Senior Personal Finance Correspondent
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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.

Dec 16, 2011

Stern Advice: Financial predictions for 2012

By Linda Stern

(Reuters) – Sigh. A lot of people are predicting more of the same for 2012: Another year of stock market volatility, high unemployment, banking industry upheaval, weak housing and more talk about Facebook, mobile commerce, 401(k) plans and taxes.

But maybe that’s just because it’s hard to envision change. Not everything will stay the same. For example, a year from now, we’ll not be having weekly Republican presidential debates, and we will most likely know who the President will be in 2013. Conventional wisdom holds that by this time next year, Facebook will be a publicly traded company and not just a huge time suck.

Dec 14, 2011

Stern Advice: Who’s your daddy? Why the IRS cares

By Linda Stern

(Reuters) – Here’s the big tax story for 2011: Do you know who your dependents are?

That may sound silly but it’s a big money question, and in this day of multi-generational households, boomerang 20-somethings, aging parents, gay marriages, blended families and domestic partnerships, it’s not an easy one to answer.

Dec 8, 2011

Stern Advice: Companies shake up 401(k)plans, cut fees

WASHINGTON, Dec 8 (Reuters) – Companies are shaking up
their 401(k) retirement plans, trimming lists of mutual fund
offerings and shaving the fees workers pay as they prepare for
new federal rules that will put more plan information in front
of employees.

“This is dramatic. I have not seen anything like this in 25
years of working with plan sponsors,” said David Wray,
president of the PSCA, a 401(k) advocacy group made up
primarily of employers.

Dec 7, 2011

Stern Advice: Paper or plastic? How to pay for holiday gifts

WASHINGTON, Dec 7 (Reuters) – Scott Schuh is a Federal
Reserve Bank economist who spends his days studying the myriad
ways consumers pay for their purchases. After a recent review
of his research, he did something surprising – he gave up his
rewards credit cards, and now pays for everything with a debit

Why? Chalk it up to a highly developed social
consciousness. Schuh says rewards credit cards generate a
“reverse Robin Hood effect” in which shoppers who don’t qualify
for the premier cards subsidize the usually well-heeled folks
who do. That subsidy occurs when merchants charge everyone
higher prices to cover their costs of accepting rewards cards.

    • 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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