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    Christmas shopping
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    While you shop for gifts for your friends and family members this holiday shopping season, don't fall victim to the schemes that retailers use to take advantage of your holiday spirit and eagerness to get a good deal. Learn the most popular retail tricks and why they often work so you can avoid or overcome them this holiday season.

    1. They Relax You With Carefully Chosen Music

    Think of how noise around you often affects your mood. Head into a store with loud, disruptive music or yelling, and you'll likely want to get your shopping done and get out of there as soon as possible.

    But research reported by the American Psychological Association and European Journal of Scientific Research shows that when you go into a store with relaxing music, you are much more likely to spend more time in the store. Spending more time in a store can lead to spending more money before you leave.

    Shoppers who hear classical music while shopping, for example, might spend more money than they planned because classical music is connected to the perception of affluence, reported U.S. News. This tactic is used more frequently during the holiday season, according to retail specialist Mari Corella, who has worked with large national retailers such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Williams-Sonoma and Sears.

    "Retailers pump Christmas songs through their stores to invoke emotions of nostalgia and generosity, all leading to a greater basket size," said Corella.

    2. They Use Scents to Get You to Spend More Money

    Just as retailers use music to play to your sense of hearing during the holiday season, they also use holiday-specific scents to try to increase your will to spend money, Corella said. "Retailers often scent their stores during the holidays with seasonal fragrances such as gingerbread and pine," she said. "Similar to Christmas music, this tactic invokes a sense of warmness and generosity, all leading to larger purchases."

    This tactic is used by small and large businesses and can be especially effective when the scent complements music being played, according to Bruce Sanders, a retail consultant, consumer psychologist and author of "Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers."

    "Small retail stores use candles, and large retailers use fragrance diffuser machines," Sanders said. "If Christmas music and Christmas scent in the store match up, people say they like the store and merchandise better and are more likely to shop at the store."

    Sensory experiences can play a large role in your perception of a store and brand. The more pleasant a shopping experience is, the more likely you'll walk out the door with less money in your hand.

    3. They Take Advantage of Nostalgia

    Retailers frequently sell items that appeal to people's feelings of nostalgia, such as a '50s-style dining set, an old-school video game system or a retro turntable.

    Gifts that trigger a memory or inspire a young person to try something from the past can offer richness that general gifts like candles cannot, according to Fortune Magazine.

    Creating these feelings of nostalgia seem to have a significant impact on the spending behaviors of shoppers. Nostalgia led shoppers to pay more money for products and value their money less, according to a study from the Journal of Consumer Research.

    4. They Use Bulk Pricing

    You might be accustomed to seeing "buy two for the price of one" deals, but you can expect even more of them -- and larger bulk offers -- during the holidays.
    Grocery stores, in particular, use this tactic frequently, such as by offering 10 items for $10, making you think you have to buy 10 to get the $1-an-item deal. But, usually, you can get the deal price regardless of how many items you buy.

    Research has shown that adding the sentence "maximum 8 cans per customer" to the price tag of soup cans caused sales to increase by giving the illusion of a great discount even if none was offered, according to Time Magazine.

    5. They Use the Number 9

    While shoppers are accustomed to the majority of retail items going for prices such as $39.99 instead of $40, not many shoppers stop to think about why merchandise is priced this way. Not using round numbers is another trick intended to make you spend more, according to William Poundstone, author of "Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value."

    In his book, Poundstone looks at eight different studies on the use of what is called "charm prices" and found that using this pricing method increased sales on average by 24 percent when compared to the use of rounded, even pricing. While this pricing structure probably won't change anytime soon, customers should just remind themselves that while $39.99 looks cheaper than $40, it's only a 1 cent difference.

    6. They Play Tricks on Your Eyes

    Stores often put items with the best price margins for them right at eye level for you so that you see them easily. Items that are better buys for the customer -- and therefore not as profitable for the retailer -- are more likely to be found at the bottom or top of an aisle.

    "This is a classic retail tactic," Corella said. "Eye level is such valuable real estate that retailers charge manufacturers to have placement there. This cost is then passed on to the consumer. And kids are not exempt from this tactic either, as products targeted towards children are placed at their eye level."

    7. They Mark Up Prices Before the Holidays

    Kyle James, founder of Rather-Be-Shopping.com, a site that helps consumers save money, said the holiday season is notorious for what is called "high-low pricing," which often tricks consumers into thinking they are getting a much better deal than they really are.

    "[High-low pricing] is when retailers have relatively high everyday prices, then release 'holiday' coupons to make you think you're getting an amazing discount via the coupon," said James. "In reality, retailers that use high-low pricing know they'll sell minimal items at full retail, and if they do, it's a bonus."

    James said you'll likely see this tactic used as many popular retailers during the holidays including Ann Taylor, JCPenney, Kohl's and Old Navy.

    8. They Convince You to Buy Gift Sets

    Head into a place like Bath and Body Works or Williams-Sonoma, and you'll find plenty of gift sets, whether it's a set of lotion, body wash, and perfume or a BBQ essentials kit. These gift sets even come in nice packaging, which means you have a beautiful-looking gift ready to go.

    Gift sets seem like a great deal because the value of all items priced together is typically lower than if you were to buy them separately. The stated value of the set, however, is the full retail of all items in it, so it can sometimes be cheaper to buy the items separately if they are on sale, Corella said. Buying gift sets also can lead to overspending, she said.

    "This is also an upsell tactic where you come in to buy a single item but end up with a gift set because it seems like you get so much more for just a few more dollars," Corella said.

    9. They Skew Perception With New Luxury Items

    The holiday season is a popular time for some retailers to mix luxury items into their product assortment so that prices on their regular items look much more reasonable by comparison, Sanders said.

    "When Neiman Marcus publicizes their annual Christmas Book, they highlight the Fantasy Gifts, which for 2015 include a $125,000 bourbon tasting tour and a $90,000 balloon ascent to the edge of space," Sanders said. "Leading off by thinking about these, the Christmas Book browser starts to consider that $895 price for a designer triacetate-and-polyester gown as a little more down to earth. The price of the first item considered becomes an anchor for what the shopper expects to pay."

    10. They Make Finding Clearance Items Hard

    Clearance racks or shelves are often located all the way in the back of a store or hidden as much as possible because retailers want you to have to walk through the entire store to get to them, according to Business Insider. By walking through this layout, you're more likely to see higher priced items and potentially buy them. Once you do find the clearance section, it's purposefully in a state of disarray. True bargain shoppers don't mind sifting through the mess to find the great deals, but the average shopper is more likely to be turned off by the obstacle and instead buy non-clearance items, letting the retailers win.

    While shopping this holiday season, be aware of these tricks that retailers use to try to outsmart you so that you can instead outsmart them and buy only what you really want. Your wallet and bank account will thank you.

    This story, Avoid These 10 Retail Scams That Target Holiday Shoppers, originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com.

     

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    santa claus holding piggy bank...
    Shutterstock
    By Brian O'Connell

    Americans will spend more than they planned this holiday season, especially the case for parents buying their children presents. And they know it -- resigning themselves to a fate of profligate consumerism.

    That's the gist of a recent study from T. Rowe Price, titled "2015 Parents, Kids & Money." In it, the financial services giant states 62 percent of parents say, "I'll spend more for my kids over the holidays than I should have." And though 56 percent of parents will tap their bank account to pay for the holidays, some 47 percent will rely primarily on credit cards in a November and December shopping spree, the report adds. Most troubling, a small minority of parents will raid their retirement accounts and their emergency funds to pay for holiday shopping.

    That's not a good idea, financial experts say.

    "It's always tempting to splurge around the holidays, but parents aren't doing themselves or their kids any favors by overspending," says Stuart Ritter, a senior financial planner at T. Rowe Price. "We're all inclined to be more generous this time of year, and it's important to be mindful of the financial trade-offs we're making and stick to a budget that aligns with our priorities."

    That's all well and good, but a holiday splurge should be weighed against more pressing personal financial needs.

    "Our long-term goals, such as retirement savings and having an emergency fund, should always take priority over anything that is presented with a bow and purchased during a Black Friday sale," Ritter adds. "Kids will always have long wish lists, and it's good for them to know that there isn't enough money in the family budget to cover everything. Challenging them to prioritize their wants and make trade-offs is essential to helping them develop critical financial capabilities."

