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Get the best democracy money can buy

By Guest Blogger(view all posts by Allen.Williams)
at 1:00AM Thursday March 27, 2014
under Personal Finance

Scorpions and Centaurs
via Creative Commons Flickr user Scorpions and Centaurs

It's an election year, albeit a midterm one. But with the presidential race looming in 2016, and campaigns starting earlier than ever, it is imperative that you start thinking about how to get the most political bang for your buck. You don't want to be one of those chumps blindly donating to your preferred candidate with no assurance that anything will come from it, do you? Of course not. You want to make sure your actual "change" translates into political "change"! (Feel free to use that around the water cooler. That's where I heard it.) So let's jump in. I'll take you through the various ways in which you can insert your money into the political process, and determine the relative strengths and weaknesses of each choice.

1. Donate to someone running for office. This is a direct way to put your money into the coffers of your preferred candidate. You might think that would be a good thing, but it isn't. According to federal law, individuals can only donate a paltry $2,600 to a candidate's campaign. That contribution isn't going to amount to much in a presidential election when television ad buys cost millions of dollars. Not to mention the fact that such campaign war chests are so huge, the influence your $2,600 is going to be extremely minimal. For this reason, if you do insist on taking this route, it's best to donate to campaigns closer to home. Forgo presidential and even senate campaigns for a congressional race. Or magnify your donation further by only donating to state, county or municipal candidates. Your local dog catcher may not be able to make pot legal, but you'll at least have one politician in your pocket. Read More »

How much money should you save in 2014?

By Guest Blogger(view all posts by Cheryl.Lock)
at 6:00AM Tuesday December 31, 2013
under Personal Finance

How much money should you sock away in savings in 2014?

It's the ultimate question, right? If only the answer were that simple. Of course how much you save throughout the year will depend on a lot of variables like where you live, what debt you're paying down, your salary, etc.

Different experts will probably suggest different things when it comes to saving. I myself have always liked to follow something called the 50/20/30 rule (a term coined by the personal finance site, Learnvest). It's simple to follow, and you can make it work on any salary. Read More »

The 7 biggest financial mistakes to avoid in the New Year

By Guest Blogger(view all posts by Cheryl.Lock)
at 6:00AM Tuesday December 24, 2013
under Personal Finance

The beginning of a new year offers the perfect opportunity to reflect back on the choices we've made in the previous one, and to make any necessary adjustments for better returns in the months ahead.

This is perhaps the most true when it comes to our financial decisions. Many of the systems you put in place for 2013 might not suit you in 2014. Perhaps you've received a large holiday bonus, or maybe even a raise? Maybe you've moved into a new house, had kids or became a stay-at-home parent. Whatever your circumstances, take the time to check in with your personal finance situation … and to avoid making these big mistakes in the new year. Read More »

Exploring the most popular college funding options: 529 Plans

By Guest Blogger(view all posts by Kelli.Bhattacharjee)
at 11:00AM Thursday September 26, 2013
under Personal Finance

Saving for a child's college expenses can seem like a daunting task. However, it is a lot simpler than many people think. When it comes to paying for a child's education, parents tend to have a million and one questions. All of which are completely understandable. Some of the more frequently asked questions are:
  • How do you get started saving?
  • How much do you save for college?
  • Where do you invest the money?
The answer to the first question, "How do you get started saving?" can be answered by referencing the article, "Three Steps to Start Saving for Your Child's College." As for how much to save for college, there is a bounty of online calculators available to determine just how much of a contribution is required to meet savings goals. These calculators work by looking at a variety of factors including a child's specific circumstance, public or private education, and the level of funding. Read More »

Top 10 companies offering full-time benefits to part-timers

By Guest Blogger(view all posts by Cheryl.Lock)
at 6:00AM Thursday September 19, 2013
under Stuff We Like

When it comes to working in today's world, many people prefer flexible schedules that fit with their busy lifestyles. In fact, according to a recent survey from CareerBuilder, 59% of employees said they value a flexible schedule over a title, and a third would rather telecommute.

Still, whether you're working part-time, a few hours a week or full-time, it's often also important for employees to have the option of some kind of health insurance package. Luckily, PT Money put together an updated list of the 20 best part-time jobs with benefits for 2013. The following are their top 10 companies. Check out the link for the full list of 20.

Aerotek, the national temp agency, offers medical benefits to workers putting in 20+ hours a week. Benefits include dental and vision, as well as eligibility for spouses and dependent children.
Check out their full benefits package here. Read More »

Insurance 411

By Guest Blogger(view all posts by Cheryl.Lock)
at 6:00AM Monday August 26, 2013
under Personal Finance

When it comes to insurance, it can be hard to tell which kinds are actually important to get, and which are supplementary at best.

For example, what exactly is Multiple Birth Insurance (also known as twin insurance), and do you need it if you're pregnant? Or what about pet insurance for Fido and Fluffy? (We've actually covered that topic already. You can read all about it right here.)

