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ICYMI: CNN — Your Money Questions Answered

Posted on: Feb 20, 2012 by Nicole Lapin | 0 Replies |

* Just 54 percent of Americans ages 18 to 24 currently have jobs. This is the lowest employment rate we’ve seen for this age ever.

* These numbers suggest that the recession is killing job prospects for many of the younger generation who — keep in mind — were still in high school or college when the downturn began.

I’m $50,000 in debt from student loans and finally found a job. Should I start paying off my loans right away?

Many financial experts will tell you to start throwing money at your student loans before you move on to other big “life” purchases. The thought is that the earlier you can pay them off, the better. But if your student loans operate on a sliding scale, you might want to put on the breaks. It’s a snowball effect: the faster you start paying them off, the faster your monthly payment can ramp up.

Paying off your student loans too aggressively can also damage your credit score, making your creditors take notice if you slow down again too quickly. Don’t bite off more than you can chew, as you never know what curveballs (or pink slips) might come your way down the road. Before getting too aggressive with your student loans payments, you should always tackle the highest interest rate expense you have first, which — especially if you’ve been out of work for a while — is most likely your credit card. These high rates will get you in the long term; get them under control before moving on to student loans.

In this tight job market, what can I do to make myself stand out?

It helps to always be a step ahead, and in this economy most companies are looking for creative ways to make money. Subscribe to a trade magazine, invest some time — and whatever extra funds you might have, if possible — in yourself. Enroll in a class online or at a local university to improve your skills or learn a new one.

Already have a special skill? Offer your services on or, where companies look for freelancers to take on projects on everything from writing to web design to administrative work.

I graduated last May and am still looking for a job  — what are some alternative ways for me to make money?

If you’re looking to make some dough while you wait — or even on the side once you find a full-time job — just remember: play to your work weaknesses, those things you do most often.

Have a twitter addiction?  Seek out a company you can be brand ambassador for and get paid to promote their tweets online. Painstakingly retouch your photos before posting them to Facebook? Offer your services to an online retouching service and make some cash by tweaking other people’s photos. Sucker for the latest apps on your iPhone? Sign up to be a beta tester for apps that haven’t even hit the market yet.

You might already be “that” guy or girl who’s always online – and you’re probably online job searching anyway — now be the smart guy or girl who’s getting paid for it.

CNN: “Your Burning Money Questions” 1-29-12

Posted on: Jan 30, 2012 by Nicole Lapin | 0 Replies |

In case you missed the answers to YOUR money questions, here you go…and keep ‘em coming @nicolelapin…answering them every week.

Christina Evriviades @cevriviades Hey @NicoleLapin ! I have a $$ Q: if my employer doesn’t match 401k contributions, should I still invest or are there better alternatives?

Think twice, Christina. There are 3 types of people who should rethink their 401k…and you fall into category 3:

1) If you don’t have a personal savings account that covers 6-9 months of bills and expenses. You need to have liquid, readily available cash to cover expenses if you lose your job or are in a pinch. Contribute here first before your 401k.

2) If you have a lot of debt. Don’t forget that your debt’s interest is compounding just as much as money that’s sitting in savings. If you have a substantial amount of debt with icky interest rates you’re better off chiseling away at it early than investing it in the market.

3) If your company doesn’t match your contributions. Since your 401k is directly connected to the market conditions in 30-40 years, which is completely unpredictable, choose more conservative saving vehicles if your employer isn’t helping you double down.

Graison Foster-Stemper Are u an overall fan of mutual funds?

Yes, Graison. But: Fees, Fees, Fees. Watch your fund expenses. Look for mutual funds that have expenses below 1.33 percent for stock funds and 0.89 percent for bond funds; study after study shows that keeping investment costs low is the best way to increase your odds of earning a high return. The cheapest of the cheap are index funds from Vanguard or Fidelity.

Candice Chan @canchan @NicoleLapin I have a bunch of gift cards from the holidays that I probably won’t use. What can I do with them?

Oh, Candice, we’ve all been there. I think I have a random Shake Shack card in my drawer somewhere. Here are some smart options:

1) Swap it. Sites like and let you trade gift cards for one of the same value.

2) Sell it on or plastic — these are both great sites for auctioning off unwanted gift cards. You probably won’t get the exact face value back, but it’s better than collecting unused gift cards in your desk drawer, like my Shake Shack one.

3) Donate it. Some charities, especially those that offer donations in-kind (clothing and homeware, for example) will even accept gift cards as a donation. Contact your favorite charity and ask if they will accept your gift card. If they do, you can write off its value on your taxes as a charitable donation.

Which Politicians Are in the 1% Anyway??

Posted on: Oct 30, 2011 by Nicole Lapin | 0 Replies |

1. Michelle Bachmann, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, and Buddy Roemer are not in the 1%.

2. Mitt Romney, John Huntsman, Newt Gingrich, and Herman Cain are in the 1%. 

3. It’s about $700,000 annual household income to make it in the top 1% of america.  

4. In 2006, President Obama was not in the top 1% — but he is now.

5.  66% of people in a recent poll believe that the rich-poor divide should be narrowed.  

Discussing which political candidates are in the “1 %” on CNN’s Newsroom

Posted on: Oct 30, 2011 by Nicole Lapin | 0 Replies |

In case you missed my segment tonight on CNN…

Posted on: Sep 25, 2011 by Nicole Lapin | 0 Replies |

In case you missed my segment tonight on CNN, here are 5 things you should know about market conditions before Wall Street opens back up:

1. The Dow and S&P 500 had their worst week since 2008 last week, but are basically at the same levels as one year ago.

2. Most data fundamentals and corporate numbers are strong, but fear about the Eurozone crisis is the likely X factor bringing down markets. 

3. IMF and World Bank leaders warn that this solvency crisis in Europe could make the 2008 liquidity crisis look like a piece of cake.

4. Gas under $3 could be a short-term good stimulus for US consumer spending. 

5. Gas under $3 could also mean slowing energy demand which is a negative to long-term US consumer confidence and spending.

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