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podcasts: The Clark Howard Podcast

Money expert Clark Howard shows you practical money-saving ideas to help you Save More, Spend Less, and Avoid Ripoffs. He helps you keep more of what you make and invest your money wisely.

Most Recent Episode:

8.21.19 Southwest Airlines cancelling routes; MoviePass data breach; Series I savings bonds are a good place to stash cash.

Topics: The 737 Max remains grounded as Boeing struggles to find fixes. The FAA, having lost its credibility from lack of oversight of the Max, is now relying on the recommendations of a world panel, with no service date in sight. This affects travelers as airfares are higher because of this and Southwest, the largest operator of 737s in the world, is now discontinuing 20 unprofitable routes, moving those aircraft to Hawaiian routes. This has triggered great competitive deals from the west coast to Hawaii again, and higher fares in the markets Southwest is leaving.

The MoviePass database contains 160+ million records and has been breached. TechCrunch reports the database was not password protected. The guess is 60,000 records contained credit card data. Past subscribers need to watch activity on the cards they used with MoviePass. If you used a debit, the risk is great. Consider getting a new debit card number.

As the economy slows and interest rates go down, a rare saving opportunity has re-emerged; Series I Savings Bonds. When you buy bonds, you have to own them for at least a year and can hold them for up to 30 years, earning interest. With a slowing economy and interest rates headed down, Series I Savings Bonds are again a good place to stash cash. Series I Savings Bonds pay a .5% base rate + the rate of inflation, reset every 6 months, making the current rate 1.9% - not huge but as rates drop, you don’t have to worry about falling behind inflation, remaining ahead by half a point. You can purchase up to $10K in these bonds yearly, per person with a $50 minimum.










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Posted: August 21, 2019

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More Episodes:

8.20.19 New ways to sell your home; Wells Fargo does it again; Fighting for your Equifax breach money

Topics: iBuyers are the real estate organizations that can buy homes to simplify the process. They have big money behind them to accomplish this and include Offerpad, OpenDoor, Knock and others including Zillow. In addition, traditional agencies are entering into alliances with iBuyers. MarketWatch reports Keller Williams is partnering with Offerpad in 12 cities. These organizations are experimental. Their business models keep changing. Clark sold a rental condo recently and listed with an iBuyer (Offerpad) after talking with several. The process has interesting wrinkles. Knock is working with builders and provides the bridge between selling and buying. All base their buy offer on the condition of your home. They’ll offer less to do improvements with their contractors for a quick turnaround. The iBuyer process has its limitations. It works well in the South and the West suburban communities with comparable homes from large production builders. This doesn’t work in older communities, in the NE U.S. iBuyers concentrate in the middle of the market. They may never serve certain markets. Traditional agencies will likely be expanding their services aligned with iBuyer business models. If you’re putting your home on the market, get quotes from iBuyers if available, along with traditional agents. You get fair market value info from their various algorithms.

The NYT has investigated continuing egregious practices by Wells Fargo. This bank can’t get out of its own way, despite their ads indicating reform. Their latest outrage: arbitrarily closing accounts, generating overdrafts on auto payments. These fees are a huge profit center for them, and costs customers huge fees. $1500 was the damage on one account. WF then puts their customers/victims on the bad list for the banking industry, making it hard to impossible for them to even bank elsewhere. Wells Fargo was defiant in their response to the NYT. They’re not close to becoming customer focused or honest. Beware.

Laura from Team Clark was an identity theft victim and has experience navigating the process. Laura went to the Equifax Claim site and was indeed eligible to file, as her id theft about 2 years ago, was a result of their data breach. Someone opened a credit card in her name, applied for multiple loans, cell service and more. Damage control took weeks of phone calls. Since, Laura has frozen her credit and monitors it with Credit Karma. Her credit has bounced back by now. She considers herself lucky they didn’t do more damage. They could have. Many expecting to receive compensation won’t receive much. Using the link at Clark.com, Laura applied for the $120, but so many have filed claims, the awards won’t be that much. But problem solved because she worked hard to advocate for herself, and fortunate more damage didn’t occur. Laura says FREEZE YOUR CREDIT NOW

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8.19.19 Be vigilant when fighting for student loan forgiveness; Disney admission discount!; Your phone number and ID theft

Topics: The student loan forgiveness program has failed, denying those in the public service profession forgiveness after 10 years of service in good faith. Now, the appointee in charge of protecting student borrowers’ interests comes to that job in the federal government from a lending company so please remember it's up to you to fight for your rights.  You have got to know the rules and make sure you’re doing all required under the federal student loan program. Document every payment.

