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Which Airlines Have Seats Open for Your Rewards?

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Membership has its privileges but cashing in on those privileges is another story.

If you’re a traveler but you don’t fly enough to get in to the extra special diamond, platinum, or other private group of the most elite airlines, you know that amassing frequent flyer miles or points is easy but using them to get a better seat or a free flight might be exceedingly difficult.

The problem is simple: airlines save money by offering fewer flights which means less seats available.

Even worse, when an airline merges with another airline, the amount of people in the frequent flyer problem doubles but often, the amount of flights taking off and landing doesn’t.  More people but less seats doesn’t make you happy.

Finally, if that isn’t enough frustration, in order to make money, airlines sell points and miles to credit card and other companies to offer to their loyal customers.  Some of those people sitting in the first class seats that should rightfully be yours may hardly ever fly.  Go ahead and get a little frustrated!

Ideaworks knows how you feel and that may be why they conduct the Switchfly Reward Seat Availability rankings report (click here to see the report pdf.) Continue Reading

Reflections on a Frugal Japanese Life

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It is no secret that Americans are not good at saving.  

In fact, before the economic downturn, Americans were only saving 1% of their income according to The Atlantic.

Compare that to the Japanese, who save 25% of their income, down from a high of 30 to 35% according to Maki, the Japanese woman behind the blog Just Hungry.

My husband was born in Japan and lived there the first 25 years of his life, so I asked him about his experience growing up.  He was at first hesitant to share because he is nearly 40, so he doesn’t feel his family is representative of the way things may now be in Japan.  Still, this is his family’s experience, which I find to be in stark contrast to many American households, even 30 years ago.

His Parents’ Backgrounds

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Tradeking and Zecco to Merge – More Capabilities, Same Great Pricing

Like so many other industries, there are small players and big players.

Little fish in a very large pond may be another applicable cliché to describe this story.  The pond is the brokerage business and that pond is big.

Companies like Fidelity, the world’s largest retirement account holder has 13.5 million accounts, E*Trade, one of the most well known of the brokers for retail investors has 3.9 million accounts and TD Ameritrade has 5.7 million.

In the past, there were plenty of smaller discount brokers but most were bought by the larger firms.

Schwab acquired OptionsXpress for $1 billion and TD Ameritrade acquired Thinkorswim for an undisclosed amount.

As the big brokers keep getting bigger, there was little room to compete if you were still holding on as one of the smaller firms in the highly competitive field of discount brokerage.

[Related: Best Online Brokers for Inexpensive Trades]

This was true for two small firms, Zecco and Tradeking.
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Is Social Security Really a Retirement Plan?

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Most of us commonly think of Social Security as almost synonymous with retirement — but it was never planned to be.

When it was established in the 1930s it was set up to be primarily an anti-poverty program—or “social insurance”—dealing with old age, poverty, unemployment, and the burdens of widows and fatherless children.

The stock market crash of 1929 and the onset of the Great Depression collapsed incomes across the board and wiped out the savings of many of the elderly.  The government responded by implementing Social Security to remedy many of these economic ills.

Strictly speaking, it was never intended to be a retirement plan as much as a supplement for lost wages.

The Depression is now deep in the history books and with it, the original intent of Social Security.  Today it’s mostly seen as a retirement plan.

But is it really?

Why you can’t rely on Social Security alone

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How to Avoid Investment Scams

We all want to make more money.

And, for many, the dream is to make money quickly and with a minimal amount of work.  This is why investing is such a popular method of making money.

If you take a measured approach, you should be able to regularly invest in carefully chosen stocks, index funds or some other boring investment, and, over time, amass a reasonable amount of wealth as you receive returns on your investment.

Many people, though, don’t want to take the measured approach.

There are stories of people making money fast by choosing the right investment, at the right time.

How many of us regular folks harbor the dream of, perhaps, taking $10,000 in capital and turning it quickly and painlessly into ten times that amount?

The unfortunate truth is that investments that promise such riches, fast and easy, are usually scams.

Does that Investment Send Up Red Flags?

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Should You Charge Your Boomerang Kids Rent?

Years ago, children graduated from high school, got a job and shortly thereafter got married, bought a home and had children.

This pattern may have been delayed a few years as more and more people obtained college educations, but the pattern remained basically the same.

Now, however, the number of adult children living with their parents has skyrocketed.  In fact, as recently as 2010, Calculated Risk shared that nearly 13.5% of individuals ages 24 to 35 lived at home with their parents.  This group has even been given their own name—Boomerang Children–because they leave the nest for some time but then return back home, sometimes for years.

If your adult child has moved back in, should you charge them rent?

Why Do Adult Children Move Back Home?

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Ally Bank Online Savings Account Review

It used to be revolutionary to hold your money with a bank that didn’t have any brick and mortar locations for you to visit.

Now high yield online savings accounts are more common and the decision comes down to which online bank you should open an account with.

There are many key factors in that decision — high interest rate, customer service, and account fees — that Ally Bank’s online savings comes out on top if you compare to other accounts.

What is Ally Bank?

Ally Bank Online Savings AccountAlly Bank’s story sounds eerily familiar to the mythical firebird phoenix that is rebirthed out of its own ashes.

That might sound strange for a bank, but Ally Bank is the new edition of GMAC or General Motors Acceptance Corporation.

GMAC was originally founded in 1919 and grew over the course of time, but like many banks a few years ago, got caught up in the financial crisis due to loose mortgage lending standards.  The bank had to take on TARP funding from the government and was rebranded to shed some of the bad image associated with the financial crisis.  A significant portion of the company is still owned by the US government, although the company is actively repaying on the funds it received.  (And a majority of the problems are on the mortgage side of the business, not on the personal banking side that Ally is on.) Continue Reading

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