Set the stage for a year of better money management by figuring out where you are right now.
I've always viewed the five weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year's as a time for reflection and setting the stage for a successful year to come.
This year, I thought I would fill the month of December with posts about the activities and preparations I undergo, both to put some closure on the current year and prepare for a better year to come.
First task: Calculate your net worth
There is no better snapshot of your financial health than your net worth. With one single number, you can get a glimpse of your financial state, good or bad.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is considering whether new safeguards are needed to protect borrowers from abusive industry practices.
The growing market for reverse mortgages is raising concerns that an increasing number of seniors are being misled into signing up for a complicated financial product that may squander their equity prematurely or put them at risk for losing their homes.
In a new report, advocates for consumers and seniors are calling for stricter oversight of the reverse mortgage market and new consumer protections for borrowers.
After weeks of Washington back-and-forth, President Obama and GOP leaders have reached an uneasy agreement. But will what helps families now hurt them later?
This post comes from MSN Money's Liz Pulliam Weston.
I'm feeling some tax-cut whiplash.
A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I were contemplating a tax bill that would rise at least $6,500 next year if the Bush-era tax cuts expired or weren't extended for households, including ours, that make over $250,000.
Today, we stand to benefit from a deal that not only preserves our current tax breaks, but also gives us an additional $4,200 tax cut -- a giveback much bigger than that enjoyed by the vast majority of workers.
What the hell?
53% of Americans plan holiday gifts for pets, but more dogs than cats will get presents.
More pet owners plan to buy gifts for dogs this year than for cats, another sign of the blatant discrimination felines face daily.
Oops. Get that cat off my computer keyboard! Perhaps the cats are getting fewer gifts because they are ingrates and often ignore the gifts they do receive.
An AP-Petside.com poll found that 56% of dog owners plan to buy their pooches gifts this holiday. In contrast, only 48% of cat owners plan to buy something for their feline friends.
Among them: Charitable giving can be jolly or folly, depending on whom you give to.
The holidays are a time for gift giving and gestures of good will -- which makes them the perfect time of year for scammers. When better to be selfish than in the season of selflessness?
There are lots of rip-offs out there, especially online, from fake charities to knockoff merchandise sold at "bargain" prices. If you're not careful, you can go from good Samaritan to victim in a blink of an eye, or the click of a mouse.
Microsoft responds to FTC concerns about online privacy with new user controls for the upcoming Internet Explorer 9.
Less than a week after the Federal Trade Commission endorsed a "do not track" option for consumers who don't want advertisers and marketers following them around the Web, Microsoft announced a browser solution.
A new feature in Internet Explorer 9, due early next year, will allow users to designate sites that they don't want to track their movements. That gives them the option of allowing tracking for some merchants but not others. (Microsoft publishes MSN Money.)
Sweaters are a very popular gift this year. But how can you tell if you're getting a good buy?
Alongside iPads, e-readers and Pillow Pets, this year's letters to Santa have an unexpected entrant: the humble sweater. But although advertised sweater sales are plentiful -- with prices sometimes as low as $20 -- truly good deals are few and far between.
Even though $25 sweaters of all kinds can now be found at almost every retailer, it's tough to tell what's worth even that rock-bottom price, says Asta Skocir, a knitwear design consultant and assistant professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.
Still using a high-interest credit card or paying for a cool ringtone? Act your age.
Climb out from beneath the covers and face the harsh light of day: You're 30.
Surprisingly, it isn't the end of the world. In fact, consider it an opportunity to shed some of the bad habits and poor financial decisions of the past. That's not to say you should run from the previous decade of your life.
Embrace the all-nighters, corporate climbing, and occasional beer-fueled mayhem that led you to this point. But recognize that while age is just a number, the Big 3-0 can signal a turning point regarding some of the fiscal baggage that may be weighing you down.
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