7 Father’s Day Sales Worth Shopping

Father and daughter playfully hug and kiss
June’s a busy month — it brings the last day of school, official beginning of summer and Father’s Day. But while you’re busy trying to beat the heat (or keeping your children entertained), don’t forget to find dad something special for his holiday. Fortunately, the following stores are running sales that are sure to help you get more bang for your buck, as well as a gift suited for every dad on your list.

Overstock

This online retailer has something for just about every father. It also has that mythical thing called good customer service (I would know, since they recently helped me fix an order I messed up). If you want to get dad something special, Overstock’s Father’s Day sale section, which has a wide assortment of products up to 50 percent off, is a good place to start. I especially recommend you check out the selection of gifts under $50.

Sports Authority
If your dad is the sort who believes idle time is wasted time, then consider Sports Authority’s Father’s Day Sale. My dad happens to be a golf nut, so I’m pretty excited about the $20 off $100 on select golf equipment, as well as free shipping when the order is at least $49. There’s also deep savings on bikes, sports apparel, heart rate monitors, fitness equipment, knives and more.

Sears

For the DIY Dad, it’s hard to go wrong shopping Sears’ Father’s Day Deals. Deals include up to 50 percent off tools, as much as 20 percent off power lawn and garden equipment and 25 percent off certain grills. Look online for coupons to maximize your savings and even score free shipping. Just try not to ask him to start checking things off of your fix-up list — at least not until his weekend is over.

Macy’s

Ties may be passe, but that doesn’t mean you can’t buy dad something to kick his style up a notch for Father’s Day. Macy’s has a large selection of apparel, watches, shoes and even cologne for the dad with the discerning eye. It also is offering free shipping when you spend at least $99. If you’re worried about getting your gift in time for Father’s Day, Macy’s guarantees it will be there on time if you place your order by June 16. And with prices slashed 40 percent or more, now’s the time to buy the top brands normally out of budget’s reach.

Cabela’s

With gear for fishing, camping, hunting and more, Cabela’s is a smart choice for the outdoorsman. Save up to 50 percent and look for items that ship for free. In addition to all the outdoors stuff, Cabela’s now also sells drones and accessories. Just be warned — if dad pays the store a visit, he may not emerge for a good while.

Best Buy

The gadget junkie will appreciate something from Best Buy. It sells smartwatches, drones, smartpens, Bluetooth-enabled devices and even a pop-up hot dog toaster (yes, really). Whatever it may be, Best Buy not only has a great sale, it also has a price-match guarantee in case you see a lower price elsewhere later.

J.C. Penney

If punctuality is important, then dad will probably appreciate a good watch. J.C. Penney has a solid selection of watches from top brands including Citizen, Casio and Seiko for 20 percent off. It also has smartwatches and activity trackers. Is it really possible for dad to have too many watches?

Of course, there’s always a way to squeeze more savings out of even the best sale. The easiest and most obvious way is to use coupons; some stores won’t let you use a coupon on top of sale prices, but it never hurts to check. And if they won’t let you use a coupon on the product itself, you may be able to add a free shipping coupon to save a bit more. If you can’t find a free shipping coupon code, look up the store’s policies to see if it offers free ship-to-store.

Another way to find extra savings is to look into your rewards or cardholder perks. Oftentimes companies offer loyal customers deeper sale discounts or early access to sales. A little research can yield big savings.

8 Fridge Organizing Tricks That Save Food and Money

interior view of a messy refrigerator ice box
How you arrange your refrigerator can affect how food tastes and how long it keeps.

So investing a little time into organizing the fridge can spare you from losing money to prematurely spoiled food — and extra trips to the grocery store.

Fortunately, implementing the following tips will cost you only a few minutes.

1. Keep things at eye level. The average American spends $522 a year on food that goes to waste, according to the latest estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. (Check out “13 Simple Ways to Stop Wasting Food — and Money” for more.)

“Out of sight, out of mind” can be costly when it comes to the refrigerator. So, store produce near eye level if you’re prone to forgetting what’s in the crisper drawers until it’s already spoiled.

It also helps to store healthier foods at eye level if you’re on a diet or have a habit of reaching for the least healthy option when searching for a snack.

2. Don’t store perishable foods in doors. The doors are the warmest part of the fridge, according to the Ohio State University Extension. So store items like condiments and juice there and keep foods like eggs and meats inside the fridge.

3. Avoid cross-contamination. Poor fridge organization risks the spread of infection-causing bacteria from one food to another.

