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Discussing investing when kids are young can help them become better investors, writes NerdWallet's Richard M. Russo. (Kacsper Pempel/Reuters/File)

Four ways to get your child excited about investing

By Richard M. RossoGuest blogger / 04.18.14

First, start talking with your child about investing sooner rather than later. Many parents find it awkward to discuss stock investing with young children because some parents don’t feel confident about their ability to do research. But what I’ve discovered is that the discussion with young children helps less-confident parents become better stock investors. The conversation also raises the bar for parents and children who are willing to learn.

Although there are several milestones along the way, the adventure with your child begins with four steps:

1. Build excitement. Creating passion around the process of investing is important. Begin by talking with your child about brand loyalties, which start at an early age. When I was young, I remember driving my parents crazy with my demands for the latest Hot Wheels car or G.I. Joe action figure. And I would eat only Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, not the store brand.

What product is your child passionate about? ( Continue… )

A man looks his an Apple iPad in front an Apple logo outside an Apple store in downtown Shanghai. The company's iTunes store is offering a discounted app for its iPad and iPhone products. (Aly Song/Reuters/File)

Discounts on Apple iPad app, Galaxy Reverb smartphone

By Donna DoyleGuest blogger / 04.18.14

Friday has finally arrived and we're in the mood to treat ourselves — on a budget of course. Luckily for us and you, iTunes is offering adventure game Horn for free, as Amazon discounts adidas baby sets to as low as $5.50. These deals and more are in today's list of five Editors' Choice deals that we found overnight and early this morning.

Top App Deal
 Horn for iPhone or iPad
 Store: iTunes App Store
 Price: Free
 Lowest by: $7

Do You Need It?: It's a given that Friday mornings make way for some serious procrastination as the weekend closes in and concentration wanes. Luckily, iTunes has you covered with a free download of action adventure game, Horn. It's dropped $7 and is the first time we've ever seen it for nada. ( Continue… )

An Amazon Fire TV on a couch after a news conference in New York. Set-top boxes like the Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV are more than double the price of streaming sticks like Google Chromecast, and Chromecast offers most of the same features. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters/File)

Amazon Fire TV vs Chromecast: why pay more for a set-top box?

By Simon HillGuest blogger / 04.17.14

As Amazon Fire TV ($99) bursts onto the market to compete with streamers like the Roku 3 ($99) and Apple TV ($99), you may be wondering what these set-top boxes offer over cheaper streaming sticks, specifically Google's Chromecast ($35) and Roku's Streaming Stick ($49.99). Each has its own advantages and drawbacks, and it really comes down to what features you want, and possibly what tech ecosystem you are already a part of.

So should you spend less on a streaming stick, or splurge on a fully-capable box? Here's our quick-and-dirty guide.

Size and Connections

The streaming sticks are obviously smaller and they plug directly into your TV's HDMI port. They are also capable of drawing power from an available USB port. The boxes all offer extra ports, including an Ethernet port which could be important if you don't have great Wi-Fi.

Speed and Power

The Fire TV is way out in front with a quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM, while the Roku 3 is also snappy with a dual-core processor. By comparison, the streaming sticks and Apple TV lag behind. This won't affect the streaming speed, but it will impact your navigation through menus, how quickly apps load, and potentially how games are handled. ( Continue… )

Dental hygienist Megan Woods and Dr. John Notarianni provide a free dental procedure on the Aspen Dental MouthMobile for a veteran on Friday, April 11, 2014 in Nashville, Tenn. The MouthMobile appears as a partner with Operation Stand Down Nashville. (Frederick Breedon IV/AP Images for Aspen Dental/File)

The best and worst jobs in America are...

By Kevin VoigtGuest blogger / 04.17.14

If you or your children want a crack at the best jobs in America, take this advice: Hire a math tutor.

If you want one of the worst jobs, learn how to chop wood, be a “Waitress in the Sky” or (ahem) write this story for a living.

Using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and measuring factors related to environment, income, stress and outlook, the job website Careercast has ranked the best and worst jobs of 2014. Its analysis comes the same week President Barack Obama is making a $600 million push to increase occupational training opportunities for the long-term unemployed. ( Continue… )

Author Michael Lewis gestures during an interview at Reuters regarding his book about high-frequency trading (HFT) named "Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt," in New York April 3. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters/File)

High-frequency trading? You probably shouldn't worry about it.

By Jonathan K. DeYoeGuest blogger / 04.16.14

Thanks to Michael Lewis’ new book, “Flash Boys,” the conversation about high-frequency trading is currently everywhere. While I certainly credit Lewis for having his finger on the pulse and knowing when (and how) to release an important book to create a broad readership and a vast popular appeal, I remain blissfully unconvinced of the importance his message has for you or me in our personal financial lives.

