Category Archives: Finance


The College Application Advice I Wish Someone Had Given Me 


So your high school senior is in the throes of preparing his college applications. He’s retaking the SATs for the umpteenth time, hoping to squeeze out a few extra points there. He’s collapsing under the weight of the multiple AP classes that he felt compelled to take. And you honestly don’t see how to narrow his college list down from 25 schools, even though you know that applying to so many would be the definition of insanity.

Here is a list of eight things I wish I had known when my daughter was applying to schools last year.

1. The word “fit” gets bandied about quite a bit. It doesn’t mean what people tell you it means.

Fit, you will be led to believe, is whether the vibe of the campus matches up with your student’s goals and personality. Some campuses are perfect for save-the-world peaceniks like my daughter; others are better suited for the future engineers of the world. Fit is also sometimes interpreted as “don’t apply to schools in New York City if you find cities overwhelming.”

But “fit” in the truest sense of the word should probably mean “financial fit.” Can you afford it? If you can’t, don’t let your kid apply. Yes, it’s that simple. Would you book a vacation that you couldn’t pay for? Buy a car with no way to make payments on it? Rent an apartment that costs more than you bring home each month?  No, you wouldn’t do those things. So don’t do them with colleges either.

Shop in your price range. There is no point in applying just for the hell of it if you can’t afford it. The chances of your kid getting a “hail Mary” scholarship are pretty much zero to nil.

2. Getting accepted to schools is very affirming, but ultimately meaningless.

My daughter was admitted to pretty much every school she applied to, except one.

Sure, it felt great to open the email or envelope and read the news that she’s been selected. She certainly worked hard and earned those good grades and community honors. But do you know what they say about college acceptance letters? “That and $5 bucks will buy you a cup of coffee at Starbucks.”

Colleges are businesses. They sell you an education and a degree that will hopefully lead to a job and a means to a livelihood. A college acceptance is Bloomingdale’s telling you that you can shop there. Open your wallet wide. And if you don’t have enough in that wallet, the acceptance letter is just something to get the fire started in the fireplace.

3. Colleges have hidden costs.

With so much disclosure, I was shocked to learn about the hidden cost of health insurance. While it makes sense — and is the law — that every student carry health insurance, many colleges are quick to reject the idea that your son is still covered under your employer-provided family plan. Instead, some schools adapt the default position that they are going to provide Junior with health coverage — to the tune of about $2,000 or so a year — and will charge you for it upfront! Then you have to jump through hoops and prove to the college that he’s covered under your plan — with the same coverages as the school plan — and appeal to get your $2,000 back. Meanwhile, the school has your money.

Oh, and $2,000 may be a bargain. Stanford University’s Cardinal Care program costs $4,680 per year. Given that college students are probably the healthiest segment of our population, how is this even remotely right?

4. Scholarships are the cherry on the cake, not the cake itself. 

When a school costs $60,000 a year — or even $30,000 — getting a $500 scholarship really isn’t going to make much of a difference in your ability to afford it.

My daughter spent countless hours tracking down and applying for scholarships ― and she did pick up a few grand in outside money. Some scholarships require multiple essays, financial forms, and letters of recommendation from teachers, counselors and spiritual leaders. A few of them require as much effort to complete as the college applications. Others are so crazy narrow in who qualifies for them that it becomes a joke. We actually found one scholarship that was for “Undergraduate Jewish students who are orphans and preparing for graduate study in aeronautical engineering.” For real. And what’s the big prize? With the exception of a few national competitions where students can earn $10,000 a year, the vast majority of scholarships are in the $200 to $2,000 range. For a chance at winning $200, your kid’s time may be better spent babysitting.

The real scholarship money comes in the form of merit aid. A school will look at the student’s GPA and test scores and determine how much they want them to attend. Kids with really high scores get offered more aid. It’s that simple. So if affordability is a concern, it’s smarter to apply to schools where your kid is at the top of the class. Reach schools aren’t going to give you as much financial help as the ones where your student is a top applicant.

5. Love and merit aid may not last forever.

Merit aid is a college’s way of enticing the best students to accept their admissions offer. But it behooves you to read the fine print. It could mean they love your son now, but plan on breaking up with him next year. Merit aid is sometimes just a one-year deal. Sometimes, it is dependent on a student maintaining a certain grade point average, which seems reasonable enough. But what will happen to your ability to pay for college if merit aid disappears at the same time tuition and expenses likely rise? Just think about it.

