Senior Personal Finance Correspondent
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Nov 10, 2011

Value of home remodeling projects fall in U.S.

WASHINGTON, Nov 10 (Reuters) – Thinking of a home
renovation? Smaller might be better. Adding a sweet sunroom or
luxe master suite sounds great, but don’t expect to recover the
costs anytime soon.

On average, U.S. homeowners who made home improvements in
2011 only picked up 58 cents in home equity on their remodeling
dollar, according to the Cost versus Value survey released on
Thursday by Remodeling Magazine. That’s down sharply from the
2005 peak, when a new project immediately earned back 76
percent of its cost in higher home prices.

Nov 9, 2011

Stern Advice: When to skip your employer’s health plan

WASHINGTON, Nov 9 (Reuters) – Last week, for the second
year in a row, I decided to pass on my employer’s generous
health insurance plan and buy my own privately.

I did that even though (1) my husband is self-employed and
we buy our own coverage in the often-critized public market;
and (2) the coverage provided by my employer is a good,
generous, union-negotiated plan; and (3) we are probably going
to spend about $2,500-a-year more in premiums and co-insurance
than we would if we were buying into the company plan.

Nov 8, 2011

Credit card issuers raise rewards for holiday shopping season

WASHINGTON, Nov 8 (Reuters) – Credit card issuers are
bumping up their rewards for the holiday shopping season as
they seek to lure consumers away from debit cards and
competitors. For shoppers with decent credit scores, this can
provide the opportunity to pick up extra cash or miles while
they do their gift shopping.

“The rewards have become very, very attractive in terms of
cash back and travel,” said Bill Hardekopf of”Issuers have stepped up the rewards
because it’s now more lucrative for the banks for you and me to
use our credit cards instead of our debit cards.”

Nov 3, 2011

Stern Advice: Save big by applying to the right school

WASHINGTON, Nov 3 (Reuters) – High school seniors who are
stressing about college applications face an added burden this
year: Not only are they buried in essays and transcripts, they
are more worried about money than their older siblings might
have been.

Several reports out in the last couple of weeks reveal that
today’s college students face higher costs, more loans, and
fewer jobs upon graduation than people only a few years older.

Nov 3, 2011

Student loan burden continues to grow: study

Washington (Reuters) – College students who graduated in the spring of 2010 launched into the worst job market in recent history with bigger student loan debts than ever before, an advocacy organization reported.

The Project on Student Debt reported Thursday that those students who had loans owed an average of $25,250, up 5 percent from the previous year. The unemployment rate for new college graduates was 9.1 percent.

Nov 2, 2011

Stern Advice: Even fiduciaries can give bad advice

WASHINGTON, Nov 2 (Reuters) – The Madoffs are back in the
news — this time flogging books instead of scam investments.

Still, just seeing Ruth Madoff and her husband, Bernie, on
television are reminders to already-nervous investors that it
can be very hard to know whom to trust with their money.

Oct 31, 2011

Storm-slammed may eat costs along with that extra candy

WASHINGTON, Oct 31 (Reuters) – More than a couple of
million homes remained without power on Monday after a
record-breaking Halloween weekend snowstorm ripped through the
Northeast. That’s not just annoying and inconvenient; it’s

Many of those people still sitting in the dark will face
extra costs, like spoiled food in the fridge and lost work time
when their laptop’s battery runs out. They may have to eat
those expenses, just like the big pile of candy they’ll be
stuck with when trick or treaters can’t make it through the
snowdrifts to their homes.

Oct 26, 2011

Stern Advice: Reverse mortgages appeal to younger homeowners

WASHINGTON, Oct 26 (Reuters) – The typical reverse mortgage
borrower isn’t who you think she is. Instead of the elderly
woman you may be picturing, think of a married couple who is a
bit younger.

New reverse mortgage applicants tend to be clustered around
ages 62 and 63, according to Peter Bell, president of the
National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association. And they are as
likely to be couples as singletons.

Oct 26, 2011

Analysis: How to get your piece of Obama’s student loan relief

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama’s new student loan relief plan may be less than meets the eye: It will not do anything to alleviate the pain for the millions of borrowers who have private student loans, and its centerpiece merely accelerates by two years a program to lighten the load for low-earning federal borrowers.

While it may not solve all troubles related to the almost $1 trillion in education indebtedness now burdening graduates and dropouts alike, it does have the potential to help millions of federal borrowers lower their payments or their interest rates — if they play their cards right. And it may be as far as a president is able to go without congressional action.

Oct 26, 2011

US college costs outpace inflation -College Board

Oct 26 (Reuters) – The cost of college in the United States
rose sharply for the 2011-2012 school year, continuing a multiyear
pattern in which public school increases outpaced private school
hikes and both eclipsed the average rate of inflation by
significant amounts, the College Board reported on Wednesday.

At public 4-year schools, average tuition and fees rose 8.3
percent to $8,244 for in-state students and 5.7 percent to $20,770
for out-of-state students, not including room, board, or extra
expenses like travel, laptops and midnight pizzas.

    • 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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