Senior Personal Finance Correspondent
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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 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, 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.

Dec 30, 2011

Stern Advice: A financial to-do list for 2012

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Ask any behaviorist: Resolutions rarely work. They are too big and sweeping. The minute you fall off the bandwagon, you abandon attempts to climb back on, mostly because you’re too busy hating yourself.

So forget about the “I’m going to lose 20 pounds AND track every penny that I spend” fervor. Instead just do what does work – actionable small steps. Here’s a list of ways you can improve your finances in 2012, usually in just a few minutes at a time, and without any self-loathing.

Dec 28, 2011

Stern Advice: New tax angles for gamblers

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – In the waning days of 2011, the federal government has handed gamblers two gifts. The Justice Department cleared the way for states to start legalizing online poker and other online betting games. And the Internal Revenue Service agreed to a tax court decision that will allow professional gamblers to take big tax losses.

Does that mean you can now write off all those Knicks games and bar nights you and your fantasy league buddies attend? What about the Vegas sprees that support your habit? Sorry, not so much.

Dec 21, 2011

Young U.S. workers adding stocks to 401(k) plans

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The youngest retirement investors are not abandoning the stock market and actually are more likely than other groups to have stock-heavy portfolios in their 401(k) accounts, according to a study of plan participants released on Wednesday.

The study also found plan participants are cutting back on the amount of their own company stock in their retirement plans and that 401(k) investors generally resumed a more balanced approach to investing in 2010 than they had in the fear-driven years of 2008 and 2009.

Dec 21, 2011

Stern Advice: The top 10 money stories of 2011

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Remember way back in January, when Washington was arguing about taxes, homeowners were having trouble getting refinanced and investors were dumping gold? Hmmm…that makes it seem like 2011 was an uneventful year.

But 2011 forever changed the way you’ll manage your money. Here’s an overview of the big financial stories of the past year, and their implications for your wallet.

    • 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 And when she expresses opinions, they are her own and not those of her employer."
      Joined Reuters:
      October 2010
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