    T. Rowe Price reports acrimony comes part and parcel with excessive holiday spending. "Parents who overspend on holiday purchases are more likely to argue," the report states. "50 percent of the parents who overspent on the holidays argue about money with their spouse, while only 27 percent of parents who did not overspend argue about money with their spouse."

    To keep a firm grip on spending over the next six weeks, leave the credit cards at home, or far away from any digital device you might use, to pay for the holidays.

    "Try using cash for most of your purchases," says Christopher McGill, chief executive officer at East River Bank in Philadelphia. "People who use it spend more wisely and are more accountable."

    Also, have a strict sending plan in place before you embark on any holiday shopping excursions, online and offline. "Keep your impulses in check by doing your homework before you shop, browse, and buy," says Kristina Michniak, global apparel manager at Greensburg, Pennsylvania-based Spreadshirt. "Set your budgets and timelines before you switch to shop mode before you are sucked in by holiday ads, promos, and pressures."

    Steve Siebold, author of the book "How Rich People Think" advises consumers not to fall for marketing campaigns that make you feel as if you're getting a great deal when you're really not (i.e., buy it today -- pay for it tomorrow). "Also, allocate a certain amount of money for each person you plan on buying gifts for and don't overspend by even a dollar," he adds. "Don't even think of using a credit card unless you are 100 percent sure you can comfortably pay it off at the end of the month. Don't get caught up in the moment. If your shopping cart is overflowing, step back, regroup and make sure you can really afford everything you plan to purchase."

    When the holidays are over, plan way ahead for 2016 and set up a savings plan for next Christmas, thus cushioning any potential financial blow down the road.

    "After the holidays, set up a separate savings account for your holiday season 2016, and put money from every paycheck into a savings account separate from all other money for next year," says Julie Murphy Casserly, a certified financial planner and author of the book "The Emotion Behind Money." "So, if you want to spend $1,200 in December 2016, and you're paid two times per month, then take $50 per check and put it into the separate savings account."

    Electronic savings accounts are the best for this tactic, Casserly says.

    If you do overspend for the holidays, you're not alone. Even so, it doesn't have that to be that way. Stay within your budget and you'll still have a great time during the holidays.

     

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    girl at atm
    Shutterstock


    It appears that size matters, at least when millennials are selecting a bank.

    Young Americans (between 18 and 34) are increasingly ditching big banks and taking their business to smaller, local banks and credit unions, according to a recent banking survey from Accenture.

    While large national and regional banks lost 16 percent of millennial banking customers last year, community banks saw a 5 percent increase in young account holders and credit unions experienced a 3 percent bump.

    Most of the time, a millennial's decision to dump a big bank comes down to money, more specifically banking fees. Larger financial institutions typically charge customers more for overdrafts, ATM withdrawals, account maintenance and other services than their smaller counterparts, who often offer free checking and no monthly fees.

    Millennials also noted that big banks tend to have weaker loyalty reward programs.

    According to the survey results, "millennials choose their banks for online banking services, reasonable fees, branch convenience and loyalty rewards programs."

    In an interview with Bloomberg, Cam Fine, president and chief executive officer of Independent Community Bankers of America, said: "Millennials in particular crave more high-touch. They want to make sure people are paying attention [to their needs.]"

    The Accenture survey also found that as a group, millennials switch their banks at nearly double the rate of other banking customers. Last year, 18 percent of millennials switched their primary bank.
    According to the report, millennials do their homework before selecting or swapping banks. They research the prices banks charge for services and check out consumer banking reviews online.

    "Banks that try to retain millennial customers by serving them like they have served their parents and grandparents do so at their own peril," the report said.

    Banking experts said there's a good chance that smaller banks that win millennials' loyalty now could keep them as customers in the future.

    How did you choose your bank? Are you with a big bank or a community bank? Share your comments 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!

    Credit Unions Vs Banks: Which Is Better?

     

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    Thanksgiving Travel Outlook
    Gregory Bull/APNo one will be smiling if you go too fast and get slapped with a speeding ticket.
    By Trent Hamm

    The holidays are nearly upon us, with many families driving long distances to spend time with each other in the next weeks. Road trips are also an annual part of my family's holiday traditions, with our extended families living at least three hours away (and many relatives even farther).

    Along the way, we've developed a lot of strategies for minimizing the cost of such road trips. Here are seven tactics anyone can pull off before and during long drives.

    Fill your tires with air before you leave. Check your owner's manual and find out the maximum recommended pressure for your tires. Then stop at a gas station, and fill your tires to that pressure. All you need is a small pressure gauge, which most gas stations and convenience stores sell; if you need detailed instructions, check your owner's manual.

    This saves money in two ways. First, automobiles with tires filled to the recommended level get better gas mileage than cars with tires that have lower pressure. Second, low pressure in your tires increases the chance of a blowout, so if you fill them up to the recommended pressure, you'll reduce your chance of an unwanted (and expensive) roadside stop.

    Fill your tank with gas before you leave. This is an indirect strategy for saving money. When you're on the road and you stop to fill up for gas, it often can be tempting to go inside and get a cup of coffee or a soda or a snack. Gas station prices can be expensive, so this is just money disappearing from your pocket.

    The best strategy we've found to battle this expense is to simply fill up our car with fuel before we leave. If we do this right before departing, there is minimal temptation to stop inside for a snack, which keeps money in our pocket where it belongs.

    Pack snacks and meals. Another tactic for avoiding unnecessary convenience store expenses is to simply pack some snacks and beverages and even full meals before you leave. Choose items from your pantry, make sandwiches before you go, fill up a few water bottles and you'll have far less need to make an expensive stop.

    Drive the speed limit. The obvious reason for doing this is to avoid getting pulled over, which could result in a very expensive traffic ticket. However, there's another, more subtle reason -- cars tend to be more fuel efficient when you drive at around 55 mph. The faster you go, the less fuel efficient they become, meaning you're going to spend more money on fuel just to cover the same distance. You might save five minutes an hour of driving by speeding, but over a long trip, that can add up to another stop at a gas station, which loses some of that time advantage and also gobbles up more money.

    Keep updated registration and proof of insurance in the car. If you do get pulled over, that stop is going to be far less painful if you have proof of insurance and registration in the car, conveniently available. If you don't have these documents, you can expect a much more expensive traffic ticket. It's well worth spending 10 seconds (and the 10 minutes it might take to print new ones if you can't find them) to make sure you have these documents in your car to avoid the possibility of hundreds of dollars in tickets.

    Refill your gas on the cheaper side of state borders. If you're crossing any state borders, you'll likely find very different gas prices on each side of that border. It can be well worth your time to stop just before crossing a state border -- or holding out until after a border crossing -- to get cheaper fuel. You can check out varying prices at GasBuddy's national gas price map. Some borders have a surprisingly large difference in fuel prices. The Iowa-Missouri border, for instance, can have as much as a 40-cent a gallon difference.

    Avoid toll roads, even if it adds more miles to your trip. Toll roads can be a large additional expense on your journey, easily adding $10 or more to the trip. Thankfully, many online mapping tools like Google Maps can provide you with alternate routes to your destination that avoid toll roads. Adding another few minutes to your trip to avoid several tolls can end up saving you quite a lot of money.

    Just a little bit of advance planning and some smart choices on the road can save you lots of cash on a holiday road trip. Using these strategies, you'll arrive at your destination with plenty of money still in your wallet where it belongs.

    Trent Hamm is the founder of the personal finance website TheSimpleDollar.com, which provides consumers with resources and tools to make informed financial decisions.

     

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    the cost of healthcare
    Shutterstock
    By Dan Rafter

    There's only one time you should buy short-term health insurance -- when you have no other option.

    "We call them Swiss-cheese policies," says Sarah O'Leary, founder and chief executive of national health care consumer advocacy group Exhale Healthcare Advocates. "They are less expensive because you get what you are paying for. I don't recommend that anyone stay with a short-term policy for long. And I recommend that people only pay for one if they have absolutely no other choice."

    What Is Short-Term Coverage?

    As the name suggests, consumers aren't supposed to take out short-term health policies for a long time. The insurers that market these policies pitch them as insurance that consumers can use to bridge the gaps when, for whatever reason, they are between more traditional, long-term health care insurance policies.

