Monthly Archives: September 2011

Some green technologies are a waste of green

a small power generating wind turbine

Going green, or relying on environmentally friendly or less wasteful technologies is a good thing, especially if it saves money. However, some green home improvements just throw green from the wallet into the compost heap.
Break like the wind
Wind power, one of the most popular methods of renewable energy generation, is capable of generating sufficient power for cities with a large enough wind farm. Some people have taken to installing rooftop and backyard wind turbines.
One model of turbine detailed in the New York Times, the Swift wind turbine, can cost up to $12,000 to purchase and install. In gusty conditions, it [...]

Citigroup pushing record number of credit card offers via mail

Nighttime photo of a Citigroup office building with lens flare that blurs the amber light of the corporate logo.

With business sagging, Citigroup Inc. is making a major push for credit card customers, reports the Wall Street Journal. Coming to a North American mailbox near you in the third quarter will be an estimated 346 million credit card offers, according to figures compiled by research firm Synovate. That’s more than one for every man, woman and child in the U.S., at a cost exceeding $240 million.
One in three credit card offers were already Citi
Already among the most active mailers in the credit card market, Citigroup is expected to officially take the crown from Chase once third quarter numbers are [...]

Gas prices remain high despite expert predictions

Gas prices

According to the usual predictors, gas prices should be down. But though oil has been less than $90 a barrel since early August, prices at the pump remain about the same as they were 30 days ago. There are several factors contributing to the stubbornness of the pump numbers.
About the same as last month
According to AAA, which tracks gas prices nationally, the average cost for a gallon of gas on Monday was $3.588. The price at this time in August was $3.578. A year ago that figure, according to Daily Finance, was $2.731.
Why gas prices should have dipped
According to common [...]

Oktoberfest another tragic victim of inflation

Beer stein

Many things have become costlier than they used to be as a result of recent economic conditions. Inflation has also conspired to make just about everything cost more — including things that really hurt, such as the famed Munich Oktoberfest.
Beer price inflation higher than economic inflation
Sometimes a dour economy can hit people where it really hurts. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal reports that costs are increasing over inflation for something that really should be above the grotesque nature of global capitalism: Oktoberfest.
Worse still is that the cost of beer at Oktoberfest is rising above the European Central [...]

Netflix CEO apologizes and says company will split in two

Netflix dog

Not long ago Netflix was one of the most successful businesses going in the economic slowdown. However, several questionable decisions made by management recently have shaken its popularity with customers and investors. The company’s CEO apologized, admitting mistakes, and laid out plans the company has for major changes in how it will operate.
‘I messed up’
Reed Hastings, CEO and co-founder of Netflix, took personal blame in a lengthy blog posted Sunday. “I messed up,” he began, “I owe everyone an explanation.”
Customers disappointed in droves
Netflix customers were disappointed in droves after the company’s decision in July to split its home DVD and [...]

Kids and cellphones: Knowing when the time is right

A nine-year-old boy talks on a cell phone. He's holding a Pepsi can in his other hand, and there's a red Boston Red Sox baseball cap on his head.

Many parents wrestle with whether a child should have a cellphone, and some will cave beneath the social pressure and make the purchase. If you’re a parent teetering on the edge of a cellphone buying decision, consider some advice on kids and cellphones, courtesy of the National Consumers League.
Kids using cellphones: They’re getting younger
Cellular industry experts note that approximately 75 percent of U.S. teenagers own cellphones, and the fastest-growing group of cellphone users is the demographic between ages 9 and 12, says NCL representative John Breyault.
“The age a child gets a first cellphone is getting progressively younger. Parents want to [...]

How to stop debt from ruining marriage

A man and a woman are sitting together in a plaza in Rome. It appears that the couple is having an argument.

Marriage is a major undertaking that can forever change your life. When marriage and debt are combined, it can get ugly. Not only does it cause tension between husband and wife, it can teach children negative financial lessons that take years to unlearn. Learn how to stop debt from ruining marriage in five steps, suggested by personal finance consultant Dani Johnson.
Stay focused and pay down debt
When revolving debt is allowed to fester, a couple’s overall debt load grows exponentially. Pay it down as fast as possible, suggests Johnson.
“Struggles don’t have to contaminate the marriage, whether you are one year into [...]

Bankruptcy filers are more educated, older, make more money

Bankruptcies

It still pays to get an education, but maybe not quite as well as it once did. A new study indicates that the number of college educated people filing for bankruptcy has risen by 20 percent over the last five years. The study also shows increases in age and income of filers.
College-educated, higher-income earners
The report, released Tuesday by the Institute for Financial Literacy, showed that the number of bankruptcy filers with a graduate degree climbed from 11.2 percent in 2006 to 13.6 percent in 2010.
People without a college degree make up 70 percent of all bankruptcy filers. But the study [...]

