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September 2010


When I get together with my father, we often talk about our plans: my plans for continuing to live in New Jersey or not and his plans to possibly move out of the state when he retires. One option he’s seriously considering is retiring to Delaware, near the ocean.

He currently lives in a relatively expensive area of the state. I expect that he won’t be struggling in retirement, but when you no longer have a steady income when work ceases, it’s going to be difficult to justify living in the state with the highest property taxes in the nation.

Several of my friends in New Jersey have migrated westward, across the state’s border with Pennsylvania. Their commute might be a bit longer that it would be otherwise, but they’re saving more money every year than they would have been able to if they stayed in New Jersey in a similar house in a similar community.

In a perfect world, the property taxes we pay — and as I renter I do pay property taxes, they’re embedded in the rent as the owners simply pass on the expenses to their tenants — are used to pay for services that benefit the entire community, like schools and emergency services. I have no problem paying reasonable property taxes as I benefit from these services, even if I have no children in the public school system. A good public school benefits the entire community. But how much is reasonable?

When looking at real estate listings, I look for tax payment estimates and other information about the quality of services in the community. Other people I know seem to be blindsided after buying their first house and finding out how much they have to pay to the local government. Do you look at property taxes while you’re looking for a new place to live? How do you weigh the taxes against the services they provide?

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The recession may be officially over, but that doesn’t mean everyone has seen a personal financial recovery. The rate of unemployment, always the last piece of the economy to improve after a recession, is still high. A friend of mine who was laid off during the financial upheaval finally reached his 99th week of unemployment and no longer receives benefits. He has a job lined up, one that requires training ahead of time. He’ll be officially employed in January. For the last couple of years, he has had to find income here and there and stretch his dollars while going on as many job interviews as possible.

So for those who are looking to make the most of their cash in a tight economy — and even those with jobs could be feeling the pinch — here is a sampling of suggestions from the blog 31 and Holding: Read the full article →

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AIG, the giant global insurance company bailed out by taxpayers during the heat of a financial crisis, still owes the United States government over $100 billion. Part of the bail-out agreement involved the government receiving preferred shares in the company, becoming a significant owner.

According to the news today, the company wants to start paying back this remaining balance next year. At the same time, the government will reduce its ownership in the country. Preferred shares will be converted to common shares which can then be sold on the open market, a process that will apparently increase the government’s stake in the company for a short time.

AIG has been paying back the government for some time already, selling off non-core businesses and other assets to raise the cash.

If the price per share of AIG common stock increases throughout the year, the government could make a profit on the investment in the company. If you’re going to buy shares of AIG, it might be a good idea to get in now before the government starts looking for buyers. I don’t own any AIG stock right now, but I might buy some soon.

Source: CNBC

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Here’s one of the reasons I don’t enjoy shopping for groceries. Items are priced in such a way it can be difficult to compare. Without keeping a price diary, it can be difficult to tell when a sale price is good. It’s a lot of work to shop right. Personally, I no longer sweat the small stuff. But if I were in a situation where my total expenses approached my total income, I would be looking carefully at every penny, particularly in the supermarket.

Even if you compare per-unit prices, grocery retailers have many methods of making you think you’re getting a good deal when you may not be. One of the more frustrating sales is the “ten items for $10″ deal. It doesn’t necessarily have to be ten items, nor does it have to be $10. You might see “three items for $5″ or “five items for $2.” These sales often inspire a question, like this one from a Consumerism Commentary reader:

In my local supermarket chain, I saw a sale price for items I wanted, advertising ten items for $10. In other words, $1 per item. I bought five, expecting to be charged a buck for each item, but they rang up at more than $2 each. I’m thinking this is false or misleading advertising, which should not be allowed by law. Am I right?

In the Super Stop & Shop where I do almost all of my shopping, a block from my apartment, they have similar sales often. In my experience, if an item is advertised as ten for $10, I can buy fewer than ten and they will charge the sale price of $1 each. In fact, many times, this isn’t a sale and the items have a regular price of $1 each.

There are exceptions, but when there are, the fine print on the price tag indicates that I will be charged the regular price if I don’t purchase enough to qualify for the sale.

There are several possibilities:

  • The cashier rang up the items incorrectly.
  • You missed the fine print on the price tag on the shelf.
  • The store does not have a consumer-friendly sale policy.

It does not qualify as false or misleading advertising if you buy fewer than the number of items listed in the sale. If anything, it is just confusing, especially if a store is inconsistent. Sales like these are very effective at getting people to buy more than they would have without the special sale messages.

Got any questions? Contact me and I’ll do my best to research and answer your question on Consumerism Commentary.