    Insurers say that the policies are right for consumers who are between jobs or for those who missed their employers' open enrollment periods and don't want to go months without health insurance coverage. Consumers who think that temporary insurance granted by the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act -- which allows former employees to continue their health insurance coverage after leaving their jobs -- is too expensive might consider signing up for short-term health insurance, too.

    O'Leary, though, said that short-term health insurance should always be treated as a last option for consumers. COBRA insurance, if consumers can afford the higher premiums, is a better choice. And traditional long-term health insurance policies always provide better coverage.

    Lack of Coverage

    Short-term health insurance policies have become even less appealing under the Affordable Care Act. Since they have so many holes in coverage, they don't even meet the Affordable Care Act requirement that consumers carry adequate health insurance. Those relying on short-term health insurance policies will be subject to the same tax penalties as people who have no insurance.

    Short-term health insurance policies usually don't cover maternity care, treatment for mental illnesses, routine office visit, or preventative care. Because they don't follow the mandates of the Affordable Care Act, short-term health policies also aren't required to provide coverage for pre-existing medical conditions.

    "Maternity care and delivery usually aren't included. That's a big one," O'Leary said. "That can cost you up to $40,000 if you don't have the right coverage. You don't see much preventative care covered, either. The holes in these policies can add up to a lot of money."

    The Last Resort

    When do these policies make sense? O'Leary says that you should consider them only if you really don't have any other choices for insurance.

    "These policies are better than no coverage at all," O'Leary said. "And that's about it."

    Say you are switching jobs. You might sign up for a short-term health policy if you know that the gap in your insurance coverage will be especially brief. Some consumers would rather pay the lower premium prices that come with short-term insurance than the higher ones that come with COBRA, which provides far more comprehensive coverage.

    Maybe you missed the open-enrollment period to sign up for a traditional health insurance policy, and you don't expect a qualifying life event in the near future that would allow you to sign up before the next open enrollment. A short-term health insurance policy will provide at least some coverage before that enrollment period rolls around again.

    If you have no other choice but to take out a short-term health insurance policy, make sure to ask your provider exactly what coverage you are getting for your money. You don't want to be surprised by a big medical bill when you visit your doctor.

    Have you ever relied on a short-term health insurance policy?

     

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    Jared Fogle Sentenced to Over 15 Years in Child Porn Case

    By RICK CALLAHAN

    (Note: This story contains graphic testimony about the defendant's sexual history.)

    A judge sentenced former Subway pitchman Jared Fogle to more than 15 years in prison on Thursday for trading in child pornography and having sex with underage prostitutes.

    U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Walton Pratt disregarded prosecutors' recommendation that Fogle get 12½ years behind bars, opting for a stiffer sentence of 15 years and eight months in prison and ordering him to pay a $175,000 fine. She could have sentenced him to up to 50 years in prison.

    In explaining her sentence, Pratt noted how fortunate Fogle was to land his lucrative deal to be Subway's spokesman after losing a lot of weight in college.

    "What a gift, to have such a professional windfall fall in your lap," she said, adding that "Mr. Fogle was living a double life for many of those years."

    Before learning his sentence, the 38-year-old father of two addressed the court, apologizing for the damage he did to his victims and family and vowing to be a better person when he gets out of prison.

    "I so regret that I let so many of you down," he told the court.

    "I want to redeem my life. I want to become a good, decent person. I want to rebuild my life," he said.

    Fogle pleaded guilty to one count each of traveling to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor and distribution and receipt of child pornography, as per a deal he struck with prosecutors in August. The charges followed a July raid on his suburban Indianapolis home.

    Before Fogle addressed the court, the two sides called witnesses. Fogle's lawyers called John Bradford, a professor at the University of Ottawa in Canada, who testified by phone.

    Bradford said he analyzed Fogle on Aug. 17, two days before Fogle agreed to his plea deal, and concluded Fogle suffers from hypersexuality, mild pedophilia, and alcohol abuse and dependency.

    He said he took Fogle's sexual history, including his sexual interests and tested him to determine what images caused Fogle to be sexually aroused. He said Fogle also told him that he had "a fairly extensive history" of using prostitutes for sex. Under cross-examination, Bradford said Fogle admitted to paying a minimum of about $12,000 a year for sex.

    "He certainly engaged in sex over a significant period of time. He engaged in that extensively when he was working for the Subway Corp."

    And Bradford said Fogle told him he had engaged in sex with minors of 16 and 17 years of age and said that he had a sexual interest in teenagers.

    "He started viewing pornography in college and had a fairly extensive collection of pornography in college," Bradford said.

    Bradford said Fogle apparently had a compulsive eating disorder before he lost all of the weight that to him becoming the face of Subway, and that his hypersexuality seemed to develop shortly after he shed the extra pounds.

    He also said Fogle, whose wife filed for divorce on the day he agreed to plead guilty, admitted that he occasionally fantasized about children. "His main interest was in young females and some interest in adolescent males."

    Bradford said he concluded that Fogle suffered from "mild pedophilia."

    "I did believe that he did suffer from pedophilia, but it was pedophilia that did not involve acting out that with a child."

    Bradford said that Fogle told him he had fantasies about prepubescent females and had masturbated to those fantasies.

    "There's no evidence I have that he actually engaged in sex" with such children.

    In his plea deal, Fogle admitted that had sex at New York City hotels with two girls under age 18 -- one of whom was 16 at the time -- and paid them for that sex. He also acknowledged receiving child pornography produced by Russell Taylor, the former executive director of The Jared Foundation, a nonprofit Fogle started to raise awareness and money to fight childhood obesity.

    Authorities said Taylor secretly filmed 12 minors as they were nude, changing clothes, or engaged in other activities using hidden cameras in his Indianapolis-area residences to produce child pornography. Taylor has agreed to plead guilty to child exploitation and child pornography charges.

    Prosecutors said in a sentencing memorandum filed last week that Fogle received photos or videos from Taylor of eight of those 12 youths, and that some of those images were of girls as young as 12. Fogle could have stopped Taylor from victimizing some of minors, prosecutors have said, but he instead encouraged Taylor to produce additional child pornography.

    Fogle agreed to pay a total of $1.4 million to his 14 victims, with each getting $100,000. Before Fogle entered his guilty pleas Thursday, one of his attorneys told the judge that Fogle had paid 12 of the 14 victims and turned over the checks for the last two victims before the proceedings began.

    Fogle became a Subway spokesman after shedding more than 200 pounds as a college student, in part by eating the chain's sandwiches.

    Subway ended its relationship with Fogle after authorities raided his suburban Indianapolis home in July.

     

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    Fortune Global Forum - Day 2
    Kimberly White/Getty Images for FortuneYahoo CEO Marissa Mayer speaks during the Fortune Global Forum in San Francisco, California, earlier this month.
    By Devika Krishna Kumar and Lehar Maan

    Activist investor Starboard Value asked Yahoo to drop plans to spin off its stake in Alibaba Group due to tax concerns, and instead urged the company to sell its core search and display advertising businesses.

    Yahoo's current net cash holding and the funds raised from a sale of the business could be returned to shareholders through buybacks and dividends, Jeff Smith, Starboard's head, said in a letter Thursday to Yahoo.

    The hedge fund, calling itself a "significant shareholder" in Yahoo, said it made the letter public as its efforts to talk to the company privately over the past year hadn't borne fruit.

    Starboard had supported the planned spinoff of the Alibaba stake, currently worth about $30 billion, before the U.S. Internal Revenue Service in September denied Yahoo's request for a private letter ruling on whether the transaction would be tax free.

    Yahoo's shareholders could end up paying roughly $12 billion in taxes if the IRS deems the transaction taxable after the spinoff, expected to close by end-December. Yahoo was worth about $31 billion as of Wednesday's close.

    "If you stay on the current path, we believe the potential penalty for being wrong is just too great, and the potential reward for being right is not materially better than the other alternative," Smith said.

    Yahoo declined to comment. Yahoo (YHOO) shares rose as much as 1.6 percent, but were flat at midday. Alibaba (BABA) was up 1.4 percent.

    Starboard said Yahoo had snubbed its requests to appoint Smith as a board member at least four times in the last four months.

