Should You Get a Store Credit Card?

stock-photo-close-up-of-woman-hand-holding-credit-card-123256873At checkout registers in department stores across the country, you can expect to receive a smile and a sales pitch. Well, at least a sales pitch. Store credit cards are moneymakers for businesses, and you can expect clerks to dangle a nice discount in front of you in the hope you’ll apply.The discount on store merchandise and other rewards are often tempting — and many of us take the bait — but are store credit cards a good deal?

Pros of store credit cards

Store credit cards aren’t all bad. In fact, they can come with some nice benefits. As we see it, there are four major pros for getting a store credit card.

  • Discounts:Not only do you get an initial 10 percent to 20 percent discount when you sign up, you may also be in line to receive extra discounts all year long. Store credit card holders may be the first to receive special coupons or gain access to exclusive sales events as a reward for their loyalty.
  • Flexibility:Some, but not all, store credit cards are affiliated with one of the major credit card companies. That means your department store card

Why Defensive Stocks Aren’t Safe Anymore

anymoreNervous investors should think twice before diving into so-called defensive stocks, especially those securities with high dividends. You might end up putting more risk into your portfolio than you realize.
Stocks that have less volatility than the overall market and pay higher dividends than most other stocks are often seen as a way to reduce risk in a portfolio. Traditionally, these are found in the defensive sectors, including consumer staples, utilities and health care.

Given the state of the world, it’s easy to see why investors would want to get defensive. The war in the Middle East is certainty getting hotter. Cities are under the threat of terrorist attacks, and tensions between Russia and Turkey increased when Turkey shot down a Russian warplane on the Syrian border. Meanwhile, the European economy still looks saggy and the once-fast growing Chinese economy is decelerating. And the Federal Reserve looks set to start raising the cost of borrowing money sooner rather than later.

Sectors are trading at high multiples. The problem is that “the defensives are expensive,” says Ramona Persaud, portfolio manager for Fidelity Global Equity Income fund (FGILX), the Fidelity Dividend Growth fund (FDGFX) and the Fidelity Equity

3 Risks of Investing in Annuities

3 riskyInvesting can be scary, especially in the short term. When you retire, it’s hard to watch the value of your lifetime of savings fluctuate as financial markets bounce up and down. Fear is a powerful sales tool.

Immediate annuities are an insurance product that prevents you from losing money and offers the benefit of guaranteed payments. However, there is a catch with those guarantees. Many annuities aren’t guaranteed to keep up with inflation, so the purchasing power of those guaranteed payments could decline over time. Tying up a significant portion of your money in an annuity also takes away some of your financial options and flexibility, because you can’t always get the money back out easily. And some annuities are outright expensive.

Here are some of the issues you could face if you invest your retirement savings in an immediate annuity.

Inflation risk. Inflation has been artificially low for years due to manipulation by central banks and the slow growth patterns of the economy. As a result, many people have forgotten how inflation can reduce the buying power of fixed income payments and guaranteed rates of return. Inflation is a normal occurrence as the cost

Potential Forex trend: an overview

Any trader while trading at least once in his life faced with the problem of distinguishing the change trends and trend correction – determine what is usually called “forex trend potential” in forex analysis. To the naked eye it is difficult to tell the difference, but in terms of an active market for a long time do not have to think too rapidly changing events, and miss the point of the transaction easier. Meanwhile, the issue of capacity is a severe, as is the trend reversal signal for the trader to completion or, alternatively, top deals and correctional wave only indicates the possible restructuring of the market.

Today, traders come to the exchange, armed various electronic machines, and one of the most popular tools in the arsenal of a skilled player analyzer or oscillator for forex analysis forecast. They are built in special trading platforms – digital assistants trader. The main component of the oscillator – adx technical indicator It is this and demonstrates the movement and it visualizes the change and correction, so that they become easy to distinguish.

If you have not got the analyzer, it is better to do it quickly, because such a program will greatly

Sorry Warren Buffett you’re dead wrong about these 3 stocks

I have been dead wrong. Even if prices should rise, moreover, the terrible timing of my purchase has cost Berkshire several billion dollars.”
— Warren Buffett, from 2008 letter to shareholders.

Super-investor Warren Buffett has made plenty of investing mistakes. He’s also never been shy about talking about them; to the contrary, his must-read annual letter to shareholders will often spend more time pointing out his flubs than crowing about his successes. And since even the Oracle isn’t infallible, we asked three of our contributors to name a stock that’s in the Berkshire Hathaway Inc portfolio today that investors might not want to buy.