The Kitchn blog reports that professional kitchens and restaurants store foods based on how much cooking they require to be eaten safely. Foods that require cooking at the highest temperatures are stored in the lowest parts of the fridge.

So raw eggs or raw chicken, for example, should be stored on shelves that are lower than shelves where leftovers and ready-to-eat snacks are kept.

4. Keep fish in the back. This is the coldest part of the fridge, according to the Ohio State University Extension, and fish stored at 2 degrees Fahrenheit will keep for twice as long as fish stored at 41 degrees. The extension recommends storing fish in zipper-lock bags on ice in the back of the fridge.

5. Avoid overcrowding the fridge. Foods can’t chill properly without cold air circulating around them, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. If you can’t create enough room in a jam-packed fridge, the freezer can store foods like breads and many fruits and vegetables.

6. Get creative with unusual tools. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box when organizing your refrigerator. For example, a shower organizer can help you keep things where they need to be. Smaller caddies designed to be stuck to shower walls can also be stuck to fridge walls to add vertical storage or to corral small items.

A lazy Susan is especially helpful on shelves that have a low clearance, making it harder to reach items in the back.

You can also corral items into plastic bins. This makes it easier to access foods in the back, especially if you use deep storage containers that can easily be pulled out. Use bins made of dishwasher-safe plastic so you can easily clean them.

7. Know what not to refrigerate. Bananas, lemons, limes, melons, potatoes and tomatoes are among the foods that should be kept out of the fridge, according to the Food Network. Their taste and texture undergo “strange changes” when they’re stored at too cold of a temperature.

8. Beware of ethylene

Some types of produce emit this odorless and invisible naturally occurring gas as they ripen, according to Washington State University’s Tree Fruit Research & Extension Center. Ethylene can also cause other produce to ripen, so keep ethylene-producing foods away from ethylene-sensitive foods to avoid premature spoiling.

Real Simple magazine and The Kitchn report that ethylene producers include:

  • Apricots
  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Cantaloupes
  • Honeydew melon
  • Kiwi
  • Mangoes
  • Nectarines
  • Papayas
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Plums
  • Tomatoes

Ethylene-sensitive foods include:

  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplants
  • Green beans
  • Lettuce and other leafy greens
  • Potatoes
  • Squash
  • Watermelon

Monthly Payments Are No Way to Gauge Car, House Purchases

car loan application with car...
Consumers who view the monthly payments as a guide to determine how much to spend on a new house or car are making a mistake, because many people tend to overspend when using this logic.

While the lower payments mentioned by a real estate agent or salesperson may sound like a good idea, both purchases have many hidden costs that can put most shoppers over their ideal debt-to-income ratio of 40-to-60 — meaning home and car payments in total do not equal more than 40 percent of household income. “There are two people who should never define your capacity to afford a loan: the salesperson and the lender,” said Bruce McClary, spokesperson for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization. “It is up to you to determine if the loan you have been approved for is going to be affordable.”

How Much to Spend on a Car

Too many consumers have high monthly car payments, because they purchased vehicles out of their price range. Don’t be lured by the gimmicks of advertisers of low interest rates. Some experts recommend following the “20/4/10” rule which calls for a 20 percent down payment, financing lasting no longer than four years and no more than 10 percent of a person’s gross income to be devoted toward the principal, interest and insurance.

The dangerous habit consumers have is they shop on the basis of the monthly payment without adequate consideration for the total costs they are going to incur over the term of the loan.

“The dangerous habit consumers have is they shop on the basis of the monthly payment without adequate consideration for the total costs they are going to incur over the term of the loan,” said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for by Bankrate, the North Palm Beach, Florida-based financial content company.

One rule of thumb to follow is to avoid taking out a car loan for more than five years. If you chose a longer term, then it is a “sign that you are biting off more than you can chew,” McBride said. Think about how long you want to keep the car, because if the loan term is longer, then you are headed for trouble. Avoid stretching out the term of the loan so you can lower your monthly payments.

Although many people do not have a lot of spare cash for a down payment, putting down 10 percent for a new car and 20 percent for a used car will give you a “cushion considering the rapid depreciation after you buy the vehicle,” McBride said. Just because you canpurchase a car with a minimal or no down payment, it is still a good idea to make one because you will pay less in interest. Used cars require a larger down payment, because they are more prone to breaking down.

Factor in your costs for a warranty, sales tax, gas, insurance, maintenance and repairs that you will incur. A shorter loan means that the balance of the loan will decrease faster than the rate of depreciation of the car or truck, McClary said. Although some reports have found that the average consumer spends 11 percent of his household budget on a car payment, the recommended allowance is 8 percent or less, he said.