    Pivotal Research Group analyst Brian Wieser said Yahoo shareholders would likely back Starboard over the company's board if a proxy fight ensued.

    "It wouldn't be a very hard proxy fight for Starboard."

    Yahoo's search and display ad businesses, which account for a lions shares of total revenue, has been struggling and Chief Executive Marissa Mayer's efforts to revive the business have yielded little results.

    Many analysts attribute little or no value to the business and say Yahoo's worth lies in its Asian assets: the Alibaba stake and a 35 percent stake in Yahoo Japan Corp.

    Yahoo's core business could attract private equity firms, media and telecom companies as well as firms such as Softbank Group, SunTrust Robinson Humphrey's Robert Peck said.

    The Wall Street Journal reported on Starboard's proposals earlier Thursday.

     

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    Square Inc. Begins Trading On The NYSE Following IPO
    Getty ImagesJack Dorsey, CEO of Square Inc., stands outside the New York Stock Exchange. Shares of Square jumped more than 60 percent Thursday - the stock's first day of trading.
    By Noel Randewich

    NEW YORK -- Wall Street ended a little lower Thursday as falling health care stocks offset gains in Intel and other technology names while investors eyed an expected rate hike in December.

    A profit warning by UnitedHealth (UNH) led to a 5.7 percent drop in its stock, making the health insurer the biggest drag on the Dow Jones industrial average and the S&P 500. It also sent the shares of competitors Anthem (ANTM) and Aetna (AET) down more than 6 percent each.

    The S&P health care sector was the worst performer among the 10 major S&P sectors with a 1.63 percent decline.

    We think the Fed will raise rates in December, but it will be more important how they set expectations about subsequent rate increases.

    Adding to the pain in health care, Pfizer (PFE) fell 3.1 percent after reports that its talks to buy Allergan and redomicile in Ireland were in final stages. Allergan (AGN) lost 2.8 percent.

    Intel (INTC) jumped 3.4 percent after boosting its annual dividend. The chipmaker and Apple (AAPL), up 1.3 percent, added more upward pressure to the S&P 500 than any other stocks.

    Mobile payments company Square (SQ) soared 45 percent in its highly anticipated market debut, while dating website operator Match Group (MTCH) popped 23 percent on their first trading day.

    Data released Thursday appeared to support the Federal Reserve's view of a strengthening labor market ahead of its meeting next month. The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell last week.

    Minutes from the Fed's October meeting, released Wednesday, hardened expectations of a December interest rate hike and hinted at a cautious approach after that.

    Investors are increasingly pondering the pace of more rate increases in 2016, said David Carter, chief investment officer at Lenox Wealth Advisors in New York.

    "We think the Fed will raise rates in December, but it will be more important how they set expectations about subsequent rate increases," Carter said. "If the Fed sets an expectation that subsequent rate increases will be modest and measured, we think the equity markets can rally for some time."

    The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) closed 0.02 percent weaker at 17,732.75 points while the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GSPC) lost 0.1 percent to 2,081.24. The Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) edged 0.03 percent lower to 5,073.64.

    Seven of the 10 S&P sectors ended higher, led by utilities, up 1 percent.

    Winners and Losers

    After the bell, Nike (NKE) jumped 3.5 percent after it increased its dividend and announced a two-for-one share split.

    Gap (GPS) posted quarterly results that sent its shares down 4 percent.

    Tax software company Intuit (INTU) posted fiscal first-quarter results that pleased investors, pushing its stock 10 percent higher.

    During Thursday's trading session, Salesforce (CRM) jumped 4.3 percent after its quarterly adjusted profit beat estimates and the online sales software maker raised its full-year revenue forecast.

    NYSE advancing issues outnumbered decliners 1,585 to 1,478. On Nasdaq, 1,553 issues fell and 1,250 advanced. The S&P 500 showed 24 new 52-week highs and six lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 66 new highs and 109 lows.

    About 6.5 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, below the 7.3 billion daily average for the past 20 trading days, according to Thomson Reuters data. (Additional reporting by Abhiram Nandakumar

    Earnings Season
    These selected companies are scheduled to report quarterly financial results.
    • Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF)
    • Footlocker (FL)

     

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    Money Monitor: Organizing Your Finances Before Tying the Knot

    When my husband popped the question and I said yes, we saw it as nothing more than a deep commitment to each other. It was the most meaningful way we knew to express that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. It was all about love.

    But once we were married, we realized there was much more to marriage than just loving the other person. We had to pick out an apartment together. Buy furniture together. Grocery shop together. We were put in situations with each other that allowed our personalities to really shine through. And we learned a little something: We were two very different people.

    Never did this fact become clearer than when we approached spending money together. I kept my life stress-free by not worrying about costs or prices when I shopped. If I liked it and had the money, I bought it. My husband, Johnny, kept his life stress-free by analyzing and reanalyzing costs until he found the best deal. We were at extreme ends of the spending spectrum, and we were desperate to find some middle ground before our newlywed bliss became blissless.

    Budgeting Creates Our Path for Future Bliss

    We finally found one thing we both agreed on wholeheartedly: what we wanted for our future. And we realized that had to create a budget if we wanted to reach our goals. There'd be no more "he says" or "she says," just "the budget says." Here's what worked best for us.
    • Compromising. We worked on our budget together. It wasn't one person telling the other person what to do. Giving every dollar a name required compromise and lots of trial and error.
    • Goal setting. We set specific financial goals. We both wanted to become debt-free, but we needed a plan to get there. We decided how much debt we wanted to have paid down by the end of the month, by the end of six months, by the end of a year. Our big goal was to retire our combined $20,000 in debt in less than two years, all while saving money for retirement and a rainy day.
    • Keeping track. Even after we created a budget, there was still the matter of sticking to it. And we did that by tracking every cent. As soon as we spent money, we wrote it down to enter into a spreadsheet later. These were the days before nifty budgeting apps, and we weren't perfect, but we were consistent, which was the key to our success.
    Keeping a budget ended up strengthening our marriage since it helped to teach us communication and compromise. We went through some growing pains, but that spender and saver who married over seven years ago met that big goal, and we still compromise every day to save for the future. Thank goodness we decided to give budgeting a try.

     

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    Mature couple sitting on hall stairs at home
    Getty Images


    Talk about back from the dead. About 15 years ago, so-called reverse mortgages -- which let senior citizens pull out equity from their homes to supplement retirement income -- were just about buried in bad press. Too many bad products and bad deals gave them a terrible rep, said Casey Fleming, a mortgage adviser in Northern California.

    But that was then. Now there's a shift. "Reverse mortgages are becoming more popular, as baby boomers retire," said Jamie Hopkins, a professor of retirement at the American University of Financial Services in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. "In the next two to three years you will see a tremendous amount more. A lot of our wealth is built into home equity. This will be a saving grace for a lot of baby boomers."

    Both experts are right, but many things have happened that effectively have put reverse mortgages on the financial planning agenda for some baby boomers. The main thing is: boomers may need the money. Many are coming up woefully short when it comes to retirement savings and investments. But many have substantial equity in a home. They don't want to sell that home in many cases. Enter the reverse mortgage, which lets them pull out money to augment their other sources of retirement income. It is a loan that does not involve repayment, except out of the home's equity -- which happens only when the senior dies or moves out of the house (into assisted living, for example).

    Reverse mortgages also can be structured as a lump sum payout up front or -- what experts said is an increasingly popular option -- as a home equity line of credit, drawn on as needed.

    Understand: a generation ago, some seniors lost their homes in reverse mortgage deals gone bad. In other cases, after their death, heirs were dunned to make up losses on the home. Thus the bad rep -- very well deserved.

    But that can't happen now, said Hopkins, who elaborated that new rules issued by the federal government provide many protections for seniors who use a so-called HECM, a home equity conversion mortgage, available only through FHA approved lenders. Among the key changes: the FHA insures the loan, said Hopkins. "It's a non-recourse loan," he said. "If money is owed at death it's covered by the FHA insurance."

