Archive for Krystal Steinmetz

7 Spending Trends That Speak Volumes About U.S. Consumers

By Money Talks News
How we spend our hard-earned money can be quite revealing.

“To some extent, we are what we buy,” explains Money.

Some products experience surging sales after a strong marketing campaign, a dramatic shift in price or the endorsement of a popular celebrity – have you heard of the “Oprah Effect”? But often the rush to buy is the result of shifting U.S. demographics.

The seven hot-selling items in a list compiled by Money reflect the latter. Check out where U.S. consumer dollars are flowing and what that reveals about Americans today:

Legal weed: With more states legalizing marijuana for recreational or medicinal purposes, the cannabis industry has experienced explosive growth. Legal pot sales reached $5.4 billion in the United States in 2015, a 17.4 percent spike over 2014. Pot sales are expected to hit $6.7 billion this year – in turn generating healthy tax revenues in states that allow it.

Canadian goods: When the value of the U.S. dollar rises compared with the Canadian currency as it has recently (the current rate is US$1 = C$1.32) many Americans flock across the northern border to shop. Money said the number of U.S. visitors to Canada shot up by 1.6 million during the first 11 months of 2015, and that number is expected to keep climbing this year.

Guns: Anxiety caused by mass shootings and fears that they will lead to more restrictive gun laws have sparked record-breaking gun sales in the United States in recent years. Check out “Gun-Buying Rush Swamps FBI Background Checkers.”

Anything that can be bought on a phone (or tablet): Mobile shopping and spending soared 60 percent from 2014 to 2015. With retailers shifting more of their focus to mobile consumers, it’s likely that number will only continue to increase in 2016.

Streaming service subscription: Regardless of whether they stream video or music, streaming service subscriptions are on the rise. Netflix, Hulu, Spotify and Amazon Prime, just to name a few, are continually increasing their customer base.

Bowls: That’s right. “Bowls are the new plates,” the The Wall Street Journal recently announced, noting that moving from plates to bowls signals a shift to a more casual lifestyle. Money noted that many health-conscious trendsetters are trading in their plates for bowls while restaurants are also moving towards bowl-friendly entrees. Money said bowl sales from dish companies like Fiesta increased by 17 percent last year.

Adult diapers: With Americans living longer these days and many seniors struggling with incontinence problems, it’s really no surprise that adult diapers are flying off the shelves. Money said adult diaper sales are expected to grow by 48 percent globally by 2020. Compare that with baby diaper sales, which are expected to experience a much more modest growth of 2.6 percent in the next four years.

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Category: bonds, cloud, computers, data, dell, earnings, earnings season, healthcare, nasdaq, nyse, oil prices, stock market, stocks, utilities, wall street, csx, nj, jnj, tast, intc, jpm, fast, gs, bac, ge, lly, wfc, c, unh, emc, tri

These Are U.S. Consumers’ Top 5 Complaints

By Money Talks News

Americans sure have a lot to gripe about these days – from problems with banks or their wireless provider to being victimized by scams run by impostors. The Federal Trade Commission received more than 3.08 million consumer complaints in 2015.

For the first time in 15 years, the FTC received more debt-collection complaints (897,655) from consumers than it did identity theft complaints (490,220), which had previously held the top spot among consumer complaints since 2000.

From our Solutions Center: Free help with debt collectors

Debt collection gripes made up 29 percent of the complaint calls to the FTC last year, while 16 percent of the complaints were related to identity theft. The Consumer Sentinel Network data book is an annual report documenting consumer complaints received by the FTC, as well as state and federal law enforcement agencies, national consumer protection organizations and non-governmental organizations.

“While debt collection complaints rose to the top spot among complaint categories, the report notes that this was due in large part to a surge in complaints contributed by a data contributor who collects complaints via a mobile app,” the FTC explains. “This change caused a spike in complaints related to unwanted debt collection mobile phone calls.”

Still, identity theft complaints rose by more than 47 percent from 2014, on the heels of growing complaints about tax identity theft fraud.

“We recognize that identity theft and unlawful debt collection practices continue to cause significant harm to many consumers,” Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. “Steps like the recent upgrade to IdentityTheft.gov and our leadership of a nationwide initiative to combat unlawful debt collection practices are critical to our ongoing work to protect consumers from these harms.”

