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Showing posts from October, 2010

Six-Figure Jobs in Demand

by Cindy Perman

All six-figure jobs were NOT created equal.

Not only do some require more education and experience than others, some are just more in demand than others. So, if you want to increase your chances of landing a six-figure job, it helps to know which ones have the most positions available.

Finance-related jobs accounted for more than half of the top 25 jobs with the most openings that paid over $100,000, according to research by Monster.com. That's everything from a finance manager to an internal audit supervisor and an accounting director.

There's still a lot of competition for those jobs, though: Indeed.com estimates that for every online job listing in financial services and banking, 30 people click on it. For accounting jobs, that number rises to 34. Health care and information technology had the least clicks per post, while media and construction had the most.

[Click here to find an online degree program]

So, where are the best opportunities? Here are eight of the t…

Are Home Prices Fated to Fall Farther?

Daniel Indiviglio

The U.S. housing market is a mess. Home sales have been incredibly weak ever since the buyer credit expired back in April. There are still many struggling homeowners out there defaulting and foreclosing. So many homes are underwater that even those who can pay are questioning whether or not doing so makes sense. And of course, a new fiasco has recently ensued with some banks and servicers revealing that their procedures weren't as clean as they should have been. This has slowed foreclosures and created fear among potential buyers. The likely result from all of this badness: home prices are bound to decline farther. Is there any way to stop that inevitable outcome?

In a sense, there isn't. There are still a significant number of borrowers out there who cannot afford their mortgage payments. A handful might find a solution in a modification program, but most will not. Until all of these borrowers finally are foreclosed on or complete a short sale, the inventory o…

Eight Steps to Financial Health

by Laura Rowley

Like many Americans, Leah West, 40, is struggling to shed debt and manage an array of financial obligations. After her divorce seven years ago, Leah, a mother of three, enrolled in college and earned her bachelor's and master's degrees. She moved up the ladder in health care administration, and earns about $80,000. But she's now saddled with more than $82,000 in debt, mostly student loans; and her home is worth less than what she paid it. Leah also wants to set aside money for college tuition for her kids, and build a retirement fund.

Since September, I've been coaching Leah in her quest to improve her finances, a journey she blogs about at WomansDay.com. Her story offers practical lessons in how to attack multiple financial goals and maintain momentum. Here are just a few:

1) Focus on the positive

Before you confront a mountain of bills, remind yourself what's working for you. Leah had earned a master's degree — an accomplishment just 6 percent of …

Out of Work, Out of Options and Over the Hill

by Emily Glazer

After 20 months without a job, 55-year-old Henry Dietz has nearly drained his 401(k) retirement plan.

He already has used up his personal savings, borrowed extensively, switched to a catastrophic health plan, which only covers medical emergencies, and even skipped family funerals because of travel expenses.

If he doesn't find a job soon, he may not be able to make his mortgage payments and the family may have to "move back with Mama," says the married father of three from Raleigh, N.C., who was laid off from an advertising agency.

Mr. Dietz's situation may be extreme, but many people are facing a similar dilemma: over 50, unemployed and running out of options.

With no job prospects long before they can afford to retire — and Social Security benefits still years away — many unemployed workers in their 50s and early 60s are struggling to pay the bills, the mortgage, health-care expenses and college tuition. It's a scenario that was unimaginable to many j…

Blue-Chip Specials From the Buffett Menu

By Andrew Bary

There's no quibbling with Warren Buffett's extraordinary overall investment record, which has resulted in a $205 billion stock-market value for (NYSE: BRKA - News) Berkshire Hathaway. But, in the past few years, Buffett has invested in some companies whose shares have been disappointing. Among them: ConocoPhillips, U.S. Bancorp, Kraft Foods, Sanofi-Aventis, Johnson & Johnson and even Wells Fargo.

All of these are strong, well-managed companies. Assuming Buffett hasn't erred, investors have the opportunity now to buy some of them for less than what Berkshire paid.

U.S. Bancorp, for instance, trades near 23, appreciably below Berkshire's average cost of $31. ConocoPhillips is at 61; Berkshire paid 73. French drug maker Sanofi's U.S.-listed shares, at 34, are below Berkshire's cost of $40 (Berkshire mainly owns the local shares). Kraft is at 32; Buffett paid 33. We based the cost figures on data in Buffett's annual shareholder letter.

