Posts by Farnoosh Torabi
- Yahoo Finance8 hrs ago
The holidays are about family, friends and, whether we like it or not, presents. And even with the best intentions, gift-giving can become sticky or awkward. How to deal? Know When It's Okay to Re-Gift Imagine your aunt gave you a beautiful silk scarf last year, but it’s just not your taste. Is re-gifting always allowed? Etiquette pros at the Emily Post Institute state on their website that, “gifts should be recycled only rarely.” It’s acceptable if the gift is brand new and is something the recipient would appreciate, like a family heirloom, a book by this person’s favorite author, or an item you know he or she collects. Also see: 3 Financial #Fails Plan for Unexpected Gifts Now, what if someone gives you a present unexpectedly? You don’t have to run out and buy the first thing you see for this person. It’s fine to give a gift at a later date, but then only if you really want to. Another way to handle surprise gifts is to plan ahead. Also see: Tips from America’s Smartest Shopper "Prepare yourself for anything that arises by keeping some gift cards on hand, or buy a case of your favorite wine at the beginning of the holiday season,” says Stephanie Sisco, associate editor at Real Simple . “You can grab a bottle when you get a last-minute invitation or need a quick gift.” Gift Cards: Give a Useful Amount Speaking of gift cards, while 60% of us say this is the top gift we want this year, according to the National Retail Federation, be sure the recipient can actually make the most of it. A $25 gift certificate to a store where the cheapest item is, say, $100, means the recipient still needs to shell out big bucks to afford something in the store. Either choose a more affordable store where $25 goes a long way or gift up! What awkward gift situations have you encountered? Connect with me on Twitter @Farnoosh and use the hashtag #FinFit. Follow Real Simple magazine on Twitter.
- Yahoo Finance2 days ago
Can’t figure out why you’re making the same financial mistakes? It may have something to do with your gender. Studies show that — more often than men — women sometimes think and act in ways that can translate into serious money mistakes. Guilt-Driven Decisions While making strides in the financial world, our tendency to feel guilty can sometimes interfere with success. A Spanish study found that women harbor more guilt than men. The reason? Genetics. In “The Essential Difference,” the author describes the female brain as “predominately hard-wired for empathy,” while “the male brain is predominately hard-wired for understanding and building systems.” This guilt can restrain us from rational thinking, and it may be why we’re twice as likely to hide purchases from our spouses than men. Also see: 4 Pieces of Advice 20-Somethings Shouldn’t Follow A separate study by BabyCenter.com discovered a whopping 94% of moms admit to parenting-related guilt, which can carry its own set of consequences, like quitting our careers to be at home and neglecting the long-term financial trade-offs — or showering our children with extra gifts. Failing to Outsource As women, many of us strive toward the somewhat controversial pursuit of “having it all.” That can be a lot of pressure since that message sometimes get confused with “doing it all.” Men are helping out a lot more these days, yes, but women still do most of the cleaning, cooking and child rearing. This extra work carries an immeasurable price: stress, especially for working moms. Also see: 3 Things Keeping You in Debt While outsourcing chores can seem expensive, it may actually be well worth the time and money. Consider this quick math: Take your income — let’s say $50,000 - and chop off the last three zeros and divide by two. This roughly gives you your personal hourly rate. In this case: $25. If a cleaner costs less than $25 per hour then outsourcing makes sense since your time is more valuable. Check out national sites like TaskRabbit.com, FancyHands.com and BidMyCleaning.com for affordable outsourcing solutions. Also see: we’re twice as likely to hide purchases0 Putting Others First An especially female trait that can sometimes lead to financial missteps is putting others ahead of ourselves. In fact we’re twice as likely to hide purchases1 found that women were twice as likely as men to commit financial sacrifices like neglecting to save for their personal retirement in order to provide aid to adult children and aging parents. What are some other money mistakes women in particular tend to make and your advice? Connect with me on Twitter we’re twice as likely to hide purchases2 and use the hashtag #FinFit.
