- Your Take: Do You Trust the Stock Market?
- One Clever Idea You’ve Never Thought of to Save Money on a Wedding
- TD Bank Summer Reading Program
- The Suit Buying Secret They Don’t Want You to Know
- The Fastest Way to Find Your Perfect Home
- How to Get Away with Insider Trading
- Your Take: Ever Research Your Zip Code?
- What Does Your ZIP Code Say about You?
- Stock Market Soaring, Many Americans Missing the Boat
- Unemployed? Your Benefits May Be Smaller than You Think
- We’re Buying A House (Maybe)
- 5 Signs Your Dream Job is Actually a Scam
- How to Attend Commencement at a University You’ve Never Been To
- Should You Continue Your Education with an Online Degree?
- The Secret to Making a Suit Last Forever
Last week, I wrote about how few "retail investors," that's folks like you and me, have come back to investing in the stock market after the craziness of the Great Recession. The market has made significant gains, erasing the losses of the Great Recession, but many investors are still on the sidelines. Then came word that the Japanese stock market, the NIKKEI 225, dropped 7.32% on Thursday (Wednesday night for us in the United States). It was the worst percentage decline since the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. The fall continued into the FTSE 100 (London index), which shed 2.1%, but given better than expected numbers here in the U.S., the drop didn't translate to anything significant here. For the year, all of the stock markets have been going gangbusters. The NIKKEI was up 50% year to date before the fall but no one (meaning retail investors) saw it coming, which adds to this feeling of loss of control. On Wednesday, a perfectly happy U.S. stock market was up until Bernanke started talking and it ended up down for the day. The market was down to open Thursday but eventually made its way pretty close to even. For someone like myself with a time horizon of decades, these gyrations are kind of scary but with thirty years to go, they're not that scary. But there is a feeling that I have no control over it. It makes me wonder if I can trust the stock market. I know people are telling me that investing is the path to wealth… but is it? 7% single day drops, even if it's the NIKKEI, doesn't give me much confidence that I can trust the stock market. Any stock market. How do you feel about the market? Trust it? Don't care? _(photo: credit)_ Your Take: Do You Trust the Stock Market? from personal finance blog Bargaineering.com. The post Your Take: Do You Trust the Stock Market? appeared first on Bargaineering.
One of the most expensive financial decisions many of us make is having a wedding. While my wedding was pretty modest (coming in at right around $3,000), the average cost of a wedding as of this writing is a little more than $28,000! Who has $28,000 to spend on a wedding -- especially if you have student debt and you are hoping to save up for a house? One way to pay for your wedding is to obtain sponsorships to help you take care of the costs. This is the approach Donnie Gallagher and his fiancee Jennifer are taking. They hope to raise $25,000 in services and and cash to pay for their dream wedding on February 14, 2014 (yes, that's Valentine's Day). If they manage to raise more than $25,000, everything extra will be donated to charity. SHOULD YOU FIND SPONSORS FOR YOUR WEDDING? "Jennifer and I are recent college graduates paying back student debt," Donnie says. The couple also plans to save up to buy a house, since mortgage rates are low, and so are prices. In order to fund their wedding, the two decided that finding sponsors would be the best way to get their wedding off the ground, saving them money while still allowing them to have the wedding they want. So far the couple has one sponsor, a photographer willing to donate $500 worth of services for the wedding. Donnie is confident, though, that the two of them will find more sponsors. "We need to continue to send our message out to as many people as we can," he says. "Once we beat down enough doors, we will find the right sponsors." Of course, no business is going to sponsor a wedding without receiving some sort of recognition. Donnie says that corporate sponsors will be recognized in a number of ways. He says that sponsors will be promoted on the couple's wedding web site, as well as through the social media accounts associated with the wedding effort. But what about at the wedding? "We really wouldn't mind if anything outside of the main ceremony was branded or contained promotional pieces," Donnie says. This means that sponsors could have branded materials at the reception. The hardest part of the whole operation so far, Donnie says, has been trying to find a charity to work with. While some of the sponsors the couple has talked with so far have been open to the idea -- even if they haven't signed on officially yet -- charities have been harder to work with. "Jennifer suffered a stroke in 2011, so we wanted to partner with a stroke-related charity because that is a cause that we have a personal connection with." Donnie says. Unfortunately, it has been difficult, with many charities refusing to allow them to show public support as part of the wedding. "The reason I was given was that they would not be 'the sole reason for giving,'" he says. Even though the charities said that they would be happy to accept any donations, they don't want their names out there in association with the sponsored wedding. Other than that, Donnie hopes that he and Jennifer will be able to find sponsors for their wedding, and perhaps be able to donate to a good cause to boot. What do you think? Would you ever find sponsors for a wedding? Or would you prefer to just save up? _Image: Katsunojiri via Flikr_ One Clever Idea You've Never Thought of to Save Money on a Wedding from personal finance blog Bargaineering.com. The post One Clever Idea You've Never Thought of to Save Money on a Wedding appeared first on Bargaineering.
