I get a lot of press releases in my inbox. Many of them helpful, some more spam-like. They range from new products, recent surveys, and up-and-coming young adults to hot tips on imaginary hedge funds. When I recently got an email regarding a reality TV show about life on Wall Street, I was interested. We often hear about new music groups (one perk of the job is discovering new bands via the press release pipeline), but a reality TV show about investing that actually sounded entertaining? That was definitely worth taking a peek. The show Wall Street Warriors, originally released in 2006 and recently launched into its second season, allows viewers to "witness the extreme power and intense competition that defines Wall Street through the eyes of those who thrive there." What I think is fantastic is the range of roles they cast for the fast-paced and crisply edited 30-minute episodes:
You get a glimpse at how the wheels of the stock market turn--and what it's like to be the one turning them. One of my favorite story lines is that of "The Rookie"-- a 21-year-old, trilingual, recent college graduate attempting to "make her mark" as a day trader. The episode currently airing on the website follows her to a job interview in Paris--while it may be an atypical career move, she faces many of the same dilemmas the rest of us do upon entering a career.
Season 2: Wall Street Warriors
Photo Courtesy of MOJOHD I hadn't heard of MOJO before, the network that airs the show. It's a relatively new, 100% hi-def cable channel, which explains why I hadn't heard of it--my premium cable went out the window during a rigid round of college budgeting and never made it back in. I do most of my cable-show watching on the web now anyway. MOJO seems to have a handle on the evolution of television and they have a pretty sweet website allowing users to experience their favorite shows from all sorts of angles. For Wall Street Warriors this includes photos, episode descriptions, cast bios, a glossary for stock lingo heard in the show, and of course, video. When you've got some time, take a peek at the episodes they have available on the website. It looks like at least the first season is available on DVD at Amazon for $26.99. I couldn't find it at our public library, but you can always consider requesting the library order it. I'm looking forward to the promo DVD the nice folks who handle the show's promotion are shipping our way. The show was built into a special block of shows labeled MOJO Money Night featuring three "fiscally-themed series," along with Start-Up Junkies and Bobby G: Adventure Capitalist. So if you've been lacking in the enthusiasm department when it comes to investing, an entertaining (and potentially educational) antidote might just be a few episodes of Wall Street Warriors. Check out the shows online and let me know what you think. - Sarah
I thought it was pretty funny timing that the month I started working at brass was the month I got my first credit card.
That’s right – I’m 21-years-old and had to campaign hard to my parents for a card to start building credit. Technically I’ve already had some good practice getting ready for the increased responsibility by renting my first apartment and paying utility bills, but I figured it was about time to get a credit card. Turns out, though, my parents had good reason to be hesitant: graduating college students hold an average balance of $2,864, according to a Nellie Mae study on Students and Credit Cards.
I’ve been taught, and severely warned, that it’s best to only charge about $20 - $50 on my card each month and then pay it all off completely to build a good credit score and sound charging habits. Of course, some students charge more and pay off their debts in smaller amounts. The key is to not let your debt grow too high because it can start to hurt your credit score, especially if it’s above 50% of your card limit.
The snowballing effect can make things worse: Up to 10% of college students now drop out due to consumer debt, reported NellieMae. The unfortunate truth in recent years is that credit problems may be hurting students’ college careers more than academic failure.
If you received a package of very official looking information about foreign currency and $25 owed to you, it might not be a scam. People who made foreign currency card transactions between February 1, 1996 and November 8, 2006 may be eligible to receive part of a legal settlement. The cards in question include credit, debit and ATM cards branded by Visa, MasterCard or Diners Club and issued by a few major financial institutions.
A court case settlement was affirmed November 2006 to the tune of $336 million, though it's still subject to final approval. The case alleged that the card companies overcharged when converting foreign currency into dollars and didn't show all the fees. Another case against American Express is currently pending.
If you didn't receive a notice, but think you might be eligible, visit ccfsettlement.com for more info and to submit a claim form. The website has an extensive FAQs section and should be able to answer any questions you have. Have more questions? You can call 1-800-945-9890 toll-free.
