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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ways to Stop Marriage Money Fights

 It's no secret divorces in America are a popular trend. According to the National Center for Health, about half of marriages will result in divorce, and with many families struggling to make ends meet and with the unemployment rate hovering around 10% this past year, stress and arguments over money are not uncommon.

If you and your spouse have been arguing over the finances, how can you prevent these disputes so your marriage doesn't end up in divorce? MainStreet asked relationship and financial experts to share simple tips on how to manage money peacefully in a relationship.

Set Goals
To reduce financial stress, first come up with a clear path toward financial success. If you constantly argue with your spouse about debt, then create a plan of action to crush it.
Joshua Duvauchelle, associate editor of Focus on the FamilyCanada, says to "talk about your financial goals, fears and shortcomings. For example, financial conflict sometimes crops up when one person doesn't think that a little credit card debt is a big problem while the other one does. The only way you'll be in mutual agreement is if you talk about it." Be respectful and work together to dig yourselves out of your financial dilemmas; don't have a screaming match.

Get Organized
Organization is key to fixing your finances. Certified Public Accountant John Faggio recommends that couples "set up a common area for supporting documents where each spouse can easily see where the money has gone. Passwords or security questions should be common knowledge to both spouses."
When the bills arrive in the mail, pay them! Don't throw them in a drawer or leave them on the kitchen table where you're likely to forget about them. Keep your financial documents and bills in an easy to access area for each spouse.

Create Money-Saving Rituals
Saving money and living frugally is a critical component to achieving most financial goals.
Patty Newbold, marriage educator at, tells MainStreet, "There will be times you have to cut back. While you have enough, create your own low-budget traditions: camping, a walk on the beach at sunset, an inexpensive meal you both love, fixing things together or making crafts to sell."
These activities will spawn continued dialogue between you and your spouse about the importance of saving money and staying committed to your path toward financial success.

Make a Date With Your Finances
Money isn't typically discussed on a date, but if you're serious about getting your finances on track and preventing financial arguments, consider setting up a "business meeting" between you and your spouse, as suggested by Danielle Marquis, adjunct professor of personal finance at Red Rocks Community College.
"Order takeout, get a bottle of wine and then work on some aspect of your finances together (and maybe watch a movie afterwards as a reward)," Marquis says. "In January this might be setting up a budget for the rest of the year, in February it might be tax prep, in March it might be asset allocation for investments."

Consider Joining a Credit Union
To help bolster your finances, take advantage of the benefits credit unions offer. Savings accounts at credit unions usually offer higher interest rates than typical banks and credit cards with lower interest rates. Credit unions serve in the best interest of their members.

According to the Credit Union National Association, in 2009, lending to small businesses from banks dropped 18%, but rose 9.9% from credit unions.
Diane Tegarden, author of "Getting Out of Limbo: A Self Help Divorce Book for Women," tells MainStreet that "once you establish a relationship with your credit union, it will be easier to qualify for a loan if you need emergency funds." [What Is the Government's Credit Score?]

Be Honest
Hiding debt from your spouse or lying about how you spend the family's money will only create more tension in the relationship. While a spouse might feel angered and upset if they discover the other spouse was lying about how much debt they had, it is far more beneficial to the relationship to maintain an honest and open dialogue.
"Keep no secrets. Be honest with each other about what you have spent (and on what) and disclose everything," suggests Ray Lucia, a certified financial planner.

Reward Yourself
If you notice that you and your spouse are achieving your financial goals and the arguments over money are virtually nonexistent, treat yourselves to a night out at the movies or a reasonably priced weekend vacation.
Spending quality time with your spouse will allow you to take a break from constantly thinking about and dwelling on the household finances. In the end, it's not just about excelling financially, it's also about improving your relationship with your spouse and ensuring that money problems don't destroy a marriage.

 Learn When to Discuss It
Timing is everything, so be sure you know the right time to bring up your finances with your spouse.
Duvauchelle also recommends that couples not "wait to communicate about finances when you're angry or when the bills come in. Discuss it when you're both calm. Otherwise, the underlying current of anger or the stress of a looming bill can make it counterproductive to discuss your budgets and financial settings."

Know Your Spouse's Salary
Be honest with your spouse about exactly how much you earn. Chances are you both don't earn the same amount of money, which can cause further tension when deciding how much each spouse will contribute to bills. Instead of splitting the bills 50/50, use the same ratios, rather than equal sums of money.
For example, if you make $5,000 per month and your spouse makes $12,000 per month, then your joint income is $17,000. But if your monthly expenses amount to $4,000 per month, then divide $4,000 by $17,000, which is about 23.5%. That way both you and your spouse will contribute 23.5% of your monthly incomes to the monthly expenses, which results in different amounts. This is fair because even though you both don't earn the same amount of money, you're still contributing the same percentages to the household expenses.

 Don't Play the Blame Game
If the reason for your financial troubles is because one spouse was irresponsible with money and used the family credit cards to rack up thousands of dollars in debt, the other spouse must be supportive and not accuse each other of causing the financial mess.
Teamwork is critical and you won't escape your financial dilemmas unless both you and your spouse work together and commit to acting responsible with money. This will also result in fewer financial arguments.

