Holiday shopping

Tips for Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday


With Black Friday in the rear view window, it’s time to focus on Cyber Monday, a holiday first mentioned in a NRF press release in 2005. At that time, the organization noted that the sharp increase in web traffic after the Thanksgiving weekend occurred because “consumers may have faster or more secure Internet connections at work and choose to shop there.” Despite having faster connections eleven years later, consumers are still lured by Cyber Monday deals. Shoppers spent $3.19 billion last year on the day and that number is expected to rise this year - according to Adobe Digital Insights, it is expected to be the largest online shopping day in history.

If you are planning to click away, here are Network World’s 12 Tips for Safer Shopping:

  • Only download or buy apps from legitimate app stores.
  • Suspect apps that ask for too many permissions.
  • Check out the reputation of apps and particularly the app publisher.
  • Only enter credit card info on secure shopping portals.
  • Avoid using simple passwords, and use two-factor authentication if you can.
  • Be alert for poisoned search results when using search engines to find products.
  • Don’t install software that sites require before you can shop.
  • Don’t use free pubic Wi-Fi to make purchases.
  • Be suspicious of great deals you learn about via social media or from email addresses you don’t recognize.
  • Turn off location services while shopping to minimize the potential personal data that could be compromised.
  • Make sure the connection to e-commerce sites is secured (HTTPS).
  • Double check the validity of the SSL certificate for the site.

In addition to Cyber Monday, the holiday weekend now extends to Giving Tuesday. Last year, over 700,000 people raised $116 million in over 70 countries and expectations are for even larger numbers this year, because post-election charitable giving has already spiked dramatically. Even before the election, Americans were known for their generosity. The U.S. is the world’s second most generous nation in the world (after Myanmar), according to the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF).

Americans gave $373.25 billion in 2015 and with changes to the tax code likely to occur next year, there could be a surge in giving before the end of 2016. Financial planners and tax preparers are urging clients to step up their charitable giving this year, because deductions are likely to be less valuable or potentially go away, in the coming years.

As you rush to complete your donations, you should be aware that earlier this year, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said “Fake charities set up by scam artists to steal your money or personal information are a recurring problem.”

To help avoid a costly mistake, here is a four-step checklist for your charitable giving.

Step 1: Confirm that the Charity is Legitimate. One of the simplest scams perpetuated by fraudsters involves using a name that seems familiar to a nationally known organization. To help taxpayers conduct research on organizations, the IRS has established an online search tool, Exempt Organizations Select Check , which allows users to search for and select an exempt organization and check certain information about its federal tax status and filings.

Remember, there’s a big difference between “tax exempt” and “tax deductible.” Tax-exempt means the organization doesn’t have to pay taxes. Tax deductible means you can deduct your contribution on your federal income tax return. Select Check allows you to find legitimate, qualified charities to which donations may be tax-deductible. Legitimate charities will provide their Employer Identification Numbers (EIN), if requested, which can be used to verify their legitimacy through EO Select Check. The IRS notes that it “is advisable to double check using a charity's EIN.”

Step 2: Research Charity’s Financial Health. Once you have confirmed that the group is legitimate, you can also see what others say about the organization by going to the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) Wise Giving AllianceCharity Watch and GuideStar. You will also want to know that its finances are healthy and that it is efficient, ethical and effective. Charity Navigator provides 0 to 4-star rating system, which includes a review of each charity’s fiscal performance. The site also helps you understand what portion of your donation goes to support overhead, versus goes to the cause itself.

Step 3: Determine how you will donate to the charity. You should NEVER send cash donations or wire money to someone claiming to be a charity. And do no not provide any personal or financial information until you’ve thoroughly researched the charity. If you are making a gift of appreciated securities from a taxable investment account, you will need to get information about how to send the assets-be sure to confirm all receiving account numbers.

If you are planning to send a check, your payments must be postmarked by midnight December 31st -- just writing “December 31st” on the check does not automatically qualify you for a deduction; and pledges aren’t deductible until paid. Donations made with a credit card are deductible as of the date the account is charged, so if you are a little late in the process, you probably should stick to credit cards.

Step 4: Keep Good Records. For any cash or property valued at $250 or more, you must have a receipt (bank record, payroll deduction or written communication) identifying the organization, the date and amount of the contribution and a description of the property. For text message donations, flag the telephone bill with the name of the receiving organization, the date of the contribution, and the amount given.

MARKETS: In a holiday-shortened week, all four US stock indexes closed at new record highs and saw their third consecutive week of gains.