Other drivers aren’t even remotely close to achieving these rules and are compounding the problem by rolling over negative equity from their trade-in. If you still owe money on your previous car, meaning that you are underwater on the loan, the result is that the negative equity gets rolled into the new loan. If you still owe $2,000 from your previous loan, then the $25,000 car becomes a $27,000 auto loan.

“The moment you drive off the lot, it’s no longer worth $ 25,000 and depreciates dramatically to a market value of $20,000,” McClary said.

The best advice for consumers trying to tackle other debt such as student loans or credit cards is to keep a car for a longer period.

“Life without car payments is good,” McBride said. “You want to get to that point where you are no longer on the treadmill of monthly payments. Keep your car and drive your way out of debt.”

Many lenders are less merciful when it comes to missing a car payment and repossession is more likely to be on the table. Some lenders will repossess the vehicle “as soon as a payment is missed in some cases,” said McClary.

What to Spend on a Home

Although a mortgage lender will approve you for a loan that is much higher than you can afford, it does not mean you should go for it. Homeownership can be costly, with added fees such as mortgage insurance, property taxes, house insurance, maintenance and a homeowner’s association fee.

Some real estate agents will tell you thatobtaining a mortgage for two or three times your salary is an adequate guideline, but in some cases that is far too generous.

The problem is that people want the “biggest, nicest house they can get,” said McBride. “There is that tendency to borrow as much as you are able to, and it’s not always a good financial decision.”

During the previous housing boom, many consumers found themselves in trouble, because they only focused on the monthly payment and compared it to their rental payment cost. What was lacking was a consideration for what occurred down the road such as when the interest rate of a homeowner’s adjustable rate mortgage rose without a commensurate salary boost.

The best method to measure if the price of a house is affordable is to base it on a traditional 30-year fixed rate mortgage, McBride said.

“If you can’t afford a payment on a 30-year mortgage, you’re not looking at the wrong loan, you are looking at the wrong house,” he said said.

Consumers shouldn’t devote more than 30 percent of their income to a mortgage payment, which includes property tax and insurance. To boot, the amount of the mortgage shouldn’t be more than three times your gross salary, McBride added.

Bringing It All Together

The best approach is for consumers to allocate no more than 10 percent of their income to an auto loan and 30 percent to a home. Many mortgage lenders won’t approve potential homeowners if their total debt exceeds 43 percent of their income. This means that student loans and credit cards should be factored into the equation as well, McBride said.

“That’s why it pays to keep these ratios low because it’s not the payment you don’t have today, but the ones you might have in a few years,” he said.

Mortgage lenders tend to be more tolerant if you miss one or two payments. While a foreclosure typically can’t start until your mortgage is at least 120 days past due, it is a serious problem, said McClary.

10 Ways You’re Blowing Your Paycheck Before You’re Even Paid

Visualize Saving!
It’s not easy to keep track of where your money is going each month (though a budget is a great place to start). Still, if you want to regain any sort of financial freedom and start saving for future goals — remember retirement? — you’ll need to stop blowing through your paycheck.

We’ve rounded up 10 sneaky ways your money is leaving you before you even have a chance to use it. Read on to see how you can keep more of your paycheck for yourself next month.

1. Bank Fees. Many banks charge a monthly or yearly “maintenance fee” that can cost you upwards of $25 a month, or $300 a year. Read the fine print associated with your bank account and find out if there are ways you can avoid a maintenance fee. If you can’t, switch to an account without one.

Other bank fees can also add up fast. The average overdraft fee will run you about $30, according to a Moebs Services report — if you overdraw at least once a month, you’re paying $360 a year just in penalty charges. Other sneaky bank fees to watch out for include ATM fees, withdrawal penalties and minimum balance fees.

2. Recurring Payments for Services You’re Not Using. Netflix ($7.99 a month), Hulu Plus ($7.99 a month), Spotify ($9.99 a month) and other recurring monthly services allow you to watch movies and shows, listen to music, and indulge in other media for a lower rate than cable (which can run you over $100 a month) — even combined. Still, if you aren’t taking advantage of these services, you aren’t getting your money’s worth.

Services like Pandora, YouTube and the basic version of Hulu allow you to watch and listen for free. Cut these monthly recurring payments in favor of cheap or free alternatives and reroute the money to your savings account.

3. Outstanding Credit Card Balances. If you maintain a balance on your credit card, you’re signing away a portion of your paycheck before you even get paid. The average interest for credit cards is hovering around a whopping 15 percent, which means you’re paying $15 for every $100 that isn’t paid off at the end of each billing cycle. These fees can drain your paycheck extremely fast, especially if you’re maintaining a high balance.