There are a lot of reasons why it might not make sense for Berkshire to sell these stocks — especially The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE:KO) and American Express (NYSE:AXP) — such as the huge tax consequences of selling today, and the dividends it gets, as two examples. But just because Berkshire shouldn’t sell, doesn’t mean these are stocks you should buy.

Here’s what our contributors had to say about these big Berkshire holdings, and why the stock they discuss won’t be a market-beating investment going forward.

Dan Caplinger(Wal-Mart): Buffett is a smart investor, but his investment in Wal-Mart(NYSE:WMT) has been a less-than-stellar pick. Buffett finally made

Beer Man Java Stout upholds Bell’s worthy tradition

Beer Man is a weekly profile of beers from across the country and around the world.

This week: Bell’s Java Stout

Bell’s Brewery Inc., Galesburg, Mich.

Although Bell’s has many fine beers, I’m most fond of its decadent line of stouts.

I’ve written about most of them — including Expedition, Special Double Cream and Kalamazoo — and they are all marked by rich malts and creamy drinkability. Java Stout is no exception.

At 7.5% ABV, it flirts with imperial stout territory. It poured with an inch-thick tan head that contrasted nicely with the black body, which had a slight oily, pleasant mouthfeel.

Although the barley roast, chocolate and caramel notes were prominent, the rich dark roast coffee flavor became more pronounced as the ale warmed in the glass. Notes of vanilla and smoke also made an appearance. A slightly dry background helped to counter the sugars and resulted in a clean finish.

The brewery’s beers are available in about 23 states; its Beer Finder link is here. It also plans on introducing its beers this year to Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska and South Dakota.

I have one last item to mention from my recent Milwaukee visit. I had a chance to visit the District 14 brewpub, 2273

3 types of insurance everyone should consider

Whether you are saving for retirement or a home, life’s unexpected problems can quickly derail all your hard work. That’s why having the right kind and amount of insurance is an important piece in any financial plan.

Some insurance is mandatory, like automobile coverage, and more recently, health policies. Others are just as important because they mitigate the financial risks should something happen to you.

Here are three insurance plans that you should have to protect your future income and savings.

1. Life insurance. If you have a family and you love them, then life insurance is a must.

Term life insurance is a good choice as it becomes less and less expensive, and some policies do not require a health screening. You purchase basic term life insurance for a set period, say 20 years, and the insurer pays a lump sum to your beneficiaries should you die while the policy is in effect.

The death benefit helps to replace your income your family depends on. They can use it to pay for things like the mortgage on your home or for your children’s college education. This insurance is usually not necessary if you no longer have these large obligations when you retire and your kids are

The ‘elephant in the Valley’ is tech’s problem

AUSTIN — The open secret in Silicon Valley is that, despite nominal gains, gender and minority representation remains problematic.

“Elephant in the Valley,” a survey that painted a dreary portrait for many women in Silicon Valley, underscored that reality when it was released earlier this year.

At a panel at the SXSW tech ideas fest Sunday, survey co-authors Michele Madansky and Trae Vassallo moderated a discussion that voiced frustration over the hurdles facing women and women and men of color in tech.

The survey found 60% of respondents said they had unwanted sexual advances in the workplace, 60% believed they did not have the same opportunities as men, and 66% believed they were excluded from key networking experiences because of their gender.

The researchers surveyed about 200 women with at least 10 years of tech experience, largely in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Many of the female respondents said they suffered from a “Goldilocks syndrome” — 40% were  told they were too aggressive yet 50% had been told they were too quiet.

The discussion Sunday traced the contributions of women such as pioneers Grace Hopper and Ada Lovelace to technology throughout history.

“We kind of run our history through a rinse cycle and wash the women out of them,” said U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith, a former

The best way to save for a down payment

What’s the best way to keep savings for a house down payment? Cash loses value from inflation, bonds will drop if interest rates go up, and stocks are risky. –Susan, 31, St. Louis

Coming up with thousands of dollars for a down payment is tough, especially if you’re already struggling with obligations like student loans, car payments, rent, and well … life.

While there are loans that require very little down, most banks are looking for down payments closer to 20%. With the median home price over $200,000, that could mean coming up with $40,000 or more.

What to do with all that cash?

Your time horizon and risk tolerance play a big role on where to keep your down payment savings.

Calculate: What will your mortgage payment be?

