Posts by Mandi Woodruff

  • Where are they now? The most inspiring personal finance stories of 2014

    Mandi Woodruff at Yahoo Finance 15 hrs ago

    You don’t need us to remind you that American households were crushed by the Great Recession – so much so that today, the gap between the rich and the poor has never been wider and the average family with a credit-card balance is grappling with $15,611 in debt.

    But not all is bleak. Five years since the recession officially ended, more and more stories of families overcoming insurmountable financial obstacles have begun to emerge. We’ve taken a look back at 2014 and picked our top five most inspiring personal finance stories of the year. These personal finance heroes have tackled six-figure debt, redefined the idea of retirement and turned their lifestyles upside down. In addition to revisiting their journeys, we caught up with several of our favorites to see how they're faring today.

    No. 5: Kim Mathis managed to pay off $5,000 in one year while earning just $21,000.

    “My life now is much better,” she says. “I’m blessed and thank God every day for what I have."

  • Why you should start 'gossiping' at the office

    Mandi Woodruff at Yahoo Finance 5 days ago

    From an early age, we’re taught by finger-wagging grown-ups that it’s immoral -- cruel even -- to whisper behind others’ backs and feed the rumor mill.  But once you’ve left the playground and entered the modern day workplace, the positive power of gossip can often be woefully underestimated.  

    Humans have been gossiping since our caveman days , back when there was no Snapchatting or texting and gabbing around the watering hole was the best way to promote social order and community. If you think about it, gossip was almost as important to our evolution and survival as it was for us to learn how to make fire and handle a spear. If you were out of the loop, it might have meant missing out on news about the best hunting grounds, finding a good partner to mate with, or having pals around to help defend you against predators

    In the workplace, you won’t necessarily wind up on the dinner menu if you ignore your coworkers at the office happy hour, but it could mean missing out on the kind of key information that could actually help you move up in your career.

    Gossip and ostracism

    Beware the pitfalls

  • 9 tips for Obamacare open enrollment

    Mandi Woodruff at Yahoo Finance 6 days ago

    Monday, Dec. 15, is the last day consumers can enroll in Obamacare health coverage if they want their plans to become effective on Jan. 1, 2015. Nearly 1.4 million Americans have enrolled in new plans through the federal exchange since open enrollment began in November, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. 

    As new insurers plan to enter (and, in some cases, leave) the marketplace while others tweak their benefit offerings for 2015, now is the time for consumers to review their plans to make sure they’re properly covered.

    Whether you’re already enrolled in an Obamacare plan or decided to take a pass on insurance coverage this year, the following tips will help guide you through the enrollment process.

    “You’ve got to shop around,” says Jennifer Sullivan, director of the Best Practices Institute for Enroll America , a nonprofit that helps consumers sign up for health coverage. “Even if you want to stay in your plan, you still have to go back to the marketplace and update your information.”

    1. Check your mail.

  • Most Americans want to save more in 2015 — but can they?

    Mandi Woodruff at Yahoo Finance 9 days ago

    After a year of impressive job growthand stock market highs, Americans are feeling significantly more confident about their finances going into 2015. Only 31% of Americans say they plan on making financial resolutions in 2015, down from 43% in 2014, according Fidelity Investments’ annual New Year Resolutions survey .

    Those who are setting goals are an ambitious bunch. More than half (55%) of resolution-makers say they want to save more in the new year, with a median commitment of $200 a month.  Saving more has been the most cited financial resolution since Fidelity began running this survey in 2010, and its popularity has only risen as households rebounded in the years following the recession. Paying off debt (20%) and spending less money (17%) were a distant second and third.  (Fidelity surveyed around 2,000 people.)

    Confident or complacent?

    What about you? Tell us about the financial goals you plan to make in 2015:

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  • Americans plan on spending much more on holiday shopping this year

    Mandi Woodruff at Yahoo Finance 10 days ago

    Five years since the Great Recession officially ended, shoppers are feeling twice as generous when it comes to their holiday spending.

    Americans plan to spend an average of $861 on holiday gifts this year, up 8% from 2013 and double their meager $417 budget in 2009, according to the American Research Group. (Meanwhile, a Gallup survey found that Americans will spend an average of $720 on gifts this year, slightly higher than their $704 estimate last year.)

    This is no doubt a good sign for retailers — especially given those ho-hum Black Friday sales reports — but just because consumers plan on shelling out bigger bucks this year doesn’t necessarily mean they can afford it.

    Holiday budgets may have swelled but wages certainly haven’t

    As such, household earnings have barely kept pace with the rising cost of fixed expenses — the roofs over our heads, the cars in our driveways, and the food on our tables.

    And yet, we’re hitting the malls anyway. Should we be worried?

  • Older college graduates earn just as much as their younger peers

    Mandi Woodruff at Yahoo Finance 14 days ago

    Here’s a bit of good news for late-blooming college graduates: People who earn their college degrees later in their careers actually wind up earning just as much as younger graduates, according to a new study by Gallup.