You’ll owe a mandatory minimum payment every month your credit card has a balance. The minimum allows you to pay interest and a portion of the principal so you can eventually get out of debt — but the fastest way to stop paying any interest each month is to pay off your balance in full.

4. Car Payments. Last year, new cars averaged a price of $31,831, according to TrueCar. That means, depending on your interest rate and loan term, you could end up shelling out $500 or more a month in car payments — a huge chunk of your paycheck.

Used cars, on the other hand, only averaged $16,335, cutting your monthly payment almost in half. If you have a high-interest rate auto loan, you can also try to refinance for a lower interest rate or trade your car in for a cheaper model.

5. Student Loans. Student loans can vary widely depending on where you went to school, how many loans you took out and what kind of interest rates you got — but they can easily be a huge drain on your income. The average student graduates college today with more than $30,000 in student loans, according to a report by Edvisors.

One way to reduce the amount of interest you pay is to consolidate your loans into one single payment with a lower interest rate. You can also negotiate a payment plan with your lender if you’re unable to meet the minimum monthly payments — but be careful that you don’t harm your credit score in the process.

6. Gym Memberships. Gyms, spas, shopping clubs and other monthly memberships are great for health, socializing and buying in bulk — but they can be awful for your budget, adding up to hundreds a month. If you aren’t using your memberships as often as you’d like, it might be time to cancel that monthly payment and find a cheaper (or free) alternative.

Gyms and spas are highly competitive, which means you can almost always find something cheaper. Certain gyms, community centers and nonprofits (like the YMCA) offer low-cost options ranging from $10-$50. Additionally, newly opened gyms and spas will often run promotions to encourage new business.

Otherwise, skip the group workout altogether and do it from home: Try one of these 10 cheap fitness apps.

7. Unused Coupons. Coupon sites like Groupon and LivingSocial are great resources for finding deals and discounts on products, services and experiences. But these deals are only worth it if you would have bought the service anyway. A 2013 North American Technographics survey found that the average Groupon user spends about $675 online within three months — compared to just $467 spent by the average consumer.

Since you pay for the coupon upfront, it’s up to you to follow through and use it. Unused coupons eventually expire and become difficult to redeem, which means you forked over a big portion of your earnings and didn’t actually save any money.

8. Phone Payments. That fancy new iPhone 6 you just bought set you back by hundreds of dollars — and upfront costs aside, you’ll also be making monthly payments that could range anywhere between $40 or $50 and hundreds of dollars. Unless you realistically and regularly use 128 GB of space and 10 GB of data, you’re overpaying for your phone and phone plan.

Alternative carriers like Republic Wireless will sell you phones and service plans for a lot less. And if you’re willing to part from the latest Apple product, you’ll save even more by choosing a cheaper (if slightly less flashy) phone.

9. Taxes. Unfortunately, taxes are a paycheck deduction that you can’t avoid. Still, by adjusting your W-4 form, you could maximize the amount of cash you get to keep each month. If you tend to get a large refund each year, you’re a prime candidate for keeping more of your money each paycheck (and forgoing the big payout April 15).

Additionally, when you do your taxes, make sure you’re taking advantage of the full range of deductions and credits available; don’t leave money on the table that should be going straight to your savings account.

10. 401(k) Contributions. It’s incredibly important to start saving for retirement now — and you should try to set aside as much savings as possible. Still, it doesn’t make sense to put aside so much that you’re going into debt or overdrawing your checking account in order to make ends meet at the end of the month.

Sit down, write out your budget and find the perfect number to contribute to your retirement accounts each month. If your employer matches a certain amount (say 3 or 4 percent), you should aim to contribute at least that much — you don’t want to be leaving money on the table. Keep in mind that your retirement savings should always be a priority; if you’re having trouble padding your 401(k) while still buying groceries, it might be a sign you need to cut down in other areas of your budget — specifically, “wants,” like dining out or going shopping.

Carlyle Weighs U.S. Real Estate Expansion, Rubenstein Says

Carlyle Group Co-Founder David Rubenstein

Carlyle Group LP, the world’s second-biggest manager of alternatives to stocks and bonds, may add a real estate offering targeting about 10 percent returns, co-founder David Rubenstein said.

Carlyle is evaluating whether clients would be receptive to a so-called core-plus strategy in real estate, Rubenstein said at Morgan Stanley’s financials conference Tuesday in New York.

