The Future of Air Travel? Only for Those Who Have the Dough

In light of all the well-publicized altercations that have taken place recently on board commercial airplanes and inside of airports, the timing seems perfect for the opening of a brand-new “private,” concierge-type of airline terminal…for those who can afford to use it.

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The mega-upscale facility, called Private Suite, opened its doors for service at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on May 15. Security expert Gavin de Becker, who’s in charge of Private Suite, said, in comparing it to LAX’s main terminal, “There they process thousands of people at a time, they’re barking. It’s loud. Here it’s very, very lovely.”

Indeed it is. A special, gated entrance provides access, where up to eight attendants may assist arrivals with luggage, through a security checkpoint, and into one of the 13 suites inside the unit. As you might imagine, the suite experience is ultra-luxurious, with travelers able to avail themselves of a wide variety of amenities, including daybeds, fully-stocked refrigerators, private bathrooms, and much more. Perhaps best of all, when it’s time to actually board their flights, passengers are driven directly across the runway to their planes in BMWs.

The folks behind Private Suite underline perhaps the most significant feature of the service this way: The typical passenger flying out of LAX will take about 2,200 footsteps between car seat to plane seat; with Private Suite, that number is reduced to just 70 steps.

Needless to say, a service like this is very pricey. While purchasing an annual membership ($7,500) can reduce the additional, per-flight cost of using Private Suite, non-members can expect to pay up to $4,000 per flight.

A lot of money, to be sure, but the way things are going these days in the realm of air travel, it’s almost worth it, even if you have to take out a loan to cover the cost.

The information contained here is for general information purposes only. The Financial Writer blog and Bob Yetman disclaim responsibility for any liability or loss incurred as a consequence of the use or application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein. Nothing contained in this article, or any other article featured at this blog, should be construed as a solicitation or recommendation to engage in any financial transaction. You should seek the advice of a qualified professional before making any changes to your personal financial profile.

Subprime Borrowers Now Landing Unsecured Credit Cards with Ease

Borrowers of all credit stripes are now finding it relatively easy to access unsecured lines of credit, according to an article that appears over at the Detroit Free Press.

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Now that the financial collapse of 2008, as well as much of its acute fallout, is in the past, says personal finance columnist Susan Tompor, we’re seeing the largest number of consumers with credit cards since 2005. Citing data provided by TransUnion, Tompor reports that well over 170 million Americans were able to access a credit card as of the end of Q1 2017, which is the highest such number in the last 12 years. Additionally, writes Tompor, almost 22 million more people have cards now than the number who did back in 2010.

A big part of the reason for the significant jump in the number of folks armed with plastic money is that issuers seem more comfortable granting unsecured cards to people who are subprime borrowers – those with credit scores and histories that are far below “excellent.”

TransUnion’s Paul Siegfried says that subprime borrowers are the group that saw the fastest rate of growth in card issuance over the last two years. Right now, according to Siegfried, there are just over 16 million consumers with subprime credit profiles – typically defined as having a credit score of 600 or less – who have credit cards, and the rate of growth continues to surge; the number of subprime borrowers gaining cards was up about nine percent in Q1 2017, which is far ahead of the growth seen within other risk categories.

The information contained here is for general information purposes only. The Financial Writer blog and Bob Yetman disclaim responsibility for any liability or loss incurred as a consequence of the use or application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein. Nothing contained in this article, or any other article featured at this blog, should be construed as a solicitation or recommendation to engage in any financial transaction. You should seek the advice of a qualified professional before making any changes to your personal financial profile.

Community College May Be the Key to Earning an Affordable Bachelor’s Degree

Whether you are a parent or grandparent of a budding young college student, or are perhaps seeking to return to school yourself in the interest of furthering your career, the now-enormous cost of higher education has become such a consideration that many are either changing life plans outright because of that cost, or choosing to embark on a perilous financial journey by going neck-deep in debt in order to pay the freight.

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One great option for pursuing a four-year degree in a way that makes the cost much more manageable involves the strategic use of a community college in one’s efforts. While two-year schools have been the butt of elitist jokes for longer than anyone can remember, many are now of a quality that students can seamlessly transfer into universities from community colleges and finish their bachelor’s degrees on time.

This is nothing to sneeze at; according to an article over at CNBC.com, community colleges, on average, charge just $3,500 per year for tuition. That’s about one-third of the tuition cost at a four-year public college, and about one-tenth of the cost at a private university.

In other words, many students can assemble a perfectly fine, perfectly transferable academic record for the first two years of their bachelor’s degree program, but at a massively reduced cost.

