

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    Mar. 29, 2010 - Graniteville, Georgia, U.S. - Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff..Salesperson Mike McMullen leans against a Buick Enclave du
    Augusta Chronicle/ZumaPress.com
    DETROIT -- General Motors (GM) is recalling nearly 780,000 crossover SUVs mainly in North America because the rear power lift gates can suddenly fall and hit people.

    The recall covers the Buick Enclave from the 2008 to 2012 model years and the Chevrolet Traverse from 2009 to 2012. Also affected are the GMC Acadia from 2007 to 2012 and Saturn Outlook from 2007 to 2010.

    GM says in documents filed with U.S. safety regulators that dirt can get into the gas struts that hold up the gate, causing them to wear and fail. The company has 56 reports of injuries.

    Dealers will replace faulty struts and update lift gate control motor software to prevent rapid closing.

    GM says struts on SUVs built after March 1, 2012 were installed differently and are less vulnerable to dirt particles.

     

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    McDonalds Toy
    Kiichiro Sato/APImages of Minions adorn a McDonald's restaurant in Chicago.
    By MARLEY JAY

    NEW YORK -- McDonald's swears up and down that the little yellow "Minions" Happy Meal toy is speaking only nonsense words and not something a little more adult.

    Experts say the company may be right, and the fault may lie in how our brains are primed to find words even when they're not really there.

    The world's largest hamburger chain and purveyor of Happy Meals said Friday that it doesn't plan to take the talking Happy Meal toy out of distribution, even though some customers say it sounds it's cursing.

    A toy acquired by The Associated Press made a sound that could be interpreted as the phrase often abbreviated as "WTF." Another phrase sounded like it could be "Well I'll be damned." The sound quality of the toy makes it hard to say definitively who is right.

    The little yellow Minion characters speak a nonsense language and McDonald's (MCD) said the Minion Caveman toy makes three sounds -- "ha ha ha," ''para la bukay," and "eh eh." The Oak Brook, Illinois-based company issued a statement saying it received only a few comments from customers about the toy, which was introduced July 3.

    Nonsense speech will sometimes sound a bit like a real language, and experts say human brains are also wired to look for meaning in noise and images. So people will sometimes hear words in gibberish -- including words they might think are inappropriate.

    This Friday, July 10, 2015 photo shows a Minion toy in New York, distributed in McDonald's restaurant's Happy Meals. The company says the talking toy is speaking only nonsense words and not something a little more adult. Experts say McDonald's may be right, and the fault may lie in how our brains are primed to find words even when they're not really there. (AP Photo/Patrick Sison)
    Patrick Sison/AP
    "The brain tries to find a pattern match, even when just receiving noise, and it is good at pattern recognition," says Dr. Steven Novella, a neurologist at the Yale School of Medicine. "Once the brain feels it has found a best match, then that is what you hear. The clarity of the speech actually increases with multiple exposures, or if you are primed by being told what to listen for" -- as most people who heard the toy online already had been.

    The technical name for the phenomenon is "pareidolia," hearing sounds or seeing images that seem meaningful but are actually random. It leads people to see shapes in clouds, a man in the moon or the face of Jesus on a grilled cheese sandwich.

    The audio form of pareidolia has been causing confusion for years and years. In the 1960s the FBI investigated The Kingsmen's version of the song "Louie Louie" after concerned citizens complained that the lyrics were obscene. The band denied it, but hardly anybody could figure out the lyrics, including the FBI. The agency officially declared the words unintelligible.

    A similar phenomenon could have contributed to the belief that rock bands would put messages in their music that could only be heard by playing a record or running a tape backward.

    That contributed to the "Paul Is Dead" conspiracy theory -- in which the Beatles were supposedly covering up the death and replacement of Paul McCartney, but were constantly dropping hints about the cover-up in their songs -- and lawsuits against heavy metal bands.

    Last year a group of researchers published a paper called "Seeing Jesus in toast: neural and behavioral correlates of face pareidolia." They wanted to understand what happens in the brains of people who see a face pop out of the toaster, and they received an Ig Nobel Prize, given to scientists who do unusual, imaginative or odd work of questionable importance.

    The McDonald's promotion is scheduled to run through the end of July. The film "Minions," a prequel to the "Despicable Me" movies, premieres Friday. Some moviegoers will probably be listening intently to the Minions' dialogue.

    -AP Writer Candice Choi contributed to this report.

     

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    Wholesale Inventories
    Gene J. Puskar/AP
    By MARTIN CRUTSINGER

    WASHINGTON -- U.S. wholesalers boosted their stockpiles in May by the largest amount in six months, while sales rose by a modest amount.

    Wholesale stockpiles rose 0.8 percent, double the gain in April and the largest one-month rise since November, the Commerce Department reported Friday. Sales were up 0.3 percent in May following a 1.7 percent surge in April. That had been the biggest sales increase in more than a year.

    The strong increase in inventory building in May could be evidence that businesses are growing more confident about the future. A decision to accelerate inventory stocking would help bolster overall economic growth.

    The May rise left inventories at the wholesale level at a seasonally adjusted $449.8 billion, 3.8 percent below a year ago.

    Economists believe sales at both the wholesale and retail levels will rebound in coming months after a slowdown in the first quarter that was caused in part by unusually frigid weather. A pickup in consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of economic activity, is expected to translate into stronger economic growth for the rest of the year.

    The government has already reported that retail sales accelerated solidly in May.

    The big inventory gain in May reflected larger stockpiles of autos and auto parts as well as furniture, lumber and computers.

    In the January-March quarter, the harsh weather and other factors sent the economy into reverse with the gross domestic product contracting at an annual rate of 0.2 percent. But analysts are forecasting a strong pickup in the current growth to GDP growth of around 2.5 percent.

    They expect growth will accelerate further in the second half of the year to a rate around 3 percent.

     

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    Bernanke Currency
    J. Scott Applewhite/AP
    By MITCH STACY

    COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Doug Hamilton is just fine with plans to put a woman's portrait on U.S. paper money, but he'd prefer that the Treasury Department leave the $10 bill alone -- particularly the prominent visage of his great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, Alexander Hamilton.

    The 10-spot is a source of family pride in Hamilton's house in suburban Columbus, a dignified symbol of the historical importance of his ancestor, whose picture has been on it since 1929. So naturally, Hamilton started making some noise when he heard about the proposal that has Alexander Hamilton sharing the note with a deserving woman yet to be chosen.

    The 64-year-old salesman for IBM has joined a growing backlash against what he calls the "diminishing" of Hamilton, who as the country's first treasury secretary created the modern U.S. financial system, with a national debt, bank and mint, and with the dollar as currency.

    Saving Hamilton
    Mitch Stacy/APDoug Hamilton holds a $10 bill bearing the portrait of his direct ancestor, Alexander Hamilton.
    "He's the father of paper money," says Doug Hamilton, who has a son and grandson carrying the name of their famous ancestor. (His daughter, Elizabeth, was named for Alexander Hamilton's wife.)

    He's urging people to sign a petition on the White House "We The People" website, and this weekend he'll be preaching the Hamiltonian gospel at a series of annual events in New York and New Jersey planned around the anniversary of Alexander Hamilton's death on July 12, 1804, a day after his duel with Aaron Burr.

    The trip also will include a preview of the hip-hop musical "Hamilton," based on Ron Chernow's biography of Alexander Hamilton, opening on Broadway.

    Outcry over Hamilton's possible demotion has been somewhat lost in the wave of excitement over the inclusion of a woman's portrait on paper currency. The Treasury Department says the $10 bill was chosen because it's up next for a redesign to improve anti-counterfeiting features. The new bill would go into circulation in 2020.

    Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said this week that he's sticking with the plan, despite critics arguing that a woman should be featured on the $20 bill in place of Andrew Jackson, whom many historians view less favorably because of his treatment of Native Americans and his ownership of slaves.

    "Right now is the time to call that out," says Barbara Howard, founder of the group Women on 20s, which advocates replacing Jackson with a deserving woman from history. Doug Hamilton has joined forces with Howard's group and others trying to change Lew's mind.

    Meanwhile, former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke wrote in a blog that he was "appalled" at the idea of adding a woman to the $10 bill at Hamilton's expense. The New York Times wrote in a Fourth of July editorial that it's a much better idea to bump Jackson, an undistinguished president who, ironically, hated the idea of paper currency.

    Puzzling Plan

    "The announcement has really befuddled people," says Rand Scholet, president of a group called The Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society, which planned some of the events this weekend expected to draw hundreds.

    According to the Treasury Department, putting Hamilton's portrait on the $10 bill was included in the changes made by the government "to restore faith in economic power of the United States and currency" after the economic crash of 1929 and into the Great Depression.

    Hamilton, a penniless orphan from the Caribbean, rose through the ranks in the Revolutionary War to become George Washington's right-hand man. He was an early and tireless advocate for a federal system that bound the struggling young nation together. As one author of the Federalist Papers, he composed some of the most famous and influential essays in American history, arguing for a U.S. Constitution.

    Doug Hamilton has known since he was a kid that he was related to the founding father. His grandmother first told him, and he confirmed it later through genealogical studies. But all that aside, he says his ancestor's towering achievements have earned him a permanent place on the bill, and the picture should remain untouched.