Scott Gamm is the founder of the personal finance website  He has appeared on NBC's TODAY, MSNBC, Fox Business Network, Fox News, ABC News and CBS.
Source: Internet.

Surprising Home-Energy Hogs

 It's the small appliances that can waste the most electricity.
 Digital picture frames are small, so it's hard to think of them as energy hogs. But if each U.S. household had one of these frames running around the clock, it would take five power plants to run them all, says the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), an electricity-focused research and development nonprofit.
Large home appliances like refrigerators and dryers are typical examples of energy-hungry devices, but energy hogs don't necessarily need to be large in size. Small devices are also collectively sucking a lot of energy from the power grid, and as these devices become commonplace their energy consumption rises exponentially. "It's the subtlety of the effect of large numbers of very small consuming devices," says Tom Reddoch, the executive director of energy utilization at EPRI.

Other small energy hogs include mobile phone chargers and laptop power adapters that are always plugged in to electric outlets. These chargers continue to draw energy even when the devices they charge have been disconnected. And "always-on" appliances like printers or speakers are called "energy vampires" because they also suck up power even when they're turned off or in an idle state.

Worse yet, the number of always-on devices is on the rise. Reddoch estimates that the typical U.S. home 30 years ago had about three always-on devices; today that number has climbed to more than 30.

Slaying energy vampires, however, is worthwhile in the long run. While a refrigerator typically accounts for about 8% of the typical household's total annual energy consumption, Reddoch says, vampire devices account for about 4%.

What's the best way to rein in energy hogs and vampires? The simplest answer is to turn off and unplug devices when they're not in use. If unplugging isn't practical or convenient, use a smart power strip to help stop the flow of electricity to an idle current. For instance, some smart strips allow you to set up a lead device like a computer so that when it is turned off, other supporting devices, like printers and speakers, are also turned off.[Technologies That Will Change Your Future]

We don't often bother to change a device's default settings, but we can save energy here too. For example, you can manually lower the default brightness and intensity settings on a TV.

Knowing how much energy we waste keeping devices on all the time should also motivate us to change our habits. Kyle Tanger, chief executive of green consultancy ClearCarbon, recommends using an electricity monitor like the Kill A Watt, a product that measures the energy efficiency of household appliances, to give you a better sense of their usage cost.

We can also buy energy-efficient products, and this year happens to be a great time to do that. Consumers are eligible for a rebate from the government when they buy an Energy Star appliance. Check out the U.S. Department of Energy website for more information the rebate program.

"There isn't a secret to what's hogging the energy," says Tanger. "If people pay attention to the little lights or fans in equipment, there is a lot in energy-efficiency gain that isn't just low-hanging fruit -- it's on the ground."

Surprising Home-Energy Hogs
Plasma TVs
Plasma TVs are hot items -- literally. While they are popular, they also consume a lot energy, giving off lots of heat in the process. A typical 27-inch CRT TV uses about 110 to 120 watts and a 42-inch LCD TV uses around 200 watts. Plasmas easily gobble the most: a 42-inch plasma TV uses up to 325 watts.

 Digital Picture Frames
Once a high-end item, digital frames are quickly becoming more affordable, with prices as low as $20 to $30. If every home in the U.S. had one of these frames displaying around the clock, though, it would take five power plants alone to power them all, the Electric Power Research Institute estimates.

Videogame Consoles
The high-level graphics processing that creates the visually stunning games on these devices also requires a lot of energy. And a lack of energy-efficiency standards for consoles, like the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, doesn't help. The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that consoles in the U.S. collectively consume around 16 billion kilowatt-hours per year, roughly the same energy usage as the city of San Diego.

 Set-Top Boxes
Set-top boxes like cable and converter boxes seem like relatively innocent appliances: They typically only draw about 30 watts of energy. But because these boxes are always on, one box over the course of a year can use up to 265 kilowatt-hours, equivalent to the annual energy consumption of a 28-inch CRT television.

Battery Chargers
Individually chargers for mobile devices like cellphones and PDAs are small energy consumers, only using 7 to 10 watts. But if they are left plugged in to electric outlets even when the charged device is not connected, they continue to draw power. Today most U.S. homes use more than one charger. Add them all up across the country, and they could consume the energy output of several power plants.
 by Oliver J. Chiang
Source: Internet.

Real Madrid Becomes Highest Earning Sports Team Ever!

For the sixth consecutive year, Real Madrid tops the Deloitte Football Money League, and in doing so, became the highest earning sports team ever, reports Business Insider. Despite not winning any trophies, the club's earnings jumped from $541 million for the 2008/09 season to $592 million for the 2009/10 season, enabling them to continue funding Cristiano Ronaldo's most extravagant purchases. Like exclusive yet unenforcable baby rights.  

Barcelona came in right behind Real for the second straight year (even though the standings were the other way around in La Liga) and the first time ever, the combined earnings of Deloitte's 20-club Money League topped $5.4 billion.

By comparison, the top earning NFL team, the Dallas Cowboys, made $420 million according to Forbes and the top earning MLB team, the New York Yankees, made $441 million. That would only put them fifth and fourth, respectively, in Deloitte's list of football clubs.

