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DailyFinance.com

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    Earns SeaWorld
    John Raoux/AP
    From a pair of real estate developers checking in with their latest quarterly results to a struggling theme park operator presenting its turnaround strategy, here are some of the things that will help shape the week that lies ahead on Wall Street.

    Monday -- Splash Zone

    There's no denying that SeaWorld Entertainment (SEAS) is a controversial name among theme park operators. The chain has struggled since the "Blackfish" documentary criticized SeaWorld for having killer whales in captivity.

    CEO Joel Manby -- who joined the company earlier this year after leading the less controversial parent company of Dollywood -- has scheduled a presentation on Monday afternoon to offer up his vision for SeaWorld. Chances are slim that he will be announcing the release of orcas and dolphins into the wild, but it wouldn't be a surprise if his new strategy emphasizes the non-animal attractions.

    Tuesday -- Home on the Range

    Homebuilders will be in the spotlight Tuesday. Beazer Homes (BZH) and D.R. Horton (DHI) report their latest quarterly results Tuesday morning. The summer quarter appears to have gone well for both real estate developers. Analysts see both companies posting revenue growing in the double digits, with profitability growing even faster.

    Wednesday -- Fried Chicken on the Menu

    Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen (PLKI) reports Wednesday. The popular chain specializing in fried chicken, cajun sides, and buttery biscuits has grown its empire to 2,443 operated and franchised locations worldwide.

    A lot of chicken chains have gone public recently. One of them -- El Pollo Loco (LOCO) -- reports on Thursday, just in case a single day of poultry restaurant earnings isn't enough to satisfy your appetite.

    Thursday -- Pump You Up

    Investors will get to see if Planet Fitness (PLNT) is in shape when it reports fresh financials on Thursday. The gym operator has grown quickly, fueled by the attraction of its low rates. Folks pay just $10 a month to join, and the modest $10 initiation fee makes it easy to drop out at any point. That's a lot less than traditional fitness centers. There may not be any workout classes, but if all one needs is access to treadmills and other cardio equipment, it should fit the bill.

    Planet Fitness went public at $16 this summer, and this will be its first full quarter as a public company.

    Friday -- Mining for Box Office Gold

    Friday is always busy at the local multiplex, and this week's big debut will be Time Warner's (TWX) "The 33." The movie is based on the real-life 2010 incident in which 33 coal miners in Chile were rescued 69 days after the mine's collapse.

    It was a global news event with "make a movie out of this" written all over it, especially since every single trapped coal miner was saved. It makes sense for "The 33" to roll out just ahead of the holidays. A feel-good survival story seems to just work this time of year.

    Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of SeaWorld Entertainment. The Motley Fool recommends Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen and Time Warner. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days, and click here to check out our free report for one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.

     

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    mature man and woman in cafe with digital tablet

    One retiree profiled here is fulfilling a longtime goal. Several others are taking a hobby to a new level. Still others are starting a business or enjoying an engaging, part-time job. Whatever the gig, these people have found pastimes that not only deliver a paycheck (or the promise of it) but also are downright fun.

    Retirement can be an ideal time to pursue your dream and thrive. Think about it: You've had years to build savings and home equity, establish a credit history, and nurture social and professional networks -- all of which can be key to launching a business or a new career. Starting at 62, you also have access to Social Security benefits if you need them (although full retirement age is currently 66), and you may have income from a pension or a still-working spouse. Plus, you're rich in the one asset that full-time workers lack: time. "At this stage of life, you can really be in control," says Jeff Bucher, a registered investment adviser in Perrysburg, Ohio, who specializes in retirement planning. "Now is the time to branch out."

    Here's how several post-careerists pulled off their dream jobs.

    Build Something Big

    Ephraim King, 65, retired from his job as a senior manager at the Environmental Protection Agency four years ago. His initial plan: hike the Appalachian Trail and then return home to Takoma Park, Md., to work as a consultant on clean water, his area of expertise. The hike, which took five and a half months, went fine, but consulting proved to be as stressful as his career job. After a few months, he announced to his wife, Carol Lindeman, "That's it. I'm done."

    His neighbor, Stephen Brown, 63, had already retired from his job at a family-owned printing company. Having spent his early career in construction and working as a carpenter, he was a natural to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity; he enlisted King, who had spent years rehabbing his own home, to do the same. The two worked on several projects for the home-building nonprofit.

    When those projects ended, they decided to go into the home-rehab business on their own. "Both of us really enjoy the complexity and variety a large house project offers," says King. "It's not just painting or sanding a floor; it's everything coming together."

    King and Brown each tapped home equity to come up with about $390,000 (split evenly) to buy, fix up and then sell a small, three-bedroom home in nearby Hyattsville. The house, a foreclosure, needed to be totally gutted.

    King and Brown took on the project partly as a pastime, but they treated the business side seriously, hiring a business lawyer and forming a limited liability corporation to protect their assets. Both men were mindful that they were tapping family resources. "The money we're using isn't coming out of nowhere," says King. "We're fortunate that we have spouses who understand what we're doing and are supportive."

    Playing the role of owner, general contractor and worker requires setting priorities, says Brown. "You learn a lot of lessons about sequence. The guy can't wire the walls if you haven't put them up." The pair have also had to get up to speed on new standards for safety and energy efficiency. Despite their best efforts, says Brown, they've had to redo some work. Then there's their own, uh, aging infrastructure. "It's easy to say 'I can do this and this and this,' but I'm in my sixties. I can't do as much as when I was younger," says Brown.

    The best part? Working alongside the subcontractors. "It's fun. You meet great people. They're good at what they do," says King. As for the dollar payoff, their expectations are modest, at least for this go-round. "Our purpose is to work through the learning curve and to break even," says King.

    Create New Works of Art

    When Deborah Nolan, 68, retired eight years ago from her job as a New Jersey deputy attorney general, she couldn't wait to pursue her longtime avocation -- writing -- full-time. Nolan had been meeting with a group of fellow writers for almost 30 years and had already written a young-adult novel, which she stashed in a desk drawer. Her focus now: writing romance suspense novels.

    Nolan had always enjoyed reading the genre, and "I wanted to write what I like," she says. She also realized that her chances of succeeding were better with romance than with other types of fiction. "The romance-writer community is very welcoming, and the conferences are fabulous. Everyone is willing to talk to you and be helpful. It's much easier to find an editor and get your foot in the door."

    Nolan's plan to write full-time didn't pan out, however. "I'm too social to be writing every single day. It's not my personality," she says. At loose ends, she took part-time work as a family court lawyer in upstate New York, where she and her husband, Frank, have a weekend home. (The couple also have an apartment in Manhattan.) She settled on a routine of appearing in court a few days a month and writing two days a week.

    That combination was serendipitous: "The stimulation of being in court helped my writing," she says. It also provided fodder for her novels, whose protagonists are female lawyers. Nolan's first romance novel, Suddenly Lily, was published by Avalon in 2009, followed by Conflict of Interest in 2011 and Second Act for Carrie Armstrong (published by Desert Breeze Publishing) in 2014.

    Nolan doesn't have to make a living at her dream gig. She collects a pension as well as Social Security benefits, and she has the post-careerist's dream asset: a working spouse. (Frank is a partner in a law firm.) Her first check, from Avalon, was a modest $500 when she submitted the manuscript; she received another $500 when it was published. But bigger checks started rolling in after Amazon

    purchased Avalon in 2012. Last year, Nolan made more than $10,000 in royalties. As far as she's concerned, that qualifies as a happy ending (and maybe a promising prequel). "I like to write anyway," says Nolan, who is working on a sequel to Suddenly Lily. "Making some money at it is really nice."

    Develop a Product

    Dave and Pam Barret, of Temecula, California, were still working as educators -- he as a special education teacher, she as an educational consultant -- when they came up with the idea of creating and selling a board game about the U.S. Constitution. They had found games to be good teaching tools and had already devised several of their own. "We thought, When we retire, let's put our games out there," says Dave.

    They learned that developing a board game is no stroll along Boardwalk. They spent a year researching and brainstorming questions and answers about the Constitution as well as distractor answers -- those that are incorrect but not obviously so. They wove elements of chance into the game, so the history buffs wouldn't always win, and they took pains to write clear directions. Then they invited players of all ages to try out their masterwork. Says Dave: "We had people in different rooms of our house playing different versions of our game. We wanted to know: Is it fun? Are you learning? That was really important to us: making learning fun."

    They also enlisted experts, including mentors from Score to help with their business plan; a graphic designer to create a prototype of the game; and a team of lawyers to help them get a copyright, a design patent and four trademarks. A local printer produced the first run of 2,500 games. Their initial costs totaled about $70,000, which they charged to credit cards after finding that local banks were unwilling to lend money to untested entrepreneurs.

    The financial risk paid off: The Constitution Quest Game, $50 at www.cognitivesquare.com, has racked up more than $700,000 in sales, allowing the Barrets to retire from their career jobs. The couple fields about 100 orders a day. Their five grown children and two older grandchildren occasionally pitch in to get the orders out.

    One lesson they learned from Score early on: "Don't let the business run you," says Pam. The couple close up shop at noon so they can also appreciate the relaxing side of retirement. "We want to see the grandchildren and enjoy life," she says.

    Go Back to School

    John Graves was 22 when he was accepted to the University of Michigan Law School, in 1968. At age 63, he dug out his acceptance letter and enrolled in the law school full-time.

    Graves, now 70, had planned to postpone law school for just a few years while he scraped together the money to cover tuition. As a stopgap, he accepted a teaching job, and he ended up staying in the profession, earning a doctorate in education. He later became a school superintendent, most recently in Jackson, Michigan.

     

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    Dining table filled with thanksgiving food
    Getty ImagesIt's time to plan your big meal.


    Whether your Thanksgiving plans include hitting the stores early or intentionally boycotting "Black Thursday" sales, most Americans have at least one thing in common on Turkey Day: the preparation of an epic meal. This year, some unwelcome news is wafting into households: According to the Department of Agriculture, the price of turkey will increase as much as 19 percent, or to a $1.36 a pound, thanks to the avian flu that's impacted poultry prices all year.

    Despite the turkey shortage, early sale prices are similar to what they were last year, with King Soopers currently offering USDA Grade A frozen turkeys for 69 cents a pound.