  • DJIA: 19,152, up 1.5% on week, up 9.9% YTD
  • S&P 500: 2213, up 1.4% on week, up 8.3% YTD
  • NASDAQ: 5398, up 1.5% on week, up 7.8% YTD
  • Russell 2000: 1347, up 2.4% on week, up 18.6% YTD (15-day winning streak)
  • 10-Year Treasury yield: 2.36% (from 2.34% week ago, highest since July 2015)
  • British Pound/USD: 1.2477 (from 1.2356 week ago)
  • January Crude: $46.06, down 0.6% on week
  • February Gold: $1,186.10, down 2.5% on week, 9-month low
  • AAA Nat'l avg. for gallon of reg. gas: $2.12 (from $2.15 wk ago, $2.05 a year ago)

THE WEEK AHEAD: The Labor Department will release the final employment report before the Federal Reserve’s December 13-14 policy meeting. Barring a very strange reading (the consensus estimate for job creation in November is 170,000 and the unemployment rate should remain at 4.9 percent) or a sudden, exogenous event, a quart-point rate increase is assumed to be a done deal.

Mon 11/28:

8:30 Chicago Fed National Activity Index

Tues 11/29:

8:30 Q3 GDP-2nd Estimate

9:00 US/S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Indices

10:00 Consumer Confidence Index

Weds 11/30:

OPEC Meeting in Vienna

8:15 ADP Private Payrolls Report

8:30 Personal Income and Spending

9:45 Chicago PMI

10:00 Pending Home Sales

2:00 Fed Beige Book

Thurs 12/1

Motor Vehicle Sales

9:45 PMI Manufacturing Index

10:00 ISM Manufacturing

10:00 Construction Spending

Friday 12/2

8:30 November Jobs Report

Does Black Friday Matter?


As we prepare for the retail launch of the holiday season, here’s a question worth tackling: Does Black Friday (or Gray Thursday) matter? If you’re the kind of shopper that delights in the adrenaline rush of shopping in the wee hours of the Friday after Thanksgiving, go for it. For the rest of us, it may be better to just enjoy a long weekend. Although you are likely to be barraged by offers, according to the New York Times, “the chances of snatching a great deal for a quality item are slim, largely because Black Friday is mainly designed for retailers to clear out unwanted goods, and because best-selling products rarely drop much in price.” Those warnings are unlikely to deter the throngs--Black Friday is still expected to be the Number One shopping day of the year, despite a drop off in sales estimates over the past two years.

Overall, Americans are expected to increase holiday spending, which includes all of November and December, by 3 to 3.5 percent from a year ago, according to the research firm eMarketer. Warning: don’t pay too much attention to the estimate from the National Retail Federation (NRF), which calls for a 3.6 percent increase in holiday spending in 2016. The NRF’s projections tend to overestimate sales growth because of its shaky methodology, which relies on asking consumers how much they spent last year, and how much they plan on spending this year.

With the election settled and wage growth strengthening, there could be an upside surprise to retail results this holiday season. Regardless of whether sales increase by more or less than expected, the focus will return to the growth of digital. In a report last week, the government said that overall e-commerce jumped 15.7 percent in the third quarter from a year ago, while total retail sales increased 2.2 percent in the same period. Still, most shopping still occurs in physical stores. Last quarter, E-commerce accounted for just 8.4 percent of overall retail sales.

But these numbers are somewhat misleading, because overall retail sales include the big-ticket automobile category, as well as gas and groceries. According to consultancy Strategy&, these groups are responsible for almost half of total retail sales. Without them, online’s penetration of its “addressable market” is closer to 16 percent.

The subset of digital commerce that continues to power sales is mobile. According to Adobe Digital research, in 2016, “mobile will overtake desktop for the first time in terms of driving visits to a website during the holiday season.” But consumers are using their phones more to research than to make purchases.

