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How to make it, spend it, and invest it

The Clark Howard Podcast

Clark Howard is the watchdog for consumers everywhere, and we feel Clark is a perfect fit. Protecting your wallet and keeping you apprised of the latest in consumer technology every weekday.

Credit card interest rates are at an all-time high. At a time when interest cost to banks is very low for what they borrow to lend on credit cards,  they’re charging the highest rates ever. Users don’t worry about rates likely because they don’t intend to carry balances. Meanwhile, if you’ve financed a vehicle at a bank or dealership, now there’s an opportunity to refi for a much lower interest rate through a credit union. With the trade related reduction in interest rates, this is a side benefit. Home refi opportunities are great again. Shop around. With good credit, you can refi a 30 into the low 3s, or move to a 15 year loan for around 2.34%.

With all the publicity surrounding the Equifax settlement, people are doing searches to find out more and ending up at spoof sites. There are scam sites taking personal info. If you are interested in the settlement, go to ftc.gov/Equifax.  

Nearly 1 in 5 American households have cut the pay TV cord. Streaming packages generally range from $20 to $60 a month. Philo and Sling are the bargains. (Sling TV is a service of Dish – always priced favorably). Coming this fall: the new Disney bundle, including the Disney film and video library, ESPN+ and a stripped down version of Hulu for $13 a month. Consider free streaming. Ad supported streaming is the fastest growing form of video content. Roku offers massive free content.

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Complaints against American Airlines have been filed for their refusal to accommodate passengers with nut or any food allergies. The DOT has determined American was putting people in harm’s way. Now airlines are required to accommodate those with food allergies, which comprise 1.5% of the population. While other airlines have done away with nut snacks, American continues to serve them,  allowing pre-boarding to wipe down seats for designated passengers. They need to take the next step and stop serving nuts.

Now there are too many SUVs so it’s a buyers market. New SUV’s outnumber equilibrium (a  theoretical 60 day supply).  This massive oversupply of SUVs gives buyers negotiating power. It really pays right now to comparison shop online using the pricing services.

Clark discusses: When is the best time to take Social Security?

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Social security hacking is a rare but ongoing crime, wherein a criminal hijacks someone’s social security benefit, convincing the authorities of an address and bank account change. Impersonating you, the criminal starts receiving your benefit. Criminals will also apply before you do – just in advance of your 62nd birthday, while you may be planning to take the benefit years later.  Set up an account at MySocialSecurity.gov long before you’re eligible to receive the benefit. If an address change is attempted, you get an alert letter. This account allows you to monitor your benefit. Pay attention to alerts and letters. And before you ever call social security – verify the number given to avoid ss scams.

It’s back-to-school time for many districts in the country and for most, the morning bell rings way too early. The early bell is a convenience for working parents, but it’s not what’s best for kids. Adolescent circadian rhythms have been studied. Kids this age are night owls for whom getting enough sleep is critical to development. They perform better if school starts later. Some school districts have made the adjustment. One district at a time…..

Family and individual phone plans –  / Clark.com Cell Phones  /  ClarkDeals-Phone Plans

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Way too often people will raid their 401(k) at some point. They take out a loan, do a hardship withdrawal, or spend it away when changing jobs. The Federal Reserve finds that people withdraw around 40 cents of every dollar put in their 401k – money that WON’T be there for retirement. Pew Research calculated the average amount of a major unexpected expense to be $2,000. Most don’t have $2k for emergencies. The WSJ reports more employers are offering personal finance programs, with emergency fund rewards for participating. There are now hundreds of companies offering these programs in order to increase productivity and reduce turnover and stress in employees.

Deal or no deal: Private real estate placements. They’re hot. Do they have any place in your life? A major U.S. landlord has been accused by the Justice Dept of running a criminal Ponzi scheme. This individual owns properties across 14 states. He raised $110M under the pretense of investment, converted to personal use and sustaining the Ponzi. This is the danger with any offer of private real estate investing. If you put money in, it’s a hard time getting it back out. Be aware. Be careful. 

A potential money-making opportunity: Renting out your car an hour, day or week at a time. Years ago Clark shared how luxury  & sports car owners were listing their vehicles and Turo and Getaround. Now entrepreneurs are buying low mileage, young used cars, building fleets and making a living renting them out via car-sharing app business platforms. The app takes a quarter cut typically. Car rental companies are spending a fortune to get state legislatures to pass laws to essentially outlaw car-sharing apps. Don’t invest too much into a business that could disintegrate.