Before you pick up the phone, here are a couple of things you'll want to know if you are eligible for a settlement. First, you may not get the money for months or years--there are still a few items the court has to work out. Second, you're not going to become a millionaire--sorry. There are three refund options, ranging from taking $25 straight-up to two different tabulations based on your travel or your applicable transactions.
The deadline to file claims for a refund is May 30, 2008. If you were traveling or studying overseas with a credit, debit or ATM card, there could be money with your name on it.
Don’t spill water on your laptop. I did while I was doing my journalism homework and the next thing I knew the smell of electricity shorting out was wafting through the speaker holes on the front of my $1,200 laptop. Now, my hard drive is erased and I need a new motherboard.It’s going to cost me $298 to get it fixed. Sounds expensive right? Originally, the computer company I bought the laptop from wanted to charge me $498! You can get an entire laptop for that price– but I’m saving $200 instead. Here’s how I got the deal.
I called customer service to find out how to get my laptop fixed and went through the usual rigmarole: “I can’t help you, you need to talk to this department. Let me transfer you.” I finally spoke with the right department and got offered the $498 price. That’s when I told the customer service guy to forget it, I couldn’t afford it, and was ready to hang up. He then said that he’d talk to his manager and try to get a better price. $398 and a three-month warranty was the next offer. I took it because I figured I was saving $100 bucks. Then I got off the phone and checked my money situation – I realized I couldn’t afford $398 either. So, I called the company back to cancel my order. Helpful hint – get the name, phone number, and extension of whoever you dealt with first. After 45 minutes on the phone, I finally got connected back to the original representative. He put me on with the manager who told me that they could offer me the price of $298 in order to keep my business. I accepted.
The Bottom Line: Don’t pay full price – by just telling them I couldn’t afford it (and being patient) I got the price down $200. Get names and numbers so you can retrace your steps if you need to. Finally, if you don’t want to worry about spilled coffee or jostling backpacks messing with your laptop, check out these more ruggedly built models: Latitude ATG, RNB 230, Toughbook CF-30.
As young adults, we put a lot of effort into securing a job to help maintain our livelihood, and hopefully leave wiggle-room for some fun – but don’t think it’s ever too soon to be thinking about your retirement...or planning for an early one! A recent study by AXA Financial reported 26% of people began planning for their retirement between the ages of 45 and 54, with 32% waiting until they were 55 or older. According to the study, less than half of Americans over 55 know exactly how much their income will be after retiring.
It's never too early to start socking money away. The longer you wait to create a retirement plan, the less likely you’ll be able to retire early, at an age you would like, or even at all! Starting to save for retirement now will set you up so you can truly describe retirement as your golden years. This article should help. Talk to your financial institution about ways to get started. There's no time like the present. Don't put off starting a retirement account, like a Roth IRA, and maybe even set up an automatic deposit into your savings account every month, so you don't forget to keep investing.
Well friends, the IRS tax train is soon approaching again, so I thought I'd prepare a refresher on tax tips. You can find some of our past tax posts on time-savers and special situations for students here on the brass Blog, as well as some late-breaking news that could mean some extra federal duckets in a few months. (Remember when reading older posts, taxes are due April 15th this year, not the 17th like last year.)
To start, if you haven't yet received your 2007 W-2 from your employer, your 1098 forms from your student loan lenders, or any other tax docs from your financial activity (don't forget any retirement accounts), contact the specific institution responsible. Rather than waiting to the last minute--try filing earlier this year. If you file before crunch time, you'll have more time to thoroughly review your return, optimize your possible deductions, and receive your refund sooner.
If your adjusted gross income was $54,000 or less in 2007, you can use what the IRS calls Free File. Here's a list of participating companies from the IRS. Whether or not you qualify for Free File, you can e-file for sure and have your refund directly deposited into your account.
April 15 always comes faster than we think, so start early and let this tax season be a relaxing one.
Have you ever heard of a man named Max Yasgur? If you have, then you might guess what's coming. If you haven't, I'll give you a little background.
Max Yasgur was a farmer near Bethel, New York. Neither one would have been important if it weren't for the fact that Yasgur let the hippies throw a concert on his farm in 1969. You may have heard about it in your history class--Woodstock.
