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Is it Fair for an Employer to Ask for Your Facebook Password?

by Tim Parker on April 18, 2012

I have to admit, I was a little shocked when I first read this. Although I’m self-employed, I have a job interview with a client almost every day. They ask me about myself, my business, and some of my views on economic and political topics. If I’m going to write under their name, they want to know that I’m not some radical that believes that we live in some huge government conspiracy. It’s reasonable to think they will ask me some personal questions but if they asked for my Facebook password, I would politely tell them no.

For some people, if it’s the only good job lead they’ve had in a long time, they may feel like they have to give up their privacy. What if they asked for your personal online banking password or your current health insurance website password? What can you do to politely get out of that quandary?

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What is a Mutual Fund?

by Tim Parker on April 17, 2012

At work, a bunch of us have been talking about investing some of our money. The problem is that most of us represent the average American family making about $50,000 per year with a spouse and child or two. None of us have a ton of money to invest and we’ve heard that if we want to buy stocks, it’s wise to start with $5,000 or more so we can have an appropriately diversified portfolio.

None of us know a lot about investing and since each of us only have about $3,000 each to start with, we were thinking that we could find 100 people total making our combined assets $300,000 to get started. As we get paid, we could invest more in to the fund each month and even bring in more people as we tell them about our pool of money.

Since we’re not skilled investors, we want to hire somebody to invest the money for us. We’ll pay him or her a percentage of the total assets and they can buy or sell with that money as feel it is necessary. Is my idea new and revolutionary? This story is a basic profile of a mutual fund and here’s what you need to know about the funds that make up your 401(k).

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What’s the Average 401(k) Balance?

by Tim Parker on April 16, 2012

If you watch as much CNBC and other financial news media as I do, you know that there are all kinds of metrics that economists and investors use to measure the strength of the economy and to be honest, most people, from the professional investors to the individual investor don’t care about most of them. The academics enjoy analyzing the numbers but they mean next to nothing for your quality of life.

But that’s not the case with one metric. Each year Fidelity releases the average 401(k) balance for all of its 11 million customers. Investors watch this number closely because Fidelity holds more 401(k) accounts than any other investing firm and their report is a direct measure of the health of the average American worker’s retirement account.

The 2012 number will likely come out in May but the 2011 report showed that the average 401(k) balance was $75,000, up 12% from the 2010 report. This is great news for investors who saw a significant portion of their balance lost in 2008 and 2009.

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Ten Low or No Cost Weekend Activities

by Tim Parker on April 12, 2012

Want to have a great weekend in Disney World? Even for us Florida residents, we shell out $76.50 per day per park. The price goes up for each day and each park you add and that doesn’t include food. A weekend trip to Disney World is going to come in at more than $400—hardly a value.

Your weekend plans may not include Mickey but even a night at the movies for a family of four could come in at more than $100 and a nice dinner for you and your spouse may approach $50 or more. Finding an economical way to spend a weekend is tough but over the next couple of weeks we’re going to give you some ideas that hopefully will lead to other ideas specific to your area. Here are the first 10.

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How to Save Money on Groceries

by Tim Parker on April 11, 2012

I’ll admit it. I’m not good at saving money on food. My wife and I love to eat at fancy overpriced restaurants and although we try to cut and save coupons, they normally expire in the coupon organizer before they make it to the store. People that I know have the same problem so I wanted to see if there was something I could do to save money at the grocery store that didn’t involve a ton of prep work. Extreme couponing would take more time than my schedule and attention span would allow so I set out to find another way. Here’s what I came up with.

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How to Buy a Foreclosed Home

by Tim Parker on April 10, 2012

For Sale By ForeclosureAll of us are looking for a bargain and when we’re in the market for what will likely be the largest purchase of our lives, finding the best deal and keeping our payments low is often worth the unknown and potentially dangerous territory of foreclosed homes.

We’ve all heard of foreclosures but most people, when in the market for a new home, still take the traditional path of buying properties that are current on payments instead of dealing with a bank. For those who don’t have to move immediately, taking the time to purchase a foreclosed home can represent a large savings. Here’s how to do it.

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Two Takes on the Magic Retirement Number

by Tim Parker on April 09, 2012

You have surely heard about “the magic number.” This is the amount of money you need to save in order to live a financially comfortable life once you reach retirement age. With many soon to be retirees finding that their 401(k) is coming up short, the magic number is becoming much more than just a guideline.

The current workforce is demanding a more scientific approach to finding the magic number but even the experts don’t agree. Some financial planners believe in the traditional guideline of replacing 80% of pre-retirement earnings while others have a different idea.

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What is the STOCK Act?

by Tim Parker on April 05, 2012

I’m not all that political but some things in Washington don’t make sense. Remember this guy? Raj Rajaratnam was the hedge fund manager who was sentenced to 11 years in prison for insider trading. Using information he received on companies like Goldman Sachs, Hilton, and Intel, he saved or made himself and his hedge fund $72 million using information that you and I have no access to.

That’s clearly a violation of securities laws and you and I, representing the little fish in the big Wall Street pond, applaud his prosecution and conviction. Since the SEC has started going after hedge funds and other larger fish, there are increasing reports that other big traders are cleaning up their act because they fear going to jail too. That’s a good thing! But here comes the irony.

Senator Kerry Inside Trading

You might know this guy. :) His name is John Kerry and he’s a senator from Massachusetts who made some handsome profits and avoided some large scale losses in a series of perfectly time stock trades around the Obama healthcare law. Although he claims that his investments are managed by a trust, having perfect timing as this article describes would make them the most famous, sought after investment advisers on the planet if they did this without the help of Kerry.

Assuming Kerry used this information for his own personal gain, he did nothing illegal. Rajaratnam went to prison and Kerry didn’t but all of that is changing thanks to the passage of the Stock Act.

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