If you do plan to get busy this week, here are few things to keep in mind:

  • Make a list of products you want to buy and start tracking their prices on Google and Amazon and then on PriceGrabber or PriceJumpon
  • The hottest gifts this season are expected to be VR devices (Oculus, PlayStation VR and HTC Vive), Pokémon, Barbie, Lego, Hot Wheels and Frozen toys, as well as Google Home and Amazon Echo.
  • When you log on is important. The Monday before Thanksgiving is good for electronics; if apparel is on your list, the biggest discounts will be highest on Tuesday; and the majority of Walmart’s Black Friday deals, are available to online shoppers starting at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday. Thanksgiving Day is the best day for jewelry purchases.
  • Black Friday deals: Cheap electronics, video games, DVDs, and gaming systems. And while it may not exactly be on Santa’s list, Friday may also be a good day to close a deal on a new car, as dealers seek to clear out inventory and boost sales. Cyber Monday can be ideal for toys, which are 13 percent less expensive than they were in October, according to Adobe.
  • Don’t be loyal: Despite the ability to find steep discounts, 25 percent of customers will end up paying higher prices because they are loyal to a retailer.
  • Download ShopSavvy, before you hit the brick and mortar stores…the app can scan barcodes and compare at other big retailers.
  • Check out CNET’s Black Friday Guide, which highlights the best deals at many of the nation’s top retailers and Consumer World’s Black Friday Week Tips for Bagging a Bargain.
  • Sobering reminder: The best deals always occur AFTER the holidays.

MARKETS: The post-election selloff in the bond market continued, as investors bet that the Trump administration will boost spending, cut taxes and as a result, spark an increase in inflation. The yield on the benchmark 10-year note closed at a 12-month high and logged the biggest two-week gain in 15 years. The Treasury bond market is on pace for the biggest monthly negative return since December 2009 and the overall bond market has seen the biggest two-week rout in data going back to 1990.

  • DJIA: 18,868, up 0.1% on week, up 8.3% YTD
  • S&P 500: 2182, up 0.8% on week, up 6.8% YTD
  • NASDAQ: 5321, up 1.6% on week, up 6.3% YTD
  • Russell 2000: 1315, up 2.6% on week, up 15.8% YTD
  • 10-Year Treasury yield: 2.34% (from 2.12% week ago)
  • British Pound/USD: 1.2356 (from 1.2593 week ago)
  • December Crude: $45.54, up 5.3% on week
  • December Gold: $1,208.30, down 1.3% on week, 9-month low
  • AAA Nat'l avg. for gallon of reg. gas: $2.15 (from $2.18 wk ago, $2.12 a year ago)


Mon 11/21:

8:30 Chicago Fed National Activity Index

Tues 11/22:

10:00 Existing Home Sales

Weds 11/23:

8:30 Durable Goods Orders

10:00 New Home Sales

10:00 Consumer Sentiment

2:00 FOMC Minutes


Large stores open:

3pm JC Penney

4pm Old Navy (some locations only)

5pm Best Buy, Toys R-Us, Macy’s

6pm Wal-Mart, Sears, Kohl’s, Target

7pm K-Mart

Large Stores Closed:

TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, Staples, Office Depot, BJs, Costco, GameStop, Lowe’s, Nordstrom’s, Neiman Marcus, Christmas Tree Shop

Friday 11/25 BLACK FRIDAY

1:00 Stock Markets close early

#247 The Thanksgiving Show


Guest Hart Lambur, CEO and co-founder of Openfolio joins the show to discuss how investors can make smarter, more confident investment decisions by sharing their portfolios with one another.

  • Download the podcast on iTunes
  • Download the podcast on feedburner
  • Download this week's show (MP3)

Thanks to everyone who participated this week, especially Mark, the Best Producer in the World. Here's how to contact us:

  • Call 855-411-JILL and we'll schedule time to get you on the show LIVE 

#246 The Holiday Shopping Show


Ladies and Gentlemen, start your shopping season begins RIGHT NOW. I provide some tips as to when to score the best deals and give you permission to take a break from football and family to shop from the privacy of your own home on Thanksgiving Day -- especially to snag that average discount of 27 percent!

  • Download the podcast on iTunes
  • Download the podcast on feedburner
  • Download this week's show (MP3)

Out guest James Nichols is the head of Retirement Income and Advice Strategy for Retirement for Voya Financial, but we prefer the title, "Retirement Yoda". James talked about the Voya Born to Save program, where any child born on October 19th 2015 can receive $500 from Voya! James also discussed great ways to break down financial goals by key life stages and milestones.