6. Beware of Tuft’s Syndrome.

Colleges want to appear highly selective and don’t want to be rejected by those who they do admit. Having a high yield — meaning the percentage of the students who they offer admission to who actually chose to come to that school — enhances a school’s desirability. Tuft’s syndrome is when a school protects its yield by waitlisting or denying admission to over-qualified applicants. The logic is that the over-qualified applicant likely won’t wind up at that school, so why not skip him in favor of someone who has a keener interest in actually attending.

So Junior may get waitlisted or rejected by a safety school where his GPA and test scores vastly surpass the average — and yet get admitted to a much harder college. How do colleges know they were his “just in case Harvard says no” school? Well, for one, they actually gauge an applicant’s interest. Did the student come for a campus tour? Did they ask for an interview or stop by to introduce themselves when the college rep visited their high school?

And, college admissions officers have been around the block a few times. Unless there is some expression of interest or reason shared (mom is sick and I want to stay close to home), nobody likes to be the fourth person you asked to the prom.

As for why this practice is named after Tuft’s University, well, we can only guess.

7. Waiving the application fee should not be interpreted as interest in a student.

Silly you, for thinking a college wants your daughter so much that they waived the $65 application fee for her. In most cases, what the college really wants is to be able to say it got a large number of applicants. And there is no better way to do that than to plant the idea that since this is now free, you have nothing to lose. And maybe you don’t.

8. At the end of the process, it’s best to just go Zen.

For real. The college application process is one of those things where the best laid plans of mice and men may just lead you in circles. Try not to worry about it too much. There are lots of paths to get to a goal. The beauty of picking a college is that if your student winds up not being happy there, the world won’t end; he transfers and you revisit the idea of community college which continues to make great sense.

Source: The College Application Advice I Wish Someone Had Given Me

Seating secrets: How airlines decide what fare you pay

Anyone who’s lost an evening researching flight deals knows that airfare pricing can seem pretty random — high one week, low the next and long-distance often cheaper than short-haul.

There’s a method behind the madness, though.
It’s called airline revenue management: the science of adjusting fares dynamically and in real time so that airlines can maximize their revenue.
And it’s not just a case of simple supply and demand.
Airlines now rely on ever-more sophisticated software that takes into account a broad range of factors, from overall conditions across their global networks, right down to the individual preferences of their passengers.
The evolution of airline pricing techniques
It hasn’t always been like this.
For most of aviation history, airlines operated in a tightly regulated, uncompetitive environment, where air fares usually cost a small fortune.
Discounted tickets weren’t unheard of, but usually came with lots of strings attached, such as having to spend a certain number of nights at the destination.
International routes were usually operated by the flag carriers of the countries involved, who would take a gentlemanly approach to competition and fare-setting.
Deregulation — a global liberalization trend which began with the US Deregulation Act of 1978 — swept everything before it, from the industry structure to the way we think about air travel and airline fares.

Fiercely competitive

It’s now all about revenue management, says Robert W. Mann, a consultant and former airline planning executive.
And that’s something, he says, has become increasingly complex and fiercely competitive in the past few decades.
“The growth of the network airline and the drop in the cost of computing has brought revenue management to whole new levels of sophistication,”
“Techniques such as Expected Marginal Seat Revenue (EMSR) look at the best ways to optimize fares in real time, not only on a given route, but taking into account revenue-generating opportunities across the whole airline network”.
This is why, for example, flying from London to Dubai may cost pretty much the same as flying all the way to Manila, also via Dubai.
That’s because the airline may prefer to keep seats on the London-Dubai leg for higher-value passengers that fly longer onward journeys, and will use pricing to discourage those aiming to fly shorter trips.

Customer profiling

But how does the airline know who the higher-value passengers are and how much to charge them?
Stuart Barwood, founder of Travercial, an airline consultancy firm, says airlines can make a number of reasonable assumptions about the profile of traffic on a certain route and then adjust their prices accordingly.
“The London to Majorca route, for example, has a marked leisure profile. This has implications not only for fare levels but also for the way pricing changes over time.
“If the airline assumes that leisure passengers will tend to book relatively early, months before their holidays, it may be tempted to start pricing seats on that route relatively high. It would then adjust them according to the market response.
“Meanwhile on a typical business route — let’s say London to Frankfurt — the airline may start with low prices to fill a minimum of capacity, then raise prices steeply for business travelers that book at the last minute.”
In fact, those last-minute high-value passengers are so precious that some airlines go the extra mile to make room for them.
For example, a service developed by Barcelona-based company Caravelo helps airlines identify those passengers most likely to accept a flight swap in exchange for compensation, such as vouchers or frequent flier miles, and offers to rebook them on a later flight.
With space then cleared, the high-fare passengers are then booked onto the previously full flight.