    In a survey of more than 11,000 both nontraditional college graduates (those who earned their degree after age 25) and traditional graduates (the 18-24 cohort) who graduated between 1900 and 2014, Gallup found both groups had comparable earnings records.

    For example, 15% of younger graduates, whose average age was 33, earned between $60,000 and $90,000. Comparatively, 16% of older graduates, whose average age was 45, earned enough to put them in the $60,000 to $90,000 range as well.

    As you can see in the chart below, nontraditional and traditional college graduates were almost perfectly matched in each income bracket Gallup looked at, whether they were rich, poor or somewhere in between.

    What they found in these areas didn’t bode quite as well for nontraditional graduates.

    Did you earn you degree later in life? Share your story with us here.

  • 5 other benefits you should ask for if you don't get a raise

    Mandi Woodruff at Yahoo Finance 15 days ago

    Tis the season for annual performance reviews, but workers shouldn’t expect much of a pay raise in 2015. In a recent survey of 337 U.S. companies, business consultancy group Towers Watson found employers are planning to give full-time employees a 3% pay raise in the new year, only slightly more than the 2.9% increase they handed out in 2014.

    And that’s for employees who are offered any raise at all. Not all firms adjust compensation on an annual basis, especially small businesses that may have much lower profit margins.

    What happens if you don’t get the raise you were hoping for next year? A lot of people might quit. In fact, nearly 40% of workers say they would walk away from a job if they felt they weren’t being compensated fairly, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. And with the unemployment rate at its lowest point in six years (5.8%), workers might be willing to risk leaving a job these days. Before you pack up your cubicle, consider using your own bargaining power to negotiate your way to better compensation.

    1. An investment in your ‘human capital .’

  • Small-business owners find creative ways to handle Obamacare

    Mandi Woodruff at Yahoo Finance 26 days ago

    Individual consumers have had a year to get used to purchasing health plans on the new federal healthcare marketplace. But for business owners like Ron Holt, the learning curve is only just beginning.

    Holt founded Two Maids & A Mop , a residential cleaning service in Pensacola, Fla., in 2003. He has since opened 11 branches in the Southeast and added nearly 150 workers to his payroll.

    Holt had planned to expand in other regions. But with the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, he hit a snag. The law includes a requirement that business owners with more than 100 employees offer health coverage to most of their full-time staff by 2015 or possibly pay a hefty fine. “We knew we had a big problem on our hands,” Holt says.

    At the time, he didn’t provide insurance for any of his staff, including himself. Offering benefits to all his full-time workers would cost his company nearly $250,000 annually and consume more than half of its annual profit margin. And if he ignored the law and paid the $2,000-per-employee penalty for doing so, it would cost him $200,000.

    ‘Damned if we do, damned if we don’t.’

    A leg up for small businesses

    Read more:

  • These are the best U.S. cities to grow old in

    Mandi Woodruff at Yahoo Finance 29 days ago

    As Americans live longer and longer, the question of where they will spend their retirement years has become increasingly more difficult to answer. A couple of decades ago, moving somewhere sunny, warm and relatively affordable may have been all that mattered to a retiree looking to kick back in a hammock for a few years.

    But the average 65-year-old woman and man today can expect to live until age 88.8 and 86.4 years old, respectively — two years longer than people their age could expect in 2000. With a longer retirement time horizon to plan for than ever before, many workers aren’t content with taking a 20-year vacation, even if they could afford it. Some people are planning to work well into their 70s. And in the face of rapidly rising health care costs, a lot of retirees may decide to stay close to home and to their family.  

    We highlighted the top 10 large cities below. For detailed rankings of the top 20 large and small cities in the U.S., check out Milken’s full index here.

    #1 Madison, Wis.

    The pros: Great hospitals; active lifestyle; solid employment opportunities

    #2  Omaha, Neb.

      #3 Provo, Utah

  • The truth about the 27-year-old "self-made millionaire"

    Mandi Woodruff at Yahoo Finance 29 days ago

    Since the publication of the article “A 27-year-old millionaire reveals how he built his wealth,” on Nov. 4, new details have come to light which have made Anton Ivanov's claims of becoming a self-made millionaire highly suspect.  We’ve since issued a correction in the original story and are now sharing more details about how the truth came to light.

    Ivanov launched a financial education blog in September called Financessful.com. On his site and in articles written for other personal finance blogs, Ivanov claimed he was a “self-made millionaire” who began investing at age 18 after watching his parents mismanage their finances.

    The truth comes out

    Two weeks after the story was published, a former Navy colleague of Ivanov’s, who asked to remain anonymous, sent us a copy of a confession Ivanov posted on Facebook on Nov. 12. In his confession, Ivanov said he lied to Yahoo Finance about the source of his wealth. In the post, he said he “got tired of telling people lies” and he thought it was the “right thing to do.”

    Where we went wrong