    Hopkins pointed to two more key changes:
    • Reduced the ability to take a large upfront sum out. "Borrowers can't pull all their equity out immediately," said Hopkins. When some seniors did that they found they had run out of money long before they were ready to leave their homes -- but they might have had to anyway. That is less likely now.
    • Income testing. "borrowers have to qualify for the HECM," said Hopkins.
    Qualify for a reverse mortgage? That's not how they once were structured but, said Fleming, that lack triggered a world of pain. Low income retirees would pull income out of their home, spend it, and then, sometimes, lose their residence because they could not pay property taxes, homeowners insurance, and ordinary maintenance.

    Added Fleming: "Creditworthiness is essentially not factor with a HECM, if they can meet their other obligations."

    That said, noted Fleming, reverse mortgages aren't for everyone. A boomer who wants to leave a generous inheritance to his kids may flinch at a reverse mortgage because it will eat into the nest egg.

    Another reason to look twice at reverse mortgages, per Fleming: "They are very expensive." He pointed to the cost of title insurance, the FHA insurance premium and an origination fee that can be up to $6,000. Those expenses quickly cross $10,000 and that is money subtracted upfront from the home's value.

    And yet there also are prime cases where a HECM loan makes perfect sense, said Hopkins. He pointed to the for instance of a boomer who wants to start drawing on Social Security at the earliest possible age -- 62 in most cases. Do it then and there is a huge economic penalty (25 percent off the full retirement benefit payable at 66). Also lost is an 8 percent a year bonus for those who are 66 who delay drawing Social Security until 70. Wait until 70 and Social Security may be twice what it is at 62. Every month. That's a chunk of change. "If a HECM lets you delay getting Social Security, it could be a very sound strategy," said Hopkins.

    Another case might be dealing with large dental bills (not ordinarily covered by Medicare). An HECM might be the easy way to smile.

    The take-away: once scorned as predatory ripoffs, revamped reverse mortgages just may make sense for seniors whose homes are paid off (or close to it) and whose lives would be a lot more enjoyable with a steady stream of money going into their pockets from that house. They aren't for everyone -- they aren't cheap -- but they now deserve a place in retirement financial planning, Hopkins said.

    This article is commentary by an independent contributor.

     

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    A Case for Phone Insurance?

    By Landon Dowdy

    It's a millennial's most prized possession. Yet, they are also the most irresponsible compared to other generations when it comes to caring for their smartphone, according to a survey by insurance company Protect Your Bubble.

    The president of the Financial Planning Association, Ed Gjertsen II, said consumers, in general, are careless about how they treat such a valuable device and, as is the case with his own teenage children, "they throw it in their backpacks and all over the place."

    A whopping 90 percent of millennials even take their phones in the bathroom with them, according to Protect Your Bubble's survey. The "liquid drop" -- or the phone falling in the toilet -- is one of the most common ways phones get damaged, according to online warranty company SquareTrade, in addition to the most common standard hand drop where the device simply slips from their grasp with 30 percent of people dropping their phone accidentally.

    Thankfully, phones are progressively getting more durable. The website iFixit reports that the Apple (AAPL) iPhone 6S and 6S Plus sport a combination of new technology that makes them far more resistant to liquid damage than previous-generation iPhones. CNBC tested the 6S out and after multiple drops in the toilet, the phone continued to work properly. That's not to say there wasn't any internal damage to the phone, but on the surface, the phone was functional. Which raises the question -- do you need phone insurance?

    Like any type of investment, it's about your risk tolerance. If you damaged your phone tomorrow could you go out and buy a new one -- even at full price?

    With a two-year contract the iPhone 6S 16 GB costs $199, but if you damage or lose your phone before the two years is up you must pay the full $650 for a replacement. "That is what a lot of people miss at times," Gjertsen said. If you're good with the cost, then you are more than likely good without insurance.

    But if you are a habitual phone breaker and don't want to cough up $650, it's probably a good idea to cover yourself. If you don't fall into either camp or just aren't sure, here are some things to consider:

    "I think the case for insurance is threefold: to protect your investment, protect against Murphy's Law and also to help you stay connected to your world if something does happen," explained Matthew Pufall, product director at Protect Your Bubble.

    If you are thinking about getting your phone insured, "the details are incredibly important because what you are paying for and what you think you might be covered for could be two totally different things," warned Gjertsen. For example, under most insurance plans, you're covered if you totally destroy your phone, but if your screen cracks, that's out of pocket.

    When it comes to insurance, there are a few different options.

    Your Carrier

    You could get phone insurance through your phone carrier, but plans vary with each provider. For AT&T, (T) insurance is $6.99 a month and offers coverage for loss, theft, accidental damage or out-of-warranty malfunction of your phone. It will provide you with a replacement as soon as the next day and you can make two claims within a 12-month period for a total of $1,500.

    Verizon (VZ) offers coverage if your device is lost, stolen, damaged (including liquid damage) or defective after the manufacturer warranty expires for $9. You can file two claims within any consecutive 12 months with a maximum value of $400 to $1,500, depending on the device.

    For $9 to $13, Sprint (S) offers coverage against loss, theft, and liquid or physical damage with the ability to file three claims within 12 months for a total of $1,500.

    T-Mobile's (TMUS) Jump! provides coverage against accidental damage, malfunction due to mechanical breakdown, loss or theft for $10 a month. Like the others, T-Mobile allows you to make two claims each year with a limit of $1,500 for each loss.

    Outside Provider

    Using an outside provider is another option to insure your phone. Protect Your Bubble, for example, offers coverage for $5.99 a month in case of mechanical breakdowns, water and liquid damage and even cracked screens. There is no limit on number of claims and if an exact replacement is not available, the company will issue a check for the replacement value, minus the deductible.

    SquareTrade insures for mechanical and electrical failures and accidental damage but not theft or loss. You can purchase coverage for $4 a month for a three-year plan or up to $8 pay for a month-to-month plan.

    You could also insure your phone under your existing homeowners insurance as a valuable personal article for up to $50 a month. However, most home insurance policies have a $1,000 deductible, which is more than the cost if you went and purchased a new phone out of pocket.

    Buying phone insurance could give you that extra peace of mind knowing that if you drop it, you are covered -- just be sure to read the fine print to know what you are covered for and for how much. Even $12 a month for insurance, not including the cost of a deductible (usually around $150), will start to creep up to the cost of buying a new smartphone.

    It depends on your level of risk tolerance -- and tendency toward mishaps -- with your most prized possession.

     

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    Inside A Gap Inc. Store As Earnings Figures Are Released
    David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesSome stores almost always have discounts.
    By Lisa Koivu

    If you're the kind of person who likes deals, then you're in luck, because there are some stores that almost always offer mega-discounts to customers. As long as you know where to look, you can buy what's in your shopping cart without doing too much damage to your bank account.

    We might actually have the Great Recession to thank for these plentiful discounts. When the economy was struggling a few years ago, retailers started trying all kinds of tactics to get people shopping again. Sample sales and daily deal sites sprang up everywhere. While those types of sites are far less plentiful now that the economy has stabilized a bit, one thing that hasn't changed is that retailers are still coupon crazy. Stores that once would rarely offer coupons now offer them constantly.

    Some say that in response to the coupons, the retailers have actually raised their prices and thus are breaking even, and perhaps that is the case. What I do know is that regardless of the retailers' intent, there are some stores where the coupons are so plentiful that it would be unwise to shop without one.
    Here are five stores where you will never want to pay full price online. Just be sure to always look for any coupon codes you need to enter before checking out to take advantage of all available discounts. Sometimes it can also pay to be patient and wait for sales to roll around if you happen to be shopping at a time when the sales codes are sparse.

    1. J.Crew. J.Crew has steadily gotten more expensive throughout the years, but over the past couple of years, they've been releasing coupons nearly as often as the other retailers on this list. You can normally find a J.Crew coupon at least once a week. Sometimes it will be an extra percentage discount on their sale section while other times it will be 25 to 30 percent off full-priced items. (Sometimes you might get really lucky and also score free shipping.)

    In addition to using a web search to find any available coupon codes, you can also search for "free shipping" and "J.Crew" in case any additional discount codes pop up.

    2. Ann Taylor. I've never once looked at the Ann Taylor website and not found a coupon available. If you don't see one on the day you are order, come back the next day. Just check the website for any coupon codes and enter them at checkout. You can also check popular sites like RetailMeNot for listed sales.

