Senior Personal Finance Correspondent
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Feb 9, 2012

PERSONAL FINANCE: Will that housing deal help you?

WASHINGTON, Feb 9 (Reuters) – The housing settlement
announced Thursday should make it easier for troubled homeowners
to modify their mortgages and escape foreclosure, but it won’t
make everyone whole, consumer advocates say.

Those who have already lost their home to foreclosure could
get payments of between $1,500 and $2,000. And though the
settlement calls for mortgage servicers to reach out to troubled
borrowers, it wouldn’t hurt for those waiting homeowners to be a
little bit pushy to make sure their issues get addressed
quickly.

Feb 8, 2012

Stern Advice: Watch for that mutual fund pop

WASHINGTON, Feb 8 (Reuters) – Next month, something
very dramatic is going to happen to most stock mutual funds. In
fact, it’s already started to happen.

The dramatic event is this: Those funds will hit the
three-year anniversary of the nadir of the market in March 2009.
And that means their three-year-return numbers will start to
look amazingly good.

Feb 8, 2012

Take that: Best tax breaks to grab now

Feb 8 (Reuters) – Until the current tax system is
completely reformed, we Americans have the right to life,
liberty, the pursuit of happiness and our cherished tax
deductions.

It’s not cheating to take every writeoff that is legally
available to you; it’s just good common sense. If you skip one,
you’re just leaving money on the table.

Feb 8, 2012

Tax headaches? Where to find help for free

Feb 8 (Reuters) – Even if your financial situation
isn’t complex, your taxes might be. That’s why the Internal
Revenue Service and some private nonprofits offer free tax
preparation and counseling for older people and low-income
filers who need to know their way around myriad credits and
other provisions.

Commercial tax preparation programs have jumped in, too,
providing at least stripped-down versions of their programs for
free. Here’s where to go now if you want help on your taxes, but
you don’t want to pay for it.

Feb 1, 2012

Stern Advice: 5 reasons to start day trading now

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – We all know what we are supposed to say about day trading: It’s horrible, a scam, a vestige of the 1990s tech boom, and just for naive chumps.

But still, there are days when it would be nice to lock in a big win, or pile into a favorite stock when it seems to be beaten up.

Jan 18, 2012

Stern Advice: New ways to kill those student loans

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – By now, the class of 2011 has moved on to real life. There’s some good news: Early reports show they are getting better job offers than their older brothers and sisters did when they graduated. The National Association of Colleges and Employers reports that new grads started jobs with an average salary of $41,701, up 2.3 percent from the 2010 level.

But there’s some bad news, too. The Class of 2011 is said to be the most indebted ever, with average loan balances near $27,000, according to Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of FinAid.org. Folks who graduated in May started getting bills for their first payments right around Thanksgiving. Ouch.

Jan 17, 2012

What you sign away when you buy a cruise ticket

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – It’s all fun and margaritas when you first book a cruise. But that “ticket” is actually a contract that can run more than a dozen pages, and gives away more rights to the cruise ship company than you may realize.

“People will buy the ticket without knowing this, and they won’t even look at it before they step on the cruise ship,” said Joseph Goldberg, a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania-based consumer attorney who reviewed the ticket contract posted on the Carnival Cruise Lines website (here)

Jan 13, 2012

Banks start playing games with your money

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A new video game has gotten its hooks into Brian Kealer, a 26-year-old San Francisco software engineer. He’s not killing birds or using his vocabulary to impress his friends. No, Kealer is after real prizes, like the iPad2 he just scored. And he’s playing with his bank account.

At least once every day, Kealer signs into SaveUp.com, a new financial website, and does some financial activity that wins him credits he can then use to play for big money prizes. To earn those credits, he can pay a credit card bill, deposit money into his savings account, or watch a sponsored video about personal finance.

Jan 11, 2012

Stern Advice: Invest in yourself to retire well

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – I have a particularly resourceful friend who lives a pretty good life, despite never having quite enough money. She is hardworking and popular with her wide circle of friends, neighbors and colleagues. She networks, barters and works for what she really wants.

A former chef turned teacher, she finessed enough grant money to pay for a two-week trip to cooking school in Italy. She knows where all the good used furniture stores are, has bartered home cleaning for a two-week stay in a vacation home in Vermont, and is working on an arrangement now that will get her free housing in France for several weeks this summer. Tres bien!

Jan 4, 2012

Stern Advice: Free lunch 2.0

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – It’s a cherished and long-held belief in the personal finance world that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. The catechism goes like this: if a service is “free” that just means you can’t see the hidden fees, or it’s a really lousy service, or it’s a trap, and not free at all.

That’s been especially true in the past of “free” financial advice, typically offered by salespeople who make money when they sell products to consumers who are unaware that the sales commissions are buried in the product’s costs. It was also true of a certain jingle-happy “free” credit reporting site that had to pay $950,000 in credit monitoring services after it was sued by the Federal Trade Commission.

    • About Linda

      "Linda Stern is an award-winning personal finance journalist who loves to write about how the big picture affects your pocketbook. A former contributing editor at Newsweek magazine and a long-time Reuters columnist, Stern covers everything from credit cards to retirement planning to investing. As a Washington-based correspondent, she sneaks in as much tax and economic policy as her editors will allow. She tweets at www.twitter.com/LindaStern. And when she expresses opinions, they are her own and not those of her employer."
      Joined Reuters:
      October 2010
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