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Personal Finance

    Solar power is starting to make more and more sense for everyday Americans as prices drop; A neighbor called the cops on a little girl selling cookies at the end of her driveway. That’s Clarkrageous!; Vanguard predicts low returns in the market over the next decade. What should we do with that news? Clark gives you his take. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices Watch the video
  • Xtava LLC, a domestic distributor of Chinese-made hair dryers, is voluntarily recalling a quarter-million units following hundreds of reports of dangerous overheating. RELATED: Ford recalls 550,000 Fusions and Escapes over roll-away threat CPSC: Burns and shocks reported by 20 people The recall involves Allure and Allure Pro 2200W ionic ceramic hair dryers that were sold on Amazon.com, eBay.com, Walmart.com, Xtava.com, Groupon.com and other websites from October 2014 through August 2018 for between $15 and $60. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports Xtava has received 193 reports of the hair dryers “overheating, melting, exploding or catching fire.” That included 18 reports of burns and two reports of the hair dryers causing a minor electrical shock. Look for the following SKU/model numbers:  XTV010001, XTV010001N, XTV010002 or XTV010002N on the recalled units. But note this well: Xtava says not all units have a label with a model number.  If that’s the case for you, you may be better off relying on sight to determine if your hair dryer is involved in this recall: In addition to being sold as individual units, Xtava reports the hair dryers were also sold as part of the following hair-care kits for between $20 and $80: Black Curly Hair Kit Allure supreme with Black Orchid White Curly Hair Kit Allure Supreme with White Orchid White Allure Supreme with Pomona Goddess Black Allure Supreme Pro with Aurora Goddess White Curly Hair Kit + Clips Black Curly Hair Kit + Clips If you believe you have a hair dryer covered by this recall, stop using it immediately and go online to the Xtava website for further instructions on receiving a replacement. More recall stories on Clark.com Recall alert: Harbor Freight Tools chainsaws due to ‘off’ switch fail Nearly 5 million Jeep, Ram, Chrysler and Dodge vehicles may have cruise control defect Ford recalls 550,000 Fusions and Escapes over roll-away threat Related Articles from clark.com: Discover is eliminating another credit card benefit in 2018 Read More Search Read More Need more cash? | 35 easy ways to make extra money each month Read More
  • Let’s face it, most of us can’t live without the internet. But because most “unlimited” data plans are unlimited in name only, our residential and mobile internet services have strict limits that either cost extra money if we exceed them or simply cut us off when we’ve used a certain mount of data. Data caps are a pain for consumers, but it’s understandable that companies like Comcast, AT&T and CenturyLink feel that heavy users should bear the brunt of internet costs. Sometimes it’s necessary to get creative to deal with data caps, especially if you’re in a situation where you are in a data-sharing plan. 4 ways to deal with data caps Because we all want to save money and hate being throttled, here are some practical ways to manage internet data usage on your phones and home computers: Use Google’s Data Saver You can lower your data usage by using Data Saver, which works on Android, PCs, iPhone and iPad. WIth Data Saver, most of your web traffic will be funneled through Google’s servers before being downloaded to your device. The result is that you have less data actually going to your device, because Google servers compress it. You can install the Data Saver extension from the Chrome Web Store. Disable auto-play If you’re a heavy social media user, particularly on Instagram and Facebook, those videos that automatically play in your news feed are eating up precious data. If you disable auto-play it will save data usage and may even contribute to a less distracting experience online. Watch for data hogs We may have some data hogs at home that we want to watch out for (and, no, we’re not talking about your children). If you use a home security service like Nest or Ring, your home data usage could be on the high end if not over the limit each month. To cut your usage down, selectively choose when to monitor your home. Also, you’ll want to check to see if your home modem/router has bandwidth management, which may allow you to enact some measures to save gigabytes. Finally, if you use streaming services, check in the settings to see if you can turn the video quality down a notch. If you’re using 4K or even 1080p, try reducing to 720p at times when picture quality isn’t a huge deal. Use your cell phone’s data If you happen to have unlimited data on your cell phone, you can use it as a hotspot to provide the data to your computer and even your smart TV! Keep up to date with the latest cybersecurity news and more at  Clark.com . Subscribe to  our newsletter  and follow us on  Twitter  and  Facebook! More Clark.com stories you may like: Here’s one easy way to save big money on your cable bill TracFone: Things to know before you sign up AT&T WatchTV Review: The $15/month live TV streaming service 5 things to know before you sign up for Sling TV Related Articles from clark.com: Discover is eliminating another credit card benefit in 2018 Read More Search Read More Need more cash? | 35 easy ways to make extra money each month Read More