“We are looking seriously at the core-plus business,” said Rubenstein, Carlyle’s co-chief executive officer. “Core-plus is likely to be a very great growth business in real estate, critically in the United States. Nine to eleven percent, because interest rates have been so low, is a very attractive range for a lot of investors now.”

Core real estate includes high-quality, well leased properties such as prime office buildings, apartment towers and shopping malls. Core-plus refers to similar assets that might need extra work to boost values.

Blackstone Group LP, the biggest alternative investment firm, manages more than $5 billion in core-plus real estate after starting the offering in late 2013. The strategy may have $100 billion under management in a decade, Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman has said. The firm already oversees $93 billion in property.

Early Innings

“We’re in the very, very early innings in that business,” Jon Gray, Blackstone’s global head of real estate, said of the core-plus offering in a separate appearance at the conference Tuesday. “Out of the box, the performance has been good. If you could think about this three or four years from now, we would have these dedicated pools of capital that investors can park their money for a long term.”

Carlyle, which is based in Washington and manages about $15 billion in real estate, has predominantly focused on U.S. property for its opportunistic strategy, which it started in 1997. Opportunistic real estate investing typically targets returns of 15 percent to 20 percent. The firm’s international investments have fared less well, with one European property fund marked at 20 cents on the dollar.

Traditional Assets

Rubenstein also said alternative-asset managers, which include firms such as KKR & Co. and Apollo Global Management LLC, will increasingly move into traditional-asset management. These offerings would cater to clients seeking to cull the number of relationships with investment managers and also generate steadier fees for the firms, which public shareholders have historically viewed as more attractive than incentive-based earnings.

Carlyle’s stock has returned 59 percent, with dividends reinvested, over the past three years. Blackstone’s has returned 300 percent, Apollo’s has returned 144 percent and KKR’s has returned 140 percent.

“The biggest alternative firms will drift increasingly into doing some regular asset management,” said Rubenstein. “You tend to have more predictable fee income from regular asset management. That’s a trend you’ll see.”

