Thursday, April 26, 2007
The Dow Jones Industrial average closed above 13,000 for the first time in history. Things are good over at the tech heavy NASDAQ which reached a six year high and the S&P 500 closed at a 7 year high.
If you are invested in a qualified retirement account, be sure to check your IRA, 401(k) and other mutual fund investments to see where they closed yesterday. You should be seeing growth in your funds. If your fund is not making you money now...it may never make you money. You should review your investments and perhaps make some well though out changes.
On a sour note, gas prices are also reaching for the stratosphere as the average price per gallon drives towards $3.
I don't have to tell you this news as you've no doubt felt it at the pumps. However, the news of higher gas prices may be the very thing that is 'fueling' the stock market records. You see, higher gasoline costs are keeping our shopping in check. We don't have extra money to spend elsewhere. Therefore, retailers have no ability to raise prices which keeps inflation in check. If the threat of inflation, an increase in prices for the goods we buy is not decreased, then the Federal Reserve is not likely going to raise its target interest rate. Wall Street hates when the Fed raises interest rates so these new market highs can be seen as Wall Street's way of acknowledging their belief that the Fed will not raise rates the next time they meet.
A last word of caution...it is easy to get caught up in the excitment of new market highs and want to dump lots of money in the market. Amateurs jump in when prices are high and sell when the market is going down. The pros buy low and sell high. Be very careful about which investments you decide to buy especially when choosing stocks. Do your homework, make smart choices and leave the emotion out of it.
We will talk more about this topic and much more Saturday on my radio show, Mike about Money heard every Saturday from 1-3pm EST. Listen online at www.inchargeradio.com.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Tuition, housing and books are just the start for parents.
Recent surveys paint an expensive picture for parents of college students. More than half of students accumulate credit card debt of $5000 or more before graduation. 30% end up with more than 10 thousand dollars in debt.
What’s driving this borrowing besides easy credit and higher prices? College students are four times more likely than the general population to download music online. 8% of male college students download daily.
Cell phones, PDA’s, internet connections cable TV, and daily trips to the coffee house are now “MUST Have’s” for students. Plus, more students than ever have their own vehicles and the costs associated with them.
And who pays for these expenses? Either by parents or students with credit cards…or both. In this gadget driven, easy-to-spend online world, parents must plan for these added costs of a higher education.
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
As recently reported by the company that owns more than 2500 discount brand stores including TJ Maxx and Marshalls, TJX Cos., hackers were able to perpetrate what is being called the largest theft of consumer information in history over a several year period including 2005, 2006 and 2007.
TJX Cos., which owns more than 2500 of these discount stores, says information from at least 45.7 Million credit and debit cards was stolen from transactions dating back to January 2003. Information from 455,000 customers who provided driver’s license information to make a return and checking information was also stolen by the hackers.
It should be noted that the company is working with federal and international authorities to fully investigate the theft and working to further secure shopper’s personal information.
If you have shopped using a credit or debit card, wrote a check, or provided your driver’s license number to return a purchase at discount stores owned by TJX Cos. Including TJ Maxx or Marshalls, HomeGoods and Bob’s Stores in the U.S., Canada or Puerto Rico, since 2003, your information may have been stolen and you may be at higher risk for fraudulent use of your identity and account information.
It is always important to be over-defensive when it comes to protecting your identity and personal financial information, but in this case it is more important than ever for you to be vigilant and willing to take the extra effort to keep an eye on your personal financial data and accounts to make sure a criminal does not use it illegally.
If you have shopped at any of the TJX stores or their affiliates, I urge you to do the following to protect yourself:
Order your credit reports today if you’ve not seen them in the past 3 months and then monitor them at least every six months for the foreseeable future. You are entitled to your three credit reports at no cost once every 12 months from www.annualcreditreport.com
Ask the creditors whose credit cards you used at the stores to change your account numbers.
Contact your state’s Department of Motor vehicles if you’ve ever provided your driver’s license to make a return at one of the stores in question.
Set up online access to all of your credit accounts and monitor the accounts on a weekly basis to catch any unauthorized use. Especially if you don’t use the card much and don’t get monthly statements from your creditors.
If you suspect any fraudulent activity on any of your accounts or fraudulent use of your name or other personal information, the Federal Trade Commission directs you to do the following:
-Contact the fraud departments of any one of the three consumer reporting companies, Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion, to place a fraud alert on your credit report. A fraud alert tells creditors to follow certain procedures before open any new accounts...
-Close the accounts that you know or believe have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. The Federal Trade Commission provides an ID Theft Affidavit available for download at its Web site for your use in disputing any new, unauthorized accounts.
-File your complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. (www.ftc.gov). You may print a copy of your complaint to provide important standardized information for your police report.
-File a report with your local police or police in the community where the identity theft took place. Give the police a copy of your FTC ID Theft complaint form. Get a copy of the police report (or, at least, the police report number).
The convenience it provides to us as consumers also makes us more vulnerable to ID Thieves. But in the end, in spite of valiant efforts by retailers to protect and secure your information, you are ultimately responsible for detecting, reporting and stopping misuse of your most personal and valuable information.