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An ex-worker says favored employees got cars and jewelry and one even got a house for falsifying documents.

By Teresa Mears Oct 20, 2010 4:18PM

Employees of a Florida law firm that's under investigation by the state received gifts of cars, jewelry and even a house, plus had their mortgages and other personal bills paid by the firm, according to a former employee.

Former administrative assistant Kelly Scott said one employee got a house from the firm, as well as having his personal bills paid, in exchange for fabricating and backdating documents.

 

Scott's deposition and several others were released by the Florida Attorney General's Office, which is investigating the operations of the law firm of David J. Stern and several other foreclosure firms.

 

Over-the-counter medications will no longer be an eligible FSA expense in 2011.

By Karen Datko Oct 20, 2010 2:53PM

This post comes from Fred Yager at partner site ConsumerAffairs.com.

 

This is the time of year known to millions of workers around the country as the fall "open enrollment" period. Only this time, an estimated 33 million workers who have medical flexible spending accounts will need to be aware of new restriction that go into effect on Jan. 1.

If you are in this group, you are probably deciding how much of your pretax salary to divert into your account for next year or how to spend what's left in your 2010 FSA so you don't forfeit it under the annual "use it or lose it" rule.

 

Halloween is now part of a 12-week year-end holiday shopping marathon.

By Karen Datko Oct 20, 2010 11:35AM

This post by Wise Bread's Sharon Harvey-Rosenberg comes from partner site USNews.

 

Halloween can be a bag of financial tricks. Total spending for Halloween this year is expected to hit $5.8 billion, according to the National Retail Federation, an industry association. U.S. shoppers on average will spend $66 on costumes, candy and decorations, according to NRF's 2010 Halloween Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey. That's up from $56.31 in 2009.

The average $66 Halloween shopping bag will be filled with  costumes ($23.37), candy ($20.29), decorations ($18.66), and greeting cards (nearly $4), the survey showed. (See also "28 ways to have cheaper Halloween fun.")

 

"In recent years, Halloween has provided a welcome break from reality, allowing many Americans a chance to escape from the stress the economy has put on their family and incomes," said NRF president Matthew Shay. "This year, people are expected to embrace Halloween with even more enthusiasm, and will have an entire weekend to celebrate since the holiday falls on a Sunday."

 

But you don't have to buy into the hype. Here are five reasons why you should postpone your Halloween celebrations:

 

Apple gadgets hold their value much better than those of competitors. Here's how to trade them in.

By Karen Datko Oct 20, 2010 10:03AM

This Deal of the Daycomes fromKelli B. Grantat partner site SmartMoney.

 

For the speed of its march toward becoming the country's largest public company, Apple has its gadget-happy consumers to thank -- particularly the devotees willing to stand in line for every new version of the iPhone or iPad.

 

But those technophile consumers aren't just the Pavlovian spenders they might at first appear to be. Apple products hold their value much longer than other consumer electronics, says Toan Tran, an equity analyst who covers Apple for Morningstar -- which means reselling an old Apple device can be a smart way to fund a new one.

 

For example, an AT&T customer who bought an iPhone in 2008 for $199 could sell it today for as much as $104 on trade-in site Gazelle.

 

Men tend to be less rational than women when it comes to picking a model and sticking to a price.

By Karen Datko Oct 20, 2010 8:53AM

This post comes from Catherine Lutz and Anne Lutz Fernandez at partner blog Wise Bread.

 

Some people just shouldn't go car shopping on their own -- like Chris, who drove home to his horrified family in the garish chartreuse coupe on which he got "a great deal."

Chris should have never walked alone through the auto dealer's doors, not only because he is colorblind -- but because he is a man.

 

Seattle is setting up a registry so residents can opt out of having the yellow pages delivered to their door.

By Karen Datko Oct 19, 2010 8:33PM

Does the phone book still have purpose in your life? When was the last time you picked one up and scanned the listings for electricians, say, or physicians? (Color us old-fashioned, but we did both recently.)

If given the chance, would you opt out and ban those books from your front porch?

 

Phone books -- yellow pages and the white ones, too -- are undergoing changes as many people eschew paper and waste. Here are recent developments:

 

Businesses spent more on security and saw the rate of loss decline. But razors are still vanishing.

By Teresa Mears Oct 19, 2010 3:05PM

Here's a bill nobody wants to pay: $422.68 a year for items other people steal from stores.

That's right. The average American family pays $422.68 a year in increased prices to compensate for items lost to retail theft, the highest amount in the world, according to the 2010 Global Retail Theft Barometer Study. The study measured the period from July 2009 to June 2010.

 

But before you declare war on shoplifters, know that the greatest amount of retail theft in the U.S., 43.7%, is committed by store employees, followed by 35% by shoplifters and organized theft groups.

 

On the bright side, what the industry calls "shrink" -- which includes shoplifting, employee theft and administrative errors -- dropped 6.8% in the U.S. last year (5.6% worldwide) after rising 9% the year before.

 

The 400 largest charities suffered an 11% drop in donations and aren't optimistic this year. But you'll be able to text the Salvation Army.

By Teresa Mears Oct 19, 2010 1:07PM

In this economy, it should come as no surprise that charitable giving declined last year.

According to a new report by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, private donations to the 400 largest U.S. charities fell 11%, the largest annual decline since the organization began its Philanthropy 400 survey 20 years ago.

 

The decline in giving also was the largest since 2001, when donations dropped 2.8%. The charities don't expect 2010 to look much better, predicting just a 1.4% median increase over 2009. 

 

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