    "We think," Doug Hamilton says, "he is somebody the younger generation should look up to."

     

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    Federal Reserve
    Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP
    By MARTIN CRUTSINGER

    WASHINGTON -- Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said the Fed is on track to start raising interest rates later this year but expressed multiple concerns over headwinds that are still holding back the U.S. economy.

    She described the outlook for the economy and inflation as "highly uncertain," amid lingering weakness in the labor market and new potential threats overseas.

    Yellen, speaking on the economy for the first time since the Fed's June meeting, saw reasons for encouragement. Consumer spending appears to be picking up, and employment is likely to keep expanding, she said.

    I expect that it will be appropriate at some point later this year to take the first step to raise the federal funds rate.

    "Based on my outlook, I expect that it will be appropriate at some point later this year to take the first step to raise the federal funds rate," Yellen said, referring to the Fed's key short-term interest rate, which has been at a record low near zero since December 2008.

    But she also outlined a host of concerns, from weak wage growth to a low labor participation rate to "disappointing" productivity. She reiterated that inflation is still well below the Fed's 2 percent target. Yellen also noted that cautious business owners "have not substantially increased their capital expenditures."

    Yellen, whose comments came in a speech in Cleveland, said even when the Fed does start raising rates, the increases will be gradual.

    New potential risks have emerged since the Fed's June 16-17 meeting, including the on-going Greek debt crisis and a sharp plunge in China's stock market over the past month.

    Yellen noted in her speech that the "situation in Greece remains unresolved." But she also said that the economic recovery in the 18-nation eurozone "appears to have gained a firmer footing." She didn't mention developments in China at all, nor was she asked about Greece or China during a question-and-answer period following the speech.

    The recent developments have prompted many economists to push back their projections for the Fed's first rate hike from September to December. The Fed's next meeting takes place on July 28-29, but there is no expectation the Fed will make a move then.

    Eye on Inflation

    "We want to see further improvements in the labor market and with inflation running as low as it is, we want to feel reasonably confident that inflation will move up" in the next two to three years, Yellen said in outlining the landscape that will determine the timing of the first rate increase.

    But she added that it would be wrong to "over-emphasize" the Fed's initial move.

    What will matter more to the economy is not when the first rate hike happens but how quickly the Fed moves rates higher afterward, she said. Because rates are likely to climb gradually, interest rates will stay at low levels for some time.

    Asked what she saw as the biggest threats facing the U.S. economy, Yellen said her major focus was to learn from the mistakes made in the lead-up to the 2008 financial crisis.

    "This was a devastating event that took an enormous toll on our economy," she said.

    She said the Federal Reserve needs to be "much more vigilant and much better prepared" in an effort to make sure that the financial system does not see a repeat of the 2008 crisis.

    Yellen is scheduled to deliver the Fed's mid-year economic report to Congress next week.

    -Associated Press writer Mark Gillespie in Cleveland contributed to this report.

     

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    US Airways Last Flight
    Gene J. Puskar/AP
    By DAVID KOENIG

    DALLAS -- The last flight for US Airways will take place this fall, and one more name in airline history will disappear.

    The farewell flight for US Airways will be a red-eye -- Flight 434 is scheduled to leave San Francisco around 10 p.m. and land in Philadelphia after 6 a.m. on Oct. 18. The US Airways website will be turned off. Airport kiosks and signs will change to American Airlines.

    The two airlines merged in December 2013 and decided to keep the better-known American name. Vestiges of the carrier will survive for some time, however, as some planes won't be repainted yet in American's colors and logo.

    In the last 10 years, mergers have eliminated Northwest, Continental and AirTran. Before that, Pan Am, TWA and many smaller carriers disappeared.

    American Airlines Group (AAL) announced the timing of the curtain call Friday. The company's biggest challenge may be combining the computer systems of two airlines without creating the kinds of problems that have plagued United and Continental after they combined reservations systems in 2012. This week, all United flights were grounded and more than 1,000 were delayed after a problem that the airline blamed on a faulty router.

    Maya Leibman, American's chief information officer, said American has built in redundancies and disaster-recovery programs in key systems. But referring to United, she said, "There is no technology leader that could stand up and say with 100 percent certainty that nothing like this could ever happen to them."

    American officials said they have hired about 1,900 airport and reservations agents and will give special training to nearly 10,000 current employees to perform the switch from the US Airways reservations system, called Shares, to American's, which is provided by Sabre.

    Customers booked on US Airways flights after Oct. 17 will get a new flight number bearing American's AA code. That's only about 4 percent of all reservations in the American and US Airways systems, they said.

    American will have more technology work to do after October. It still must combine crew-scheduling and maintenance-tracking systems. The Fort Worth, Texas, company has about 113,000 employees, including those at wholly owned regional subsidiaries such as Envoy Air.

    American is the biggest airline operator in the world by passenger traffic, having surpassed United after the merger with US Airways.

     

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    Financial Markets Wall Street
    Seth Wenig/AP
    By Ryan Vlastelica

    NEW YORK -- U.S. stocks closed broadly higher Friday, with major indexes ending up more than 1 percent on hopes Greece would be able to secure fresh funding at an upcoming meeting, which would allow it to avert bankruptcy and remain in the eurozone.

    Indexes finished off their highs of the session after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said she expected the Fed to raise interest rates at some point this year, while expressing concern that the U.S. labor market remained weak.

    Investors are betting that a Greek deal will be struck by this Sunday, and that reduction of risk is boosting stocks today.

    Investors have long expected a rate hike in 2015, though opinions have been split on whether it would come in September or December. Yellen gave no direct hint about whether the U.S. central bank would raise rates more than once over the course of its four remaining meetings in 2015.

    The day's gains were widespread, with all 10 of the S&P 500's primary sectors higher on the day.

    Eurozone finance ministers will meet Saturday to decide on a third bailout for Greece, which made substantial concessions in its latest proposal to lenders, including tax hikes, in hopes of receiving $59 billion to help it cover debts until 2018.

    "Investors are betting that a Greek deal will be struck by this Sunday, and that reduction of risk is boosting stocks today. The removal of the risk of an exogenous shock means better market psychology," said Jim McDonald, who helps oversee $960 billion in assets as chief investment strategist at Northern Trust in Chicago.

    For the week, the Dow rose 0.17 percent while the S&P fell 0.01 percent and the Nasdaq ended down 0.23 percent in its third straight weekly decline. Equities were pressured earlier this week by a slowdown in China, weak commodity prices and uncertainty over the Greek debt crisis.

    Wall Street was also supported Friday by a continued recovery in China's equity market, which was helped by a barrage of government support measures. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said the country would make more targeted changes to its policies to support the economy and promised to increase the transparency of China's capital and money markets.

    The Bank of New York Mellon China's index of Chinese shares traded in the United States rose 2.4 percent.

    The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) rose 211.79 points, or 1.2 percent, to 17,760.41, the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GSPC) gained 25.31 points, or 1.2 percent, to 2,076.62 and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) added 75.30 points, or 1.5 percent, to 4,997.70.

    Movers and Shakers

    The U.S. quarterly earnings season kicked off this week, with PepsiCo (PEP) and Alcoa (AA) reporting better-than-expected sales. However, corporate earnings are estimated to have fallen 3.1 percent in the second quarter, according to Thomson Reuters (TRI) data.

    Cablevision Systems (CVC) jumped 7.3 percent to $26.67 on a Wall Street Journal report that French billionaire Patrick Drahi was looking at cable targets for acquisitions.

    Zillow (Z) fell 7.7 percent to $78.67 a day after it said its chief financial officer was leaving to pursue other business interests.

    Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 2,456 to 623, for a 3.94-to-1 ratio on the upside; on the Nasdaq, 2,188 issues rose and 595 fell for a 3.68-to-1 ratio favoring advancers.

    The benchmark S&P 500 index posted 17 new 52-week highs and 15 new lows; the Nasdaq composite recorded 83 new highs and 60 new lows.

    About 5.67 billion shares traded on all U.S. platforms, according to BATS exchange data, compared with the month-to-date average of 7.03 billion.

    What to watch Monday:
    • The Treasury Department releases the federal budget for June at 2 p.m. Eastern time.

     

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    Portrait of young woman relaxing after moving into new house
    Getty Images
    By Donna Freedman

    No roommate no cry, right? It might be a relief to quit sharing space, whether that means you are just out of the college dormitory or exiting some other co-living situation. But living alone (getting the bathroom all to yourself!) does come at a huge premium, according to U.S. News & World Report.

    Looked at the other way, a two-bedroom place doesn't usually cost twice as much as a one-bedroom or studio. Citing median rents in 10 U.S. cities, the article noted savings of almost 44 percent for sharers vs. solos.

    Skip a roommate, and you'll also be responsible for rent/utility deposits, all utilities, and all furnishings and household supplies. Yet plenty of people are sick of roommates or know right out of the gate that they're simply not suited to sharing.

    Done right, the solo life can work. Start by ...

    1. Learning the rental market. Read the ads for a sense of what places cost in your area. If they generally run between $800 and $1,100, then you'll know to balk at a one-bedroom for $1,300 and to run toward a $700 studio.

    This knowledge also helps your planning: I'll need X dollars for the security deposit and X dollars more for the last month's rent in advance. At the rate I'm saving to move out, it will take me X more weeks to pull together what I need.