Photo: greeblie

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Newark Public Schools to Receive $100 Million

by Luke Landes

Earlier this year, the State of New Jersey missed out in $400 million in federal aid for public schools due to an administrative error and the political inability to take the educational needs of the state’s students seriously. This money would have been part of the federal Race to the Top program, a set of ... Continue reading this article…

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Podcast 75: Fight Back Against Unfair Debt Collection Practices, Fred Williams

by Luke Landes

On today’s episode of the Consumerism Commentary Podcast, Tom Dziubek talks to Fred Williams, author of the book Fight Back Against Unfair Debt Collection Practices: Know Your Rights and Protect Yourself from Threats, Lies, and Intimidation. Fred talks about going from being a journalist at the Buffalo News to working at a leading debt collection ... Continue reading this article…

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Earn Points By Participating on Consumerism Commentary and Win Goodies

by Luke Landes

You may have noticed that Consumerism Commentary authors, like myself and Smithee, and some commenters, have points and ranks displayed alongside their names. I’ve implemented a new feature on Consumerism Commentary in which visitors can earn points by participating in the discussions following every article and by visiting Consumerism Commentary every day. There will be ... Continue reading this article…

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American Express Offers Currency

by Luke Landes

American Express has been working on ways to attract more of Generation Y to their products. Earlier this year, they began offering the charge card ZYNC with features they expect will attract a new generation of customers, including customizable rewards packages. Earlier this week, AmEx unveiled Currency, a website that incorporates financial advice from writers ... Continue reading this article…

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Tax Rate Comparison: Extend the Tax Cuts?

by Luke Landes

The government is currently tackling the question of whether to extend or end the Bush era tax cuts, and to what extent to do so. President Obama would like to end the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Many Republicans want to make Bush’s tax cuts “permanent.” (Let’s all agree that there is no such ... Continue reading this article…

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Get Your Free FICO Score From myFICO.com

by Luke Landes

You may have noticed a change in the way merchants are advertising credit reports and credit scores and that stems from new regulations enacted by the Federal Trade Commission. The ubiquitous FreeCreditReport.com commercials have been surreptitiously replaced with FreeCreditScore.com commercials, though the new commercials share the same attitudes. Companies can no longer advertise the sale ... Continue reading this article…

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Being Evasive About Your Salary Can Backfire

by Luke Landes

If there is one thing you can expect in any job interview, it is to be asked your current salary. Even if your current job shares little in common with the one you’re pursuing, hiring managers want to get you pigeonhole yourself. Most companies treat employee salaries as confidential information, so it’s unlikely what you ... Continue reading this article…

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The Incredible Shrinking House

by Luke Landes

New homes are shrinking. According to the the Census Bureau’s statistics, the median home new size in 2009 fell from 2,300 to 2,135 square feet. Are homeowners shifting away from McMansions? The market is soft. If new homes are smaller, is it a result of what consumers want or what builders can afford? Many new ... Continue reading this article…

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Searching For Love and Money In All The Right Places

by Financial Samurai

This is a guest article by Sam, the author of the blog Financial Samurai and the founder of the Yakezie Blog Network. He writes a column for Consumerism Commentary every other Tuesday. This article serves as an introduction to this new bi-weekly column. At age 15, I stopped growing and I remember being so disappointed. ... Continue reading this article…

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Children Covered by Parents’ Health Insurance Plans

by Luke Landes

A Consumerism Commentary reader wrote in with the following question: I called our health insurance company about adding our sons back on our policy and they said they still had to be in school for 12 credit hours. Is this true? They said the new law did not effect them yet. Any answers for this ... Continue reading this article…

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Podcast 74: Not Your Parents’ Money Book, Jean Chatzky

by Luke Landes

On today’s episode of the Consumerism Commentary Podcast, Tom Dziubek talks to NBC “Today Show” editor Jean Chatzky about her National Money Talk Night event and her new book, Not Your Parents’ Money Book: Making, Saving, and Spending Your Own Money. Jean discusses many talking points of the National Money Night Talk event, including the ... Continue reading this article…

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The Best Low Interest Credit Cards, September 2014

by Luke Landes

As credit card issuers continue to look for new ways to generate revenues lost from the Credit Card Act of 2009, finding a low interest credit card to make expensive purchases, when saving for the purchase ahead of time is not an option, is becoming more and more difficult. Not too long ago a 6 percent ... Continue reading this article…

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Kiplinger’s New Money Rules Sound Familiar

by Luke Landes

In the September issue of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine, the editors shared twelve “new rules” for your money, although most of them do not sound new at all. Fundamentals don’t change, but the general consensus point of view does. If there is anything new here, it’s that the a downturn in the economy has forced ... Continue reading this article…

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3 Mistakes I Made That Cost Me Thousands

by Darwin

This is a guest article written by Darwin, the author of the blog Darwin’s Money. Darwin is a numbers guy with an MBA. If you like this article, subscribe to the Darwin’s Money RSS feed for more. You live and you learn, right? Well, that can be expensive when you’re first setting out in the ... Continue reading this article…

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Chase Sapphire℠ Preferred Card $500 Cash Back Bonus

by Luke Landes

The offer you are interested in has expired. Read our review of the current Chase Sapphire Preferred offer.

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Laid Off, 2010 Edition

by Smithee

Last Thursday I lost my job without any warning. The small web design agency I was working for lost a couple of big contracts and they decided they couldn’t afford to keep me on as their only full-time User Experience Designer. This is extremely frustrating, not only because I liked most of my co-workers and ... Continue reading this article…

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