To employ the strategy with great effectiveness, however, there are three, sequential steps the student should take, says Davis Jenkins of Columbia University’s Community College Research Center.

First, the student should determine their major and declare it as soon as possible. Doing that limits the chances that he or she will take any courses during the first two years that don’t ultimately count toward the graduation requirements at the four-year school.

From there, Jenkins recommends contacting one of the universities under consideration and finding out from the appropriate department what courses should be taken during the first two years to ensure a smooth transition to the third year.

Step three involves taking the curriculum information learned from the university and getting with the academic advising office at the community college to be sure the course selections made there are just what they should be.

A silver lining that’s emerged from the ridiculous cost of so many four-year schools is the diminishment of academic stigmas that have historically plagued community colleges. Anyone seeking a bachelor’s degree these days would be crazy not to try to find a way to earn it without becoming mired in financial quicksand. Going the community college route offers as good a way as any to successfully accomplish that goal.

The information contained here is for general information purposes only. The Financial Writer blog and Bob Yetman disclaim responsibility for any liability or loss incurred as a consequence of the use or application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein. Nothing contained in this article, or any other article featured at this blog, should be construed as a solicitation or recommendation to engage in any financial transaction. You should seek the advice of a qualified professional before making any changes to your personal financial profile.

How You’re Wasting Time Each Day, and Cheating Yourself Out of Success

Think you’re a productive person? Rose Leadem, writing over at Entrepreneur.com, has news for you.

You’re wasting time, and, very likely, much more than you think.

This is an issue that hits particularly close to home for the self-employed, and, especially, those who do their toiling from home; one of the biggest disadvantages to working at our residences is that there are built-in distractions aplenty.

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In her article “8 Time Wasters Stealing Your Productivity,” Leadem details some of the more pronounced of those facing small businesspeople that can, almost surreptitiously, act to derail them off the path to success. Here are just a couple of examples.

Television. This is a big one. According to Leadem, the average person watches three to four hours of it each day. A prominent pitfall for folks working from home is that many keep a TV set going in their home offices, ostensibly to keep an eye on news or the stock market. The problem is, even if these individuals are not watching the television in a particularly focused way, it nevertheless remains a distraction that simply would not exist if it wasn’t present. It’s an unrealistic expectation to think one can work in such close proximity to a television and not have  his or her time, energy, and intellectual resources at least indirectly commandeered by it.

Social media. Again, another big one. Leadem says that the average Facebook user spends nearly an hour a day on the platform, and when you add to that the time spent each day on all of the other social media outlets to which people are becoming increasingly devoted – nearly 20 minutes a day, on average, just over at YouTube, for example – the capacity of these outlets, as a whole, to keep people from remaining singularly focused on their labors is enormous.

You get the picture. The tricky part in all of this is that entrepreneurs have now come to rely on the very devices and platforms that can act to impede success..for success. The answer? Heightened awareness, more than anything else. As noted, many distractions are now an essential part of doing business, even as they are distractions. The key, for many, therefore, is to become more discerning about when and how time is spent on them, and to endeavor to do the best job possible separating wheat from chaff.

The information contained here is for general information purposes only. The Financial Writer blog and Bob Yetman disclaim responsibility for any liability or loss incurred as a consequence of the use or application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein. Nothing contained in this article, or any other article featured at this blog, should be construed as a solicitation or recommendation to engage in any financial transaction. You should seek the advice of a qualified professional before making any changes to your personal financial profile.

Is the Death of Retail Greatly Exaggerated?

According to one writer, the heavily-promoted notion that bricks-and-mortar retail is on life support is a bunch of – as she puts it – “baloney.”

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We’ve been hearing a whole lot recently about how traditional retail is quickly going the way of the wind, but industry analyst Paula Rosenblum, in an article for Forbes, says much of that talk is coming from real-life Chicken Littles.

In “Five Reasons Why ‘The Retail Apocalypse’ Is a False Scare Story,” Rosenblum points out that while some storied retail chains are, indeed, struggling, the bigger picture is that as society continues to evolve, the industry finds itself in a mode of readjustment and adaptation that will see it remain very much a part of the American commercial landscape.

One of the great pieces of information imparted by Rosenblum is that after a long period in which stores could take in-person customer service for granted, the advantages offered by Internet-only retail have driven many to now make plans to invest in more staff in the coming years, and thus return to shoppers more of the one advantage Internet shopkeepers simply cannot provide. For countless numbers of consumers, the in-store experience has, for many years now, left a lot to be desired, and that has surely helped to create a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy, vis-à-vis the impending death of retail.

