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Pay Dirt
A daily look at what we buy, how we spend, and the companies that do right - and wrong - by their customers.

Personal Finance - All posts in category Personal Finance

  • Jul 30, 2012
    4:55 PM ET

    Worried About ‘Rogue Movers?’ New Law May Help

    Consumers moving across state lines will soon get some extra protection from “rogue movers”: scammers who offer low bids, only to demand more cash once the truck is loaded.

    As part of the $105 billion transportation spending bill this month, movers will be required to provide any revisions to their estimated price — say, additional, unexpected boxes — in an itemized list before loading the shipment. If there is a change to the price, they have to release the goods to the consumer once 100% of the binding estimate, or 110% on a non-binding estimate, has been paid.

  • May 11, 2012
    1:31 PM ET

    Were Mom’s Flowers Up to Sniff?

    Did you get a good deal on a Mother’s Day bouquet for Mom?

    Consumers are expected to spend a collective $2.2 billion on flowers this weekend, according to the National Retail Federation. But no matter how one spends, they may not get their money’s worth.

  • Apr 6, 2012
    1:49 PM ET

    Do iPhones Make Us Narcissists?

    There’s no app for arrogance. Smartphone users don’t need one, says the author of a new book.

    Addiction to gadgets is a national malady, says Larry Rosen, whose book “iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession with Technology and Overcoming Its Hold on Us,” relates the social and psychological consequences of dependence on iPhones, Androids and Blackberrys. The average teenager sends and receives 3,417 text messages per month, according to Nielsen, or between 7 and 8 per waking hour. In another 2011 study carried out by Rosen, he found younger people’s anxiety escalates when they check their messages.

    Stalking Facebook and Twitter causes people to become more depressed and more narcissistic, Rosen says. “Social networking is a predictor of many disorders,” he says. All the talk of “me, me, me” on Facebook suggests social networking has gone too far, he says. Studies also show that one-in-three Generation Xers and one-in-six baby boomers constantly check their devices. Rosen offers some solutions: write a status update or tweet, then take a break. If the words “me” or “I” appear more frequently than “we” or “us,” he says it might be worth re-writing or even deleting it.

    We spoke to Rosen about the increasingly tight grip technology has over Americans:

  • Apr 3, 2012
    10:32 AM ET

    Why Americans Are Unhappy

    Les Misérables 2.0: the American consumer.

    That’s the theme of of Dean Bakopoulos’ second novel, “My American Unhappiness.” The book follows the personal and financial struggles of Zeke Pappas, a 33-year-old scholar who interviews Americans about why they are discontented for his pet project, the “Inventory of American Unhappiness.” Bakopoulos started writing this book in 2007 – just before the recession hit. “Like many people, Zeke was living pay-check-to-pay -check and was willfully ignorant about what was coming.”

    Bakopoulos, 36, a professor of creative writing at Grinnell College in Iowa, had his literary debut with “Please Don’t Come Back from the Moon” about the men of a small, depressed Michigan town who take off for the moon, leaving the women and children behind. And he has just finished a new yet-to-be-published book called “Evolve.” That too is another bleak commentary on American consumerism. The plot? Class warfare breaks out over an addictive new energy drink.

    In the spirit of Zeke’s “Inventory of American Unhappiness,” Pay Dirt asked Bakopoulos why he believes Americans need cheering up.

  • Feb 24, 2012
    4:16 PM ET

    Will American Consumers Regain Their Mojo?


    American consumers feel better about opening their wallets, according to new data. Whether they’ll actually remove any cash is another story.

    The University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index rose to 75.3 in February from 75 in January, according to a report released Friday — a sharp improvement on recent consumer confidence indexes.  In January, the Conference Board’s index of consumer confidence fell to 61.1 from 64.8 the month before. And the Deloitte Consumer Spending Index also continued on a downward trajectory for five straight months, which might explain why people are thinking twice about going shopping.

  • Feb 16, 2012
    2:38 PM ET

    Parking Meters in the Driveway

    About a year ago, we wrote about homeowners renting out rooms in their mansions to earn a bit of cash and potentially stave off foreclosure. Now there’s an easier, less intrusive way to pimp out your residence: rent your driveway.

