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Showing posts from February, 2012

Buffett says he was 'dead wrong' on housing market

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- Billionaire investor Warren Buffett said Saturday that he was "dead wrong" with a prediction that the U.S. housing market would begin to recover by now, but he remains optimistic about the nation's economy.

In his annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, Buffett said he is sure housing will recover eventually and help bring down the nation's unemployment rate. But he did not predict when that will happen.

Investors eagerly await the letter from Buffett, 81, the so-called Oracle of Omaha, who built a roughly $44 billion fortune by following a steadfast, no-nonsense investing strategy.

Buffett said housing "remains in a depression of its own," but he predicted, in typical plainspoken style, that the housing market will come back because some human factors can't be denied forever.

"People may postpone hitching up during uncertain times, but eventually hormones take over," he wrote. "And while 'doubling-up' ma…

Falling victim to your job's low expectations

If you aspire to become a great manager, simply striving to meet your company's actual (versus espoused) standards probably won't get you there.

By Linda A. Hill and Kent Lineback, contributors

FORTUNE -- One morning, years ago, Kent heard loud laughter outside his office and found several people clustered around Charley, the head graphic designer who was easily the largest and most popular member of the marketing department Kent ran.

"Charley lost 25 pounds," someone said when Kent joined the group. Charley's weight was a common topic of office conversation but only because Charley himself brought it up so often.

"That's great, Charley," Kent said. "Congratulations!" Then -- always the boss, though this was hardly a management matter -- he asked, "What's your goal?"

The smile dropped from Charley's face.

"That," he said, "was it."

It wasn't one of Kent's most sensitive moments. Later, when he apologi…

4 Market Tells That Are Better Than The Dow

By Jeff Macke

The Dow Jones Industrial Average which briefly topped 13,000 yesterday for the first time since 2008, made for a great headline but the event was slightly less exciting to those who make their living investing.

"Nobody really looks at the Dow anymore except for news outlets and retail investors," says Dan Fitzpatrick, founder of StockMarketMentor.com. It's an observation based less on snobbery than the simple fact that the Dow has been replaced by other indexes and sectors generally regarded as more useful than a 30 company index based on the dollar value of each share, rather than market capitalization of the underlying company.

The obvious question for Fitzpatrick then is what he is looking at to help him divine market direction, if not the Dow. Fitzpatrick has four better market "tells" he's got his eye on:

The Dow Transports

Unlike the DJIA, which attempts to cram all relevant sectors into 30 stocks, the transportation index is, appropriately e…

How to Greece-Proof Your Portfolio

By Lindsey Bell

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- A second bailout to save Greece from defaulting has been agreed to by eurozone finance ministers, but for U.S. investors, the story is far from over.

A deal to secure 130 billion euros ($172 billion) to prevent the sovereign nation from defaulting on its debt in late March (when the next tranche is due) was reached. In return, creditors will accept a 53.5% write-down on their debt and a reduction in the interest rate paid on 56 billion euros in loans from the prior bailout.

This will reduce the ratio of debt to GDP of the country to 120% by 2020. This news originally led to a 1.2% pop in the Euro Stoxx 50 index, which measures the performance of 50 stocks in 12 eurozone countries, but the index ended up declining.

The worries follow concerns that the agreed-upon austerity measures that are to be implemented in order to receive the payment could be reversed to some degree after elections are held in Greece. The election is slated to take place in two…

10 Places You Can Always Get Freebies

The only thing we like more than getting a deal is getting a freebie. And we're not talking about those buy one, get one free deals, either -- we mean a true, no-purchase-necessary freebie.

So where should you go to find all this free stuff? There are websites like FreeStuffTimes and IHeartFreebies that aggregate free sample offers, and we also try to bring freebie offers to your attention on our Free Stuff page. But if you'd rather go right to the source, there are several retailers and companies that regularly give away freebies. Here are a few.

IKEA

No, IKEA doesn't give its furniture away for free, but the Swedish furniture store is almost as famous for its food as for its hard-to-assemble bookcases, and it's often willing to give away food for free if it gets people in the door. Usually that takes the form of a free breakfast -- this past weekend, for instance, shoppers could come in Saturday through Monday before 11 a.m. and get a platter of eggs, bacon and hash bro…

5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Job Prospects

By Miriam Salpeter

Not landing the job you want? How can you change your luck? Stop what you're doing and make some changes; you may be surprised by the results.

