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DailyFinance.com

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    Healthcare and Taxes
    Getty Images
    By Dan Mangan

    They paid their Obamacare fine, even though many of them apparently didn't have to.

    About 7.5 million taxpayers so far have paid a penalty on their taxes for failing to have health insurance last year, as required for the first time by the Affordable Care Act. That number is well in excess of original expectations, officials said Monday.

    The average penalty paid was about $200 a person, and in all $1.5 billion was collected by the Internal Revenue Service in these fines.

    The Treasury Department said about 300,000 people who paid the penalty likely qualified for an exemption from having to have health coverage. There are a slew of exemptions from the Obamacare mandate based on income status or certain hardships.

    The IRS will be reaching out to these taxpayers to inform them about available exemptions and note that they may benefit from amending their tax return.

    "The IRS will be reaching out to these taxpayers to inform them about available exemptions and note that they may benefit from amending their tax return," said Mark Mazur, assistant Treasury secretary for tax policy, in a blog post Monday. "This outreach will also help educate taxpayers about the options they have for future years."

    About 12 million people claimed one of the many exemptions from the Obamacare mandate to have coverage, officials said. This represents about 9 percent of all filers, compared to the 10 to 20 percent that it had been estimated would avail themselves of an exemption. Another 5.1 million people failed to state they had health coverage, claim an exemption, or say they had paid the fine, officials said. The IRS is now "analyzing these cases to determine their status," according to a letter officials sent Congress.

    The Obama administration had expected that between 2 and 4 percent of taxpayers would be subject to the Obamacare penalty this past filing season, which would have worked out to between 2.7 million and 5.4 million people. Instead, about 6 percent of taxpayers have paid the fine.

    As a result, almost exactly the same number of people who selected Obamacare plans sold through government-run marketplaces by the close of open enrollment in 2014 opted or failed to get coverage that year, and agreed to pay the tax penalty.

    Accepting Coverage

    The higher-than-expected number of people paying the penalty underscores the challenges the administration continues to face in getting uninsured people to willingly accept coverage even after the ACA made it easier for them to do so.

    The penalty for failing to have coverage last year was the greater of $95 per adult or 1 percent of adjusted gross household income. That fine rises to the higher of $325 per adult or 2 percent of household income this year, and increases in future years.This year was the first in which the IRS was dealing with many issues related to the Affordable Care Act. As expected, about 76 percent of taxpayers -- the equivalent of about 102 million returns -- simply checked a box on their return to indicate they had health coverage throughout the year, and weren't required to do anything else to comply with the ACA.

    A much smaller group of people who purchased Obamacare health plans on government exchanges, and who received a federal subsidy to help pay for their plans, were required to file forms reconciling what they received in subsidies, and what they actually should have received. The subsidies can be worth thousands of dollars a year.

    Only about 10 percent of subsidized customers got the exact amount of tax credits they were due. About 40 percent were owed more in the way of subsidies when they filed their taxes, and got an average of an extra $600. About 50 percent of subsidized customers owe money back, an average of $800, officials said.

    Many Unfiled Returns

    The Treasury Department said that out of 4.5 million taxpayers who received a subsidy, or tax credit, only about 2.7 million had filed a tax return that was processed by the end of May.

    Another 360,000 subsidized Obamacare customers had filed for an extension on their taxes.

    About 710,000 people who received subsidies haven't filed a tax return, and haven't applied for an extension, as required, officials said.

    The IRS is reaching out to those people, and reminding them of their responsibility to file a return. If those people don't respond, they would lose their subsidy next year.

    Another 760,000 who were subsidized, and who filed a return but didn't file a form reconciling their Obamacare subsidies, are also being contacted by the IRS.

    CNBC revealed last week how TaxAudit.com, an audit defense company, said none of its clients were being questioned by the IRS about their compliance with the ACA on any issue except for having received a tax credit and not filing a form reconciling that subsidy amount.

    No TaxAudit.com clients who merely claimed they had coverage, who qualified for an exemption, or who had failed to check the box indicating their coverage status were being questioned by the IRS, a company executive said.

     

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    PayPal Shares Climb In Market Debut After Spinoff From EBay
    Louis Lanzano/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesThe PayPal IPO is displayed Monday at the Nasdaq MarketSite in New Tork.
    By Chuck Mikolajczak

    NEW YORK -- Wall Street finished little changed on Monday as a better-than-expected start to corporate earnings season boosted investor confidence, but gains were curbed by a drop in commodities.

    Shares of technology companies were among the bright spots, helping the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite to its third straight record close as investor focus shifts to earnings from Greece and China. The top five boosts to the S&P 500 were from the tech sector.

    Gold prices plunged to their lowest in more than five years while copper prices hit their lowest in nearly two weeks. Oil prices fell on signs of a growing glut in refined products to pull the S&P energy index down 1.3 percent.

    The dollar index rose 0.2 percent to $98.04. It had earlier hit a three-month high due to expectations of a Federal Reserve rate hike this year.

    "You've got an interesting dynamic in the S&P 500, so you put Greece in the rear-view mirror and then have the first week of earnings end with a better-than-expected style, and that brings you back up to the top end of the range, or at least close to it," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities in New York.

    "But when you have commodity pressure, if you have energy down a full percentage point on the S&P today -- that is going to be a tough hurdle to get over."

    IBM (IBM) lost 3.6 percent to $167.01 in extended trade after its quarterly results Monday. Apple (AAPL), Yahoo (YHOO) and Microsoft (MSFT) are due Tuesday.

    Earnings Roll In

    So far, 70 percent of companies have reported earnings above analyst expectations, above the 63 percent average beat rate since 1994. Earnings are expected to decline 2.1 percent for the quarter, a modest improvement from the expected 3 percent fall on July 1.

    However, 55 percent have topped revenue forecasts, below the 61 percent average beat rate since 2002. U.S. companies were expected to post their worst sales decline in nearly six years in the second quarter, in part due to the strong dollar that reduces the value of U.S. companies' overseas income.

    The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) rose 13.96 points, or 0.1 percent, to 18,100.41, the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GSPC) gained 1.64 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,128.28 and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) added 8.72 points, or 0.2 percent, to 5,218.86.

    The S&P 500 is less than 3 points from its record close of 2,130.82 on May 21.

    Morgan Stanley (MS) touched its highest level in seven years after the bank's profit beat expectations. However, it relinquished gains and closed down 0.4 percent at $40.01.

    NYSE declining issues outnumbered advancers 2,086 to 967, for a 2.16-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, 1,935 issues fell and 893 advanced for a 2.17-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.

    The S&P 500 posted 43 new 52-week highs and 31 lows; the Nasdaq composite 121 new highs and 139 lows.

    Volume was muted, with about 5.84 billion shares traded on U.S. exchanges, below the 6.56 billion average so far this month, according to BATS Global Markets.

    What to watch Tuesday:

    Earnings Season
    These selected companies are scheduled to release quarterly financial results:
    • Apple (AAPL)
    • Baker Hughes (BHI)
    • Bank of New York Mellon (BK)
    • Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG)
    • Fifth Third Bancorp (FITB)
    • GoPro (GPRO)
    • Harley-Davidson (HOG)
    • Lockheed Martin (LMT)
    • ManpowerGroup (MAN)
    • Microsoft (MSFT)
    • Novartis AG (NVS)
    • Packaging Corporation of America (PKG)
    • TD Ameritrade (AMTD)
    • The Travelers Cos. (TRV)
    • United Technologies (UTX)
    • Verizon Communications (VZ)
    • Yahoo (YHOO)

     

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    Reviewing financial figure
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    2015 is more than half over, and now's a good time to take a look at your finances to see how you stand going into the last half of the year. Even though many people wait until December to start thinking about their financial situation for the year, getting a head start on your money matters can make it a lot easier to get things done before it's too late to make a difference.

    Fortunately, it doesn't have to take a huge amount of time to do a midyear financial checkup. Here are a few simple things you can do to put yourself in the best financial position possible as the year begins to wind down.

    1. Check your employee benefits at work. The middle of the year is a good time to take a look at any benefits that you're entitled to receive at work. For instance, many people are eligible to participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan like a 401(k), and your employer might offer you a matching contribution for any money you put into your plan account. Making sure you take maximum advantage of an employer match is one of the best ways to give your retirement savings a boost, and by making changes to your contributions, you'll still have almost six months to get the full benefits of the switch.

    In addition, some people have access to flexible spending accounts, where they can make pre-tax contributions that will eventually go to pay your medical expenses or for the cost of your child-care needs. Taking a look at what you've spent halfway through the year should give you a good sense of whether you elected the correct amount at the beginning of the year, and depending on how much money is left available, you might want to consider changing your spending patterns so that you'll end up on target by year-end.

    2. Start getting ready for tax time. In July, you might feel like you just got through tax season for last year's tax return, and if you got an extension, you might still have a few more months before you put 2014 in the rearview mirror for good. Regardless, looking at a few simple tax-related issues now is a lot smarter than waiting until late December to take your first look at your taxes for 2015.

