April 26, 2013
The health care industry continues to lead the way when it comes to job growth and pay. Six out of the ten “best” jobs listed in this year’s CareerCast.com Jobs Rated Report are in the medical field. From Biomedical Engineer to Dental Hygienist to Physical Therapist, medically related fields rank well for “work environment, stress and hiring outlook.” Working with computers also continues to score well. Here are the top 10 jobs and their average yearly income:
- Actuary – $91,211
- Biomedical Engineer – $85,163
- Software Engineer – $89,147
- Audiologist – $68,135
- Financial Planner – $107,222
- Dental Hygienist – $69,107
- Occupational Therapist – $174,108
- Optometrist – $95,254
- Physical Therapist – $78,102
- Computer Systems Analyst – $79,145
Click here to see the complete list.
On the other side of the spectrum, the worst job on the list is “Newspaper Reporter,” with an average salary of $36,000 and a decreasing outlook for job growth. Tough times in journalism.
August 9, 2012
By Angie Moreschi:
Just think. You could walk into Starbucks, say your name and the barista would automatically whip up your double mocha skinny latte. No, not because you’re such a frequent customer that they know who you are and what you want when you step up to the counter. This has to do with them tracking your every move through technology.
In today’s big brother, cyber spy world, computer chips can pretty much let retailers know a whole heck of a lot about you and your buying habits. And now, if you’d rather not waste all that breath to tell the cashier what you want, a new app at Starbucks will do the ordering for you. All you have to do is say your name.
The Java App
Starbucks is teaming up with Square, the San Francisco company that brought us the mobile payment app. Starting this fall, 7000 Starbucks cafes will start using Pay With Square, which uses a GPS technology to indicate when a Square user is in the cafe.
All you do is install the Square app on your smart phone, and then link a credit or debit card to the account. Techno-wizardry takes it from there and identifies your location when you walk into Starbucks. Your name and picture pop up on the store’s computer system, so when you’re ready to order, all you have to do is say your name. The cashier matches your name and picture to their “point-of-sale” system, and voila! No need to go through all the trouble of remembering your favorite beverage’s exotic description or getting your wallet out and fumbling with a credit card or cash and all that. This is just like saying, ‘Hey Sal, it’s me. Put it on my tab.”
Technology Trumps Privacy
To make all this possible for your caffeine inducing pleasure, Starbucks is investing $25 million in the new Square system and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz will join Square’s board of directors. Pay with Square has been around for awhile, but it’s mainly used by small businesses. This venture by Starbucks could really launch the company to another level.
So, starting this fall, if you choose to give another little piece of your privacy away, you can order your cup of Joe, just by saying your name. Funny thing is, paying with the Square app might make you feel like a “regular,” but you’ve got to wonder if it’s actually kind of sad that someone you really don’t know at all, is going to treat you like an old pal.
August 8, 2012
A baby’s laugh. A steak sizzling. How about the sound of a soda being cracked open and poured into a glass? These are among the most powerful audio triggers that capture your attention in commercials, according to marketing expert Martin Lindstrom. In his new, best selling book Buy-ology, Lindstrom exposes tricks of the advertising trade that get you, the consumer, to buy more.
TIME Magazine recently profiled Lindstrom and his “neural marketing” research, which he uses to help Fortune 500 companies, like Pepsi and Disney, attract customers. It’s a scientific way to measure consumer reaction to advertising. People are exposed to ads while hooked up to machines that monitor brain activity, pupil dilation, sweat responses and flickers in facial muscles, all of which are markers of emotion.
The technology is based on a concept that suggests the majority of human thinking takes place just below the level of controlled awareness. Turns out, what we hear can be just as powerful as what we see. For a more in-depth analysis from Lindstrom about the techniques he employes, watch the video above.
Proponents of this theory believe that this lower level of recognition is where the human brain makes determinations on what’s favorable and what isn’t. Therefore, marketing agencies spend millions of dollars in research to determine what sounds evoke pleasant thoughts, such as the sound of a baby laughing or a steak sizzling on the grill. It’s believed that hearing these types of sounds will help you remember a certain product in a pleasing way when you are shopping.