Squeezed real estate firms eye asset sales, tie-ups

Squeezed real estate firms eye asset sales, tie-ups
Debt-laden real estate firms, their situation exacerbated by poor sales in the last financial year, are looking at asset sales and strategic partnerships to clean up their balance sheet.
With sales not expected to pick up for at least another 3-4 quarters, top executives of realty firms said the focus is to keep debt levels from going up further. The top 10 real estate firms by market capitalization had a total net debt of Rs.45,723 crore as on 31 March.
India’s largest developer by market capitalization, Delhi-based DLF Ltd, saw its debt rise by Rs.628 crore to Rs.20,965 crore in the March quarter from the preceding three months.
The company, in its investor presentation, said it plans to bring in private equity (PE) investors at the project level as strategic partners, and optimize its debt profile by issuance of debentures and commercial mortgage-backed securities.
Others are looking to sell assets.
Mumbai-based Housing Development and Infrastructure Ltd’s (HDIL) net debt is around Rs.2,950 crore, after the company consistently tried to reduce it through sale of non-core assets and exited businesses such as entertainment.
The firm has put up its land parcels in Hyderabad, Vadodara and Kochi on the block in the last few months, and is also hoping that cash flows from its new projects will bring in relief for the company.
“Our focus has been on reducing debt, and we want to bring it belowRs.2,500 crore this year. We have already brought it down from Rs.4,200 crore since September, 2013,” said Hari Prakash Pandey, senior vice-president, finance and investor relations, HDIL. The company expects around Rs.700-900 crore of cash flow to come in during this year.
Sale of land, joint ventures, and PE capital (which will be the last option, according to Pandey) are the ways the company is looking to reduce debt.
Residential sales hit a low in the past year. The National Capital Region (NCR), the country’s largest property market, has a pile-up of inventory that will take at least 78 months to clear, according to property consultancy Liases Foras Real Estate Rating and Research Pvt. Ltd.
In the past year, the BSE realty index has fallen 34.66% while the Sensex has gained 4.5%.
In a 19 April report, Fitch Ratings Ltd says it expects Indian property developers to reduce debt in a significant way by the end of next year as the country’s investment climate improves. The process of reducing leverage stalled in 2014 due to weak sales and slower cash collections on properties that were sold towards the end of 2014 and in early 2015, as developers introduced easy payment schemes to stoke demand.
Stocks of large real estate firms such as Unitech Ltd and DLF plunged last week on account of wobbly fundamentals and fears that the Reserve Bank of India would not cut its policy rate any more (after a 0.25 percentage point cut last week).
Unitech, which has a total debt of Rs.3,565 crore according to Bloomberg and posted a consolidated net loss of Rs.162.54 crore in the March quarter, said it has brought down its debt and other liabilities, including telecom-related liabilities, significantly during the last financial year, and that all its telecom-related debt has been repaid.
“Unitech has been focusing on scaling up its construction activities and expects to increase deliveries considerably during the current year. Contracted sales of Unitech from its existing projects will yield positive cash flows for the company as the construction progresses, enabling the company to service its loans and gradually bring down the overall debt,” a spokesperson said in the context of a steep fall in the stock’s price.
“Apart from liquidating assets, joint ventures with other developers are a good way to keep leverage levels in control,” said Ravi Ahuja, executive director at property consultancy Cushman and Wakefield India.
Some developers, who don’t want to spoil their brand image, are selling at deep discounts to PE funds, rather than to retail customers, Ahuja said.
For the year 2015-16, Ansal Properties and Infrastructure Ltd is trying to replace expensive debt with cheaper loans as the company also tries to ramp up construction and delivery to enhance customer confidence, apart from selectively monetizing some projects, said Sunil Gupta, chief financial officer of the company.
“Debt reduction strategy will actually depend on how the market performs, and if sales start picking up and cash flows come in,” he said.
Not just top listed developers, unlisted firms are also struggling with high levels of debt and trying to refinance existing debt by taking on fresh debt or selling apartments in bulk to PE funds to bring down inventory levels.
“Debt levels have increased to a life-time high for unlisted developers compared to corresponding cash flow availability,” said Sunil Rohokale, chief executive and managing director, ASK Group.
The only sustainable way out, though, would appear to be higher sales.
Bengaluru’s Prestige Estates Projects Ltd, which has around Rs.3,200 crore of debt, clocked more than Rs.5,000 crore of sales last year.
Venkat K. Narayana, Prestige Estates’ chief financial officer, said the primary concern of a developer should be how capital is being borrowed and what the repayment strategy is.
“As long your borrowing rates are in control and your debt is balanced with corresponding sales, it is a good situation,” he said.
Mumbai-based Indiabulls Real Estate Ltd (IBREL), which has a net debt ofRs.5,480 crore, said sales in 2014-15 were reasonably robust at Rs.2,037 crore, up from Rs.1,549 crore the previous year.
IBREL’s debt levels are primarily high on account of the acquisition of the 22 Hanover Square property in central London and around eight acres of land in Thane last year, for a total cash outflow of about Rs.2,050 crore.
The company has over 38 million sq. ft. of saleable area in ongoing projects and in the pipeline and over 1,000 acres of fully paid-for land available for further development, a spokesperson said.
“Going forward, the company plans to focus on execution and delivery of these projects and use the surplus cash flows” to reduce debt, the spokesperson added.

Could Pay-Per-Click transform your marketing campaign?

Whether you run an established business or are just starting out, you’ll already be aware that you need to establish a web presence in order to generate, and maximise, profits. No doubt you already have a website that informs prospective customers about your products or services, so now it’s simply a matter of sitting back and waiting for the orders to roll in.

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Image Credit
A website is not enough

If you think that simply creating a website and uploading it to the internet is sufficient to generate income then it’s time to brush up on your digital marketing techniques. The internet is a vast, sprawling web of information, and trying to lift your site above the others to attract visitors is a real skill.
You’ll already be aware of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) that utilises keywords, links and website content to raise your website’s profile in search engine results. Everyone wants to be at the top of the results page, but with the right campaign you could guarantee that your site is always top of the listings.
Pay-Per-Click is the hot new digital marketing trend which, if you get it right, can generate a huge increase in your sales figures. Get it wrong, and it could make a huge dent in your profits, so it pays to make sure that it’s done correctly.
How Pay-Per-Click works

A simple explanation of Pay-Per-Click (PPC) is that you bid to have your site listed on the front page of search engine results for specified keywords. This puts your site in a prime position to attract anyone searching for these words or phrases, bringing your products or services to their attention. When a visitor clicks on the link you pay the search engine a specific sum of money. There is a good introduction at the subject on the EConsultancy site.
Google is one of the most popular search engines currently in use, so getting your company on the first page is a necessity for any company wanting to generate maximum income. But before you rush in you need to make sure that you have a thorough understanding of the way the system works. Attracting visitors through the use of targeted keywords could rebound spectacularly if your visitors fail to be convinced by your site, but meanwhile you will be racking up costs for every time your campaign triggers someone to click on your listing.
Every business manager wants to keep outlay to a minimum, but this is one instance when it really pays dividends to get some expert assistance. You don’t have to part with thousands of pounds to hire the services of an adwords consultant in London, as many agencies such as elevate digital marketing for example, can tailor a specific marketing strategy that will significantly raise your online profile whilst generating high conversion rates.
PPC is an important part of a digital marketing strategy, but make sure you understand the full implications of paying to generate increased numbers of visitors to your site before you commit. The aim is to create high-quality leads, not simply generate visits, and professional help can help to avoid costly mistakes.