New lower price on Disney admission! The only requirement: Enter Noon or later. Accommodations in Central FL are at off-season prices as well.

As companies move away from using SS numbers as identifiers since the Equifax breach, more and more are using our phone numbers as identifiers. More databases are tracking us based on our phone numbers. Many loyalty programs require phone numbers.  It’s easy now to use an alternative number to keep your main one more private. Sign up for Google Voice to receive a distinct phone number. This can be a replacement identifier. The Burner app provides a continuing stream of different numbers. A NYT tech writer investigated what info could be gleaned about him from his phone number. It was massive – full dossier – all from databases using phone numbers. Personal safety and privacy are tied to your phone number. 








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8.16.19 Why everyone hates customer service; Clark Stinks

Topics: According to the ACSI, pay TV, internet service providers, and traditional phone companies are the 3 industries that rank the worst in customer service. What happens when you call customer service? You go through a phone tree maze. Many require you to speak, so they can use AI software that patterns your voice to gauge your patience, track you through caller ID, check your profitability index score, and answer you call (or not)  accordingly. Clark has found attempting customer service via phone is only effective if you’re prepared to fire a company and have your next provider in mind. Often you only get results when customer retention is engaged because they get that you’re leaving. Always being willing to walk is key to getting the customer service you’re looking for.

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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8.15.19 Owning a home isn't always the way to go; Teacher retirement plans stink; Private labels taking over

Topics: Housing prices have gone up way beyond income. In an effort to jumpstart home buying for those in their 20s & 30s, the Feds are offering a new FHA loan for first-time condo buyers, with a 3.5 down and lower credit standards. Know the condo market is more volatile than the single-family home market, with values going up or down more quickly, creating more short-term risk. Ideally, go into a condo purchase using Clark’s rule of thumb if possible, with the intention of living there 10 years or longer. Otherwise you should rent instead, despite this new FHA financing.

On the heels of a similar disgrace in PA – stripping consumer protections from teacher retirement plans, Texas now has one of the worst law changes for teachers retirement in the country. Teachers are shunted into retirement plans vastly inferior to 401Ks or IRAs, called 403b’s. These plans have poor disclosure and massive fees. In Texas, teachers can be charged massive fees on 403bs, typically 40 times that of a company 401K. 

The U.S. is the only developed country where consumers continue to buy primarily brand names. Roughly 1 in 4 items tend to be store brands vs nationally advertised brands. Well-targeted national ads are effective. Americans spend massive money buying brand names. That market has been eroded some, so brand manufacturers are pushing up their prices to generate higher profits. It’s working. Store brands historically have been 30% cheaper and that gap is getting larger, even as store brands are improving in quality. 

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8.14.19 Prepare your personal finances for a possible recession; Vaping warning; The best single person cell phone plan deals

Topics: Bond rates are at all time record lows for 30 year federal treasury bonds, a strong signal of coming recession. If the economy slows or declines, workers are impacted with less overtime, reduced hours, pay freezes etc. Think through how you can be more careful with spending. Take the time to look through your bills, trim costs and build some breathing room. Things happen and we need to be prepared for surprise expenses – medical, home, vehicles etc. Investors, if you’re going to need your investment funds in the next 24 months, keeping it in stocks may not be the best choice. Otherwise, continue to contribute to your retirement plan as normal. 

According to the CDC, vaping has gone up 50% in one year among middle school students, 80% among high school students. Juul voluntarily discontinued over-the-counter sales of flavored juices attracting teens, so other companies are filling that void. Be aware of the unknown health risks. Vaping is a nicotine delivery system that can create lifetime addiction. Parents are encouraged to have continuing conversations with kids about the dangers, because remember, they think they’re invincible.