Remember Book It? I used to love that program… free personal pan pizzas from Pizza Hut just for reading. I used to read Encyclopedia Brown and Hardy Boys and all those books for free. When I learned I could get free pizza for reading… it was like Christmas in June. It was incredible. Well, it's almost summer and TD Bank is once again offering a summer reading promotion in which customers with a Young Saver account (kids) can get $10 if they read 10 books. All you need to do is have your child read ten books, fill out the summer reading form, and take it to the bank. They'll get $10 deposited into their account and the fun of reading ten books. If you aren't a TD Bank customer, this isn't that great of a promotion if you're promotion hunting. Most banks offer closer to $100 for you to join them, though their promotions aren't as easy to fulfill as this one. They usually require direct deposits and minimum balances. If you are already a TD Bank customer, and your kids don't have a savings account, this isn't a bad time to consider introducing them to saving. And reading.
$10 will be deposited into a new or existing Young Saver account. One coupon per Customer during the promotional period. Cannot be combined with any other offers. Valid May 5, 2012, through September 29, 2012. Must be 18 years of age or younger to participate. Bring form of ID for child for new account opening.TD Bank Summer Reading Program from personal finance blog Bargaineering.com. The post TD Bank Summer Reading Program appeared first on Bargaineering.
_This is a guest post from Michael of Financial Ramblings._
EDITOR'S NOTE: I was chatting with Michael the other day when he told me his story about buying a suit at a major men's retailer. He told me how he walked in expecting it to be your typical retail experience, that is you pay what's listed, but discovered that it was closer to buying a car. There's a lot of wheeling and dealing involved and I was surprised so I asked him to share his story - being able to negotiate the price of a suit is something the stores probably don't want you to know!A couple of weeks ago I had to dress for success. Actually, I had to dress _because of_ success. I was receiving a work-related award and I was expected to wear business attire. Unfortunately, the closest I could come to this was a sport coat that I last wore to my high school football banquet. Yes, I know that sounds pathetic -- and maybe it is. But I've engineered my life in such a way that I've been able to achieve personal and professional success without ever having to wear a monkey suit. The other problem was that time was short. I had been on the road and under the gun for a variety of deadlines and hadn't had time to shop. So instead of taking my time and finding a great deal, I had about an hour one afternoon to make myself presentable. Given the time constraints, I only had a few options. I could go to one of two nearby stores that specialize in what can only be described as "old man clothes." Or I could hit a similarly convenient JoS. A. Bank Clothiers (JAB for short). Or I could drive another 10-15 miles to Macy's. Pressed for time -- and unwilling to dress like a grandpa -- I headed to JAB. I'd never set foot in one of their stores, so I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. What I was greeted with was a kindly clerk, obnoxiously high price tags, and an eagerness to negotiate. In other words, it was surprisingly similar to buying a car. When I first caught sight of one of the price tags, my eyes must have bulged because the clerk piped up with "Oh, don't worry about the prices, we can work with you on that." Wait. What? I need to negotiate the price of my suit? Oh well, I was in a hurry so I turned my attention back to finding what I needed. Once I had identified a workable combination, I returned to the pricing issue. "You mentioned earlier that you'd work with me on the price. What did you mean by that?" She sat down at the computer, whipped out a calculator, and started crunching numbers. $18 DRESS SOCKS WERE SUDDENLY $6, AND SO ON DOWN THE LINE. I waited patiently for her to finish. Meanwhile, I tallied up the sticker prices in my head. By the time she was done, the total price was about 40% below list. Unfortunately, at this point I needed to dash out the door. So, instead of getting into a prolonged negotiation, I simply uttered the seven magic words: "IS THAT THE BEST YOU CAN DO?" Her reply? "Hmmm. Let me check with my manager." Wow, this really _was_ just like buying a car. While she went to talk to her manager, I headed back to the changing room to collect my belongings. When I re-emerged, the price had fallen another 10%. At roughly 50% off, we had more or less arrived at the 2-for-1 pricing* that they often advertise -- but without having to buy the second suit. That was good enough for me, and the clothes fit quite well, so I told her to ring it up.
*NOTE: Yes, they even run buy-one-get-three-free sales at times, though there were no such sales when I was there. And given the frequency with which I wear suits, one was more than enough.THE OBVIOUS LESSON HERE IS THAT YOU SHOULDN'T LEAVE PURCHASES LIKE THIS TO THE VERY LAST MINUTE. By the time I went shopping, I had pretty much backed myself into a corner and had little in the way of options. I _had_ to make it work -- and that's rarely a recipe for consumer success. The other lesson is that it never hurts to ask for a better price. While you don't want to be unreasonable, you never know what people will do to win your business because once you walk out the door, you're a lost sale to them. _Michael is a fellow blogger who covers a wide range of money-related topics on his site, Financial Ramblings. Check it out. You won't be disappointed._ _(Credit: karsten.planz)_ The Suit Buying Secret They Don't Want You to Know from personal finance blog Bargaineering.com. The post The Suit Buying Secret They Don't Want You to Know appeared first on Bargaineering.