    A few things stand out as good things to do in a midyear checkup. First, make sure your tax withholding from your paycheck is working the way you want. If you're having too much money withheld, filing a Form W-9 with your employer will boost your take-home pay, although any refund next year will be smaller as a result.

    In addition, if you like to sell off your losing investments in order to get a tax break, it's often smarter to do so early in the summer months rather than waiting until the end of the year. Selling now means that you'll avoid the rush of tax-loss selling in the autumn months that can often push share prices of a losing stock down even further, potentially saving you from even worse losses. Finally, checking to make sure your income and deductions are in line with what you expected can help you prepare for what you might owe the IRS next year, avoiding a potentially nasty surprise if the news isn't as good as you had hoped.

    3. Take a look at the risk level of your investments. The financial markets have been more volatile in 2015 than in recent years, with relatively small gains in most major stock-market benchmarks. As the bull market enters its seventh year, now's a good time to check and make sure you don't have more risk in your investment portfolio than you're comfortable having.

    Many people discover that over the course of a long rise in stock prices, their exposure to stocks climbs far above what they originally had. By rebalancing your portfolio now, you can reduce the risk level among your investments and protect yourself from a market correction or bear market whenever they next occur.

    Taking a break from summer fun to look at your finances might not sound like the most exciting use of your time. Yet just taking these simple, quick steps can go a long way toward making it easier to manage your money for the rest of 2015 and beyond.

    Motley Fool contributor Dan Caplinger is an incessant planner. You can follow him on Twitter @DanCaplinger or on Google Plus. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days, and check out The Motley Fool's one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.

     

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    Smiling woman with an open sign
    Getty ImagesConsidering these hidden expenses can help you stay in business.
    By Geoff Williams

    Many people start a business because it's a lifelong dream, or a passion; some do it because they're desperate to make money.

    Whatever your reasons for becoming your own boss, just remember the old saying that it takes money to make money, and that's never been truer than when you're starting your own business. It sounds romantic to think of yourself going from rags to riches, but most businesses need to start off with a little of the green stuff.

    In other words, when you're drafting your business plan, don't forget about these hidden costs (and probably a million more that aren't listed). Knowing what expenses are coming could help you not only start your business but ensure you stay in business.

    Business insurance. If you're just starting out, you may well not need business insurance. But it's something you'll want to consider early on. For instance, if you have a lot of inventory in your garage, and a fire taking it out before you sell it would financially devastate you, there's a good reason to get property insurance. If there's any risk of being sued by a customer, you probably want liability insurance.

    But you'll want to consult an insurance expert because there are a lot of different types of business insurance, and not all policies will be practical or necessary for many startups.

    Rob Marsh, a Salt Lake City resident who started his business, logomaker.com, in 2010, knew before he started his website, which allows people to design their own logos, that he would buy business insurance.

    He wasn't concerned about that, but Marsh says, "because my business runs online, I also had to secure insurance to protect against data breaches and online security issues."

    Marsh planned to spend $1,000, and he says that was pretty accurate. "The cost of worker's comp and basic business insurance was just under $900 a year. But coverage for the risks associated with a data breach were far more expensive than I thought. That was a surprise."

    He ended up spending $5,000 a year for what's sometimes called cyberinsurance. "Given the expense, I wouldn't surprise me if many online business owners skip this kind of protection and simply hope nothing bad happens," he says.

    Taxes. This can be an unpleasant surprise for a lot of new entrepreneurs, especially if the money isn't rolling in, because you figure that if you aren't making much, there isn't much to tax.

    Still, odds are you're going to pay Uncle Sam something, and that can be jolting -- especially when you aren't bringing in much money.

    "The first year I was self-employed, I discovered I had to pay self-employment tax. It's not a small number -- over 8 percent of my adjusted gross income. Yikes. Nasty surprise," says Mike Scanlin, CEO of borntosell.com, a website for covered call investors.

    And Scanlin, who lives in Long Beach, California, set up his company as a limited liability company, or an LLC. He says he has to pay additional taxes of $800 a year, "no matter if I have revenue or not."

    He says that $800 tax hurt him the first two years, when he wasn't making money but instead writing the software his company now sells. Then once he finally did get revenue, he had an LLC fee of $900.

    "Note, they call it a fee, not a tax. What a scam," says Scanlin, who isn't too pleased with how his home state handles LLC taxes.

    Professional fees, permits, licenses, etc. You may well need to hire a tax professional or lawyer to help you set up an LLC (yet another cost), and of course, you may need a professional to help you apply for a permit or license. Those, too, cost money.

    Mark Aselstine, who lives in El Cerrito, California, and his brother-in-law Matt Krause, who lives in San Mateo, California, started their wine club and gifts website, UncorkedVentures.com, in 2010. They were taken aback at how much they wound up paying in licenses and permits.

    "Granted, alcohol is worse than most [permits]," Aseltine says. But, still, he says, "It adds up pretty quickly when bootstrapped."

    He and Krause each need a license for their home office. That costs them each $100, which they have to renew and pay for every year.

    "Our warehouse is licensed, also [at] about $100," Aseltine says. "Price wise, these aren't an issue, just more of a hassle and yet another thing to keep track of."

    But the permits were expensive, in part because they took so long to get.

    "We had to sign our warehouse lease, before applying for our permit. Alcohol Beverage Control needs you to be in control of the space and they do come out and check before issuing permits for the location," Aseltine explains.

    Aseltine and Krause paid $800 a month in rent to the warehouse while waiting nine months for their permits to be approved. That was $7,200 in costs they hadn't planned for.

    Once they actually had the alcohol permits approved, Aseltine and Krause had to pay $2,000 for two permits, one for off-site sales, so they can ship wine to a customer's front door, and the other allows them to buy wine directly from wineries.

    "Each of those two permits have to exist separately at both our home office address, as well as our warehouse address, so it really functions like four separate permits," Aseltine says. In permits alone, that's over $15,000 spent in their first year of business, much of that year without customers.

    Time. It's easy to think this doesn't belong here. You're starting a business. You expect to spend time on the business. No surprise there.

    But what's easy to miss is how much time will be spent working on the parts of the business that don't excite you.

    "The largest cost for me starting a video production business was my time doing administrative responsibilities and being compliant with the government," says Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, founder of TAR Productions, a digital video production company based in San Diego. "I've been able to automate a lot of these tasks, such as utilities and payroll taxes, but setting it up was a disaster ... When starting my business I was excited about putting my name out there, marketing and meeting prospective clients, not thinking about the legalities and tax requirements."

    Eric Allen agrees that time is a casualty of starting a business, and it can do more than eat up the hours you'd rather be doing cool work stuff. It can also spill into your personal life.

    Allen, based in the District of Columbia, is a co-founder of Admit Advantage, an admissions consulting company and president of Admit.me, a website that helps college applicants connect with college students and alumni for support through the admissions process.

    Allen says his largest expense in starting and running his business has been in opportunity cost.

    "Opportunity cost is the cost that you're giving up while choosing to do something else. I learned the concept in business school, but I didn't realize it would include disappointed children, angry wives and annoyed business partners," Allen says. "There is a significant physical and emotional cost of starting a business. It's hard. That's why most people fail."

     

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    Woman using Digital tablet
    Getty Images
    Facebook (FB) is the undisputed leader in the realm of social networks, connecting 1.44 billion active monthly users as of the end of March. The site can sometimes get a bad rap as a hotbed of bullying, extramarital affairs, and fake news going viral.

    However, Facebook can also help people feel less lonely. It can keep you in touch with family and old friends. It can also be the key to saving some serious money if you lean on it just right. Let's go over a few of the ways to score deals and shave costs through Facebook.

    1. Follow the deals. You probably have your favorite local restaurants and stores. It's a good idea to click "Like" on their Facebook pages and get notifications sent to your news feed. Businesses often use the site to promote offers and fan contests that are available only to those following them.

    There are also plenty of coupon aggregators, group-buying websites and deal hubs with pages on Facebook. You can use the site's search feature to find the type of deals that you are looking for, and if you want to see if you're on a reputable site, see if the site's fan page has a large number of followers or if there are "mutual friends" already connected to you who are already following the page.

    2. Borrow what you need for a short time. If you need a pressure washer to renew your sidewalk or a circular saw for a home-improvement project, there are plenty of places where you can rent one. However, it also never hurts to ask on Facebook. I saw someone shave a ton of the cost of her child's upcoming birthday party by putting out a friendly request for folding tables, chairs and even a margarita maker for the adults.

    It doesn't hurt to ask. On any given day there are folks asking for tuxedo rentals, camping equipment, and even a spare room for a visitor to crash. We're all friends on Facebook, right? Just pay it forward and be generous with what you have in the future.

