Net Neutrality and You

The new “Net Neutrality” rules were approved yesterday by the FCC. Depending on who you listen to, this is either best thing ever or the absolute end of the world. As best I can figure, these new rules prevent your internet service provider (ISP) from doing bad things A, B and C. Not that they WERE doing those things, but in case they were THINKING about doing them, now they can’t. So…Yay?

I’m not one who says “Let’s regulate all the things!!” So, I am understandably wary. But in the interest of public service – and because I earn my living mostly on the Web – I attempted to figure out what this is all supposed to mean.neutYeah, so there’s Google’s definition. In general, the idea seems to be that we will now start treating Internet service less like premium cable TV, and more like the electric or water utility companies. Again, I have never noticed my ISP excluding me from sites, or charging more for others…but your mileage may vary.

So, here are a few useful links to explain Net Neutrality. I have tried to present both sides, because CONTROVERSY. Enjoy…?

So, do you have an opinion on Net Neutrality? Will it affect you or your job? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page, and have a great weekend!



Get Serious About Saving

dollarDid you know that this is “America Saves Week”? It’s the week set aside each year to examine our saving and spending habits, with an eye toward improving both. But it ain’t easy sometimes. As one article says:

Saving can feel overwhelming. We are struggling to pay all the bills each month, then some expert comes along and tells you that you need to have three to six months expenses in a savings account. It is easy to throw up your hands in frustration. Newsminer Alaska

But there are two important keys to beating that frustration: 1) Recognize that it takes time to build that nest egg, and 2) Little things add up! Such as…

This year’s Best Picture Oscar winner “Birdman” is an EXCELLENT movie, but I promise you that you don’t need to see it on the big screen! So, don’t spend $20 for you and your honey. Wait a month and pay $1.65 at Redbox!

And, of course, you have your daily coffee out, your daily Mountain Dew out, your daily Snickers. It’s pretty easy to cut those costs in half by bringing those goodies from home.

Or, take the plunge and start an automatic-deduction plan from your paycheck. Start small, see how it goes, and ramp it up if you can.

The thing is, we have GOT to start saving more. Individually, as a family, as a country. It just makes sense. Read the article for more ideas, HERE. Are these good ideas? Do you have any savings tricks up your sleeve? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page!

Retail Customer Satisfaction Declines

shopgirlIf retailers could accurately, scientifically predict customer satisfaction…then every store would be a success! But there are so many variables. And new technologies keep changing the game every year. And, while the recent results aren’t HUGE declines,  customer satisfaction is down overall.

So, to hear that consumer retail satisfaction has declined for the first time in 4 years, is a bad sign. Basically, the old-school brick-and-mortar stores are down, and online stores are up.

The American Customer Satisfaction Index surveyed almost 9,000 consumers (and if you know anything about surveys, that’s a big sample!) Here’s what they learned about customer satisfaction. Do these percentages of LIKES sound familiar to you?

  • Department/Discount Store Scores: Nordstrom 86% LIKE, Dillard’s 81%, Kohl’s 80%, Target 80%
  • Supermarkets: Trader Joe’s 85%, Wegmans 85%, Publix 82%,
  • Drug Stores: Rite Aid 78%, Walgreens 77%. CVS 75%
  • Specialty Retail: Costco 84%, BJ’s Wholesale Club 81%, Sam’s Club 80%
  • Lowe’s beat Home Depot
  • Internet Retailers: Amazon, at 86% is the top of the heap

So, do these results match your shopping experience? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page, and have a great weekend!

Tax Time Temptation

taxesHomer Simpson, doing his tax return at the last minute: “Okay, Marge, if anybody asks, you require 24-hour nursing care, Lisa’s a clergyman, Maggie is seven people and Bart was wounded in Vietnam.”

Tax time is an anxious time. Depending on your income bracket, your cash situation or other circumstances, you may be dreading this time of year. And you may be thinking about ways to reduce your tax bill, some legitimate, others not so much.

Just so you know, the IRS know all the angles. And they have issued a press release outlining some bad tax ideas that you, or a scammer, or a crooked tax preparer might be tempted to perpetrate.

Here are the bullet points for the IRS “Dirty Dozen” tax scams for 2015. The first three are scams that might victimize you. The rest are schemes that some taxpayers and preparers may be tempted to pull. Either way, be warned:

  • Phone Scams
  • Phishing
  • Identity Theft
  • Return Preparer Fraud
  • Offshore Tax Avoidance
  • Inflated Refund Claims
  • Fake Charities
  • Hiding Income with Fake Documents
  • Abusive Tax Shelters
  • Falsifying Income to Claim Credits
  • Excessive Claims for Fuel Tax Credits
  • Frivolous Tax Arguments

For all the details, DEFINITELY read the official press release. How about you? It’s never fun, but when you have your deductions and credits and all your documentation lined up, paying taxes can be a little less stressful. Have you got it together? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page!