To be clear, I don’t disagree with his premise—I question its relevance. In fact, while his intentions are to do good by lifting the veil, without proper context it will lead people to take improper action. I can already see people getting all worked up about it and exiting the only game that has ever had any chance of getting them from Here to There. Of course, this is the standard journalistic goal—scare you into outrage and action, as long as that action doesn’t involve changing the channel.

The proof is already on the table. The research has been done. The ship has sailed. The fat lady has sung. The credits have rolled. (I could do this all day.) If you are trading enough for HFT to have an effect on your outcome, the sheer weight of trading costs and your own stupid human behavioral mistakes will kill your portfolio long before HFT has any effect on you. ( Continue… )

Butcher Freddie Quina cuts meat at Super Cao Nguyen in Oklahoma City. The highest beef prices in decades – fresh beef climbing to $5.28 a pound in February 2014, up from $5.04 in January – have some consumers spending extra time in meat market aisles as they search for cuts that won’t break their budgets. (Sue Ogrock/AP/File)

Beef prices hit record highs. Four ways to save.

By Kevin VoigtGuest blogger / 04.16.14

As you prepare for BBQ season, the cost to throw a steak on the grill has never been higher—and that price doesn’t look to come down anytime soon.

A spike in beef prices has a greater immediate impact on the family wallet than that of most food items because, economists say, beef is a single-ingredient item. Rises in wheat or corn prices aren’t immediately felt in, say, the cost of a box of cereal because of the mix of ingredients inside, but there’s no buffer with a rise in the cost of beef—it is felt immediately at the market.

The cost of “all-fresh” USDA choice-grade beef in February reached a record retail price of $5.28 per pound, compared to $4.91 at the same time last year and $3.97 in 2008. That’s the highest price for beef since 1987. The cost of ground beef rose to $3.55 in February, up 56% since 2010.

Years of drought in cattle country have cut the American herd to its lowest level since 1951. And the rising fortunes and appetites for U.S. beef in Asia, especially China, have raised the competition over who will get American steaks. Analysts at Rabobank reckon the growth in global beef demand will continue to come mainly from China, where the domestic production of meat can’t meet rising demand.

And prices will likely remain high as ranchers struggle to replenish herds and as rain levels in ranching states raise questions whether pastures can support an increase, the Associated Press reports.

“We’ve seen strong prices before, but nothing this extreme,” Dennis Smith, a commodities broker for Archer Financial Services in Chicago, told the Los Angeles Times. “This is really new territory.”

What can you do?

Rising international demand and extreme weather will hit U.S. food prices in the coming year—the USDA expects all food costs to rise between 2.5% and 3.5% in 2014. We’re already seeing the effect of rising beef costs as chains such as McDonald’s have revamped their dollar menus and restaurants begin serving smaller cuts of meat and alternative choices such as turkey burgers.

Choosing chicken, turkey or fish is one way many shoppers can beat rising meat costs. “It does seem like consumers are making the choice to get the ground turkey instead of ground beef, or the filet of salmon instead of the filet of beef,” Richard Volpe, a research economist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, recently told NBC.

If you’re a meat lover, it may be time to explore alternative cuts of meat rather than your favored sirloin. Daniel Vaughn, the barbecue editor for Texas Monthly magazine, told NPR he recommends beef chuck short ribs, beef back ribs and shoulder clod, a less tender shoulder cut. But those cuts take longer to prepare on low heat to cook up just right. “Go low and slow,” Vaughn says—as long as eight hours on the grill.

Meat typically goes on sale for a week at a time, so stock up your freezer when a sale hits your store,Marketwatch recommends. Keep a list of sale prices as a benchmark, and resupply only when the cost of meat nears that mark.

The fact that U.S. cattle herds are at their lowest level in more than 50 years speaks to the rising efficiency of agriculture: We get more meat out of each animal than ever before. So why don’t you explore buying a whole (or part of a) cow?

Investing in meat shares—group purchase of whole, half and quarter animals broken down into individual cuts—are rising in popularity. You can explore resources such as meat CSAs (that’s community-supported agriculture), often built around locally and ethically sourced meat. Online groups such as Local Harvest can help you find CSAs near you.

Illustration by Brian Yee.

The Motorola logo as it appeared at the company's exhibit at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The phone maker's MOTOGO device is among the discounts available online today. (Paul Sakuma/AP/File)

Discounts on Motorola cell phone, designer sunglasses and two-piece men's suit

By Donna DoyleGuest blogger / 04.15.14

Whether you're dressing to impress or letting your swanky sidekicks speak for themselves, we've found a host of savings on gizmos, gadgets, and garments that will help you save this Tax Day. We've spotted a Motorola cell phone for $8, and big discounts on men's suits in today's list of five Editors' Choice deals that we found overnight and early this morning.