    If you have enough cash socked away, start apartment hunting in earnest. If not, keep squirreling away those dollars (more on that below) and looking for other stuff you'll need. One way to save money is to ...

    2. Live at home, briefly. If your folks are OK with you coming back from college/returning home after your latest roommate disaster, this will give you a chance to save for deposits, emergency fund, etc. Share your move-out timeline with them: "In three months I'll have all that I need plus a financial cushion, so I really appreciate your welcoming me back." Pitch in cheerfully with household chores, too.

    Continue the apartment hunting while you live at home. In the late fall or winter, be sure to ...

    3. Watch for 'move-in specials.' If the market is slow or the weather is lousy, a landlord may offer incentives. I got one month free when I signed six-month leases on my first and second Seattle apartments.

    You should also be willing to ...

    4. Think small. "Don't be afraid of the studio," advises Michelle Diamond, who blogs at FitNPoor. She moved from a one-bedroom into a studio that felt comfortable and cozy -- and cheaper. If you don't have a ton of stuff, this might work for you, too.

    Can You Really Afford It?

    Conventional wisdom is that rent should take up no more than 25 to 30 percent of your net income. Multiply your net pay by 52 (or 26 if you're paid biweekly) and determine how much you bring home in a year. Depressing, huh?

    Being pretty sure you can afford it isn't good enough. You'll need security and/or utility deposits, maybe the last month's rent in advance, and a bunch of other stuff to make the place your own. That's why you need to ...

    5. Track your spending. You might be shocked to find out how much you spend on iTunes and e-books. That's money that could have gone toward rent. While some folks write down all expenditures and create spreadsheets, it's easier to use online budgeting sites/apps such as Mint.com or PowerWallet.

    Now that you know where your money is going, time to ...

    6. Create a budget. The 50-30-20 plan is a good template: no more than half of net income for "musts" (like rent!), 30 percent for "wants," and the rest for savings and debt service.

    Organizations like the National Foundation for Credit Counseling and the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies can help you get started; often you can get this help for free. (Note: It's best to check whichever credit counseling group you wind up with through the Better Business Bureau and your state attorney general's office.)

    Living within your means is smart, not onerous. A great way to get started is to ...

    7. Ask why you buy. Do you really need it? How many hours will you have to work to pay for it? If you absolutely need it, how can you get the best price?

    Now, suppose you determine you can manage solo rent on your current earnings if you're faithful to that new budget. Your next step should be to ...

    Think Beyond Next Payday

    Being able to afford the rent is one thing. Sooner or later, though, you're going to need something you can't pay for out of pocket: car repair, a medical deductible, a baby shower gift. That's why your new budget must include ways to ...

    8. Build an emergency fund. Your basic budget covers, well, the basics. But sometimes stuff happens. See "18 Ways to Save $100 This Week" for some tips on establishing what I call the "being able to sleep at night" fund.

    9. Get renters insurance. You should have this even if you're not living alone. Should there be a fire or even a simpler issue such as a leaky roof that ruins some of your stuff, would you be able to pay for alternate lodging or replace your belongings?

    10. Plan an 'incidentals' fund. It's not strictly necessary to buy holiday, birthday or shower gifts. But you still want to, right? If family or friends are getting hitched or having babies in the coming year, figure out how much you can afford to spend and then stick to that number.

    Use a price comparison website like PriceGrabber.com or FatWallet.com to get the best deals you can. Set an alert so you'll get an e-mail when the items you want hit the price point you can afford.

    Still wondering if you can afford some of those gifts, especially if they involve trips to a wedding or driving across the state to see your sister's baby? Maybe it's time to ...

    Earn More Money

    Easier said than done, right? That's why it's a good idea to start now, rather than the week before a wedding. Some possibilities:

    11. Sell yourself. Donate plasma, sign up for paid medical research -- which could be as simple as giving a couple of vials of blood -- maybe find a buyer for your hair.

    12. Sell your stuff. Drop off clothes or accessories at a consignment shop. Sell the electronics you thought were a great idea but turned out to be somewhat extraneous. If you have specific knowledge about vintage Fiesta ware or pre-Mattel American Girl dolls, keep an eye out when shopping yard sales, thrift shops and Craigslist. For more info, see "Where to Sell Your Stuff for Top Dollar."

    13. Get a side gig. It doesn't have to be a second part-time job; some people make good money from occasional work. Let it be known you're available to walk a dog, house-sit, fix a computer, clean and organize a garage, baby-sit on a Saturday night, be the sign-waving guy dressed as the Statue of Liberty outside a tax-preparation joint.

    Or head to a quick-gigs site like Fiverr or TaskRabbit. Someone might be willing to pay you to sing "Happy Birthday To You" in Klingon or break down and recycle boxes. For more possibilities, see "20 Odd Ways to Make Extra Money."

    Setting Up on the Cheap

    You've saved up your deposits, built an emergency fund and planned for contingencies. But if you're moving straight from college to single living then you might be shocked at how much you'll need to set up housekeeping.

    Your childhood home had a lot of stuff in it that you took for granted: dishes, cookware, baking soda, measuring spoons, laundry detergent. Or maybe you lived with roommates for years and someone else provided niceties like a sofa or a dining table and chairs.

    Even just a few basics could cost you a lot, right when you're trying to conserve. Try these tips to outfit yourself affordably:

    14. Hit the dollar store. Not everything there is a good deal. But you can't beat a one-buck mop bucket.

    15. Put it out in the universe. Need a table, a bookshelf, a lamp? Let it be known! A relative or friend, or someone known to a relative or friend, might be looking to sell such stuff cheaply. You might even ...

    16. Get it for free. Someone who's moving or combining households might want to get rid of that table vs. having to pay to dispose of it. Keep checking Freecycle and the "free" section of Craigslist, too. I've seen some pretty nice furniture up for grabs. To avoid bringing home bedbugs, follow the tips in "How to Avoid Bedbugs -- and How to Get Rid of Them."

    That's not the only way to get freebies, though. Two more tactics:

    17. Shop 'curb mart.' That is, keep an eye on what neighbors put out on trash day or by the dumpster when they move. I've gotten stuff like bookshelves, a floor lamp, straight-back chairs, picture frames and a still-in-the-box computer mouse this way.

    18. Let students buy it for you. Live in a college town? Find out when school lets out for the summer and also where students dump their stuff. You'll be astonished at what people throw out because replacement is cheaper than shipping or storage.

    Can't get stuff for free? Maybe you could ...

    19. Get it secondhand. Yard sales can yield treasure on the cheap. Thrift stores vary in quality and selection, but you can usually find dishes, cookware, food-storage containers, lamps and other necessities.

    Utility Tricks

    Solo renters can't rely on roommates to help subsidize the cost of lights, heat and water, or to kick in for Internet bills. Take a hard look at these costs.

    20. Cut the cable. Plenty of people get by with stuff like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Instant Video. For best practices, see "How to Choose the Right Cord-Cutting TV Service."

    21. Get a better phone deal. Smartphones are becoming extensions of self. But you need not overpay to stay connected. Check out these Money Talks News pieces: 22. Shop around for Internet. The cost of getting online just keeps going up. When it's bundled with phone and/or cable service it can be hard to decide to switch. Set aside a few hours to run the numbers for deals among the providers in your area.

    Think about cutting the cable (see above) if it makes sense and running your phone and Internet separately. Finally, consider FreedomPop's rechargeable wireless hotspot device; to learn more, see "How to Keep Free Internet in Your Pocket or Purse."

    23. Skip the dryer. You can hang most items vs. paying $1.50 a load to dry them. Besides, the dryer takes years off your duds with its heat and tumbling. If the washer/dryer is in your apartment (lucky you!), the dryer will make your place a lot hotter in the summer.

    24. Cut back on the air conditioning. "5 Strange Ways to Stay Cool Without Air Conditioning" has tips that will help you raise the central-air setting or resist turning on the window unit. You might also try making this DIY air cooler for a cost about about $8.

    25. Ignore the thermostat. Don't turn the heat up five degrees every time you get a chill. Instead, take a tip (or a lot of them) from "Fighting Over the Thermostat in Your House? Here's How to Win."

    26. Plug the leaks. Put rolled-up towels at door bottoms to keep cold air from leaking in. Ask the landlord if you can add caulk and weather stripping to the windows and foam gaskets to electrical outlets and switches. (Ask the landlord to pay for these, too.)

    Eat to Live (Alone)

    "Food" is the budget area with the most wiggle room. You probably can't negotiate your rent or your car payment downward, but you can ...

    27. Learn to cook. Did you know how to set up a smartphone or put together a bookcase before you read the instructions? Get yourself a cookbook or go online for bonehead-simple recipes. Challenge yourself to recreate your favorite restaurant dishes.

    28. Embrace 'speed scratch.' Not every meal has to be hands-on. Buying a rotisserie chicken, a bag of salad greens and some baking potatoes to throw in the microwave is still cheaper than going out to eat. (Bonus: Leftovers!)

    29. Get a Slow Cooker. We've gone way beyond casseroles made with cream of mushroom soup. Search the Internet for "slow cooker gourmet" and you'll be amazed.