Efforts to Help Homeowners Fail Their Troubled Mortgages

Home Foreclosure Sign
The number of delinquent mortgages continues to fall, but the foreclosure crisis is still taking its toll on hundreds of thousands of borrowers.

Of the approximately 952,000 borrowers who are 90 or more days past due on their monthly payments, but not yet in foreclosure, 62 percent have already been through some form of home retention program, according to Black Knight Financial Services. They are, it seems, beyond help. Home retention programs were established by lenders and the government to work with borrowers to enable them to keep their homes.

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“The percentages do look significant,” said Ben Graboske, senior vice president of Black Knight’s data and analytics unit. He pointed to trends in the government’s modification program, which has given borrowers less relief of late.

In 2010, homeowners on average could have received a $530 monthly payment reduction. That has dropped to the $450 range today. Graboske said that it is a major reason you are not seeing better performance for these homeowners today.

Banks are also getting more aggressive in pushing delinquent loans through the foreclosure process, rather than offering more modifications. As home prices rise and demand surges, banks can sell the homes more easily in today’s market than they could during the height of the crisis. Retention actions are down 42 percent over past two years, but of the new modifications or payment plans, 70 percent have already been through one or even more modifications that failed, according to BKFS.

Banks are also favoring short sales more, rather than taking the home to final foreclosure and selling it. A short sale is when the bank allows the home to be sold for less than the value of the mortgage.

“The ongoing shift away from [final foreclosure] sales is a driver of improving home prices since bank-owned properties typically sell at a larger discount than short sales,” noted a new report from CoreLogic (CLGX). Distressed homes accounted for 12 percent of March home sales, according to the report, down from 39 percent at the peak of the foreclosure crisis.

The numbers still vary dramatically place to place. Ironically, Washington, D.C., where the federal loan modification program was born, led the nation with 67 percent of its seriously delinquent inventory having gone through some sort of home retention activity. Maryland, Georgia, Texas and Connecticut followed with each seeing 66 percent of their 90-plus-day delinquent inventory involved in a home retention action.

The government’s Home Affordable Modification Program, introduced in 2009 and recently extended, has offered just more than 1.8 million loan modifications to date. Banks and mortgage servicers have also done independent loan modifications, including millions of dollars in principal reduction and principal forgiveness.

Although the number of both delinquent loans and those in active foreclosure is down dramatically, they are still two and three times their precrisis norms, respectively, with 28 percent of the remaining foreclosure inventory located in just three states: Florida, New York and New Jersey, according to BKFS.

GE Further Slims Finance Business With $12 Billion Deal

A sign outside the corporate headquarter

NEW YORK — General Electric (GE) will sell its private equity business in a deal valued at about $12 billion as it refocuses on its core businesses and exits a banking sector now under stricter oversight.

The U.S. Sponsor Finance business, which includes Antares Capital, GE Capital’s lending business to private equity-backed middle market companies, will be sold to the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, alongside a $3 billion bank loan portfolio.

GE is looking to sell most of the assets of its $500 billion GE Capital over the next 18 months, but plans to keep the financing components that relate to its industrial businesses. The Fairfield, Connecticut, company is transforming itself back into an industrial conglomerate that makes large, complicated equipment for other businesses.

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Investors had long pushed for GE to get rid of its finance unit, though it had been extremely profitable, as federal regulations and tough market conditions made it less lucrative and at times, more risky.

GE spun off its consumer credit card business, Synchrony Financial, into a separate publicly traded company in July. It sold a 51 percent stake of NBC Universal to Comcast (CMCSK) for $13.75 billion in 2011. Two years later, Comcast bought GE’s remaining 49 percent stake in NBC Universal for $16.7 billion.

General Electric Co. spun off its insurance business into a separate publicly traded company, Genworth Financial Inc. (GNW), in 2004. It sold its reinsurance business to Swiss Re in 2006, and a year later sold its plastics business to Saudi Basic Industries Corp. GE sold silicones to private investment group Apollo Management for $3.8 billion in 2006 and sold its security business to United Technologies for $1.82 billion in 2010.

GE said Tuesday that it is on pace to execute sales of $100 billion by the end of the year.