    3. The Body Shop. I remember being a teenager and not being allowed to shop at The Body Shop because it was too expensive. These days they frequently offer 50 percent off site-wide deals, as well as buy one get one deals. Additionally, discounted vouchers for The Body Shop regularly pop up on Groupon. When you visit the website, be sure to look under the "Offers" section. You can find everything from free ground shipping to two for one deals.

    4. Kohl's. There are so many ways to save at Kohl's these days. In addition to the store's regular coupons that can usually save you anywhere from 15 to 25 percent (sometimes 30 percent if you have a Kohl's charge card), be on the lookout for their Gold Star Clearance Days when prices get heavily slashed, and you can almost always earn $10 in Kohl's Cash for every $50 spent. Kohl's Cash can then be used on your next $10 and up purchase. Of course, the holiday season is prime time for the deepest discounts, so when you're out hunting for other people's gifts, be sure to look out for yourself, too.

    5. Gap. There are maybe one to two days each week when you will not find a Gap coupon listed on their website. Gap sends out near-daily emails with new codes. In addition to the frequent online codes, coupons are frequently released for Gap Outlet. You might also receive "GapCash" to spend on your next visit if you make a big purchase. It's so enticing that you might have to stop yourself from buying items you don't need just to nab the discounts.

    If you head to any of these sites and are unable to find a coupon highlighted be sure to check out a coupon aggregator site such as retailmenot.com for any available codes.

    Lisa Koivu is the founder of ShopGirlDaily.com, a budget fashion and shopping blog for women who want to have the best for less.

     

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    How to Pick the Best Target Fund



    If you've given some thought to retirement savings, you've probably encountered target date funds. These mutual funds are age-based investment vehicles geared to the year you plan to retire so they automatically rebalance your assets as the target date approaches.

    They can be owned outside a retirement plan, but because they are designed for retirement investing, they are often among the choices offered within 401(k)s and other retirement accounts.

    These funds follow the conventional wisdom on investing: When you are further from retirement, they allocate more of your money to stocks to maximize returns. As you get closer to the magic year, the fund allocation becomes more conservative, shifting a greater portion of your assets from stocks to bonds and cash.

    For people who want a more hands-off investment style, they can be an attractive way to save. However, target date funds aren't created equal and don't suit everyone. Here are six things to consider before you choose one.

    1. Check the numbers. As is true with any sort of investment, past performance doesn't guarantee future performance. Still, it can be valuable to see the returns various funds are getting. A word of caution, these numbers can be skewed by the portfolio allocations. A fund with a higher percentage of stocks is more likely to have spikes in value if the stock market is having a good year. As always, look at results over time, which should help smooth out the differences.

    2. What's your glide path? With any sort of investment, your personal tolerance for risk plays a role. In this case, the "glide path" will be a key component of the risk. Glide path is the lingo fund managers use to determine how quickly funds shift from stocks to bonds. For people in their 20s, most funds will place the vast majority, in some cases even 100 percent, in stocks. For folks a couple of years from their target date, the portion of funds in stocks may be closer to 50 percent, maybe even slightly lower. It's the in-between years, where they shift from one to another that can end up making a big difference in the balance in the end -- too soon and you could miss out on a bull run, too slow and a bear market could eat up lots of your savings.

    3. When should it stop? There are basically two types of target funds. One type, called "to retirement," stops changing the stock-to-bond ratio once you hit the date, the other type continues to adjust as time goes on, called "through retirement." To-retirement funds end up being less risky at the expense of seeing your investments stop (or almost stop) growing when you hit the target date. Some experts prefer the through-retirement option, arguing that it's important to continue managing the balance as you age, rather than risk outliving your money.

    4. What does it cost? Of course, there will be fees. But just because a fund has a higher fee, don't dismiss it outright. As with many things, you get what you pay for. A fund with a higher fee, but also with a higher return, may end up netting you more money in the end. As with everything, there are low-priced options that excel and high-cost flops. Do your homework.

    5. How's it managed? Whether active or passive management is more successful in boosting returns is an ongoing debate among investors. Passive funds usually invest assets to reflect the makeup of a market index, thus tracking the ups and downs of that index. They provide broad market exposure and low operating expenses. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 are two prime examples. They're not terribly exciting, but they take out a lot of the guesswork from investing. Generally, actively managed funds will cost you more, but they may net you a higher return, if you have the right manager.
    Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson is deeply skeptical of the value of these investment managers, as he explains in this article:
    There's a mountain of evidence suggesting market timing is tough. For example, despite the fact that mutual funds employ both the smartest people and best technology on the planet, the average professionally managed mutual fund underperforms a simple, unmanaged index.
    6. Do you really need it? Basically, a target date fund helps shift your portfolio from stocks to bonds as you get older. It's something that you can probably do easily enough by yourself, or with the help of a financial adviser (especially if you're mostly in index funds anyway). Some people prefer the hands-off approach, they don't have to worry about rebalancing their investments every few years. But if you have the time and inclination to do the rebalancing yourself, you may do well to skip the target date fund and its fees altogether.

    What's your experience with target date funds? Share with us in comments 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!

     

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    3 Reasons Women Will Never Retire

    By Cameron Huddleston

    When it comes to saving for retirement, women might be pleased to learn that they are more likely to enroll in their workplace savings plans than men and to save at higher rates. That's the good news, according to a just-released study by investment management company Vanguard.

    The not-so-good news is that, even though women are setting aside a higher percentage of their incomes for retirement, their account balances remain smaller than those of male workers. In fact, Vanguard found that men who participated in workplace savings plans had account balances that were 50 percent larger on average than women participants.

    What's more troubling is that a separate study by Financial Finesse -- a workplace financial wellness provider -- showed that women's shortfalls in retirement savings were exacerbated by the fact that they need bigger nest eggs than men. Not only do women live longer, but they also have higher healthcare costs throughout their lives.

    "If you as a woman want to ensure your financial independence, you have to save more than a man does," said Kelley Long, a certified financial planner with Financial Finesse.

    How much more? According to Long, Financial Finesse estimates that women need to save 26 cents more on the dollar than men to replace 70 percent of their income in retirement and cover healthcare costs. In light of these figures, it's clearly essential that women take steps to overcome the retirement wage gap.

    How Women Can Save More

    When it comes to retirement saving, women are already doing a lot of the right things, Long said. As the Vanguard study found, women are 11 percent more likely than men to participate in workplace saving plans. With plans with voluntary enrollment, they are 14 percent more likely to join than men. Further, those who participate save at rates 7 percent to 16 percent higher than their male counterparts. Women's investment returns over the past five years have also been on par with those of men.

    While women are surpassing men in some aspects of retirement saving, research shows that they are lagging behind where it really matters -- the amount they are actually putting aside. According to Jean Young, senior research analyst at the Vanguard Center for Retirement Research and author of the latest study, the discrepancy stems from varying income levels.

    "Men have always had higher balances, but it's a function of wages," said Young. According to her study, the men who participated in workplace savings plans had wages that were 25 percent to 33 percent higher than women. However, when the authors controlled for differences in income, the retirement savings gap between men and women all but disappeared.

    Still, both men and women need to save more if they hope to live comfortably in retirement. "At the end of the day, everyone would be better off saving more," Young said.

    This doesn't mean you won't ever be able to retire, said Long, who stressed that individuals still have time to make changes for the better. According to Long, "Little tweaks can make a huge difference."

    Run the numbers to see if you're saving enough. Many people simply don't know if they're saving enough for retirement. According to Long, half of her financial planning clients have never done any sort of retirement calculation prior to meeting. If you haven't done a savings projection already, Long says that this is a wise place to start.

    Of course, the amount you will need depends on various factors including the lifestyle you want to have in retirement and how much you plan to spend. According to Long, a good rule of thumb is that you should save 10 to 16 times your annual income. Don't forget to factor in the value of Social Security benefits, as they will constitute a big portion of your savings.

    A free online tool such as the Vanguard retirement income calculator or the Financial Finesse retirement estimator can help you run the numbers to see if you're on track for retirement. You can also check to see if your workplace retirement plan administrator offers an online calculator. Once you have an idea of how much you need to save, you might be more motivated to boost your actual contributions.

    Automate savings. Once money reaches your checking account, it's easy to spend it on bills and other expenses. Instead of giving yourself a choice to set aside money every month, automate your savings so that contributions to your workplace retirement plan are withdrawn from your paycheck. You can also set up automatic deposits from your checking account to an individual account such as an IRA.

