Posts by Mandi Woodruff
- Mandi Woodruff at Yahoo Finance1 day ago
Despite the fact that collecting coveted airline miles has never been easier, the frequent flyer game is only getting more difficult for the little man.
Among the controversial changes, one-way domestic flights that once cost 25,000 miles are now broken up into three tiers(20,000 miles, 30,000 miles and a third level American hasn't quantified yet) for some loyalty members, depending on the time of year and destination demand. For example, a one-way domestic Thanksgiving flight might have cost 25,000 miles before and will now likely cost well over 30,000 miles. On the flipside, an off-peak flight could become slightly more affordable.
“What’s crazy about American is they didn’t give anybody any warning,” says George Hobica, founder of Airfarewatchdog.com. “People are pretty outraged.
- Mandi Woodruff at Yahoo Finance1 day ago
If you expect your employer to help cover the cost of your healthcare in retirement, you may be unpleasantly surprised.
The number of employers providing health benefits for retirees has been in a state of steady erosion over the past few decades — dropping from 40% of firms to 28% between 1988 and 2013, according to by the Kaiser Family Foundation. At larger companies (200+ employees) the drop has been even more dramatic, falling from 66% to 28%.
As it stands, fewer than one in five employees work for a company that offers health benefits to retirees.
"It's hard to forsee a scenario where this trend will be reversed," says Trisha Neuman, senior vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation and co-author of the report. " Employers are making decisions on an annual basis on how they want to structure their plans. They’re deciding what they’re willing to pay.”
The root of the decline is simple enough: Healthcare is growing increasingly expensive, and as retirees live longer each year, covering their medical expenses will only grow costlier.
- Mandi Woodruff at Yahoo Finance7 days ago
As important as it is for banks to protect their customers from hackers and data breaches, sometimes the biggest threat out there is the bank itself.
In a new study of checking account practices at 50 of the nation’s largest banks and credit unions, the Pew Charitable Trusts found that banks are still employing shady practices that can take a bite out of customers’ balances.
Half of big banks are still reordering consumer transactions from highest amount to lowest, making it easier to inadvertently overdraw an account, up from 47% last year. This chart shows just how costly transaction reordering can be in a hypothetical scenario:
For banks, reordering transactions is an easy way to collect overdraft fees, which cost consumers $32 billion a year, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. More than 70% of banks charge $35 or more when a customer’s withdrawal exceeds their account balance, and in many cases, fees can be charged as many as four times in a single day.
- Mandi Woodruff at Yahoo Finance8 days ago
American workers may be finally taking the hint about the best time to cash in on Social Security benefits. In 2012, 37.2% of men and 42.4% of women took advantage of early retirement benefits at age 62, according to new data released by the Social Security Administration. That’s compared with more than half of both men (50.3%) and women (54.3%) who couldn’t wait to get their hands on their retirement benefits in 2004. Those who waited heeded the warnings of countless financial experts who advise retirees to delay their benefits for as long as possible. The earliest beneficiaries can start collecting Social Security is 62. The later workers start collecting benefits, the higher their monthly income will be (the average monthly benefit for a 62-year-old in 2014 is $1,992 vs. $3,425 for a 70-year-old). But as positive as this new data may be, it still paints a grim picture of our reliance on Social Security as a source of income in retirement. Only 5.2% of men and 11.4% of women managed to wait until age 66 (considered “full retirement age” for workers who turned 65 after 2008) to start taking their benefits in 2012.
- Mandi Woodruff at Yahoo Finance9 days ago
American women may still earn less than men, but their role in driving upward mobility among the middle class is increasingly important, new research shows. Today, full-time working women contribute more than half their total household income on average, providing the kind of financial support that can increase the odds that low- and middle-income households move up the economic ladder, according to a recent report by Pew Charitable Trusts. A generation ago, working women contributed only 25% of their family's household income.
Working women today earn three times as much as their mothers were earning four decades ago, when women worked 24 hours per week for less than $10 an hour. Today, the majority of women work 35 hours per week for $19 an hour on average.
- Mandi Woodruff at Yahoo Finance12 days ago
McMansions may be making a comeback in the U.S., but it's nice to see the tiny-house movement is still going strong.
Tiny-home singles even have their own dating site, Tinyhousedating.com.The site launched two weeks ago and already has more than 400 members, according to founder Kai Rostcheck.
"It's hard to meet other people who are making that same [lifestyle] choice," Rostcheck told Yahoo Finance.
