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Showing posts from May, 2009

Money thrown time and timeshare again

SINGAPORE: Instead of calling it quits after pouring so much money into certain questionable timeshare deals, some customers keep buying similar investments over and over again.

Retiree Wong Liang Yong, 69, is one such investor. He has spent close to S$80,000 since 1996, when he bought two timeshare investments for S$25,000.

"We did enjoy the timeshare holidays but when I retired in 2002, I found the S$1,000 in maintenance fees costly to upkeep and wanted a way out," he said.

In 2004, a timeshare company LGM approached Mr Wong to terminate his two contracts and promised him a cashback of around S$25,000 within five years. The catch: He had to pay S$10,000 upfront, which he did.

Mr Wong went on to sign two more resale timeshare contracts. In February this year, another timeshare firm Maxmega Group promised him a cashback of S$104,000 within 18 months, but he had to fork out S$35,000 first and he did.

Two weeks after signing the contracts, Maxmega told him that "they had probl…

Search Wars: Forget Bing, Google Has More to Worry About from Twitter

CARLSBAD, CALIF. -- Microsoft's Bing may be an improvement in search, but short of anticipating queries and "hitching up to my synapses" it's probably not enough to get people to change their habits, says Paul Kedrosky, senior research adviser at Ten Asset Management.

Microsoft and anyone else trying to unseat industry titan Google (including my employer) face a simple but daunting problem, Kedrosky says: "You're trying to replace a product people are reasonably happy with, with something where it's not clear what the quantum improvement is."

This challenge is made even tougher because it's hard to compete on price, considering search is free.

But while Kedrosky says Google doesn't have much to worry about from its big rivals, real-time search could upset the current paradigm.

"Live data pouring in on a real-time basis - a fire hose of data," is both compelling for users and a "very different thing architecturally" from how s…

Financial Advice for Fresh College Grads

by Laura Rowley

My niece Kara just graduated from a Rhode Island university with a teaching degree; this was a bit of a shock to my system, since I first met her when she was just learning to walk. This week I wanted to offer Kara and other grads some advice on how to think about money and how to use it as a tool to achieve more happiness. Given what’s happened over the past year and a half, this isn’t an easy assignment.

Too many people are no longer reaping what they sow. They worked hard and got laid off. They saved diligently for college, and their 529 plans tanked (while tuition grew at double the rate of inflation). They contributed regularly to their retirement funds and lost 40 percent or more of their portfolios. They took out a mortgage they understood to buy a home they could afford, and it plummeted in value. They paid for health insurance but ended up bankrupt when they got sick. They followed the rules, and their dreams were derailed.

Some writers have suggested that recent…

Is Diversification A Strategy Of The Past?

Simon Maierhofer

In the early 80s, DOS was the most commonly used and recognized operating system (OS). In fact, DOS became the OS of choice and turned Microsoft into the leading software and computer technology provider. Newer Windows versions however, have proven more effective and reliable. At one point, MS DOS was the standard. Today, MS DOS is nearly obsolete.

Ever evolving products and standards are the result of a dynamic and efficient market place. The stock market dynamics of the last two years have certainly raised the bar and forced investors to rethink their strategies. Is diversification the financial equivalent of MS DOS?

For decades diversification has been the standard for many investors. The idea behind diversification is clear: exposure across multiple asset classes increases the odds of picking pockets of strength, just as placing multiple bets across the Roulette table gives you a higher chance of picking the winning number.

Pros and cons of diversification

A diversifie…

10 Part-Time Business Ideas

by Jeremy Quittner and John Tozzi

In any economy, a part-time business can bring in extra income, give you a fallback plan if you lose your job, or plant the seed for a larger venture. In a downturn, it's hard to argue with preparing a backup plan. Of course, starting a business is always risky, and you will almost surely spend more than you make at first. Previously, we offered advice for recently laid-off workers considering going into business for themselves. Now we're offering snapshots of part-time solo business ventures that could turn into full-fledged businesses, including tips on getting started.