    Still, finding the best deals on holiday dinner fare can be complex, depending on your menu and how many people you're feeding. To help control the cost of your Thanksgiving dinner, I consulted the thriftiest grocery shopper I know: my mother-in-law Connie Perez.

    Raised by small business owners in the small town of Silver City, New Mexico, Perez's frugality and skills in the kitchen were cultivated at a young age. "Growing up in a family of seven, we had to be frugal," Perez says. "My parents were on a limited income when I was a small child, but we never went hungry and we always ate nutritious meals." Perez credits her parents for her thriftiness and non-wasteful habits, highlighting her father's creativity in the kitchen. "My dad would make the most delicious soups and stews that he could never remake because he would use whatever leftovers we had at the time."

    These days, family gatherings can reach up to 40 people all clamoring for Perez's famous brisket or roasted turkey. Hosting such a crowd isn't cheap, so she employs the following strategies to keep costs low.

    Make a plan. When it comes to saving money on Thanksgiving, Perez says you have to be organized. "It takes a lot of planning," she says. "You can't just make a list and go to the store." She suggests starting with a menu and evaluating whether traditional recipes are actually popular. "Be careful in your meal selection, making sure it's food you're going to eat," she advises.

    With that in mind, think about those dishes that went mostly untouched last year and don't prepare them again. This will save you time and money, plus you'll avoid storing leftovers of something no one liked well enough to eat the first time around.

    Review store ads to compare deals, especially on turkeys. While the Internet makes comparing grocery store deals a bit easier for some, Perez prefers the more traditional approach. "I'm old-school; I like to use flyers because they're right in front of me," she says. Determining who has the best price on the ingredients you need will make your shopping experience easier and cheaper.
    This time of year, many grocers offer free or reduced price-per-pound turkeys when you spend a certain amount. For example, Safeway and Albertson's stores are currently offering a free frozen Honeysuckle turkey (up to 16 pounds) when you spend $100. "You can easily spend that much if you're preparing a Thanksgiving dinner for a lot of people," Perez says. Still, she suggests shoppers do their homework on other store deals to ensure they're getting the best price.

    Know your local stores' prices. This is probably Perez's top piece of advice for shoppers. "You have to know your prices where you shop to compare," she says. "Otherwise, you have no idea if what's on sale is actually a good deal."

    Buy-one-get-one deals are popular with consumers, but Perez warns these sales don't always represent the best price. For example, a buy-one-get-two-free deal on a package of chicken breasts may seem like an outstanding deal, until you do the math. "If you have to pay $9.99 per pound and you get three packages, you're really paying about $3.33 per pound," she says. "But if another local store has chicken breasts on sale for $2 per pound, you're not saving money."

    Dollar deals also seem like a good buy, but again, knowing your local prices is key. "Sometimes a grocery store will have 10 for $10 cans of green beans," Perez says. "If you go to Walmart, they have their green beans for 78 cents per can." So, you'll save over $2 if you just buy the regular-priced canned green beans from Walmart compared to the "sale" price from your grocer.

    Swap brand-name for generic brands on select ingredients. When shopping for basic ingredients like salt, sugar and spices, try the generic brand for big savings. "With flour or any of those dry things, I don't need to have Morton's or Gold Meadow," Perez says. "I usually go with the store brands."

    Not all store brands are created equal, though. "Some items are not the same," Perez admits. "I'll pay extra for products if the generic brand is not a good match." But some products are just as good and nearly half the price. "For flavor, the store brand of frozen vegetables are just as good as Birds Eye or some of those more expensive brands," she says.

    Accept help. Perez enjoys being the host, but she always accepts help when it's offered. "In our community, people always volunteer to bring stuff and I always take them up on it." In addition to saving money, this strategy allows guests to feel like they're contributing and reduces the stress of having to prepare everything. "As the host, you're not so exhausted," Perez says. "You can truly enjoy your guests and your family."

    Enjoying family and friends and being thankful for your bounty is what Thanksgiving is all about, after all.

    Kendal Perez is a spokeswoman for CouponSherpa.com, a popular source for online, in-store and mobile coupons. She also blogs at Hassle-Free Savings and enjoys yoga, decluttering, craft brew and obsessing over her dogs.

     

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    Walgreen's Reports $1.3 Billion Q3 Income, Beats Wall St Estimates
    Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
    By Terence Loose

    Founded in Chicago more than a century ago by Charles R. Walgreen Sr., Walgreens is now at the top of the drugstore chain with more than 8,200 U.S. locations. The store's rise to dominance was built on good products with solid deals.

    But not everything in the drugstore giant's aisles is healthy for your wallet. So to find out how to make the most of your next trip to Walgreens, we asked savings experts to clue us in on the 10 best and worst Walgreens deals. Read on to discover what we found.

    10 Best Walgreens Deals

    Ready for convenience and great deals? Here are 10 Walgreens deals you shouldn't pass up.

    1. Makeup. Want to look your best but don't want to pay top dollar to do it? "Be on the lookout for designer makeup swaps at Walgreens," said Kerry Sherin, a senior content manager at savings site Offers.com.

    Here are a few favorites she found: Wet N' Wild Pinkerbell ($2 at Walgreens) vs. Mac Viva Glam Nicki ($15); Wet N' Wild Sugar Plum Fairy ($2 at Walgreens) vs. Mac Rebel ($15); and L'Oreal Paris Extra-Intense Liquid Pencil Eyeliner ($5.99) instead of Lancôme Artliner Precision Point EyeLiner ($30.50).

    2. Over-the-counter medications. Got a headache? Don't make it worse with high-priced aspirin. Teri Gault, savings expert and CEO of TheGroceryGame.com, said that Walgreens is a great choice for over-the-counter medications. And the generic counterparts of the name brands are even better deals. "They often run buy-one-get-one-free sales on them," she said.

    3. Cereal, peanut butter and more. You might not think of Walgreens as a great spot to pick up staples like cereal, peanut butter and other pantry items, but Gault said it's surprising what you can do at the store with a few coupons. "I have been successful in asking if I can use two coupons and get the deal twice," she said. "So instead of a limit of three cans of salmon for $1.99, I got six."

    4. Paper products. Saving money on paper towels, napkins, tissue and more can be really nice. Perhaps that's why the Walgreens brand of these products is called Nice! and is a great deal, said Gault. "Nice! brand paper products are good quality and frequently go on sale for 99 cents," she said. Examples include Nice! storage, freezer or sandwich bags, paper plates, napkins and facial tissue.

    5. Photo printing. If you want to print a few photos, create photo books and more, Gault recommended Walgreens as way of getting top quality at a great price.

    "Walgreens has my personal favorite photo services," she said. "I've ordered prints online super cheap and picked them up within an hour. I also used their online tools to design books and photo albums at great savings, and I'm always happy with the result."

    6. Holiday gifts. Sure, your spouse and kids get big holiday gifts, but what about all those clients, office mates and friends you have to get gifts for? Try Walgreens. Gault said the drugstore has some good deals on those and stocking stuffers.

    Her finds include: 50 percent savings on Halston and Stetson colognes, as well as Liz Claiborne and Vera Wang fragrances; 18-ounce jar candles for only $5; and Royal Dansk Cookies in a 12-ounce tin for $2.25 to $2.50. Also, "find sales for 50 to 70 percent off boxes of Russell Stover or Whitman's chocolates," she said.

    7. Contact lenses. Seeing clearly is important, but it doesn't have to be painfully expensive if you shop at Walgreens, said savings expert Jeanette Pavini of Coupons.com. "Walgreens has extremely competitive prices on contact lenses, especially when you combine it with a coupon code from Coupons.com," she said. "We found 20 percent off and free shipping good through Dec. 21."

    8. Canned foods. Stocking up on canned foods when they're a good deal is smart, and Walgreens is a good spot for it, said Pavini. "The key is to check out Walgreens' weekly ad and shop for what's on sale," she said. "For example, Progresso soup was on sale for four for $5. We combined it with a $1 off coupon on four cans from Coupons.com to bring the price down to $1 per can."

    Other notable deals in a recent weekly ad included a can of tuna for 69 cents and black olives for 99 cents, Pavini added.

    9. Vitamins and supplements. If you do your homework, shopping Walgreens' vitamins and supplements can keep your wallet as healthy as your body. "Look for buy-one-get-one-free deals on vitamins," said Pavini. The drugstore also has a rewards program with a lot of earning potential, she added. "For example, spend $25 on certain prenatal supplements and get 10,000 rewards points. That's $10 in rewards you can use on your next purchase," she said.

    10. Laundry detergent. The cost of washing can pile up as fast as the laundry itself, so it helps to catch a break on laundry detergent. Gault said Walgreens is a good place for that. Specifically, she said to wait for rebates and in-store Walgreens coupons, along with checking TheGroceryGame.com and other sites for coupons. "I also prefer the smaller [laundry detergent] containers over club store size because they're easier to handle and store," said Gault.

    10 Worst Walgreens Deals

    And now for the less-than-stellar performers. Unless you have a super-awesome Walgreens coupon, stay clear of these 10 non-deals.

    1. Batteries. Batteries are pricey, and Pavini said you won't get much relief at Walgreens. "Though Walgreens had several battery deals on ad, the price was still significantly more than when you bought batteries at a warehouse club," she said. So, try Costco or Sam's Club for more powerful savings.

    2. Gift wrap. Spend the money on the gift, not the bag or wrapping paper that it comes in. To do that, you might want to avoid Walgreens, said Pavini. According to her, you will typically pay a premium for gift bags, bows and wrapping paper at Walgreens. "You don't want a $10 gift to turn into a $20 one simply because of wrapping supplies," she said. "One of the best places to find a bargain on wrapping paper is at designer discount stores."

    3. Housewares. Looking for some new stemware for that big holiday party? Or maybe some Tupperware for the leftovers? Don't look to Walgreens, said Lindsay Sakraida, director of content marketing with DealNews.com. She said most housewares found at Walgreens will be much more expensive than at stores like Target or Walmart.

    4. 'As Seen On TV' items. You know these: the products where the cheesy voice says, "Wait, there's more! Buy in the next 10 seconds, and you'll get not one, but 52 hairdryers for the same price!" Well, you might see some of these "As Seen on TV" items at Walgreens, but don't be tempted to purchase them without comparing prices at Amazon first. According to Sakraida, the online retailer is more likely to offer a slight discount on these types of items.