But is it really possible to thrive as a couple in such a, well, tiny space? What do you do when the inevitable argument heats up and you've only got 100 square feet of breathing room? How do you pare down not only your life but your partner's life to fit in a home no bigger than a tool shed?
We caught up with Rhode Island couple Jess Belhumeur, 28, and Dan Sullivan, 26, who chronicle their tiny-home lifestyle on their blog, Living In A Tiny House. In January they completed their 128-square-foot abode, which they built and furnished for a mere $10,000.
- Mandi Woodruff at Yahoo Finance14 days ago
Once we’ve passed our last high school or college exam, most consumers only have one score to worry about for the rest of our lives — our credit score. Or so we thought. As technology has improved, so has the ability of businesses to mine pools of highly identifiable public information and use that information to create brand new ways to “score” consumers. Based on hundreds of pieces of public and private data (e.g. “Big Data”), these so-called consumer scores are used by marketers, government agencies, financial institutions, and other businesses to predict a range of consumer behaviors, from how likely we are to wind up in the hospital to how often we’ll ditch our cable providers or collect unemployment. Most consumers don't know these scores exist and, more alarmingly, these databases could be juicy targets for cybercriminals. In a first-of-its-kind report released Wednesday, the World Privacy Forum, a non-profit consumer advocacy group, exposed dozens of these secret alternative scoring models and how they’re being used both for and against consumers. “These scores are nearly impossible to track down if you don’t know where to look,” Pam Dixon, director of the World Privacy Forum and co-author of the report, told Yahoo Finance. “We really want to engage the public and lawmakers in a dialogue about what’s happening with these consumer scores and create a structure where there’s fairness.” What’s a consumer score? Like a credit score, consumer scores are based on our past behaviors to predict what we’ll do in the future. Businesses use these scores in a number of ways, like deciding when to offer us services, how to target advertising to our tastes, and as background checks. The trouble with consumer scores is that even though we may know they exist, the companies behind them are protective of the algorithms and methodology they use. It took Dixon and her team a year and a half to figure out exactly what bits of information companies are using to score consumers. They found a single consumer score could be based on as many as 1,000 different factors, including age, ethnicity, social media presence, religion, health, marital status, purchase history, sexuality, medical history marital status, ZIP code, date of birth, and financial health. Where do they dig all that information up? Businesses that generate these scores are incredibly creative when it comes to mining for consumer data. And sometimes they don’t have to do any work at all since consumers often hand over their personal information without realizing it. Retailers, merchants and subscription-based services sell transactional data and lists of customers to marketers looking to target a specific area for ads. Ditto payday lenders. If you’ve ever entered a sweepstakes or signed up for a loyalty card, all of that information you enter (name, age, date of birth, etc.) could be up for grabs on the big data market. If you’ve ever filled out a survey about your health in order to register to access a medical website, that information
- Mandi Woodruff at Yahoo Finance19 days ago
If you’ve got your sights set on an Ivy League degree, get ready to put up a fight because it's harder than ever to get in. Six of the eight colleges and universities that make up the Ivy League have lowered their acceptance rates since last year, according to admissions rate data released this week. Less than 7% of Yale and Columbia University applicants were admitted this year. That acceptance rate was higher than Harvard’s though, which welcomed just 5.9% of freshman hopefuls (a smidge more than they took in 2013). The Cambridge, Mass., college was one of only two Ivy League schools to increase its admissions rate, along with Dartmouth, which admitted 11.5% of applicants, up from 10% last year. To some students — mostly those who don’t have famous last names or parents with bottomless bank accounts — these numbers might sound too daunting to overcome. “The perception is that the college admissions process is biased to those who have more money and I guess it has been for a long time. But I try to alleviate that bias and help give families information they need to compete with anybody,” says Mandee Heller Adler, founder of International College Counselors and author of the new book, “From Public School to the Ivy League.” Just 31% of publicly educated students earn a bachelor's degree compared with nearly 60% of their private school peers who get them, according to recent study by the National Center for Educational Statistics. On top of that,less than 10% of low-income students even bother to apply to competitive schools at all.
- Mandi Woodruff at Yahoo Finance20 days ago
Retirement plan fees can be one of the biggest threats to your nest egg, potentially costing the average dual-income household $154,794 over a lifetimeof saving. But it can be hard to fight something we can barely see without a magnifying glass. Federal regulators have been working at a snail’s pace to make 401(k) plan fees more transparent to consumers. A new web service is hoping to speed things up.