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Don't go hairline-deep into debt this year. These tips will help you celebrate joyously but within your means.

By MSN Money Partner 4 minutes ago

This post comes from Donna Freedman at partner site Money Talks News.


Money Talks News on MSN MoneyNovember and December are the most commercialized months of the year, a time when shrewd marketers ply us with all the things we must have in order to create the Best. Holiday. Ever.


Gift © Brian Hagiwara, Brand X, CorbisFar too many of us buy into that, so to speak. "'Ho-ho-ho' turns into 'owe-owe-owe,'" says Gail Cunningham of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.


Put another way: The first quarter of the year is busiest for NFCC, because consumers are facing the fallout of another season of excess. (Hint: Some still hadn't paid off the previous year's celebration when they plunged into buying for the next one.)


That's why the NFCC recently invited consumers to take the Holiday Financial Reality Checkup. The true-false quiz is designed to help consumers get real about the 2014 holidays (and about their finances in general).


Short form: Don't go hairline-deep into debt this November and December. Instead, find ways to celebrate joyously but also within your means.


Start by taking a clear-eyed look at your current finances. Did it take you months to pay for last year's holiday? Are you just about keeping the books balanced right now, before you've paid for a couple of months' worth of heating oil or school fees?

 

Sure, you love your stuff. Keep buying it, but don't get sucked into paying a premium when perfectly good cheaper alternatives are available.

By MSN Money Partner 1 hour ago

This post comes from Maryalene LaPonsie at partner site Money Talks News. 


Money Talks News on MSN MoneyWith the average nuptials costing $25,200, we can probably all agree that plenty of people are overpaying for their wedding day.


However, if you're trying to live within your means, having a budget wedding only gets you so far. After all, you're only going to get married once, or at least you hope so. Instead, you need to figure out what you're overpaying for on a regular basis and then find cheaper alternatives.

 

In this scheme, scammers are asking for lots of personal information by posing as government officials.

By Credit.com 2 hours ago
This post comes from Christine Di Gangi at partner site Credit.com.

Credit.com on MSN MoneyThe Better Business Bureau issued a warning earlier this week highlighting an email scam designed to trick recipients into divulging personal information, including names, addresses and Social Security numbers.


Social Security Card © Scott Speakes/CorbisThe scheme involves an email from an account impersonating the Social Security Administration, Service Canada or an organization claiming to represent a government agency. The email says you qualify for a new benefit, and to claim it, you need to fill out a form, which asks for a variety of details, such as your name, address, phone number, Social Security number, employer and driver's license or government ID number. Upon completing the form, you receive a confirmation email, which says you'll hear from a government representative soon.


People who fall for the phishing scam have handed con artists all the information they need to commit identity theft -- with that information, someone can open financial accounts in your name or divert benefits intended for you. That's when the real problems start:

 

Learn how to turn conservative in your investments -- but not too conservative.

By QuinStreet 3 hours ago

This post comes from Richard Barrington at partner site MoneyRates.com.


MoneyRates.com on MSN MoneyWith people living longer, it is important not to view retirement as the finish line for your retirement investment program. At the same time, it can be equally important not to view post-retirement investing as business as usual.


With Americans typically living about 19 years after they reach the traditional retirement age of 65, it is usually necessary to keep some growth components in your portfolio after leaving the workforce, primarily to help purchasing power keep up with inflation.


Stock market © Zurbar/age fotostockHowever, in assessing how big a role growth should play in your investment mix, the key is to recognize that a profound shift in risk exposure occurs once you retire.


The source of that shift? The transition from positive to negative cash flow.


Same market, different results
You may have heard of dollar-cost averaging. This is the technique of earning more by making consistent investments in the market throughout its ups and downs, which works because in effect you can buy more when the market is down than when it is up.


If those consistent investments enhance investment earnings, what impact do you suppose consistent withdrawals from an investment program will have? Withdrawals increase the impact of market downturns, even if they are temporary. Effectively, withdrawals amplify volatility.


Consider three scenarios, all investing in the same market environment and earning the same investment returns.

 

Some workers lose up to a quarter of their paychecks paying off old debt from credit cards, medical bills and student loans, as well as child support.

By MSN Money Partner 20 hours ago

This post comes from Krystal Steinmetz at partner site Money Talks News. 


Money Talks News on MSN MoneyThe recession and its financial impacts are still being felt -- and paid for -- by millions of Americans.