If the sound of all this trickery makes you feel curious, click here, for the full report on neural advertising in TIME Magazine.
July 17, 2012
Shopping at one of the big warehouse club chains, like Sam’s Club, Costco and BJ’s, can be an afternoon adventure for some. Lots of good deals and super-sized products can lure you in to a purchasing frenzy. But is it worth the cost? Don’t look now, but you might not be saving as much as you thought.
CNBC reports that customers may believe they’re paying for a chance to save money, but some experts think membership fees actually cause consumers to spend more. Membership in these club stores does not come free; each requires you to pay before you purchase a single item. Sam’s Club charges $40 for basic membership, BJ’s $50, and Costco $55.
Part of the twist with warehouse clubs is you have to make up that initial investment, before you start saving money. Certainly, you can save money, but you may end up buying more than you need in the long run. There are good deals, though. According to a Consumers’ Checkbook survey published by the not-for-profit Center for the Study of Services, BJ’s prices were on average 29 percent lower, Costco’s 30 percent lower, and Sam’s 33 percent lower than the largest supermarket chains.
Lack of Selection
The trade-off is often a lack of selection. Warehouse clubs carry a relatively small array of items in a limited range of sizes. The Consumers’ Checkbook survey found that warehouse club shoppers would only be able to find about half of the products they buy at their regular supermarket. BJ’s carries roughly 7,200 individual items, Sam’s club about 4,900 items, and Costco around 4,000.
Click here to read more in the full report from CNBC.
June 1, 2012
By Darrin Clouse :
The old saying : “The only constant is change” has held up for centuries and is applicable to many of our daily routines. I doubt that François de la Rochefoucauld was pondering the airline industry when he came up with his famous perception of our world, but it certainly applies to recent adjustments.
Many of us remember when smoking was allowed during flights, and you could even get away with calling the flight attendant “stewardess.” But the changes we’re experiencing these days are more related to cost, and many consumers feel they are now paying for services that they received for free in the past.
April 13, 2012
Here we go again. First, as CWN reported in 2009, Wells Fargo Sued Itself. Now, it’s Bank of America’s turn. Dow Jones Business Columnist and blogger Al Lewis flagged us to this latest nonsensical undertaking in the wacky world of foreclosures.
Essentially, Bank of America is foreclosing on a property on which it services the loan for an investor and holds a second mortgage. Uh-oh, that creates a bit of a conflict. What to do? Let’s sue ourselves, of course. The company is literally seeking damages from itself in order to foreclose on a condo owner. The Huffington Post’s Zach Carter lays out all the details here, if you’re interested.
For Bank of America, this is actually not the first time it’s sued itself in a foreclosure case. The company has done so at least 11 times in Palm Beach County. “Naming the second-lien holder in the suit is necessary to eliminate the junior interest,” Bank of America spokeswoman Jumana Bauwens told the Huffington Post.
Back when Wells Fargo sued itself, Dow Jones Columnist Al Lewis opined, “It takes some pretty shameless lawyers and a rich culture of corporate stupidity for a company to sue itself.”
I guess not much has changed.
April 10, 2012
By Angie Moreschi:
Okay, this might have a bit of a Karma feel to it, but you’ve still got to wonder, how exactly do people keep falling for the Nigerian “pigeon drop” scam. That’s where you are contacted and told you can get a much bigger pay-out, but first, you just have to send some of your money to make the transaction possible. Right, good luck with that.
This time, attorneys, who you might think would know better, became the target, and, yes, many fell for it. Among them, the Minneapolis law firm of Milavetz, Gallop & Millavetz (MGM). The Minneapolis StarTribune reports MGM became a victim after receiving an email from someone claiming to be a Korean woman who needed help in securing a $400,000 legal settlement for an injury in their area.