Towards total customization

You might think of fare classes in terms of economy, business and first class, but the reality is airlines have dozens of subdivisions.
The airline will adjust the number of seats allocated to each fare class. When one class has been sold, the sale price will leap to the next one.
This is how most fares are currently set, but it’s still some way off from the ultimate goal: Airlines want to know their clients so well they’re able to offer fully personalized pricing.
Loyalty programs, registered users and cookie tracking can give airlines some valuable clues, but even when an airline has gathered a lot of data about its passengers they still might not be putting it to profitable use.

Adding up the extras

“In reality, it is quite common for passenger data to be scattered throughout several functional areas within an airline, kept in data silos where it is of little use to the revenue management department,” says Barwood.
Airlines might be lagging behind the likes of Amazon when it comes to personalized marketing, but Barwood says many are getting up to speed with data management and this is already being felt in pricing and marketing.
Revenue management systems will increasingly take into account not only the air fare itself, but the total value a passenger can generate for the airline, including ancillary revenue.
That’s all the extras that can be added to your base fare, and it’s a growing source of profit.
Using seat choice as an example, many airlines now charge for the privilege of picking your seats in advance.
This could, in theory, be managed dynamically. Why not base seat prices on the occupancy of a given flight? Or charge less to members of your loyalty program?
This kind of profiling might be beneficial to the loyalty program customer in this instance, but what about when a frequent business traveler is then consistently shown higher fares when they’re trying to book a family vacation?
It could well prompt a backlash among the sort of high value customers that every airline hopes to retain.

Protecting the brand

The loophole letting passengers fly on the cheap

And while airlines may have good reasons not to overcharge their best customers, they also have to be careful not to undercharge the other classes of client.
The temptation is to aggressively lower prices when there are still empty seats left before a flight departs — but if this becomes the norm there’s a serious risk of undermining the brand and alienating higher-value passengers.
A number of companies, such as Bidflyer, Plusgrade and SeatFrog, have come up with applications that allow airlines to sell upgrades to the highest bidder through an auction mechanism — an efficient but anonymous way to get passengers to tell the airline how much they’re willing to pay for premium services.

Back to basics

The apparent randomness of airfares makes for an excellent conversation topic with friends and colleagues, but it can also be a source of anxiety for many travelers.
Perceptions that prices are immensely variable can add to the fear that customers may be overcharged for any extras they inadvertently purchase, or the worry that they might not be getting the best deal out there.
Which is why many airlines have opted for a different approach: go back to basics and offer branded fares — a bundle of services for a closed price.
This shouldn’t be confused with the rigid fare system that prevailed when the first low-cost airlines hit the scene.
This is more like an evolution of the low-cost fare system which lets customers choose the extras they want to add to the base fare.
This approach means re-bundling a bunch of services — from checked-in luggage to a wider, more spacious seat — into a number of fare package options of varying complexity, all selling for a set price.
Think of it as like the menu options at a fast food joint.

The airfare arms race

Airlines might have a whole battery of tools to help them extract the most revenue from their passengers, but travelers can also call on their own arsenal of technological countermeasures.
Companies such as Skyscanner and Kayak have introduced fare alerts which allow you to monitor fares for specific flights and get automated alerts the moment they change.
Some companies are also developing fare prediction technology that promises to help travelers book their flights at the optimal moment, when the fare is likely to be lower.
In order to do this they rely on their own algorithms, plus a heap of historical data on air fares.
California-based FLYR uses its own proprietary fare prediction technology to offer fare lock-in insurance in partnership with TripAdvisor.
This service is similar to buying a financial option where you pay a relatively small premium in advance, to make sure you won’t pay more than a certain amount at a later date.
It also works with travel agents and other distribution partners to optimize bookings.