    3. Referrals you can believe in. Life happens, and there are times when you need a plumber, divorce attorney or cardiologist -- often for the same reason. You may not know one, and while scrolling through Yelp (YELP) or subscribing to Angie's List (ANGI) is a reasonable way to narrow your search to well-reviewed choices, don't discount the Facebook community.

    Asking your friends for options should turn up some suggestions. The cherry on top is that making the call and saying you were referred by an existing client should make sure that you don't get gouged on pricing.

    The same rule applies to vacation planning. Putting out a request for tips on your eventual destination should result in friends and family members chiming in on neat things to do and affordable places to stay. You may even have some Facebook friends that you didn't know were living there.

    Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Facebook and Yelp. The Motley Fool owns shares of Facebook. 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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    Mature woman shopping.
    Getty Images
    By Liane Starr

    Whole Foods is facing fines in New York City for regularly overcharging customers by skewing the price per pound on packaged items -- and this isn't an isolated problem. Earlier this year Target shelled out nearly $4 million to settle a civil lawsuit claiming overcharging, and Ralphs grocery stores paid $1.1 million after a similar complaint. Dollar General, CVS and Walgreens have also been fined. The good news: You can take a few simple steps to guarantee your grocery bill matches what's in your cart.

    Run a rally on your phone. Instead of checking your phone for Facebook updates as you shop, use it to track what you're tossing in the cart. Not only are you likely to rethink an impulse purchase once you see its effect on the bottom line, but you won't be surprised at the register -- and if you are, you may have grounds to protest an overcharge. While a calculator can do the job, an app such as Smart Shopping List A La Carte lets you create shopping lists, factor in coupons and gift cards, and calculate sales tax when appropriate.

    Use the scale. Take any item sold by weight, such as fish, cheese, or baked goods, to the nearest scale (most likely in the produce department), even if it's pre-packaged. If the scale shows a very different result than the label, bring the issue to the manager. At Whole Foods coconut shrimp was overpriced by a whopping $14.84. Also, be sure to compare the price per pound for a pre-packaged item versus the same item from a bulk bin. At some stores, the difference can be substantial.

    Keep your eyes on the register. Many shoppers space out at checkout, rummaging through their wallets, counting reusable bags, or just chatting up the clerk. Don't. It's here that an overcharge can slip past you as quickly as the clerk can scan your items -- and it's best to catch a problem before you pay (even if it annoys everyone in line behind you). If you see a discrepancy, ask the cashier to take the item off your bill and let you walk the item over to the service department or a manager. If you don't like the answer you get, the upside is that you haven't paid for the item and can leave it behind rather than ask for it to be removed from the tab.

    Hold on to your receipt. Sometimes you're in a rush, and comparing prices or using a scale isn't as much of a priority as grabbing dinner and getting the heck out of the store before traffic becomes impossible. That doesn't mean you have to suck it up if you realize you've been overcharged. Check the receipt once you get home and call the store to ask whether you need to bring in the item along with the receipt to request a refund (not a big deal with a bag of nuts, but probably not ideal if you're talking about fresh fish). The store's corporate website also may have the information you need and, better yet, no hold times.

    Be nice. Don't launch into a tirade about what a rip-off the store is if you notice an overcharge at checkout -- chances are the cashier doesn't have the power to refund your money without a supervisor present, and won't be all that motivated to summon one if you're being a pain. Most stores want a happy, loyal customer, so ask to speak to someone who can help you, then calmly and pleasantly explain the problem. Chances are good you'll get cash back or store credit. Also, don't be too quick to rail about the overcharge on social media unless you've truly hit a brick wall in resolving the issue. Like you, store managers know how to use computers and smartphones, and if it's obvious you're the same person who called store employees stupid last night on Twitter, you might not get the help you'd like the next day.

     

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    Young woman shopping online
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    By Kristin Colella

    NEW YORK -- To charge or not to charge? That's the question credit card holders face when it comes time to make a purchase or pay a bill. The ability to earn rewards and defer payment until a later date can make credit cards mighty attractive, but it's important to stop and think before you swipe.

    Although credit cards can be beneficial in certain situations, they're not always so great in others, especially when extra fees are involved or you could get a lower interest rate using another form of payment.

    To help us determine whether using a credit card is a smart form of payment for several different types of bills and purchases, we consulted a variety of personal finance pros. Of course, we urge you to keep in mind that even when using a credit card is deemed beneficial by our experts, it's never wise to charge more than you can actually afford. If you can't pay off your balance in full each month, you can quickly sink into debt.

    Here's our list of the best and worst things to charge on your credit card:

    WORST: Taxes

    If you owe money to the IRS, your first thought might to be to put your tax bill on your credit card, but doing so can actually cost you even more money. Many people don't realize that they'll be charged a processing fee of around 2 percent when they pay their taxes with a credit card. There is also a flat fee of around $3 when you pay your tax bill with a debit card.

    The fees aren't charged by the IRS, but rather by third-party payment processing companies that the government has contracted to collect credit and debit card payments from taxpayers. The current credit card fees range from 1.87 to 2.35 percent, depending on which payment processing company you choose to submit your payment through (fees differ slightly when you decide to e-file your taxes). You can find a list of payment processors with information on the fees they currently charge and the types of cards they accept on the IRS website.

    While you might not care much about the fee if your tax bill is small, you could be singing a different tune if you're stuck with a large bill.

    "If you have a $4,000 tax bill, you could end up paying $80 or more upfront to pay with your credit card," says Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst for CreditCards.com.

    Your best bet is to pay your tax bill by check or direct deposit rather than plastic. If you're unable to pay off your tax bill in full, consider working out a payment plan with the IRS rather than racking up interest charges on your card.

    "If you are not financially able to pay your taxes, you may make monthly installments under an installment agreement," says tax attorney David Hryck, a partner at global law firm Reed Smith. "You can apply for an installment agreement online, over the phone or via various IRS forms."

    WORST: College Tuition

    Paying for college can be a struggle for many young people, but putting your tuition bill on your credit card is usually a bad idea. Our experts say that student loans are typically a much better way to finance your education.

    "Credit cards often come with high interest rates and fees," says financial aid expert Mark Kantrowitz, senior vice president and publisher of Edvisors.com. "Repayment begins immediately without options for financial relief, such as in-school deferments for students who decide to continue their education in graduate or professional school."

    Some student loans require repayment to begin while the student is still in college, while others don't require repayment until after the student has graduated or dropped below half-time enrollment. Either way, the interest rates on student loans are typically lower than those of credit cards, so student loans will probably end up costing you less.

    If you're tempted by the lure of rewards points offered by your credit card company, consider this: "Colleges often pass on the transaction fees to the student, negating the value of the points," says Kantrowitz. "Some rewards cards specifically exclude tuition from eligibility for rewards."

    In fact, simply qualifying for a credit card can be a roadblock for many college students.

    "The Credit CARD Act of 2009 prevents consumers under age 21 from obtaining a credit card unless they have a cosigner age 21 or older or they can demonstrate an independent means of repaying the debt," says Kantrowitz.

    WORST: Medical Bills

    The cost of doctor's appointments and hospital visits can add up quickly, especially if you're dealing with a serious health issue. It's easy to feel overwhelmed by mounting medical bills, but there are often better payment options than using a credit card.

    If you can't pay off your balance in full, try contacting the doctor's office or hospital that took care of you to ask if you can work out a payment plan. Many medical providers are willing to offer patients the option to pay back their bills in installments, often with lower interest rates than those charged by credit card companies.

    "Some hospitals may not even charge you interest," says David Melnyk, a financial advisor for Verus Wealth Management, in Rockledge, Florida. "It's worth the time to discover your options."

    BEST: Online Purchases

    When shopping online, paying for your purchases with a credit card rather than other forms of payment--such as a debit card--is often your best bet.

    A credit card is a better choice to use for online purchases, as it offers greater protection against fraud.

    "A credit card is a better choice to use for online purchases, as it offers greater protection against fraud," says Kevin Gallegos, vice president of Phoenix operations with Freedom Financial Network. "If you need to dispute a transaction, you can report it to the card issuer."

    If you have a rewards card, your online purchases can help you earn cash back, miles or points--just make sure you don't charge more than you can afford.

    "If you can pay it off at the end of the month and not get saddled with interest, you should collect on the points that are on the table," says Hryck.

    Of course, it's important to be mindful of privacy and safety concerns whenever you use your credit card to make a purchase on the Internet.

    "Make sure the sites you're going to are trusted and secure -- look for the https:// designation [in the Web address] and a padlock icon somewhere on the browser," says Bruce McClary, vice president of public relations and external affairs for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. "You should also make sure you're not using a public computer or public Wi-Fi when using your credit card online."

    BEST: Travel-Related Expenses

    From booking flights, vacations and rental cars to paying for food and activities during your trip, credit cards can be highly beneficial to travelers for a variety of reasons.