As it turns out, MGM was not alone. The government had begun a secret investigation of Nigerian collection scams that target U.S. attorneys. A Nigerian man and a Canadian resident were indicted in the case, but much of it remains under seal. Still, the government says the two were part of an international conspiracy targeting lawyers and law firms, which nailed 80 victims to the tune of at least $32 million. In all, there were some 300 known targets, with attempts to steal more than $100 million.
Scamming law firms
So, how do highly educated, skeptical attorneys fall for this? According to the federal indictment in Pennsylvania, it went down like this: A co-conspirator contacts a law firm, usually by e-mail, seeking help to collect a legal settlement or payments from a divorce or real estate transaction. Another co-conspirator poses as a representative of the party who owes the money and then delivers a counterfeit check. After the check supposedly clears, the money is wired to a bank, usually in Asia, from which it disappears. Click here to read the full story in the Minneapolis StarTribune.
Law Firm Blames its Bank
Of course, we’re talking about lawyers being ripped off here, so while the money has disappeared, they believe someone needs to pay. In the case of MGM, the law firm is going after the bank, which frankly continues the whole karma thing.
Robert Milavetz of MGM says its bank, Wells Fargo, is at fault and should pay them back. The firm deposited the fake check from the Nigerian scammers in its Wells Fargo account. Then, in an effort to perform due diligence called the bank to make sure the check had cleared. Bank employees apparently told the firm that “yes” indeed the check had cleared. Of course, it had not. So, when the firm wired the money to Asia, their “client” disappeared with the loot. If we learned anything from the mortgage meltdown, it was to be careful about trusting what your bank tells you… but we digress.
In the end, Milavetz is going after Wells Fargo alleging the bank knowingly engaged in a transaction that involved criminal activity or was knowingly blind to the facts and law. The firm is seeking $396,500 from the bank. Wells Fargo issued a brief statement on the lawsuit saying, “We believe the allegations have no merit. We will vigorously defend, and expect to prevail.”
It’s little comfort to know that even supposedly smart guys get duped by this, but if you take anything away here, remember, there’s no such thing as easy money!
April 5, 2012
Health Care Reform is at the center of a political tug of war that affects us all. As important as this is to our lives, few Americans actually know what the law actually does.
As the Supreme Court ponders whether to declare it unconstitutional, CNN decided to break out 10 examples of what changes the law makes that could affect your life in unexpected ways. Everything from taxing tanning beds to requiring your doctor to disclose what perks they get from pharmaceutical companies to free preventive care for things like mammograms, physical exams, colonoscopies, and vaccinations.
Here is the list. Click here to read more about each item:
1. How many goodies your doctors get
2. More breastfeeding rooms and breaks
3. Caloric reality at every major chain restaurants
4. Abstinence-only education
5. Flexible spending accounts stiffen
6. Tanning will cost you
7. Support for wellness programs at work
8. Free preventive care
9. Home visits to expecting families
10. Health plans you can read
April 1, 2012
Fight Foreclosure: Make ‘Em Produce The Note!
Using the “produce the note” strategy is something all homeowners facing foreclosure can do. If you believe you’ve been treated unfairly, fight back. We have created templates for a legal request, a letter to your lender and a motion to compel to help you through the process. Read the step by step “how to” under the videos.
Special note: In some states, a lender can foreclose on your home without going to court. These are called non-judicial foreclosure states. You can still use the “Produce the Note” strategyin these states, but it takes a few more steps on your part.
Produce the Note – Steps To Follow:
February 22, 2012
Tax day is fast approaching for all of us, and so, the Internal Revenue Service is putting out its annual warning of the top tax scams for us to beware of and avoid.
The IRS releases the yearly “dirty dozen” reminding taxpayers to exercise caution during tax season. There are plenty of scam artists out there looking to help you part with your money, so don’t fall for it. Here are the top scams to look out for in 2012, according to the IRS:
1. Identity theft
Identity theft tops the IRS’s list of “dirty dozen” scams this year. Identity theft cases are the ones in which criminals obtain living or deceased people’s names and Social Security numbers to defraud the government.