The FTC says these were the top five consumer complaints in 2015:

  • Debt collection: 897,655 complaints. (For ways to deal with this problem, check out “4 Steps to Stop Debt Collectors in Their Tracks.”)
  • Identity theft: 490,220. There are ways to protect yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft. Click here for 10 great tips.
  • Impostor scams: 353,770
  • Telephone and mobile services: 275,754
  • Prizes, sweepstakes and lotteries: 140,136

You can file a consumer complaint with the FTC online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357).

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Category: debt collectors, economy, identify theft, imposter scam

One Weird (and Infuriating) Reason You May Pay More for Car Insurance

By Money Talks News...
Meet “Sally” and “Suzy”: These 30-year-old twin sisters are identical in nearly every way. Both women live in Louisville, Kentucky. They’re both employed full time, have stellar driving records, decent credit ratings and no lapses in car insurance coverage. They even drive twin 2005 Honda Civics – same color, make, model and mileage.

Sally pays $2,408 a year for car insurance – to get a policy providing theminimum coverage required by Kentucky – through Farmers Insurance. Meanwhile, Suzy pays Farmers $1,640 for the exact same coverage. So why is Sally paying 47 percent more than Suzy for the same insurance?

According to the Consumer Federation of America, Sally is forced to pony up more cash for insurance because she’s arenter and Suzy is a homeowner.

From our Solutions Center: How to quickly shop insurance

That’s right. The CFA – which recently conducted an analysis of premium quotes from the major auto insurers for a 30-year-old safe driver in 10 cities across the United States – found that consumers pay an average of 7 percent more (about $112 a year) for auto insurance if they write a rent check rather than a mortgage check for their home.

Depending on the insurer and where drivers live, they could be like Sally – paying upwards of 47 percent more for insurance. For example, Allstate’s auto insurance quote for a renter in Tampa, Florida, was 19 percent more than a homeowner. In Baltimore, Liberty Mutual charged renters 23 percent more.

The CFA maintains that auto insurance companies’ use of homeownership status in pricing leaves low- and moderate-income Americans at an unfair disadvantage. According to Federal Reserve Board data, the median income of renters in the United States was $27,800 in 2013, compared with $63,400 for homeowners.

“To raise people’s auto insurance premium because they can’t afford to buy their homes unfairly discriminates against lower-income drivers,” said CFA Insurance Director J. Robert Hunter in a prepared statement. “A good driver is a good driver whether she rents or owns her home. Insurance companies should not be allowed to target people based on homeownership status.”

The CFA obtained quotes from State Farm, Geico, Allstate, Progressive, Farmers, Liberty Mutual and Nationwide. Geico was the only insurer whose quotes were the same, regardless of the driver’s homeownership status.

“Virtually every state requires drivers to buy insurance, but we shouldn’t force them to buy a home in order to get the best price,” Hunter said. “State insurance commissioners and elected representatives should step in and stop this practice,” he added.

Check out “Crazy Auto Insurance Rates: Your DUI May Matter Less Than Credit Score.”

Do you think renters should have to pony up more for car insurance than homeowners? Sound off below or on our Facebook page.

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Category: car insurance, economy, owning a home, renting a home

“El Chapo” Shirts Are Flying Off the Shelves at $128 (and Reselling for More)

By Money Talks News...

Barabas, a Los Angeles-based men’s clothing company, has been clobbered with unprecedented demand for two of its $128 shirts, and it has this individual to thank for its overnight success: Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

According to the Los Angeles Times, immediately after photographs of the drug kingpin wearing two different Barabas shirts were published in Rolling Stone magazine in early January, the orders for the shirts started piling up.

Barabas went overnight from receiving 10 to 20 orders per day to hundreds of orders per day. In fact, the company’s website crashed due to the overwhelming flood of orders.

“This sudden madness – I cannot call it anything different,” Tatiana Kivachook, vice president of Barabas, told the newspaper. Kivachook runs the clothing company with her husband, Sam Esteghball.

The now famous “El Chapo” shirts are both blue, long-sleeved, button-down shirts. One has a paisley pattern and one features a floral design.

Although they sell for $128 each on the Barabas website, some sellers have listed the shirts for as much as $500 on eBay. The Barabas website said the company is donating 5 percent of the profits from sales of the two “El Chapo” shirts to the Drug Abuse Resistance Education, or D.A.R.E..

Barabas – a company with just eight employees – has struggled to keep up with global demand for the shirts, which are currently on back order, but the Barabas website said the shirts should be shipped by Feb. 5.

“It’s actually been extremely rough. From one point, of course we’re very, very excited, but our business was paralyzed through the first week because of all the interviews and demand,” Kivachook told Mashable.