As we mentioned a while back, we're buying a home and it's a very exciting time for us. It wasn't always so exciting though and if you've ever looked for a home, you'll agree. The actual task of finding a house you like can take a very long time and there are no guarantees you'll ever find one you like. I've heard horror stories, they were horror stories to me anyway, about people having to look at a hundred homes before they found one they liked… only to lose out on it because their offer wasn't good enough. A hundred houses. If you spend a minimum of half an hour inside, that's still 50 hours. That's more than a standard work week. Add in travel time and you're probably pushing 80 hours. Two solid weeks. It's incredible. Here's the secret… it's up to you to be efficient. KNOW WHAT YOU WANT This is easier said than done but this is the absolute most important piece of advice in this entire article. You need to figure out what it is you want, how much that will cost, and what you will need to sacrifice in order to get into a home. If you had ten million dollars to spend on a house, you can get almost everything on your wish list. Since you don't have ten million dollars to spend on a house, something will have to give. It will take you a few homes to figure this out. You set up your house buying budget based on your actual budget, say it's $300,000, and now you start looking at homes in the $275,000 to $300,000 range. In our area, that gets you a nice townhouse that's probably 30-40 years old and not much land. If you want a single family home, you will have to sacrifice size and lot size. If you want a condo, you can get a bigger condo but then you are in a condo with no lot. It's very important that every visit you go on advances you on the path towards ownership. Maybe you visit a few single family homes, see that they're really close to each other, and decide you'd rather get into a larger townhouse. Then you want to start cutting small single family homes out of your search. Your agent should no longer show you those houses unless there's a compelling reason they can tell you beforehand (such as "it's a larger home but needs some work"). You will also what to know what you don't want. Know what is a deal-breaker and make those clear. Agents aren't mind readers. Their job is to get your into a home you want to buy. They aren't paid by the hour so it's important to them that they find a good fit. In order to do those, you need to be open with them about what you like, what you dislike, what are must haves and what you must avoid. One of the best things my friend and agent Christina did was have me send her a list of must haves and deal breakers. Not only did she use this in her own searches, she could enter them in the automated searches in MLS that emailed me weekly. More importantly, it made me think about what we wanted… which isn't trivial. SEARCH ON YOUR OWN You are constrained by your budget and with tools like Zillow and Redfin, you can do your own searching at your leisure. You can "visit" a dozen houses in fifteen minutes and through the magic of photos and virtual tours, get a sense of what you like and dislike. You can send the ones you like to your agent, along with your notes, and he or she can start to integrate that into their own searches for you. I liked searching on my own because it can give you a better sense of how much things cost and what you get for your money. Many of those websites give you historical sale data as well, so you know how much per square foot a home is selling for in your area. You can figure out whether your budget makes sense in certain neighborhoods. If you aren't yet serious about buying a home, searching online is great because it's very casual. You're sitting at home in your pajamas flying around Redfin looking at houses. You aren't taking up someone's time, you can do it in the middle of the night, and it can be fun looking at multi-million dollar homes and their gaudy excesses. We used to go to open houses on the weekends at some of those homes with their grand entrance double staircases (why!?) and their indoor statues (why!?). VISIT MANY HOMES, BE QUICK You can look around a home in about fifteen minutes. You already know the important statistics - square footage, bedrooms, bathrooms, etc. Spend just fifteen minutes and fly through the house. You will have a feeling whether this is the house for you or not. If you have to convince yourself, then it's not. People always decide based on emotion and then use logic to find facts to confirm it. You will know if you like a house once you step inside and walk around. You can see yourself living there. When you visit a house that just doesn't feel right, you don't really need to know the age of the furnace or whether all the doors latch. When you do find a home that feels right, that's when you start looking for the facts you need to confirm you want to buy it. If the furnace is 25 years old, that's something you will likely need to replace soon. Do you have the budget for that? If you have 5 years to save, maybe it's not a big deal. If it needs to be replaced today, then you might not want the house. What's the roof look like? Will you need to replace that soon? You won't be an expert (and a home inspection will tell you more) but those are the things you check after you feel like you want the house. Until you reach that point, it doesn't matter how old things are or what the monthly electrical bill is. The takeaway here is to know what you want, make sure your agent knows it, and then be quick with the process. It's important to be more methodical and deliberate after you have an offer, when you do inspections and whatnot, but the home search shouldn't be slow. Do you have any tips for the fastest way to find your perfect home? _(Credit: wwarby)_ The Fastest Way to Find Your Perfect Home from personal finance blog Bargaineering.com. The post The Fastest Way to Find Your Perfect Home appeared first on Bargaineering.
Insider trading has been going on ever since the stock market existed. Everyone is looking for an edge and no one is willing to play fair. Martha Stewart did it and was treated to several months in one of our nation's fine institutions. Raj Rajaratnam did it and was sentenced to 11 years in prison and penalties of over $150 million. Heck, someone you know has probably done it. Some are brazen about it, others are a little more secretive. I first realized how prevalent it was when I read Trading with the Enemy, an anecdotal book written by Nicholas Maier as he worked at Jim Cramer's hedge fund. The story that struck me most was how they'd get news stories before they hit print and used it to their advantage. It's not necessarily insider knowledge about a company but getting it a few minutes before the rest of the world, even if it was a third party, is a big advantage. So, as for insider trading, if you want to learn how to do it, this is what you need to do to get away with it.
1. DON'T BE GREEDY
We can thank Gordon Gekko for what many believe is the driving credo of Wall Street - "Greed is good." It's not, however, good when it comes to insider trading because that's why so many people get caught! We'll go into many of the reasons below but stock brokers have programs designed to find unusual activity and notifying the authorities. If you've never traded options before and then you suddenly start trading them in large quantities, you'll get investigated. Even if you just sell a stock before an announcement, you might get investigated too.
Then, the next time you do it, since they are monitoring you now, you'll get caught. You'll be fined, sent to jail, boom goes the dynamite. They see you handing some guy a bag of cash, a watch, and everyone goes to jail. You rarely hear about someone having to disgorge $500 in illicit trading profits.