    If you have a rewards card, booking your trip on your card can help you earn lots of points or airline miles. If you already have plenty of existing points or miles, you might be able to redeem them for flights, hotel rooms and even cash. Some cards also offer extra perks for travelers, such as free access to airport lounges, travel insurance and rental car insurance.

    Credit cards also provide an extra measure of protection while you travel.

    "If a credit card is stolen, you can notify the company to cancel the account," says Gallegos. "If cash is stolen, you usually are unprotected."

    If you're traveling outside of the United States, just make sure you use a credit card that doesn't charge a foreign transaction fee when you make a purchase.

    "Those fees, usually 3 percent on top of the purchase price, can really add up," says Sean McQuay, credit card associate for NerdWallet.com.

    BEST: Appliances and Electronics

    Are you in the market for a new washer/dryer, fridge, iPad or laptop? Paying for pricey electronics and appliances with your credit card can do more than just rack up points--it can offer you greater protections on those purchases. Most major card issuers offer price protection, extended warranties and return protection, and their level of coverage is comparable, says McQuay.

    If you didn't know about these perks (and you're definitely not alone), it's time to pay attention because they can be a big plus for consumers. Price protection means that if you find out the price of item you purchased has dropped within a certain time frame (usually 60 to 90 days), you could get refunded for the difference. With an extended warranty, after the manufacturer's warranty expires on a product you've purchased, your credit card issuer will extend your coverage, usually for up to a year. If your card offers return protection, it means that if you try to return an item within a certain time frame and the merchant refuses to take it back, your credit card issuer may give you a refund.

    It's a good idea to check your card's benefits statement for the specific details on the coverage you're offered.

     

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    Avoid Unexpected Road Trip Expenses
    Summer is the perfect time to hop in the car and take a road trip, but if you're not prepared, unexpected costs can drain your budget along the way. Here a few tips to help you avoid getting tripped up while you're on the road.

    First, run through a quick checklist to make sure your car is ready. Doing the basics before you go will save you time and money on your trip. Start by lifting up your hood and making sure all of your fluids are filled up. While you're under there, give your hoses and belts a once-over. If anything looks loose or cracked, get it replaced before you leave.

    Next, inspect your wiper blades and test out all of your lights. It's important to know you can see and been seen. Don't forget about your tires. Checking the pressure and the tread will keep you safe, and help you get good gas mileage as well.

    It's also important to pack an emergency kit with stuff like jumper cables, flares, a flashlight and some first-aid gear. Joining AAA is a good idea, too. Not only will it help you if you get stranded, it can score you discounts on hotel rooms, too.

    Next, avoid paying ATM fees along the way by taking out extra cash before you leave. Also, pack a cooler full of your favorite drinks, snacks and sandwiches to take with you. Buying food at gas stations and rest stops can really add up.

    Lastly, when choosing a place to stay, what you can barely see could end up costing you a lot more. You may not realize it, but some hotels charge for things like parking, WiFi and what they like to call a "resort fee." If you're not careful, this can end up costing you an extra 10 percent per night at checkout. Always check the fine print -- hotels are required to disclose this info before you book a room, so don't get tricked into paying for something you didn't know about.

    As you're getting ready to hit the road this summer, remember these tips. You'll see that with some careful packing and planning, you can avoid overpaying along the way.

    View Poll

     

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    APTOPIX Japan Toshiba Scandal
    Shizuo Kambayashi/APToshiba CEO Hisao Tanaka grimaces during a press conference to announce his resignation Tuesday at the company's headquarters in Tokyo.
    By Ritsuko Ando

    TOKYO -- Toshiba's chief executive Hisao Tanaka and a string of other senior officials resigned Tuesday for their roles in the country's biggest accounting scandal in years.

    Tanaka will be temporarily replaced by Chairman Masashi Muromachi after an independent inquiry found the CEO had been aware the company had inflated its profits by $1.2 billion over a period of several years.

    I see this as the most damaging event for our brand in the company's 140-year history. I don't think these problems can be overcome overnight.

    "I see this as the most damaging event for our brand in the company's 140-year history," Tanaka told a news conference after making a ritual deep bow of contrition to a flurry of camera shutters and flashes.

    "I don't think these problems can be overcome overnight."

    Muromachi is considered a safe pair of hands to lead Toshiba through its current turmoil before handing the reins to a successor. The company plans to announce next month the delayed business results for the financial year ended in March.

    Tanaka's predecessors as presidents of the laptops-to-nuclear conglomerate, Vice Chairman Norio Sasaki and adviser Atsutoshi Nishida, will also step down after the third-party report showed they played a part in the overstatement of profits going back to the 2008 financial year.

    A total of eight officials resigned Tuesday and Tanaka said that the company is now considering appointing outside directors to over half of its board seats.

    Monday's report by an outside panel of accountants and lawyers said Toshiba had overstated its operating profit by 151.8 billion yen ($1.22 billion), roughly triple Toshiba's initial estimate.

    Tanaka and Sasaki pressured business divisions to meet difficult targets and knew they were overstating profits and delaying the reporting of losses, amid a culture of not going against the wishes of superiors, the report said.

    Koichi Ueda, an attorney and head of the panel, said he was surprised by what they had found.

    "That a company that represents Japan, to be doing something like this institutionally, was shocking," he told reporters Tuesday.

    Tanaka didn't dispute the findings, but said he had no intention of encouraging accounting irregularities.

    "It's not my understanding that I gave orders for improper accounting, but the reality is that such an observation has been made," Tanaka said.

    The findings are expected to lead to the restatement of earnings and potentially hefty fines in Japan's worst boardroom scandal since Olympus Corp. was found to have covered up $1.7 billion in losses.

    Risks to Investor Confidence

    Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso said earlier Tuesday that the accounting irregularities at Toshiba were "very regrettable," coming at a time when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is trying to regain global investors' confidence with better corporate governance guidelines.

    Aso declined to comment when asked if Toshiba would face any kind of financial penalty. Sources have said regulators were beginning their own review of Toshiba's book-keeping, based on Monday's report.

    Some analysts have voiced concerns that there could be more issues ahead, including a possible writedown on Toshiba's Westinghouse nuclear business which wasn't a major target of the latest probe.

    A Toshiba executive brushed off suggestions that the $5.4 billlion the company invested in Westinghouse in 2006 had weighed on its finances and led to improper accounting, saying the business was doing well.

    "Compared with the time of the acquisition, operating profit has expanded a great deal," Keizo Maeda, executive vice president, told reporters.

    Shares in Toshiba (TOSBF) rose 6 percent Tuesday on relief the report had few nasty surprises. But they are still down over 20 percent since Toshiba first disclosed cases of accounting irregularities in early April.

    Rating Agency Standard & Poor's said Tuesday that the required restatement of Toshiba's profit could lead to its credit rating being downgraded.

    "Institutional investors and other long-term funds have already unloaded Toshiba shares, so currently the stock price is being driven by short-term investors," said Takatoshi Itoshima, chief portfolio manager at Commons Asset Management.

    -Taiga Uranaka, Chang-Ran Kim and Ayai Tomisawa contributed reporting.

     

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    USA, New Jersey, Businesswoman using laptop in office
    Getty ImagesTake five minutes each afternoon to organize the next day's schedule. What are the three highest-priority goals you want to accomplish?
    By Hallie Crawford

    We all have tough days at work when we just can't seem to get it all done. Maybe you're coming back from vacation and are having a hard time hopping back into your routine; maybe your boss is training you for more responsibility, and it's overwhelming you; or perhaps you are covering for a workmate who has called in sick.

    However, what if you feel like that all the time? Feeling that way adds to our stress level and reduces our productivity. It's not just about the impact on our mental sanity, either -- feeling constantly overwhelmed affects our physical, long-term health. According the Cleveland Clinic: "Newer information supports the idea that not only does physical illness cause stress, but stress may bring on or worsen certain symptoms or diseases."

    Bottom line: We need to be able to get our work done without feeling overwhelmed, otherwise our physical health can be impacted. The following tips can help you feel more in control of your workload:

    1. Use the time-blocking method. Productivity is the result of intelligent planning -- not working extra hours every day. This is where organizing and prioritizing comes in. Prioritize your tasks by week, and then by day. Take 30 minutes on Monday to prioritize your tasks and projects for the week. What are the two biggest projects or tasks you need to accomplish? Focus on the larger items rather than the everyday email-checking or following up with clients.

    Use the time-blocking method, in which you block out the time on your calendar for the projects you need to complete. Mark the time on your calendar so no one else can schedule a meeting during that time. Then, be flexible during the week. Things change, and you can't always control your schedule. Spend a few minutes in the afternoon to prioritize your tasks for the next day. Create your to-do list, and adjust your time blocks for the following day. Your time blocking should be a weekly and daily planning task.

    Finally, check tasks off as you finish them. We all like that small rush of adrenaline we get from checking things off the list.