Buffett wo…

Upper class and you

Do you think it is getting increasingly hard for someone in this age to join the Upper Class in your society?

What about the noveau riche? Do they qualify as upper class?

If Stocks Are Near 2010 Highs, So Is Complacency

by Nick Godt

It's not just the stock market that's revisiting levels unseen since April: The Chicago Board of Options Exchange Volatility Index, which gives the pulse of the market, is trading near its lowest levels since the spring.

Last week, the VIX otherwise known as the market's fear gauge, sank below 20 for the first time since May 3 and it closed below 20 for the first time since April 29.

When the VIX drops below 20, it typically signals complacency is rampant in the stock market. Bad news is brushed aside, and stocks react to any news that's not "as bad as feared" with a rally.

But the market can only see the glass as half full for so long. Eventually, the cup overfloweth.

We're not there yet. The VIX sank to its lowest level for the year, near 15, in April as stocks continued to cheer the belief, back then, that the global economic recovery was for real, until a crisis in Europe forced a correction and a reassessment of reality.

But it's worth not…

When Will the Madness Stop?

by Brett Arends

If you want to measure the level of craziness on Wall Street at the moment, take a look at what just happened to Wal-Mart Stores (NYSE: WMT - News).

This week investors were so eager to buy bonds they snapped up $5 billion worth of new Wal-Mart debt at pitifully low yields.

Yet they are showing comparatively little interest in Wal-Mart stock -- whose dividend yield just keeps getting better and better.

This isn't an isolated instance. Ordinary U.S. investors are flooding bond funds with new money, and those funds have to go out and buy these bonds at almost any price. At the same time, they are taking money out of stock funds -- and never mind the fundamentals.

Do investors really understand the risks they are taking with their money? Or the opportunities they are missing?

Take a look at the bond issue. Wal-Mart sold $750 million worth of three-year bonds paying 0.75% a year. It sold $1.25 billion of five-year bonds paying 1.5%, $1.75 billion of 10-year bonds paying 3.2…

The haves, the have-nots and the dreamless dead

By Emily Kaiser

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In 2007, when the world was on the brink of financial crisis, U.S. income inequality hit its highest mark since 1928, just before the Great Depression.

Coincidence? Maybe not.

Economists are only beginning to study the parallels between the 1920s and the most recent decade to try to understand why both periods ended in financial disaster. Their early findings suggest inequality may not directly cause crises, but it can be a contributing factor.

This raises a host of social, economic and political questions. Should public policy aim to reduce inequality, and if so by what means? Does concentrated wealth at the top of the income spectrum generate asset bubbles, or vice versa? Could raising taxes or interest rates ward off financial meltdowns?

Americans are generally not bothered by inequality because they believe with hard work, they, too, can strike it rich. Government policies aimed at spreading the wealth rarely get much support. (Remember 2008, when…

Four reasons not to listen too closely to the bears

Paul J. Lim

On paper, this seems like a hospitable environment for the bulls on Wall Street to roam. The recession that began in late 2007 has officially been declared over. Interest rates and inflation are at historic lows, and stocks are up more than 70% from their low 18 months ago.

But when you flip on CNBC or turn to your paper's business section, it's all gloom and anxiety. The talking heads are warning that the economy could be headed for a double-dip recession or maybe something worse.

Meanwhile, mutual fund managers are sitting on cash, and a recent survey of investment newsletters found that bearish advisers vastly outnumbered bulls for the first time since the market cratered in March 2009.

Individual investors have caught the pessimism bug too: At the end of August, only 21% of individual investors described themselves as being bullish, vs. about 50% who said they were bearish.

That spread between optimists and pessimists hasn't been so wide since the credit crisis …

Commodities Should Come Naturally for Investors

Most people can't spell commodities, says investing guru Jim Rogers.

Spelling aside, the idea of putting a percentage of your portfolio in the earth's resources makes sense, say financial advisors.

Commodities are great for diversification purposes and global demand is rising.

"Commodities are one of the few areas of the world economy that have bullish fundamentals," says Rogers, a popular author and co-founder of the Quantum Fund. "For 25 years there's been very little investment in production capacity, so we've had supply going down at a time when demand is going up."

As an asset class, commodities have several attributes.