Now, the home of Woodstock is up for sale. The place includes the original homestead (Yasgur's house, a farmhouse, a barn, and over 103 acres.) If only I had $8 million...Note to self: host something historical on my parent's farm (they really have one), wait a few decades, then sell it for millions and retire. Brass-stock...brass-a-palooza...anyone?
Speaking of this outrageous idea for a massive brass sing-along, our CEO caught one of our staffers last night who might be interested on video. He's even got a pop-star nickname here at brass (thanks for being such a good sport Marky Mark).
People may bemoan the fact that Valentine’s Day is just another overdone generic holiday meant to crush the spirits of the single and cash-in on those couples obligated or willing to participate. Well, that’s basically true. The National Retail Federation recently released data that the average consumer will spend $122.98 on Valentine’s Day, and with 61% of consumers planning to participate, the total V-day spending is expected to reach $17.02 billion. And there's something for everyone who wants to spend.
Most people, of course, plan to spend the most on their significant other, according to the NRF. What I didn’t expect? 17.2 percent of celebrators will be purchasing a little love for their pets, estimated to total $367 million.
Want to show someone your care without sacrificing your paycheck? Look for free adventures at a museum, zoo or concert. Try going out the weekend following the 14th to avoid the stress of crowds and reservation-making. Reconsider that gourmet dog candy and spend an extra (read: free) hour at the park with your pooch. Whether you plan to spend time with friends, a special someone or Sparky, Valentine’s Day is better spent having fun than worrying about your cash flow. Here are some more tips on calculating the love connection.
Hey everybody. It’s time for another edition of our financial lexicon, the post where you find out about weird money terms and what they mean. Today’s term is amortize, or amortization. Amortize comes from a Latin word that means "to kill".
That’s what amortization does; it slowly kills your loan debt with regular payments that pay down your principle debt and interest. So when your loan is amortized, it's been split up in payments over the length of the term. Loan payments are planned out with an amortization schedule, which is how you plan to pay off both your principal debt and your interest. If you want to see how an amortization schedule works, check out this calculator.
So now that you know what amortization is, get out there, understand how your loan payments work, and make a plan to kill your debt before it gets you. For other helpful hints about how to fight debt, check out Destination Debt Free: Mapping your way out of debt.
Former video intern Alex has been volunteering in Mexico for the last few months. Here's the update:
I have not blogged here before and with good reason. When I was interning at brass this last summer I was in the video unit. (You can see what we have been concocting if you head over here. ) After my internship ended in September, I moved to Mexico for seven months, where I am currently serving on a volunteer basis at a youth orphanage. Sarah Higginbotham (or Higgles, in brass-speak) asked me to blog about my time here and how it relates to you all back in the States. In a few words, here goes:
- You have it good. People in Mexico work harder, longer, and in more difficult conditions for less. Families can have three or even four income streams and still be short of rent money.
- Education is smart. Here, as back home, those with an education make more money and have less physically demanding professions. Working less for more is a good career path.
- Smart money actions are smart everywhere. Saving your money, an excellent idea in the U.S., is even more important down here. If the principal employed member of a house falls ill, having savings to fall back onto means staying in your house. Without it, down here you might be in very serious trouble.
- There are things that you can do. If you want to help poor people, you do not have to move very far. You can volunteer in the U.S. for organizations that work in third-world countries. You can spread awareness about problems such as the genocide in Darfur or hunger in Mexico. If you don't have time for that, you can always just send a check.
That's all for now, if you have any questions about my time in Mexico, interning at brass or volunteering in general, leave a comment and brass will forward it my way. Have a good one.
Addendum to Alex's letter: I've included two photos. The first one is Alex's desk during his time here at brass and the second one is his desk down in Mexico.
As you can see, new experiences can change you forever, but some things stay the same. (Note the intern's natural habitat remains static no matter where he roams, with the ever-present bottle of soda, empty cans, noise-canceling headphones, a device linking him to the digital world, and bags of invariably unhealthy food.) We miss you Alex! Thanks for update!