    Action tip: Take 15 to 20 minutes at the beginning of each week to plan your week. Then take five minutes each afternoon to organize your next day, defining the top three priorities and length of time each one will take. Block out the time you'll need on your calendar.

    2. Create a routine, and stick to it. We are creatures of habit, and so are our brains. When we establish routines, we can carry out tasks faster since we don't have to "think" about the task -- or prepare for it -- as much, and can work on autopilot.

    This can be helpful for less important, daily, repetitive tasks in the office. Decide on a routine that works for you in your job. For example, after you get organized in the morning, you may decide to check and respond to all your emails. Then you prepare for any appointments and meetings for the day. After that, you could start on your list of projects. When you group together smaller tasks, and your brain creates that habit, you will be able to fly through them and move on with your day.

    Assigning days of the week for certain things helps as well. Mondays and Fridays could be administrative days, for example. Tuesdays and Wednesdays could be dedicated to client meetings. Not everyone can control their schedule this much, but try to create as much structure as possible.

    Take it a step further, and create your ideal schedule. How would you like your calendar to look? Write it down. Create it as a separate Google calendar, so when you are scheduling your week you can use it as a guideline. Choosing certain days and times of day to work on specific projects and tasks can help you create a routine that will make you more efficient. Finally, stick to the routine. Take a breath, and prioritize.

    Action tips: Decide which small tasks you could group together every day, and decide when you will do them. Create an ideal schedule for yourself using certain days and times of day for specific tasks. Consider when you are most productive for tougher tasks.

    Also consider your workflow and typical deadlines. Take a few minutes to consider the typical flow of your work in any given week to understand when it's best to tackle certain tasks. Then, take action on the next tip below.

    3. Keep track of your time. Maybe you feel you are organized at work but still don't have enough time in the day for everything. Log your time for two weeks, writing down how much you spend on each task and activity at work. Track everything from emails to lunch to conversations with workmates to work projects and breaks. This will allow you to see where the majority of your time is being spent and then make any necessary adjustments. You may be surprised with the results. If you need to, speak with your boss about where you are spending your time and if it's the right balance and percentage of time in each area.

    Action tip: Find an app, or buy a notebook to use today so you can start logging your time at work tomorrow. The clock doesn't lie, so make sure to log your time honestly. At the end of each week, tally up how much time went into each activity. You may find lots of time going into unimportant emails or conversations with workmates. Decide how you can channel that time into more important tasks so you can get everything done in the day.

    4. Remember, you are a professional. While it is helpful to schedule your harder tasks during a time of day that you feel more alert, like after your afternoon espresso, do not let this always be an excuse to wait to feel like you are ready to complete your tasks. Be honest with yourself., and get started on the project you need to tackle. Set yourself up for success by gathering every tool you need to complete the task. And turn off unnecessary distractions, such as your cell phone and email alerts. Try listening to music or an audiobook, if your job permits you to do so, and power through.

    Action tip: If your line of work allows you to listen to music, create a power playlist for that time of day when you feel less motivated to complete tasks. Try turning off your phone alerts while you are concentrating on projects so you can stay focused.

    5. Own the Pareto principle. This is also known as the 80/20 rule, which basically means that 80 percent of results come from 20 percent of effort. Keeping this rule in mind will help you focus on the most important tasks and get better results. You may find that certain tasks look just as good when you only do the most important things instead of using a lot of time to perfect small details. For example, instead of spending a lot of time perfecting an email to your colleagues about a team meeting, you could simply use bullet points for the issues you need to discuss as a team and then move on to other tasks.

    Action tip: Review your time-tracking log. Decide when you can use the Pareto principle in your work day. Identify which projects or tasks you spend too much time on because you're being too much of a perfectionist or trying to avoid other items. Sometimes we want to perfect every single task, but this principle helps to control that urge. When too much time is spent on simple tasks, there isn't enough time for the important ones.

    6. Stay balanced. If your office allows you to take breaks during the day, take advantage of it, even if you only take five minutes instead of 15. Get up, walk around, go outside and get some fresh air. Also, respect your day off. If you take the weekends off, don't work unless it's absolutely necessary. Enjoy your time with friends and family doing activities that have nothing to do with work.

    This will allow you to return to work feeling refreshed, happy and ready to take on a new workweek. It gives your brain down time and can even allow you time to subconsciously muse on problems you need to address at work. When you get back to work, you might just have a new solution.

    Action tip: When your workload is prioritized and organized, decide on which days you can take breaks. Try not to take work projects home with you on the weekends. Turn off your phone and email notifications as often as you can when you're working on a project that requires full focus.

     

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    Getty Images
    By Bobbi Rebell

    NEW YORK -- Another millennial myth may be biting the dust. Apparently, millennials have better retirement saving habits than baby boomers.

    Millennials save 8 percent of their paycheck for retirement, according to a recent survey from T. Rowe Price. Baby boomers are just slightly ahead at 9 percent.

    The only reason millennials aren't saving even more is that they have college debt to pay off and don't earn much money yet, according to Anne Coveney, senior manager of retirement thought leadership at T. Rowe Price. The median personal income of millennials is just $57,000.

    "Their circumstances may be somewhat driving their behaviors," says Coveney. "When they have the means to do the right thing, it appears that they often do."

    Indeed, millennials track expenses more carefully than boomers (75 percent vs. 64 percent). And 67 percent of millennials stick to a budget. That's better than the 55 percent of boomers. Meanwhile, 88 percent of millennials say they are pretty good at living within their means.

    To be fair, the boomers are saving a higher percentage of their salary for retirement than millennials, but twice as many millennials have upped their retirement savings in the last 12 months, T. Rowe Price says.

    The retirement data says a lot about the mindset of millennials. Many baby boomers started their careers with defined-benefit pension plans. That's not even a phrase millennials have heard before.

    Plenty of millennials expect Social Security to go bankrupt before they retire. They know they are on their own for retirement. And while, on average, they aren't saving as much as allowed by law, the data suggest that as their ability to do so improves, they will take full advantage of corporate matching plans in their jobs.

    "They are exhibiting financial discipline in managing spending and are defying stereotypes that this generation is prone to spend-thrift, short-sighted thinking," Coveney notes.

    Millennials also don't need as much hand-holding as previous generations. They want advice and are even getting it from what have been called robo-advisers -- something only a very small fraction of baby boomers are willing to do. (Robo-advisers use a computer algorithm to pick a portfolio of index funds and charge much lower management fees than conventional brokers.)

    Case in point: at automated investment service Wealthfront, 60 percent of clients are under age 30, according to the company. Only 10 percent are over age 50.

    Millennials are counting their money carefully, so it would be wise not to count them out as retirement savers.

    (The opinions expressed are those of the author.)

     

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    Holiday Travel Forecast
    Ross D. Franklin/AP
    By Jessica Resnick-Ault

    NEW YORK -- U.S. drivers took advantage of low gasoline prices because of a drop in oil prices, traveling a record number of miles in the first five months of the year, according to government data.

    Travel on streets and roads rose in May by 2.7 percent from a year ago to 275.1 billion vehicle miles, according to the Federal Highway Administration. The mileage is the most recorded in a single month since 1990, when the agency started tracking the data.

    The seasonally adjusted vehicle miles traveled for May 2015 rose 3.4 percent to 262.1 billion miles. It represents a 0.2 percent rise from April. The greatest increase in driving was seen in the South-Atlantic states.

    The dual combination of cheaper gas prices and a stronger economy are motivating millions of Americans to drive more.

    "The dual combination of cheaper gas prices and a stronger economy are motivating millions of Americans to drive more," said Michael Green at AAA, the motorist advocacy organization. "We've seen demand up for every month of the year, but it seems like it's spiked even more as we've entered the summer months and people are taking vacations."

    The miles-traveled data is an important indicator of Americans' driving behavior for oil traders, who track gasoline demand closely.

    Gasoline demand in May averaged 9.1 million barrels a day, according to data from the Energy Information Administration.

    U.S. gasoline prices during the month were about $2.77 a gallon, the lowest price for the month in at least four years.

    U.S. gasoline prices were $2.75 a gallon Thursday, down from $3.57 a year earlier. Americans are likely to pay the lowest annual average gasoline price in 2015 in at least five years, AAA's Green said.

     

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    Financial Markets Wall Street
    Seth Wenig/AP
    By Chuck Mikolajczak

    NEW YORK -- U.S. stocks fell Tuesday in the wake of results from IBM and United Technologies that dampened early optimism over earnings season ahead of quarterly profits from tech giants including Apple and Microsoft.

    The Dow fell 1 percent, with IBM and United Technoglogies contributing around 118 points to the 181-point drop. The decline marked the biggest percentage decline in about two weeks for the blue-chip index.

    IBM (IBM) shares were down 5.9 percent to $163.07, a day after the company's revenue dropped for the 13th consecutive quarter and fell short of analyst expectations.

    Fellow Dow component United Technologies (UTX) tumbled 7 percent to $102.71 and was the worst performer on the Dow after cutting its full-year profit outlook for the third time this year.

