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This Week In Your Wallet – January 11, 2011

Hi and a belated Happy 2011! Thanks so much for subscribing to my email newsletter.  I know you have limited time (I certainly do).  So I have two very specific goals with this weekly blast: To tell you how what happened this week will impact your wallet.  And to give you something that will make you money, save you money or boost your financial security.  And if something fun happens during the week, I may even drop you a photo or a story.  Please let me know what you think by commenting on the blog or on my facebook page (facebook.com/jeanchatzky.)  And again Happy New Year!


Fee For All.

Heads up: Bank fees are coming.  And fast.  Last week, CNNMoney reported that checking account fees are going (or already have gone) up at Chase, Bank of America, Citi, and Wells Fargo.  What do you have to do to avoid these fees?  In general – maintain a higher monthly minimum, deposit a certain amount of money each month and/or bank solely on line.  A few specifics:

So, what do you do?  Well, if you can maintain those deposit levels or hit the other requirements you’re home free for now.  Continue reading your monthly statements and other correspondence from your bank for any changes to come in the future.  If you don’t bank with these folks, but another big bank, chances are they’re doing  (or thinking about doing) something similar – so it’s time to ask about fees.  And if you don’t want to deal with this at all look outside the biggest banks.   According to CNNMoney, “39 of the largest 50 credit unions offer free checking.” Many online only banks do too.

Gifts and Gift Cards.

If you got gifts that don’t fit (or you just don’t like) return them sooner rather than later.  This week I heard from two customers of The Children’s Place who ran afoul of changes in the return policy that say if you return more than 45 days after making your purchase (it used to be 90 days) you only get credited for the sale price rather than the price you paid – even if you had a receipt.  Return policies are generally getting tougher, so don’t dally. What if you got gift cards that don’t fit, for places you don’t shop, etc? Don’t just shove them in a drawer.  The average American has $300 in unused gift cards just sitting around the house.  Instead, swap them for cards you’ll actually use.  A recent SmartMoney.com test of gift card swapping sites netted the best offers from cardpool.comgiftcardrescue.com andplasticjungle.com.

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs.

The jobs number came out at 8:30 Friday morning and, despite only adding around 100,000 jobs,  it brought the unemployment rate down to 9.4%.  What does it mean?   That some people have stopped looking for jobs.  But there are also signs that some companies are starting to hire – and that hiring will likely accelerate.  If you’re out of work, or want to change jobs, now is time to put renewed energy into your efforts.  The biggest hiring is happening in technology, healthcare and education.  If you don’t have skills that align with those industries, think about how you could apply your skills in those areas.  You’re a lawyer in search of a firm? Think about going in-house at a company in one of these industries instead.  And note: The top three job markets in the country are Washington, DC (where there’s only 1.2 individuals looking for every job), Boston (where there are 2) and Austin, Texas.  If you’re just out of school (or you have a child who is) and unencumbered by kids and other responsibilities, pack a bag and get on the road.

Jean Chatzky
Making money make sense

blogging at www.jeanchatzky.com


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