  • If you’re applying for new jobs, you may want to take a closer look at your Facebook, Twitter and other social media profiles before your prospective employers do! A new CareerBuilder survey says 70% of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates, while 7% of them plan to start. RELATED: How to make money online with Amazon Mechanical Turk Be careful what you post! Here are the social media mistakes that can cost you a new job What may be even more surprising is that 57% of employers who do social media research say they’ve found content that caused them to NOT hire candidates, the national survey of more than 1,000 hiring managers and HR professionals found. Here are the 10 primary reasons why job applicants have been eliminated from consideration because of their online profiles: Posted provocative or inappropriate photographs, videos or information: 40% Posted information about them drinking or using drugs: 36% Had discriminatory comments related to race, gender, religion, etc.: 31% Linked to criminal behavior: 30% Lied about qualifications: 27% Had poor communication skills: 27% Bad-mouthed their previous company or fellow employee: 25% Screen name was unprofessional: 22% Shared confidential information from previous employers: 20% Lied about an absence: 16% Employers aren’t always digging for dirt. They may be looking for information to support a candidate’s qualifications for the job, see if the candidate has a professional online persona or check what other people are posting about the candidate. But this is a good reminder to use common sense and think about how what you post can have serious long-term consequences. According to CareerBuilder, you shouldn’t expect social media monitoring to stop once you’re hired. Nearly half of employers (48%) say they use social networking sites to research current employees. More Clark.com stories you may like:  Career expert reveals 9 secrets to resume success in 2018 Job alert: 50 best places to work in 2018 25 ways to make your LinkedIn profile stand out Top 10 jobs for 2018 that don’t require a college degree Related Articles from clark.com: Discover is eliminating another credit card benefit in 2018 Read More Search Read More Need more cash? | 35 easy ways to make extra money each month Read More
  • If you listen to The Clark Howard Show or follow money expert Clark Howard, you know that big banks are a touchy subject. Clark routinely chastises the nation’s largest financial institutions for their customer no-service and what has proven to be a systemic pattern of taking advantage of customers, in some cases. Anyone who’s watched the news over the past year-and-a-half knows this is the case, and public enemy #1 in the banking world right now is Wells Fargo. We’ve documented the bank’s transgressions extensively here on Clark.com. But you can call me an outlier, because I’ve actually had positive experiences with the bank over a number of years. Our Consumer Action Center, which provides free off-air financial advice 45 hours a week, gets calls all the time from employees at some of the companies that routinely make Clark’s naughty list. They’re calling to remind us that they’re just people trying to do their jobs the best that they can — even if they work at a company that stinks! RELATED: How I lowered my cable bill by $50 a month A positive customer service story at Wells Fargo Now, before I get into this, I want to say that I’m not saying that you should do business with a big bank. There are a lot of reasons why someone would either choose to embrace or shun them. I certainly have mine and you probably have yours. I’m writing this simply because I believe in the power of great customer service and spreading the word when you receive it. Here’s my story… On August 4, I saw a charge from Spirit Air on my credit card that I didn’t recognize. Truth is, while I recently booked a Frontier Air sale I found about through ClarkDeals.com, I have not booked Spirit in quite a long time. I called up Wells Fargo to dispute the charge and spoke with a customer service representative named Katherina T. Neither of us could figure out at first if this was a legitimate charge or not, so Katherina T. took it upon herself to put me on hold and search Spirit Air’s website to see if there were any clues there. She quickly determined that it’s an annual recurring charge from a subscription to the airline’s $9 Fare Club. I apparently signed up for the service when my family needed to fly back home after my wife received medical treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. With my family dealing with a terminal illness for the entirety of 2017, I totally forgot about signing up back then. So on the one-year anniversary of me signing up, Spirit Air billed me $69.95, as they say they would on their website. Clearly, it’s my fault for not remembering I had signed up and not cancelling in a timely manner. I’ve had a lot of other things on my mind since my wife’s passing. And to Spirit’s credit, they do post clear instructions for cancelling. I explained all this to Katherina T. and said that I had not used the $9 Fare Club at all since late summer of 2017. She put me on hold again, called Spirit herself and confirmed that this was, in fact, the annual recurring charge being billed, and — get this — she convinced Spirit to both cancel the subscription and reverse the charge! I was told the whole thing might take a couple of days to process. Later that same day, I received this email… Three days later, the charge was fully refunded! The amazing thing is that Katherina T. orchestrated the refund and the cancellation of the Spirit Air subscription without me even asking her for any favors. I honestly expected to get stuck with the charge since I was technically in the wrong. This is, to my mind, a great example of somebody going above and beyond in her job. It’s truly one of the most superlative