1. Don't apply for positions if you are overqualified. While you may assume that having more than the necessary qualifications will help you land a job in a tough job market, the opposite is likely true. For example, if the job is primarily administrative and you've held executive-level positions and boast a master's degree in business administration, the hiring manager is unlikely to consider you a serious candidate. Why? Many hiring managers will assume an overqualified applicant, if hired, will resign the minute something better comes along. Others are concerned that overqualified candidates will expect inflated salaries. Don't waste your time applying for jobs if you are overqualified--it makes you look desperate.

[See our list of the Best Careers.]

2. Create a resume focused on your future job. Make sure …

The Forever Portfolio

By William Baldwin

In its first half-century the Nobel Foundation had a rough go of it. Its assets shriveled. The value of the five famous prizes it funds shrank by 69%. And then the outfit began a ­remarkable resurgence that has brought the awards to $1.5 million apiece—in purchasing power that’s ahead of where they started.

In that decline and recovery lie some powerful lessons for investors who need to make their savings last: Bonds are dangerous, taxes are deadly, your spendable yield is low and your portfolio’s survival may hang on diversification well away from your homeland.

Alfred Bernhard Nobel was an ­inventor who made a tidy fortune in dynamite and other chemicals. When he died at 63 in 1896, the childless bachelor left behind a hand-scrawled will leaving most of his estate to a new foundation that would reward scientific and cultural achievement. It took five years for the legal and ­operational battles over this murky document to be resolved.

The foundation opened for busine…

Do Rich People Live Longer?

Those looking for a magic elixir to keep them healthy and happy need look no further than their bank account. Wealth and, more broadly, socioeconomic status, play a powerful role in determining how long we live.

"It's clear that those who have less wealth will have fewer years to live than those with more wealth," says James Smith, senior economist at the research group RAND. The connection is so widely accepted that researchers have given it a name: "the wealth gradient in mortality." What's far more complicated to understand is why the connection exists, and whether wealth causes better health, or vice versa.

The longest-running longitudinal study of health, run by George Vaillant, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, found education to be one of the biggest determinants of longevity, along with behavioral factors--excessive drinkers were more likely to die young, for example. Out of the 500-plus Harvard students and inner-city Boston men the …

Do Rich People Live Longer?

By Kimberly Palmer

Those looking for a magic elixir to keep them healthy and happy need look no further than their bank account. Wealth and, more broadly, socioeconomic status, play a powerful role in determining how long we live.

"It's clear that those who have less wealth will have fewer years to live than those with more wealth," says James Smith, senior economist at the research group RAND. The connection is so widely accepted that researchers have given it a name: "the wealth gradient in mortality." What's far more complicated to understand is why the connection exists, and whether wealth causes better health, or vice versa.

The longest-running longitudinal study of health, run by George Vaillant, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, found education to be one of the biggest determinants of longevity, along with behavioral factors--excessive drinkers were more likely to die young, for example. Out of the 500-plus Harvard students and inner-ci…

Dividend Stocks Will Be Winners for a Whole Decade

BOSTON (TheStreet) -- The dividend trade is crowded, with almost every investor on the hunt for high yields. Wells Fargo analysts, however, say companies may only now be catching on to how investors are selecting stocks based on dividends.

Dividend-paying U.S. shares have been a favorite for investors following a 20% decline in stock market indices late last year. With economic growth expected to plod along and interest rates likely to remain incredibly low, investors have been forced to look for yield and steady income in other places.

In 2012, though, the market has booked the best gains in a quarter century to start the year, led not by dividend stocks but small-cap and speculative companies. Investors, it seems, are comfortable taking on more risk as Europe continues to figure its way out of a massive debt crisis.

Wells Fargo senior analyst Gina Martin Adams took a deeper dive into dividends, which she calls this decade's winning theme. While investor appetite for dividends has n…

Why Bank of America is the new Citigroup

By Pallavi Gogoi, AP Business Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- On a normal day, 4 billion shares of stock change hands on the New York Stock Exchange. One in 10 belongs to a single company. It's not McDonald's or IBM, both of which have been on a tear.

It's Bank of America — bailed out by the government three years ago, reviled for being part of the mortgage frenzy that helped wreck the economy and selling for not much more than an ATM fee.

When the market goes up because of positive news about the economy, Bank of America stock shoots up past the stocks of other big banks. When traders get worried about Greek debt, Bank of America takes the biggest plunge.

The big swings are not driven by a fundamental bet that the bank will be more profitable because the economy is getting better or a real concern that it will lose more money than others if there is a default in Greece.

Instead, Bank of America is the stock of the moment for high-frequency trading, the supercomputer-driven buying and …

Seven Secrets of Self-Made Multimillionaires

By Grant Cardone

First, understand that you no longer want to be just a millionaire. You want to become a multimillionaire.