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American debt and delinquency are increasing in a time of low unemployment. The Census Bureau data finds Americans buying homes with double the square footage per occupant compared to 2 generations ago. The average home has 1000 square feet per person. The average U.S. home now is around 2500 square feet – up from 1500 not that long ago. That’s more square footage to heat, cool and repair. Housing is the number one cost of living factor that affects your future financial security. When home shopping, put needs first and stick to living on less than what you make.

Shopping online reveals a big push to get consumers to click to purchase now. Clothing sellers flash purchase reports of what appear to be real-time buys going on. That can be faked. Priceline uses this tactic as well – pushing you to click to buy now because some person just got some hotel deal. Car rentals sites may tell you there’s an urgent shortage of available cars so book now!! Know these manipulations exist to counter the problem of abandoned carts. Online retailers are using mind-games to create urgency and/or excitement. Don’t let them fool you. 

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Check out our new free online movie guide. Ad-supported streaming services heavily featuring movies are a fast-growing part of streaming. Big Five Glories features classic movies, no subscription, no sign-up, lots of free movies. Sony Crackle is a free streaming service, mostly movies from the 80’s and recent bombs. Crackle is polarizing because there are ads inserted, but it’s free. ClassicCinemaOnline features westerns, classic and independent films.

Home HVAC units may need replacing. Rip-off Alert! R22 freon is usable this Summer but will be banned next year. There are reports emerging from around the country that HVAC salespeople are telling customers their AC units will no longer work after this season and they have to buy a new one! Go to the manufacturer’s website of your HVAC unit and enter your model number to see if your unit will be obsolete next year. Most any unit manufactured before 1996 – 23 years old or older – will be impacted and will need to be replaced. You can retrofit, but as a general rule, retrofitting is not recommended. 

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Food company CEO Scott Nash spent a year eating food past its expiration date, tortillas a year past, yogurt months past and heavy cream 2.5 months past its expiration date. Truth: Most expirations dates on medicine and food don’t mean ingestion will be dangerous past that date. Meds can be fine years out of date, perhaps less effective but most are not harmful. Expirations dates should be honored on certain foods, including deli meats, unpasteurized cheeses & milk. And tossing picnic foods that have been unrefrigerated too long is still the best advice. Implementing a voluntary system, 2 years ago the food industry came up with a compromise of 2 labels: Best if Used By and Use By – to reduce confusion. Nearly 90% of us toss expired foods. But that’s not necessary with most food items. Scott Nash was just fine!

Christa reads listener posts about how Clark has missed the mark in his advice this week. If you have a “Clark Stinks” to share you can leave it here.

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People have issues with financing, builders, selling, and buying used homes. There are many confusing moving parts. Clark discusses 9 steps to buying a home involving credit, qualifying and shopping for loans, shopping homes, negotiating etc. Local communities have design rules that have crushed affordability for first time home buyers.  In dense urban areas, the value of land drives the cost of homes. So out-of-date rules on land use create many inefficiencies, including affordability. The next wave of urban planning should take into account creating efficiencies that will allow more affordable, smaller single-family housing in metro corridors. 

Clark’s 13-year-old son was all over getting a cell phone protection plan. We’re so connected to our devices that when in a cell phone store, we’re susceptible to the pitch to buy their junk insurance product. Don’t do it. Cell phone insurance is horrible, trashy junk. Don’t do it. It’s overpriced, and you have a big deductible for what’s usually a refurbished replacement phone. Have wide insurance in your life disability. Use a credit card hat provides free cell phone insurance when you use it to pay your monthly cell bill. 

There’s one thing higher and trade education students can do to boost their chances of good-paying jobs after school – work while in school. ​Working in college makes for higher paid grads. Northeastern University grads tend to easily get good jobs after school because working is built into the curriculum. Students alternate semesters with working full-time. The degree takes an extra year, going year-round. New grads have years of experience in their field of study. Having work experience provides maturity so valuable to employers. Clark was a full-time working night student in college and grad school. That work experience served him well, allowing him to retire (the 1st time) at age 31.

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