In addition to the law-enforcement crackdown, the IRS said its has stepped up its internal reviews to spot false tax returns before tax refunds are issued as well as working to help victims of the identity theft refund schemes. “An IRS notice informing a taxpayer that more than one return was filed in the taxpayer’s name or that the taxpayer received wages from an unknown employer may be the first tip off the individual receives that he or she has been victimized”, the department noted.
Phishing ranks second in the list. Phishing is a scam typically carried out with the help of unsolicited email or a fake website that poses as a legitimate site to lure in potential victims and prompt them to provide valuable personal and financial information. A criminal can commit identity theft or financial theft using that information.
If someone receives an unsolicited email that appears to be from either the IRS or an organization closely linked to the IRS, such as the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, he or she should report it by sending it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. Return preparer fraud
Questionable return preparers have been known to skim off their clients’ refunds, charge inflated fees for return preparation services and attract new clients by promising guaranteed or inflated refunds. Taxpayers should choose carefully when hiring a tax preparer.
This year, every paid preparer needs to have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) and enter it on the returns he or she prepares.
4. Hiding income offshore
U.S. taxpayers who maintain financial accounts abroad and who do not comply with reporting and disclosure requirements risk significant penalties and fines, as well as the possibility of criminal prosecution.
The IRS has reopened the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program this year following continued strong interest from taxpayers and tax practitioners after the closure of the 2011 and 2009 programs.
“Since 2009, 30,000 individuals have come forward voluntarily to disclose their foreign financial accounts,” The IRS noted. “And, with new foreign account reporting requirements being phased in over the next few years, hiding income offshore will become increasingly more difficult.”
5. “Free Money” from the IRS & tax scams involving Social Security
Flyers and advertisements for free money from the IRS, suggesting that the taxpayer can file a tax return with little or no documentation, have been appearing in community churches around the country. Low income individuals and the elderly are normally the victims of such ads. The IRS warned that intentionally filing incorrect returns can result in a $5,000 penalty.
6. False/inflated income and expenses
Claiming income one did not earn or expenses one did not pay in order to secure larger refundable credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit could have serious repercussions. This could result in repaying the erroneous refunds, including interest and penalties, and in some cases, even prosecution.
7. False Form 1099 refund claims
“In this ongoing scam, the perpetrator files a fake information return, such as a Form 1099 Original Issue Discount, to justify a false refund claim on a corresponding tax return.”
8. Frivolous arguments
“Promoters of frivolous schemes encourage taxpayers to make unreasonable and outlandish claims to avoid paying the taxes they owe. The IRS has a list of frivolous tax arguments that have been thrown out of court.”
9. Falsely claiming zero wages
“Filing a phony information return is an illegal way to lower the amount of taxes an individual owes. Typically, a Form 4852 (Substitute Form W-2) or a “corrected” Form 1099 is used as a way to improperly reduce taxable income to zero. The taxpayer may also submit a statement rebutting wages and taxes reported by a payer to the IRS.”
10. Abuse of charitable organizations and deductions
“The IRS is investigating schemes that involve the donation of non-cash assets — including situations in which several organizations claim the full value of the same non-cash contribution. Often these donations are highly overvalued or the organization receiving the donation promises that the donor can repurchase the items later at a price set by the donor.”
11. Disguised corporate ownership
“Third parties are improperly used to request employer identification numbers and form corporations that obscure the true ownership of the business. These entities can be used to underreport income, claim fictitious deductions, avoid filing tax returns, participate in listed transactions and facilitate money laundering, and financial crimes. The IRS is working with state authorities to identify these entities and bring the owners into compliance with the law.”
12. Misuse of trusts
Unscrupulous promoters urge taxpayers to transfer assets into trusts. “While there are legitimate uses of trusts in tax and estate planning, some highly questionable transactions promise reduction of income subject to tax, deductions for personal expenses and reduced estate or gift taxes,” the IRS said. “Such trusts rarely deliver the tax benefits promised and are used primarily as a means of avoiding income tax liability and hiding assets from creditors, including the IRS.”
“IRS personnel have seen an increase in the improper use of private annuity trusts and foreign trusts to shift income and deduct personal expenses.”