    "For the first time in a while, fundamentals seem to be driving the action today in an otherwise very quiet macro backdrop and probably will continue to do so for the next couple of weeks as we work through the heart of earnings season," said Ryan Larson, head of U.S. equity trading at RBC Global Asset Management in Chicago.

    A trio of tech companies pushed stock futures lower after the closing bell, as Apple (AAPL) tumbled 6.2 percent to $122.65, Microsoft (MSFT) lost 3.5 percent to $45.65, and Yahoo (YHOO) shed 2.2 percent to $38.85 after their quarterly results.

    Strong earnings from technology companies earlier this earnings season helped drive gains on the Nasdaq, which has outperformed both the Dow and S&P 500 in July.

    While markets are near record highs, June-quarter earnings of S&P 500 companies are expected to fall 1.9 percent, according to Thomson Reuters (TRI) data. That marks an improvement from the expected decline of 3 percent on July 1, but well below the 5.9 percent gain forecast on Jan. 1.

    So far, 70 percent have reported earnings above analyst expectations, above the 63 percent average beat rate since 1994.

    Eye on Sales

    However, 53 percent have topped revenue forecasts, below the 61 percent average beat rate since 2002. U.S. companies are expected to post their worst sales decline in nearly six years in the second quarter, in part due to the strong dollar that reduces the value of U.S. companies' overseas income.

    The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) fell 181.12 points, or 1 percent, to 17,919.29, the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GSPC) lost 9.07 points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,119.21 and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) dropped 10.74 points, or 0.2 percent, to 5,208.12.

    Apple shares weighed on the Nasdaq, down 1 percent at $130.75. The company experienced an outage with its App Store, Apple Music, iTunes Store and some other services for more than three hours.

    NYSE declining issues outnumbered advancing ones 1,841 to 1,217, for a 1.51-to-1 ratio on the downside; on the Nasdaq, 1,630 issues fell and 1,130 advanced for a 1.44-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.

    The S&P 500 posted 29 new 52-week highs and 26 new lows; the Nasdaq composite recorded 94 new highs and 114 new lows.

    Volume was light, with about 6.05 billion shares traded on U.S. exchanges, below the 6.54 billion average so far this month, according to BATS Global Markets.

    What to watch Wednesday:
    • The National Association of Realtors releases existing home sales for June at 10 a.m. Eastern time
    Earnings Season
    These selected companies are scheduled to release quarterly financial results:
    • American Express (AXP)
    • Boeing (BA)
    • Coca-Cola (KO)
    • Discover Financial Services (DFS)

     

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    Inside A Microsoft Corp. Store Ahead Of Earnings Figures
    Getty ImagesCustomers browse at a Microsoft store in Bellevue, Wash.
    By Devika Krishna Kumar

    Microsoft (MSFT) reported a $3.2 billion quarterly net loss, hurt by charges related to its Nokia phone business and job cuts, and weak demand for its Windows operating system.

    The company took a charge of $7.5 billion in the fourth quarter related to the restructuring of its Nokia handset business, which it acquired last year.

    Microsoft's shares fell 3.5 percent to $45.65 in extended trading on Tuesday.

    Under chief executive Satya Nadella, the company has shifted its focus to software and cloud services as demand for its once-popular Windows operating system slows.

    Sales of Windows to computer manufacturers to install on new PCs fell 22 percent in the quarter. The company is scheduled to roll out Windows 10 on July 29, a much-awaited launch after a lackluster response to Windows 8.

    Revenue from its commercial cloud business, which includes offerings such as Office 365 and Azure, rose 96 percent, excluding the impact of a strong dollar.

    Microsoft said this month that it would cut 7,800 jobs, or nearly 7 percent of its workforce, mainly in the phone hardware business.

    The company reported a net loss of 40 cents a share for the quarter ended June 30. Microsoft reported net income of $4.61 billion, or 55 cents a share, a year earlier.

    Microsoft recorded total impairment, integration and restructuring expenses of $8.4 billion including the charges related to the Nokia phone business.

    Excluding the charges, Microsoft earned 62 cents a share.

    Revenue fell 5 percent to $22.18 billion.

     

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    Peter Lynch, vice chairman of Fidelity Management and Resear
    Michael Springer/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesLegendary Fidelity Investments fund manager Peter Lynch
    Peter Lynch made mutual funds popular and investing cool a generation ago. From 1977 through 1990, he took the initially fledgling Fidelity Magellan mutual fund from $18 million in assets to a whopping $14 billion by the time he stepped down 13 years later. The fund came through with an average annualized return of 29.2 percent, more than doubling the market's general return.

    Lynch wasn't shy when it came to revealing the secret to his success. In a series of books he wrote after retiring from the fund, Lynch explained that he was able to score his biggest gains by buying into consumer-facing companies that the public was favoring.

    He would accompany his wife and children to the mall, often coming across his best stock ideas by buying into the stores his family flocked to and snapping up the stocks behind hot consumer trends. The "Buy what you know" mantra worked for Lynch and it resonated with individual investors who gravitated to its simplicity.

    It still works and works well, but sometimes things just don't pan out.

    The Rookie Class

    If Lynch were an active fund manager today, it's easy to fathom the growth stocks that he would be warming up to. There's Shake Shack (SHAK), the fast-growing burger chain that blazed out of the gate shortly after going public in January. Lynch would've seen the long lines at the chain's flagship New York City eateries and probably would've liked what he saw.

    He would've been drawn to last summer's GoPro (GPRO) IPO. Lynch would've seen the way millennials and young teens are taking to the wearable cameras and the viral nature of the short action clips gaining steam online.

    El Pollo Loco (LOCO) went public a few weeks after GoPro last summer and the fast-food chain specializing in citrus-marinated grilled chicken with 415 locations was another hot debutante. Lynch had a knack for spotting hot eateries, making El Pollo Loco a strong candidate for young investors trying to tap into their inner Lynch.

    All of these stocks may have popped initially, but they've burned investors in recent months. Shake Shack has surrendered 47 percent of its value since peaking two months ago. GoPro hit its high in October and the stock is trading 44 percent lower now. El Pollo Loco has had it even worse, giving up more than half of its value since topping out a few days after going public.

    Lynch Mob

    This doesn't mean that Lynch would've been burned by these three stocks. The models may have been initially attractive, but he also would've considered the lofty valuations. All three of these consumer-facing rookies rose too high, too soon.

    Shake Shack turned heads because at its peak, the market was valuing each of its company-owned eateries at nearly $100 million apiece. GoPro's earnings multiple floated into the triple digits and even now it's going for more than 60 times trailing earnings. El Pollo Loco packed a more reasonable valuation, but it's also growing at a slower clip than the other two names.

    So, yes, "Buy what you know" is alive and well as an investing philosophy, but sometimes it's even more important to know how much you're paying.

    Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of GoPro. 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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    Couple of lovers uses a computer with a worried attitude
    Alamy
    By Matthew J. Belvedere

    With Corporate America in the midst of huge efforts to harness the power of the millennial generation as consumers and employees, the young people being targeted so aggressively are themselves missing the financial boat, according to a top-rated financial adviser.

    Millennials, loosely defined as people born in the early 1980s through the late 1990s, are an "almost a clueless generation in so many ways," John Spooner, managing director at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, told CNBC in an interview.

    Author of the book "No One Ever Told Us That: Money and Life Lessons for Young Adults," Spooner said the problem is twofold: Schools aren't teaching young people "particular solutions," and parents are trying to be "buddies with their kids," instead of teaching them to survive in the real world.

    In three key takeaways from his book, the Morgan Stanley financial adviser outlines how millennials -- also known as Generation Y -- can succeed in life and in managing their own money.

    1. Resist 'the entitlement gene.' First of all, Spooner told "Squawk Box" that young people need to be responsive to getting advice by resisting "the entitlement gene" mentality and devising a concrete plan for success in the next five years.

    In conversations with millennials, he said a common answer is: Work for myself, "but they have no idea how that's going to take shape." Another answer he said he gets, is: "Where am I going to be in five years? I don't know where I'm going to be next week."

    2. Life is all about relationships. The second theme Spooner wants to impart to young people just beginning their careers is: Life is all about relationships -- real ones, not virtual.

    Don't rely on technology as your sole means of communications, he continued, seek the counsel of an older, more experienced worker. "Millennials should invite them to lunch, and buy them lunch."

    3. Find your 'stake-in-life-company.' As millennials become more and more successful, they need to do a better job of understanding and managing their money, said Spooner, describing a third lesson from the book.

    "As young people, I'm talking 25 to 40-plus, you should go for long-term growth of your capital, and it should include diversifying in your 401(k)," he told CNBC.

    "But my concept in addition to this is find something I call your stake-in-life-company -- something you believe is going to be around for the next 20 years that you can accumulate slowly," he continued. "Every single time you get bad markets, add to it."