    5. Electronics. Just like those expensive batteries that power them, most electronics found at Walgreens are going to be pricey, said Sakraida. As an added insult, they'll likely be low quality, too. So, unless you need one of these items right away, she suggested going online to find much better deals on anything tech.

    6. Cleaning products. Everything from Clorox to Simple Green is likely going to cost you more at Walgreens, said Sherin of Offers.com. "Drugstores consistently charge more for items like these, and you will be paying more for these than at the big box stores," she said.

    7. Soda. You're better off quenching your thirst for Coke, Sprite and the rest of the sugary drinks at the grocery store than at Walgreens, said Gault. Walgreens and other drugstores rarely have deals, and supermarkets have better regular prices and run specials all the time. So, they're virtually always a better bet.

    8. Spatulas, strainers and spoons. When it's time to replace any of your kitchen gadgets, Walgreens and other drugstores are not the place to do it, said Gault. Drugstores know that if you're buying it in their store, it's probably for convenience or an urgent need. So, prices are high on everything from wine and bottle openers to knives and whisks.

    9. Holiday decorations. Walgreens might not be the best place to get your home into the holiday spirit, said Gault. You could score some deals on holiday decorations after the holiday, but not right before when drugstores like Walgreens will be more expensive than stores like Kmart, T.J.Maxx and Ross, she explained.

    10. Small appliances. When it's time for a new mixer or coffeemaker, Walgreens might be convenient, but it likely won't be a great deal maker, said Regina Conway, consumer expert for SlickDeals.net. She said rather than hit drugstores for these and other small appliances, try Walmart or Target -- especially during Black Friday.

    This story, 10 Best and Worst Deals at Walgreens, originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com.

     

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    Senior Couple Talking To Financial Advisor At Home
    Getty ImagesFinancial advisers can use software to analyze how a portfolio will react to various scenarios.


    When John Navin, a certified financial planner based in Nashville, Tennessee, meets a new client, the first thing he does is run his or her portfolio through a series of stress tests.

    "We test the portfolio against 60 different circumstances that could happen in the economy," says Navin, who owns John Navin & Associates. "It can tell us exactly what the portfolio will do."

    Navin and his team aren't alone. Financial advisers have software to provide detailed analyses about how a portfolio will react as different scenarios unfold in the world. Will China's slowdown turn into a recession or worse? Will the Federal Reserve raise rates half a point? Will the market turn down by 10 percent? Twenty percent? It's important to know how your portfolio will react to these scenarios.

    As stocks have ridden an almost seven-year bull market, there hasn't been too much reason to know about potential disruptions to your returns. Even as Europe, particularly Greece, has struggled, the U.S. market has barely hiccuped.

    But all good things do come to an end. And with slowdowns in the Chinese economy, the Fed considering interest rate hikes, weak oil prices and baby boomers leaving the workforce, there are concerns that the market could soon hit a speed bump. If it does, you should know how your retirement savings would move.

    A stress test sets expectations. Testing your portfolio against a fall -- or rise -- based on real-world scenarios uncovers and highlights your risk if the worst happens. "Most people are taking on significant more downside risk than they think they are," says Michael Reese, a certified financial planner and owner of Centennial Wealth, an advisory firm based in Austin, Texas.

    While most of us think we're comfortable with risk, it's often not true. Many investors pulled out altogether when the markets fell into turmoil in 2008. This proved to be the worst decision possible, because investors left the market as it hit bottom. Within three to four years, they would have regained their losses, but they weren't around to participate in the rally since the fall scared them off.

    Stress testing shows what a 10 percent drop in the market will do to short-term gains, allowing you to understand what the loss may mean, Reese says. "If you see where you're at, and it's not a position you're comfortable with, then you need to revise the portfolio to take the risk off the table."

    This is another reason why advisers run these scenarios. If clients see the market drop, their initial call will be to their money manager wondering what they should do. If advisers prepared them for such a scenario, then the drop is not as likely to draw that gut urge to react.

    Test your whole portfolio, then test individual buckets. You want to test your whole portfolio because an event could affect parts of your portfolio differently. While a drop in energy prices could hurt the energy companies in your portfolio, it can also help many sectors that benefit from lower energy costs, for example. Yet, you would still want energy company exposure if prices rise again. You won't see the overall impact, unless you test it all at once.

    Navin begins by testing a portfolio as one cohesive unit. Then he breaks it down, examining areas that his customers typically have money in, including cash and income-generating devices such as annuities, equities and bonds. By testing each individual bucket, he can discover the impact of fees.

    This fee analysis can "factor in the management fees, cost of turnover and impact of taxes," Navin says. "You can really come back with a clear number."

    It's important because over the long term, fees destroy a portfolio better than nearly any other factor, including short-term tumbles in the market.

    Be careful how you react. Stress testing can serve many benefits, including providing data about your risk tolerance and setting clear expectations for your returns. But if you react wrongly to what you discover, then it could cause damage to your portfolio that you may never recover from.

    For instance, someone in his or her 30s or early 40s probably still has one goal: Save as much as possible. Movements in the market shouldn't have any impact on this person's long-term strategy. "If you're well in your savings mode, then stress testing your portfolio is a fun exercise," Reese says. "But it's better to put your blinders on, [place] your money into an allocation, then letting it go."

    On the other hand, if you're within 10 years or less of retirement, stress testing can dramatically change your strategy. Those thinking they wanted to retire shortly before the 2008 downturn hit had their plans cut short. The recession delayed retirement for many older Americans, and the number of 62- to 64-year-olds in the workforce actually increased during this period.

    "When something happens that close to retirement, it can mess with your plans," Reese says. For near-retirees, stress testing can help this planning.

    Don't test too often. Most financial advisers use two models to test their clients' portfolios. They judge them against historical numbers - like what would happen if another dot-com crash occurred - and they measure against hypothetical scenarios. Test both.

    To get a comprehensive analysis, it's best to go through your adviser. But HiddenLevers also offers software that many advisers use to run the scenarios. There's a free account on its website, which will allow you to test different situations based on your portfolio allocation.

    In terms of how often, Navin runs scenarios for clients once a year. Anything more, and you might be looking for a reason to make a change when there isn't any. Unfortunately, there's no scenario to test that mistake.

    Ryan Derousseau is a journalist with nine years of experiencing writing about investing and leadership issues. His work has been read in Fortune, Money, CNNMoney and Fast Company, among other publications. You can find more from him on Twitter @ryanderous.

     

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    elderly woman using credit card over the phone
    Getty Images
    By Krystal Steinmetz

    The Home Shopping Network, well-known for hawking wares such as jewelry, electronics and kitchen accessories, will be selling something entirely out of the ordinary for the network Nov. 7: Medicare insurance plans.

    If you think HSN and Medicare are an unlikely pair, you're not alone; it took me awhile to wrap my head around this. The network is taking advantage of the Medicare Annual Enrollment period, which runs through Dec. 7, and partnering with Aetna and the American Grandparents Association to promote and sell Aetna's Medicare options, according to a press release.

    It's the first time that HSN viewers have been able to access insurance through the network. It's also a novel way for Aetna to educate baby boomers about its Medicare plans. Said Nancy Cocozza, president of Aetna Medicare:

    As part of Aetna's mission to build a healthier world, we are committed to helping consumers make smart health care choices. This means simplifying consumers' insurance-buying experience so they can focus on achieving their best health. Aetna's collaboration with AGA and HSN is a new way for consumers to learn about Medicare options with Aetna and have their questions answered directly by Aetna's representatives.

    On Saturday, Nov. 7, Aetna representatives will be featured live on HSN cable channel, online and via mobile. Viewers can call and talk to Aetna licensed agents about their Medicare needs and options.

    "We are proud of the ongoing relationship we have established with Aetna and AGA to better inform those who are considering their health care options -- one of the most important decisions they make each year," Bill Brand, president of HSN, said in a statement. "Through informational content and engaging experiences we can demystify the process and provide a unique service to our customers."

    For information on Medicare, including eligibility, coverage choices and how to apply, go to Medicare.gov.

    What do you think about Aetna peddling its Medicare plans on HSN? Share your thoughts below or on our Facebook page.

    Like this article? Sign up for our newsletter and we'll send you a regular digest of our newest stories, full of money saving tips and advice, free!

    How to Pick a Medicare Supplement Plan

     

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    By Rebecca Borison

    Amazon has long been seen as a predator to brick-and-mortar stores, but operators in one category in particular may have thought they were in the clear. Clothing retailers assumed they'd have an easier time keeping consumers because they'd want to try on clothing before making a purchase.

    Unfortunately for those retailers, it's getting harder and harder to buy into that line of thought as Amazon's apparel business continues to grow by leaps and bounds, and customers become more comfortable buying apparel and accessories online.

    Amazon (AMZN) will sell about $16 billion in apparel this year, or about 5 percent of the U.S. apparel industry, according to Cowen analyst John Blackledge, and Blackledge predicts that percentage will rise to 14 percent by 2020. Following that trajectory would mean that Amazon would displace Macy's (M) as the No. 1 U.S. apparel retailer by 2017.

    But the belief that shoppers will be reluctant to buy clothes online still persists in some quarters.

    At a conference in October, panelists were discussing innovations in retail and the connected store, when one speaker singled out clothing retailers.

    "Retail is going to win out against Amazon because you're not going to buy your jeans off of Amazon if you can't try them on and touch them, feel them," said Steve Cheney, co-founder and SVP of Estimote, a company that makes beacons that can communicate with customers' smart phones when they're in stores.

    But Cheney's comments seem outdated in a world where 69 percent of consumers in the U.S. regularly buy products online, according to Forrester Research (FORR). U.S. consumers spent $52.2 billion online on apparel and accessories last year, up from $28 billion in 2010, according to eMarketer. That number is expected to grow to $86.4 billion in 2018.

    "With free returns it's very easy for someone to purchase two items, try them on in the living room, and send back the one they don't like," Gartner analyst Gene Alvarez said. "To think Amazon or another online retailer will not figure this out and make it attractive to consumers is a dangerous position."

    Not only does online shopping tend to offer free returns, but it also offers a larger selection compared to a finite physical store.

    "Much of what you find in stores may not fit you and isn't exactly what you're looking for anyway," Forrester analyst Sucharita Mulpuru-Kodali said. "Online actually offers you much greater and more appropriate selections online."