    With this approach, the money is deposited into savings before you have a chance to spend it. "It's the true pay-yourself-first scenario," Young said.

    Contribute enough to get an employer match. The Financial Finesse study found that fewer women than men report taking advantage of their companies' retirement plan matching, which means they're essentially leaving free money on the table.

    To make the most of this saving opportunity, check with your human resources or benefits department to find out if your employer offers a 401(k) match and how that match is determined. The most common type of match is 50 cents for every $1 contributed by an employee, up to a certain percentage of salary -- typically 6 percent, according to 401khelpcenter.com. Contributing enough to get your employer's full match is an easy way to boost retirement savings significantly.

    Increase contributions annually. It's easier to save income that you aren't used to having in the first place. One of the best ways to boost your annual contributions is to set aside money from raises and bonuses, said Long, who went on to advise that employees elect to have contributions automatically increased each year.

    Ideally, both women and men should aim to set aside 12 to 15 percent of their income annually (including employer contributions), according to Young.

    "It's not as painful as you might think to increase the amount you're saving," Young said, stressing that those who reach this level of savings sooner in their lives are more likely to accumulate enough for a comfortable retirement.

    Choose the right investments. When it comes to investing, women tend to be less confident than men, according to Financial Finesse. If you're worried you won't choose the right investments for your retirement portfolio, you might want to consider target-date investments, according to Long.

    Target-date funds gradually shift from more aggressive holdings that offer growth to more conservative investments that reduce risk as your retirement date approaches. Vanguard research has found that investors who use these and other professionally managed funds enjoy better outcomes than those who construct portfolios on their own.

    Don't borrow from your 401(k). A greater percentage of women than men surveyed by Financial Finesse report having taken out loans from their retirement plans. Although individuals can borrow up to half of their 401(k) balances for a maximum of $50,000, they will ultimately have to repay themselves with interest, which can be lower than the rate of return they would have received if the money was left in the account. Ultimately, by taking out these loans, you're shortchanging your retirement savings.

    Stay the course. If your account balance drops because of a downturn in the stock market, it's important not to panic and pull out your money -- this is especially essential if you're years away from retirement. If you cash out your account while the market is down, you will have missed out on an opportunity for your investments and account balance to rebound, and you'll be paying higher prices to get back in, according to Long.

    So when the market drops, "remember that the next time you put money in, you're buying stocks on sale," Long said. Continue your savings efforts so you can retire comfortably, confidently and securely when the time comes.

    This story, How Women Can Get Ahead of the Retirement Savings Gap, originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com.

     

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    This Dec. 2, 2009 file photo shows the 2011 Hyundai Sonata at the Los Angeles Auto Show in Los Angeles. On Friday, Nov. 20, 2015, Hyundai is recalling nearly 305,000 Sonata midsize cars because the brake lights can stay on when the driver isn't stopping. The recall covers cars from the 2011 and 2012 model years. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
    Jae C. Hong/AP2011 Hyundai Sonata
    DETROIT -- Hyundai is recalling nearly 305,000 Sonata midsize cars because the brake lights can stay on when the driver isn't stopping.

    The recall covers cars from the 2011 and 2012 model years.

    The company says the stopper pad between the brake pedal and the plunger that turns the lights on can deteriorate. That can make the plunger stick and cause the brake lights to stay illuminated. Also, the transmission could be shifted out of park without the brake on, and the system that lets the brakes override the gas pedal may not work.

    Hyundai says no crashes or injuries have been reported.

    The company plans to tell owners to take their cars to dealers to have the stopper pad replaced. No date has been set for the recall to start.

     

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    Music Adele
    Chris Pizzello/Invision/APBritish pop star Adele
    There were plenty of winners and losers this week, with hot shows debuting on leading video streaming services and a once-popular clothing retailer making an unusual acquisition.

    Walmart (WMT) -- Winner

    The turnaround at Walmart continues. The world's largest retailer posted better-than-expected quarterly results this week. This is the fifth quarter in a row of positive comparable-store sales, and that means that this is the first time in several years that Walmart has padded positive comps from the prior year's quarter.

    There are concerns about how Walmart's bottom line will play out in the future. The retailer has already said that a spike in wages will eat into next year's profitability. However, now that sales are growing at the store level, one would think that Walmart is in a strong position to do right by its employees when it bumps its minimum starting wage early next year.

    Urban Outfitters (URBN) -- Loser

    If you can't make dough one way, you may as well try another. Urban Outfitters stunned the market Monday by announcing that it would be acquiring the Pizzeria Vetri chain. The retailer had experimented in the past with offering food at some of its stores, and apparently it thinks that this could be a novel approach. The market isn't buying it.

    It's true that gourmet pizza is popular, lacking the lumpy seasonality and fickle fashion of specialty retail. If the ultimate plan winds up being combining trendy apparel and high-end pizza under the same roof, it would certainly be a differentiator. However, the real concern here -- and why this move falls into the "loser" camp -- is that it will make it harder for the parent company of Anthropologie and its namesake concept to focus on the turnaround that's necessary.

    Streaming Television -- Winner

    Two major TV shows debuted Thursday -- "Jessica Jones" and "The Man in The High Castle" -- and neither one is on traditional television. Netflix's (NFLX) "Jessica Jones" is the latest serialized superhero series from the service's partnership with Marvel. Amazon.com's (AMZN) "The Man in The High Castle" is an alternative reality series set in 1962 as if the Nazis and Japanese had won World War II.

    Both shows have generated positive buzz, but that's not much of a surprise. Original programming for both Netflix and Amazon has already won Emmy awards. Streaming television has been validated, and having two big shows premiere on the same day is a milestone worth celebrating.

    Streaming Radio -- Loser

    It may have been a great content-grabbing week for Amazon and Netflix, but the same can't be said about streaming radio. Adele's "25" hit record stores Friday, but as The New York Times reported Thursday, the highly anticipated release isn't being made available for streaming services.

    Folks have been flocking to Spotify and Apple (AAPL) Music as a substitute for buying individual tracks, but if too many prolific releases are missing from the catalogs, the services become less compelling. The first Adele single from the record is called "Hello," but it's feeling more like goodbye for the streaming radio providers.

    Square (SQ) -- Winner

    It seemed as if it was going to be an embarrassing IPO for Square. The fast-growing payment platform was hoping to go public between $11 and $13 a share, but lukewarm demand found it settling for just $9 a share.

    A profitless past and breaking off a partnership with Starbucks (SBUX) this summer could have given institutional investors cold feet, but Mr. Market had other plans. The stock began trading Thursday morning at $11.20, closing just above $13 -- the high end of its initial range -- by the end of the trading day.

    Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Netflix. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon.com, Netflix and Starbucks. The Motley Fool recommends Urban Outfitters. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Check out The Motley Fool's one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.

     

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    FILE - In this May 22, 2015 file photo, travelers wait in line to check in their luggage at Miami International Airport in Miami.  Heading into winter, fliers should take extra precautions with their checked luggage, December and January are traditionally the worst months for lost bags. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
    Alan Diaz/AP
    By SCOTT MAYEROWITZ

    NEW YORK -- Heading into winter, fliers should take extra precautions with their checked luggage -- December and January are traditionally the worst months for lost bags.

    To avoid problems, arrive at the airport early enough to let your bag get to the plane, and print out a copy of your itinerary from the airline's website and stick it inside just in case all the tags get ripped off.

    In the U.S. during the first nine months of this year, 3.3 bags for every 1,000 passengers didn't make it to their destination on time, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. That's not great if you are one of those people whose bag is delayed or lost. But consider this: during the 2007 peak in air travel, airlines were mishandling more than twice as many suitcases -- 7.2 bags per 1,000 passengers.

    Globally, the baggage-mishandling rate has fallen 61 percent from its peak in 2007, according to SITA, an aviation communications and technology provider. That has saved the industry $18 billion.

    The vast majority of bags -- 80 percent -- aren't lost but just delayed, according to SITA. And it takes about a day and a half to reunite passengers with their bags. Another 14 percent are damaged or have their contents reported stolen. And nearly 6 percent of bags are lost or stolen completely.