While some types of insurances will be purchased purely on preference, others should not be left for debate. Below are four types of insurance that every person should have. Stick with those basics, and you should be pretty much covered in any type of emergency. Read More »

Three steps to start saving for your child's college

By Guest Blogger(view all posts by Kelli.Bhattacharjee)
at 6:00AM Thursday August 22, 2013
under Personal Finance

One year your back to school checklist has crayons and safety scissors and the next it has dorm decor and college tuition. If you haven't been saving all along, those college items will have you seeing stars (or should I say dollar signs?). Trust me, saving all along is the way to go. Sure, it may be difficult to make saving for college a priority (especially when it seems so far away), but if you're like me and your little one is still in diapers that is precisely the time you should begin.

If you're child is older and you haven't started saving yet, do not be concerned. Just reading this article indicates you're taking your child's future seriously; it is the first step in the right direction.

The rising costs of college can be intimidating. In fact, it can seem down right insurmountable. However, don't be deterred. You may be asking yourself, "Where is this extra money supposed to come from?" In order to help answer that question, I have compiled three steps to help you start saving for your child's college education. Read More »

Amp up your 'It' factor: 5 steps for landing a job interview

By Guest Blogger(view all posts by Cheryl.Lock)
at 6:00AM Thursday August 15, 2013
under Personal Finance

If you decided to take the summer months "off" in terms of keeping up with your professional life (let's be honest, it's been way too hot to do much of anything … so who could blame you?), it's probably time to start kicking it back into gear.

As summer vacations start to wind down at the end of August and into September, it's the perfect time to spruce up your professional appearance if you're in the market for a new job. (And even if you're not, you never know when that dream job might become available, so it never hurts to have all of your ducks in a row, ready to go at a moment's notice.)

Start with these five suggestions to give your professional life a spruce. Who knows – ticking these off your list might even inspire you to get back out there on the job hunt. Read More »

Is pet insurance worth the price?

By Guest Blogger(view all posts by Cheryl.Lock)
at 6:00AM Thursday August 1, 2013
under Money Saving Tips

Our family dog was 6-years-old when he developed a heart condition that caused him to be hospitalized for three nights—to the tune of thousands of dollars—before we had to put him down.

When I first graduated from college I owned an adorable little bunny named Fiver who ended up getting sick and—$3,000 later—requiring surgery.

Who among us with pets hasn't had the occasional (incredibly expensive) emergency? Of course the two scenarios I mentioned above may have been slightly cheaper (although no less emotionally draining) had either my parents or myself had pet insurance for pets

So … is pet insurance worth the cost, then? If the two scenarios above are any indication, it would certainly seem like it is. While insurance of any kind is always a gamble (and most of it is a perfectly smart gamble), we decided to go right to the source—a veterinarian. We asked Dr. Oscar E. Chavez, DVM, MBA, Member of the American Academy of Veterinary Nutrition, for his thoughts on pet insurance and whether it's worth the cost.

Here's what he had to say. Read More »

Three easy ways to save for travel

By Guest Blogger(view all posts by Cheryl.Lock)
at 6:00AM Tuesday July 23, 2013
under Personal Finance


I have it. My friends have it. Several of the people on my Facebook feed have it. When the temperatures start to soar, it seems everyone sets their sites on travel. Whether it's the beach, camping or some exotic international local, just looking at everyone else's vacation photos has me desperately searching for last-minute travel deals.

Of course traveling on a budget can be difficult, especially if kids are involved, or if you'd like to do it for any sort of extended period of time. For example, my husband and I recently decided that we'd like to take a three-month trip around South America next year. We do realize that reaching this financial goal will take some stamina on our part, so I sat down and tried to come up with a couple of different ways to help us get there. Read More »

Your mid-year financial check list

By Guest Blogger(view all posts by Cheryl.Lock)
at 8:00AM Friday June 14, 2013
under Personal Finance

It's almost the middle of June ... do you know where your money is?

We are now officially (almost) halfway through 2013. Crazy, we know. About halfway through a new year is a good time to take a second to take stock of what's happening with your finances. Are you on track to meet all of those money goals you set for yourself back when 2013 was fresh and exciting?

The following five benchmarks should give you a good idea of where you stand, financially, right now. Consider putting these on your check-in list today: Read More »

What you should know about your partner's finances before you get married

By Guest Blogger(view all posts by Cheryl.Lock)
at 12:30PM Tuesday April 23, 2013
under Personal Finance

When it comes to getting married, most people have the basics covered. Where they'll live. Whether or not they'll have kids. What color dinner plates they'll register for.

The one thing that many don't discuss before walking down the aisle is their finances. In fact, studies have shown that nearly one in five couples don't talk about their financial situation until after marriage, and a full 15% don't even discuss it after they get married. "Before walking down the aisle and saying 'I do,' there is a long list of wedding to-dos for brides and grooms," says ING retirement coach Barbara Taylor. "Often left off the wedding checklist are financial to-dos like getting on the same page about debt, retirement savings or money values, and mapping out the finances of your life and retirement dreams."

Having these important discussions ahead of time will help you build a strong foundation with your partner, says Taylor. So what exactly should you be discussing? Taylor shares her top six discussions to have here. Read More »