Whether becoming a homeowner is a decade out or you’re already house hunting, here’s where financial planners suggested keeping the funds:

10 years out:

If it’s going to be another decade until you plan to buy a home, there’s an opportunity to invest the savings and try to grow the money a little before you actually

Slight of hand

IS THE job of central bankers more like that of technicians, carefully turning knobs as they fine-tune the economy, or magicians, manipulating the audience into the suspension of disbelief? Most of the time it is the former. Monetary maestros nudge interest rates up and down with meticulous precision. Yet in extreme cases—such as when economies become trapped in a low-growth rut—central bankers must try to conjure up a change in the public’s economic outlook. Just as uncertain magicians often fail to pull off their tricks, so central banks are finding their audiences in an ever-more sceptical mood.

Economists have long acknowledged the role of mass psychology in business cycles. In 1936 John Maynard Keynes described the “animal spirits” that could drive swings in spending or investment. The power of an abrupt change in market beliefs came sharply into focus in the early 1980s, when many economies were struggling to clamp down on stubbornly high inflation. Economists at the time worried that using interest rates to rein in inflation would be enormously costly. Because the public had come to expect high inflation, they reckoned, growth-crushing rate rises would be needed to force down prices and create new consumer expectations. A common estimate

The Top 4 Manning & Napier Funds for Retirement Diversification in 2016

Founded in 1970, Manning & Napier is an investment management company with assets under management (AUM) of $37.2 billion. The company is majority employee-owned and employs an independent and opportunistic investment style to meet the various needs of institutional and individual investors. Manning & Napier has excellent mutual fund choices that can help investors diversify their retirement portfolios for 2016.

Manning & Napier Diversified Tax Exempt Fund

AUM: $359 million

2010-2015 Average Annual Net Asset Value (NAV) Return: 3.1%

Net Expense Ratio: 0.56%

The Manning & Napier Diversified Tax Exempt Fund seeks current income exempt from federal income tax by investing in U.S. municipal bonds with an emphasis on the short maturity profile. Over 95% of the fund’s holdings are rated as grade A. The Manning & Napier Diversified Tax Exempt Fund has a wide geographic dispersion in its portfolio, with a wide selection of municipalities represented in the fund’s invested assets. This fund is most suitable for high-tax-bracket investors who want to supplement their retirement portfolios with tax-exempt income. The fund has an average duration of 3.45 years and a 30-day SEC yield of 0.7%.

In its municipal national short category, the fund has received a four-star overall rating from Morningstar. The Manning &

5 Powerful Financial Habits To Form In 2016


Often when people set New Year’s resolutions, they’re ambitious but vague. For instance, a Fidelity survey found that the most common financial resolution Americans have this year is to save more, followed by the desire to spend less and pay off debt.

Clearly, these are great goals. However, if you’re serious about results, it’s imperative to go one step further and scope out your plan of attack. You already know this, of course, but actually sticking to it is a different story.

“Know thyself, so you don’t bite off more than you can chew,” says behavioral economist Hersh Shefrin. “Figure out where you want to go and structure the path in steps that are doable, so that you get where you want to go one doable step at a time.”


Often times you need to repeat these steps over and over, until they become powerful financial habits that help you achieve your financial goals.

Here are five money habits to develop this year in pursuit of smarter saving, spending and investing:

Automate, automate, automate. Think of this as a gimme that will free up your willpower for other things. Financial experts love recommending that you automate your savings because it’s so darn effective. Since you only have to make the decision to automate once, it’s

How Good is Your Employer’s 401(k)?

BrightScope recently identified the industries with the best 401(k) plans. Which industries came out on top?

Our rating system is based on how quickly the average participant in a given 401(k) plan is going to accumulate the money we believe someone needs to retire comfortably within his or her industry. Law firms, utilities, mining companies and airlines were top scorers because they typically offer plans with low fees and some form of profit-sharing. Employees in these industries are highly educated and well paid. They tend to contribute at a higher rate than do employees in lower-ranked plans, and they let those dollars grow over time.

How can I tell if my company’s 401(k) plan isn’t up to snuff?

High plan fees are a red flag. But remember that fees vary depending on plan size, industry and other factors. And fees pay for services; a 24-hour help line through which employees can get great advice may be worth the money. Also, the investment menu should meet your needs. If you’re nearing retirement, for example, make sure there are investment options that will get you there securely — for instance, a low-volatility fixed-income investment such as a stable-value fund.

Haven’t people sued their employers

It’s Cash Over Mobile Payments This Holiday Season

Chances are you’ll be spending about $805 this holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation.

But chances are high you won’t be using mobile apps to pay for presents and party favors.