    Amazon has also been working on ramping up its fashion efforts for years, and is even considering creating a fashion label of its own. At the WWD Apparel and Retail CEO Summit in October, Jeff Yurcisin, vice president of clothing at Amazon Fashion and CEO of Amazon's Shopbop unit, said that 40 million customers shop Amazon Fashion.

    Cathy Beaudoin, president of Amazon Fashion, was hired by Bezos in 2008 to help grow the company's fashion business. "We needed to be important to customers in categories that they buy from every day," she told The New York Times.

    Amazon has also taken steps to break into the fashion world through moves such as sponsoring the 2015 New York Fashion Week for men and the 2012 Costume Institute Benefit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and hiring a former fashion director for Barneys, Julie Gilhart, as a consultant for three years.

    And while there are many online retailers that sell clothing, Amazon, as always, maintains a key advantage with Prime. Prime members can easily get free shipping and returns, which makes it that much easier to buy a dress and return it if it doesn't fit.

    Sure, there may always be a group of consumers that prefer visiting a physical store and shopping at a designer brand as opposed to Amazon.com, but the idea that clothing is inherently safe from the threat of e-commerce is becoming increasingly untenable.

    "While there will always be a desire to try things on in the flesh, the increasing availability of next day delivery and free returns means customers can act on the instant gratification of buying online at any time, in any place," ABI Research analyst Patrick Connolly said. "As a result, clothing cannot rest on its laurels."

     

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    TOMS' Austin Store Opening
    Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for TomsToms Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie
    What does it mean to be a success?

    In the days of railroad barons and oil tycoons, it might have meant amassing the most cash possible. These days, the idea of true success has shifted toward the "social entrepreneur" -- those who can create thriving enterprises while bringing about positive social change.

    Everyone from Microsoft's Bill Gates to Virgin's Richard Branson are deploying their business acumen to help the causes that are most meaningful to them. We talked to a few of the world's top social entrepreneurs about how they got their start.

    Scott Harrison

    Founder, charity: water, which brings safe drinking water to the developing world

    First job: McDonald's

    "I was around 15 in Flemington, New Jersey, and applied for the job cold. I ended up taking orders and working the takeout window for absolute minimum wage. They did sweeten the pot with free food, though, which for me usually meant Quarter Pounders with cheese.

    "Once I volunteered to dress up as the Hamburglar to hand out coupons because you got paid time-and-a-half. It was a pretty ridiculous costume, with a hat so big that it was difficult to get through doors. I had to tilt my head to one side. I was so terrified of getting recognized by my friends.

    "I remember that the restaurant floors were always slippery with grease, which was kind of gross. And the uniform was not very attractive on me, topped by that plastic webbed hat, not a good look. Nowadays, I'm a pretty infrequent visitor to McDonald's, usually in an airport somewhere. But I am partial to McFlurries."

    Jessica Jackley

    Co-founder: Kiva, a microfinance site, and author of "Clay Water Brick"

    First job: Art teacher

    "I always had a real passion for art. Where I grew up, in a suburb north of Pittsburgh, there was a little family-run art studio. So after 10th grade, I started teaching skills like drawing and painting to kids as young as three.

    "Nowadays, my life has been taken over by my own boys - four-year-old twins and a nine-month-old baby - so that art job has served me well. As a parent, I am always walking around with a long list of arts-and-crafts projects in my head.

    "What I took away from that job was the ability to teach: To be able to meet somebody where they are and walk them through something totally new. I am also pretty good at getting people inspired about something. I like to face a problem together and help them figure out where they want to go."

    Blake Mycoskie

    Founder: TOMS, a retailer that provides shoes and other services to those in need, and author of "Start Something That Matters"

    First job: Doing laundry

    "I was going to Southern Methodist University in Dallas and injured my Achilles tendon playing tennis. I couldn't carry my laundry to the basement, so I looked in the Yellow Pages for a company that could do it for me and nothing like that existed. So I decided along with my college roommate to start a laundry service.

    "We bought an old FedEx truck for $1,500. Our innovation was that we recognized the target customer was the parent, not the student. So we set up a table at check-in at the beginning of the year, and charged one price for an entire semester of laundry, something like $300. We were basically selling parents peace of mind.

    "We were pretty successful, eventually expanding to six universities with 50 employees, and sold it after a few years. But I absolutely refuse to do laundry now. I did more laundry than you can ever imagine. At the time it really sucked, but like anything in life, you look back on it with nostalgia."

    Sally Osberg

    President and Chief Executive: Skoll Foundation, which invests in social entrepreneurs, and author of "Getting Beyond Better: How Social Entrepreneurship Works"

    First job: Swimming teacher

    "I was 16, and I taught swimming with the Parks & Rec department of Huntington Township, on the north shore of Long Island, New York. The kids were between 5 and 9 years old. The first thing you had to do was put your face in the water and blow bubbles: Some took to it like ducks to water, and some were absolutely terrified.

    "In order to teach swimming, you had to get lifeguard certification, and that was a frightening business. The woman who put me through my paces was quite testy, and her job was basically to try to drown me. I had to do a ju-jitsu move and then rescue her. It wasn't fun.

    "The thing I remember most was that fear, and the courage it takes to overcome it, is huge. Whether it is learning to ride a bike, or putting your face in the water for the first time: To know that you have the capability of conquering your fears is an essential life skill."

     

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    From presents for the kids to special food for family get-togethers, holiday traditions have the potential to put a significant dent in your wallet. However, you can take the sting out of that spending by earning rewards for every purchase.

    Rewards credit cards come in many flavors, with some offering cash back and others providing miles or points that can be redeemed for travel, gift cards or merchandise.

    U.S. News spoke to four credit experts to learn which cards they recommend consumers use this holiday season. They say shoppers shouldn't only worry about which card they select, but to also focus on how to maximize rewards.

    "I'm a strong believer that rewards cards are best used by people who pay off their balance each month," says Jason Steele, the credit card expert at CompareCards.com. If you fail to pay off your balance, you could get charged interest that will negate any rewards you earn.

    Online shoppers should also always visit their card's website to look for special offers before making a purchase. "A credit card bonus mall is an online portal that allows you to get extra points or cash back on your online purchases," says Sean McQuay, a credit card expert for NerdWallet. "But remember, the consumer has to use the card associated with that bonus mall to take advantage."

    Beyond that general advice, McQuay and Steele say it helps if you are swiping the right card for you. Here are their picks for the best rewards cards for holiday shopping, along with those of Bethy Hardeman, chief consumer advocate at Credit Karma, and Jill Gonzalez, credit card analyst for WalletHub.

    Best rewards credit card for online shopping: Chase Freedom

    Any rewards credit card can be used online, but Hardeman, Steele and McQuay all single out the Chase Freedom card as a particularly good choice this holiday season.

    The card offers 5 percent cash back on categories that change quarterly. This quarter's bonus retailers include Amazon, a go-to destination for many holiday shoppers, as well as Zappos, diapers.com and Audible. "[The current bonuses] are very helpful for those who like to do shopping online with ease and convenience," Hardeman says.

    For all other purchases, Chase Freedom offers 1 percent cash back. Plus, you get a $100 bonus if you spend $500 in the first three months after you open your account.

    Best rewards credit card for in-store shopping: Blue Cash Preferred from American Express

    If you'd rather shop in stores, Steele recommends using the American Express Blue Cash Preferred card.

    The 3 percent cash back you get for department store purchases is nice, but the 6 percent offered at supermarkets is even nicer. "While you may not think of supermarkets as a place for gifts, you can find a lot of gift cards there," Steele says. You can either give those gift cards as presents, or use them to buy presents at other retailers.

    You may need to register for cash back promotions on the American Express website, and the supermarket cash back offer is limited to $6,000 in purchases. Other card perks include a $150 statement credit after you spend $1,000 on your card in the first three months and a 0 percent APR in the first 15 months.

    Best rewards credit cards for cash back: Discover it and U.S. Bank Cash+

    For those who split their shopping between online and brick-and-mortar retailers, the Discover it and U.S. Bank Cash+ cards are two solid options.

    The Discover it card offers 1 percent cash back for most purchases with the exception of three bonus categories that rotate quarterly. For the current quarter, cardholders can get 5 percent back at Amazon, department stores and clothing stores. "It also offers one of the best bonus malls in the industry so it's an awesome choice for shopping online for the holidays," McQuay says

    The bonuses are even better if you use Apple Pay, Steele says. Currently, Discover it offers 10 percent cash back for up to $10,000 of in-store purchases made with the mobile payment service through the end of the year. New card members also receive double cash back for their first 12 billing cycles, which means you could earn a whopping 20 percent cash back before 2016.

    For those who'd prefer a Visa to Discover, the U.S. Bank Cash+ card offers 5 percent cash back on two categories of your choice, on the first $2,000 in purchases. You can also earn 2 percent cash back on one category, such as gas or groceries, that you select. On top of that, you get 1 percent back on all other purchases.

    Hardeman likes the card because it allows consumers to evaluate where they will spend the most and select the appropriate categories.

    Best rewards credit card to help you stay out of debt: Citi Double Cash

    The Citi Double Cash card gets a nod from McQuay as having one of the highest flat cash back rates in the industry. Users get 2 percent cash back on all purchases, with no rotating categories to worry about.

    However, the catch is the card gives you 1 percent when you make a purchase and 1 percent when you pay your bill. For those tempted to carry over some debt into the new year, the card's structure could provide a little motivation to pay off the balance ASAP.

    Best rewards credit card for big spenders: Chase Sapphire Preferred

    If you have a long gift list, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card could be a good choice, according to Gonzalez.

    New account holders who charge $4,000 in the first three months receive 40,000 bonus points, worth $500 of travel through Chase. The card also offers other perks for travelers, including 2 points per dollar spent on travel expenses and restaurants, point transfers to eligible frequent flyer and hotel rewards programs and a 20 percent discount on travel redemptions.

    The card is free for the first year but charges a $95 annual fee after that.

    Best rewards credit card for those with average credit: QuicksilverOne from Capital One

    Not everyone has stellar credit and for those with a few dings on their record, Gonzalez recommends the QuicksilverOne from Capital One. "It is a bit easier to get your hands on," she says.

    The card has a $39 annual fee and doesn't offer any upfront bonus like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, but it does come with 1.5 percent cash back on all purchases. Not too shabby for a card that may be willing to approve customers who wouldhave their applications rejected elsewhere.