Valentine’s Day by the Numbers 2015

valentine bucksWell, the statistics are in, and the retailers are thanking their lucky stars. Valentine’s Day spending is back, baby! In almost every category, V-day spending is up. To the extent that this predicts retail sales, or consumer confidence, or whatever, it’s all good in the retail ‘hood.

According to the National Retail Federation, and as reported in USA Today and Yahoo Finance, here are some of the bullet point from this year’s survey. Or as we call it, “Valentine’s Day by the Numbers!”

  • $18.9 billion: To be spent in 2015. That’s up 1.5 billion from last year!
  • $88: Average spent per person, up $10 from 2014
  • 53%: Will buy candy
  • 21%: Will buy jewelry
  • 38%: Will buy flowers
  • 35%: Will have a night out
  • 1-2-3: In order, MEN buy 1) Flowers, 2) Candy, 3) Cards
  • 1-2-3: In order, WOMEN buy 1) Cards, 2) Candy, 3) Evening Out
  • #1 Destination for women: Discount stores
  • #1 Destination for men: Department stores
  • 21%: People who will buy a Valentine for their pets
  • 54%: Men who foolishly believed their wives when she said “I don’t really want anything for Valentine’s Day.”

OK, I made that last one up. Anyhoozle, it’s nice to see that, even in VERY uncertain times, a nice little romantic holiday like this can break through the anxiety. Whatever you spend, however you spend it, spend it with somebody you love!

What are YOUR Valentine’s day plans? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page!





Last Minute Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas 2015

val waitAs I research the annual “Last Minute Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas” piece, I am always amazed at some of the nutty suggestions they come up with. “Hey, dudes. Remember how you couldn’t even drag yourself into Walgreen’s and pick the simplest gift off of the shelf? Well, certainly you have the time and talent to make her a cute, handmade leather coin purse in the shape of a heart…by this Saturday!”

So, as a public service, I have done a web search for all the last-minute guys and gals out there. Some of these Valentine’s Day gift suggestions are pretty basic (breakfast in bed!) and some are pretty innovative (new apps that connect you with people selling their dinner reservations.) Either way, you’re sure to get some ideas. Enjoy!

So, did you get any Valentine’s Day gift ideas? Do you have any to share? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page. Hurry – time’s running out!

Money Questions for Potential Young Marrieds

"OK, kids, scootch in a little closer to the dollar sign..."
“OK, kids, scootch in a little closer to the dollar sign…”

Love is in the air. Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. Many candlelight dinners will be consumed, and many nervous young dudes will be popping a certain question. Well, slow down tiger. You can barely afford this fancy dinner. Can you afford to be married?

A lot of young folk skip right over this question, and this can lead to heartache down the road. One problem is that people just don’t like to talk about money.

If your relationship is heading toward joint finances, it’s essential to talk about it first – openly and honestly. A 2014 survey…found that 13 percent said they had failed to share information about their personal debt or income, which had “an effect on the relationship.”

So here are some questions for prospective brides and grooms to discuss openly:

  • Where are you financially as individuals?
  • What are your money personalities?
  • How do you want to live?
  • How will you handle everyday spending?
  • What if you need help?

As usual, these are the bullets. Lots of further explanation at the original piece. How about you? Were you once young and dumb and skipped over these questions? I WAS and DID. How did it work out for you? DID it work out for you? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page, and have a great weekend!

Money Trends for 2015

dollarThere are so many outside forces that affect your family’s cash flow and financial well being. Dropping  gas prices put a lot of $$$ back in our pockets. Drought and livestock disease raised the price of food, taking some of that $$$ back.

So, what’s coming in 2015 that might affect your family? Money guru Dave Ramsey has some ideas:

  • Fines for not having medical coverage will increase
  • The job market will strengthen
  • Car values will go down
  • The U.S. deficit will continue to grow
  • Social Security will be one year closer to failing
  • College tuition will rise
  • The housing market will continue to rebound
  • Gas prices will go back up (and back down)
  • Individual 401(k) contribution limits will increase

I guess the lesson is that there are forces pulling in every different direction that will affect your wallet, your budget, your savings, and on and on. So, pay attention, and always be trying to improve your financial situation (though that’s not always easy!)

As always, more bullet points and much more explanation at the original piece. What about you? Are you reading news and changing your money behavior? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page!