According to, mobile payments just aren’t catching on with U.S. consumers of age groups. “Just 14 percent of U.S. adults who use a smartphone or a similar handheld device plan to use services such as Apple Pay or Android Pay even once this holiday shopping season, including 19 percent of millennials,” Bankrate states. “Among those who don’t plan to make mobile payments, the top reasons were ‘not secure enough’ (36 percent) and ‘other payment methods are more convenient’ (31 percent).”

About 70 percent of shoppers will use cash or debit cards to pay for holiday purchases. 22 percent will use credit cards, Bankrate reports.

What’s interesting about consumers and mobile payments is that the most common fear linked to digital payments — angst over security breaches — might be overblown. “The most common misconception surrounding mobile payments is that they are not secure,” says Mike Cetera, an analyst at Bankrate. “Truth be told, fraud is much more likely to occur on ordinary credit and debit card transactions. And of course cash can

Know the Risks of Year-End Mutual Fund Purchases

When it comes to investing, most experts offer the same advice: If you are a typical mutual fund buyer saving for college or retirement, don’t try to time the market. It’s a loser’s game.

Except that you might tweak your timing a little — just a little — at the end of the year, or you may get hit with a tax bill on year-end capital gains distributionsthat you don’t deserve. Because stocks have done well in recent years, many funds are sitting on large profits that could create big tax bills.

“Many mutual funds are expected to make sizable capital gains distributions this year,” says Mike Piershale, president of Piershale Financial Group in Crystal Lake, Illinois. “Some funds are paying out gains for the simple reason that the securities hit the manager’s price targets.”

Other funds, he says, trigger taxes by selling profitable holdings to pay cash to shareholders who are pulling out, disappointed by this year’s lackluster results, or who want to move to funds less likely to trigger big year-end tax bills in the future.

“This has triggered capital gains in a year where the stock market has not done that well,” he says.

What are year-end distributions? Year-end distributions are payments to investors

5 Habits That Will Inevitably Sabotage Your Finances

Money is an important part of our lives. We buy what we need with it, we fund our future with it and we support others with it.

Unfortunately, there are a number of bad habits that can sabotage our financial well-being. Some of these habits won’t destroy our finances right away, but over time, we may find ourselves in a dire situation with little hope of recovery.

Let’s take a look at some of these bad habits and how you can avoid or conquer them as quickly as possible.

1. Smoking. According to the CDC, “Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of death and disease in the United States.” Talk about bad for your finances and your health.

Let’s pretend for a moment that the only cost from smoking is what hits your wallet — not your lungs. OK, how much will you be spending?

Let’s say that a pack of cigarettes costs you $4.49 — although the price widely varies from state to state. And, let’s say you smoke two packs a day. That’s $8.98 a day. There are 365 days in a year, so that’ll cost you about $273.14 a month. That’s a lot of money — especially when you

Avoid These 5 Common Holiday Budget Pitfalls

According to a recent survey from the National Retail Federation, holiday shoppers are planning to spend an average of $805 on gifts this holiday season. The same survey found that shoppers plan to spend an average of $463 on family members. That’s the highest this figure has ever been.

To make sure that you don’t overspend this year — no matter your target number — be sure to create a holiday spending budget. That way, you’re far less likely to find an unpleasant surprise when that credit card bill shows up in January.

Here are five things you shouldn’t do when planning your holiday shopping budget.

1. Don’t Let Guilt Break Your Budget

Maybe your sister-in-law buys your kids three gifts each. This doesn’t mean that you have to do the same for hers. If your budget calls for just one gift for your in-laws’ kids, stick to it. It’s easy to let guilt lead you to overspending during the holidays. But don’t feel like a scrooge because you aren’t spending as much as your other relatives. If your budget is tight this year, don’t break it in a misguided attempt to keep up with the spending of others.

2. Don’t Add Last Minute Gifts to

12 Influential Experts Give Their Top Money Tips for 2016

When it comes to personal finance advice, there’s no shortage of it. In fact, you could spend countless hours reading the tips and strategies of experts to learn how to better manage your money. It can be overwhelming. So, wouldn’t it be nice if you could simply get the best advice from the best experts?

GOBankingRates asked some of the most well-known personal finance experts and entrepreneurs to share their top money tip for 2016 as part of our annual”Best Money Expert” competition in collaboration with Ally Bank. Here are the top tips these 12 finance experts offered to help you take control of your finances next year.

