Personal Finance Column


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Can CDs be a good place for your emergency fund?


If your emergency fund is sitting in a savings account that pays virtually nothing you might consider investing those dollars in a certificate of deposit.

CDs are just as safe and you’ll earn a little more interest.

The only caveat is that you’ll have to make sure you don’t get hit with stiff early withdrawal penalties should you need access to those funds before the maturity date.

And let’s face it, you never know when an emergency will pop up and you’ll be relieved you have six months or so worth of expenses socked away.

(How much do you need to have available? Take a look at our plan for setting your emergency fund amount.)

So what CD should you choose?

To make a CD worthwhile, you’ll need one that beats the top nationally available savings rate, which has been stuck at 1.01% APY for more than a year.

To achieve that return you’ll probably need to commit your money to at least a 2-year CD.

Search Bankrate’s regularly updated database of the best CD rates to see how much you can earn.
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Do loyal customers really get treated better?

Whether it’s through rewards programs or special invites, companies often tout an appreciation for customer loyalty.

Yet, every few months, I find myself challenging my Internet service provider over a “promotional offer” that has expired, which means I’m paying more than new customers.

It’s become a pretty standard call, and with a little negotiating, I can usually get them to bring my bill back down. But recently, this made me wonder: Do loyal customers actually get treated better?

Customer loyalty undoubtedly has great value for companies. But what about consumers?

Do consumers actually benefit from staying with a company or institution for a long time? Is there any added benefit to your loyalty to a company, or will a business exert the same amount of effort on any customer?

I spoke to a few professionals and experts to find out.
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Boss ripping you off? Here’s what to do about it

Earlier this year, beloved celebrity chef Mario Batali agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by his employees for $5.25 million. Their claim? Batali’s restaurants were allegedly confiscating tips from workers to increase profits.

Maybe it comes as a surprise to you; maybe it doesn’t. But wage theft is a pretty common occurrence in the United States. Kim Bobo is the author of Wage Theft in America: Why Millions of Working Americans Are Not Getting Paid-And What We Can Do About It. She says the issue is a systematic problem that’s often assumed and accepted, despite the fact that it’s illegal.

“It’s a business model that is accepted. It’s almost like the Wild, Wild West in terms of wage theft right now. It’s so pervasive in this society,” Bobo says. “I think what happens is that so many of us think it’s just an individual problem. We don’t think about it as sort of a systemic problem.”

Bobo explains that the problem exists in a variety of industries, but especially construction, retail and restaurants. Essentially, low-wage workers are targeted most. In fact, about $2,600 a year is stolen annually per low-wage worker.

And it’s not limited to skimming tips.
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Feel like it’s time to intervene in a friend’s finances? Read this first

Intervening in a friends money mistakes doesn't always make senseSometimes, it’s hard not to be a money know-it-all. You witness a friend making terrible money decisions, and you just want to grab them by the collar and say, Dude. You’re doing it all wrong!

Talking about money isn’t easy. It’s also not easy to see a friend become overwhelmed by their finances because of bad money decisions.

So how do you know when it’s time to intervene with a friend’s money mistakes? Is a “money intervention” ever a good idea?

Syble Solomon is an expert in talking to people about money. That’s what she does for a living as the Founder and President of LifeWise Strategies and creator of Money Habitudes.

“Before offering anyone advice, ask yourself a few questions,” Solomon says.
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Why saving money is for idiots

Why saving money is for idiotsThese days it seems you can’t surf the Web without running into some self-proclaimed “finance guru” peddling easy, painless answers for complex money problems. These shysters are always going on about “saving money” and “planning for the future” while your bank account gets drained buying their expensive ebooks and PDFs. Well, you can throw their books in the book trash, because I have discovered one really simple and weird old trick that will end all of your wallet woes:

Stop saving, and start wasting money.
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Most try to avoid it, but for some, debt can be a real turn-on

Most people try to avoid it, for some, debt is a real turn-onDebt is a depressing subject for lots of us. And it’s no wonder: Total U.S consumer debt in the U.S. exceeds $3 trillion — that’s trillion, not million or billion.

But while it’s a major downer for most people, there is a subculture of people that find debt — well, exciting. For these folks, you might say debt is a stimulus package.
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Valentine’s Day Cheapskate Contest

It’s almost that time. With all that pink and red displayed in every store and jewelry commercials on heavy rotation on every channel, anyone with a significant other can feel their wallets cringing in fear at the approach of Valentine’s Day. So what is it this year? Chocolates? Flowers? A teddy bear with a heart?

This time of year many of us struggle to set some time and money aside to buy a meaningful gift for our significant other — and sometimes, we just don’t. Tell us about a cheapskate moment that you have had for Valentine’s Day that actually worked out for you — a cheap gift your significant other actually liked and thought was meaningful.

The person who submits the best cheapskate Valentine’s Day gift story will win a $150 gift card to Edible Arrangements.
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5 Chinese New Year traditions for attracting wealth

Many Chinese New Year traditions have a financial bent

Sun nin fai lok! 

On Friday, China rang in the New Year. It’s officially the Year of the Horse.

Across many cultures, a new year represents the possibility of building wealth, health and prosperity. While the Western world makes New Year’s resolutions, Eastern tradition is focused on what most Westerners would call, well, crazy superstition.
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