examples of customer service I’ve ever been party to. You better believe I gave Katherina T. the highest marks and effusive praise in a customer service surveyed emailed to me a day after my interaction with her! Kudos, too ,to the Spirit Air rep who I didn’t speak with for not putting up a fight. That prevented this from turning into a protracted battle to cancel my $9 Fare Club membership. Best of all, this whole great customer service experience went down while I was waiting for the carpool line to begin at my children’s school. Now if only everything in life were this easy… I know my story is anecdotal and specific to me, but I think it’s kind of nice to hear a positive story about banks, particularly Wells Fargo, in this day and age. Got beef with Wells Fargo? Not here! Just for the record, I’ve never had beef with Wells and I’ve been with them since 2007.  I have three accounts (mortgage/credit card/checking) with Wells, having come into the fold when they absorbed my former bank. I’ve never paid a penny in fees for banking with Wells. I use my checking account strictly for online bill pay and for the occasional physical check I write. There is a charge of about $15 when I need new checks printed up, but I don’t need them too often. Looking forward, I am anticipating the bank may start trying to charge me in a few years after I pay off my mortgage and no longer have three active accounts with them. Should that happen, I have two other accounts elsewhere — a separate online bank account with an online lender and a local credit union account. I keep liquid cash in the online bank account and only use the credit union because they’ll count my loose change for free. The point is, I could easily switch all my bill paying to one of them and be done with Wells Fargo forever, should our relationship go south. It’s nice to have options. But until further notice, I’m a happy Wells Fargo customer! More personal finance stories on Clark.com: Does paying off your mortgage make sense under the new tax law? Why you shouldn’t cash out your 401(k) when changing jobs This is the age when Clark Howard plans to start collecting Social Security Related Articles from clark.com: Discover is eliminating another credit card benefit in 2018 Read More Search Read More Need more cash? | 35 easy ways to make extra money each month Read More
  • Are you a mid-to-late-career professional who has been out of the workforce for a while? There may be a new opportunity for you to get back in through a new employment model called a “returnship.” RELATED: Love to travel? Delta is hiring 1,000 flight attendants! Returnships: An internship for older professionals that pays Many employees who were mid- or late-career during last decade’s recession had a bullseye on their backs. Though illegal, age discrimination was rampant at that time as employers looked to shrink their labor costs by letting people go. “In 2010, I remember doing a TV special with people who were all over 50 who had been canned from their jobs,” money expert Clark Howard says. “And I remember being exhausted after the broadcast because I didn’t have a lot of good answers or cheer to spread.” But now there’s a flip going on in the workplace, where employers are once again interested in employees who have some years of experience under their belts. Many mid-career workers, particularly those who are about 45 years or older, are getting their foot back in the door by doing what are being called “returnships.” Mashable reports that some 160 or so companies have such programs, which typically consist of some technical training, soft skills training and one-on-one interaction with a mentor. A few examples of companies with returnship programs include IntuitAgain.com, with a paid 16-week regimen, and Deloitte’s Encore Program, which is an 11-week paid program. Many of the returnships are geared toward women who left tech jobs to start families and now want to return to their previous careers, according to Mashable. iReLaunch.com and Path Forward are clearinghouses that have popped up online to keep track of the emerging world of returnship opportunities. “It’s not every company, but it is a clear change going on in employment, so it can have real benefit to you,” Clark says. “Once you get inside a company, the odds that it will lead to ongoing employment at that company are really high.” “If you felt you would never again find a place that respected your skills and paid you what you are worth, think again. It is a new opportunity now. Employers need workers who know what they’re doing so badly right now.” More Clark.com job search resources:  Work From Home Guide: A list of legitimate work-at-home job opportunities MTurk review: How to make money online with Amazon Mechanical Turk Top recruiters share 5 strategies for landing a work-from-home job Related Articles from clark.com: Discover is eliminating another credit card benefit in 2018 Read More Search Read More Need more cash? | 35 easy ways to make extra money each month Read More