Cell phone plan deals!  AT&T is offering a year’s service for $300 per line, only at AT&T.com – unlimited talk & text and 8 gigs of data per month. MintMobile.com offers 6 months of service for the price of 3 at $60 for unlimited talk & text + 8 gigs = $10 a month – on T-Mobile’s network. Verizon prepaid is $35 a month with autopay for unlimited talk & text and 6 gigs of data per month. Sprint’s Unlimited Kickstart plans offers unlimited talk, text & data for $25 a month.












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8.13.19 Movie theater subscription services; Zombie debt on the rise; Beware the dent repair scam

Topics: Movie Pass and Sinemia are both effectively out of business. But in the process they taught the film theater industry that if you offer a deal, many will take advantage of it. The movie industry has faced stagnation and steady decline with fewer people going to movie theaters. AMC was the first to offer a subscription through Stubs A-List – around $20 month for 3 movies a week.  Regal’s program is $18 - $24 per month – offers unlimited movies! Only subscribe if you’ll really use the subscription.

Zombie debt reaches into the past to cause havoc in the present and future.  Rogue collectors buy very old debt for a fraction of a penny on the dollar.  Old debts can’t be sued against. But crooks in the industry are contacting people and conning them with trick offers. They suggest you pay $1 or another nominal sum to settle an old debt. BUT in many states, as soon as you do that, the debt is treated as new – and you can be sued against it again. You no longer have a statute of limitations protections. Never agree to any partial payment against an old debt.

Nicole from Team Clark has a relative who got a pitch in a retail parking lot. Her sister-in-law was approached in a Kroger parking lot. The person noticed dents in her car and offered to fix them for $160 – far less than a body shop would charge. He said he had the equipment in his car, was off early – let her know he was a family man. Nicole's sister-in-law noticed his car was beat up, and politely declined. This scheme has been around at least 10 years. NEVER fall for a parking lot pitch to fix a car. Just say no.







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8.12.19 Crazy good interest rates; Fake Equifax settlement sites; New cheap streaming services

Topics: 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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8.9.19 DOT rules for flight passengers with food allergies; Clark Stinks

Topics: 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.

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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8.8.19 Social Security account hacking; School hours for teens; Best family cell plans

Topics: 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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8.7.19 Employee relief funds; Major landlord accused of ponzi scheme; Car-sharing apps on the rise

Topics: 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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The Latest News Headlines