- Yahoo Finance9 days ago
When you’re just starting out in the real world, everyone’s got advice, especially about how to manage your money. But certain bits of financial “wisdom” can fall short. Check out these four young money myths. Best to Get Your Own Place College graduates are encouraged to live on their own. After all, it’s a right of passage to adulthood. But remaining at home with your parents — even for just a year or two — can sometimes offer a bigger jumpstart on life. According to a recent poll by the Pew Research Council, more than 21 million young adults lived with their parents in 2012 to save money. The math is pretty convincing: Figure you might spend 30% of your take-home pay toward your own place. Considering the average income for a recent grad is around $45,000, opting to live with mom and dad could save you, after taxes, roughly $10,000 a year on housing, alone. Also see: Life in a 190 Square Foot Apartment Thirty-two-year-old David Weliver knows the benefits of this all too well. When he turned 26 he moved back in with his parents to help pay off $80,000 in debt stemming from student loans and living beyond his means. “Nobody wants to live with their parents when they’re in their 20s, but in hindsight I really regret not staying there longer. I would have saved $500 to $1,000 a month in rent,” says Weliver. “It would have let me get out of debt much faster.” Weliver now runs his own financial blog, MoneyUnder30, documenting some of the financial lessons he wish he’d learned in his 20s and other money myths you often hear when you’re first starting out in the real world. Also see: 3 Top Financial #Fails Save, Save, Save! While it’s important to take advantage of socking away money when you’re young, don’t forget to enjoy it from time to time. For Weliver, a once-in-a-lifetime vacation is a valuable investment he wishes he’d pursued more in the past when he had more time. “Even if you have to stretch a little bit to do it, travel when you’re young, because it gets so much harder as your career responsibilities increase and you have a family. You just don’t have time to do it," says Weliver. Grad School Is Worth It As a young professional you may be encouraged to go to graduate school. But in some cases, the benefits may be yet another money myth, especially if you need to take out large loans to attend. Those loans could end up haunting you for years to come in a tough job market. Take law school: In 2012 graduates owed over $100,000 in loans, according to U.S. News & World Report, and many have been unable to find high-paying jobs. Also see: How to Write the Perfect Scholarship Essay Just Be Happy to Land a Job Finally, don’t sell yourself short in the job market. Ignore the advice that you
- Yahoo Finance10 days ago
There are technology deals galore this week but with new ads rolling out between now and Black Friday, how do you know which day to snag the absolute lowest price? We teamed up with deal aggregator DealNews.com to unveil the best time to snag the deepest discounts on this year’s hottest tech products. HDTVs For this category, it pays to jump on a sale on or before Thanksgiving Day. “For third-tier models, Thanksgiving is a fantastic time get [an HDTV],” says Mark LoCastro of DealNews.com. “Not only do you see all-time lows for a specific make and model, but for an entire category of TV’s, it’ll be the best prices of the year.” For example, at Target find an Element 50” 1080P HDTV for just $229, down from $599 starting 8 p.m. Thursday. Also see: What NOT To Buy on Black Friday Non-Apple Phones Thanksgiving also beats Black Friday when it comes to non-Apple smartphones such as Androids. LoCastro says, “[On Thanksgiving last year] there were 50% more Android phone deals than any other smartphone out there.” For example, check out this Android deal from Best Buy: a FREE, Samsung Galaxy 4S with a two-year service plan, starting 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving. Video Games LoCastro claims there’s just no beating Thanksgiving when it comes to video games, as well. “We saw 70% more video game deals during the last two Thanksgivings versus Black Friday and 229% more gaming deals than on Cyber Monday. Look for older generation models that come bundled with games, you just get more of a value.” Both Best Buy and Walmart have deals like this: last year’s video game consoles, like the PS 3 that comes bundled with two games for $199. If you’re trying to get your hands on the new PS4, Groupon just announced it’s selling 100 of them — just don’t expect an discount. Also see: Secrets of a Black Friday Shopper PCs If you don’t plan on shopping right after turkey dinner, Black Friday still delivers discounts, particularly on laptops