  • Sometimes the right tool is all it takes to get your spending under control. Budgeting apps like Mint, Personal Capital and YNAB (You Need a Budget) are popular, but they also ask you to provide bank login information to track your expenses. Not everyone is comfortable with handing over that sensitive information, but there are other options… RELATED: How I saved an extra $1,000 with this simple receipt trick This free Google Sheets template makes it easy to stay on budget! Here’s how it works…  I’m always on the lookout for free budgeting tools that can help me manage my money more efficiently, and I think I’ve found a great one with a template that’s included with Google Sheets. If you’re not familiar, Google Sheets is a 100% free spreadsheet program offered by Google that’s similar to Excel. No matter what type of budgeting method you use, the standard template that comes with Google Sheets can be customized to work for your style — and you don’t need to be a spreadsheet pro. I’ve provided a few screenshots below to give you some tips and tricks that I’ve picked up since I started budgeting with Google Sheets. Read on for the details… 1. Find the monthly budget template When you open Google Sheets on your computer, you’ll see a few sample spreadsheets at the top. If you don’t see “Monthly budget,” expand the template gallery and scroll down. You can edit the existing budget template or make a copy by clicking “File” and “Make a copy.” 2. Customize the budget template The monthly budget template is pretty basic, but I still believe it’s a powerful tool. With just a few clicks of the mouse, you can customize it based on your preferences. Here are a few of the changes I made to the template for personalization: Clicked the orange “Monthly Budget” and renamed it Adjusted the starting balance in cell L8 Overhauled the expense categories to be more specific Added my projected income for the month Important note: The unedited budget template (see below) lists only three slots for custom expense categories, but you can continue adding rows if you need more of them. Monthly budget (unedited) 3. Track your income and expenses  When you go to the bottom of the Google Sheets monthly budget spreadsheet, you’ll see a tab for a second spreadsheet called “Transactions.” The neat thing is that as you add your income and expenses to this sheet, it will automatically update the other one. Transactions: Log your income and expenses 4. Download the Google Sheets app  I set up my Google Sheets monthly budget on a PC, but the app makes it easy to budget on the go. After making a purchase, I open the Google Sheets app immediately and use the “Transactions” spreadsheet to enter the date, amount, description and category of my expense. And whenever I get a paycheck, I go to the same spreadsheet and make a note of the income. I’ve recently been budgeting with cash using the envelope method for certain categories, so the ability to quickly track those expenses with the app saves me a lot of time. Have you tried Google Sheets to manage your budget? Let us know how you like it in the comments! More Clark.com stories you may like:  How I paid off my $86,000 mortgage in 2 years Mint.com review: 7 ways to get the most from the free budgeting tool Save 2 full paychecks with this simple budgeting trick Budgeting with cash: How to make the envelope method work Related Articles from clark.com: Discover is eliminating another credit card benefit in 2018 Read More Search Read More Need more cash? | 35 easy ways to make extra money each month Read More
  • Kimberly-Clark says it’s getting ready to roll out price increases across a variety of product lines beginning later this year and continuing into 2019. RELATED: Big changes are coming to 500 J.C. Penney stores before Black Friday Kimberly-Clark announces price hikes for Huggies, Kleenex, Viva and more Looks like the maker of Huggies diapers, Cottenelle toilet paper and Kleenex — among many other products — is keeping up with Joneses. Just two short weeks after competitor Procter & Gamble announced a round of new price increases, Kimberly-Clark has followed suit. “The increases will be implemented through changes in list prices and package counts and are necessary to help offset significant commodity cost inflation,” according to a new press release from Kimberly-Clark. That sentence is particularly telling. Of course, the part about “changes in list prices” is self-explanatory. It’s the mention of package counts, however, that is revealing. In plain English, talk about package counts likely means Kimberly-Clark is going to try to hide the price increases by keeping the price the same while reducing package size. It’s a tried-and-true ploy in retail that you have to watch if you want to protect your wallet. By the way, the remedy to fight back against this kind of subtle price increase is to always pay attention to the unit pricing of whatever you’re buying! So how much are prices going up by? Kimberly-Clark say most percentage increases will be in the mid-to-high single digits, on average. Which products will be more expensive? The press release notes the price hikes will apply to Cottonelle and Scott 1000 bathroom tissue, Kleenex facial tissue, Viva paper towels, Huggies diapers, Pull-Ups training pants and GoodNites youth pants. When will the price hikes take place? During the fourth quarter of 2018, you’ll see the price hikes go into place on two products — Cottonelle bathroom tissue and Viva paper towels. The rest of the hikes will wait until the first quarter of 2019. How to save money in the face of price hikes Just because the consumer products industry is getting ready to raise price across the board, it doesn’t mean you have to feel the pinch in your wallet! Here’s how to save money the next time you’re in the checkout line… Pick the store brand over the name brand Being loyal to big brands will cost you money. Store brands offer comparable quality at a lower price. Many retailers will refund your money if you try a store brand and don’t like it. But if you do like a store product, you save money every time you buy it. Buy one or more copies of the Sunday newspaper for the coupons If you want to remain loyal to name brands, you might as well save money on them. Buy the Sunday paper for the glossy RedPlum and SmartSource coupon circulars or visit RedPlum.com and SmartSource.com to print coupons for free. If you live in a metro area, you may be