Posts by Jeanie Ahn

  • The hidden costs of homeownership

    Jeanie Ahn at Yahoo Finance 13 days ago

    The American dream of homeownership can quickly turn into a nightmare when you’re constantly being hit with unexpected expenses. Egypt Sherrod, HGTV host of “Property Virgins” and “Flipping Virgins,” shares her tips on how to prepare for some of the hidden costs. Landscaping Depending on where you live, landscaping can be a huge bill to consider. When Sherrod moved to Atlanta from New York City, she was billed $200 to get an acre of land mowed by a professional service. If you want extra curb appeal, add another $400 for seasonal flowers. If that’s not in your budget, Sherrod recommends investing in a riding lawn mower. It will cost you about $2,000 to purchase but will pay for itself within a year — and you won’t have to rely on a service you can’t afford. Gutter cleaning Every six months you’ll need to clear your gutters of built-up debris like dirt and leaves. Failing to maintain the exterior of your house will result in costly and dangerous problems like mold. If you don’t plan on cleaning your gutters yourself, you can expect to pay $200 to $300 for the service. A one-time installment of gutter guards can save you the hassle of dealing with this issue, says Sherrod. A gutter guard looks like a metal grate and shields your gutters. It can cost anywhere from a few hundred if you install them yourself to a few thousand if you get it done professionally. But once you set it, you can forget it. Repairs

  • Colleges with the craziest waterparks

    Jeanie Ahn at Yahoo Finance 20 days ago

    This month, as students are diving into their college studies, many are also diving into some of the coolest pools you’ve ever seen.

    Increasingly, schools across the country are spending millions of dollars on recreational water amenities that would rival some of the most elaborate waterparks out there. Colleges that used to compete on the basis of libraries and majors are now turning to lazy rivers and indoor beaches to attract and entertain a new generation of students.

    The University of Missouri’s $39 million rec center comes complete with an indoor beach, a lazy river, a waterfall, and a grotto modeled after the one at Hugh Hefner's mansion. Texas Tech University spent $8.4 million on their leisure pool with a 635-foot lazy river, waterslide, and tanning terrace. Pensacola Christian College spent $1 million on a surfing “FlowRider” that pumps 600 gallons of water per second. And Auburn University reached record enrollment this year with their 240,000 square ft. rec center, complete with multiple climbing walls, a 45-person hot tub, and the nation’s longest indoor running track.

    More from Yahoo

  • The 3 biggest misconceptions about 529 plans

    Jeanie Ahn at Yahoo Finance 25 days ago

    Most parents have every intention of saving for their child’s college education – and as early as they can. But putting money aside for an expense that’s years away can easily be bumped lower on the list of priorities, especially when you’re confused about the best way to go about it.

    Of the parents that do try to save, many are bogged down by misconceptions that are costing them. As a result, too many are stowing money away in their savings accounts and 401(k)s rather than using 529 plans that reduce the amount you lose to taxes.

    In a recent survey by T. Rowe Price, nearly half of parents said they are using a regular savings account to save for college. And while 31% said that they are using a 529 account, 28% said they don’t even know what a 529 plan is.

    If you’re among those not in-the-know, here’s the deal: 529 plans are investment accounts that let savings grow tax-free, and earnings are completely tax-free if withdrawals are used for qualified college expenses; these plans have no income limit, and many states’ 529 plans give parents a tax credit or deduction for contributions.

    Here are three of the biggest misconceptions causing the most confusion about 529 plans:


  • A local man’s view on the real recovery of post-Katrina New Orleans

    Jeanie Ahn at Yahoo Finance 1 mth ago

    Ten years ago, Carrey Bowers had a job he loved and a family home he was proud of. Then Hurricane Katrina disrupted his world. A decade later, he’s still putting the pieces of his former life back together. “Losing my job and my home at the same time was devastating,” says Bowers, 55, a native of New Orleans who left the city to find steady work after the storm. He spent six years chasing job opportunities around the country before he decided to move back to New Orleans for good. For more than two years, he’s been working as a full-time driver for a medical clinic that serves senior citizens. Shuttling around town 40 hours a week has afforded Bowers an up close look at the parts of the city that have recovered since Katrina, as well as still-struggling neighborhoods like the Lower Ninth Ward. “I hate to say it but it’s like the Lower Ninth Ward and New Orleans East are forgotten,” Bowers says as he drives along quiet streets with empty lots, unpaved roads, and boarded-up homes that have been left untouched for years. By 2010, fewer than 5,600 people had returned to the Lower 9, or about 28% of the pre-storm population, according to the Data Center, compared to the city-wide average of 70% returning to pre-Hurricane Katrina households. Less than five miles down the road, there’s an abrupt change in scenery. The bustling downtown Central Business District feels like a different city entirely with new buildings, bright lights, and little sign that a storm ever came through. Stopping along Canal Street in front of Saenger Theatre, where he worked as a box-office manager for 11 years – where he was when Katrina barreled through New Orleans – Bowers looks out his driver’s seat window and describes what it was like to be sheltered inside the theatre for days. When the flooding began, he knew the venue was a solidly built structure, so he convinced some of his family members to go there instead of the Superdome where most of the city’s displaced were heading. Once the floodwaters began pouring into the basement, Bowers abandoned the theater and drove out to the first hotel that had room for his family. It wasn’t until they watched the news in their Baton Rouge hotel room that they realized the magnitude of the destruction and death in their hometown. “I’m not a man that is prone to cry, but you’re having all these emotions going on…My city is destroyed, our homes are destroyed, our jobs are destroyed – everything,” he says. Both the theater downtown and his home in Gentilly had suffered from significant water damage and renovations would take years. His aunt’s home, where his mother lived, in the Lower Eighth Ward, completely collapsed. Like one million others who were displaced after Katrina, Bowers had to figure out a way to make ends meet and stabilize his family’s life until he could come back home. While most of his extended family decided they would not be returning to New Orleans, Bowers, along with his wife, Jeanne, and their three children, always planned on coming home. But once they returned, jobs within his field were hard to come by. The Saenger had still not reopened, so Bowers decided to pursue more lucrative opportunities outside New Orleans, even if it meant being separated from his close-knit family. When the Apollo Theater in New York offered him a box-office managing position that would pay him twice as much as he made in New Orleans, he felt he needed to take the job. Still, Bowers regretted his decision to leave. “Being apart from my wife and kids wasn’t good for any of us. If I had realized that I could sustain myself then, the way I could do now, I would’ve stayed,” he says. There are still many parts of New Orleans where recovery has been stilted. But Bowers sees promise in the growing number of jobs created by expanding industries like film and medicine. “We might have to reinvent ourselves and be trained for various jobs, but we can’t say there won’t be any jobs because they’re coming back,” he says. When Saenger Theatre reopened, Bowers was interviewed, but didn’t get rehired. He’s no longer actively pursuing theater work because he finds purpose in his driving job today. But he has kept abreast of the changes in venue management by working part-time box-office gigs for the New Orleans Pelicans during basketball season. He says: “The job that I do now, even though it may not have the sparkle to it, the excitement, I like what I’m doing for a different reason.”

  • What to do when daycare costs more than college

    Jeanie Ahn at Yahoo Finance 7 mths ago

    Dalia Gokirmak, 31, and her husband Oscar, 41, always wanted a big family. But when they found out they were having twins when she was pregnant for the second time, reality sunk in immediately. “I’ll be honest, I pulled out the calculator right away,” Oscar says.

    Though they would’ve preferred to stay in Hoboken, N.J., the couple knew they would not be able to afford $1,600 a month per child, the going childcare rate in the area, plus the cost of moving to a bigger home. So they packed up and moved to the neighboring town of Union City where daycare rates are around $600-$700 a month.

    But unlike college, where you have years to save up, the sticker shock of daycare leaves families scrambling to make ends meet. “We’re seeing a huge shift of families postponing buying a house, having kids, and saving for retirement,” says McCready.

    Help for low-income families

    Only 1 in 6 low-income families that are eligible for government subsidies are taking advantage of the financial help available to them, according to Child Care Aware. That’s a result of low awareness of financial aid and long waitlists for daycare.

  • The most expensive diamond engagement rings

    Jeanie Ahn at Yahoo Finance 7 mths ago

    Popping the big question can be one of the priciest events of your life. According to a recent report by Jewelers of America, couples spend an average $4,000 on the engagement ring alone.

    But when celebrity couples get engaged, their often public declaration of commitment is symbolized by a rock that can easily get into seven-figure territory.

    Here are some of the most expensive and extravagant engagement rings out there:

    1) When NBA player, Kris Humphries proposed to Kim Kardashian, he went straight to her favorite jeweler, Lorraine Schwartz. He bought a 16.21 emerald-cut center stone ring with 1.8 side diamonds that cost $2 million. When the marriage didn’t work out, it was sold for $749,000 at a Christie’s auction in New York.

    More from Yahoo Finance:

    12 celebrities making frugal choices

  • $50-and-under Valentine’s Day gifts for him

    Jeanie Ahn at Yahoo Finance 8 mths ago

    You have less than a week to shop for a Valentine’s Day gift. If you’re still not sure what to get your man, Redbook magazine’s Cristina Pearlstein offers something for every kind of guy at the perfect price point – under $50.

    1. Wrangler Checked Flannel Shirt - $20 at Walmart and Kmart This soft flannel from the iconic American brand, Wrangler, comes in several colors including red, blue and gray. For $20 or less, the bold checkered pattern can be layered with other comfortable favorites in his closet.