    30. Batch cook. Spend one Saturday a month cooking a bunch of dishes and freeze them in you-sized portions.

    31. Shop the bakery outlet. No, it doesn't mean "stale bread." We shop there regularly and get baked goods four or five (or more) days before their sell-by dates. Why pay $3.50 for a loaf of multigrain bread when you can pay $1.50?

    32. Use coupons. Supermarkets and drugstores let you download Qs to your store loyalty card. Coupons + sales + in-store rebates = more money to throw against the rent.

    33. Start a supper club. Got friends who like to cook? Make plans to cook for one another one night a month (or a week). Or do a lunch club if you have friends at work.

    34. Eat what you want! Some days you just don't feel like cooking. When you live alone you can have a bowl of cereal for supper or eat ramen straight from the saucepan without your roommate(s) staring judgmentally at your food choice. Anyone who's ever had a roomie go full-on vegan/gluten-free/Paleo and lecture everyone else nonstop will appreciate this option. While this isn't healthy in the long term, it won't hurt you now and then to eat a sliced tomato and a package of cheese crackers for supper.

    Invite Everyone Over

    Once you're all moved in, it's time to show off the new place. Entertaining at home solves two potential problems: If you're bored and maybe a little bit blue, you might overspend to cheer yourself up, and it also keeps the "fun" section of your budget under control.

    But isn't entertaining expensive? Not necessarily. Try these frugal-fun tips:

    35. BYOB wine tasting. Each friend brings an interesting yet still affordable plonk. You provide cheese and crackers or some other nibbly bits.

    36. Game night. Board games. Online games. Charades. Improv. Whatev.

    37. Host a potluck. Give just enough direction to make sure everyone doesn't bring a salad, or chips and salsa.

    38. Have a dinner party. It doesn't have to be fancy! Make it a chili feed, cook a batch of spaghetti sauce, celebrate the summer with the freshest salad greens and ripest tomatoes you can find.

    39. Binge watching. Got Netflix or Hulu? Watch as much of a favorite show as your guests can stand. Or borrow an entire season's worth from the library. Provide snacks.

    40. Sports night. Some friends, some chips and beer, your favorite sporting event -- can't get much easier.

    41. Spa night. Invite a couple of BFFs for DIY beauty regimens -- tons of tips exist online for facials, manicures, deep conditioners and the like. Talking about boys is optional.

    Out on the (Affordable) Town

    Getting out of the apartment now and then is good for you. Keep the entertainment section of your budget low by getting creative:

    42. Gallery openings. Lots of cities have a "First Friday" or "Art Walk" event, wherein local galleries/museums schedule openings on the same night. Take a couple of pals to one or more of the openings. Bonus: You'll probably get fed, since these events tend to feature hors d'oeuvres and maybe even wine.

    43. Free museums. It's often possible to beat those pesky fees at museums and also zoos and aquariums. For strategies, see "Free Admission to More Than 1,500 Museums, Aquariums and Zoos."

    44. Pay-what-you-can night. Some theater companies and comedy troupes offer "whatever you can afford to give" performances. Look for them in your area.

    45. Free movies. Catch summer blockbusters and art films alike without paying. For specifics, see "7 Ways to Go to the Movies For Free."

    46. Social buying vouchers. Groupon, Living Social and others offer discounts -- sometimes deep ones -- to restaurants, shows and attractions. Keep your eyes peeled.

    47. Discounted social buying vouchers. Sites like CoupFlip.com and CoupRecoup.com sell unwanted Groupons et al. at often-steep discounts. The cheapest one I ever saw was for a Chicago restaurant: $40 worth of tapas for $1.71.

    48. Discounted gift cards. Want to go to a movie, eat at a chain restaurant, hit the links, bowl a few games? Go to the aggregator site GiftCardGranny.com and look for discounted gift cards for the places you want to be. I routinely get 20 percent off movie gift cards this way.

    Not everyone can (or wants to) use all 48 frugal hacks. But unless you're paid very well, then you'll have to make some sacrifices if you want to live alone. Every dollar you can save on basics and frivolities alike is a dollar that can support your desire for peace and privacy.

    What are your tips for living alone without breaking the bank?

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    Detail of a senior woman holding US banknotes
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    By Sharon Epperson

    Older Americans are living longer than ever with a record high life expectancy of nearly 79, according to the latest research from the National Center for Health Statistics. Women generally live longer than men, to an average of 81. That means for many couples, at least one spouse will live into their 80s, 90s or even to beyond 100.

    If that happens, you want to make sure you don't run out of money when you're 85. How can you ensure that your nest egg will last through your final years?

    1. Plan for at least two or three decades in retirement. The most recent NCHS data show someone now 65 is expected to live at least 19 more years. It's likely you could live that long, or longer, if you are in good health and your parents and grandparents lived a long life.

    2. Save as much as you can in your tax-advantaged retirement accounts -- 401(k)s and IRAs -- as well as taxable accounts for long-term investments. A married couple can stash away up to $36,000 in 401(k)s this year (up to $48,000 if they are 50 or older.)

    Maxing out on regular or Roth IRAs will add another $11,000 to a couple's nest egg in 2015, or $13,000 if you're both 50 or older. But few Americans can save that much every year. Many are facing a retirement savings shortfall: A recent EBRI survey shows for those on the verge of retirement savings deficits can vary from about $19,000 to nearly $63,000.

    3. Some financial advisers suggest buying longevity insurance, a type of deferred annuity that offers guaranteed income for life, to help supplement retirement savings later in life.

    Here's how it works: You invest money upfront -- at say 55 or 65 -- in exchange for future payments. (Longevity insurance doesn't usually kick in until you're about 85.) The payout benefit is calculated at the time that you invest, usually just before or after you retire.

    The size of the payout is based on how old you are when you buy the insurance. Generally, the younger you are when you buy it, the larger the annual benefit. But there is a big downside: You either use it or lose it. If you die before the benefit kicks in, the money you put in is lost.

    Still, several insurers have recently launched longevity insurance contracts for 401(k)s and IRAs and some financial advisers say it may be worth investing a small part of your portfolio in a longevity annuity contract, in addition to owning stocks, bonds and other assets. It's another way to further diversity your nest egg since you may live longer than you expect.

     

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    Happy Woman Buying Car
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    By Jason Notte

    NEW YORK -- If you'd browse and bargain while shopping for a $20,000 car, you should give serious thought to taking the same approach to a six-figure college education.

    According to a report released by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in February, student loan debt has climbed to $1.16 trillion. While still a distant second to U.S. mortgage debt ($8.17 trillion), it now exceeds the total value of every U.S. car loan ($955 billion), all credit card debt ($700 billion) and all home equity loans ($510 billion). It's also just shy of all the money the Federal Reserve currently has in circulation ($1.3 trillion). If that student loan debt grows by another $33 billion, as it did last quarter, every dollar bill and handful of spare change in the country couldn't pay it.

    Even worse, more than 1 in 10 (11.3 percent) student loans are past due. By comparison, the U.S. doesn't have that difficult a time paying its credit card bills, which are the second-most delinquent loans with 7.3 percent past due.

    For older folks who can't see what the big deal about paying student debt is, student loan and financial advice site Edvisors.com would like to remind you that just 20 years ago, average student loan debt was $12,759 and just 54 percent of all students graduated with debt. This year, the average student loan debt for a graduate who just received a bachelor's degree is $33,050. That debt is being carried by 70.2 percent of all graduates.

    That's no minor condition. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the current unemployment rate at 5.3 percent, that jumps to 9.9 percent for people ages 20 to 24 -- or roughly the age of most recent college graduates. Only 66 percent of people that age are an active part of the workforce, compared to more than 77 percent of folks between 25 and 54. Larry Elkin, president of Palisades Hudson Financial Group in Scarsdale, New York, says throwing yourself at any one school -- or allowing a high-school student to do so -- could put you in a tough financial spot.

    'Bargaining Power'

    "Buying a college education is a lot like buying a car," he says. "If only one model and color will make you happy, you have no bargaining power. If you are willing to consider any vehicle that can take you where you want to go, there are many opportunities to save money. You'll get the best long-term value for your education dollar if you consider your options with an independent attitude and an open mind."

    Those options aren't always in-state, either. Darla Kashian, a financial adviser with RBC Wealth Management in Minneapolis, regularly reminds clients whose children are looking to attend prestigious liberal arts school Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, that being from Minnesota actually makes them less desirable to admissions staff overwhelmed with Minnesota applicants. Instead, she encourages them to similar schools out of state, where the chances of getting financial aid are much better for students from beyond the region.

    "We have a unique environment here in Minnesota where some huge number [70 percent, according to the Minnesota Office of Higher Education] of students from Minnesota who go to four-year colleges go to school in Minnesota," Kashian says. "One of the things that I do with my clients is get them to think more broadly about where opportunities exist: What are the unique talents or characteristics of a particular student that would appeal not just to the specific elite private college they're considering, but a school in that category?"

    Also, don't stop at one school. Elkin advises applying to multiple colleges that would consider you an asset, and then using your position to bargain with those schools. That means skipping early decision enrollment, which assures you a spot but eliminates your haggling advantage. It also prevents a would-be student from seeming too eager and gives both students and parents some wiggle room when an offer does arive.

    "The other thing I advise clients is if their kid is set on a specific school, look at their first offer as an entry-level offer and then go back and negotiate with the college," Kashian says. "You have nothing to lose and, assuming one is well-mannered in doing that, you can likely find some additional financial aid to make up that gap."