    Before you start applying for cards, check your credit score to find out whether you should start with a card like QuicksilverOne or if you can apply for a more lucrative account. Hardeman points out too many applications at once could drop your score. "You don't want a bunch of inquiries on your report and nothing to show for it," she says.

     

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    As a financial planner who also sells long-term care insurance, Regi Armstrong always planned to buy a policy at some point. The only question was when.

    The Florence, South Carolina, resident and his wife made the leap early, when they were still in their 40s, and today he is glad they did. Three years into paying premiums of $3,800 a year, his wife, now 49, got diagnosed with a serious auto-immune disorder that would have disqualified her.

    "Life is fickle," says Armstrong, who is 50. "You don't know when you are going to get sick."

    Of the 4.8 million people who have long-term care insurance, the average age to purchase it is 57. More than 80 percent of buyers are 50 or older, according to financial services research group LIMRA.

    Among the chief arguments for buying long-term care insurance early is that you could, at any time, develop an illness that would disqualify you while forcing you to incur tremendous expenses.

    Care costs an average of $46,000 a year in the home and $80,000 in a nursing home, according to a survey from Genworth, one of the largest long-term care insurers.

    The danger in waiting jumps by age, said Jesse Slome, president of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, a trade group.

    Between ages 60 and 69, 27 percent of individuals who applied were rejected for health reasons. Go up a decade, and the decline rate is 45 percent. But below 50, it is just 14 percent.

    COMPARING COSTS

    The other main concern is price. The earlier you sign up, the less you pay.

    A 45-old-woman would pay on the order of $215 per month for a fairly typical policy from Genworth. A 55-year-old would pay $250.

    But wait a few years and the numbers multiply. Armstrong regularly prices coverage for clients who are trying to see if they can get better deals. His rule of thumb is that if a policy is older than two years, it is hard to improve on it.

    One client, who is now 66, is paying about $1,000 a year for a policy he got about 15 years ago. "He's paying half of what I'm paying, and he's 16 years older," Armstrong said.

    According to a study by insurance carrier John Hancock, a 50-year-old would pay 15 percent less over a lifetime of premiums than a person who started a policy at age 55, while a 40-year-old would pay 40 percent less than that 55-year-old.

    Group policies can offer more savings. Most carriers have stopped offering them, although Genworth is starting to expand in that area again, said Chris Conklin, senior vice president of product development.

    (The premium on my own group policy, which I bought into a few jobs ago when I was in my 30s, has not yet cracked $25 per month after 10 years.)

    BENEFIT OF PLANNING

    The argument to buy early is not likely to sway most people because long-term care insurance itself is pretty much a non-starter for non-planners, says Robert Applebaum, professor of Gerontology at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

    For one thing, it is a costly monthly reminder of all the bad things that can befall you before you die - even more of a downer than thinking about life insurance.

    Also, policy parameters and the companies offering them change often, so it is not always easy to compare deals. Some carriers are now bundling long-term care insurance features with life insurance or annuities, Applebaum said.

    These are increasing in popularity, according to LIMRA, while stand-alone long-term care policies are declining.

    Many people do not like the idea of paying premiums for years and never getting the benefit, either because they will not need it or because they will not be able to keep up payments.

    Slome's suggestion for managing costs: Buy a policy that is expandable. Start with a limited benefit when you are young to keep premiums low, and then pay up as you age.

    (Editing by Lauren Young and Lisa Von Ahn)

     

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    Apple Watch
    AP

    SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (AP) -- If you're looking for a device to track your fitness, alert you to incoming messages and occasionally let you buy stuff with a scan or a tap, there's no shortage of computerized wristwatches to choose from.

    Over the past several months, I've tested numerous smartwatches for iPhones and Android devices, along with fitness trackers that have some smarts. I've even worn six watches at once during three marathons over the past month, courting both ridicule and some lousy times. (I'm blaming the extra weight.)

    Smartwatches and fitness trackers are relatively early devices with a lot of growing up still to do. Temper your expectations, and you might be pleasantly surprised. Just don't go in expecting magic, because that's a recipe for disappointment.

    Your options will vary depending on whether you use an iPhone or Android, as most of these watches require a companion phone for their smarts. There are also big differences between all-in-one smartwatches and simpler gadgets that primarily track fitness.

    ---

    SMARTWATCHES FOR ANDROID:

    - Samsung's Gear S2 (starts at $300)

    Samsung smartwatches have improved tremendously. Instead of swiping through screen after screen, you now rotate the watch's circular outer ring to select apps or view notifications. The watch faces can display information ranging from stock quotes and headlines to sports scores. I tracked some Mets games that way, though the watch doesn't guarantee a win.

    The main shortcoming: limited apps. The Gear S2 works with Android phones but doesn't run Android apps, putting it in a kind of limbo. A few apps from big-name partners like Yelp, The Wall Street Journal and Nokia's Here (for maps) are available, and Uber is coming soon. But most apps I looked for weren't there.

    As for exercise, the watch mostly tracks footsteps and heart rate. Its mileage calculation is way off unless you're also carrying a phone with GPS. Alternatively, you could consider the Gear model with both GPS and 3G data for about $50 more, plus an additional $5 or $10 a month for the data plan.

    The Gear S2 works with most Android phones, though some features specifically require a Samsung phone.

    ---

    - Android Wear (starts at $129)

    Several companies make smartwatches that run Google's Android Wear software. I tried the cheapest, Asus's ZenWatch 2, as a starting point. You can pay more for better bands, features such as built-in GPS or sheer luxury - right up to $1,500 for a model Tag Heuer developed with Intel and Google.

    Android Wear has also gotten better. One swipe gets you apps, with recently used ones on top. Swipe again for contacts and again for common tasks. The screen can stay on without draining the battery, something rare in a smartwatch. App selection has also improved; many apps available for the Apple Watch now have Android Wear versions.

    Sony's GPS-enabled SmartWatch 3 worked well for me while running, but other non-GPS devices, including the ZenWatch, were more frustrating. The main health app, Google Fit, doesn't let you start or stop workouts manually, with or without GPS. It relies on automatic detection and accused me of walking parts of my marathons, even though I didn't (really!). Several apps offer manual controls, but require built-in GPS or a phone, which can be a pain to carry on a run.

    You need an Android phone for full functionality. Android Wear works with the iPhone, but it's handicapped. You don't get turn-by-turn navigation on the watch, for instance, as I learned the hard way driving to Toronto with a Moto 360.

    ---

    SMARTWATCHES FOR IPHONES:

    - Apple Watch (starts at $349)

    Android Wear will work, but Apple Watch is the one you need for full functionality. Apple put a lot of thought into it, with the inclusion of a lefties mode and a passcode in case you leave it on a bathroom sink somewhere.

    Apple Watch stands out in fitness. Although the watch doesn't have GPS, it learns your walking and running patterns when you have the phone with you, so it's more accurate than other non-GPS watches when you leave the phone at home.

    Apple's smartwatch doesn't just count steps. Instead, it challenges - or nags - you to exercise at least 30 minutes a day and to take 12 walk breaks throughout the day. For a perfect score, you also need to burn a certain number of calories - determined by your age, sex, weight and fitness level. With rival devices, I meet my default goals easily. With Apple Watch, even an eight-mile morning run isn't enough. Bring on the challenge!

    Apple Watch lacks advanced features found in sport-specific devices. I rely on a Garmin running watch during workouts, but Apple Watch nudges me the rest of the day.

    Battery life isn't as good as Samsung and many Android Wear devices, though I made it through the recent marathons with plenty to spare by turning off the heart-rate monitor.

    ---

    FITNESS FOCUSED, FOR IPHONE, ANDROID OR WINDOWS:

    - Microsoft Band 2 and Fitbit Surge ($250 each)

    These are among the few fitness trackers with built-in GPS and heart-rate monitors. Don't confuse the Surge with cheaper Fitbit models, which mostly track footsteps. The Surge and the Band are limited smartwatches that can, for instance, notify you of new texts or calls. The Band also offers news headlines and a few apps from the likes of Starbucks and Facebook.

    But the Band's battery life doesn't cut it for heavy exercise. I outlasted the Band for all three 26.2-mile races. Even turning off the screen didn't keep it from dying before the finish, in one case just a third of a mile short. By contrast, the Surge lasted each race with plenty of charge to spare. Under normal use, the Surge lasts up to a week.

    Both are solid fitness companions - at least for shorter workouts, in the case of the Band. But neither is a replacement for a sport-specific device.

     

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    Save With Homemade Spice Blends
    We all like jazzing up our food with a little seasoning, but buying all those herbs and flavors can quickly swallow up your savings. Here are some easy recipes using ingredients you can get from the dollar store.

    Let's start the fiesta with some taco seasoning. Get the list of spices below, measure them out, put them in a jar and mix them up. In addition to tacos, this mix is great for popcorn, soup and scrambled eggs.

    For a delicious chili seasoning that will heat things up, just mix paprika, ground cumin, cayenne pepper, oregano and garlic powder. You'll love the added flavor this adds to your chili, burgers and french fries.

    For that New Orleans kick, try some Cajun seasoning. This seasoning will give an edge to your jambalaya or shrimp dishes that will be absolutely irresistible.

    And finally, no party dip is complete without Dill Seasoning. This mix is perfect for Mediterranean dishes that call for Tzatziki sauce along with tuna and chicken salads.

    All this might seem like extra work for some, but buying spices at the dollar store and mixing at home can save you up to 90 percent compared to store bought blends. Give these recipes a try and you'll see that making your own seasoning can spice up your savings.

    Taco Seasoning:
    1 tbsp chili powder
    ¼ tsp garlic powder
    ¼ tsp onion powder
    ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
    ¼ tsp dried oregano
    ½ tsp paprika
    1 ½ tsp cumin
    1 tsp salt
    1 tsp pepper

    Chili Seasoning:
    1 tsp paprika
    2 tsps ground cumin
    1 tsp cayenne pepper
    1 tsp oregano
    2 tsps garlic powder

    Cajun Seasoning:
    1 tsp cayenne
    2 tsp garlic powder
    1 tsp onion powder
    ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
    1 ¼ tsp dried oregano
    2 ½ tsp paprika
    1 ½ tsp cumin
    2 tsp salt
    ½ tsp pepper

    Dill Seasoning:
    1 tsp dried dill
    1 tbsp dried parsley
    1 tbsp dried onion flakes
    1 tsp salt

    View Poll



     

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    Millions of people share their bank account passwords with third-party sites and apps that help them track their spending, but some of the biggest financial institutions, wary of hacking risks, are trying to scare people into not using them.