Baker

Man does not live by bread alone, or so the saying goes. But if anyone checked the sales of some of the best independent bakeries around the country, they'd be astounded. In 1994, Jim Lahey started Sullivan Street Bakery after several years experimenting as a home baker. Today, his company, which has about $6 million in annual revenues and about 90 employees, is a New …

The New Resume: Dumb and Dumber

by Jane Porter

Kristin Konopka sent out nearly 100 copies of her résumé in January in search of receptionist work, but got only one callback. That's when Ms. Konopka, a 29-year-old New York actress and yoga teacher, took her master's degree and academic teaching experience off her résumé.

The calls started coming in. The slimmer version of her résumé landed in 30 in-boxes and earned her three callbacks and two interviews. "It definitely picked up the interest," says Ms. Konopka, who realized quickly that people don't "want to hire anyone who is overqualified."

Securing work in a tight economy means more job seekers might find themselves applying for positions below their qualifications. Many unemployed professionals are willing to take paycuts for the promise of a paycheck. But to get a foot in the door, candidates are gearing down their résumés by hiding advanced degrees, changing too-lofty titles, shortening work experience descriptions, and removing awa…

If You Think Worst Is Over, Take Benjamin Graham's Advice

by Jason Zweig

It is sometimes said that to be an intelligent investor, you must be unemotional. That isn't true; instead, you should be inversely emotional.

Even after recent turbulence, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up roughly 30% since its low in March. It is natural for you to feel happy or relieved about that. But Benjamin Graham believed, instead, that you should train yourself to feel worried about such events.

At this moment, consulting Mr. Graham's wisdom is especially fitting. Sixty years ago, on May 25, 1949, the founder of financial analysis published his book, "The Intelligent Investor," in whose honor this column is named. And today the market seems to be in just the kind of mood that would have worried Mr. Graham: a jittery optimism, an insecure and almost desperate need to believe that the worst is over.

You can't turn off your feelings, of course. But you can, and should, turn them inside out.

Stocks have suddenly become more expensive to accumu…

How Businesses Can Prosper, Even Now

Rick Newman

Many Americans are hunkering down, but even a grinding recession presents chances to get ahead--and maybe even earn your fortune. The very disruptions causing pain for many workers--spending cutbacks, layoffs, and corporate bankruptcies--often create openings for others. To figure out where to look, I asked William Sahlman of Harvard Business School, an expert on entrepreneurship. Some of his observations:

Creative destruction, like we're seeing now, generates opportunities, right? Do you see new opportunities forming? There's always been a yin and yang of opportunity. One person's crisis is another's opportunity. If you're a buyer of assets in distress, for example, you're able to pick up companies you may never see again at these prices. Right now there's $8 trillion or $9 trillion of cash sitting on the sidelines. People are waiting for signs so compelling that they're willing to go back in.

What are some of the best opportunities you see? H…

Crisis spurs prayers in Asia

WITH the Singapore government warning of a worsening economy, IT administrator Ismarini Ismail is praying the recession won't upset her wedding plans for December.
'I pray harder in times of economic downturn, although my job is not affected this time,' the 25-year-old Singaporean told Reuters as Singapore's unemployment rose to the highest in over three years in the first quarter of 2009. 'I'm praying for my fiance that his job is safe.'

Ismail is not alone. As companies shed jobs and governments inject funds to stimulate economies, recession-hit Asians from Taiwan to Thailand are flocking to temples, churches and mosques to seek solace in religion - and pray for a quick economic recovery.

Analysts say religion is a good refuge for people suffering from an economic downturn.

'People might experience depression and socio-psychological problems as they worry about jobs in a recession. It is through such worries that they turn to religion,' said Alexi…

With Jobs Scarce, Age Becomes an Issue

by Dana Mattioli

Age discrimination in the workplace has long been a concern for the 55-and-older set. In this downturn, however, younger workers may have as much to fear as their more-mature colleagues.

Employees in their 20s and 30s are finding themselves more at risk of a layoff, according to labor lawyers, as employers look to avoid age-discrimination lawsuits by adopting a "last one in, first one out" policy and turn to tenure as a means of conducting layoffs. In some cases, young, childless professionals say they feel they're being targeted in layoffs, while employees who have families to support are given special consideration.

While no age group is exempt from layoffs, younger workers seem to be shouldering a larger percentage of the burden, according to recent Labor Department figures. The unemployment rate for those between the ages of 25 and 34 was 9.6% in April 2009, up from 4.9% a year earlier. For those ages 55 and older, the unemployment rate was 6.2% in Apri…

Outlook on UK economy downgraded to 'negative'

LONDON (AFP) - - International ratings agency Standard and Poor's on Thursday downgraded its outlook on Britain's economy to "negative" from "stable" owing to the country's "deteriorating public finances."