 Top PC Accessory Deal
 Lebedev Optimus Popularis Keyboard
 Store: ThinkGeek
 Price: $1,399.99 via coupon "PENUMBRA" plus $12.94 s&h
 Lowest by $1,141
 Expires: April 16

Do You Need It?: If you have a couple of hundred bucks set aside for that new peripheral then you can prepare to be amazed by the Lamborghini of keyboards. It's almost half the price at ThinkGeek than what Art. Lebedev charges direct — specifically $1,141 less. Essentially, all 77 keys on this keyboard are miniature 0.5" LED LCD displays, aside from a 7" LCD bar along the top. It can be programmed for any layout, language, or symbols. It is frankly awesome, as well as extravagant. ( Continue… )

A photo illustration of US currency. Student debt levels rose to more than $1 trillion in 2013, according to the New York Federal Reserve. (Kacsper Pempel/Reuters/File)

How an alt-weekly writer balances her budget

By Heather Yamada-HosleyGuest blogger / 04.15.14

NerdWallet’s How Do You Do Money? series asks people from various walks of life to share their attitudes and approach to personal finance, with the goal of bringing transparency to discussions surrounding money. In this installment we speak with April Corbin, a 28-year-old writer living in Louisville, Ky. This is how she does money.

What do you do for your main source of income and how did you get into that line of work?

I am a staff writer at an alt-weekly, which is a fancy term those free weekly magazines with all the stripper ads in the back. I majored in journalism as an undergraduate. I did a few internships and worked for the student newspaper while I was in college. One of the places I interned at hired me full-time after I graduated. Since then, I have bounced around a few companies in two cities, but mostly I’ve stayed within the journalism field.

Would you like to be doing something else instead? 

Nah. I love my job. I would consider changing publications or taking a promotion, but I don’t want to leave the field. I would like to supplement my income in the future, though. I’m currently a part-time student in a media studies master’s degree program. My goal is to become an adjunct professor. It won’t earn me big bucks, but some of the professors who taught me the most were working professionals who moonlighted as teachers. I want to be that for another generation. ( Continue… )

The headquarters of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in Washington at daybreak. Tuesday, April 15, is the federal tax filing deadline for most Americans, but America's restaurants and retailers are here to help with a wide array of Tax Day freebies. (AP Photo/J. David Ake) landmarks;low angle;wide angle;goverment;architecture (David Ake/AP)

Tax Day freebies: Free Boston Market, Cinnabon, and massages (+video)

By Donna DoyleGuest blogger / 04.15.14

It's always upsetting when Tax Day rolls around and you've got to sacrifice your hard-earned cash to The Man. Knowing this, some of our favorite stores and restaurants have been kind enough to offer a plethora of free and super-cheap spoils to make the day a little less painful.

You can pick up a free coffee, some dessert, shred some damning credit card bills, and even indulge in a massage on the day — all without parting with a single cent. Plus, you can bag some incredible discounts at restaurants nationwide, including Boston Market and Papa Murphy's.

And be sure to bookmark this page so you can check back often, as we'll be adding even more Tax Day freebies and deals as we come across them.

Office Depot

Valid: From now until April 29

Deal: It's bad enough that you need to dish out the dough and pay your dues when the day arrives, but spending additional dollars just getting your documents in order is downright frustrating (especially when you could be spending that dosh on something a little more glamorous). To save those precious pennies and rid yourself of that pile of paperwork after the ordeal, you can shred 5-lbs. of documents for free at your local Office Depot. ( Continue… )

A kitten peeks out at the Best Friends Animal Society kitten nursery in the Mission Hills area of Los Angeles. Dogs are better candidates for pet insurance than cats because they generally lead more active lifestyles. (Damian Dovarganes/AP/File)

Pet insurance: When do you need it?

By Louis RamirezGuest blogger / 04.14.14

Insurance policies can be confusing, even those designed for your four-legged friend. After all, not all pet policies are created equal, and with various caveats to each, it's easy to sign up for a plan that doesn't meet your expectations.

But despite the complexity of pet insurance, it may be vital to your budget. In 2013, pet owners spent approximately $14.3 billion in veterinary care for their furry friends, according to the American Pet Products Association, and the number is expected to rise to $15.2 billion this year. Thus, with the rising cost of vet bills, the right insurance policy can turn a $1,000 vet visit into something more manageable.

So, in honor of the Red Cross's Pet First Aid Awareness Month, we spoke to industry experts about the costs of treating your pets. Read on for information about which questions you should ask, what red flags to look for, and who should sign up for pet insurance in the first place.

Who Needs a Policy: Dogs Are More Likely to Get Injured

Policies are geared toward both cat and dog owners, but many companies tend to emphasize dogs. "Although there are more cats in the United States than there are dogs, veterinary costs for dogs usually run higher," says Dr. Jeff Werber, a Los Angeles-based veterinarian who cares for the pets of many Hollywood stars including Eva Longoria, Magic Johnson, and the Jonas brothers. "Dogs lead more active lifestyles, so the chances of injury increase, whereas cats will stay indoors most of their lives," he says. ( Continue… )

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