'Having to be the adult of your parents isn't easy, but sometimes that's what's needed.'
As more of my friends enter middle age, they're talking less about how to care for their kids and more about how to care for their parents. Our mothers and fathers are nearing (and, in some cases, surpassing) 70 years of age, and not all of them are financially prepared.
A GRS reader named Shauna recently wrote with a typical scenario:
My husband and I are in our early 30s and finally getting our finances in order after years of piling up debt. We both have parents who were never particularly good with money, and they've entered their early retirement years with no savings or assets to speak of -- no houses, no savings, no emergency fund. We're looking down the road, and realizing that we will probably be financially responsible for all of them at some point in the not too distant future. Do you have any advice for us?
Actually, I don't have any advice for Shauna. Why not? Because I'm in a similar position, and I have similar questions.
Suppose you're choosing between 2 cars. One qualifies for free gasoline for life, while the other requires you to pay $10 or more per fill-up. Which would you buy?
Despite competition from tablet computers like Apple's iPad, e-readers are still making major inroads. According to Gartner Research:
Worldwide connected e-reader sales to end users are forecast to total 6.6 million units in 2010, up 79.8% from 2009 sales of 3.6 million units, according to Gartner Inc. In 2011, worldwide e-reader sales are projected to surpass 11 million units, a 68.3% increase from 2010.
One of the most popular e-readers is Amazon's Kindle. While nobody outside the company knows exactly how many Kindle e-readers Amazon is selling, one thing's for sure: It's a lot. In fact, it may be more than Gartner estimated in the press release above. According to this Bloomberg article from Dec. 21:
Amazon.com Inc. is likely to sell more than 8 million Kindle electronic-book readers this year, at least 60% more than analysts have predicted, according to two people who are aware of the company's sales projections.
Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg estimated, on average, that the company would sell 5 million Kindles in 2010. Last year, Amazon sold about 2.4 million Kindles, said one of the people, who asked to remain anonymous because the company doesn't disclose Kindle sales figures.
The popularity of e-readers may wane as tablet computers like the iPad -- also suitable for e-reading -- cannibalize the market. Apple sold nearly 7.5 million iPads in the last three months of 2010 alone. Still, if the research above is correct, e-readers like the Kindle will continue to do well through 2011 and beyond.
But I can't see why anyone would buy a Kindle.
Search giant prepares to test Google Offers.
It wasn't long ago that Google was trying to buy daily-deals website Groupon. But Groupon spurned Big G's advances, and now Google says it is about to start testing Google Offers, a local coupon service that will function much like Groupon.
Google Offers is being called "a new product to help potential customers and clientele find great deals in their area through a daily e-mail."
Banks are taking longer to foreclose and they're slow to sell reclaimed properties. Result: A housing market stuck in low gear.
This post comes from Marilyn Lewis of MSN Money.
The "shadow" inventory -- the backlog of homes lost or soon to be seized through foreclosure but not yet for sale -- has grown astronomically, to a 44-month backlog.
Here's what that means: At the current pace, it'll take at least three years to sell all those houses and condos when they eventually go on the market -- if buyers can be found and if the homes are still in saleable condition. Here's a CBS News report on the mounting danger and cost of neglected properties.
It also means three more years of uncertainty for all of us:
- Three years of suppressed -- and depressed -- housing prices.
- Three years more to wait before you can put your home on the market without competing with abandoned, run-down foreclosures. (These days foreclosures are a quarter of home sales, nationally.)
- Three years of limbo for defaulting homeowners whose banks start foreclosing, then fail to follow through. (This MarketWatch story illustrates the consequences for one homeowner.)
If you believe some of these oft-repeated financial tips, you may also believe that a watermelon will grow in your stomach if you swallow a seed.
It's been said that if the palm of your right hand itches, you'll soon be coming into money. On the other hand (seriously, no pun intended) it's also been said that if your left palm itches you'll soon be paying out money.
Don't laugh. There are folks out there who actually believe this stuff.
Of course, I'd expect such confusion emanating from what is essentially nothing more than an old wives' tale.
Beware of financial rules of thumb
If you ask me, a surprisingly large number of financial rules of thumb are actually nothing more than gussied-up old wives' tales too. In fact, they're almost as crazy as those itchy palm notions.
That's not to say that all financial rules of thumb are completely bogus, but some are more dubious than others because they are often based on misguided conventional wisdom or generalized ratios that are intended to work for the average person. As such, they should always be taken with a generous serving of salt. To prove it, here are a few examples:
1. Red cars are more expensive to insure.
If you buy this, you may also believe: If three people are photographed together, the one in the middle will die first.
Free fries and Sam's Club membership (for one day). Plus, Atlanta once again ranks No. 1 in coupon use.
It's Friday, and that means it's time for food deals and coupons.
The annual list of the most frugal cities, at least measured by coupon use, is out, and Atlanta is at the top again, followed by Tampa, Cincinnati, St. Louis and Minneapolis. Ohio was the most frugal state for the second year in a row, reports Coupons.com.
Rounding out the top 20 most coupon-using cities were Charlotte, N.C.; Nashville; Cleveland; Pittsburgh; Raleigh, N.C.; Kansas City, Mo.; Washington, D.C.; Miami; Dallas; Oklahoma City; Boston; Denver; Seattle; Columbus, Ohio; and Wichita, Kan. Seattle is a newcomer in the rankings, and the only West Coast city on the list.
Three in four workers do. Some feel guilty calling in sick. Others can't afford to.
Anytime she becomes ill, she asks herself, "Can I afford to be sick?" Usually the answer is "no," so off to work she goes.
She's not alone.
Republicans' efforts to undo the Affordable Care Act will complicate planning by seniors, who have already benefited from the new law.
This post comes from Jennie L. Phipps at partner site Bankrate.com's Retirement Blog.
Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have launched an assault on the Affordable Care Act, or ACA -- voting for repeal, not modification.
Medicare recipients have already received some benefits from the law, and the House vote Wednesday only increases the complexity of retirement planning. Among the changes in the ACA are the following key improvements:
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