The change may eventually lead to S&P downgrading Britain's top-level sovereign credit ratings, the agency warned in a statement.

"The outlook revision is based on our view that, even factoring in further fiscal tightening, the UK's net general government debt burden may approach 100 percent of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and remain near that level in the medium term," S&P said in a statement.

Britain's public deficit ballooned to a record 8.5 billion pounds (9.6 billion euros, 13.22 billion dollars) in April as the Labour government was forced to bail out ailing banks and recession slashes tax revenues, according to official data published Thursday.

The data, together with S&P's downgrade, sent the British…

Google's Days are Numbered

Analysis: Sure Google's 73% share of U.S. searches is impressive, but business is a fragile ecosystem.

Kaila Colbin, Network World

Please trust me on this one: Google will die. If it hasn't happened by the time you read this post, you're just not patient enough.

Last week, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster was quoted by Wall Street Journal blogger Andrew LaVallee as saying that Google is "essentially insurmountable." And certainly Google's 73 percent share of U.S. searches is, shall we say, intimidating.

But business is a fragile ecosystem, and even redwoods meet their makers. Yes, Google's lead is massive. But Internet Explorer had an even bigger lead in the browser market. Yes, Google has more money than anybody else. But so did Circuit City in 1999, when it was the 800-pound gorilla of big-box electronics retailers. By 2001, it was an also-ran; seven months ago, Circuit City filed for bankruptcy. And brick-and-mortar time frames are glacial compared to th…

Harvard’s masters of the apocalypse

Philip Delves Broughton

If Robespierre were to ascend from hell and seek out today’s guillotine fodder, he might start with a list of those with three incriminating initials beside their names: MBA. The Masters of Business Administration, that swollen class of jargon-spewing, value-destroying financiers and consultants have done more than any other group of people to create the economic misery we find ourselves in.

From Royal Bank of Scotland to Merrill Lynch, from HBOS to Leh-man Brothers, the Masters of Disaster have their fingerprints on every recent financial fiasco.

I write as the holder of an MBA from Harvard Business School – once regarded as a golden ticket to riches, but these days more like scarlet letters of shame. We MBAs are haunted by the thought that the tag really stands for Mediocre But Arrogant, Mighty Big Attitude, Me Before Anyone and Management By Accident. For today’s purposes, perhaps it should be Masters of the Business Apocalypse.

Harvard Business School alumn…

Harvard’s masters of the apocalypse

If his fellow Harvard MBAs are all so clever, how come so many are now in disgrace?

Philip Delves Broughton

If Robespierre were to ascend from hell and seek out today’s guillotine fodder, he might start with a list of those with three incriminating initials beside their names: MBA. The Masters of Business Administration, that swollen class of jargon-spewing, value-destroying financiers and consultants have done more than any other group of people to create the economic misery we find ourselves in.

From Royal Bank of Scotland to Merrill Lynch, from HBOS to Leh-man Brothers, the Masters of Disaster have their fingerprints on every recent financial fiasco.

I write as the holder of an MBA from Harvard Business School – once regarded as a golden ticket to riches, but these days more like scarlet letters of shame. We MBAs are haunted by the thought that the tag really stands for Mediocre But Arrogant, Mighty Big Attitude, Me Before Anyone and Management By Accident. For today’s purposes, per…

Banking crisis is ending

WASHINGTON - RENEWED signs of health among big US banks is sparking hope that the credit crisis is over, with the risks diminishing for a new financial meltdown.

Despite a still-fragile situation, some analysts point to easing interest rates, rising stock prices for major banks and the renewed ability of banking firms to raise new capital in the private sector.

This could lead to many banks repaying the US government by repurchasing the shares from capital injections.

'America's banking crisis is over,' said Avery Shenfeld, senior economist at CIBC World Markets, in a recent note to clients.

Mr Shenfeld said one major factor is the drop in the key Libor interest rate for lending between banks 'to the point that indicates that the fear of failure has been shaken out of the system.'