and computers like this 15.6” Dell Inspiron Laptop from Best Buy with Intel Processor, 4GB Ram, and 320G hard drive for $177. Storage Black Friday is also the perfect time to take advantage of hard drives, USB flash drives and memory card deals. Quantities sell out fast, however, so to increase your chances of finding something in stock at an outstanding price, DealNews says act quickly. iPhone Deals Finally, unlike Androids and other smartphones, for those elusive iPhone deals, wait until Black Friday. Apple products typically don’t go on sale during this season, but DealNews predicted this year could change all that and they were right: Walmart’s deals on an iPhones include a $75 gift card with the purchase of $45 5C or $189 5S, with contract. What tech deals are you eyeing during the Black Friday shopping holiday? Connect with us on Twitter @Farnoosh and use #FinFit. And check out our live
- Yahoo Finance10 days ago
Brett emails: I have a mortgage at 5.125%, a car loan at 4.25%, and a personal loan at 10.36%. We have been making extra mortgage payments and I have been making extra car payments. I have not been making extra payments to the personal unsecured loan. I know conventional wisdom says to eliminate bad debt with higher interest rates first, but for some reason I hate the fact of throwing extra money towards the one that won't build up equity. Is this OK? Hi Brett: I have to agree with conventional wisdom here. At 10.36% your personal loan is by far your most expensive debt in terms of interest and should be addressed with higher priority. Your emotions are taking over. And as common as that is, we know it usually isn’t the best approach when making financial decisions. Save your money instead. Once you’ve paid off the personal loan, consider making extra payments toward your other outstanding balances. Another reason you may not want to aggressively pay off your mortgage, according to Gerri Detweiler, credit expert at Credit.com, is that your home loan interest may be tax deductible if you itemize. The interest payments could help to reduce your taxes. On the other hand, “the personal loan interest is not [deductible], unless the debt happened to be used exclusively for business purposes,” she says. Detweiler also suggests looking at refinancing your mortgage and auto loans to save even more. Finally, a personal loan, while unsecured, does help to build a unique type of equity we often don’t think about: your financial security. The earlier you pay off that loan, the earlier you’ll be able to raise your personal equity, won’t you? Remember, individuals are valuable assets and those extra payments toward your personal loan will mean more money back in your pocket, boosting your financial status. Send Farnoosh your financial questions on Twitter @Farnoosh or email her FarnooshFinFit@yahoo.com.
- Yahoo Finance14 days ago
It might seem hard to believe, but there are some items you ought to skip on Black Friday. The experts at Dealnews.com, an online deal aggregator, offer the following Black Friday Do-Not-Buy list based on their pricing records from seasons past. Toys According to Deal News, toy prices are lower the first two weeks of December than during Black Friday weekend. Last year, prices dropped 27% during that period on popular items like Lego’s Ninjago Epic Dragon Set and the Lalaloopsy Silly Hair doll. That said, if there’s a “must-have” on your child’s wish list, better to snag it as soon as you find it since hot toys tend to fly off shelves faster than most products around the holidays. Also see: Tips From America’s Smartest Shopper Digital Cameras You’ll pay a premium to gift a digital camera in time for the holidays. If you can resist the Black Friday sales, you’ll be rewarded with clearance prices in January on current-generation cameras. This is thanks to new 2014 models hitting the shelves following the annual Consumer Electronics Show and retailers needing to unload 2013 inventory. Brand Name HD Televisions Sticking with electronics, Black Friday isn’t the time to buy a brand-name TV, either. Stores will offer rock-bottom prices that day, but Deal News says only to expect those discounts on third-tier models. Shop in late December and January for some of the lowest prices all year. Also see: When You Don’t Need to Tip Gift Sets and Subscriptions Finally, wine subscriptions, gift baskets and specialty foods make easy presents, but you’ll find prices that are easier on your wallet if you wait closer to the holidays. Last year, Deal News flagged twice as many “Editor’s Choice” discounts in this category around Christmas compared to Thanksgiving. What else should you skip on Black Friday? Connect with me on Twitter @Farnoosh and use the hashtag #FinFit.