The biggest chunk of Real Madrid's revenue came from their ongoing $1.4 billion TV rights deal, but they also make nearly as much from numerous sponsorships and matchday earnings. And if there's one thing Real like more than making money, it's spending it. Over the last decade, they've spent more than $1 billion on player transfers as they keep breaking their own transfer records for individual players to fill out club president Florentino Perez's live-action fantasy team. 

Here's the full Football Money League top 20...
1. Real Madrid -- $592 million
2. Barcelona -- $537 million
3. Manchester United -- $472 million
4. Bayern Munich -- $436 million
5. Arsenal -- $370 million
6. Chelsea -- $345 million
7. AC Milan -- $318 million
8. Liverpool -- $308 million
9. Inter Milan -- $303 million
10. Juventus -- $277 million
11. Manchester City -- $206 million
12. Tottenham Hotspur -- $198 million
13. Hamburger SV -- $197 million
14. Lyon -- $197 million
15. Marseille -- $190 million
16. Schalke 04 -- $189 million
17. Atletico Madrid -- $168 million
18. Roma -- $166 million
19. Stuttgart -- $155 million
20. Aston Villa -- $148 million 

Fun, right? Well, it's not so much when you look at how quickly those earnings disappear. As the Andersred Blog points out, just one of the seven English clubs on Deloitte's list turned a profit (Arsenal). Barcelona had to take out a loan to pay player wages last summer and Real's debt is in the hundreds of millions. So keep that in mind when imagining club executives diving into warehouse-sized safes full of gold coins like Scrooge McDuck.  
By Brooks Peck
Source: Internet.

Google accuses Microsoft of cheating on search - Tensions flare as the two giants get closer to one another's business cores

Google is accusing Microsoft Corp. of cheating as the two duel for Internet search supremacy, but Microsoft denies the charge, saying it's just using all available weapons to lessen its rival's dominance.

The dust-up between the two companies that process virtually all of North America's search requests grabbed the spotlight Tuesday at an event sponsored by Microsoft about the future of Internet searches. Microsoft's practices have even wider implications now that its technology powers Yahoo Inc. searches in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia, and Brazil as part of a 10-year partnership that grew out of the companies' inability to mount a serious challenge to Google on their own. ( is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal.)

Google's attempt to embarrass Microsoft at an event devoted to innovation served as the latest reminder of the tensions between the technology heavyweights. While Microsoft has been pecking at Google in search, Google has been chipping away at Microsoft's advantage in computer software with its own suite of competing products.

"We just want everyone to know the truth about how Microsoft operates as a search engine, which is by taking the hard work of others and presenting it as their own," said Amit Singhal, a Google fellow who oversees the company's closely guarded search formulas. He made his comments in a phone interview.

Microsoft did nothing more than adjust its results after monitoring Internet Explorer users' search requests and clicking activity on Google as well as its own site, Bing, according to Harry Shum, a corporate vice president for Bing. In a blog post, Blum derided Google for engaging in a "a spy-novelesque stunt."

Google Inc. set out to expose Microsoft's tactics last year, said Matt Cutts, the head of Google's Web spam team. That's when it appeared Bing was showing search results that seemed a little too close to Google's own — especially for obscure, misspelled queries.

The similarities raised suspicions that Microsoft's IE Web browser and various other tools were feeding information back that helped Microsoft's engineers make Bing's results more Google-like.Google laid a trap to prove it. The company made a list of gibberish or obscure search terms and manually linked them to unrelated websites. Then, 20 Google engineers took home laptops loaded with Internet Explorer, searched for those terms and clicked on the artificial results. Soon after, searching for the same odd terms on Bing would call up the same odd results.

Cutts likened the trap to a mapmaker drawing a fake street or the Yellow Pages adding a fake name to its directory to flush out copycats.
The "Bing Sting" was first reported on the Search Engine Land blog before emerging as a hot topic during a panel discussion that included Cutts and Shum. The San Francisco event was streamed over the Internet.

"It's not like we actually copy anything," Shum said. "We learn from customers who are willing to share data with us, just like Google does."

Those data include not only the searches people type into Bing, but also into Google, and what links they click on. The information can be used to fine-tune Bing's own search results. And that sort of "collective intelligence," Shum said, is how the Web is supposed to work. Google doesn't use people's behavior on Bing the same way, Cutts said during Tuesday's event.

In an interview, Singhal argued it's unfair for Bing to piggyback on Google 's technology.
"It's like a student cheating on his test and saying, 'Yeah, I could see my classmates' test, so I wrote it down,'" Singhal said. "If that's not cheating, what is?"

Cutts and Shum traded jabs about whether people read the fine print when installing the Chrome or IE browser software that explains what Web surfing information is fed back to the company.

When the discussion moved on to the problem of increasing spam pages and low-quality content online, Shum blamed Google for rewarding the owners of such pages with advertising dollars.

Cutts said Google manually blocks spam pages regardless of whether they carry Google ads but wants to find a technology solution for the problem instead of picking off useless sites one by one.
 By Jessica Mintz and Michael Liedtke
Source: Internet.