    Getting Started Early

    However, most of the steps toward reducing the cost of college come well before the first applications are sent. Ideally, Kashian says, parents should start having conversations about college with their child in the ninth grade. Her potential questions, just to set the stakes early include, "What do I expect from you academically for what I'm willing to provide financially?" and "What is the contribution that you're expected to make both academically and financially to this equation?"

    From there, both students and parents need to be aware that being a more desirable candidate translates to more bountiful financial aid packages. It helps if you can contribute to a school's diversity, regional or otherwise, but it also helps to bring something unique to the table that no one else does. That requires some digging and shopping around, as scholarship athletes know all too well.

    "If you're a star basketball player, you're a point guard, the University of Kentucky is loaded up with point guards, and your goal is to play point guard in the NBA, you're not going to go to Kentucky because you aren't going to get playing time," Kashian says. "If you're a bassoonist and you're looking to be in the orchestra at a small liberal arts college with four bassoonists who are all freshmen and sophomores, you're not going to be appealing to them."

    Once that particular skill becomes apparent, don't waste time and money waiting for it to develop if you don't have to. Elkin advises students to take advantage of advanced placement and college-level classes while they're in high school to cut down on the length of time they'd need to stay in college and the amount they'd have to pay. Kashain notes that her nephew took part in Minnesota state university system's Post-Secondary Enrollment Options program, took courses at the University of Minnesota for free during high school and earned two years' worth of college credits while paying $0. Granted, students have to make sure that such credits would transfer to the college of their choice, but it's a far less expensive option than not taking such courses or even paying for a year or two at a community college before transferring.

    However, cutting that tuition bill can be costly in other ways. Kashain graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee with $19,751 in student loan debt, but finished in three-and-a-half years to minimize debt. That helped her financially, but it prevented her from taking unpaid internships or traveling abroad as her classmates did. Kashian advises parents to make sure their students are engaged in the college planning process with them. It not only improves their chances with university admissions staff, who spend a lot of time interacting with parents and all too little speaking with potential students, it also gives them a sense of the financial consequences of their decision.

    Putting Education in Perspective

    "You may want that particular academic and social experience of the college of your dreams, but what does it do to the rest of your dream?" she says. "It postpones homeownership, it postpones travel, it can limit the kind of choices you can make, it potentially limits other things like marriage, children and family. I want to have that conversation with 16-, 17- and 18-year-olds so they have a comprehensive understanding of what that means."

    ... students ought not take out more in student loans than they can reasonably expect to make in their first year on the job.

    Elkin says that if seeing those hard numbers makes students decide to live at home while studying, work while they study or put off going to college for a year or two to save, that isn't such a terrible outcome. Kashian notes that some down time may help a student decide whether he is cut out for college or whether he'd prefer to learn a trade, enlist in military service or, in the case of the children of high-net-worth adults, spare their parents a sizable and fruitless investment. If they'd still consider college an option after all that, Kashian advises that parents treat those students like the adults they are and make sure they have a personal stake in it. If some of their own money is on the line, chances are better that they'd adhere to rules of thumb that make student loan debt a bit less onerous.

    "I stress to my clients that there's nothing wrong with students loans and students should have some skin in the game, but students ought not take out more in student loans than they can reasonably expect to make in their first year on the job," Kashian says. "I'm always nervous when I hear that a student is taking out $40,000 to $50,000 in student loans and plans on being an elementary school teacher."

    This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.

     

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    Five Teenagers Eating Pizza
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    School's out. Families get hungry. It's hard to beat a nice hot pizza to simplify meals. There's no shortage of places to get a pie these days, but that also means that the major chains are getting more competitive to land your order this summer.

    Let's go over a few ways to grab a pizza for less this season.

    1. Follow Twitter Feeds of the Pizzerias You Like

    You may follow your friends and favorite celebrities on Twitter (TWTR), but there's no shame in also keeping tabs on what your area pizza chains are doing. Just as you would follow your favorite food truck to see where it's parking, checking out the Twitter feeds of area restaurants can open the door to potential deals.

    After all, pizzerias will often broadcast their latest promotions on Twitter. It's too late now, but did you know that Papa John's (PZZA) was offering half-priced pizzas the day after the U.S. Women's National Team scored two points in a World Cup game? That sort of deal happens often.

    2. Consider Takeout Over Delivery

    The convenience of delivery is obvious, but you can save some money by picking up your own order. You save twice that way, avoiding the likely delivery fee as well as the customary tip for your driver since delivery fees rarely go to the driver.

    Some pizzerias also offer discounts for takeout orders. Domino's Pizza (DPZ) is running a weekday deal from Monday through Thursday where large three-topping pizzas can be had for just $7.99 as long as customers pick them up.

    3. Window-Shopping Is Easy in Cyberspace

    A neat thing about the Internet is that going comparison-shopping is just a click away. If you have a craving for a particular pizza brand, it may be hard to justify exploring your options, but hitting up the home page of area pizzerias might reveal compelling promotions that could sway you.

    It's also a good idea to check coupon aggregator websites. Sites including RetailMeNot and Coupons.com list the latest deals for pizzerias that offer discount codes, including regional offers and deals that may not be publicized on Twitter feeds and pizza sites.

    4. Consider Loyalty Rewards Clubs

    Frequent diners may want to consider joining restaurant-specific loyalty clubs. California Pizza Kitchen has CPK Rewards. Papa John's offers Papa Rewards. Orders come with points that can build up over time and be used for discounts. Membership is free, so there's little to lose.

    Another club tip is that ShopRunner -- the Amazon Prime-like service that offers two-day shipping at no additional cost -- also includes free delivery from Domino's. ShopRunner does cost $79 a year, so it's certainly not a worthwhile investment just for a year of free pizza delivery. However, ShopRunner does offer free trial subscriptions as well as complimentary memberships to eligible American Express credit card holders.

    So, yes, there are some big pizza deals to be had out there. Go out and find them, and then enjoy your marked-down pie.

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

     

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    By Louis DeNicola

    There's a lot to take into account when buying a new vehicle. How it feels and looks is important, but how much it costs -- including fuel consumption, potential resale value, and monthly auto insurance premium -- is usually the deal breaker. To help buyers determine which cars are truly the cheapest, Cheapism.com turned to a recent comparison of insurance rates for more than 1,500 vehicles by Insure.com.

    This list of the 15 cheapest cars to insure reflects the annual cost of full coverage by six major insurers for a 40-year-old male driver with good credit, a clean record and a 12-mile commute in 10 ZIP codes in each state. Unsurprisingly, family vehicles that are typically driven by cautious parents are cheaper to insure than flashy sports cars, but other affordable models may not be what you expect.

    Jeep Wrangler Sport: $1,134 a Year. The least expensive standard model Wrangler on the market, this two-door, 4x4 SUV is notable for its 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine and iconic looks. This model also recently ranked first in terms of resale value for compact SUVs. (It retains 57.4 percent of its original list price of $23,500 after five years.)

    Jeep Patriot Sport (2WD): $1,136 a Year. Cheaper (starting at $16,895) and roomier than a Wrangler, the two-wheel-drive Jeep Patriot is better suited for family driving than off-roading. Cruise control and 16-inch wheels are standard, but the Sport package lacks power accessories and air conditioning. Car site Edmunds.com asserts there are better options for consumers than the Patriot, citing drawbacks such as insufficient storage space, disappointing ride quality, and lackluster basic options.

    Honda CR-V LX (AWD): $1,160 a Year. The LX is the simplest of the available trim packages but still comes with a rearview camera and hands-free text messaging. All CR-V models are powered by a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine, although the all-wheel drive included in this model is an upgrade. The CR-V ranked best in a U.S. News & World Report list of affordable compact SUVs and starts at $24,695. The review highlights a spacious interior, responsive steering, and good fuel economy.

    Dodge Grand Caravan SE Plus: $1,162 a Year. The top-ranking minivan on the list, the Dodge Grand Caravan carries a mixed reputation but offers some features consumers may like. The second and third rows of seats can be laid flush with the floor, creating plenty of cargo space and the rear seats can be flipped to face the back for tailgating. The SE Plus starts at $25,245; the cheapest trim package, the AVP, starts at $21,795. This is the last year the Caravan will be available; Dodge is dropping it from the lineup.

    Honda Odyssey LX: $1,163 a Year. The Honda Odyssey minivan is a favorite among car critics, although at $28,975, it's more expensive than others on this list. Still, it's noteworthy for its smooth handling, quiet and comfortable ride, safety rating, and fuel efficiency (for its class). The LX is the base model but still includes a rearview camera, Bluetooth, Pandora compatibility and power-adjustable front seats.

    Jeep Compass Sport (2WD): $1,164 a Year. This third Jeep model on the list, like the Patriot Sport, is less expensive than a Wrangler, at $18,995. It's also less Jeep-like, in that off-roading may just be off-limits for this front-wheel-drive model. That doesn't mean it's not a good compact SUV, though; it gets decent reviews from experts at Edmunds and The Car Connection, a review and research site.

    Subaru Outback 2.5i: $1,176 a Year. The 2015 Outback has been redesigned and offers a roomy interior, sleek body and precise steering. All Outbacks come standard with all-wheel drive, making this a suitable vehicle for outdoor adventures. Motor Trend concludes that the 2015 Outback is bigger and handles better than the competition. The 2.5i is the base model and starts at $24,895.

