Vegas Seven

Personal Finance

  • Personal Finance

    Gift-card resale market thrives online

    By Kathy Kristof, Tribune Media Services

    If you have a bunch of unused—or partially used—gift cards sitting in a drawer somewhere, you’re not alone. Some experts estimate that the average family has $300 in unspent plastic cash. If the cards were issued by a single store or chain, they’re only a minor problem. Under California law, these retail gift cards cannot expire or lose value over time. It’s essentially like having uncashed checks in your sock drawer. In Nevada, expiration dates and fees are allowed if they are properly disclosed. This law only covers gift cards good at a single retailer.

  • Personal Finance

    Get your financial life in order one month at a time, Part 2

    By Kathy Kristof, Tribune Media Services

    Here’s Part 2 of the month-by-month program to get your finances in order during the new year. Each step will probably take you less than an hour per month, but together they can lead to better investing, more effective financial planning and smarter saving in 2011. (See Part 1.) July: Check your credit reports

  • Personal Finance

    Get your financial life in order one month at a time

    By Kathy Kristof, Tribune Media Services

    Forget New Year’s resolutions. Most people break them by February anyway. If you want to get your financial life in order this year, resolve to do just one thing each month. If you follow this program, you’ll find you’ve invested better, planned more effectively and saved money over the course of the year. And it should take you less than one hour of effort each month. Here’s what to do during the first half of the year: January: Take stock

  • Personal Finance

    Don’t pay a fee to enroll in a biweekly mortgage payment plan

    By Kathy Kristof, Tribune Media Services

    Biweekly mortgage payment plans are back. “Don’t miss out!” proclaims a pitch from Citibank’s BiWeekly Advantage program. “The BiWeekly Advantage Plan is a convenient mortgage budgeting plan that can help you save thousands of dollars in interest and pay off your mortgage sooner.” Although many people receiving the recent pitches have never heard of biweekly mortgages, they have been around for decades. They simply got mothballed when consumers were more interested in adding to their debt with home equity lines than they were in paying off their loans faster.

  • Personal Finance

    Do some research before you donate to charity

    By Kathy Kristof, Tribune Media Services

    Every holiday season, consumers get pitched by numerous charities that hope the spirit of giving will pry open hearts and pocketbooks. The appeals often have a sense of urgency as many charities struggle this year with increasing needs and declining donations because of the economic malaise. It’s hard to turn down charities at times. But for giving to be truly effective, it should be well thought out overall and not done on impulse.

  • Personal Finance

    Shared homeownership could mean paying your neighbors’ bills

    By Kathy Kristof, Tribune Media Services

    For those who have a lot of cash or can get credit, this could be an ideal time to buy a house—the foreclosure crisis has pushed prices down and interest rates are way low. But beware if you are looking to buy a condominium, co-op, town house or other property that’s part of a homeownership group. Another side effect of the foreclosure crisis is that you could end up responsible for some of your neighbors’ bills.

  • Personal Finance

    Gold buyers and sellers should beware of shady dealers

    By Kathy Kristof, Tribune Media Services

    Howard Wolfe watched gold prices soar for several years before he finally decided to jump. Last year, the Mississippi retiree answered an advertisement for a company selling gold bullion. He wired $20,000 when the metal was retailing for $1,100. As of last week, gold was selling for more than $1,300. But Wolfe was not celebrating. The gold he bought was never delivered, and he can’t get the company to answer his calls.

  • Personal Finance

    More tools now available to shop for medical procedures

    By Kathy Kristof, Tribune Media Services

    In bygone days, when more workers had comprehensive health-care insurance, the price of medical procedures was not much of an issue. But now, with many people having to make do with high-deductible plans—if they have insurance at all—price becomes a huge consideration. “We are seeing more and more of this, and it’s only going to grow over time,” said Martin Rosen, executive vice president and co-founder of the Health Advocate, a Philadelphia consulting firm.

  • Personal Finance

    Bad online and cell-phone habits can hurt your career

    By Kathy Kristof

    Could bad cell-phone and online habits be damaging your ability to get a job or a promotion? From e-mail to what the Web says about you, there are more ways to make career mistakes than ever, experts say. And in today’s persistently tight job market, there’s little room for error. Social networking

  • Personal Finance

    Betterment.com brings index funds to the masses

    By Kathy Kristof

    If you’ve been thinking about getting started in investing but don’t have a lot of money, an option has opened up that could ease you into the stock market. A company called Betterment.com is essentially bringing index funds to the masses by providing a Web-based service that allows you to invest small amounts—even just $10 or $15—and still get a diversified portfolio of both stocks and bonds.

  • Personal Finance

    Scrutinize for-profit colleges before enrolling

    By Kathy Kristof, Tribune Media Services

    Krystle Bernal spent three years studying fashion design, and she’s got $80,000 in loans to prove it. But you’d never know it by what she does. She’s a part-time bank teller. “I wanted to be a fashion buyer,” she said. “They told me I could earn $65,000 a year.” After finishing a three-year program at Westwood College, a for-profit university in Denver, Bernal was rejected for job after job by hiring managers who told her she wasn’t qualified.

  • Personal Finance

    New health-care law means looking at options is key

    By Kathy Kristof, Tribune Media Services

    New health-care rules that went into effect last month offer both opportunities and risks for consumers. With open-enrollment season looming, it may be time to take a close look at how the first phase of the health-care law might affect you and what you should do about it. “Don’t be complacent. This is not a static environment,” said Marty Rosen, co-founder of the Health Advocate, a Pennsylvania-based health-care consulting firm. “There is going to be change, and that change requires you to evaluate your options and your changing needs.”

  • Personal Finance

    New rules slash card fees

    By Kathy Kristof, Tribune Media Services

    Don’t look now but a funny thing is happening to the plastic in your wallet: It’s getting safer and easier to understand and use—at least if you’re the right type of customer. The final stages of credit-card reform went into effect recently, capping a two-year process that was designed to eliminate sneaky fees for everything from exceeding your spending limit to simply not using your cards.

  • Personal Finance

    More consumer protections on bank overdrafts may be coming

    By Kathy Kristof, Tribune Media Services

    Last month, Federal Reserve rules went into effect that barred banks from automatically charging existing account holders overdraft fees on ATM and debit-card transactions. But more consumer protections concerning overdrafts could be on the way.

  • Personal Finance

    New FTC rules for debt-settlement firms could protect you

    By Kathy Kristof, Tribune Media Services

    The advertisements for debt settlement are nearly irresistible to the overextended. They make the process sound almost painless; some even promise that government programs will stomp down debts.

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