- Yahoo Finance16 days ago
Your most valuable documents, like passports and birth certificates, are pretty obvious to identify, and the vast majority of people know to store these in a safe and secure place. Financial files, on the other hand, can be a little tricky. While computers and the Internet have made digital recordkeeping a breeze, some paperwork is best kept on hand at all times. Also see: 4 Bills You Should Never Autopay Insurance, Estate and Pension Papers First, in addition to any electronic copies you have, store hard copies of estate plans, life insurance polices and any pension paperwork from your employers. These documents are critically tied to your and your family’s financial wellbeing. You may need to retrieve these files on short notice, so keep them in a fireproof safe in your home for quick and easy access. Tax Forms When it comes to taxes, the rule of thumb is to keep your actual returns for at least three years, since the IRS has a statute of limitations of three years to conduct an audit. If serious errors are found, the government agency can examine your last six years worth of returns. But you may want to keep your returns forever in the unlikely event there is an error with your Social Security benefits. For example, when you begin to collect your Social Security income you may discover a miscalculation due to an incomplete earnings record with the Social Security Administration. This is not a terribly common problem, but if it happens to you, it could result in a lower monthly Social Security check. Your tax returns will be your primary defense. You can check ahead of time to see whether your benefits are being calculated correctly by registering online at SSA.gov to view your estimated earnings and benefits dating back to the first year you filed your taxes. If you spot an error, contact the SSA at 800-772-1213. Also see: Signs You Suffer From a Financial Disorder Property Records Next, if you own any property, keep records related to the purchase – like the deed and closing statement - as well as receipts for any improvements. Some modifications, like energy-efficient upgrades, can lead to tax credits, and potential buyers may want to see documentation related to major renovations. Loan Documents Don’t get rid of original loan documents, either. Whether for a home or car, hang on to them for as long as you own the item in case there’s ever any confusion from the lender about who owns the loan and the amount. Also see: 3 Financial #Fails What Can You Toss? If you’re hanging on to every receipt, pay stub or cable bill, there's no need. After reconciling receipts with checking account and credit card statements, feel free to shred them along with any old utility statements. There’s also no need to save ATM receipts or deposit slips since banks typically offer digital archives. And once you receive your W-2 or 1099 for the tax year,
- Yahoo Finance20 days ago
Fernando writes: I recently got my updated credit report. Among the errors, I found different versions of my name and accounts that I know nothing about in states I do not live in. I have tried writing to these people to get their information correct, even giving them my correct information. The mistakes are still there. How do I go about correcting the information? Hi Fernando, Your first instinct to contact the individual companies or creditors to try to correct the errors was a good one. In the case of erroneous names attached to your accounts, the cause is often human error. With the help of an understanding customer service rep, the issue could easily get resolved. (The issue may also be fraudulent, so keep reading.) The next step you should take is to reach out to the major credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion and Experian) that are displaying the errors on your report. You might discover the mistakes are on more than one report. The best way to find out is to get your credit report from each of the major agencies through AnnualCreditReport.com. You can do this once a year for free. “If all three major bureaus are showing the error, you will need to open an incident with each of them. Yes, this is a very painful process, but it’s worth it!” says Rod Ebrahimi, CEO of ReadyforZero.com, a website that provides online tools to help people get out of debt faster. Here are the links where you can file a dispute online with each: Experian, Equifax, TransUnion. To write an effective letter, check out the example provided by the Federal Trade Commission. If you choose to send the letter and proof of error via mail, instead of online, make sure to save the originals for yourself and send copies by certified mail, “return receipt requested,” for your records. Credit reporting bureaus usually have up to 30 days to investigate and write back with results along with a free copy of your credit report if updates were made. In many cases they’ll also report their findings to the other credit reporting bureaus. If the credit bureaus drag their feet and don’t get back to you on time, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “After the complaint is filed, you can log in and view the status at any time,” says Shannon McNay, Community and Customer Support Manager for ReadyForZero.com. “This is a great way to make sure the issue is resolved.” The Fair Credit Reporting Act also allows you to add a summary explanation to your credit report if you’re not happy with the way your dispute got settled. A final note: If you suspect that someone may be intentionally using your personal information, put a freeze on your reports, says Ebrahimi. “Once it’s in place, you can be comforted to know that if someone is trying to