    Ford Edge SE (2WD): $1,176 a Year. A mid-size crossover that seats five, the Ford Edge SE is comparable to the Honda CR-V LX, according to The Car Connection, (although this model has front-wheel drive). Other reviewers appreciate the high-quality look and feel, EcoBoost engine and quiet ride. This base model has a list price of $28,100.

    Smart Fortwo Pure: $1,186 a Year. The Smart Fortwo is a two-seater car about half the size of a sedan, which makes finding a parking space amazingly easy. But the same $13,270 and up that you'll spend for this model can buy a more comfortable ride that isn't scary to drive on a freeway. The Pure package is bare-bones, although there are options for power windows and mirrors ($80), radio ($350) and power steering ($550). Air conditioning comes standard.

    Ford Escape S (2WD): $1,190 a Year. One of the best-selling crossovers on the market, the Escape stands out with its styling and acute handling. Reviewers say it's fun to drive on winding roads, although it can feel a bit firm at times. Even the basic S trim level (starting at $22,960) comes with full power accessories, six-speaker sound system, air conditioning, rearview camera and Ford's Sync voice command system.

    Nissan Xterra X (2WD): $1,200 a Year. Based on a shared Frontier pickup platform, the Nissan Xterra (starting at $23,660) boasts the same easy-to-clean interior. The Car Connection notes that owners give up some comforts (those easy-to-clean surfaces are hard plastic) but get a vehicle that's versatile, spacious, and ready for off-roading.

    Dodge Journey AVP: $1,201 a Year. The American Value Package, the base model, starts at $20,295 and is a good budget option for consumers seeking a midsize crossover. The Journey AVP seats five, but an optional third row adds an additional two seats. The four-cylinder engine can feel strained, but it's the only option available at this trim level.

    Buick Encore: $1,205 a Year. The Buick Encore, a subcompact crossover, is slightly larger than a standard hatchback and feels more luxurious than the competing Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3 and Jeep Renegade, but there's no need to pay for a luxury marque. The Encore is available for $24,065 and up. There are five seats, but in reality it fits only four adults comfortably. Reviewers also say the 1.4-liter engine doesn't have enough oomph, or the fuel efficiency one might expect from a small-engine subcompact; they like just about everything else.

    Chevrolet Spark LS (Manual): $1,206 a Year. The Chevy Spark is a four-door hatchback that works well for city drivers and is kind to the pocketbook: This model's MSRP is just $12,270. Despite being small and light, the Spark feels and drives like a "real car," Edmunds says. This practical car seats four and gets up to 40 mpg. The basic LS trim comes with air conditioning, power windows and a four-speaker sound system.

    Toyota Tacoma Access Cab (2WD): $1,210 a Year. The only pickup on this list is a leader in the compact/midsize class. The Tacoma isn't as powerful nor as comfortable as a full-size but is known for durability and does well when stacked against the competition. The basic, two-door Access Cab version comes with a 2.7-liter, four-cylinder engine, air conditioning, manual transmission and two rear seats that are best suited for children. It's an easy pickup to drive, but with a starting price of $20,965, it's more expensive than comparable models.

     

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    Greece Bailout
    APAnti-austerity protesters hold a Greek flag during a rally Monday against the government's agreement with its creditors in front of the tomb of the unknown soldier in Athens, Greece.
    By JOHN-THOR DAHLBURG and PAN PYLAS

    BRUSSELS -- After grueling, often angry negotiations that tested the limits of European unity, Greece struck a preliminary rescue deal with its creditors Monday that should avert an imminent financial catastrophe but also guarantees years more hardship and sacrifice for its people.

    Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras flew home to sell the bailout plan to skeptical lawmakers and political allies, some of whom accused him of selling Greece out. Panos Kammenos, leader of the junior partner in Tsipras' coalition government, denounced the deal as a German-led "coup."

    "This deal introduced many new issues ... we cannot agree with it," he said after meeting with Tsipras.

    Other Greeks rallied Monday night before Parliament in Athens, urging lawmakers to reject the new demands.

    To close the deal with his partners in the euro currency, Tsipras had to consent to a raft of austerity measures, including sales tax hikes and pension and labor reforms -- measures he had campaigned vociferously against over the last five years of Greece's financial crisis.

    Since his election in January, the youthful Tsipras has faced intense pressure to backpedal on many of his promises to Greece's exhausted electorate. Finally, faced Sunday by the leaders of the 18 other nations that share the euro and the knowledge that Greek banks were just days from running out of money, the moment came when he couldn't resist any more.

    A series of supposed red lines vanished, including objections to tight international oversight of Greece's economy, continued involvement by the International Monetary Fund in Greece's bailout program and cuts to pensions.

    The result of marathon negotiations emerged Monday: about 85 billion euros ($95.1 billion) in loans and financial support for Greece over three years that will preserve its membership in the euro, shore up its banks and allow a modicum of stability to return to the battered Greek economy.

    Creditors have also dangled the carrot of a possible future debt restructuring in the event of a smooth bailout.

    "We managed to avoid the most extreme measures," Tsipras said. But in many cases, ordinary Greeks now face tougher measures than those they voted down in a nationwide referendum a little over a week ago.

    Syriza's Left Platform, a group of traditionalists in Tsipras' own party, swiftly denounced the agreement as the "worst deal possible ... [one] that maintains the country's status: a debt colony under a German-run European Union."

    Financial experts themselves were divided over the result.

    "It was the best deal the Greeks could get," says Jacob Kirkegaard, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. "They did not do too badly given the terrible, terrible, disastrous starting point the current government put them in."

    But Ashoka Mody, visiting professor of international finance at Princeton University, says the deal just repeats policies that have already failed.

    "The economics of this program have been set up for failure," he told The Associated Press. "In three years, if this program is implemented, the Greek economy will be 10 percent smaller than it was and the debt burden will be higher."

    In many ways, Tsipras' hard work begins now. As part of the deal, his government has to get the Greek Parliament to back a series of economic measures by Wednesday that creditors are demanding. And in the weeks to come, Greece will have to make further changes to its economy, such as opening to competition industries like energy that have long been protected.

    "Trust needs to be rebuilt," said German Chancellor Angela Merkel, adding that with the deal "Greece has a chance to return to the path of growth."

    Passage of the new measures appears assured, since Greece's opposition parties have pledged to support Tsipras' deal. But dissent within the ruling Syriza party is threatening his coalition, raising the prospect of some sort of national unity government or an early election later this year.

    This agreement pulls Greece back from the brink of economic chaos but remains far from ensuring its long-term economic viability within the eurozone.

    Greece needs another bailout, its third in five years, to cope with its mountain of debt and get its economy back on track after a six-year retreat that evokes memories of the 1930s' Great Depression in the U.S. The Greek economy has been pushed to the brink of collapse -- banks have been shut down for two weeks, capital controls limit withdrawals to a paltry 60 euros ($67) a day and normal business has almost ground to a halt.

    When the Greek banks eventually reopen, they will most likely have to depend on more emergency credit from the European Central Bank.

    Indications are that the ECB won't sanction further help until the Greek parliament passes the first set of creditor demands on Wednesday. And even if the ECB does start raising its emergency liquidity allowance, Greek capital controls are expected to remain for many months more.

    "This agreement pulls Greece back from the brink of economic chaos but remains far from ensuring its long-term economic viability within the eurozone," says Eswar Prasad, a professor of trade policy at Cornell University.

    Greece has other financing needs beyond its banks. On July 20, it has to make a 4.2 billion-euro ($4.6 billion) debt repayment to the ECB. It's also in arrears on about 1.5 billion euros owed to the IMF. Since its bailout program isn't going to be in place by then -- Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the eurozone's top official, estimated that would take about four weeks -- Greece will need some further help.

    Dijsselbloem said finance ministers were trying to figure out how to get Athens some bridge financing but warned they had "yet to find the golden key to solve this issue."

    If Greece meets all of the requirements spelled out in Monday's agreement, the country will get a three-year rescue program and the commitment to restructure its debt, which is unsustainably high at around 320 billion euros ($352 billion), or around 180 percent of its annual GDP.

    Since 2010, Greece has received two bailouts totaling 240 billion euros ($268 billion) in return for deep spending cuts, tax increases and reforms agreed to by successive Greek governments. Although the country's budget deficit has fallen sharply, its public debt burden has increased as the Greek economy has shrunk by a quarter.

    Ordinary Greeks seemed relieved their country wasn't facing a chaotic exit from the euro.

    Kostas Lambos, a retiree in Athens, said things would be "difficult in the beginning" but people had to understand the severity of the situation.

    "This was a necessary step for the country to emerge from the dead ends that had been created in the last few years," he said.

    -Elena Becatoros and Derek Gatopoulos in Athens, Greece; Raf Casert and Menelaos Hadjicostis in Brussels and Paul Wiseman in Washington contributed to this story.

     

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    Financial Markets Wall Street Wingstop IPO
    Richard Drew/APWingstop and Nasdaq officials celebrate Wingstop's IPO at the Nasdaq MarketSite last month.
    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.