    JPMorgan Chase & Co and Capital One Financial Corp, for example, warn on their websites that customers could be liable for any fraud in their accounts - even though federal regulations say otherwise.

    Capital One's site (here) tells users: "If you choose to share account access information with a third-party, Capital One is not liable for any resulting damages or losses."

    Chase (here) admonishes, "If you give out your chase.com user ID and password, you are putting your money at risk."

    The warnings were enough to cause Morris Armstrong, a registered investment adviser and enrolled agent in Danbury, Connecticut, to recently close his account with Mint.com, a so-called aggregator website and a division of Intuit Inc.

    "People are hacking left and right. You don't want to make it easier," Armstrong said.

    However, the same warnings infuriated heavy Mint user Mark Ranta, head of digital payments at ACI Worldwide Inc, who says the banks are far more worried about competition from these aggregation sites than about electronic safety.

    "Mint makes it so I don't have to go to the individual bank sites," said Ranta. "They [banks] don't have the opportunity to cross-sell me."

    The banks' warnings, however, are off base.

    Federal banking rules known as Regulation E (here) sharply limit customers' liability for unauthorized electronic transactions from their accounts, provided they report the fraud promptly.

    The rules say that customers' negligence - such as writing a PIN on a debit card - does not increase their liability.

    A customer would be on the hook for unauthorized transactions if she gives her card or credentials "and grants authority to make transfers to a person (such as a family member or co-worker) who exceeds the authority given," the rules say. Customers are fully liable for the transfers until they notify the financial institution that the person is no longer authorized to use the account.

    That is the passage that Chase and other banks point to when warning people they may be liable if they share credentials with a third party.

    But Lauren Saunders, associate director and managing attorney of the National Consumer Law Center, calls the banks' position "ridiculous." Sites such as Mint collect data about transactions but typically are not authorized to make transactions, said Saunders.

    "When you give Mint your bank password, you don't give them permission to make transfers," Saunders said. "You don't need to be a lawyer to understand that you are not a consumer who 'grants authority to make transfers.'"

    Even when people use a bill-pay app that does move money, they are granting access to the app - not to hackers who steal their credentials.

    "You are still outside the provision about giving someone an access device because you didn't give the hacker permission," Saunders said.

    Who would be liable, though, is an unsettled question of great concern to banks. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that JPMorgan Chief Executive Jamie Dimon discussed with Consumer Financial Protection Bureau chief Richard Cordray the security risks posed by aggregators.

    Chase and the CFPB declined comment. Intuit declined comment on the banks' warnings, saying in a prepared statement: "Delivering secure and seamless connectivity is a shared priority across Mint and thousands of our financial institution partners."

    It is worth pointing out that Mint has never had to announce a security breach - unlike Chase, which last year reported a cyber attack had compromised 83 million of its accounts.

    Making people reluctant to use account aggregators could just make them more vulnerable to fraud. Mint and other account aggregators can help people spot unauthorized transactions that might otherwise go unnoticed, said independent journalist and technology expert Bob Sullivan, author of "Stop Getting Ripped Off."

    Rather than scaring people, the financial sites and banks should work together to create a common secure standard for sharing information - one that might involve app-specific passwords, Sullivan said.

    (Corrects paragraph 7 to "payments at" instead of "payments company")

    (Editing by Beth Pinsker and Steve Orlofsky)

     

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    By Rachel Grumman Bender

    When publicist Jennifer B.* was just starting out in her career, her job was so demanding that she tried to take a few shortcuts.

    "I was pitching all the major beauty and fashion publications, and I cut-and-pasted the same pitch into about 50-plus e-mails," she recalls. "I ended up addressing two top editors with the wrong names, so it was clear I was 'mass' pitching. It made me look incompetent and lazy. Huge mistake."

    Whether you're just starting out in your career or you've been working for decades, everyone messes up now and then.

    Sure, it's mortifying.

    But making some missteps and mistakes early on in your career is actually a critical part of growing-both professionally and personally.

    That's why we rounded up career pros to offer their insights on the workplace faux pas that have the potential to actually make you a better employee.

    Mistake #1: You Botch a Big Project

    You and your team have worked for months to finish an important initiative at work-only to discover that you made a big error and the project is way over budget.

    So instead of feeling triumphant about doing a great job, you're now worried about getting fired.

    What You Can Learn From It: "How you react can really make a difference in terms of how people view you from that point on," says Cheryl Palmer, a certified career coach at executive coaching firm Call to Career.

    Her advice? Go into damage control right away-and be sure to come clean with your boss and your team.

    "People respect it when you say you made a mistake," says Jessica Bacal, director of Smith College's Wurtele Center for Work & Life and author of "Mistakes I Made At Work: 25 Influential Women Reflect On What They Got Out of Getting It Wrong." "So have the conversation with your boss and own up to it-without being overly apologetic. You can say, 'This is a good lesson. And here's how I'm going to address it in the future.' "

    Mistake #2: You Do Something to Get Demoted

    There was a time when you were your supervisor's go-to person, but lately you've noticed that you aren't being asked to certain meetings-and other staffers are getting assignments that should be yours.

    You've been unofficially demoted.

    Aside from it being a hard-to-stomach blow to your ego, it can make you wonder if your job has hit a plateau-or worse, is on a downward spiral.

    What You Can Learn From It: This can be an opportune moment to take a step back and do an honest assessment of how you've been doing at work.

    Is it possible you've been dropping the ball lately, and that's why your supervisor is giving you fewer responsibilities? Are you feeling so overwhelmed that it's affecting your productivity and the quality of your work?

    Whatever the case, it can be helpful to your future career if you learn how to identify when things are derailing-and immediately take action to get your job back on track.

    Another wise move? Consider having a frank conversation with your boss about your concerns and ask for constructive feedback, suggests Bacal.

    Bottom line: You won't be able to turn things around if you aren't clear on what exactly the problem is.

    So if you think you're in hot water because you've taken on too much, says Bacal, you can work with your supervisor to help you figure out which important tasks you should tackle first.

    "You can say to your boss, 'I really want to make sure I'm prioritizing correctly. Right now I'm working to get X done, and this additional assignment would push things back slightly,' " suggests Bacal.

    With this nuanced tact, you're not only managing expectations that your boss may have but also hopefully getting the guidance you need.

    "It's better to communicate and speak in an enthusiastic way about your career values and goals," she says, "than to under-communicate and watch things get taken away at work."

    Mistake #3: You Pretend to Know What You're Doing

    When you're starting a new job-or taking on a new role at your current gig-it's natural to have a case of "impostor syndrome."

    Translation: You feel like you don't quite know what you're doing, but you don't speak up about any concerns you may have out of fear.

    Well, it turns out that this predicament isn't necessarily a bad thing.

    What You Can Learn From It: For starters, know that everyone feels like they are faking it at work at times.

    "Whenever you're making a change and learning new skills, especially if you're in a leadership role, you're going to feel like an impostor," Bacal says. "It's part of the learning curve."

    But it is a mistake to think that just because you feel like you don't fit in, that automatically means the job isn't right for you.

    "It takes a long time to find your stride," Bacal explains. "It's O.K. to feel like that-and it doesn't mean there's something wrong with you."

    Eventually, if you give yourself time to build confidence, that impostor syndrome will fade and you'll feel secure in your ability to do your job.

    Mistake #4: You Stay in a Job Too Long

    In a tough economy it's understandable to be grateful to have a job-any job.

    But that doesn't necessarily mean you have to suck it up and stick with a gig that doesn't fulfill you on a personal and professional level.

    What You Can Learn From It: If you do feel like you're in a career rut, Palmer recommends shaking things up by discreetly doing some research.

    Talk to people at your level in other companies to see if they are having the same experience, she says, so you can better assess if what you are going through is comparable in your industry-or if your situation is uniquely problematic.

    "This is especially important for people who have gotten a job right out of college because they have nothing to compare it to," she adds. "So talk with others and get a reality check."

    And if you know you need to finally move on, don't beat yourself up over it, thinking you wasted precious time taking the wrong job in the first place.

    "People think they have to immediately find the perfect job, but in your 20s, you're still information-gathering," Bacal says. "In reality, each job will add to your skill set-even if it teaches you that you don't want to do anything like it again. That's a good mistake to make."


    *Name has been changed.

     

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    By Chris Taylor

    When Sara Davis Buechner began her transition from man to woman, she knew there were going to be emotional hurdles, like dealing with her family.

    But there were financial costs, too. And she knew they were going to be forbidding.

    Medical procedures like facial electrolysis cost $20,000. There was a year of therapy, required at the time to make sure Buechner, a renowned pianist, was a suitable candidate for transition - at $80 a session.

    Since American options were just too pricey, Buechner opted for surgery in Thailand. The tab? $10,000, including flights.

    This was in the early 2000s, and none of those costs were covered by insurers. She sold one of her two pianos, a Yamaha, to help foot the bill. "I emptied all my accounts," Buechner remembers. "And I consider myself one of the lucky ones."

    Buechner was more than willing to pay those high bills, because it was the culmination of something she had known since childhood: She was female, despite having been born as David.

    Transgender issues are more openly discussed these days, such as Caitlyn Jenner's transition from Olympic athlete Bruce Jenner. But the costs of transition can be overwhelming, especially for a population that is already marginalized.

    The Philadelphia Center for Transgender Surgery, for instance, lists menus of procedures for both male-to-female transitions and female-to-male that total well over $100,000.

    Meanwhile, corporations have been slow to help. According to the 2015 Employee Benefits Survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, just 5 percent of employers offer gender reassignment health care coverage to their staff.

    That is up since 2011, when only 2 percent of companies did so. But progress has so far only been incremental.

    Among larger companies, the numbers are more encouraging. One-third of Fortune 500 firms now offer healthcare coverage including transgender surgery and related medical costs, according to the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index report.

    In addition, the provisions of Obamacare - as well as state-specific laws in places like California, New York and Oregon - have been pushing plans towards transgender-inclusive health coverage, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality.

    "The policy environment is changing for sure," says Jody Herman, a scholar of public policy at UCLA's Williams Institute. "The way anti-discrimination laws are being interpreted is moving in the direction of saying that exclusions to trans-related healthcare are not acceptable."

