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Pros and cons of the new myRA

by Claes Bell on February 19, 2014

The myRA may help some people start saving, but it won't save your retirement.The best thing about the awkwardly named “myRA” (indistinguishable from “Myra” for Google’s algorithms, which is fun) recently unveiled by President Barack Obama is that it may be a sign Washington is seriously worried about our retirement.

They should be. We’re in the middle of a long-term transition from a defined benefit retirement system, where workers get to finance their retirement with pension checks from their former employers until they go to that big RV park in the sky, to a defined contribution system, where workers are pretty much on their own to save.
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Is finding love online easier if you’re rich?

by Claes Bell on February 14, 2014

online datingIt’s fair to say America is obsessed with “gold diggers.” From Anna Nicole Smith to Kevin Federline to whoever Kanye was rapping about on his triple-platinum single, we have a long tradition of assuming that having enough money attracts members of the opposite sex like, well, miners to the Yukon.

But does having money really help attract a mate? We conducted a little online dating experiment to find out.
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‘Multilevel marketing’ schemes like Herbalife, Amway and Juice Plus are bullshit and here’s why

by Claes Bell on February 07, 2014

Multilevel marketing schemes like Amway, Herbalife and Juice Plus are bullshit You probably know someone (or multiple people if you’re particularly unlucky) who has tried to sell you so-called “multilevel marketing” products such as Herbalife, Amway, Juice Plus, Avon, Mona Vie, Vemma or Arbonne.

If you’re even more unlucky, they’ve tried to recruit you to sell the product, too, waxing poetic about the amazing quality of the products, big discounts, easy money, blah blah blah.

There are lots of annoying things about this: high-pressure sales pitches, attempts to monetize their relationship with you, appeals at get-togethers and on social media. But the most annoying thing of all may be that, even after badgering everyone they know to buy a bunch of stuff they don’t really want, your friend or relative will probably never make a dime off it.
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Twitter account dedicated to people who post debit card pics is depressingly busy

by Claes Bell on January 31, 2014

Posting debit card details on Twitter invites debit card fraudIf you’re ever feeling the need to take a picture of your debit card and post it on social media just … don’t. It doesn’t take that much information to make fraudulent purchases online with a debit card account, or clone a physical copy of a debit card, and giving all those potentially listening in on your social media account a free look isn’t wise.

To hammer that point home, there’s a Twitter account dispensing vigilante Internet justice to those who would post pictures of their debit cards online.
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Michaels offers handy DIY solutions for customers exposed in possible data breach

by Claes Bell on January 30, 2014

Michaels data breachAnother week, another retailer announcing a possible data breach that could compromise customer data and expose them to the risk of financial fraud.

A few weeks ago, it was Target, then Neiman Marcus (who, like Target, is offering free identity theft protection for a year). This time, the retailer in question is Michaels, which is hands down the best place on Earth to buy assorted sizes of Styrofoam balls and everything you need for scrapbooking your cat’s birthday party.

The company put out a press release on Saturday to let us know it may have suffered a data breach attack and urging customers to take action.
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Before you renovate that place you’re renting, don’t forget to pick up some Bad Idea jeans

by Claes Bell on January 24, 2014

Renovating a rental can be hazardous to your financial healthThere’s a classic “Saturday Night Live” ad parody called “Bad Idea Jeans” where a bunch of 30-something white guys wearing stonewashed dad jeans (with a “bad idea” label, of course) stand around talking nonchalantly about a bunch of really dumb things they have planned.

One guy says he’s going to donate a kidney to a stranger; another says he’s taking in an ex-freebase addict for a couple of months so he can turn his life around.

“Hey, we’re gutting our apartment,” a young Kevin Nealon says to start the sketch off. “Ripped up the floors, pipes, wiring — having everything completely redone.”

“You’re renting, right?” asks David Spade.

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How big numbers short-circuit your brain and how to fight back

by Claes Bell on January 20, 2014

Math and finances are closely linkedSorry to be the one to tell you this, but your brain is just not evolved to process big numbers.

In our journey from hunter-gatherers to wage slaves, homo sapiens never quite evolved the mental machinery needed to efficiently process the high numbers we typically face when doing things like buying cars, taking out mortgages and saving for retirement.

It makes sense in evolutionary terms that we wouldn’t necessarily need to be able to deal efficiently with big numbers, says Sara Cordes, an assistant professor of psychology at Boston College.
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Target, other retailers sorry about data breaches but somehow they just keep happening

by Claes Bell on January 17, 2014

Target data breach just more of the same for consumers

This week I got an electronic mail from Target containing some sad news.

Addressed with maximum sincerity to “Dear Target Guest,” (I always get a warm fuzzy feeling when they call me that) the email notified me that in addition to the theft of 40 million customers’ payment information reported in December, thieves had also gained access to the personal information of 70 million customers, including our names, mailing addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and maybe other stuff.
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