While you may think a million dollars will give you financial security, it will not. Given the volatility in economies, governments and financial markets around the world, it's no longer safe to assume a million dollars will provide you and your family with true security. In fact, a Fidelity Investments' study of millionaires last year found that 42 percent of them don't feel wealthy and they would need $7.5 million of investable assets to start feeling rich.

This isn't a how-to on the accumulation of wealth from a lifetime of saving and pinching pennies. This is about generating multimillion-dollar wealth and enjoying it during the creation process. To get started, consider these seven secrets of multimillionaires.

No. 1: Decide to Be a Multimillionaire -- You first have to decide you want to be a self-made millionaire. I went from nothing—no money, …

5 Career Resolutions Everyone Should Make

When you're not happy at work, making a New Year's career resolution is easy: Get a new job. (Or, get a raise, snag that promotion, make it through a work week without using profanity—plenty to choose from.)

But when things are going well, you should still be setting work-related goals for yourself. And what better time to do it than the new year?

If you need some inspiration, we've compiled five career resolutions that everyone should make. Choose a couple or resolve to do them all—we guarantee you'll set yourself up for success in 2012.
1. Have an Annual Career Check-Up

You probably think about your job every day, but when was the last time you really thoughtabout it? Kick off 2012 by taking yourself out to lunch or coffee, and writing down how you're feeling about your career. What makes you happy, and what would you like to change? Is your current job really what you want to be doing? Or, at the least, is it helping you reach your goals? Also do some salary researc…

How to Handle Uncomfortable Situations at Work

Whether it's a stinky coworker or an inappropriately dressed assistant, you're guaranteed to run into some awkward circumstances at work from time to time. Here are five of the most uncomfortable, and some advice on how to handle them.

1. Your coworker slacks off constantly, while you're hard at work. The solution: Try to ignore it. Sure, it's possible your boss is letting your colleague get away with this behavior, but it's also possible that you don't realize your boss is addressing it behind the scenes. Either way, the answer for you is the same: If it's not affecting your work, it's not your business. If it does affect your ability to do your job--because you have to take on extra work, or because you're dependent on your coworker to help you do your own job--then raise it with your boss from that perspective, keeping the focus on how it affects your productivity.

Of course, if you're the slacker's manager, then you need to address it fort…

5 Out-of-Date Job-Search Tactics

By Liz Ryan

“Is it still correct to use ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ in a cover letter?” a reader asked in an e-mail.

“That isn’t such a great idea,” I wrote back. “No one uses ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ anymore, unless they’re actually writing to a madam, such as Heidi Fleiss.” I’m not sure my e-mail correspondent caught the joke.

It’s not that using out-of-date job-search approaches brands you as older. Rather, it’s that using no-longer-in-fashion job search techniques marks you as out of touch.

Employers pay us, in part, to be aware of trends and phenomena that affect the workplace. Working people (and job-seekers) should follow the news, keep a bead on our changing world, and stay abreast of changes in business, technology, politics, and cultural shifts. That isn’t an unreasonable expectation. If a job-seeker isn’t curious and perceptive enough to notice that the last time he saw “Dear Sir or Madam” on a letter was around the time Chevy Chase impersonated Gerald Ford falling down the stairs, how wil…

How to Land a New Job

By Ben Baden

Whether it's rewriting your cover letter, reviewing the way you approach interviews, or rethinking what kind of job will make you happy, here are some tips for landing a new job in the new year. You'll hear from authors, career experts, career coaches, and even entrepreneurs.

Position yourself as a thought leader in your industry. Create a professional blog and write insightful posts about industry trends and advice. Comment on other top blogs to increase your visibility within those communities. Join and participate in niche communities, such as LinkedIn groups related to your expertise and skills. Share relevant articles (and your own content) on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. Not only will this help to develop your online presence, but you'll inadvertently network with people who might lead you to your next job opportunity.

Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing co…

4 Ways to Get a Promotion in 2012

By Heather Huhman

Things are looking up for the job market in 2012, but we're not out of the woods yet. If you're hoping for a promotion in the new year, be aware that it will be tough--but not impossible.

Follow these four tips to get a promotion and climb the corporate ladder even in a stagnant economy:

1. Focus on achievements. No one gets a promotion without being valuable to a company, and the best way to show your value is by focusing on your achievements. Rather than describing your day-to-day duties, focus on things you accomplished at your current position, namely, specific results.

Using numbers is a great strategy. For example, "increased profits by 40 percent" or "doubled sales in the first quarter" give tangible, measurable amounts of value you provided your company. When talking to your manager about a promotion, make sure to convey your value in the form of your achievements.

2. Ask for more. Show that you're ready to take the next step by tak…