- Yahoo Finance21 days ago
Writing the perfect essay can seem next to impossible. But 26-year-old Kristina Ellis says it doesn’t have to be. She won half a million dollars in scholarship money for college, and now she’s teaching others how to write award-winning essays in her book, “Confessions of a Scholarship Winner.” Make a Connection Whether writing about a personal hardship or a fulfilling volunteer experience, Kristina stresses it’s important to make an emotional connection so the judges remember you. Also see: How I Earned $500k in Scholarships “Everybody has stories and personal experiences that can really translate in essays,” says Ellis. “Share the highs, the lows, the ups, the downs, you know, and be real with the judges. They’re really just trying to figure out who you are.” Ellis says the biggest mistake is writing about information the judges can find elsewhere in the application, like lists of extracurricular activities or GPA. Less Is More “Choose your words carefully. Most scholarship essays are only about 500 words in length, so you don’t have a lot of space to show them who you are. You want to make sure you package each and every word to have the maximum impact possible,” she says. Also see: 4 Bills You Should Never Autopay Copy Edit Finally, review, review, review! Don’t let spelling or grammatical errors stand between you and free money for college. And get feedback. Ellis asked five to 10 people, including her English teacher and a financial aid officer at her local community college, to read each essay before submitting it. “See if they catch any small errors, and also have them evaluate what kind of impact it makes on them,” Ellis says. “If you continually refine your essays and make them stronger and stronger, you’re going to increase your chances of really impacting the scholarship judges." What are your essay-writing tips? Connect with me on Twitter @Farnoosh and use the hashtag #FinFit. Thank you to Vanderbilt University for their assistance with this video.
- Yahoo Finance23 days ago
Setting up automatic payments is a convenient way to stay on top of bills every month. It can save you time and money, but for expenses that fluctuate or creep up, you may want to skip it. Consider manually paying these four expenses. Certain Cell Plans Unless you have an unlimited cell plan, it may not be wise to put the payments on autopilot. If your kids love downloading the latest games, ringtones or music, you could get hit with an unwelcome surprise at the end of the month. If you don’t have enough in the bank to cover it, you'll incur some hefty overdraft fees. To put this in perspective, a Nielsen survey found that teens send or receive, on average, more than 3,300 texts per month. Also see: Save on High-Tech Outdoor Wear Utilities When it comes to utilities, like water or electricity, making manual payments allows you to keep better tabs on energy usage. With automatic payments you might neglect to see a spike in the water bill and recognize, say, there’s a leak under the sink. Gym Membership How often are you really hitting the gym or yoga studio? Studies show we tend to overestimate how many times we’ll really work out each month. In fact, researchers at the University of California Berkeley found that members who opt for an unlimited monthly contract pay, on average, $70 and attend fewer than five times each month. By automating your fitness membership, it’s really easy to lose track of whether you’re really getting your money’s worth. It may be cheaper to buy a five- or 10-class package that never expires. Also see: Travel-Sized Essentials You Need Every Day Subscriptions Finally, subscriptions, from magazines to beauty sample boxes, can turn into sneaky, forgotten charges when we automate the renewals. A study by Billguard.com, a service that tracks your payments for free, found that “cost creep” is a top billing concern with subscriptions that often goes unnoticed. Instead, restart the membership yourself when the company sends you the notice. You can take a moment to consider the costs, plus you’ll notice if the rates increase – even an extra few dollars in those service charges add up quickly. What bills do you prefer to pay manually? Connect with me on Twitter @Farnoosh and use the hashtag #finfit.