Seizing the moment

FLYR’s founder, Dutch entrepreneur Alexander Mans, says that outside a 30-day window of a flight’s date of departure, there is a 60 to 70% chance that a specific air fare will drop in price at some point.
“It is practically impossible for someone to monitor this manually, but with our computing resources we can predict pretty accurately the chances of a fare coming down and advise on the best course of action.
“If we think a fare is going to be lower in the future, we recommend waiting, before hitting the ‘book’ button.”
Hopper is another company specializing in the field of airfare prediction. Its mobile app, which has been downloaded more than eight million times, uses big data technology to predict fares as much as 12 months in advance.
“Our system looks at six to eight billion air fares every day. Our database has five years of historical fares, that means trillions of prices!” Frederic Lalonde, Hopper’s founder and CEO, declares proudly.
He claims their algorithms are capable of accurately predicting an airfare within $5, up to six months before departure.
“We are confident enough in our system to predict actual figures and to tell our customers whether they are getting a good fare or not.
“We have tracked our accuracy to 95%. Whether people later follow our advice or not is another story…”
With this amount of computing power being thrown into the field of airline pricing and the expectation that artificial intelligence technology will go mainstream, it might ultimately be up to the robots to fight the airfare war.
This isn’t necessarily bad news — it may result in better choices and more efficient booking processes.
With virtually millions of different air fares — as many as the number of passengers airlines carry every year — what seems assured is that airline fares will continue to be a topic of conversation by the office cooler for years to come.

Source: Seating secrets: How airlines decide what fare you pay

6 Signs Your Wife Is Totally Fed Up With You 

Think your wife has grown bored with you? Read on. 

In any marriage or long-term relationship, you have to stay present. Unfortunately, far too many men take their partner’s satisfaction in the relationship for granted, said Sharon Gilchrest O’Neill, a marriage and family therapist and the author of A Short Guide to a Happy Marriage: The Essentials for Long-Lasting Togetherness.

“Many men don’t notice when their wives have disengaged,” she said. “Some wives wait to see if their spouses will care and notice the telling behavior. Husbands clearly need to take the initiative and engage.”

Below, Gilchrest O’Neill and other marriage therapists share some of the most revealing signs that wives have emotionally checked out of their marriages.

Marriage therapist Becky Whetstone said that husbands often come into her Little Rock, Arkansas office and tell her that their wives’ demeanor has changed, seemingly overnight. All too often, they haven’t picked up on tell-tale indicators that their wives are fed up.

“While trying to improve the marriage, she may have made requests of him that have been ignored, waved and danced around,” Whetstone said. “In most cases, the wife has reached a point where she has decided to turn her back on the marriage due to frustration and disillusionment with her husband.”

When your wife is unavailable or unwilling to have a real conversation about the state of your marriage, it may be a sign that she’s reached a breaking point, said R. Scott Gornto, a marriage therapist in Plano, Texas.

“Your partner has likely become emotionally numb,” he said. “When people have the energy to argue and discuss things, even through conflict, the relationship still has life.”

Marriage therapy could change the dynamic in your relationship for the better ― and if your wife is unwilling to go, it may even if be beneficial to go therapy alone, Gornto said.

“It might help you see what steps you need to take,” he said.

When you’re in love, you feel compelled to reach out and touch your partner, even if it’s just quick squeeze of each other’s hands while you’re walking down the street. Touch in itself helps release oxytocin, a hormone that helps us feel bonded and connected.

A lack of physical intimacy ― inside and outside the bedroom ― suggests something might be amiss in your marriage, said Isiah McKimmie, a couples therapist and sexologist in Melbourne, Australia.

“The avoidance of physical intimacy can extend beyond sexual intimacy to all forms of physical touch,” she said. “But touch is a way we signal love and connection to someone.”

To address this, McKimmie suggests having an open conversation with your wife about what she’s experiencing.

“Be willing to talk about underlying challenges. Don’t just pressure her for more physical connection, this is likely to have a detrimental effect,” she said.

While it’s healthy to have a life outside of the marriage, if lately it feels as though you’re living completely distinct, separate lives, it should be a red flag. If your wife continuously chooses her friends and hobbies over spending time with you, tell her it hurts, Gilchrest O’Neill said.

“As much as we should all have our individual interests separate from the things we do with our spouse, when a partner is not allowed in at all, not even minimally, something is wrong,” she said. “You need to show your interest and tell her that it’s not good for the relationship to be left out completely.”

Of course, your kids should be a priority in your relationship ― so should keeping your household running like a well-oiled machine. But if your daughter’s soccer match is the only thing you have to talk about when the two of you are alone, it’s time to refocus on the bond you share outside your kids, McKimmie said.

“Ask yourselves: When was the last time we sat down and had a conversation about life, emotions and just how our days were going?” she said. “If you’re not connecting anymore, let your partner know how much you value them and set aside time to spend together as partners, not just as parents. Make an effort to bring the romance and connection back.”

When you care for someone, you’re careful with your words: Sure, it may drive your wife up the wall that you leave beard stubble in the sink after shaving, but her request for you to clean up after yourself shouldn’t be an attack. If your wife jumps at the chance to call you out for your mistakes ― or makes frequent casual, condescending remarks at your expense ― your marriage may be in trouble, Whetstone said.