able to find free Spanish language newspapers in your town that have these inserts. (Be sure to leave copies for others too!) Check the clearance rack Talk to your store’s manager and find out where they keep the clearance items. Many stores will have a dedicated rack or shelf. It’s also helpful to know when new stock is added to the clearance rack or aisle. If you’re first to find it, you can score some real deals! Shop at the discount grocery chains Lidl and Aldi are two chains that offer low prices on an assortment of mostly store brands. They can save you up to 50% off your grocery bill if you’re used to shopping at traditional supermarkets. Shop the salvage stores Salvage stores are a unique category of retail that sells canned food and other goods that’s past expiration date. That might sound gross, but many foods have longer lifespans than you’d think and they sell at a steep discount after the official expiration date printed on the package. Find the salvage store nearest you in this directory. Use a cash-back credit card Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express offers 6% cashback on groceries, up to a max of $6,000 annually. But there are two caveats here: First, the card has a $95 annual fee you should know about. Second, you must be sure you pay your bill in full each and every month — or you’ll rack up more interest charges than you’ll receive in cash back! More Clark.com stories you may like:   7 things to know before you buy gas at Costco Wholesale Walmart Savings Catcher review: 7 things to know before you sign up 12 money-saving secrets to know about T.J. Maxx and Marshalls Related Articles from clark.com: Discover is eliminating another credit card benefit in 2018 Read More Search Read More Need more cash? | 35 easy ways to make extra money each month Read More
  • If you’ve ever ridden with an Uber or Lyft driver, you know that they have a great responsibility to ensure a safe and efficient ride. But to stay profitable on the road, new reports indicate that some of them are going to some extreme and gross lengths to pad their bottom lines — namely “vomit fraud.” That’s the term being used to describe a phenomenon in which rideshare drivers report fictitious incidents of drunken passengers throwing up in their vehicles, causing damage — at as much as a $200 a pop. Services like Uber and Lyft have terms of service which are in place to protect the driver’s property in such cases. ‘Vomit fraud’: Scam has some rideshare drivers falsifying damage claims These companies already have your credit card information, and the fine print allows them to bill you for cleaning should it be necessary. The issue most recently came to light in a Miami Herald article, which chronicles the stories of rideshare customers who have been falsely accused of trashing vehicles by purportedly leaving all kinds of fluids on the backseat and floor. At least one Uber driver reportedly admitted that he’s been staging photos of bogus barf in his back seat — and getting away with it for years. After a Grand Rapids, MIchigan, man complained to the Better Business Bureau of Western Michigan that he was fraudulently charged for a cleaning bill after a ride, local TV station WZZM reached out and got this response from Uber: “Participating in fraudulent activity of any kind is a clear violation of our Community Guidelines. We are constantly evaluating our processes and technology related to these claims and will take appropriate action whenever fraud may be detected.” Money expert Clark Howard says the problem with all this is that “there’s no verification” that the drivers are telling the truth about passengers throwing up in their vehicles. Of course, there are cases in which customers who have imbibed have genuinely upchucked inside an Uber or Lyft driver’s car. When that happens, it’s a bad deal, Clark says. “They’re not generating income, they’ve got to pay somebody to clean up the car, it does happen, but when drivers are trying to make a quick score … that is rotten terrible,” he says. So you may be wondering what recourse do you have when it comes to vomit fraud? Here are three ways to safeguard yourself and your money when it comes to dealing with this rideshare scam: Vomit fraud: Here are 3 ways to protect yourself Take a photo: Clark says photographic evidence is a good way to document how you left the car. “Just very quickly take a picture of the back seat of the vehicle to prove that it was clean and fine when you got out.” Check your credit card after an Uber or Lyft ride: After using a ridesharing service, scrutinize the credit card account that they have on file. That way, you can quickly dispute an unauthorized charge. Check driver ratings: Before riding with a specific driver, check their driver rating. If it appears to be lower than what you commonly see, be especially vigilant with the above two steps. More Clark.com stories you may like:  10 best family cars for 2018 Chevy, Shell program lets you pay for your gas in-vehicle The coolest cars for under $20K in 2018 The ‘Clark Smart’ steps to buying a new car Automakers, smartphone providers prep digital car key Related Articles from clark.com: Discover is eliminating another credit card benefit in 2018 Read More Search Read More Need more cash? | 35 easy ways to make extra money each month Read More
  • Most Millennials spend more money eating out than they save for retirement. That’s not good!; Auto-pay could be a disaster for your bank account. Clark tells you why to avoid it and how to pay your bills properly; Aldi is massively expanding their stores and their organic food selection. And their prices are still the best around. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices Watch the video