Alpha Consumer

February 2009


How (and Why) To Join a Money Club

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Money groups are essentially like book clubs, but instead of discussing Jane Austen plot twists, the focus is on the stock market, 401(k)s, and paying off debt. Women -- and some men -- get together to share financial goals and (hopefully) make them come true.

M.P. Dunleavey, author of Money Can ...

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personal finance

Do I Have to Repay My Student Loans?

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Dear Alpha Consumer,


I went to truck driving school two years ago with the promise that I could make $50,000 a year. I took out $9,200 loans to pay for the three-week course. But now, I don't see how I will make $50,000 a year. I was hired to drive for 31 cents a mile, which is the going rate for ...

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personal finance

Partying (Or Not) Like It's 1997

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After seeing today's news that stocks fell to their lowest levels since 1997, I felt depressed. How will I ever save for retirement when half of my investments have already evaporated? Then I remembered that I recently rebalanced my 401(k) and felt mildly relieved. Instead of being 100 percent in ...

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personal finance

Economics 101 Meets Buddhism

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Chances are, your college economics course didn't involve much meditation. But after completing a fellowship at the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, Amherst College economics professor Daniel Barbezat decided to introduce meditation, along with other Buddhist practices, into his course on ...

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personal finance

Paying With Time and Talent, Not Money

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Want a new coat of paint on your bedroom? A new design for your website? Or perhaps some editing help? You can have it all -- for free.

Well, not exactly for free, but it won't cost you any money. Instead, you can exchange the skills that you have for the ones that you don't. The recession, along ...

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personal finance

The Future of the Stock Market

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Does anyone still believe that the stock market will once again return an average of 10 percent a year, as it did in the 20th century?

I asked Jim Lund, a Minneapolis-based senior financial advisor for Ameriprise Financial, for his take on the future of returns. He said:

It's anybody's guess. But I ...

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personal finance

What the Stimulus Bill Will Do For You

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As President Obama signs the $787 billion stimulus package into law today, you might be wondering: What's in it for me? Well, it turns out there are a few programs that could end up changing your spending habits. Here are four ways the bill could affect you:

  • You might keep more of your money. Most ...
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    personal finance

    Gwyneth Paltrow's Money-Saving Recipe

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    On her website GOOP, Gwyneth Paltrow shares her thoughts and advice on everything from motherhood to losing weight to feeling happy. She recently shared her recipes for Sunday night dinners, which feature garlic bread, spaghetti, peas and meatballs. If you have a well-stocked pantry, this entire ...

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    personal finance

    How to Dodge the Debt Collector

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    In Confessions of a Shopaholic, Isla Fisher's character is stalked by a debt collector. She does everything she can to throw him off her scent, including lying about deaths in the family to hiding from his calls. But if you've got a real-life debt collector on your tail, that's probably not the ...

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    personal finance

    The Fed Reports Depressing Consumer News

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    The Federal Reserve is out with new data on consumer finances, and as one might expect, the news is not good. While the data was collected before the financial crisis of late 2008, the economists are able to draw some conclusions about how consumers have likely been affected. Among the report's ...

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    personal finance

    Your Tax Questions, Answered

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    Confused about your taxes? Not sure whether to count that stimulus check as 2008 income? To help answer your tax-related questions, I spoke with John Hewitt, chief executive of Liberty Tax Service. Excerpts:

    What should people know before filing their taxes this year?

    First, the IRS is finding that ...

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    personal finance

    Learning Frugality From Our Grandparents

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    When my sisters and I were growing up, my dad never missed a chance to tell us about my grandparents' frugality. If we left anything on our dinner plates, he pointed out that his parents, who raised their four sons in post-World War II England, wouldn't have allowed him to waste food like that. If ...

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    personal finance

    Consumers Fail to Avoid Investing Fees

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    Fees on retirement account mutual funds can sap thousands of dollars away from nest eggs. They're often buried away in paperwork, but new research suggests that even if consumers know about the fees, they're not good at avoiding them.

    On Capitol Hill yesterday, researchers from RAND shared those ...

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    personal finance

    5 Ways to Cut Your Winter Heating Bill

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    Today's guest post comes from Geoff Godwin, division vice president of Emerson, the world’s leading provider of heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration solutions for residential, industrial and commercial applications.

    As the temperature continues to fall throughout the United ...

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    personal finance

    Best and Worst Superbowl Ads

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    Sure, the game was exciting, but there was plenty of drama off the field last night, too. From raunchy GoDaddy courtroom scenes to hilarious Hyundai spots set in corporate boardrooms, the Superbowl commercials delivered. Here's a roundup of some of the highlights:

    BEST: Hyundai hit the jackpot with ...

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    personal finance