2. KNOW YOUR INSIDER REALLY WELL
Who is giving you your information and who else is he or she giving it to? Raj Rajaratnam of Galleon Group was convicted of 14 counts of securities fraud and conspiracy and it started because prosecutors were investigating David Loeb, a managing director of Goldman Sachs. In wiretaps, they learned of Rajaratnam and then the whole thing came crumbling down. (The crazy part is that 9 years earlier an Intel employee that passed information to Galleon was prosecuted but they didn't go after Galleon).
Insiders rarely just tell you all that juicy sensitive information. Why get a bag of cash from one person when you can get multiple bags from multiple people? Martha Stewart's insider was Peter Bacanovic of Merrill Lynch, who was tipped off by ImClone's founder Samuel Waksal. Waksal told friends and family (and even tried to sell his own shares) and everyone got in exactly as much trouble as you'd expect. It was pretty brazen actually when you read about it.
3. DON'T BE FAMOUS
When Martha Stewart was caught insider trading (when the assistant to her insider disclosed it to investigators), she sold her $230,000 stake in ImClone. She was not even close to the top of the list in terms of ownership size. There were Waksal family members who had in the millions, other executives, but everyone focused on Stewart because she was the most famous. They made an example of her by sentencing her to five months of prison, five months of home confinement, and two years probation.
The lesson here is that you don't want to be so famous or so public that they want to put your head on a proverbial pike and walk around the town square with it.
4. DON'T TRADE OPTIONS
The reason why a lot of insider traders get caught has to do with options. You can get a lot of leverage using options (which is a contract to buy or sell shares) and many times traders will use options because they can get the most bang for their buck. A call option is the right to purchase a hundred shares of stock at a specified price. I pay a small premium for this right but if the stock jumps up beyond the strike price, then I start making a lot of money because I can exercise the option, pay less than market value, and then sell the shares.
The tricky thing is that you look suspicious if you:
* Never trade options, or do so sparingly, then make a relatively large bet on a stock a few days before it pops.
* You trade a lot of options but there isn't much volume on the stock you have insider information on.
And to make matters even harder, the SEC is already monitoring this. They will see higher options volume ahead of major announcements and they'll just start investigating everything. And if you do make a big bet, expect to see the assets frozen.
5. BE A RICH HEDGE FUND
Last, but certainly not the least, make sure you're a very large, very rich hedge fund. You will want to be as big as SAC Capital Advisors, who recently settled a lawsuit to the tune of $602 million and let a few (former) heads roll. $602 million can buy you a lot of indulgences.
A year ago, I would've just suggested that you work in Congress because they were not subject to insider trading laws but that was changed when President Obama signed into law the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act.
Don't try this at home. Or anywhere. Insider trading is illegal, you will get caught no matter what, and you'll have to pay everything back. Don't be stupid, just stick your money in an index fund and enjoy life.
Just as a warning and a disclaimer, in case it wasn't clear in the bright yellow box above, this post was written in jest. We do not advocate insider trading, or breaking the law in any way, and we don't promise that you'll get away with insider trading if you follow these tips. We have also never tested these tips personally and I've never insider traded a share of anything in my life (nor do I plan on it… I value my freedom way too much!)._A tip of the cap to Prince for this great post idea!_ _( Credit: Art Comments)_ How to Get Away with Insider Trading from personal finance blog Bargaineering.com. The post How to Get Away with Insider Trading appeared first on Bargaineering.
Yesterday, Miranda wrote a post that talked about how marketers are using zip codes to reach new customers. It made me think about the research we've done when looking at real estate investments (we dabble a little here and there). One interesting tool I wanted to share with you is ZipSkinny. You give it a zip code and it gives you a ton of demographic data including race, age, gender, but it also includes social and economic indicators. It's all taken from the 2000 Census, so it's a little dated but still works quite well I think. This is probably a light version of what marketers use but probably not that different. 49.3% are in the same home for 5+ years. 28.9% never married, 55% are married, and 9.3% are divorced. You have household income breakdown, occupation (in some broad categories), and even unemployment and poverty. It's amazing what is available on census alone. I had two questions - have you ever researched data like this and does it bother you that marketers are using it? _(Credit: Eric Fischer)_ Your Take: Ever Research Your Zip Code? from personal finance blog Bargaineering.com. The post Your Take: Ever Research Your Zip Code? appeared first on Bargaineering.