    LOST WORK

    The costs of transition are not just medical, though. Buechner started losing recital engagements when venues found out about her personal story. She also had trouble booking any new ones.

    When she applied to become a music teacher at more than 30 U.S. colleges, she didn't get a single response. (She is now an associate professor at Vancouver's University of British Columbia.)

    No wonder so many transgender Americans are economically vulnerable. Fifteen percent report making less than $10,000 a year, according to the Center for American Progress, quadruple the average poverty rate.

    The No. 1 tip from financial advisers: Start financial preparations early.

    "Plan ahead, know what your costs are going to be, and what your insurance will cover and what it won't," says Paula Heichel, a financial adviser with Wells Fargo Advisors in Washington, D.C. who has counseled transgender referrals on their finances. "These cost are not to be taken lightly, and you have to be able to pay as you go."

    Indeed, with a long enough timeline, it might be worth the effort to seek employment at one of the 418 major U.S. companies which offer at least one transgender-inclusive employee health plan (here). Otherwise, the costs could be very significant indeed.

    "Just imagine, you have to take every stitch of clothing you own and put it in the garbage," Buechner says. "The best analogy I tell people is, 'What if you moved to Bolivia tomorrow, how much would it cost to start a totally new life?'"

    "The costs are enormous. Start counting."

    (Editing by Lauren Young and Cynthia Osterman)

     

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    By CHRIS TAYLOR

    What do you tell your financial adviser when you are leaving for an algorithm?

    Joe O'Connor, a 52-year-old Connecticut salesman, had to have this conversation recently. It was delicate business explaining why he was ditching the planner he had been with for over a decade, to put his money in the hands of what is known as a robo-adviser - a web-based service that automates the allocation of your investment portfolio.

    There were the usual responses: "But why?" "Was it something I did?" "What can I do to make it right?"

    And of course, there is the timeless relationship classic line: "It's not you, it's me."

    "It wasn't fun," O'Connor said.

    That kind of awkward conversation is taking place more frequently these days, thanks to the rise of robo-advisers, which have about $20.1 billion in worldwide assets under management for new entrants, according to Switzerland-based research firm MyPrivateBanking.

    Of course with total U.S. investable assets at $33.5 trillion, that is barely loose change under the couch cushions, industry analyst Michael Kitces points out. But projections are for heady growth with new robo-advisers expected to grow to $42.6 billion in 2016 and $86.7 billion in 2017.

    WHY LEAVE?

    Looking strictly at fees, robo-advisers offer certain advantages. Prominent site Betterment (betterment.com), for instance, charges .25 percent on accounts between $10,000-$100,000, and .15 percent above that. Competitor Wealthfront (wealthfront.com) has a similar cost structure, charging .25 percent for accounts worth $10,000 or more.

    Personal Capital (personalcapital.com), which Joe O'Connor uses, offers more of a blended service, combining its automated recommendations with humans (albeit primarily via video chat or email), charging .89 percent on portfolios up to $1 million.

    That is in comparison to traditional financial planners, who charge around 1 percent or more of assets annually. (Fee-only planners have their own payment structure, billing per planning session instead of charging a percentage of assets.)

    The low-fee logic of robo-advisers may work admirably for young savers starting out. In fact many users are converted Do-It-Yourselfers or Millennials with little investable cash, rather than mid-career professionals who have switched from existing planners, Kitces points out.

    WHY STAY?

    You may gain something by opting for low-fee robots - but you lose the long-term financial planning aspect.

    "I had a client recently leave for a robo. I told them robos are not financial planners," says Kashif Ahmed, an advisor in Woburn, Mass. "A robo will not call you when markets are going through a rough patch, and you can't call a robo to discuss your protection needs, or to ensure your estate documents are in order."

    As you age, and financial responsibilities start piling up - raising kids, dealing with insurance questions, running a business, coping with elderly parents, and so on - the advantages of dealing with an actual person become more evident.

    "At that point, when money has grown substantially, you may opt out of robo-investing and go find a real person," says Maggie Baker, a Philadelphia financial therapist and author of the book "Crazy About Money."

    Of course, it is not always fees that cause breakups with financial planners. Far from it. In fact, the number-one reason cited by millionaires for switching advisers is due to them not returning client phone calls, according to a report from research firm Spectrem Group.

    In cases like that, a robo-adviser is obviously no upgrade. After all, it is hard to get on the phone with an algorithm.

    HAVING 'THE TALK'

    Baker's advice for ditching your existing planner: Just be honest. It is likely that some negative event has caused you to look elsewhere - subpar returns, maybe, or a general lack of communication - and it could be something you can talk through and resolve.

    In fact, thanks to technological advances, you may not have to break up at all. Many firms, like Vanguard (vanguard.com) and Charles Schwab Corp , are gravitating towards two-tiered solutions - offering robo-allocations as a starter level, but also providing flesh-and-blood advisory services as a premium option.

    With more investors considering robots to steer their finances, though, you cannot escape the regret and bitterness that linger over broken relationships.

    "When a client decides to leave, I don't do anything," says Richard Colarossi, a planner in Islandia, New York. "If a client leaves to go to robo-adviser, let them go. My experience tells me that a majority of robo clients will shoot themselves in the foot."

    (Editing by Beth Pinsker and Diane Craft)

     

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    By Susan Johnston Taylor

    The National Retail Federation predicts that the average spending on food, gifts and other holiday costs this year will reach $805.65 per person, just slightly higher than last year's average of $802.45.

    Whether you're planning to spend more or less than average, forgetting to factor in extras like the holiday ham or a gift for your great aunt Mildred could derail your budget. Fortunately, there's still time to set aside some extra cash and plan your spending.

    Here's a look at several items we forget to include in our holiday budget.

    1. Holiday dinner. Hosting a holiday party? Expect your grocery bill to spike, especially if it's a sit-down dinner. "If you're going to have a ham or pork roast and have 20 people over, that can be really pricey," says Deacon Hayes, financial expert with WellKeptWallet.com and U.S. News My Money blog contributor. To minimize costs, make the meal potluck or BYOB, or serve appetizers or desserts rather than a full dinner. Also try to buy meat when it's on sale, as that's often the priciest part of the meal.

    2. Travel costs. Airlines for America, an industry trade organization, projects that the number of air travelers will rise 3 percent during this year's 12-day Thanksgiving travel period - averaging about 65,000 more passengers a day compared to last year - driven in part by lower airfare made possible by greater competition.

    If you're planning to fly in November or December, then cheaper airfare is welcome news. But with a growing number of airlines now charging for checked baggage, fees could wipe out the savings. If you're planning to check bags (maybe to carry presents or cold-weather apparel), Hayes suggests factoring that into your airline choice. "If you're a family of four, $50 extra per person is an extra $200," he says. (Remember, that's one-way.) Southwest Airlines lets passengers fly with two free checked bags, and you also may get free checked bags if you have an airline credit card or elite status with a particular airline.

    3. Self-gifting. Holiday sales can create the urge to "self-gift," buying items for yourself you might not normally buy while you're on the hunt for others on your gift list. NRF predicts that more than half (55.8 percent) of holiday shoppers will splurge on themselves and/or others for non-gift items, spending an average of $131.59.

    Even the experts aren't immune to this temptation. "I know that if I walk into Best Buy, I get distracted with all the cool gadgets in there," admits Kathleen Grace, a certified financial planner and managing director at United Capital's office in Boca Raton, Florida. "I was in there buying a tablet for my daughter's birthday, and I walked by the Fitbits." (She resisted the temptation but also dropped hints to friends in case they're looking for gift ideas for her.) Grace tries to shop online for this reason. Another way to prevent overspending on self-gifts is to give yourself a cooling off period. The desire for the item often dissipates a few days after you've left the store and given the purchase more thought.

    4. Festive outfits. Holiday party invites can bring the urge to buy a new outfit or two, whether for a black-tie dinner with clients or an ugly sweater party with roommates. "Is it necessary to buy a new outfit?" Grace asks. "It goes back to needs versus wants." If it's within your budget, it could make sense to invest in a few timeless, high-quality items you'll re-wear or inexpensive accessories that dress up items you already own.

    For trendier items you'll only wear once, consider swapping dresses or accessories with friends or renting through services like Rent the Runway. And for ugly sweaters, hit your local thrift store. You can always embellish with ribbon or fabric scraps if you want to up the kitsch factor.

    5. Extra gifts. If you're a planner, you've probably already set aside cash to buy gifts for close friends and family. But sometimes gifting needs creep up on us. "People forget about the one-off, the uncle or the aunt or the neighbor to give a gift," says Kimberly Foss, a certified financial planner and president and founder of Empyrion Wealth Management, which has offices in Sacramento, California, and New York. "Or going to holiday parties, they don't plan the expense to bring a gift." She suggests making a list of how many gifts you need to buy for the holiday season so you're not caught off guard.

    Surprises can still happen, like when you discover last-minute that your cousin's friend's roommate is coming to Christmas dinner or your co-worker surprises you with an unexpected gift card. For situations like this, Hayes suggests having a gift box in which you keep generic gifts in your house like candles or bottles of wine. "Another way to make sure everyone gets a gift without breaking the bank is to make some caramel popcorn, divide it into multiple smaller bags with ribbons on them and attach a small little personalized note," he says.

    6. Credit card interest. If you forget to plan for these items and go over budget, then credit card interest could be another unintended consequence of holiday spending. If you must carry a credit card balance, try to use the card with the lowest interest rate, or take advantage of a 0 percent introductory period and pay off the balance before the grace period ends.

    Foss recommends that clients shop with cash only so they can't overspend. She also suggests using Acorns, an Android and iOS app that automatically rounds up everyday purchases and invests the spare change for you. "I've done that for a year now, and most people are amazed [how quickly it adds up]," she says. That way, you won't have the guilt of extra credit card bills come January.

     

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    By Simon Constable

    If you own your home, should you buy real estate securities? It's a reasonable question because for many people, their home is a large portion of their overall wealth.

    A family with $500,000 in savings, including stocks and bonds, and a home valued at $300,000 would seem to be heavily invested in real estate. But that's probably not the best way to look at things - although your home may act as a store of wealth, history has shown it likely won't do much better than keep up with inflation. It probably won't beat the returns you'd get from the stock market.

    Here's why and how at least some real estate securities have a place in your investment portfolio.