Although the infamous drug lord’s fashion triggered overnight success for Barabas, the company maintains that it has no ties to the criminal.

“We have never met Joaquin Guzman, a.k.a. El Chapo,” the company says on its home page. “We can explain his apparently esthetic choice of shirts for the interview and the meeting with Sean Penn as an attribution of comfort, quality and style that Barabas shirt projects.”

What do you think of the success of the “El Chapo” shirts sold by Barabas? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

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Category: Barabas, economy, El Chapo

These 19 Retailers Will Match Wal-Mart’s Prices

By Money Talks News….
Although many Americans hate Wal-Mart, the retail giant is one of the most popular stores in the country.
Shoppers often flock to Wal-Mart to take advantage of the big box retailer’s touted “everyday low prices,” even though Wal-Mart’s prices aren’t always the cheapest.

If you love to shop and save money but you don’t like Wal-Mart, you’re in luck. Shopping expert and blogger Kyle James reports that these 19 stores will match Wal-Mart prices:

  • Babies R Us and Toys R Us
  • Best Buy
  • Bed Bath & Beyond
  • Dick’s Sporting Goods
  • hhgregg
  • Home Depot
  • JCPenney
  • Kohl’s
  • Lowe’s
  • Michaels
  • Office Depot and Office Max
  • Petco
  • Sears
  • Sports Authority
  • Staples
  • Target
  • West Marine

Of course, Wal-Mart also offers its own price-matching, with opportunities to get an adjustment on Wal-Mart products that have been reduced in price since you purchased them, and to match the prices of other retailers. Also check out “Target Now Matches Prices With These 30 Online Retailers.”

Let the price wars begin!

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Category: competition, consumer market, cutting prices, wal-mart

How to Bag an Extra $5K in 2016

By Money Talks News...
Countless Americans ring in the new year determined to shed those few extra pounds around their midsection. But the new year is also a good time to sit down and take a good, hard look at your finances. Maybe you could add shedding debt to your list of New Year’s resolutions?

If reducing your debt load seems overwhelming, just remember how great you would feel if you started 2017 with an extra $5,000 in your bank account.

From our Solutions Center: Help with student loan debt

First, take a look at your total debt. A recent NerdWallet study found that the average American household is shouldering $129,579 in debt – an alarming $15,355 of that on credit cards. That means the average American is forking over more than $6,600 each year in interest, roughly $2,600 of it for credit cards.

Yikes! But reducing the amount of money you’re paying in credit card interest is sometimes just a phone call away, according to the New York Post,

“Few people ask a card company for a lower rate of interest,” Matt Schulz, a senior analyst with CreditCards.com, told the Post. “However, if you have a pretty good payment record, we’ve found that most people who ask for it do get a lower rate.”

Here are four more easy ways the Post says you can follow to get control of your finances and end 2016 with an extra $5,000 in savings:

  • Figure out where you’re spending your money. Simply put, you need to compile a list of your expenses. “This sounds simple, but it’s crucial: You need to know how much you make and what you spend it on. Then figure out what you can cut down on,” Sean McQuay, a card analyst with NerdWallet, told the Post.
  • Spend less money. After you’ve compiled a list of your expenses, figure out where you can cut back so you can sock away some extra money in savings. For example, if you’re spending $6 at Starbucks five days a week, you might want to start brewing your coffee at home instead. Cut back on eating out, pack a lunch and take it to work, and consider dropping your cable or downgrading to a cheaper cellphone plan. Check out “25 Ways to Spend Less on Food.”
  • Make more money. “Freelance work, selling unused property or teaching classes online are some of the ways you can bring in some extra cash for paying down your debt,” the Post explains. Paying down your debt means you’re forking out less money for interest. (For more ideas, check out “20 Odd Ways to Make Extra Money.”)
  • Create a realistic budget (and stick to it). Are there things you can reduce or eliminate from your budget? “Ask yourself: Do I really still need my cable subscription now that I’m on Netflix?” McQuay suggests. “Do I still need to have a land­line phone? Do I still need that car I hardly …read moreRead more here: How to Bag an Extra $5K in 2016

    Category: extra money, saving, spending, spending habits

Tax-Free Weekends Help Take Sting Out of Back-to-School Costs

By Money Talks News...

As summer begins to wind down and the school year draws near, many parents are preparing to open (and maybe empty) their pocketbooks on back-to-school shopping.