The U.S. Sponsor Finance transaction is targeted to close in 2015’s third quarter.

The Most Popular Ages to Sign Up for Social Security

social security cards

You can sign up for Social Security at any time after age 62. However, your monthly payments will be larger for each month you delay claiming them up until age 70. Here is when most people start receiving Social Security payments, and how signing up at each age impacts your payout.

Age 62. The most popular age to claim Social Security payments is age 62, the earliest possible age you can sign up. However, the proportion of people signing up for Social Security at age 62 has been declining since the mid-1990s, according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College analysis of Social Security Administration data. Some 48 percent of women and 42 percent of men signed up for Social Security at age 62 in 2013, down from around 60 percent of women and 55 percent of men in 2005, CRR found.

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Social Security payments are reduced if you claim them before your full retirement age, which is typically age 66 or 67, depending on your birth year. If you sign up at age 62, you will get 25 percent smaller monthly payments if your full retirement age is 66 and 30 percent smaller payments if your full retirement age is 67. For example, a worker who would be eligible for a $1,000 monthly Social Security benefit at his full retirement age of 66 would get just $750 a month if he signs up for Social Security at age 62. “A lot of people just take it as soon as they can, and if you take it too early, you’re really leaving a lot of money on the table,” says Joel Shaps, a certified financial planner for Bedrock Capital Management in Los Altos, California.

Age 63. It’s relatively unusual to claim Social Security payments at age 63. Only 8 percent of women and 7 percent of men sign up for Social Security at this age, according to CRR. Monthly Social Security payments are reduced if you sign up at age 63, but by less than if you claim payments at age 62. A worker eligible for $1,000 monthly at age 66 would get $800 a month at age 63, a 20 percent pay cut. If your full retirement age is 67 you will get 25 percent less by signing up at age 63.

Age 64. Another rare age for people to claim Social Security benefits is age 64. CRR found that 8 percent of women and 7 percent of men claim benefits at this age. Social Security payments are reduced by 13.4 percent for those with a full retirement age of 66 and 20 percent for people with a full retirement age of 67. A $1,000 retirement benefit would be reduced to $866 for most baby boomers who sign up at this age.

Age 65. The full retirement age used to be 65 for people born in 1937 and earlier, but was then gradually increased in two-month increments to 66 for everyone born between 1943 and 1954. The full retirement age increases to 67 for everyone born in 1960 or later. Baby boomers who claim benefits at this age will see their payments reduced by about 7 percent, so a person eligible for $1,000 at age 66 would get $933 monthly starting at age 65. Members of Generation Y will see their payments reduced by 13.3 percent if they claim payments at age 65.

Age 66. This is the age when people born between 1943 and 1954 are eligible to claim unreduced Social Security benefits. CRR found just over a third of men (34 percent) and a quarter of women (27 percent) sign up for Social Security benefits at their full retirement age, which is the second most popular age to claim payments. “When you take it at your full retirement age, which for a lot of people retiring today is 66, there are no reductions in benefits,” says Christopher Rhim, a certified financial planner for Green View Advisors in Norwich, Vermont. For those who have a full retirement age of 67, you will get a 6.7 percent pay cut if you sign up for payments at age 66.

Age 67. People born after 1959 will be able to claim unreduced Social Security payments starting at age 67. And boomers who delay claiming their Social Security benefit until age 67 will get an 8 percent increase in their payments, which would boost a $1,000 monthly payment to $1,080.

Age 68. Baby boomers get 16 percent more if they claim Social Security payments at age 68, increasing a $1,000 Social Security payment to $1,160 a month. Members of Generation Y will get 8 percent more if they sign up for Social Security at 68.

Age 69. Those born in 1960 or later get 16 percent more by claiming their Social Security benefit at age 69, and baby boomers can boost their benefit by 24 percent. A worker could increase a $1,000 Social Security benefit to $1,240 by signing up at age 69.

Age 70. Baby boomers can increase their Social Security benefit by 32 percent by waiting until age 70 to sign up, boosting that $1,000 Social Security payment to $1,320 a month. People born after 1959 will get 24 percent more by claiming payments beginning at age 70. However, only 4 percent of women and 2 percent of men hold out until age 70, according to CRR.

“If the goal is to get as much Social Security income as possible, the way you get that is by claiming as late as possible,” says Alicia Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. “If you want a higher Social Security benefit, wait until 70.” After age 70 there is no additional increase for further delaying your Social Security payments.

Emily Brandon is the senior editor for Retirement at U.S. News. You can contact her on Twitter @aiming2retire, circle her on Google Plus or email her at ebrandon@usnews.com.