    You can diversity your portfolio. Returns on real estate investments have low correlations to other investments, such as the broader stock and bond markets, says Jay Jacobs, director of research at exchange-traded fund provider Global X in New York. When the Standard & Poor's 500 index of large-capitalization stocks increases, you could see real estate stocks move up or down in price, or simply not move at all. That lack of correlation makes the value of an overall portfolio more stable over time. Given that investors view moves in value as a measure of risk, the lower the overall swings in a portfolio, the less risky it is considered.

    It can provide great dividends. Your home might give you psychic dividends, but your real estate investments can pay handsome cash dividends. Take real estate investment trusts - they tend to pay high dividends, with the Vanguard REIT ETF (ticker: VNQ) yielding close to 4 percent. It owns a basket of 144 REITs and has low annual expenses of 0.12 percent, or $12 per $10,000 invested.

    ADVERTISING

    Real estate provides tax benefits. REITs are also advantageous from a tax perspective, Jacobs says. As long as the REIT distributes at least 90 percent of its income to stockholders, it pays no corporate tax. Instead, the investor pays the tax of the dividend as ordinary income. Most Americans are in a lower tax bracket than the statutory 35 percent corporate rate, so the only loser is the Internal Revenue Service.

    Don't overdo it. Jacobs says alternative investments, such as commodities, master limited partnerships and real estate should make up only 20 percent of an overall investment portfolio, with real estate being only a quarter of that. So overall, real estate investments should be no more than 5 percent of your portfolio, he says.

    If you decide to buy individual REITs, you need to know that there are many different types, not just REITs for office buildings such as Brookfield Office Properties (BPO), says Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank in Chicago. Some invest in college dorms, such as American Campus Communities (ACC), which has a healthy 3.9 percent dividend. Another, Sun Communities (SUI), operates mobile home parks. There are other types, as well, for those inclined to look for specific exposure.

    For most people, buying a fund might make better sense. Ablin says investors might want to consider the iShares Dow Jones U.S. Real Estate ETF (IYR), which holds a wide basket of 119 real estate securities, mainly REITs. It yields 3.7 percent and has expenses of $43 a year per $10,000 invested.

    Outside of the REIT structure there are also homebuilder stocks, such as those held in the SPDR S&P Homebuilders ETF (XHB) and the home improvement retailers like Lowe's Corp. (LOW) and Home Depot (HD.) Such stocks are closely linked to the fortunes of residential markets, which are also dependent on the availability of credit to finance purchases. It is also a volatile sector, as the XHB ETF has underperformed the broader markets over the last decade. (That period included the housing crash.)

    Another advantage of buying securities is that it is possible to get exposure to foreign markets. "Globally, we are seeing the most attractive real estate opportunities in southern Europe - the economies have bottomed out," says Brian Schmidt, head of U.S. real estate at the Minneapolis-based institutional investment firm Varde Partners.

    While Varde is an institutional investor, the rest of us can look to funds that focus on specific geographies, such as the iShares Europe Developed Real Estate ETF (IFEU), which holds 97 stocks and annual expenses of $48 per $10,000 invested.

     

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  • 11/11/15--02:21: 26 Veterans Day Freebies
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    By Andrea N. Browne

    Many establishments will salute current and retired military members on or around Veterans Day on Wednesday, November 11, by serving up a variety of freebies -- from free meals to free haircuts.

    SEE ALSO: 7 Food and Drink Freebies and Deals in November

    We've rounded up a list of 26 special offers available to all veterans and active-duty military who show a valid proof of service on the designated date/time of the promotion. Take a look:

    Free Food for Veterans

    Applebee's: On November 11 (from open to close), dine-in customers can eat for free from a limited entree menu. Meal options include a chicken tenders platter, a chicken penne pasta dish and a 7-ounce sirloin steak meal. Special excludes drink and gratuity.

    Bar Louie: Get a free appetizer or entree up to $12 in value on November 10 and November 11.

    Bonefish Grill: Visit a participating location during normal restaurant hours and receive a complimentary order of Bang Bang Shrimp on November 11.

    Cheeseburger in Paradise Bar & Grill: Score a free burger with fries when you dine in at a participating location on November 11.

    Cracker Barrel: Get a complimentary double chocolate fudge Coca-Cola cake dessert on November 11.

    Craft Works Restaurants & Breweries: The craft brewery restaurant chain, which includes restaurants such as Gordon Biersch, Rock Bottom and Old Chicago Pizza, will offer a free craft beer to dine-in patrons on November 11. Participating locations that are prohibited from serving free craft beer will provide a free appetizer instead.

    Denny's: Visit a participating location on November 11, from 5 a.m. to noon and receive a free "Build Your Own" Grand Slam breakfast when you dine in.

    Ikea: Starting November 8 through November 11, get a free entree meal, which includes a sandwich, hot dish or entree salad, when you dine in at the Ikea restaurant.

    Krispy Kreme: Pick up a free doughnut and small coffee on November 11. Offer valid in-store only.

    Little Caesar's: Stop by a participating location on November 11 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to receive a free lunch combo meal. This includes four slices of Little Caesar's Detroit-style deep dish pizza and a 20-ounce soft drink.

    Max & Erma: Dine in to receive a free America 3-Course Combo meal, which includes a cheeseburger, your choice of a cup of soup or side salad, fries, and a cookie on November 11, at participating locations.

    Olive Garden: Enjoy a free entree from a limited menu that includes cheese ravioli, chicken parmigiana and lasagna when you dine in. Any family members that dine with you will receive 10% off on their meals.

    Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt: Get one free 11-ounce cup of froyo any flavor (including the new Pumpkin Spice Latte and Salted Caramel Latte flavors) on November 11 at participating locations.

    Outback Steakhouse: Enjoy a free bloomin' onion and a beverage on November 11. Also, military personnel and their families get 15% off their orders starting November 12 through December 31.

    PDQ: Get a free sandwich or three chicken tenders on November 11 at participating locations.

    Red Lobster: Starting November 9 through November 12, get a free appetizer or dessert during normal restaurant hours. In addition to veterans and active-duty military, reservists can also get this freebie.

    Red Robin: Visit a participating location on November 11 to receive a free Tavern Double burger with bottomless steak fries.

    Spaghetti Warehouse: Buy one lasagna or original recipe spaghetti entree and get another free with this coupon starting November 9 through November 11.

    Starbucks: Pick up a free 12-ounce (tall) cup of hot brewed coffee on November 11 at participating locations.

    Texas Roadhouse: Dine in at a participating location on November 11 and get a free lunch entree from a special Veterans Day menu, plus a soft drink. Meal options include country fried chicken with two sides, pulled pork sandwich with fries and a sirloin steak with two sides.

    White Castle: In-store customers at participating locations can pick-up a free breakfast slider and a small coffee or small soft drink on November 11.

    Free Services for Veterans

    GetBellhops.com: Need help with a big move or lifting boxes around the house? Get the use of two free "bellhops" for one hour of work -- no strings attached -- to help you load/unload a truck, move items into a storage unit or even rearrange furniture around your house. This offer is valid starting November 13 through December 15.

    Great Clips: Stop by a participating location on November 11 to receive a free haircut card that's redeemable through December 31.

    Meineke: Get a free basic oil change on your vehicle on November 11.

    National Parks: Admission into all National Parks sites is free on Veterans Day.

    Sports Clips: The men's hair salon chain will be serving up free haircuts on November 11.

     

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    By MARK MILLER

    The United States needs a sleek new vehicle for workplace retirement saving, something that covers the millions of workers who do not have a 401(k) or traditional pension. But on Wednesday, the White House rolled out a kid's bike with training wheels instead, otherwise known as the myRA.

    The U.S Treasury has been beta-testing the plan for the past year and just now is rolling it out nationally to address the serious problem of so many workers not having retirement plans.

    In 2013, just 40 percent of U.S. households owned any type of retirement account - IRA, 401(k) or traditional pension - down from 48 percent in 2007, according to the Federal Reserve Board's triennial Survey of Consumer Finances released in September 2014.

    The myRA is a nice start, but only if it leads to something bigger - much bigger, in fact.

    One problem is that the accounts are not designed to generate meaningful retirement savings on their own because they cannot hold balances higher than $15,000. At that point - or earlier - accounts must be rolled over to a private Roth account.

    As a starter account, the myRA functions as a federally sponsored Roth IRA. The accounts are open to workers with annual income up to $131,000 (single tax filers) or $193,000 (filing jointly). They are subject to the usual annual IRA contribution limits: $5,500 for individuals, or $6,500 for savers age 50 or higher.

    Some employers will offer their workers access, and take contributions through payroll deductions. Individuals can also sign up on their own through myRA.gov (myra.gov) or by calling 855-406-6972. Accounts can be funded from a paycheck, bank account or a federal tax refund.

    Like any Roth, the contributions come from post-tax money and contributed funds can be withdrawn without tax or penalty. The earnings can be withdrawn penalty-free in certain situations before age 59-1/2.

    But unlike most IRAs, there are no fees or minimum contribution levels, and the principal is guaranteed by the Treasury - you cannot lose money.

    HELPING PROBLEM SAVERS

    Here is another difference between the myRA and garden variety Roth and traditional IRAs: There is only one investment option. MyRA accounts earn interest at the same variable rate paid on the Government Securities Fund offered to federal employees in the Thrift Savings Plan. That fund returned 2.31 percent in 2014 and has had an average annual return of 3.19 percent over the 10-year period ending December 2014. That is barely enough to keep even with inflation.

    So where is the powerful vehicle we need - or at least a racing bike?

    One solution that could work is a national auto-IRA, which the Obama administration has been asking Congress to approve since 2010 - an idea that has faced opposition from Republicans because of its mandatory participation feature.

    A similar program created in the United Kingdom in 2008 has already signed up 34,000 employers and 2.5 million workers, and it features mandatory employer matching contributions, with accounts invested in target-date funds. Some U.S. states are also trying their own solutions, particularly California and Illinois.

    "MyRA is a tool - state initiatives are a solution," says David John, senior strategic policy advisor at AARP.

    John thinks myRA will work with the audience it is targeting - people who have not been in the habit of saving - especially because of the guarantee that you cannot lose money. "Saving is like exercise. It's a habit you get into and build. So long as you have a positive experience, you get acclimated and keep going."

    (Editing by Beth Pinsker and Jonathan Oatis)

     

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