According to the National Retail Federation, American families spend about 42 percent more on back-to-school purchases now than they did just a decade ago.

Total spending on back-to-school shopping is expected to hit nearly $25 billion this year, the NRF said. On average, a family with school-age children plans to spend about $630.36 on school supplies, electronics and clothes this year.

A RetailMeNot survey found that on average, parents spend about two weeks shopping for back-to-school supplies. More than 1 in 4 parents expressed concern about the financial burden and stress of back-to-school shopping.

Parents can take some of the sting out of the annual ritual by taking advantage of sales-tax-free weekends in 17 participating states, as detailed by RetailMeNot. Click on an individual state to see what items will be tax-exempt:

  • Alabama: Aug. 7-9.
  • Arkansas: Aug. 1-2.
  • Connecticut: Aug. 16-22.
  • Florida: Aug. 7-16.
  • Georgia: July 31-Aug. 1.
  • Iowa: Aug. 7-8.
  • Louisiana: Aug. 7-8.
  • Maryland: Aug. 9-15.
  • Mississippi: July 31-Aug. 1.
  • Missouri: Aug. 7-9.
  • New Mexico: Aug. 7-9.
  • Ohio: Aug. 7-9.
  • Oklahoma: Aug. 7-9.
  • South Carolina: Aug. 7-9.
  • Tennessee: Aug. 7-9.
  • Texas: Aug. 7-9.
  • Virginia: Aug. 7-9.

Tax-free shopping holidays typically start at 12:01 a.m. and end at midnight.

Five states — Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon — don’t have a sales tax. In eight states, clothing purchases are normally tax exempt (Minnesota, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Vermont) or tax exempt up to a limit (New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut) according to the Tax Foundation, a think tank in Washington, D.C.

How much do you usually spend on back-to-school shopping? What are the most expensive purchases you’ll make? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

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Category: back to school, clothing, education, family money, going to college, parenting, personal finance, retail, saving money, shopping

Forget Florida; Retirees Opting for Pot-Friendly States

By Money Talks News..

When you think of popular retirement destinations, Florida and Arizona likely come to mind.

But according to Reuters, some U.S. retirees are considering more than warm weather, good health care and close proximity to grandkids when deciding where to retire. Many American seniors are choosing to enjoy their golden years in a marijuana-friendly state.

Chris Cooper is a 57-year-old retired investment adviser from Ohio. He opted to retire in San Diego because California has legalized medical marijuana use. Cooper, who doesn’t like heavy-duty prescription painkillers like Vicodin, told Reuters that marijuana eases his back pain and spasms.

“[Marijuana] stores are packed with every type of person you can imagine,” said Cooper, who uses marijuana once or twice a week, often orally. “There are old men in wheelchairs, or women whose hair is falling out from chemotherapy. You see literally everybody.”

 

A lot of the things marijuana is best at are conditions which become more of an issue as you get older.


More seniors are turning to marijuana to ease the aches and pains of aging. The most recent data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that marijuana use has increased among Americans ages 50 and older in the last 10 years.

“A lot of the things marijuana is best at are conditions which become more of an issue as you get older,” Taylor West, deputy director of the Denver-based National Cannabis Industry Association, told Reuters. “Chronic pain, inflammation, insomnia, loss of appetite: All of those things are widespread among seniors.”

Although it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly how many seniors are picking a state to retire based on its marijuana laws, Michael Stoll, a professor of public policy at University of California, Los Angeles who studies retiree migration trends, told Reuters that “there is anecdotal evidence that people with health conditions which medical marijuana could help treat, are relocating to states with legalized marijuana.”

Oregon voters passed a ballot initiative legalizing pot in November. The state has since experienced a 5 percent jump in people moving there. United Van Lines data shows that the Mountain West, which also includes marijuana-friendly Colorado, “boasted the highest percentage of people moving there to retire,” Reuters said.

Gray-haired retirees flocking to pot-friendly states is quite a divergence from the stereotype of the early 20s “pothead” who has no job, little ambition and lots of Cheetos.

But it’s not quite so surprising when you consider that the retiring baby boomers were in college during the 1960s and 70s, when marijuana use was prevalent.

“In Colorado, since legalization, many dispensaries have seen the largest portion of sales going to baby boomers and people of retirement age,” West said.

Are you surprised that many retiring baby boomers are migrating to pot-friendly states? Do you think pot should be legalized? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

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Category: baby boomers, colorado, drugs, housing market, marijuana, moving, personal finance, real estate, retirement, washington

Can You Trust Walmart’s ‘Made in USA’ Product Claims?