    An author of financial nonfiction as well as novels, Spooner in his life as an investment adviser manages money for 800 families around the world with assets under management of over a billion dollars.

     

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    Retail Sales
    Saquan Stimpson/AP
    By Terence Loose

    Some retailers are better than others at holding summer blowouts and back-to-school sales. So we asked bargain experts which retailers were best -- and worst -- for cutting prices during summer on everything from patio furniture and summer fashions to back-to-school supplies and laptops.

    Best Retailers for Summer Bargains

    Looking for sure bets on finding some cool summer bargains? You can expect big sales from these 10 retailers, some of whom will offer more than 80 percent off clearance items during summer. Get ready for deals on patio furniture, shoes, computers and back-to-school supplies.

    1. Walmart. It's no secret that Walmart is a great place for low-priced products any time of the year, but summer is especially thrifty, said Benjamin Glaser, features editor at DealNews.com. "Walmart is my top pick for summer deals because of the deep discounts and the broad range of goods they sell," he said. "There are great deals on everything from patio and dorm room furniture to back-to-school supplies." You can find discounts of 65 percent and more on summer favorites like patio furniture and kitchen appliances during the store's Labor Day sale, for instance, and patio items as low as $2.36.

    2. Target. Here's another retailer that made its name on discounted items, and Target shoppers can expect some of their best summer deals at the discount giant. Target offers a virtual one-stop-shopping deal center, said Glaser, with deep discounts and clearance sales on items in a huge variety of categories. So if you missed its Black Friday in July Sale on July 10, don't worry, because deals will run straight through September, said Glaser.

    3. Best Buy. If you're in the market for a computer, either a Mac or PC, wait till August and check the discounts at stores such as electronics giant Best Buy, said Glaser. "August is actually the best month out of the year to buy a computer," he said. And each summer, Best Buy lives up to its name, added Glaser, offering deep discounts on many electronics, especially computers.

    4. Gymboree. Looking for clothes for the kids? Gymboree might be one of the hottest spots for cool savings this summer, said Kendal Perez, a savings expert with CouponSherpa.com. What makes it such a great deal? One thing is the simplicity and extensiveness of its sales. Try 50 percent off school uniforms and up to 70 percent off clearance items, she said.

    5. Office Depot. When it's time to get supplies for school, Office Depot is consistently head of the class, said Perez. That's because it offers many loss leaders to get customers in the door, where it hopes to sell them higher profit-margin items like computers and desk furniture, she said. "After shoppers spent $5 last year, Office Depot offered pocket folders for a penny, plus kids' scissors, protractors, rulers and glue for a quarter," she said. She expects similar deals this year. So if you can avoid the urge for a new laptop, you can score.

    6. Staples. Another A-plus goes to Staples in the back-to-school supplies deal department, said Perez. "Last year, basic supplies like pens, pencils, pocket folders and notebooks ranging in price from a penny to a quarter were offered after customers spent $25," she said. This year, so far, Staples is offering 25 percent off school supplies if you buy a backpack through Aug. 1 and $300 off a Toshiba laptop.

    7. Sears. Another spot where you'll find hot summer deals in just about every category is Sears, said Glaser. Its clearance sales during summer are impressive, he said, with additional discounts expected on Labor Day. "We always encourage people to wait as long as possible to buy patio furniture," he said. "The later into summer, the less expensive it will be."

    8. Famous Footwear. Who can resist a new pair of shoes at a great price? Famous Footwear knows you can't and is among the best at feeding that fetish, said Perez. "Last year, the store offered 15 percent off most purchases through mid-August," she said. This year, she's expecting equally good deals, and currently CouponSherpa has coupons for $10 off $50 purchases and other special deals. Famous Footwear's clearance items are also famously good -- try dozens of styles at least 75 percent off.

    9. PacSun. Is there a more summery retailer than PacSun? And summer is definitely its time to shine with its extreme summer sale. With 50 percent off women's sunglasses and an extra 50 percent off markdown items, you'll likely find a way to grab a summer deal here, said Perez.

    10. Microsoft Store. It may not have the artsy-cool vibe that the Apple Store has, but one thing the Microsoft Store does have is great summer sale items, said Glaser. In fact, it easily ran away with the prize for most good laptop deals -- 39 percent of the finds -- on the DealNews list of best deals on computers, he said. Consider that the store offers up to $500 off laptops right now. Some would say that's pretty cool.

    Worst Retailers for Summer Bargains

    If you're looking to upgrade your wardrobe, grab that new grill or just take the family out for some trending Mexican food, summer might not be the time to do it. At least, not if you're planning to visit one of these discount-allergic retailers.

    1. Apple Store. The cool kid on the block ain't so hot when it comes to summer sales and saving money on computers, said Glaser. Great products, wonderful setting, not-so-awesome discounts. While Apple does have the occasional sale, you can usually get a much better deal on a Mac from Amazon or Best Buy, he said.

    2. Prada. Prada sounds expensive rolling off the tongue. Prada sounds like the finest parts of Italy. Prada spent an estimated $80 million to sponsor a boat for the last America's Cup. Prada doesn't sound like a summer sale. And, in fact, unless you want knock-off versions of Prada, you are likely paying full retail, said Perez.

    3. Louis Vuitton. Dramatic European models shot by Bruce Weber on elaborate sets are not exactly the sort of imagery that screams summer sale. "Good luck finding discounts from Louis Vuitton," said Perez. Why? Because deep discounts don't support the luxury image and exclusivity of the brand.

    4. Chipotle Mexican Grill. This restaurant chain, with more than 1,700 locations worldwide, is popular but not because of discounts. "We never see coupons for Chipotle," said Perez. "Every once in a while they'll have a free burrito offer, but for the most part, their deals are few and far between."

    5. Hermes. When the word "Paris" is right under the name in its logo, assume you're not gonna get it on sale. "Hermes and other fashion houses don't offer coupons, deals or sales directly from their retail stores," said Perez. After all, big red summer sale signs don't scream Paris.

    6. Chanel. That classic Chanel bag you've always coveted? Don't bother waiting for it to go on sale. It likely won't, said Perez. In fact, Chanel so rarely has sales, let a lone big summer blowouts, that certain bags, like its iconic 2.55 bag, actually increase in value over time, Retail Gazette reported. Hmm, does that mean it's on sale today at full retail?

    7. Bose. If you're like most people, when you hear Bose, you hear quality. And quality almost never comes cheap -- as in Bose stores almost never have sales, said Perez. "Like Apple, you're better off purchasing these products from third-party resellers like Costco or even Verizon," she said.

    8. Abercrombie & Fitch. Even during the recession, when luxury lines all around it put products on sale to stay afloat, Abercrombie & Fitch kept its regular prices. And here's the thing: It survived and retained its status as a luxury, quality brand. What did it learn? Apparently, it pays to almost never discount or coupon.

    9. Weber. Summer would be a great time to get a smokin' deal on that Weber barbecue, right? Wrong. "We watched one we eventually bought at full price for years and never saw the price budge, regardless of the season," said Perez. She said the only surefire way to get any discount is to buy discount gift cards at sites like Gift Card Granny for stores that carry Webers, like Lowe's. "You can save around 10 percent doing this," she said.

    10. Yves Saint Laurent. Another luxury retailer. Another Paris under the logo name. Another no-sale signatory, said Perez. "Since their clientele is primarily the uber-wealthy, offering discounts actually hurts their brand as they lose the exclusivity that makes their wares covetable," she said. Basically, Paris is still expensive in the summer.

    The article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com.

     

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    Stop Paying for a Storage Room
    By Brandon Ballenger

    Americans buy -- and keep -- a lot of stuff. That's made self-storage a $24 billion industry, according to its major trade group, the Self Storage Association.

    According to the SSA, 84 percent of all U.S. counties have at least one self-storage facility. It's been one of the fastest-growing sectors of the commercial real-estate industry for the past 35 years, the group says -- and nearly one in 10 American households rents them.

    Just over half the storage customers say they expect to hang onto their units for just one to five months but the average stay was 10.4 months, Sparefoot.com, an online self-storage marketplace, said in a December 2014 report of customer trends.In choosing a storage unit, customers said their top consideration was price, according to Sparefoot. Customers also considered -- in descending order -- security, location, access hours, cleanliness, friendliness and reviews. So if you're a pack rat, take a long, hard look at what's going in your storage unit. Money Talks News financial expert Stacy Johnson says he spent more than $18,000 over a decade to store stuff worth only a fraction of that amount.

    Follow these 10 tips on how to save:

    1. Get more organized. It's true that time is money, and going through all your stuff is a chore. But do you want to be paying rent on junk you're never going to use again because you were too lazy to sort it out? Take a weekend and cull out the clutter. You'll feel better, and save money. Hint: If you haven't touched it in more than a year or forgot you even own it, odds are you don't need it.

