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  • Are You Paying Too Much for Your Car?

    Car Buying: Are You Paying Too Much?Car Buying: Are You Paying Too Much?By: Benjamin Gran

    Americans love cars. Driving a car is synonymous with the American dream - being behind the wheel of a car represents freedom, mobility, independence, travel, new horizons, adventure… everything that makes America great. Whether it's driving to the prom, getting your kicks on Route 66, stopping by a fast food drive-through or a drive-in movie, most of America's cultural memory involves cars.

    But as much as Americans love their cars, our cars do not always love us. Cars are expensive - more expensive than most people might realize.

    According to a recent article in Wired, the true cost of car ownership averages to approximately $9,500 per year - including car payments, maintenance, gas, taxes, insurance, registration and all the other expenses that go with owning a vehicle. This adds up to almost $800 a month. When you consider that the average American earns $32,000 per year, this means that owning a car consumes almost 30 percent of the average American's income.

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  • What's the Secret to Financial Independence?

    By: Rick Kahler, CFP ®

    Would you like to be financially independent? Most of us would. We'd like to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle without having to earn an income.

    Recent studies suggest that an average income of around $60,000 is optimum for producing happiness. How much of a nest egg do you need to produce an annual income of $60,000 at retirement? Assuming you've invested for the long-term in a diversified portfolio, and assuming you maintain its purchasing power by limiting your withdrawals to 3 percent, you would need to accumulate two million dollars.

    I need how much?!

    That sounds like a lot, but building a two million dollar nest egg can be done if you start saving early by living on less than you make. A couple who starts contributing $10,000 a year to their ROTHs at age 22 and who stop making those contributions at age 29, assuming they invest in equities with an average annual return of 8.5 percent, will have a reasonable chance of having $2,000,000 by age 65. A couple who

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  • Buyer Beware: Home Staging May Be Hiding Big Problems

    Home Buyers: Don't Fall for Home StagingHome Buyers: Don't Fall for Home StagingBy: Kristie Lorette

    Selling a home these days is no easy business. Many sellers are learning home staging techniques or enlisting the help of professionals to position their homes in the best light. As a home seller, staging can be a very smart investment, often rewarding you in a faster sale or even a higher selling price.

    As a home buyer, however, beware of falling prey to "model home syndrome," which may distract you from the truly important characteristics - or warning signs - of a home, like:

    • The floor plan
    • Condition of the home
    • Quality products, finishes and construction
    • Lighting
    • Problem odors

    Floor Plan

    Proper home staging can make a house shine and in doing so, draw home buyers' attention away from the home's weaknesses. Don't let the way the furniture is arranged and the fresh flowers aptly placed in each room distract you from one of the most important aspects of any home - the layout or floor plan.

    If you prefer an open floor plan rather than a Read More »from Buyer Beware: Home Staging May Be Hiding Big Problems
  • How to Throw a Great Halloween Party on a Budget

    A Great Halloween Bash Doesn't Have to Break the Bank!A Great Halloween Bash Doesn't Have to Break the Bank!By: Juliana Weiss-Roessler

    Celebrating Halloween with friends and family is the perfect way to kick off the holiday season. But for some, the idea of hosting the tricks and treats of a Halloween party may seem far too terrifying on the budget. With Christmas just around the corner and budgets already tight, it's understandable to be more concerned with ensuring that you have enough to buy gifts for all your loved ones.

    Throwing a spooky bash doesn't have to cost much at all! Here are some great - and not so scary - ways to throw a festive Halloween party on a budget:

    Ask people to wear costumes

    Half the fun of attending a Halloween party is checking out what everyone put together to wear. If you have to skimp on decorations, don't worry! Costumes are a great way to still create a festive holiday atmosphere that doesn't cost you a dime!

    Send out an email invite.
    Unless you're having a formal affair like an engagement party or a baby shower, there's no reason to waste money on

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  • 5 Hidden Financial Risks of Everyday Life

    Financial Risks in Everyday LifeFinancial Risks in Everyday LifeBy: Benjamin Gran

    With all the bad economic news America has witnessed during the past few years, people are more familiar than ever before with the concept of financial risk. Stock prices can go down as well as up. Housing prices can plunge as well as surge. It's all too possible to lose a job and not be able to find a new one anytime soon.

    But in addition to these prominent financial risks that are always in the news, many people are facing various "hidden risks" to their personal finances, without necessarily thinking of them as "risks."

    1. Divorce.
    When you get married, you join your financial life to that of your partner. There are many financial benefits to being married, but getting divorced shows just how costly and complex it can be to separate from your spouse.