Additionally, Rosenblum shines some light on those retailers that do seem genuinely at risk, and details that many are suffering from unfortunate business decisions, including overbuilding (like Macy’s), changing consumer tastes (Rue 21 and The Limited are cited as two examples of that phenomenon), or a combination of both (J.C. Penney). All of that is not, however, the same thing as “retail is dying.”

There’s much more to Rosenblum’s article, of course, and you’re encouraged to take a look at it. It’s a great read, and serves as a lean, tight, informative counterargument to the prevailing narrative about how bricks-and-mortar retail is about to become a thing of the past.

The information contained here is for general information purposes only. The Financial Writer blog and Bob Yetman disclaim responsibility for any liability or loss incurred as a consequence of the use or application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein. Nothing contained in this article, or any other article featured at this blog, should be construed as a solicitation or recommendation to engage in any financial transaction. You should seek the advice of a qualified professional before making any changes to your personal financial profile.

Pundit Krauthammer: “In Less than Seven Years, We Will Be in a Single-Payer System”

According to one well-known pundit, although the new administration has moved forcefully in the direction of rolling back Obamacare, the reality is that years of having to live under it have reshaped the public’s expectations as to just what health care is and who should be paying for it.

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As reported by RealClearPolitics.com, Charles Krauthammer, who spoke May 4 on Fox News’ Special Report, said that after so many years of Obamacare being a part of the national economic and cultural landscape, Americans now look at health care not as a service subject to the machinations of the free market, but, rather, as an absolute taxpayer-funded “entitlement,” like roadways and public schools.

What’s more, Krauthammer believes the country is just a relative handful of years away from seeing a genuine single-payer system at hand.

“I think historically speaking we are at the midpoint. We had seven years of Obamacare, a change in expectations. And I would predict that in less than seven years, we will be in a single-payer system. I think that’s the great irony of this,” Krauthammer said.

“I think Obamacare wins the day because it changed expectations,” he later added. “Look at the terms of the debate. Republicans are not arguing the free market anymore. They have sort of accepted the fact that the electorate sees health care as not just any commodity. It’s not like purchasing a steak or a car. It is something people now have a sense that government ought to guarantee.”

The information contained here is for general information purposes only. The Financial Writer blog and Bob Yetman disclaim responsibility for any liability or loss incurred as a consequence of the use or application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein. Nothing contained in this article, or any other article featured at this blog, should be construed as a solicitation or recommendation to engage in any financial transaction. You should seek the advice of a qualified professional before making any changes to your personal financial profile.

Financial Advisor Sentenced for Embezzling Millions from Pop Star Alanis Morissette, Others

As long as there are wealthy celebrities, there will be financially ravenous souls eager to try to separate them from their hard-earned dough…by any means.

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One such person, Jonathan Todd Schwartz, a purported “financial advisor,” was sentenced May 3 to six years in the federal slammer for embezzling over $7 million from pop star Alanis Morissette and other clients, according to WMUR.com.

In the words of Morisette, Schwartz “did this in a long, systematic, drawn-out and sinister manner.” The singer claims that at the rate Schwartz was stealing from her, she would have had to declare bankruptcy inside of three years.

It was while Schwartz was working at GSO Business Management, a high-profile celebrity management firm in Sherman Oaks, California, that he stole nearly $5 million from Morisette, as well as another $2 million from five other GSO clients.

According to Bernard Gudvi, founder of GSO, the reputation hit suffered by his company from Schwartz’s outrageous behavior has required him to lay off nearly a dozen employees, and estimates the overall financial loss suffered by his business to be in the neighborhood of $20 million.

U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee actually sentenced Schwartz to a period longer than the five years sought be prosecutors, citing the “sheer audaciousness of this conduct.” In addition to his six-year prison term, Gee also mandated that Schwartz to pay $8.6 million in restitution.

The information contained here is for general information purposes only. The Financial Writer blog and Bob Yetman disclaim responsibility for any liability or loss incurred as a consequence of the use or application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein. Nothing contained in this article, or any other article featured at this blog, should be construed as a solicitation or recommendation to engage in any financial transaction. You should seek the advice of a qualified professional before making any changes to your personal financial profile.

This Reason, More than Any Other, is Why Americans File for Bankruptcy

It was not too many years ago that the dominant narrative about those who declared bankruptcy was that they ended up in dire financial straits by their own hand, like overextending themselves in the realm of consumer credit; buying big-screen TVs, spending lavishly on vacations they could not truly afford, and then eventually suffering from what is still regarded by many as the personal financial death penalty.