    Wingstop (WING) -- Up 21 percent last week

    Wall Street isn't chicken when it comes to the recently public Wingstop. At least a half-dozen analysts initiated coverage last week following the chicken wing chain's successful IPO a month earlier.

    The stock's big pop -- shares have soared by more than 80 percent since it went public at $19 four weeks ago -- led half of the analysts to initiate neutral ratings, but Morgan Stanley, Jefferies and Robert W. Baird all sided with bullish calls on Wingstop.

    Vipshop (VIPS) -- Up 12 percent last week

    Chinese stocks swooned earlier in the week, leading Stifel analyst George Askew to upgrade some of the battered growth stocks. Vipshop -- a fast-growing group-buying website operator -- received a bullish nod from Askew, who pointed out that specializing in markdowns would serve it well if the Chinese economy starts to cool off.

    There were plenty of Chinese stocks posting double-digit declines last week, but Vipshop came through as one of the few winners.

    Build-A-Bear Workshop (BBW) -- Up 11 percent last week

    The kid-friendly retailer of plush toys that are stuffed as shoppers customize them moved higher after eating some more of its cooking. Build-A-Bear Workshop announced a $10 million share buyback. This is the second stock repurchase that the chain has announced this year. It approved a similar $10 million buyback in February, and now it's nearly completed that one.

    Build-A-Bear also moved higher on Friday after announcing the launch of Honey Girls, the chain's first line of multimedia plush toys. However, most of the gain came earlier in the week on the stock repurchase news.

    Chemours (CC) -- Down 29 percent last week

    The New York Stock Exchange's biggest loser last week was one of the bigger winners the week before. Chemours initially took off after being spun off by DuPont (DD) two weeks ago, but sentiment turned after investors started paying attention to bearish analysts who feared that the spinoff was overvalued and that there was a risk of expanded environmental fines for the provider of titanium technologies, fluoroproducts, and chemical solutions.

    Barracuda Networks (CUDA) -- Down 20 percent last week

    It's probably fitting that Barracuda Networks gets bit just ahead of Shark Week, but the security technology specialist probably had it coming. Barracuda posted mixed quarterly results. Revenue climbed 18 percent since the prior year, ahead of expectations. However, billings -- an important metric for gauging near-term performance -- fell short. Barracuda also offered up guidance for the current quarter that fell short of forecasts.

    Zillow (Z) -- Down 10 percent last week

    The fast-growing real estate website operator slumped after its CFO resigned. Chad Cohen will be leaving the company next month. Cohen had been with the company for nearly a decade, serving as CFO since 2011.

    Investors don't like when longtime CFOs step down, and things get complicated here because Zillow completed its acquisition of smaller rival Trulia earlier this year. This doesn't suggest that there's anything funky with Zillow's accounting, but investors seek consistency with its top bean counter at a time when the bookkeeping could get complicated.

    Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Zillow Group. 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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    Earns Comcast
    Jeff Chiu/APComcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts
    By TALI ARBEL

    NEW YORK -- Comcast, the country's largest cable company, is offering its own online video alternative as people spend fewer hours watching live TV and more time using tablets and phones for entertainment.

    The new service, called Stream, will be available to Comcast's Internet customers and cost $15 a month. For now, it will include only broadcast networks like Fox and NBC in addition to HBO, but no cable channels like AMC or TNT.

    Anyone can watch broadcast networks for free on a TV with an antenna, which costs about $20 and up. And HBO already sells a stand-alone streaming service for $15 a month.

    Comcast has ambitions to offer more TV online, however. It wants to add cable channels over the next year so that online TV subscribers have "access to any of the content we have available" for traditional cable customers by the end of March in 2016, said Marcien Jenckes, Comcast Cable's executive vice president for consumer services. Prices will be similar to traditional cable, he said.

    Comcast's service, which is only for its customers, follows the launch earlier this year of Dish Network's (DISH) nationwide Internet TV service, Sling TV, which sells for $20 a month and includes cable channels like ESPN, AMC and Food Network. You can also add on HBO. A slew of Internet TV options have come in the past year as many cable and TV companies think younger customers prefer to watch TV online, without paying for a full bundle that can easily top $70 a month.

    The ability to smother competitors' online TV services was a major reason why regulators were concerned about Comcast's bid to buy Time Warner Cable (TWC). It would have created a TV and Internet behemoth that would serve more than half of the country's high-speed Internet customers, as calculated by the government.

    The deal never went through. Comcast dropped its bid in April.

    Comcast Corp. (CMCSA), which is based in Philadelphia, said Monday that it will launch the service in Boston at the end of the summer, followed by Chicago and Seattle. It plans to make it available to all its Internet service customers by early 2016. Jenckes declined to say how many customers Comcast hoped to win online.

    Comcast had more than 22 million Internet customers at the end of the first quarter.

    The Stream service has limitations. You can watch live TV at home but there are rights restrictions for a lot of live content if you want to watch on your phone outside your home network.

    It will work on computers, tablets and phones but won't work directly on TVs. Instead, users can log in to HBO's app and other channel apps through TV-connected gadgets like an Apple TV or Roku, for example.

    Stream does come with a DVR service that can store 20 hours of video.

    Many young people like sharing passwords for online TV accounts with their friends. Stream allows only two streams on separate devices at the same time.

    Like with Dish's Sling TV, Stream customers could sign up online and disconnect the service at any time. A major complaint about cable service is contracts that are difficult to escape and having to drop off set-top boxes and other equipment after canceling service.

    Here's how other providers stack up against Comcast's new streaming video service:

    Comcast
    • Monthly price: $15.
    • Live offering: A dozen networks, including HBO.
    • On demand: Yes.
    • Restrictions: Internet customers only.
    Amazon
    • Monthly price: $8.25 (only through $99-a-year Amazon Prime subscription)
    • Live offering: None
    • On demand: Apart from original shows such as "Transparent," offerings tend to be past seasons, plus movies. Next-day access to shows for $2 or $3 an episode.
    • Restrictions: Not available directly on Apple TV. Prime requires one-year commitment.
    CBS All-Acess
    • Monthly price: $6.
    • Live offering: More than 90 markets.
    • On demand: Day-after access to shows on mobile devices (on traditional computers, it's free without a subscription). Full seasons for many shows, not just past five episodes. Past seasons for a handful of shows, including "The Good Wife," ''Survivor," ''The Amazing Race" and "60 Minutes."
    • Restrictions: No apps for streaming TV devices. Some sports blackouts.
    Dish's Sling TV
    • Monthly price: Starts at $20.
    • Live offering: About 20 channels, including ESPN, ABC Family, AMC and Food Network. No broadcast channels like CBS or NBC. Add-on packages for sports, movies, kids, lifestyles and world news available for $5 each, and HBO for $15.
    • On demand: No recording of channels, though some offer older episodes, including HBO. Access to WatchESPN on-demand app, with others coming.
    • Restrictions: Can watch only one stream at a time, so members of households will need multiple subscriptions, although HBO content can be streamed on 3 devices at a time. DVR controls, such as pause and rewind, aren't available for many channels. NFL blackouts on mobile devices.
    HBO Now
    • Monthly price: About $15
    • Live offering: New episodes are available through apps about the same time they are shown on TV.
    • On demand: Current and past seasons of most HBO shows, including "Games of Thrones," ''Girls" and "The Sopranos." Hundreds of movies, including those from Universal, Fox, Warner Bros. and Summit.
    • Restrictions: Can subscribe only through a partner. Apple has exclusive deal among non-traditional distributors and requires Apple TV, an iPhone or iPad to sign up (you can then watch through a browser on other devices). Cablevision is the only pay-TV provider so far to offer HBO Now.
    Hulu
    • Monthly price: $8 for Plus, though many shows are free on Windows and Mac computers.
    • Live offering: None
    • On demand: Next-day access to shows from ABC, NBC, Fox and CW, along with some cable channels. Some movies and original shows.
    • Restrictions: Fox and CW shows restricted to pay-TV subscribers for first week. ABC requires pay-TV or Hulu Plus subscription during that time. Plus also needed for viewing on mobile and streaming TV devices.
    ITunes
    • Monthly price: None
    • Live offering: None, except for special events such as iTunes music festival.
    • On demand: Next-day access to shows for $2 or $3 an episode.
    • Restrictions: No Android devices. Apple TV is only streaming device supported.
    MLB.TV
    • Monthly price: $20 (or $110 for full season)
    • Live offering: All Major League Baseball games, subject to hometown blackouts.
    • On demand: All games.
    • Restrictions: Lots of blackouts. Extra $5 a month or $20 for season to watch on mobile and streaming TV devices. Separate package available for minor-league games.
    Netflix
    • Monthly price: Starts at $8.99
    • Live offering: None
    • On demand: Apart from original shows such as "House of Cards," offerings tend to be past seasons, plus movies.
    • Restrictions: Ultra high-definition (4K) streaming for $3 more, standard-definition only for $1 less.
    Nickelodeon's Noggin
    • Monthly price: $6
    • Live offering: None
    • On demand: Games and activities created for service alongside archives of shows no longer on any of Nickelodeon's TV channels. Aimed at preschoolers.
    • Restrictions: Available on Apple mobile devices only at first.
    Sony's Playstation View
    • Monthly price: Starts at $50.
    • Live offering: Base plan with CBS, NBC and Fox broadcast channels and cable schannels from AMC, Discovery, Fox, NBCUniversal, Scripps, Turner and Viacom. Additional sports and other channels for $10 or $20 more. More than 50 channels in basic; more than 85 in all. Main omissions: CW network and Disney channels, including ESPN and ABC.
    • On demand: Recording capabilities with unlimited storage, though shows expire after 28 days. Many shows over the past three days are automatically available. Access to some channels' on-demand apps.
    • Restrictions: Available in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Los Angeles only. Up to three simultaneous streams in a home, but each must have a separate PlayStation 3 or 4, and only one can be PS4. Some content is available on an iPad app for out-of-home viewing, but a PlayStation is still required for set-up.
    -Damian Troise contributed to this report.