    2. UNIQLO Ultra-Light Down Vest - $49.90 at UNIQLO Practical and stylish, this down vest is a great way for him to try out a layered look, says Pearlstein. The slimmed-down V-neck design can be worn as an inner or outer and is available in six colors he’ll love.

  • 5 Valentine’s Day gifts under $50 she’ll actually like

    Jeanie Ahn at Yahoo Finance 8 mths ago

    Valentine’s Day is fast approaching – do you know what you’ll be giving your significant other on Feb. 14? For under $50, Redbookmagazine’s market director Cristina Pearlstein guarantees these gifts will impress your sweetheart (no trip to Victoria’s Secret necessary). 1. Metallics Away Clutch at - $44 with promo code “REDBOOK20” for 20% OFF. (Original price: $55) Most women are picky when it comes to things they wear – but this is an extremely versatile, universal cross-body bag that works with almost any outfit. It’s a great day-to-night accessory that she can take to work or to an event at night. It has the look of a small clutch but more than enough room for your wallet, cellphone, keys, and more.   2. Tocca Eau de Parfum Viaggio Travel set - $45 at Nordstrom If you’re with someone you haven’t been dating long, this is an elegant gift and isn’t too personal. “This set gives her three scent options to choose from so you aren’t putting all of your eggs in one basket,” says Pearlstein. The packaging is also classy enough that you don’t need to wrap it – toss a bow or tie a ribbon on it and you’re good to go. 3. Aqua Stud Earrings - $45 at with promo code “REDBOOK” for 10% OFF. (Original price: $50)

  • The most important money conversation you’re not having

    Jeanie Ahn at Yahoo Finance 8 mths ago

    When Rosemary Flanagan died two years ago at the age of 84, her family was stunned. She led an active lifestyle and showed no signs of slowing down before passing away in her sleep.

    Although she was a mother to seven sons, none of them knew what to do with her estate. “I was planning on having this conversation with my mother about her estate planning, making sure that the lawyer was on board and that all of her accounts were up to date, but she died suddenly,” said one of her sons, Thomas Flanagan, 50, who lives in Chicago, Illinois where his mother also lived.

    After discovering that their mother’s lawyer was no longer practicing and her will had not been updated in six years, the Flanagan family had no idea where to begin. While mourning their mother, Thomas and his siblings scrambled to find any documents that could shed light on her financial situation. It took a week to find her wallet, months to track down all of her IRAs, and more than a year to close all her bank accounts.

    While death and estate planning can be a sensitive topic for families to broach, not having a plan in place can become an even bigger regret.

    An updated will or trust

    Durable power of attorney for property

  • 5 ways to save at Starbucks

    Jeanie Ahn at Yahoo Finance 8 mths ago

    Despite the criticism that Starbucks coffee is overpriced, record sales this quarter indicate that people are willing to pay the price. But for those of you looking to save on your coffee habit, we tested five tried-and-true Starbucks hacks that’ll give you the caffeine fix you need, for less.   1) ICED LATTE HACK Instead of ordering a “grande iced latte" priced at $3.95*, ask the barista for a double shot of espresso (a.k.a. “doppio”) over ice in a grande (medium) cup. At the condiment bar, add your own milk for free.   We tried this at two different Starbucks locations and the baristas seemed to know exactly what we were up to, but didn’t seem to care. We were only charged $2.45, saving a total of $1.50, and there was no difference in taste.   *Tax not included. Menu prices vary by location.   2) ICED TEA HACK The iced tea blends are one of the more affordable beverages on the menu, but there is still a way to save big. For example, instead of ordering a tall passion tea for $1.95, you can ask for a passion tea bag with a cup of iced water and they’ll charge you just 30 cents for the teabag – saving you $1.65. Give it five to 10 minutes for the tea bag to do its work, and it tastes exactly the same as the pre-made blend in their pitchers. 3) CHAI TEA LATTE HACK Instead of ordering a “tall chai tea latte” priced at $3.45, ask for a tall hot tea with an Oprah Chai Tea bag for $2.75. Again, add free milk, sugar, and honey from the condiment bar. This hack will save you 71 cents and is ideal for those who love the taste of chai, but like to control the sweetness.   4) HOT LATTE HACK Lattes are made with espresso shots and steamed milk. An affordable alternative not listed on the menu is the “caffe misto” which is made from fresh brewed coffee and steamed milk.  We were charged $3.25 for a tall latte, while a tall cafe misto was 70 cents cheaper at $2.55.   5) HACK THE CUP Order a smaller size of your favorite blend in the next size up. For example, order a tall (small) Americano in a grande (medium) cup. The baristas will often pour a little more into the grande, giving you more bang for your buck. And when you go to add milk, you won’t need to dump coffee out of your cup. Once you’ve added milk, you’ll have a drink that’s closer to the next size up – and you’ll save about 70 cents.   What’s your Starbucks hack?