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This Week in Your Wallet: September 27, 2011

It’s been a bad week to be a Phillies fan – or to be married to one.  After clinching their playoff spot back on September 14 (the earliest the Phillies have ever clinched a playoff berth), Lee, Halliday and the rest went on to lose eight straight. Eight. The last time they did that was in 2000, a year that marked the worst for the franchise in nearly three decades.   Despite the win they snagged from the Mets on Sunday, emotions have been running incredibly high.

Kind of like they have been for investors.   Stocks ended higher on Friday (and are looking like they’ll do the same as I write this early Monday afternoon) but last week was the worst in the stock market since 2008.  Meanwhile, 10-year Treasuries rallied and the dollar showed some serious strength.

Whether you’re a baseball fan or a 401(k) owner, it’s time to take a chill pill.  For my column in this week’s Newsweek, I spoke to experts about how to do precisely that.   The most surprising information – courtesy of Harvard University Professor Jennifer Lerner – is that specific emotions will actually lead you to behave certain ways.   As I wrote in the piece:

“….anger makes people optimistic and risk-seeking, while fear makes them pessimistic and risk-averse. Sadness makes people eager to buy things; disgust makes them unlikely to want to buy anything at all; both make them likely to sell on the cheap things they already have. . . All these feelings are detrimental when making investing calls.”

Interesting, right? You can read the rest of the story here. Here’s what else you might have missed this week:

Google’s latest conquest: your wallet

Last week, Google unveiled a new application that will turn your smart phone into your wallet: Google Wallet.  Though only in limited release right now, it is the first foray into mobile payments — and quite possibly, the first step towards making your bursting-at-the-seams wallet obsolete.

The way it works is this: Once you download the app, you will have access to your credit cards, loyalty cards, and payment history. (Google hopes that eventually this will hold transit cards, tickets, boarding passes and more.) For now, you can only use a Citi-Mastercard or a Google prepaid card — though obviously the goal is to include as many banks in this as possible. You can use the app anywhere PayPass is accepted — i.e, any terminal that accepts a tap from a card instead of a swipe. With this tap, Google Wallet transmits your info and makes the payment for you. All this without needing to reach into your wallet once!

Google claims this is safe, but Bill Hardekopf of lowcards.com has a few words of caution to those who might get overexcited by the prospect of paying with a phone:

“Ideally, consumers should have strong protections against unauthorized transactions and billing errors with a mobile payment, no matter what form of payment is used,” Hardekopf says. “But this is a new, and consumers have to know what they are signing up for and the risk. Mobile payments are another easy way to charge more than you can afford. If you can’t pay off your balance in full each month, don’t increase your credit card balance with mobile payments.”

I’m curious: What do you think? Are you eager to use Google Wallet? I think the concept is interesting, though as someone whose wallet is bursting with receipts and spare change, am doubtful that this will ever truly replace our physical wallets.

Do you hear what I hear?

No? You don’t hear the bells of the upcoming holiday season? My mistake. But while I completely agree that Labor day was just yesterday, retailers want you thinking less of your white shorts and more of a white Christmas — or more precisely, what you will be opening on your holiday morning.

In anticipation of Black Friday (a mere 59 days away), dealnews.com released some predictions about the prices you will encounter when you start your holiday shopping. Among the highlights:

–You will be able to find a 32-inch, LCD HDTV for only $199, a 15% drop from prices you may have seen this summer.

–A basic 15-inch or 16-inch laptop with a dual-core processor will only set you back $189.

–For the fourth year in a row, Apple will be running deals that give you 5-10% off new iPods, iMacs, and MacBooks; if you purchase these online, you will receive free shipping. Take advantage of this — it’s Apple’s only sale of the year.

–The Kindle 3 will drop to $99 per unit.

So why am I telling you this now? Because I’m a proponent of planning ahead for the holiday season and I don’t want you to blow your budget now on electronics that, as we can see, will drop in price later. For more Black Friday deal predictions, check out the full report here. And after you read it, file it away and don’t think about it until your sandals have been in the closet for at least two weeks. After all, it’s 78 degrees where I am, and still baseball season — hardly the atmosphere in which to start my holiday shopping list!

And on that note, have a great week!


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