“It’s a red flag if your spouse speaks brutal truths,” Whetstone said. “Maybe she used to treat you with kindness and consideration but now she doesn’t bother editing herself with you and around others.”

Whetstone said this is distancing behavior and signals “a loss of hope for the relationship [your wife] has with you.”

She added: “If your spouse starts distancing and disconnecting from your relationship, you had better wake up and hear what she’s trying to tell you before it’s too late.”




Source: 6 Signs Your Wife Is Totally Fed Up With You

How to get Apple’s new iPhone 7 for free 


By Quentin Fottrell

Now may be the time to trade in your old Apple device
Reuters/Beck Diefenbach
Tim Cook discusses the iPhone 7 during an Apple media event in San Francisco on Sept. 7, 2016.
It’s “iPhoneapalooza” time again.

Apple unveiled details of the new iPhone 7 at an event on Wednesday. Once again, resale sites have reported a surge in trade-ins of old iPhones ahead of the announcement, but they expect trade-in prices to drop in the days after the big event. For now, though, consumers can still lock in high enough prices to break even — or earn a profit — by trading in their old gadget and upgrading to a new phone.

The iPhone 7, depending on the carrier, is expected to cost around $31 a month for 24 months for a 32-gigabyte version, experts say. With most offers, it’s possible to sell an old iPhone to a resale site or online retailer for more than the cost of the new phone, although you will need to sign a two-year contract. And note that those who bought an iPhone 6S or 6S Plus last year and still have time left on their current contract would likely have to pay an early termination fee. Some 55% of people that currently own an iPhone plan to purchase the iPhone 7 by the end of the year, according to a recent survey by resale site NextWorth, which obviously has a vested interest in consumers selling their old devices.


Apple said that the new iPhone 7 still comes in two screen sizes — and, therefore, compete with the larger Androids — will be water resistant (if you drop it in a pool or toilet bowl and quickly fish it out) and won’t have a headphone jack. It has a significantly improved camera. The new iPhone 7 also comes in new colors and will have a dual zoom camera lens. (Read MarketWatch’s live blog, detailing the event.)

The resale market became more lucrative for consumers with the added competition last year after Apple AAPL, -2.26% and Wal-Mart WMT, -2.13% entered. Resale site Glyde offers $409 for a 16-gigabye iPhone 6S (or $326 for a 6) and $447 for a larger 6S Plus (or $355 for a 6 Plus). Another such site NextWorth offers up to $350 for the 16-gigabye 6S in pristine condition (or $245 for a Plus), and up to $364 for the 6S Plus with the same memory (or $285 for a 6 Plus). And rival Gazelle offers up to $300 for the 16-gigabye iPhone 6S and up to $200 for the iPhone 6 (and a maximum of $325 for the 6S Plus).
For gift cards only, Amazon AMZN, -3.05% will give you around $350 for an unlocked 16-gigabyte iPhone 6S , although prices vary depending on condition and carrier, while Apple will give you up to $225 for an iPhone 6 and $250 for an iPhone 6 Plus (Apple doesn’t currently offer trade-ins for the 6S models online). At Walmart stores, the value for an iPhone 6S 16-gigabye is roughly $275 to $300, depending on the carrier; for the 6S Plus, a 16-gigabye has a trade-in value of $325 to $350.

“We expect around a 15% decline in pricing for old iPhone models around the expected September launch,” says Glyde spokesman Matthew Reardon. “If people have a replacement phone they can use between now and the launch, it’s a great time to sell.”

But for consumers who have second thoughts about upgrading, some resale sites allow you to hang on to your phone after agreeing to a trade-in deal. NextWorth and Gazelle give customers a 30-day grace period between signing a contract and handing over their phone. (Glyde has no grace period as it’s a peer-to-peer seller.)

As Apple’s new-device releases become more frequent, the company must work harder to convince people to upgrade each year, says Brian Colello, technology analyst at research firm Morningstar. While the smartphone market is getting saturated in the U.S., the iPhone 7 will likely have a big impact, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook is hoping that the upgrades and fanfare surrounding the iPhone 7 upgrade will put pressure on Samsung.

Thus far, resale sites have been reporting a surge of trade-ins for all of the most recent models. Resale site says there has been 73% increase in sales in the past month alone, and is predicting an influx of iPhone 6 and 6s models following Apple’s press conference on Wednesday.

Source: How to get Apple’s new iPhone 7 for free –