According to a new ADP report, 7.2 percent of U.S. workers had wages garnished in 2013 to pay off child support and other debt, including credit cards, medical bills and student loans.


Worried Man © CorbisOther report findings include:

  • Highest rate. Among employees ages 35 to 44, 10.5 percent of employees' wages were garnished, the highest rate of all ages. Half owed child support, but the rest mainly owed consumer debts. Also, the garnishment rate was highest (10 percent) among American workers earning $25,000 to $39,999 per year. More people were garnished for consumer debts in this group than child support, which marks a significant change from prior years. "In the past, the vast majority of wage garnishments went to secure child support payments or to collect on unpaid taxes," NPR said.
  • Different region, different rate. The Midwest had the highest percentage of garnishment at 8.9, and the Northeast region had the lowest at 4.9 percent.
  • Big hits. Forty-eight percent of manufacturing companies had at least one employee whose wages were being garnished. Transportation and utility companies ran a close second at 42 percent. The lowest percentage -- 23 percent -- were in professional and business services, financial activities, and education and health services. "This disparity suggests a possible relationship between garnishment and blue- and white-collar job categories," ADP said.

Garnishment can have a terrible impact on workers, especially those who are barely able to make ends meet.

 

If you think you're too smart to fall for cons and scams, you're setting yourself up to be a victim.

By MSN Money Partner Tue 1:14 PM

This post comes from Bob Sullivan at partner site Money Talks News.

 

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyBack in 1996, it was pretty easy to steal money from people on the Internet. You put up an item for sale on a site like eBay.com, you took people's money, and you never sent the thing they bought. (Really, that’s the first Internet scam story I wrote almost 20 years ago).


A spam email message from Nigeria © Just One Film/Getty ImagesScams have become a lot more sophisticated since then, but two things have remained incredibly constant during these past two decades. First: Victims almost always send money using a method that offers no recourse, such as wiring the funds. And when I write the story, a chorus of too-clever-by-half people will scream, "That could never happen to me!"


For that second group, I will often quiz them on their extensive portfolio of overpriced extended warranties, time shares and underperforming mutual funds, and gently remind them that folks who think they are too smart to get cheated are often the easiest marks.


One of the first things a trained con man or woman will do to victims is lavish them with praise. ("I can’t believe this great deal I'm giving you," says the auto dealer as he walks away with your money.) So if you think you can’t be scammed, you are probably next in line.


And for that other group, I say simply, "Stop wiring money to people." Doesn't matter how elaborate the cover story is.


Because I've interviewed thousands of victims during the past two decades, I'm often asked why people fall for scams or corporate rip-offs. Here are my top five reasons.

 

A reader is starting a new job and won't have health insurance for three months. Will that result in an Obamacare penalty?

By MSN Money Partner Tue 12:31 PM

This post comes from Stacy Johnson at partner site Money Talks News.


Money Talks News on MSN MoneyThe Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, was the answer for many Americans, but left others with questions. For example, a reader asked this question:

If a person leaves their current job where they had company-based insurance to take another job where that insurance won't start for 90 days, will that person need to get insurance for that 90 days, or will it be OK not to have coverage for that period? Would they be in danger of getting a fine? -- Andrea

Medical doctor © CorbisThe short answer, Andrea, is: No, you won't face a fine for not having insurance for 90 days.


According to Donna M. Ballman, employment lawyer and author of "Stand Up for Yourself Without Getting Fired":

The Affordable Care Act website says that "If you're uninsured for just part of the year, one-twelfth of the yearly penalty applies to each month you're uninsured. If you're uninsured for less than three months, you don't have to make a payment."

The IRS backs her up. From its website:

 

Don't outsmart yourself with these money-saving methods.

By Credit.com Tue 11:43 AM
This post comes from AJ Smith at partner site Credit.com.

Credit.com on MSN MoneyWhile reviewing your finances, you may struggle to find reasons why your budget isn’t working. Everyone loves saving money, but the way you cut back can make a big difference. In fact, certain budget habits can actually cost you dearly.


Piggy bank © Fancy, Veer, CorbisEven the best saving intentions can lead to financial flubs, it's all about executing them correctly. Here are a few ways you could sabotage your own budget.


1. Leaving no wiggle room

While it is likely you can stand to spend less each month, you don’t want to force yourself to stick to a budget that leaves no breathing room for special occasions, entertainment or indulgences. It’s important to make plans based on your real life and to create a budget you can stick to. A too-tight budget will often backfire as your desire to spend will catch up with your desire to save and leave you splurging.

 

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