Boomerang Kids vs. Parents: How to Minimize Conflict

Joe Liebeskind interned with the Young-Adult-Leaving-Home560x350New Jersey Nets (now called the Brooklyn Nets) in the summer of his junior year of college. At the end of the internship, his coordinator said a job would be waiting for him once he finished school. But the diploma he received in December 2008 wasn’t the golden ticket he thought it would be—bad timing meant the team couldn’t hire him.

After graduating from Pennsylvania State University, Joe moved back in with his parents in Hillsdale, N.J., for three-and-a-half years. However, his decision to live at home wasn’t a result of not landing a job with the basketball team. “I was always planning to move home for at least a year to try and [save] some money, as to not be living paycheck to paycheck with the cost of rent,” he says.

Many of today’s college graduates follow Joe’s path. An estimated 3 in 10 young adults have moved back in with their parents in recent years, according to a Pew Research Center survey released in March. Saving money is their chief concern, as nearly 80 percent of those currently living at home say they don’t have enough money put away to lead the kind of independent life they want.

Many of today’s graduates—known as “boomerang kids”—are turning to their parents for monetary support. They’ve returned to their childhood homes, hoping that living under their parents’ roof will enable them to find a job and save enough money to move out.However, moving back home can lead to arguments between kids and their parents and can potentially damage their relationship in the long term. Parents who prepare for these challenges before greeting their kids at the front door have a better chance of avoiding these hardships. Click here to read the article.

Is Your Teenager Ready for a Credit Card?

Teaching teenagers how to save and Teen-with-Credit-Card1spend responsibly is one thing. But teaching them how to use a credit card? That presents a host of new challenges, with the potential for slipups that could have damaging long-term effects.

To apply for a credit card, anyone younger than 21 must either have a cosigner or verifiable income that proves they have the means to repay the credit.With stricter requirements in place today for, teenagers interested in using credit must rely on their parents. Before handing them a credit card, though, parents can gauge their child’s financial responsibility by seeing how well they manage a checking account.

Many banks offer checking accounts for applicants as young as 13, and they come with monitoring tools for parents. If the checking account is used responsibly, parents can start discussions with their teenager about credit cards.

Read this article to learn more about how parents can measure their child’s responsibility before handing them a credit card.

The Benefits—and Dangers—of Serial Refinancing

Millions of Americans have taken Refinancing-home-mortgages-rebounded-higheradvantage of today’s record-low interest rates on home mortgages. With rates consistently dropping over the last four years, the housing market has spawned a new group of consumers: the serial refinancers.

But the heyday may not last much longer. The Mortgage Bankers Association projects rates will drift up in 2013, with the 30-year rate on a fixed mortgage rising above 4 percent by the middle of next year, which will curtail retail volume.

However, with interest rates currently hovering around 3.5 percent, now is an opportune time for many to refinance—so long as they land their best offer. Click here to read the article.

The Best Ways to Prevent Money Arguments With Your Spouse

Twenty-seven percent of Americans couple-arguingsay disagreements over finances are most likely to erupt into an argument, ahead of arguments over children, chores, work, and friends, according to a recent survey of married or cohabitating couples by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

Fights with your spouse are never easy, but evidence shows that arguments over money can be particularly distressing. A 2011 study by Jeffrey Dew of Utah State University found that married couples who disagreed about money once a week were twice as likely to divorce as those who differed less than once a month. This is partly because money arguments encompass more than just finances. “Money doesn’t just represent money; it represents love, power, control, self-esteem, freedom,” says Olivia Mellan, a money coach and author of Money Harmony: Resolving Money Conflicts in Your Life and Relationships.

For a story for U.S. News & World Report, I spoke to experts for their recommendations on how to prevent arguments with your spouse over money. Click here to read their advice.

How to Spot the Warning Signs of Identity Theft

Ken Stalcup, a certified public accountant in
Indianapolis, How-to-deal-with-identity-theft-onlineused his debit card to pay for a meal at a local restaurant. A few days later, his card was used in New York without his knowledge to purchase computers at a national office supply store. His bank flagged the suspicious charge and quickly canceled the card, but not before the perpetrator racked up close to $2,000. As someone who regularly monitors his checking account, Stalcup’s initial reaction was, “This can’t be happening to me, can it?”

Identity theft is a growing problem in the United States. According to the 2012 identity fraud report by Javelin Strategy & Research, cases of identity fraud increased by 13 percent last year, with more than 11.6 million U.S. adults becoming victims.

For a story for U.S. News & World Report, I spoke to identity-theft experts to highlight red flags that might indicate you’re a victim. Click here to read about the warning signs.

MONEY: Investing With Friends And Family

Last year more than one in 10 entrepreneurs
borrowed from friends and family, according to the National Small Business Association. Think you’ll need to go this route? Tap your support system the right way.

For a story for MONEY magazine’s April issue, I spoke to family business consultants to uncover three strategies for “keeping up relations when your brother is the banker.” Click here to read the piece.

Money: Choose the Best Card for Your Biz

Some 37 percent of business owners use credit to cover some of their costs, according to the National Small Business Association. But the optimal card for your operation depends on how you’ll use it. For a story for Money magazine’s March issue, I talked to credit card experts to identify strategies for both types of credit card users: Those who’ll carry a balance and those who won’t. Click here and scroll to the second page to read the piece.

Money: How to Find the Best Name for Your Biz

The right brand can help make your business. And with some 177,700 trademarks registered last year alone, it’s harder now than ever to come with a great business name. For a story for Money magazine (see page 2), I researched several tricks to coming up with a money-making moniker. These include first figuring out what you want the name to do for you—to convey a certain emotion? to highlight your competitive advantage?—before starting the naming phase, and adding to the beginning or end of a word (as travel site Expedia or GPS system OnStar did). Read about these tips and more in the January/February issue of Money.

Money: Talk Your Way to a Better Raise

Another year, another piddling pay raise? For some, sure. The average increase is expected to be just 3% in 2012, up a hair from last year’s 2.9%, according to human resources consulting firm Mercer. Still, managers are concerned about retaining top talent, which explains why the best performers will see a brighter 4.6% (while the weakest links will get 0.4%).

For a Money magazine story, I talked with career coaches, management professors, and psychology experts to determine several strategies for talking your way to a raise. For starters, you’ll want to avoid beginning the conversation with money talk. Instead, emphasize your level of worth by writing on the left side of a piece of paper the things you were hired to do, and on the right, what you’re doing — then provide this as evidence of your growing role at the company. Learn more about these negotiation tactics in this month’s issue of Money. Keep Your Customers Coming Back

One of the most common mistakes small-business
owners make is to focus so much time on attracting new customers that they skimp on the effort it takes to create loyal customers. That’s a mistake, because it’s more expensive to get new customers than to retain them. To develop and nurture a relationship with your customers, you have to communicate regularly and, above all, provide consistently over-the-top service.

For a story for, I took a look at how three small businesses are keeping the customers they worked so hard to attract. One business uses a low-cost online service to send automatic emails to some 400 customers at any time, whether it’s to wish them a happy birthday, congratulate an anniversary or simply thank them for their loyalty. Another lets their customers watch the progress of their work in real time online. And the third uses Cardagin, a mobile loyalty and customer retention program, to send special offers to customers on their smartphones and reward them with loyalty points.

Other small businesses can mimic these smart customer retention ideas in order to keep their customers coming back. They all involve use of new technology, and for that, these small business owners should be applauded for their innovation.