Every few months, I receive coupons for baby formula in my mailbox -- despite the fact that my only child is now 10 years old. I also receive the random copy of _America Baby_. And, until recently, I had no idea why _Family Circle_ started showing up at my house monthly. Now, though, after reading stories on CNN Money and NBC News, I suspect that these are attempts at marketing based on my ZIP code. You probably already know that information in your credit report is used to market items to you. Credit card issuers, personal lenders, and insurance companies all use information garnered from your credit report to send you marketing mail. But your ZIP code can also provide information to marketers that use "big data" to get information about you and your habits. WHAT INFORMATION DOES YOUR ZIP CODE PROVIDE? Anyone looking at the general statistics surrounding my ZIP code would assume that I have either just had a baby or that I'm pregnant. In my neighborhood, I'm one of the few women under the age of 35 who isn't pregnant, or doesn't have a child under the age of two (there are also many moms in my young neighborhood who are pregnant _and _have children under the age of two). Someone marketing baby formula, trying to sell toddler items and looking for the "typical" stay-at-home mom would certainly send their free samples to my ZIP code -- and assume that I fit right in. Those who collect information about consumer habits compile information based on the information provided. The NBC story points out that:
When you swipe a credit card at the cash register, the merchant receives your name, card number and expiration date, but little else, [Paul] Stephens said. Give the store your ZIP code, however, and you’re providing a valuable piece of the puzzle. When paired with your name, it can help the merchant figure out your mailing address, phone number and specific demographic information, Stephens noted.That means more marketing items in your mailbox, and more telemarketers calling your phone. It means more targeted sales pitches aimed at trying to get you to buy what someone else is selling. HOW ELSE COULD OTHERS PROFILE YOU? But it's not just about marketing. There are some concerns this type of information could lead to more consumer profiling behaviors. Until a few years ago, most consumer buying habits were profiled in the form of credit agency reports. Someone looking at your situation would look at your payment history and debt level, and a few other items, and then make a decision about you. Now, though, Big Data can help marketers and others figure out what types of consumer items you are likely to buy, based on your ZIP code. They can pair your buying behavior when you swipe your plastic with what others in your geographic area are buying. They can get an idea of other habits as well. Already, social media profiling is used to get an idea of what kind of friends you have, and the activities in which you engage. But what if more information could be extracted from your ZIP code and other information you provide. If you are friends with a lot of folks who are in debt, perhaps you are in debt, too. Or perhaps you engage in other behaviors. This type of consumer profiling is already being used overseas in some cases. With all of the data collected on you every day, it's possible for just about any business to get a fairly comprehensive picture of what makes you tick. What do you think? Is there too much data collection going on? How do you feel about stores selling your ZIP code information to data crunchers? _Photo: 38 Degrees_ What Does Your ZIP Code Say about You? from personal finance blog Bargaineering.com. The post What Does Your ZIP Code Say about You? appeared first on Bargaineering.
Statistics are tricky whenever people try to guess their underlying cause but it doesn't make it less fun. A recent Gallup poll results showed stock market investment by U.S. adults is at its lowest percentage since Gallup has started asking (1998). It's been on a steady decline since 2007 (65%) and this year it stands at 52%. I personally know plenty of people who withdrew all or most of their investments when the stock market started going crazy in 2008. 2008 was insane. Of the top twenty largest gains by the Dow, ten were in 2008. Of the top twenty daily point losses, eleven were in 2008. Percentage-wise it's not nearly as dire, since the Dow is so much higher than it was in the late 1920′s and early 1930′s, which basically own the largest percentage changes table (If people were losing their heads during the Great Recession, I can't even imagine living through the Great Depression). The S&P shows similar dominance of 2008 (also in percentage charts since the S&P 500 started in 1957). A lot of people got burned that year when they saw their investment drop, got angry at Wall Street, and have never been back. And so they participated in the fall but didn't participate in the rise. And it stinks.
There are signs that the appetite for risk is returning among more sophisticated investors and institutions, but that may not extend to the median American, who did not not recover as quickly or as fully (if at all) as the finance industry did.RATHER THAN GUESS, I'M CURIOUS TO KNOW WHAT YOU DID DURING THE FALL AND SUBSEQUENT RISE? We didn't do anything drastic (I did sell a Target Retirement fund in 2007) but most of our investments were in retirement accounts that we wouldn't need for 30 years. When you have that long of a time horizon, you can afford to be patient. Then, we started buy dividend stocks when we saw solid blue chip companies were trading at historic discounts. Names like Coca-Cola and Heinz. I was able to do that in part because we weren't invested in the market outside of retirement accounts. Had we been invested, we would've just held into the valley and just recovered with everyone else who stayed around. I probably wouldn't have put in any more money, I'm certain of that. What did you do? Did you leave and not come back? _( Credit: AZRainman)_ Stock Market Soaring, Many Americans Missing the Boat from personal finance blog Bargaineering.com. The post Stock Market Soaring, Many Americans Missing the Boat appeared first on Bargaineering.