    Ending a marriage can be a huge financial hit. The average cost of a contested divorce (with divorce lawyers) ranges from $15,000 to $25,000, and matrimonial law is a $28 billion a year industry. In addition to the

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  • Money-Saving Apps: RepairPal

    RepairPal: Save Money on Car Repairsrepairpal
    By: Kate Parham

    We're up to the final round in our five-part series about the best money-saving mobile apps.

    So far, we've covered Shopkick, an app that rewards you simply for going into your favorite stores; Key Ring Reward Cards, an app that allows you to keep all of your retail rewards cards on your smartphone; GasBuddy, an app that helps you find the cheapest gas prices wherever you are; and RedLaser, an app that finds the lowest prices on items you want to buy.

    This week, we review RepairPal:

    Name of App:

    Works on:
    iPhone and Android devices

    Price: FREE

    Be prepared 24/7 for a car emergency.

    Why you should download it:
    Ever feel like you're getting ripped off by your auto mechanic? Yes, that was a rhetorical question. We've ALL been there. But with RepairPal, you can get accurate repair and service estimates all over the country.

    Whether you suspect the mechanic may be overcharging you or you're unsure of what a particular repair or service actually

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  • How Do You Budget?

    Google "How do you budget" and you'll get tons of how-tos on budgeting.

    Up until just a few days ago, I, like the 761 million other people that have written about budgeting, assumed that was the right way to think about budgeting - it's something you do. Then, I opened a recent edition of DailyWorth and Amanda Steinberg hit me with this: "The truth is, you don't have to 'stick to a budget'; it's already there (money's coming in, bills are going out, right?)." All of the sudden, "How do you budget?" becomes "How do you budget?"

    Let's go down this new road and see if we can improve our budget system.

    Revealing Your Budget

    To begin improving your budget, you have to take a good snapshot. You need to discover your budget. Remember, your budget is a living thing and whether you manage it or not, it's happening. Don't start with a blank piece of paper. Don't list out your income and expenses. Don't write beside them what you (wish you) made and spent on each item on the list. That is

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  • Dangers of Over-Pricing Your Home

    Dangers of an Overpriced HomeDangers of an Overpriced HomeBy: Stephanie Hamilton

    You've decided to put your house on the market. You've given it a lot of thought, weighed the pros and cons. You've talked with your family and together you've determined that now is the time.

    Before the "For Sale" sign is placed in your front yard, you have some more decisions to make. Possibly the most important is the list price of your house. How much are you hoping to get for your home? What's fair and reasonable in this market? What will appeal to the most potential buyers? And what are the risks of pricing your home too high?

    The slippery slope of over-pricing

    If your home is over-priced when it's first placed on the market, the most obvious risk, of course, is that it simply won't sell. You may think your home is worth $10,000 more than the house down the street, but if the houses are structurally similar (e.g. both have three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a finished basement and a two-car garage), the average homebuyer is going to gravitate toward the

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  • Cheap, Easy and Fun Halloween Costumes

    Cheap and Fun Halloween CostumesCheap and Fun Halloween CostumesBy: Juliana Weiss-Roessler

    Halloween is one of those holidays that everyone can enjoy. In fact, I'll bet there are a lot of adults out there who like it even more than the kids walking around neighborhoods hoarding candy. I mean, who doesn't like getting dressed up in a crazy costume and going to a party… or three?

    Unfortunately, Halloween has become such big business that buying a costume at Target or one of those costume warehouses that pop up this time of year can take a huge chunk out of your wallet.

    But you don't have to make Halloween an exorbitant expense. Step away from the assembly line costumes of sexy nurses, sexy vampires and sexy pirates (hmm, I'm sensing a trend), and vow to put together your own costume this year!

    And please note that I said "put together," not "make" - no sewing involved in these costumes, just ingenuity. And there are lots of ways and places where you can find this ingenuity, like…

    The Thrift Store.

    Find some shabby, ill-fitting clothes and go as

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  • Can the Middle Class Be Saved?

    Can the Middle Class Be Saved?Can the Middle Class Be Saved?By: Benjamin Gran

    Every now and then, I read a news article that makes me want to run through the streets stopping passersby and begging them to read it. This article by Don Peck in the Atlantic Monthly, "Can the Middle Class Be Saved?" is one of them. This is a must-read article for anyone who is concerned about the financial future of America's middle class - and by extension, the future of America itself.

    It's no secret that America has been hit hard by the "Great Recession." But what many people might not realize is that the fundamental structure of the American economy and social compact of American society is being reshaped in simple and profound ways.

    In the aftermath of the Great Recession, most of America's middle class - especially the "non-professional middle class" who have finished high school but did not attend college - are worse off than they were before. The biggest costs and heaviest damage of the recession have been inflicted on the people who we used to describe

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