    December and January tend to be the worst months because there are a lot of infrequent travelers checking multiple bags, and a few snowstorms can add to delays and suitcases that miss connections.

    The overall improvements to baggage handling come after carriers spent millions of dollars to upgrade their systems.

    Tug drivers now get real-time updates of gate changes so they can change their path and ensure that bags make their connection. Scanners allow bags to be tracked throughout the system, preventing a suitcase bound for Chicago from being loaded onto a plane to Detroit. Gate agents have printers to help tag bags that are checked at the last minute because of full overhead bins. And, overall, fewer bags are being checked because of bag fees.

    "We continue to invest in technology and in processes so we understand where bags are at all times, and we can manage the failure points," says Bill Lentsch, senior vice president for airport customer service and cargo operations at Delta Air Lines (DAL).

    Airlines are also starting to empower passengers -- or at least keep them better informed.

    Delta was the first airline to allow fliers to track their own checked luggage, first on the airline's website in 2011 and then on its mobile app in 2012. Bag tags are scanned when the suitcase is dropped off, loaded onto a plane, loaded onto a connecting flight and then again before being placed on the carousel at baggage claim. Passengers can see all those scans.

    American Airlines (AAL) followed suit in August, allowing passengers to see when a suitcase was loaded or unloaded from a plane. Right now, it is only available on the airline's website but will eventually be part of the mobile app.

    Sitting on a plane ready for takeoff and knowing that your suitcase isn't in the hold below might be frustrating. But airlines say they would rather have passengers know it then and talk immediately to a baggage representative, once on the ground, instead of standing at the carousel waiting for a suitcase that isn't there.

    If your bag is late, you might be able to get some bonus frequent flier miles or even a voucher toward a future flight.

    Since 2010, Alaska Airlines (ALK) has promised that suitcases will be on the carousel within 20 minutes of the plane arriving at the gate. If not, passengers get a $25 voucher for a future flight or 2,500 bonus frequent flier miles. Delta copied that policy this year, offering 2,500 bonus miles to existing members of its frequent flier program -- but no voucher. Act quickly: Alaska requires you to reach out within two hours of arrival; Delta within three days. And ultimately it's your stopwatch against the airlines' -- they are the final arbiter of tardiness.

    And if you wanted to get that $25 checked bag fee refunded, you are out of luck.

     

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    A recent survey indicates that just 61 percent of millennials have at least one credit card. This makes some sense given that new laws about marketing credit to people under the age of 21 have gone into effect in recent years. But now that most millennials are in their young adulthood, we should expect to see those number rise in the coming years. At least I hope so!

    Credit cards get a bad name and it's not entirely undeserved. Some credit is designed to get people caught up in a never ending cycle of borrowing and repayment. We all know someone buried in debt, with little hope of ever digging their way out. Having grown up in the post-Recession world, many millennials are paranoid about taking on debt of any kind.

    The thing is, some debt is necessary to build the kind of financial life that most of the readers of this post will want to have. One of the best ways to move in this direction is to have one or more credit cards. Doing so can help you in the following ways.

    1. You need credit to borrow money in real life situations. There are some financial advisers in pop culture (who will remain unnamed) who recommend that their listeners never get a credit card at all. Instead, these talking heads talk about the power of cash and spin stories about buying new cars with briefcases of big bills. Almost nobody can live out this fantasy. Most of us start with very little money and very little income. To make necessary purchases in life (a car, a house, a business expense), we'll have to borrow.

    Unless we've demonstrated to creditors that we have the ability to pay our debts back responsibly, we'll be unlikely to find a lender to give us money. Those that do give us a loan will likely charge us very high interest rates, just in case we don't pay back the loan. After all, we have no credit history to show that we're honest and trustworthy with borrowed money. A credit card is a simple way to show that you can handle a little bit of credit. You don't have to spend more money just because you have a credit card. Open the account, use it, pay it off quickly, never carry a balance if you can help it and you'll start to build immaculate credit which will result in cheaper money for those times when you absolutely need to borrow.

    2. A credit card gives you another way to approach spending. While it's important to spend less than you earn, there are times in life when you'll need to spend on credit. Maybe you work for yourself and you're waiting for an invoice to be filled, but you've got to pay your electric bill. Maybe you need to reserve some money in your bank account while you cover an unusual purchase with your credit card.

    Furthermore, there will come a time when you'll have an emergency you need to cover (you're broken down on the side of the road, you need to change your flight at the airport, you need to break up your emergency room bill into a few monthly payments rather than a lump sum). Personal finance can get complex and anyone serious about it has found times when a credit card comes in handy. You should always pay off a balance as fast as possible, but there are some times in life when a credit card is indispensable. If you have a solid emergency fund in place, this plays really well with the convenience of credit card spending.

    3. Credit cards give you rewards when you use them. Credit card companies like when you use their product. It's how they make their money, so the more you spend, the better for them. This is why they provide rewards for big users. Rewards have been known to ensnare people in debt cycles, but if you use a credit card for necessary purchases, then pay it off with cash, you can get all the benefits of good rewards with none of the downsides. For people who like to travel internationally, like to eat at awesome restaurants, or enjoy seeing sporting events in person, this is a great method to take advantage of the best perks. Do some research about a credit card that kicks off rewards for stuff you're interested in. This might be a good first card for you.

    You don't have to use a credit card even if you open up an account. Simply having a credit account open for a long time works wonders for your credit score. So, at the very least, simply open up a single credit card, put it in a box and never think about it again.

    Secured credit cards are another way to open up a first credit account without fear of going into debt. Whatever you choose, having a credit card that you don't use is better than nothing. Read up, sign up and enjoy the benefits of your own credit card. It's part of being an adult and it'll help you a lot in the future if you use it right.

     

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    Girl drinking soda from glass
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    By Dan Levine

    SAN FRANCISCO -- Major sugar companies and corn refiners including Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) have settled litigation over an ad campaign about high fructose corn syrup, the parties said Friday in a joint statement.

    Terms of the settlement, which was reached in the middle of trial, weren't disclosed.

    Several sugar refiners including global leader ASR Group alleged in a 2011 lawsuit that a Corn Refiners Association advertising campaign describing high fructose corn syrup as "corn sugar" and "natural" was false. The corn refiners countersued, saying the Sugar Association falsely said in its newsletter that corn syrup caused obesity and cancer.

    The case came amid an overall decline in sweetener demand, particularly of corn syrup. The U.S. slowdown is due in part to concerns about high rates of obesity and diabetes.

    Corn refiners argued that sugar processors weren't damaged because they enjoyed record sales and profits during the ad campaign. The sugar growers sought $1.1 billion in compensatory damages over the campaign. The corn refiners asked for about $530 million in their countersuit.

    Both sides "continue their commitments to practices that encourage safe and healthful use of their products, including moderation in the consumption of table sugar, high fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners," the parties said in a joint statement on Friday.

    In 1999, the average American consumed 85.3 pounds of corn sweeteners a year, compared with 66.4 pounds of sugar, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data. However, by 2014 corn sweetener consumption had dropped to 60.7 pounds, while sugar consumption stood at 68.4 pounds.

    Overall, the average American consumed 131.1 pounds of sweetener in 2014, down from 153.2 pounds in 1999.

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2012 ruled that corn syrup, used to sweeten foods including soda, couldn't be called sugar.

     

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    Booking Hotels
    With loads of options and reviews, online travel agencies can be useful resources for your next trip, but if you're using them to book a hotel, you might be paying too much. Let's take a look at a few reasons why.

    First, did you know that online travel agencies charge hotels up to 30 percent to be listed on their sites? As a result, the hotels don't profit as much on those bookings. So, if you book with a hotel directly, the hotel saves more and you can too.

    Hotels are not legally allowed to undercut online travel agencies, but if you call them directly there are no regulations. Chances are they will match the lowest price you find, or sweeten the deal with things like a room upgrade or free WiFi.

    Finally, when you book directly, you also get more choice and flexibility. Hotels only set aside a certain amount of rooms for online travel agencies, but they typically keep the best rooms for themselves to sell directly.

    By calling the hotel you can book a room that's better than what you would've gotten online. Best of all, if you have any issues with your reservation, you'll be connected to the hotel and not an automated number.

    So, before you make reservations, remember these tips. When you book directly with a hotel, you might be surprised by how much you can save.

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