Funeral costs still on the rise

A funeral

The death of a loved one is a taxing event emotionally, and the costs associated with death are only increasing. Funeral and burial costs have been on the rise for years and show no signs of slowing.
Governments having to shoulder cost of more burials
The cost of a burial, funeral costs and dealing with remains are getting so expensive that more remains are being left for state and local governments to deal with, according to USA Today.
Coroner’s offices nationwide are noting an increased number of unclaimed remains and burials of indigent people. A survey of National Association of Medical Examiners members [...]

Beware of cancer scams when considering charitable giving

person getting their head shaved

Giving to charity or helping a person in financial need is a wonderful thing to do. However, scams are everywhere, and dastardly people will even turn to cancer scams to fleece people.
Common charitable cause a hotbed of fraud
Many people donate money toward cancer research or to help fund treatment. One of the largest charitable organizations in the nation is the American Cancer Society. In 2009, according to Guidestar, a database of information about charities, the ACS, received more than $375 million and spent almost $314 million on “program services,” including research and so forth.
However, charitable causes can attract vultures that [...]

Coupon clipping can help, but it has a dark side

Coupons

Anything that saves us money in this troubled economy is worth pursuing. Coupon clipping can help keep grocery and other expenses down, and those savings can add up. But there is a dark side to couponing. Popularized the a TLC reality show “Extreme Couponing,” for some the practice can become an obsession that consumes their lives.
Popularized by reality show
“Extreme couponing” is a phrase popularized by The Learning Channel’s reality show of the same name. According to TLC, it is a show about “the world of bargain shoppers who have mastered the art of saving. Get tips to help you save [...]

Rent out your bathroom with CLOO app

Sign on the door of a coffee shop that reads, “No public restroom.”

Do you hate searching for restrooms in the big city? Do you like meeting new people and earning money in the process? Experience the best of both worlds with CLOO’, the iPhone app that enables you to rent out your bathroom for friends (and friends of friends) in your online social network.
CLOO’, as in your loo
CLOO’ is short for community loo, and the apostrophe represents a GPS marker. Urban dwellers who download the iPhone app and sign up for the service can open up their private bathrooms to strangers and make some money.
Here’s how it works. Connected to social networks [...]

Economic growth depends on spending and paying bills on time

Cutting credit cards

Just a few years ago, credit cards were the way most of us lived above our means. But since the Great Recession of 2008, Americans have been working hard to wean themselves off of the credit card habit. And while that may be wise and responsible from the standpoint of personal finances, the good sense of these consumers does have a negative impact on a shaky economy that runs on credit.
Number of cards and balances drop
According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York‘s August Household Debt and Credit Report, in the last year 199 million credit cards were canceled [...]

Is Obama job-training plan doomed to fail?

A man sits curbside, blowing bubbles with a bubble gun.

In his speech Thursday, President Obama proposed a series of new federal jobs and job-training programs for young people and the long-term unemployed. Yet thousands of critics are less than enthusiastic, notes the Wall Street Journal. The federal government has tried such programs for more than 50 years, and each one has failed in large part because, as a 1969 Government Accounting Office study warned, teenagers in such programs “regressed in their conception of what should reasonably be required in return for wages paid.”
The original job training program
Congress passed the Manpower Development and Training Act in 1962 as part of [...]

H&R Block removes refund anticipation loans from menu next year

Income tax return

H&R Block, the largest tax preparation service in the nation, has announced it will not offer refund anticipation loans next year to consumers. The loans, which are a cash advance against a tax return, are controversial, and Block says they aren’t necessary.
Tax firm did well enough without them
Earlier this year, H&R Block announced that it would not be offering refund anticipation loans for the 2011 tax season, according to Forbes. Block’s financing partner in providing loan capital, HSBC, was ordered by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to stop funding refund anticipation loans, or RALs, in December. Block [...]

Student loan default at highest level in years

A college cheerleader in uniform walks the court as she stares into space, apparently deep in thought.

Student loan debt has surpassed credit cards on the consumer debt scale, and experts predict the trend to continue. According to the latest U.S. Department of Education data, federal student loan default rose sharply in fiscal 2010. Overall, 8.8 percent of borrowers defaulted. The number increased to 15 percent within the first two years of repayment when only for-profit schools were taken into account.
Student loan default up whole percentage points
The increase in student loan default was significant on all levels, reports the New York Times. For-profit college default went up from 11.6 percent in 2009 to 15 percent last year. [...]

Americans below poverty line hits highest number on record

Poverty

 
A Census Bureau report Tuesday revealed that more and more Americans are losing the battle to stay afloat in a stormy economy that refuses to quell. The number of Americans living below the poverty line increased in 2010 to its highest number since the bureau started keeping such records in 1959.
Highest percentage since 1993
The national poverty rate in 2010 hit 46.2 million people, up from 43.6 million in 2009. The number of poor Americans is the higest it has been since the records started 52 years ago. The 2010 poverty number are “approaching levels not seen since Lyndon B. Johnson [...]