  • An Ohio school bus driver is facing charges of OVI and child endangering after she crashed the bus into a road sign Wednesday morning with students aboard.  >> Read more trending news  The Preble Shawnee Local Schools bus driver, identified as 44-year-old Amy L. Jones of Gratis Township, likely was impaired when the bus struck the sign on Camden Road west of U.S. 127, Sheriff Mike Simpson said in a media release. No children or staff were hurt. Jones was cited for OVI and child endangering and is scheduled to appear Aug. 26 in Preble County Municipal Court.  Students on the bus said they noticed things were not right with their driver from the start. “It didn’t feel like her normal self this morning,” senior Bethany Goodwin said. “She was really slurring her words,” student Hayden Schaffer said. They said it got worse as the drive went on. “She was, like, all over the road,” Schaffer said. “It seemed like she was kind of swerving in and out a little bit,” Goodwin said. At 7 a.m., Crystal Bissantz got a call from her daughter no parent wants, saying, 'Mom! ... We’ve been in a wreck.' The bus hit a sign on Camden Road, which students said shattered a mirror and door on the bus. No one was hurt, but students said they were scared. “I was shaking and nervous and my heart was racing,” Goodwin said. Following the crash, the driver took the students back to school. That’s where school leaders and deputies became concerned. Cruiser camera footage shows Jones wobbling as she took a field sobriety test in what appears to be a bus storage barn. Alcohol was ruled out as a factor in the crash, but investigators suspect she was under the influence of something else, Simpson said. Bissantz said she is relieved her daughter is safe, but has many questions, such as why it took hours to give her any information.  “The communications needs to be better,” she said. The district activated its call system mid-afternoon to alert parents, which stated: “The bus sustained minor damage and was operable.” As for students, hearing their driver may have been under the influence is not too surprising. “I mean, I believe it,” Schaffer said. But some students say they can no longer trust that school officials and staff will keep them safe. “I feel scared now to ride the bus at school,” Goodwin said. “It was just lucky that we were all OK ... and we made it through.” Jones is on administrative leave pending the investigation, district Superintendent Matt Bishop said in a statement.  “The safety of our students and staff is our number one goal. The district will take whatever action is necessary to uphold that goal,” Bishop said. 
  • Expect another mainly dry day in NE Florida as temperatures rise into the low 90’s.  Feels-like temps will climb to near 100 and most of the rain will be inland and in SE Georgia.  The hot and mainly dry weather continues on Friday with afternoon temps in the low 90’s. The average high is 91.  The weekend appears to be a little unsettled with a threat for scattered rain and thunderstorms both days.  High temps stay in the low 90’s but drop off significantly where it rains.  TROPICS:  Mike Buresh tracks the tropics daily In the tropics, Chantal has weakened to a depression and will stay out to sea in the north/central Atlantic. We are tracking an area of disorganized thunderstorms near The Bahamas that is expected to move closer to the Florida coast over the next few days.  While some development is possible, it is unlikely we will see much rain. The greatest risk will be rough seas. 
  • Police in Florida said a 16-year-old high school student made a shooting threat through a text message from a phone belonging to her sister, who attends a Catholic school, and sent it to a group chat.  >> Read more trending news  According to the Altamonte Springs Police Department, the principal of St. Mary Magdalen Catholic School received information from several parents regarding a group chat with several sixth-graders. One of the parents said the threat was made to the school by the 16-year-old's sister, who attends Lyman High School. According to police, the text message said: 'Next person to say something is the first person I will shoot on the school shooting that will take place this Friday… Kate you're getting shot for fun I can't stand that fish face.' The sister of the student reportedly told officials that around 9 p.m. Tuesday, she was doing homework in her room with her sister. She said there were several messages alerting her phone, which caused her older sister to take the phone, police said. The girl said she was unaware that her sister had typed the message and sent it to the group chat, according to police. The officer working on campus took immediate action to ensure the safety of all students. The 16-year-old was charged with written threats to kill, do bodily harm or conduct a mass shooting, authorities said.
  • The search for Brian McCluney and Justin Walker is shifting to South Carolina as we approach one full week since the men left the space coast for a fishing trip.  “We’re in some critical times right now”, said JFRD Interim Chief Keith Powers.  Since Friday, more than 90,000 square miles of ocean has been searched by the Coast Guard and hundreds of volunteers. While some debris was found on Wednesday, nothing has been linked to the missing men since Monday, when McCluney’s tackle bag was recovered off the coast of St. Augustine.  Their fishing vessel has not been found. Two organizations are offering $20,000 in reward money for any boater or pilot who finds the missing firefighters.  And if you would like to help, Jacksonville Fire and Rescue has set up a fund to support search efforts and ultimately the families of the firefighters. 
  • A Texas man was sentenced to life in prison Friday after a jury convicted him of capital murder in the 2015 drowning death of his girlfriend's toddler nephew. >> Read more trending news  According to KTRE, prosecutors said Bobby Woods Jr., 21, shoved Mason Cuttler, 3, into a pond near the family's Lufkin home and left him to drown. Woods, who was dating the boy's aunt, Billie Jean Cuttler, said he thought she was pregnant when he killed the boy, who lived in the same home as Woods, Cuttler and 'several families,' The Associated Press reported. Woods believed their house was too crowded and wanted to make room for the new baby, he reportedly told police. An attorney later said the woman was not pregnant, the news agency reported. Woods will not be eligible for parole, according to the AP. Cuttler, 23, also initially faced a capital murder charge in the incident, but agreed to a plea deal amid concerns over her intellectual competency, KTRE and the AP reported. She received a 20-year prison sentence after she pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit murder, authorities said. Read more here or here. – The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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