By Money Talks News..

For many Americans, a “Made in USA” label can often mean the difference between buying an item, or putting it back on the shelf.

Advertising watchdog group Truth In Advertising alleges that Walmart mislabeled more than 100 items as “Made in the USA” on its website, when the products were actually made in China or other countries. Other products claiming U.S. origin only contained a percentage of USA-made components, or were assembled — not made — in the United States, the organization says.

Truth In Advertising said it sent Walmart a letter detailing the “false and deceptive” label findings. The June 22 letter specifically mentions Walmart’s Equate store-brand makeup sponges, which it advertises on its website as “Made in the USA,” even though the product packaging states the sponges were “Made in China.”

“False made in USA labeling on Walmart’s website has misled consumers looking to purchase American-made products,” Trust In Advertising executive director Bonnie Patten said in a statement. “The largest retailer in the world should have made sure its American-made claims were accurate before affixing made in USA labels on the products. Until Walmart cleans up this mess, consumers cannot rely on Walmart with regard to where a product is really made when shopping on the site.”

Walmart acknowledged the labeling errors, but shifted the blame to its suppliers. A Walmart representative told Consumerist:

We are continually working to improve our website listings and information. We are undertaking a more extensive quality assurance review to help eliminate these coding errors. Based on our initial internal review, we believe these errors are limited to a small percentage of items and we are confident in the overall integrity of the information on our website.

What makes this issue even more interesting is that Walmart has committed to buying $250 billion in U.S.-made goods in an effort to “create more American jobs by supporting more American manufacturing.”

“It’s incredibly disingenuous for Walmart to be promoting their initiative to stock $250 billion [in] American-made products while at the same time they are in violation of FTC labeling standards for what qualifies as made in the USA,” said Michelle Amazeen, assistant professor of advertising at New Jersey’s Rider University.

According to the FTC, products that are promoted as U.S.-made must meet the “all or virtually all” standard. Typically, the FTC must receive a formal complaint from an outside party about a product’s questionable U.S.-origin claim before it investigates the potential fraud, Consumer Reports explains.

“Given the vagaries of ‘Made in the USA’ labeling,” CR said, consumers should be on the lookout for a product’s “Country of Origin” mark, which Customs and Border Protection require on all imported products. “It must be in a conspicuous place where it can be seen with casual handling, so you should be able to find it easily while shopping in a store,” CR added.

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Category: advertising, american made, china, internet, made in usa, manufacturing, marketing, online, retail, shopping, stores, wal-mart, walmart

How the Same-Sex Marriage Ruling Will Effect the Economy

By Money Talks News:..

Brace yourselves for wedding bells and an economic windfall.

The Supreme Court’s recent decision to legalize same-sex marriage across the United States will drive an estimated $2.6 billion in spending over the next three years, leading to $185 million in state and local tax revenue, and creating at least 13,000 jobs, according to a December 2014 report by the Williams Institute, a think tank based at the UCLA School of Law.

“Same-sex couples and their out-of-town guests spend money to celebrate weddings,” said Williams Institute Distinguished Scholar M.V. Lee Badgett in a statement. “As we have seen in states that already extend marriage to same-sex couples, this spending boost can lead to an influx of tourism dollars that benefit local businesses and an increase in state and local tax revenue.”

While the wedding industry will receive the most obvious boon from the legalization of gay marriage, other businesses also stand to benefit, from airlines and hotels to stores that sell wedding gifts and attire for wedding guests.

Before last week’s Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, 13 states outlawed the practice. Based on projections from the Williams Institute, these five states that had same-sex marriage bans in effect before the ruling will benefit the most from gay marriages over the next three years:

  • Texas: The Lone Star State can expect a $181.6 million boost from same-sex marriages.
  • Georgia: Marriage equality means an extra $78.8 million will flow into the state economy.
  • Ohio: The Buckeye State can expect a $70.8 million economic boost over the next three years.
  • Michigan: Over the next few years, the state economy of Michigan can expect an extra $53.2 million because of marriage equality.
  • Tennessee: Marriage equality means a $36.7 million boost to the economy in Tennessee.

For more about the potential economic impact from marriage equality, click here.

Also, check out “15 Ways to Save Big on Your Dream Wedding.”

What do you think about the potential economic windfall of same-sex marriages? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

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Category: consumer spending, economic growth, economy, family money, gdp, marriage, personal finance, same sex marriage, wedding

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