1. Be proactive with your money. As a best-selling author and host of his own popular radio show — with more than 8 million listeners — Dave Ramsey is one of the most well-known names in personal finance. His get-out-of-debt message has helped many eliminate debt and achieve financial success.

For 2016, Ramsey said you should “tell your money what to do instead of wondering where it went. People know what they need to do with their money, but they just don’t do it. Be proactive with your money — do a budget, get rid of

How to Get Financially Ready for a Power Outage

Extreme winter weather has already arrived in some parts of the country: Parts of California have seen snow and more is expected. Some meteorologists are calling for a cold, snowy winter from coast to coast, and that means it’s time to get prepared.

According to tale of the ant and the grasshopper from Aesop’s Fables, the wise ant stored up food during the warmer months in preparation for winter, while the lazy grasshopper would only sing in the summer and found himself starving and begging for food come winter. Although the predictable change of seasons may not cause you personally to break the bank — unless it’s the holiday season — unexpected and severe weather emergencies can quickly leave you in a financial rut. In addition to severe cold, other weather emergencies such as thunderstorms, lightning, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, extreme heat and drought can also pose major dangers to your health and bank account.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Federal Emergency Management Agency stress the importance of preparing for severe weather before it strikes. As a frugal shopper, the same strategy applies. Since controlling the weather isn’t possible, focus on what you can control: your preparation and finances.

Here are some simple tips to

8 Things That Are Cheaper at Target

There’s no arguing that Target has a loyal following among many shoppers. While the retail giant may not always have the lowest prices, it certainly attracts consumers happily willing to pay a little extra to avoid the crowded aisles of some other discounters.

But there are certain items which are almost always cheaper at Target (TGT) compared to other retailers. Here are eight such items that’ll save you money on your next Target shopping trip.

1. ‘Green’ Cleaning Products

Not only has Target led the natural cleaning trend over the past few years, but they often do it at a price lower than the competition. For example, Target sells the 28-ounce bottle of Method All-Surface Cleaner for an affordable $2.99, while Walmart sells the same product for $5.49 and Amazon sells it for $8.
Another great example is Green Works laundry detergent in the 90-ounce size; at Target you’ll pay $11.99, while you’ll pay $23.27 at Walmart and $19.21 at Amazon. You’ll also find similar savings at Target on other popular natural cleaning brands, including J.R. Watkins, Honest and Seventh Generation.

2. Kids’ Bedding and Decor

When buying bedding for your child’s room, your wallet will likely benefit greatly from shopping at Target. You’ll find steep savings on sheet and comforter

6 Money Strategies for the Sandwich Generation

When her father was diagnosed with a respiratory disease about seven years ago, Joy Frank-Collins juggled her work schedule and parenting demands to maximize the time she spent by his side. Frank-Collins, a 41-year-old who heads her own communications firm in Marietta, Ohio, also coordinated with her siblings to pay for expenses that weren’t covered by insurance. “If you know your parents will need your help, you have to think, ‘What can I set aside to provide the necessary support for my parents?'” she says. After a long fight with his illness, her father died at age 75 in January.

As a member of the sandwich generation — adults who simultaneous care for children and aging parents — Frank-Collins had to navigate what is becoming an increasingly familiar challenge. “Individuals who find themselves in the sandwich generation are forced with contemplating taking care of things today in a way that may negatively impact their future,” says Rebekah Barsch, vice president of financial planning for Northwestern Mutual. Family members might cut back on their work hours or sacrifice savings in order to care for aging parents, she adds. “The pressure, both financial and emotional, weighs on people,” she says. Those pressures are one reason

Home Improvement Projects That Can Hurt Your Property Value

Are you considering converting your home’s garage into a man cave? Before you permanently ditch parking and storage space in exchange for a testosterone-friendly getaway, you may want to consider this: your garage man cave project could hurt your home’s value and make it harder to sell.

Turning your garage into a living space is one of four home improvement projects highlighted by MarketWatch that could end up sucking the value out of your home.

Homeowners need to think carefully before they get rid of their garage and turn it into a man cave, family room or extra bedroom, because it could make their home less attractive to many people, New York real estate agent Brendon DeSimone, author of the book “Next Generation Real Estate,” told MarketWatch.

A recent survey by real estate investment and operating firm Crescent Communities found that 74 percent of homebuyers said having a garage is extremely or very important. If you still want to proceed with your garage project, consider leaving the garage doors on the outside so if you do sell your house, a buyer has the option to easily turn the space back into a garage, Michele Silverman Bedell, of New York-based Silversons Realty, told Marketwatch.

Here are three