    Getty Images

    In early March, will launch in the U.S., debuting in Northeastern cities like Boston, Philadelphia and D.C. The service helps match homeowners with drivers seeking parking in all types of locations – near commuter train stations, large sporting venues and conference centers. The site is already a hit in the United Kingdom, where more than 20,000 property owners earned money off their concrete. “We’ve all spent too much time driving around the block for half an hour trying to find a space,” says founder Anthony Eskinazi, who got the idea after circling streets for a spot at a San Francisco Giants game.

  • Feb 3, 2012
    5:44 PM ET

    Why Facebook’s Millionaires May Never Be Happy

    David Geller

    David Geller, author of “Wealth & Happiness: Using Your Wealth to Create a Better Life,” has over 25 years of financial planning experience and found that helping clients get richer hasn’t always meant they got happier. Seven years ago, Geller went through a divorce, a period of financial instability and questioned his own definition of happiness. “I felt like I was punched,” he says. “I thought, ‘What’s the point of my work?’ And so I became intensely focused – my second wife might use the word “obsessed” – about how to use your wealth to build a better life.” Rule No. 1: Write a book. Pay Dirt spoke to Geller about his secrets to happiness and why Facebook’s new IPO millionaires should be careful about their sudden windfall.

    Pay Dirt: What led you to write this book? Did you have a particularly bad set of clients who were never going to be happy?

    Geller: No, I don’t think so. The “aha” moment didn’t come from my clients directly. It wasn’t like I sat down one week and had four clients who were miserable. As I read more about wealth creation, it became clear that my clients weren’t using their wealth to make their life better.

    At what point should my income start to make me happier?

  • Feb 2, 2012
    12:43 PM ET

    Mild Winter Brings Deals for Travelers


    Unseasonably pleasant weather seems to be diminishing the desire by many to book a beach getaway. As a result, travel experts expect some especially good deals this month.

    This winter has been dramatically warmer than last year. December was one of the warmest on record, while January was also particularly mild, according to weather tracking firm Planalytics. As reported, this has led to discounts in winter wear, but it has impacted the travel industry, too. “Warmer winter months affects pricing, especially in the northeast where you have a bulk of the non-stop flights to sunny destinations,” says Gregg Mauss, who runs Expeditions-Redefined, a New York-based luxury travel firm. “When the weather is harsher, people get held up in their apartments – and that’s when they start booking vacations on their computers.”

  • Feb 1, 2012
    10:37 AM ET

    Lovers Value Dream House Over Dream Spouse


    It may not be possible to put a price on love, but the square footage and location of where that love story takes place is a different story. Many couples take their potential partner’s apartment into account before entering into a relationship, according to a new study, and are reluctant to pack their bags if the relationship breaks up.

    Real estate apparently holds value better than relationships. Given the choice between their dream home and a perfect spouse, 30% of the 1,000 Americans surveyed said they would choose the dream home, according to a survey by and RedShift Research. And some 22% of single people would date someone strictly because they like their home.

    In fact, nearly 25% of Americans value one thing more than freedom from a broken relationship: a nice apartment – and 37% of them would wait a year or more to move out. Men are even more likely to stay in a relationship – 28% admitted to delaying a break-up to keep their current living situation versus 21% of women, the survey says.

  • Jan 23, 2012
    9:31 AM ET

    Why Rich People Live Longer


    The 1% not only has more money, but more time to enjoy it. Rich men live longer than their lower-income counterparts, primarily because the latter are more likely to lead an unhealthier lifestyle, a new study shows.

    Today, the wealthiest men live to 80.4 years on average, some six years longer than a man in a lower socio-economic group, according to the research carried out by the U.K.-based Longevity Science Advisory Panel, a non-profit group. And that life expectancy gap between rich and poor is widening: Some 20 years ago, a man born into a higher socio-economic group would be expected to live 75.6 years, nearly five years more than a person in a lower socio-economic group.

About Pay Dirt

  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to or tweet @SMPayDirt.