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Cities are using special toll lanes for drivers who are willing to pay for the privilege. Are "Lexus lanes" fair?

By Teresa Mears Jul 14, 2010 2:07PM

Would you pay more to drive faster through high-traffic areas?

 

Highway officials in a number of cities are deciding that many drivers would be willing to pay to escape highway congestion.  

 

They're installing what are known as HOT (high-occupancy toll) or express toll lanes, where you pay a toll to be able to drive in what used to be the carpool lane or, in some cases, newly constructed lanes. In some cities, vehicles with more than a certain number of occupants get a free ride.

 

Cities, states experiment with how to force banks to clean up rotting properties.

By Karen Datko Jul 14, 2010 12:10PM

This post comes from Marilyn Lewis of MSN Money.

 

Health officials in Orange County, Calif., are pondering whether mosquitoes breeding in the 6,000 to 7,000 stagnant swimming pools in abandoned homes there are helping spread the deadly West Nile virus.

The bugs pick it up from birds and pass it to humans, says The Orange County Register, noting elsewhere that distressed homes make up 31% of all properties for sale in the county.

 

All across the country, abandoned homes -- a legacy of the economic and mortgage meltdown -- are creating blight and trouble for neighborhoods and cities.

 

The trick is to shop strategically and with an eye toward several key items and areas. Here are 12.

By Karen Datko Jul 14, 2010 8:44AM

This post comes from Myscha Theriault at partner blog Wise Bread.

 

Trying to eat healthier? Wanting to explore organics and plant-based eating without spending the equivalent of a second mortgage? Whole Foods is considered by many to be out of financial reach.

 

Believe it or not, you can go bargain shopping at Whole Foods and actually save money.

 

To the list of the absurd becoming ordinary we can now add the idea that richer Americans should arrange to die in 2010 to save on estate taxes.

By Karen Datko Jul 13, 2010 7:14PM

This guest post comes from Frank Curmudgeon at Bad Money Advice.

 

I am always amused by things that started as a mocking joke but then, through repetition, slowly became unfunny enough that they were taken seriously. The word "software," once used derisively by engineers who built actual electronics to refer to the work of their programmer counterparts, is a good example. Daylight saving time, first proposed in a satirical essay by Ben Franklin in 1784, is another.

 

To this list of the absurd becoming ordinary we can now add the idea that richer Americans should arrange to die in 2010 to save on estate taxes.

 

In May 2008 The Wall Street Journal ran an article with the eye-catching title of "Death by taxes: Seniors may plan their demises to maximize their bequests." But the author made clear his humorous intent in the opening paragraph.

 

Oregon joins Washington and Hawaii in limiting employer credit checks. Opponents say employers need the information.

By Teresa Mears Jul 13, 2010 2:50PM

Twice, J.M. Harrison was on the verge of getting a good job at a major company. All that was left was a routine credit check. He told them what they'd find -- credit damaged by periods of unemployment. He didn't get either job.

 

Harrison, who now works as a college history teacher, might have a different experience if he applied for those jobs today. Oregon, where he lives, has become the third state to bar employers from considering credit reports in hiring, with some exceptions for jobs where a credit history is considered relevant, such as in law enforcement and at banks and credit unions.

 

At least 16 states have considered such laws, as has the federal government, but Washington and Hawaii are the only other states to limit employer credit checks. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill passed by California's legislature last year.

 

An inactive browser tab is replaced with a fake page set up specifically to obtain your personal data -- without you realizing it has occurred.

By Karen Datko Jul 13, 2010 1:39PM

This post comes from partner site ConsumerAffairs.com.

 

Just when it seemed as though the various types of phishing attacks had been identified, up pops another more sophisticated version. Most commonly known as "tabnabbing," it's also called "tabnapping" or kidnapping of Internet tabs.

Phishing scams typically involve sending hoax e-mails to your computer in an attempt to steal your usernames, passwords and bank details. Often the sender will claim to be from your bank and will ask you to verify your bank details by clicking on a link contained in the e-mail. The link directs you to a fake website that looks like your bank's website. Once you have typed in your login details, the criminals who set up the fake site have access to your information.

 

How it works

Tabnabbing doesn't rely on persuading you to click on a fake link. It targets Internet users who open lots of tabs on their browser at the same time and changes the way a legitimate site looks behind your back.

 

If you don't work or live along the Gulf Coast, how will this environmental disaster affect what you pay for seafood and other items?

By Karen Datko Jul 13, 2010 12:43PM

The lives of many who live and work along the Gulf Coast have been turned upside down by the BP spill. But what about those who live inland, in states far away? How is this unprecedented environmental disaster affecting the pocketbooks of those folks?

 

If you love to down those plump raw Gulf oysters with fresh lemon or a dash of hot sauce (we do!) or enjoy Gulf shrimp on the grill, you'll pay more for the experience.

But the impact on other costs is difficult to nail down. Even those directly affected can't predict the outcome. The Hattiesburg American in Mississippi reports:

"This is like watching a disaster in slow motion," said Rich Forgette, chairman of the political science department at the University of Mississippi and a member of the research team charged with tallying the economic impact. "We haven't seen the end of it by any stretch."

Here's what you can expect right now:

 

The first step in any credit card reduction strategy is to reduce your outstanding debt.

By Karen Datko Jul 13, 2010 10:03AM

This post comes from Jim Wang at partner blog Bargaineering.

 

Last year, personal-finance writers focused a lot on financial defense of credit, credit reports and credit scores. They're a cornerstone of modern financial life, whether you like it or not.

 

During that time, many card issuers canceled cards, reduced credit limits, and otherwise reduced their overall financial risk. With rampant foreclosures and sinking home prices, issuers were scared. Some even started cutting people based on where they shopped.

Now that the economy has begun to recover, many people don't want to be in the position they were in a year ago -- feeling as though the card issuers held them and their credit scores hostage. The easiest way to do this is to reduce how much credit you use, and the quickest way to do that is to cancel credit cards.

 

How do you cancel a credit card without significantly hurting your credit score?

 

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