    2. Sell or donate stuff. If you've got a lot of property in good condition that you no longer need, maybe a "self-storage sale" (in your yard or garage, of course) is in order. Too much bother? Donate goods to charity for a tax deduction. Either option will help partially recoup the costs of storing the stuff you do keep.

    3. Weigh replacement cost. Some people keep everything, thinking, "I might need this someday," while others get so eager they toss or sell stuff (especially furniture, which does take up a lot of space) they'll end up buying again. Be realistic, because either mistake can be costly.

    4. Rent the smallest space you can get away with. Storage units usually start at 5-by-5 feet and can be 8 feet or more tall. Practice your real-life Tetris skills and see what fits in there. You can always upgrade if you need to. If you're looking at long-term storage, you also don't need to leave space to be able to access and reach everything, so pack tight. Put the stuff you'll need to pull out soonest at the front.

    5. Store with friends or family. If you know someone with extra garage space, ask if they'll share. They might be more receptive to the idea if you offer to pay a few bucks a month -- still cheaper than the commercial option. Better yet, maybe you have something they can borrow and use until you have space to reclaim it.

    6. Compare vs. apartments. Sometimes, storage space does make the most financial sense. If you have to upgrade to an apartment with another bedroom to store your necessities, $50 a month for storage space beats a $200 a month rent hike. But if you're living in a condo or townhouse with a homeowner's association, ask if they have storage space for rent -- it might be cheaper than public storage units.

    7. Haggle. According to the SSA, occupancy at storage facilities nationwide was 88.1 percent, up 1.3 percentage points from 86.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013. The national average price, however, for a 10-by-10-foot unit fell about 7 percent, to $87.06 from $94.01, in the last quarter of 2014, Sparefoot.com reported. Compare rates and pit them against each other. SelfStorage.com lets you search by ZIP code for prices.

    8. Check discounts. Some storage companies offer "move-in" specials with discounted rates or maybe a month free. There may be discounts for seniors, and SSA-affiliated storage companies are offering military perks, including "10 to 30 percent discounts off rental rates, free months of rent, gift certificates, free use of moving truck, one-dollar move-ins, no rent increases while deployed overseas, waiver of security deposits, administration fees, etc."

    9. Buy your own. If you're considering renting storage space, you're going to have to buy at least a padlock anyway. While you're shopping for one, check the price for other self-storage options. You may be able to fit everything in your garage by buying a few shelving units and plastic bins, or a stand-alone shed. These items may cost more than a couple of months of renting but save money in the long-term.

    10. Buy less stuff. The best way to reduce future storage costs is to own less. That sounds obvious, but most of us are a lot better at buying goods than losing them. Be a minimalist, not a hoarder. Your house will look better, you'll feel better, and your bank account will thank you for it.

    Ready to clear out your clutter? Make some money with 10 Tips for a Killer Yard Sale.

    Do you know someone who could use this advice? Share it on Facebook!

    -Jim Gold contributed to this article.

     

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    Unhappy Senior
    Getty Images
    By Chris Metinko

    NEW YORK -- For the many who have fallen behind in their retirement savings, the prospect of part-time work in their golden years is a very real possibility. However, it may not be wise to count on those paychecks after leaving your regular 9-to-5.

    Recent numbers show employers may not be too keen on hiring older, part-time employees. In fact, a new study by Bankers Life shows nearly three-quarters of retired baby boomers currently aren't working for pay. Another survey by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies found more than half of workers in their 50s and 60s said their employers don't offer -- or they are not sure they offer -- benefits such as part-time work or flexible schedules to help employees who are transitioning into retirement.

    It is unreasonable to expect your retirement job to be in all ways equal to your pre-retirement job.

    "It is unreasonable to expect your retirement job to be in all ways equal to your pre-retirement job," said Christopher Carosa, president of Carosa Stanton Asset Management. "Although a few succeed at this, most need to temper their expectations regarding post-retirement work."

    That said, Carosa adds seeking a flexible schedule or part-time work isn't an unreasonable strategy -- and not just because one may need money. He said many are opting for "retirement careers," because people are retiring younger and healthier than ever before and many desire to maintain the social and intellectual stimulation offered by a working environment.

    "The most successful people pick a post-retirement career in a field or activity they have had a lifelong passion for," Carosa said. "When retired, it's best to work at something you really love doing since the psychological benefit will be of greater value than any monetary benefit. For this reason, many will pick hobbies or some other formerly avocational activity."

    Paul Lewis, a financial and wealth adviser at Research Financial Strategies, said he agrees post-retirement work can be financially beneficial, but advises it to be a desire -- not a need.

    "The problem that I discuss is that if you cannot retire without counting on part-time employment, you may not be a good candidate for retirement," Lewis said. "I assume a person thinking about retiring is in his or her peak earning years, and I explore extending to full Social Security benefit, or working a bit longer and focusing on accumulating capital."

    Lewis said this can sometimes mean telling clients they aren't ready for retirement. "I would rather my clients have a suitable amount of assets to be financially secure and work part time if it is something they enjoy, or possibly supplement their or replace retirement income as a choice rather than a need," he added.

    The good news is that seems to be the case for many, with the Bankers Life survey reporting that of those currently working, 61 percent say they are working because they want to work, not because they have to work -- adding a little cushion to their retirement.

    Robert Martorana, a portfolio manager at Right Blend Investing, said he often runs retirement simulations for clients, and working during retirement can be a tremendous help.

    "I always encourage clients to keep their options open if they have the willingness and ability to work during retirement, either full time or part-time," Martorana said.

    "The key issue is control," he added. "Will they be able to control their hours? If it is their own business, or if it's consulting work, they may be able to work part-time at their discretion. I would strongly encourage retirees to seek income opportunities during retirement that they directly control. They cannot rely on an employer to help support their retirement dreams."

     

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    Earns Coca Cola
    AP
    By CANDICE CHOI

    NEW YORK -- Coca-Cola says people are shelling out more money for its drinks, thanks to a mix of reinvigorated marketing and mini-cans and glass bottles that tend to cost more.

    To help boost weak sales growth, the maker of Sprite, Fanta and Powerade has been slashing costs, then pouring some of that money into increased marketing.

    The Atlanta-based company, known for more than a century's worth of ads such as "I'd Like To Buy The World A Coke," says the stepped-up quality and quantity of its advertising is helping it command higher prices for its drinks.

    In a conference call with analysts Wednesday, Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent said the company's revenue growth in North America during the second quarter would not have been achieved without the "infusion" of improved marketing.

    Without providing specifics, the company said overall advertising spending saw a double-digit percentage increase during the quarter.

    In the U.S., a recent campaign is the "Share A Coke" program, which puts popular names and words like "Friend" and "Legend" on packages. Many customers snap pictures of the cans and bottles, then post them on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram.

    The increased focus on marketing comes as Coca-Cola faces broader challenges in the U.S., with beverage options proliferating and people continuing to move away from traditional sodas.

    That has prompted the company to focus on extracting more money per transaction by raising prices on traditional packages, as well as by pushing offerings like mini-cans that cost more. During the quarter, the company said the sales volume of mini-cans rose double-digits.

    Sandy Douglas, president of Coca-Cola North America, noted that moms in particular like the smaller sizes and that people are willing to pay "a little bit more money" for them.

    In the past, Douglas noted that the company marketed packages that were too big and led to waste. He said a variety of smaller sizes now account for roughly in the "low teens" as a percent of sales volume in North America.

    Other food and beverage companies have pushed up revenue with similar strategies. Earlier this month, for instance, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi said the company is using "creative revenue management tactics, coupled with innovation" to boost its financial performance.

    That could mean newer products that cost a bit more, like Mountain Dew Dewshine that come in a glass bottle.

    And in April, Starbucks said it boosted sales in the U.S. with the help of pricier drinks like the "Flat White" espresso and Teavana "Shaken" ice teas.

    "What we're seeing is a premiumization, a trade-up" Starbucks Chief Financial Officer Scott Maw said at the time.

    For the quarter, Coca-Cola's total volume for carbonated drinks in North America rose just 1 percent. That increase was due to the company's expanded distribution of Monster energy drinks. When including non-carbonated drinks like Powerade, volume for North America rose 2 percent.

    Organic revenue for the region rose 5 percent, however, thanks to higher pricing and the smaller packages.

    For the quarter ended July 3, Coca-Cola Co. said its profit rose to $3.11 billion, or 71 cents a share. Not including one-time items such as the gain related to its deal to acquire a stake in Monster Beverage (MNST), it said it earned 63 cents a share.

    Analysts on average expected 60 cents a share, according to Zacks Investment Research.

    Total revenue including regions around the world slipped to $12.16 billion, dragged down by the impact of foreign currency exchange rates. Coca-Cola said organic revenue, which strips out such factors, rose 4 percent overall for the period.

    A year earlier, the company earned $2.6 billion, or 58 cents a share.

    Shares of Coca-Cola (KO) edged up 11 cents to $41.30.

     

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