The conclusion of the 'stress tests' of the system along with requirements that major banks raise modest amounts of new capital - which they have been doing - indicates the United…

Commentary by Brad Gareiss: Trading Psychology- Dealing with a Drawdown

Trading psychology is the most important aspect of a trader's success. This may surprise some readers, specifically those that are new to trading. However, the psychological makeup of a trader is more important than market knowledge, market analysis, and even money management. The reason psychology is so important is that even the best information can be distorted by a poor mindset.

Most new traders think the key to profiting in trading is knowing more about the market. For instance, most new traders clog their screens with every indicator they can find, read up European GDP trends, and feel that pro traders have some sort of secret knowledge. However, this inevitably does not provide the lofty results the novice trader hopes to achieve.

After realizing that excessive market information doesn't help (and may hurt) results, the next moment of truth most traders have is money management. Instead to trading 1 lot every time, or even trading the maximum lots their account wil…

Housing bottom in sight, but recovery will be slow

Martin Crutsinger, AP Economics Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Single-family home construction posted a modest rebound in April, raising hopes that the three-year slide in U.S. housing is leveling off. But a bulging supply of unsold homes, record levels of foreclosures and still-falling home prices suggest a sustained recovery isn't likely until next spring at the earliest.

The Commerce Department said construction of homes and apartments fell 12.8 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 458,000 units. That's the lowest pace on records going back a half-century.

Applications for new building permits dropped 3.3 percent to an annual rate of 494,000, also a record low.

"I think we have probably reached the low point for this housing crash, but I don't expect us to come roaring back," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Economy.com. "I think it will take another year for a recovery in housing to get going."

All of last month's wea…

How to Earn Money as a Professional Blogger

Kimberly Palmer

It's an appealing fantasy: Start a blog. Watch it take off. Then, quit the office life, sit at home, and live off the advertising revenue.

But successful, moneymaking blogs elude most people who try to start them. The vast majority of blogs, written primarily for family and friends, attract fewer than 50 page views a day and earn pennies per month, if anything. According to a Problogger survey, most bloggers earn less than $100 per month, and 3 in 10 earn less than$10 per month. Only 16 percent of the 4,000 respondents say they make more than $2,500 a month.

Gia Lipa, 43, is one of those success stories. In 2006, she started her personal finance blog, the Digerati Life, to teach herself more about the Internet. She started networking with other personal finance blogs and soon had a growing number of online friends who linked to one another's blogs. Within six months, her blog pulled in between 800 and 1,000 visitors a day, and the audience has since grown sevenfo…

Many Bought Shares High, Sold Low

by Mary Pilon

As stock markets slid in March, Judy Brady lay awake at night thinking about her portfolio.

"My retired friends who had all CDs and gold, and they were still making money, and my investments just kept going and going," she said. "I thought: I can't afford to lose all this."

So the 70-year-old retiree in Schaumburg, Ill., sold most of her stocks. Instead of the 40% of her portfolio that was in stocks, now she has just 10%. The rest is in cash, bonds and federally insured certificates of deposit.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average hit a bottom at 6547.05 on March 9, a 12-year low and less than half its October 2007 level. Many investors like Ms. Brady cut their losses. Some $70 billion flowed out of stock mutual funds or exchange-traded funds in February and March, according to TrimTabs Research.

Since bottoming out, the Dow has surged 26%. That means investors who sold at the bottom have missed out on one of the most powerful rallies in decades. "The…

Job Seekers: How to Negotiate a Higher Offer

by AnnaMaria Andriotis

With an average of five unemployed people now vying for each job opening, according to the nonprofit Economic Policy Institute, employers who are hiring can afford to be picky — and tight-fisted. Many companies are reducing compensation for their existing employees, which means they’re more likely to offer lower salaries to new hires, says Fred Crandall, a senior consultant at human resources consulting firm Watson Wyatt. In April, 21% of employers had reduced employee compensation, according to a Watson Wyatt survey, up from 7% in February.

And while you may feel compelled to accept any job offer, failing to negotiate a compensation package can cost you. These days, employers who engage in such “lowballing” are offering an average 10% to 15% less than what they would have offered before the recession began, says Ford Myers, president of Career Potential, a Haverford, Pa.-based career coaching and consulting firm.

Here’s how you can find out how much you’re worth i…