     

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  • 07/13/15--04:08: 4 Ways to Let Amazon Pay You
  • Filed under: , , , ,

    herndon  va  usa   july 17 ...
    Shutterstock
    When you think of Amazon.com (AMZN) you probably think about the many ways that you can spend money on its website. However, for a growing number of enterprising souls, the leading online retailer is also a way to make money, too.

    We're not talking about the Amazon Rewards credit card, whereby folks get as much as 3 percent back on purchases in the form of Amazon credit. There are actually plenty of ways for people who have a nose for arts and crafts or who own merchandise to sell or resell to walk away with a check from the dot-com darling. Let's go over a few of them.

    1. Be the merchant. If you stroll around Amazon long enough, you will find that many of the available items aren't being sold by Amazon itself. Third parties are welcome to unload wares through the growing site's marketplace.

    You don't need to be a master reseller to take advantage of the platform. You can sell as little as a single item, and it doesn't cost anything to list on the site. You will only pay 99 cents if an item sells, and on top of that you will be charged a referral fee that is typically between 8 percent and 15 percent for most product categories. That's a higher cut than what you will have to dole out through many other online marketplaces, but it could be a small price to pay to be exposed to Amazon's huge buyer base.

    If you plan on doing this a lot, Amazon also offers a pro level where folks pay $39.99 a month without having to pay the 99-cent per-item fee. It opens up other product categories to sell from, but in a nutshell it only makes sense if you plan to move at least 40 items a month through the site. If you really want to go all in, you can pay to ship and store your items at one of Amazon's warehouses. The benefit there is that it will be that much more compelling to Amazon Prime shoppers who get free two-day shipping on Amazon-stocked goods.

    2. Be the webmaster. If you happen to run a website, group page, or even a modest hosted blog, you can apply to join Amazon Associates and collect commissions by referring folks to the e-tailer. You simply use a unique link or embed a code into your content, and if the links result in qualifying sales, you will receive typically between 4 percent and 10 percent of that as your advertising fee.

    Obviously, there's an art to making that work. Your readers will shy away from a hard sell. However, if you actually single out relevant products that your target audience may actually want to buy or you add value to the pitches with genuine reviews, you will probably perform better than you might think.

    3. Be the author. Amazon is the undisputed champ in e-book readers with the success of Kindle, and that naturally means that its store of digital books is also the top dog. You don't need to land a book deal with a major publishing house to make yourself available through Amazon's e-books storefront. You can publish your works -- whether it's that novel you wrote back in college or the "how to" guide to that thing that you're really good at -- directly through Kindle Direct Publishing.

    It's a free platform that also helps you format your copy so that it's optimized for Amazon's e-reader. You then get as much as 70 percent of any resulting sales. Opt in to participate in the Kindle Owners' Lending Library and you can also get a piece of the action when Amazon Prime members borrow your book.

    4. Be the artist. Amazon's CreateSpace is a platform that allows content creators to get their DVDs, CDs, MP3s and video downloads available for sale on the site. Authors who want their words on leafy pages for non-Kindle owners can even participate in the program where physical media is manufactured on demand.

    It certainly doesn't hurt if you have a knack for self-promotion after you self-publish your original work. The leveled playing field is great, but it also means that you're competing with a lot of fellow artists for customer attention.

    There are plenty of people succeeding in all four of these niches. Amazon's cutting checks, and maybe you have what it takes to make money on Amazon instead of just spending it there.

    Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. He has e-books, MP3s and CDs available on Amazon.com. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Amazon.com. 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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    DEM 2016 Clinton
    Seth Wenig/APDemocratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaking Monday at a campaign event in New York.
    By Luciana Lopez and Jonathan Allen

    NEW YORK -- Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton took swipes at Wall Street and her Republican rivals Monday, promising to impose tougher regulations on banks and raise the wages of ordinary Americans if she wins the 2016 White House race.

    Under pressure from a campaign rival on the left, Clinton said she would appoint strict overseers to ensure that financial institutions never again indulge in the risky behavior that helped cause the 2008 banking crash.

    In an address that her campaign promoted as a major economic policy speech, the former secretary of state vowed that banks cannot be "too big to fail."

    I will appoint and empower regulators who understand that too big to fail is still too big a problem.

    "As we all know in the years before the crash, financial firms piled risk upon risk, and regulators in Washington either couldn't or wouldn't keep up," she said at The New School, a liberal university in Manhattan's Greenwich Village.

    "I will appoint and empower regulators who understand that too big to fail is still too big a problem," Clinton said.

    She promised to go beyond the 2010 Dodd-Frank law that imposed stronger regulations on the financial industry.

    But Alan Blinder, an economist who advises Clinton's campaign, told Reuters she had no plans to reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act to split commercial banks from their investment banking operations.

    A former first lady and U.S. senator, Clinton is the clear favorite to win the Democratic nomination for the November 2016 presidential election but is facing a challenge from Bernie Sanders, a Vermont senator and self-styled socialist who is drawing large crowds at campaign events.

    Clinton put the fight for higher wages for everyday Americans at the heart of her economic agenda, although her speech was short on specific policy proposals.

    She said the U.S. economy will only run at full steam when middle-class wages rise steadily along with executive salaries and company profits.

    "Corporate profits are at near-record highs and Americans are working as hard as ever but paychecks have barely budged in real terms," Clinton said.

    Stepping Up Attacks

    Stepping up attacks against Republican rivals for the White House, Clinton took a dig at former Florida Governor Jeb Bush who said last week that Americans should have the chance to work longer hours.

    "They don't need a lecture, they need a raise," she said. Clinton also took Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to task for his strong opposition to union collective bargaining. Walker announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination Monday.

    Clinton will unveil more specifics of her economic policy in a series of speeches in coming weeks as liberal Democrats flirting with Sanders seek more details of her plans on increasing the minimum wage, creating universal preschool and investing in infrastructure.

    Putting some meat on the bones of her economic policy could divert focus from issues dragging on Clinton's popularity, including a controversy over her use of a private email account while she was America's top diplomat.

    "I think substance is her friend on the campaign because she has credibility as a substantive person, with extensive experience. Thoughtful, innovative proposals are going to help her," said Democratic strategist Bill Carrick.

    It remains unclear how Clinton's tough-sounding language might affect the deep ties she and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, have with Wall Street. Both have been handsomely paid for speeches by major finance and investment institutions in recent years, including Goldman Sachs (GS) and The Carlyle Group (CG).

    Hillary Clinton, who represented Wall Street as part of her constituency when she was a U.S. senator from New York, has long looked to people in the finance industry for large campaign donations.

    -Alistair Bell and Amanda Becker contributed to this report.

     

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    Close up of the Walmart logo as seen on its website. (Editorial use only: ­print, TV, e-book and editorial website).
    Alamy
    By ANNE D'INNOCENZIO

    NEW YORK --€” The online price fight is heating up between Walmart and Amazon.com (AMZN), and it's not even the holiday shopping season.

    Walmart Stores Inc. (WMT) has lowered the threshold for free shipping for online purchases to $35 from $50 for at least 30 days and will be offering discounts on thousands of items online on Wednesday.

    That's in response to Amazon's highly promoted Prime Day this Wednesday to commemorate the Seattle company's 20th anniversary. The sale is open to members that pay a $99 annual fee, though anyone can sign up for a 30-day free trial and partake in what Amazon says will be a sale that eclipses the Black Friday bonanza that precedes the Christmas holiday shopping season.

    Amazon is trying to drive more customers to its Prime membership ahead of back-to-school shopping and holiday shopping period.

    But Walmart has been learning to fight back.

    In May, the Bentonville, Arkansas, retailer said it will be testing an unlimited, three-day-shipping service for an annual fee of $50. Members of Amazon prime get free, two-day shipping with their annual fee.

    Both companies offer online grocery ordering and delivery. While Walmart is in only five markets, it underscores how serious the retailer is about accelerating the growth of its online business, where sales have slowed.

     

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    Stretch Your Barbecue Budget
    You can cut the cost of your next barbecue, just by slicing your own steak. It's that easy. Here's how.

    Instead of buying individual steaks, pick up a roast -- like tri-tip or beef rib -- and cut it up yourself. By being your own butcher, you can save 60 perecent or more off the regular retail price for steaks.

    And if you're looking to grill up some chicken, be sure to buy the whole bird. While chicken breasts usually cost about $3.50 per pound, an entire chicken sells for nearly $2 less. Since it only takes a few minutes to cut up, why not pay less and get more?

    So, as you get you're getting ready to grill this summer, try slicing up your own meat to, well, cut down on costs.

    View Poll


     

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