One of the most frustrating things in life is being unemployed. This is especially true if you want to work, but you are unable to find a job. Even though the unemployment rate is falling, many people still find it difficult to land a job. Many states administer unemployment benefits to help support those who can't find work. If you don't have a job, it might be worth it to see if you qualify for unemployment benefits. DO YOU QUALIFY FOR UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS? First of all, you need to determine if you are eligible to receive unemployment benefits. If you quit your job for a reason that isn't considered a "good cause" by your state's labor department, you won't qualify. Additionally, being fired can disqualify you from receiving benefits. If you are self-employed, and you lose your main source of income, don't expect help from the government, either. Only if you are incorporated and have been paying yourself a salary (and been paying for unemployment insurance) do you have the chance to collect unemployment if you fall on hard times during self-employment. Also, once you are on unemployment, you are expected to try to find a job. In many states, you will be required to meet with a professional who will check up on your efforts to find a job. Turning down too many jobs can be grounds to reduce or eliminate your benefits. And don't forget that unemployment benefits are taxable, so you will have to plan to pay taxes on any assistance you receive. HOW MUCH CAN YOU GET? Because unemployment is administered by the states, how benefits are determined and distributed is taken care of at that level. You can get information on local options from the U.S. Department of Labor. Most states use a formula to determine how much you are eligible each week, usually based on your salary before you were fired. It's important to understand that unemployment benefits aren't designed to replace your income entirely; many people can't maintain a previous lifestyle on unemployment benefits. You should also realize that unemployment benefits don't last indefinitely. At one point, unemployment benefits could last as long as 99 weeks, but that isn't the case anymore. The federal government provides unemployment help to states, which then administer the programs to residents. (States can also use their own resources for unemployment benefits on top of federal resources.) The amount of federal unemployment aid offered is based on a state's unemployment rate. There are four levels of federal help, based on the rate offered. Now, for the most part, unemployment benefits top out at 47 weeks. WHAT TO DO WHEN UNEMPLOYMENT RUNS OUT So, with unemployment benefits lasting for a shorter period of time (less than a year in some cases), you might run out of benefits before you find a job. So, what do you do when you run out of benefits? Here are some of your options: * DRAW MORE ON YOUR EMERGENCY FUND: If you have an emergency fund, now might be the time to draw on it more. It can be a source of funds for you while you continue to look for work. And, if things are really tight and you don't have other options, your retirement account might be an option. * OTHER GOVERNMENT ASSISTANCE: There are other government programs available that can help you stretch your money each month after unemployment runs out. Food stamps, energy assistance, and other programs might be able to provide you with help. * CHARITY: Local food banks can help supply your pantry, as well as low-priced items from thrift shops. You can also turn to your church congregation. * FRIENDS AND FAMILY: Don't forget your support system. They can help you get back on your feet. * UNEMPLOYMENT LOANS: In some cases, it's possible to borrow money during unemployment. But you need to watch out for the unscrupulous. Realize that you might be stuck with a higher interest rate as well. This is usually a last-ditch option. _Photo: aflcio_ Unemployed? Your Benefits May Be Smaller than You Think from personal finance blog Bargaineering.com. The post Unemployed? Your Benefits May Be Smaller than You Think appeared first on Bargaineering.
We haven't covered it much on Bargaineering (you might have guessed given the increased interest in credit scores), but we're buying a new home. We submitted an offer a little while ago and after a little back and forth, it was accepted. We're buying a house about ten minutes south of where we live now and while we aren't excited about packing up and moving, we are really excited about the home itself. Bargaineering was around when we bought our first house and we chronicled the entire process. A lot of it is mundane, downright boring if you've already done this yourself, but at the time it was all new to us. Getting pre-approval, while much easier then, hasn't changed much except for how much paperwork you need to submit. Back then you typed a few numbers on a form and you were in! That's why I didn't write much about the process this time around - it wasn't that much different and it wasn't a completely new experience for us. That said, in the last eight years, some things have changed… REDFIN VS. A REALTOR When we bought our first house, we worked with a friend of mine who just became a real estate agent - Christina Elliott (she was with Century 21 at the time I think, then partnered with Keller Williams). Redfin didn't exist back then (or at least in our area) and so she would send me some listings and we'd visit the homes. We visited probably around fifty homes over the course of a few months and it was exhausting. This time around, with Redfin and its great search features, we were able to get a better sense of how much homes were in the area we liked. She would send me listings as they appeared and was my conduit into listings on the MLS and with the research we did on our own, we visited only around fifteen homes. We were much pickier this time around too, so we didn't go to a home unless we already liked it. I'll go into this in greater detail (Redfin vs. Real Estate Agent) in a future post but there's a big difference between working with a Redfin agent and working with a traditional real estate agent. FEWER HOMES The stories about the real estate market being soft or slow are all true, but it's picking up. A lot. I've heard stories of homes that get sold within hours. It's like 2005 all over again! Part of it is supply, there simply aren't a lot of houses out there. I don't know if it's because people are underwater or they aren't thinking about selling, but there just aren't a lot of homes coming onto the market. It's now May, we're fairly deep into the "nice weather" Spring period and we didn't see an "explosion" of home listings when we exited the cold of winter. The end result of this was that the homes that are coming on the market are selling fairly quickly and at very good prices. But it's said that real estate is local so what happens here may not hold true near you. LOANS REQUIRE LOTS OF DOCUMENTATION Loans always require a lot of documentation but it seems like this time around the list has gotten a lot longer. So far we've had to provide W2′s, paystubs, bank statements (showing down payment plus 9 months of mortgage payments), proof of homeowners insurance, two years of tax returns, two years of business tax returns, two months of every account that paid out interest or dividends, and letters of explanation for a variety of little things. If there are any irregular transactions on the bank statements, we have to provide the associated account statement as well. The statements have to be official statements and can't be screenshots or cropped photos. I'M MORE CONFIDENT Eight years ago, I didn't do much in terms of trying to save money on the purchase. Outside of comparing lender costs, I went with whatever was recommended. This time around, and they're minor savings in the grand scheme, I was more confident in the process to do some things a little smarter. For example, we wanted to radon test the home and the inspector said a radon test would cost $135. We purchased a $35 kit from the Radon Testing Corporation of America and tested it that way. The house is on well water so there's a water test, inspector quoted us $235 and we found an actual water testing company that would do it for $100. These are all minor savings in the price of the home but instead of just going with whatever was presented, I did more homework. We haven't reached settlement yet, that won't be until June, but we've gotten over the major hurdles. _(Credit: WCampos3)_ We're Buying A House (Maybe) from personal finance blog Bargaineering.com. The post We're Buying A House (Maybe) appeared first on Bargaineering.