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One of the few silver linings to the financial crisis of 2008 is that because so many earnest Americans found themselves going through foreclosure, bankruptcy, and otherwise mired in a financial hell of one sort or another, perceptions about just what a “typical” bankrupt looks like thankfully began to change.

Well, an article appearing over at The Motley Fool details just what the number one reason is as for why people claim bankruptcy, and, sure enough, it has nothing to do with spending what you don’t really have on things you don’t really need.

The real culprit is medical debt.

The article cites data from the Kaiser Family Foundation that reveals over 25 percent of adults in the United States fight to keep up with medical bills, and that medical expenses are, indeed, the primary reason for personal bankruptcy filings in the U.S.

Additional information from The New York Times indicates that even insured adults are under the gun from medical expenses. Last year, the Times reported that a full 20 percent of insured American adults under the age of 65 had difficulty paying medical bills.

The good news, then, is that we’re not really a nation of careless spenders – many of us are doing the best we can with what we have. The bad news is that there is no easy answer to the problem…because the solution, when it comes right down to it, is, simply, to have more money.

No problem, right?

Getting more specific, the root of the problem (outside of the cost of medical care) appears to be the horrendous savings rate that characterizes much of America. Few people nowadays have anything socked away to cover sudden, unanticipated expenses, and now, with the cost of health care at astronomical levels and insurance doing such a so-so job (at best) of covering those costs, even a trip to the doctor for the annual checkup, with all of the lab work that accompanies it, carries with it the same financial impact as the transmission all of a sudden up and dying.

There is no easy answer; there is only one answer – get more money. If you don’t yet have a side hustle…that “gig” at which you plug away, in addition to your regular job, to help put more distance between you and financial uncertainty…then think seriously about getting one. It may not be easy to achieve wealth, but there’s usually no good reason to be broke, so if you are broke, or teetering on the edge of that condition, resolve that you’ll deal with it now, before you free-fall into the abyss.

The information contained here is for general information purposes only. The Financial Writer blog and Bob Yetman disclaim responsibility for any liability or loss incurred as a consequence of the use or application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein. Nothing contained in this article, or any other article featured at this blog, should be construed as a solicitation or recommendation to engage in any financial transaction. You should seek the advice of a qualified professional before making any changes to your personal financial profile.

These Three Janitors Became Self-Made Millionaires

When you hear someone try to make a point about economic success, it is not unusual for them to reference the position of “janitor” as the quintessential example of the professional totem pole’s lowest rung.

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Well, CNBC.com has a pretty cool article at its site that tells of three guys who serve as amazing illustrations of the classic American success story by having risen from the ranks of that very profession to become self-made millionaires.

So how in the world did they do it? After all, we hear interesting stories of things like this happening…but are they real?

Well, they are in the case of the subjects at hand…Messrs. Sean Conlon, Ronald Read, and Steve Hightower.

Conlon, an Irish immigrant, landed in Chicago with just 500 bucks to his name. He didn’t even have the luxury of starting out as a full-fledged janitor; he had to begin as an assistant janitor.

But he was motivated to do well for himself, and so he did. He saved enough to buy himself an apartment, and, after he was fully settled in the United States, began selling real estate at night. That was his ticket to the big time. From there, he worked his tail off, and eventually became one of the nation’s top brokers.

In Read’s case, while he moved on from being a janitor, he never rose much past that professional station in life. In his case, he went about becoming a millionaire in a different way. He chose to live a parsimonious life…but became an active, life-long investor in the stock market. When he died at age 92 in 2014, his portfolio was worth about $8 million.

As for Steve Hightower, while he also began his professional life working as a custodian, he now owns an oil and transport business. He’s bona fide mogul, with his company’s anticipated 2017 earnings expected to reach the $500 million mark.

In describing how he did it, and just how his own motivational system works, Hightower speaks not only for himself, but for basically all of the self-made successes out there.

“I started as a janitor. I started cleaning floors and toilets and doing those things that most people would never even dream of doing,” says Hightower. “I wanted more.”

“When people ask me would I ever have imagined I would be where I am today? Absolutely. Because if you don’t think that you can be great, you’ll never be great. And I knew that I was gonna be great a long, long time ago.”

The information contained here is for general information purposes only. The Financial Writer blog and Bob Yetman disclaim responsibility for any liability or loss incurred as a consequence of the use or application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein. Nothing contained in this article, or any other article featured at this blog, should be construed as a solicitation or recommendation to engage in any financial transaction. You should seek the advice of a qualified professional before making any changes to your personal financial profile.

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