"Principal among them is a pattern of returns which tend to be fairly dissimilar to other asset classes," says Roger Gibson, founder and Chief Investment Officer of Gibson Capital in Wexford, Pennsylvania.

Such dissimilarities can reduce risk because the ups and downs offset each other. Though not perfectly counter-cyclical …

Who's Buying and Selling This Rally?

Josh Lipton

The stock market has moved sharply higher since August 27, when Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke suggested that the Fed might consider another bond purchase program, a maneuver known as quantitative easing.

The point of the program is to prop up the fragile economy by keeping long term interest rates low and encourage borrowing and spending by consumers and companies.

Specifically, the Fed Head said: "The Federal Reserve is already supporting the economic recovery by maintaining an extraordinarily accommodative monetary policy, using multiple tools. Should further action prove necessary, policy options are available to provide additional stimulus." (Also read Never Mind What the Fed Thinks; Markets Say QE Is Coming.)

Investors, believing the Fed can come to the rescue, have responded: citing exchange-traded funds as indicators, the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY), which includes holdings like Exxon (XOM), Apple (AAPL), Microsoft (MSFT), IBM (IBM), and Bank of America (BAC), is u…

Twitter as stock market predictor

Can Twitter predict the ups and downs of the stock market?

Researchers at a US university found they were able to predict the rise and fall of the Dow Jones Industrial Average with near 90 percent accuracy several days in advance by analyzing messages on Twitter.

The researchers at Indiana University-Bloomington's School of Informatics and Computing analyzed more than 9.8 million "tweets" from 2.7 million users of the micro-blogging service during 10 months in 2008.

They measured the "collective public mood" through tweets and then compared it to closing stock market values and found a correlation between the value of the Dow and public sentiment, Indiana University said in a press release.

"What we found was an accuracy of 87.6 percent in predicting the daily up and down changes in the closing values of the Dow Jones Industrial Average," said Johan Bollen, an Indiana University associate professor who carried out the study with Ph.D. candidate Huina Mao …

The Politics of Envy

by Laura Rowley

A new study provides more evidence that when it comes to well-being, it's not the amount of money you make that matters, but whether you make more than your peers.

For the study, economists at the University of California at Berkeley and Princeton made use of a court decision that allowed the Sacramento Bee newspaper to create a Web site in 2008 listing the salaries of all state employees, including faculty and staff at the University of California. The researchers contacted a random subset of employees at three UC campuses, informing them about the existence of the site. Some 80 percent of those contacted checked out colleagues' wages.

A few days later the researchers surveyed all campus employees about their use of the site, their pay and job satisfaction, and how likely they were to search for a new job. They compared the answers from workers in the treatment group (who were informed of the site) with those in the control group (who were not). Then they matched…

The Biggest Money Mistakes Couples Make

Kimberly Palmer

Managing your own money is hard enough; add another person to the equation and it becomes an obstacle course: Does it make sense to combine bank accounts after moving in together? Should you pay off your credit card debt before getting married? Does the higher earner need to cover more of the bills?

Here are six common mistakes that couples make with their money--and how to avoid them, adapted from the new book Generation Earn: The Young Professional's Guide to Spending, Investing, and Giving Back.

Not talking about finances.

Sure, discussing who pays for what and how much debt each person brings into the relationship is awkward--but also necessary. Before moving in together, talk about how you plan to share household expenses, whether the person with the higher salary will contribute more, how much credit card debt you have, and how you plan to share big-ticket items like cars. Also, take time to map out the logistics: Will you pay bills out of one shared bank account…

Study predicts women in power, Muslims heading West

n the next 40 years, an unprecedented number of women will be in positions of power, Muslim immigration to the West will rise, and office workers will be unchained from their cubicles, a report released last week says.

South America will see sustained economic growth and the Middle East will become "a tangle of religions, sects and ethnicities," says the report by Toffler Associates, a consultancy set up by the author of the 1970s blockbuster "Future Shock."

Toffler Associates released its predictions for the next 40 years to mark the 40th anniversary of "Future Shock," in which author Alvin Toffler studied the 1970s to see what would happen in the future.

His prognosis 40 years ago was that technology and science would develop at such an accelerated pace that many people would be unable to process the enormous amounts of new information available and would disconnect from life.

Some of "Future Shock's" prognoses have come true, including that n…