One of the great things about technology is that you have the opportunity to make money in new and different ways. You can even find work at home jobs that pay reasonably well. At the very least, you can start a home business as a freelancer, or doing some other type of work. Since the dream of working from home is so strong, you need to watch out for scams. Whenever something seems very attractive to a wide swath of the population, there are scammers out there trying to take advantage. If you're not careful, you might find that the dream job advertised online at places like Craig's List is actually scam. Here are 5 signs your dream job is probably a scam: 1. GOOD PAY FOR EASY JOBS When I was in college, and looking for a way to earn a little extra money, I answered an ad for envelope stuffing. I could earn $1 for every envelope I stuffed! That's easily $50 an hour, I thought. Probably more. I actually sent in for a "kit." Once I saw the "kit," I realized that the envelope stuffing I would do involved getting other suckers to send in money for a similar "business kit." Watch out for jobs that seem like you're getting paid a good deal of money to do very easy work. It's probably a scam. 2. UP FRONT PAYMENTS While MLM companies aren't illegal, and most aren't scams _per se_, you do need to watch out. When an "employer" requires you to make some sort of up front payment, you could be moving into scam territory. MLM companies that encourage you to max out credit cards to buy products are trouble. Another red flag is when you are told to go to a specific web site and pay for a "background check" or "credit check." Also, watch out for "opportunities" that require you to buy an expensive kit in order to get started. It's one thing to buy a legitimate course or information product, it's another to buy something as a condition of employment. 3. POOR GRAMMAR Does the job listing feature poor grammar and lol-speak? If so, it's probably not legit. Reputable companies follow the rules of professional communication. They don't abbreviate items, and they don't substitute "$$$" for "money." Nor do they use the sort of terminology you are likely to see if you look at a text message from a teenager. 4. IT'S HARD TO GET INFORMATION ON THE COMPANY Does the "business" have a vague or generic name? Is the email address given a Gmail or Yahoo! account? Is it difficult to find a web site? If so, you could be dealing with a scam. Most legitimate companies have email addresses originating from the business domain name, not from MSN/Hotmail or Mail.com. Additionally, a poorly designed web site, or not web site at all, should also send up red flags. You should be able to find information on a potential company. 5. PRESSURE TO MOVE NOW Most jobs aren't going to require you to make a decision immediately. There's a whole process involved. Additionally, watch out for "limited time opportunities." Most legitimate job listings don't feature this type of language. Plus, with a reputable job, it's not about getting in on something quickly. It's about being the right fit. _Photo: thisisbossi_ 5 Signs Your Dream Job is Actually a Scam from personal finance blog Bargaineering.com. The post 5 Signs Your Dream Job is Actually a Scam appeared first on Bargaineering.
I was watching CNN's list of the big-name college commencement speakers and saw that there were a few names on that list I'd love to see. Bill Cosby is delivering the commencement speech at the University of Baltimore on May 21st. President Obama is speaking at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis on May 24th. And Cal Ripken Jr. is speaking to the graduates of the University of Maryland on May 19th. All within fifteen minute driving distance, these all hold great promise. While they may not not be as powerful as Steve Jobs at Stanford in 2008 or The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch from my alma mater, Carnegie Mellon, they all have the promise of being entertaining. There's just one problem… I'm not graduating from any of those schools. So how do I get in? FIND A STUDENT You will need a ticket to get into commencement and the only people who get tickets are graduates. For example, Maryland distributes five tickets per graduate (it'll vary between 4-6 each year) and you simply show ID and pick them up from the Comcast Center box office. The University of Baltimore also gives 5 tickets per graduate. The easiest way to get a ticket is to find a graduate to get you one. If it's a local college, as those three are for me, chances are a co-worker or a friend knows someone who knows someone who is graduating and can get you a ticket. It's a little last minute for this year but plan ahead of next year and you'll probably be able to get one. BUY IT If you can't get a free one from a student, the next best way is to buy one from a student. As the event nears, you'll start to see sale listings on Craigslist or other classified ad sites. I found a listing for four tickets to the UMD graduation for $400, which might be steep depending on your budget. Alternatively, there are exchanges available across social media set up by the schools themselves. Some graduates come from large families and whatever the school distributes just isn't enough. Check out the school's commencement page for the available options. STREAM IT ONLINE If you can't find a ticket to attend the event live, you can almost always stream it. Many universities put their commencement online and let you watch it in real time. Considering how large the venues are, oftentimes your streaming feed is exactly what you'd be watching anyway if you were there live. The University of Maryland streams theirs feed starting at 1 PM on graduation day, details all appearing on the main commencement page. The streaming option is probably the best option unless it's someone you've always to see live and in person. Sometimes a speaker generates so much buzz and emotion from the audience that you really need to be there to experience the full experience. Sometimes you can just wait for the Youtube video and skip all the lines and the traffic. _(Credit: HckySo)_ How to Attend Commencement at a University You've Never Been To from personal finance blog Bargaineering.com. The post How to Attend Commencement at a University You've Never Been To appeared first on Bargaineering.
There is a battle raging right now about the usefulness of a graduate degree, or even of any college degree at all. Joining the fray right now is the online degree space. A number of colleges and universities offer online degree programs, and there are online schools completely in the Internet education space. My husband teaches online classes for Utah State University, and one of them is a graduate-level course mostly aimed at teachers working on their master's degrees. While my husband's students find it useful to continue their educations online, since the master's degree will come with a pay increase, not everyone is in the same boat. WHAT IS YOUR ONLINE DEGREE WORTH? First of all, you have to decide what you're trying to accomplish with your online degree, says Chris Cullen, Managing Director at Infinia Group and former Chief Marketing Officer for The Johns Hopkins University. "The benefits of an online degree are direction relational to the goals of the student," he says. If you are just trying to continue your learning for your own benefit, and don't really care to use the degree, it might make sense to use free online learning resources and open courseware. However, if you feel that advancing your education is essential to your career, either to receive better credentials or qualify for higher pay or a promotion, it might make sense to take advantage of the convenience of online classes. But you still need to beware. Classes like those my husband teaches, and the online MBA programs offered by numerous respected and major universities, are fully accredited, and you enjoy the prestige of that particular university. It's a different story with a totally online institution. "It is safe to say that a completely online credential still does not afford the leverage and opportunity that any conventional degree does," Cullen says. "The job market is competitive," he continues. "If the online credential is a basic requirement to advancement in your company or career path, the source may be mostly irrelevant as long as it is accredited." Look at your goals, and the requirements of your career. In some cases, all you might need is particular certification, and once you accomplish that -- whether you take the required courses online or in person -- you can advance. In other cases, though, an online education might just be expensive, and leave you with a degree that is considered inferior to those from more traditional schools. Besides, there are some benefits to continuing your education in a classroom environment. I remember the stimulating discussions and exchange of ideas in my own graduate program. These are experiences that aren't as robust over the Internet. Cullen agrees: "[I]f a student is hoping to share the same conversations, and benefit from the same category prejudices of college graduates, at least for now an online education still carries a reputational asterisk." What do you think? Is an online degree worth it? Would you continue your education online? _(Photo: CollegeDegrees360)_ Should You Continue Your Education with an Online Degree? from personal finance blog Bargaineering.com. The post Should You Continue Your Education with an Online Degree? appeared first on Bargaineering.
Back when I worked as a consultant in the defense industry, I was expected to wear a suit every single day into work. I was fortunate in that I had just made a trip to China and came back with five suits (at around $80 a piece - they were very nice quality too) so I was well equipped to wear one every single day. (I would later learn that you just left a jacket behind your door and only wore a full suit to meet with clients) Even with five suits, I wanted to make sure I maintained them properly so that I could get the most out of them. While they were under $80 a piece, a great price for a great suit (that's what happens when you go straight to the tailor), I knew they were worth two or three times that and wanted to treat them that way. So I read up on how to maintain a suit and was surprised how simple it was. DON'T DRY CLEAN AFTER EVERY WEAR First, understand what dry cleaning is. Next, understand that you don't need to dry clean your suit after every wear. That great Art of Manliness article covers when you should dry clean your suit or will a quick brush or ventilation do the trick. Dry cleaning is a pretty harsh (and expensive) process and so if you can avoid it, it's best to dry clean when only absolutely necessary because it damages the suit. VENTILATION FOR 24 HOURS After you wear your suit, let the suit ventilate for at least twenty four hours. The idea here is that the suit has picked up some moisture from your body and will need some time to dry out. Also, if your suit picked up any new scents, like perfume or smoke, this also gives the suit a chance to rid itself of its new friends. HANG ON THICK HEAVY HANGERS You know those wire hangars the dry cleaner sends your suits back home in? Those suck. They're fine for shirts but those wires dig into the shoulders of suits. Also, sometimes those wire hangars aren't strong enough to even hold the suit and pants and you might find your suit in a crumbled ball on the floor the morning you need to wear it. While we're in the closet, make sure the suit has enough air around it to breathe a little. You won't need to ventilate it like in the previous tip but don't jam it in either. And check your pockets! CEDAR IF YOU CAN The saddest thing that could ever happen to a suit is discovering it's become food for moths. It's never obvious but holes just start appearing and all it takes it one hole for a suit to be ruined. If you can store in a closet lined with cedar, that's the best defense. Moth balls are also a good option, whether the traditional naphthalene mothballs or the newer cedar ones, especially when storing summer suits for the winter. The downside to moth balls is, of course, the smell; so cedar might work better. ROTATE, ROTATE, ROTATE By rotate I mean don't wear the same suit every single day. If you need to wear a suit every day, have a few on hand in order to cycle through them so they don't get beat up. As silly as it sounds, suits need time to recover and if you wear the same suit every day it'll wear it down faster (plus people will notice). ALWAYS LAUNDER YOUR SHIRTS ALWAYS. WASH. YOUR. SHIRTS. Even if you wear it for just an hour to an event and then take it off afterwards, always wash your shirts. The biggest reason (well, besides just the simple fact that you should keep your clothes clean) is that it slows the development of the dreaded "ring around the collar," which is a mix of sweat, oils, dirt, and dead skin cells. It may not look like you got it dirty, just wearing it for an hour or two, but if you stick it back in the closet then whatever you did leave behind will yellow and be baked into the shirt. To this day I still have all five suits, added a few more to the group, and they still get use at weddings (along with the twenty or so $1 ties…). Do you have any suit maintenance tips I missed? _( Credit: .faramarz )_ The Secret to Making a Suit Last Forever from personal finance blog Bargaineering.com. The post The Secret to Making a Suit Last Forever appeared first on Bargaineering.