Thanks to everyone who participated this week, especially Mark, the Best Producer in the World. Here's how to contact us:

  • Call 855-411-JILL and we'll schedule time to get you on the show LIVE 

Janet Yellen Spurs Santa Claus Rally


Leave it to a nice Jewish girl from Brooklyn to give Santa Claus a nudge. In its last policy meeting of the year, Janet Yellen (who hails from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn) and her cohorts at the Fed split the difference on the language used to describe when we would see an increase short-term interest rates. The central bank “judges that it can be patient (emphasis mine) in beginning to normalize the stance of monetary policy,” but also added the new description of their stance was “consistent” with past assurances that rates would stay low for a “considerable time.” Investors loved the punt, believing that the Fed is not likely to raise rates any time soon. All of the sudden, the Santa Claus Rally was ON! In fact, after a dismal start to the week, stocks powered higher Wednesday through Friday (the best three-day percentage gain for the Dow and the S&P 500 in three years) and finished within striking distance of all-time highs. Fears melted away about the oil plunge signifying a global growth slowdown and a possible financial contagion from the Russian currency crisis, allowing ol’ Saint Nick (via Saint Janet) to take control.

Meanwhile, consumers and retailers are preparing for the last gasp of holiday shopping before Christmas. Early results have been mixed, but that might have more to do with the season stretching out over a longer period, than the fact that people are spending less overall. Separate data from IBM’s real-time tracking index of digital shopping and Adobe confirm that consumers have already spent record amounts online and companies like Wal-Mart and Target reported strong holiday numbers.

These results fly in the face of the National Retail Federation’s finding that total projected sales tumbled 11 percent during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, but it’s important to note that NRF data is based on a totally non-scientific survey, which asks random shoppers whether they plan to spend more or less than last holiday season. Considering that most consumers can hardly recall what they spent last week - let alone last year, most analysts have dismissed NRF findings.

To determine whether or not Santa delivered retailers a jolly holiday season, we’ll have to wait until the Commerce Department releases its monthly retail sales report in January and retailers report their earnings reports for the fourth quarter. Until then, it’s probably best to concentrate on the holidays themselves and not get wrapped up in guesswork.

MARKETS: Last week was a great lesson in volatility…and if you can’t take it, then you might want to consider reviewing your portfolio allocation. For the five days, Santa stuffed investors’ stockings with gifts, not lumps of coal, as indexes climbed within spitting distance of milestones (Dow 18K) and records (S&P 500 2075).

  • DJIA: 17,804, up 3% on week, up 7.4% YTD
  • S&P 500: 2070, up 3.4% on week, up 12% YTD
  • NASDAQ: 4765, up 2.4% on week, up 14.1% YTD
  • Russell 2000: 1196, up 3.8% on week, up 2.8% YTD
  • 10-Year Treasury yield: 2.18% (from 2.08% a week ago)
  • January Crude Oil: $56.52, down 2.2% on week
  • February Gold: $1,196, down 2.1% on week
  • AAA Nat'l average price for gallon of regular Gas: $2.43 (from $3.22 a year ago)

THE WEEK AHEAD: By Tuesday at 10:15ET, you can call it quits for the week!

Mon 12/22:

8:30 Chicago Fed Nat’l Activity

10:00 Existing Home Sales

Tues 12/23:

8:30 Durable Goods Orders

8:30 Q3 GDP (final reading, previous=3.9%)

8:30 Personal Income and Spending

10:00 New Home Sales

Weds 12/24:

1:00 US Markets close early for Christmas


Fri 12/26:

Holiday Sales Season 2014 Kicks Off


American consumers: start your engines! This weekend kicks off the holiday shopping season and with just 33 days to go before Christmas, retailers and economists alike have visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads. Back in October, the National Retail Foundation predicted holiday sales in November and December (excluding autos, gas and restaurant sales) would increase 4.1 percent to $616.9 billion, a full percentage point higher than 2013’s actual 3.1 percent increase during that same time frame and above the 2.9 percent growth over the past 10 years.

Other estimates have been similarly upbeat. Deloitte’s annual holiday forecast suggests sales will increase 4 to 4.5 percent, boosted by a 13 percent increase in consumer spending across all categories to $1,299 this holiday season. Analysts at Morgan Stanley believe that it will be a jolly holiday season, helped by an increase in personal income and wilder availability of credit. And research from Capital Economics shows that with employment rising and a fall in gas prices boosting real incomes, “this holiday shopping season could be the best in nine years”.

Regardless of the actual results, what is clear is that the nature of the holiday season is changing. NRF notes that holiday sales represent approximately 19.2 percent of the industry’s annual sales of $3.2 trillion, but for some retailers, the two-month season can account for almost 40 percent of total annual revenues. Perhaps that is why so many big names have extended the season by opening on Thanksgiving Day and even earlier - Wal-Mart started its holiday promotions last Friday!

With a full week to shop, the influence of Black Friday and Cyber Monday are expected to wane. That said, digital is where the growth lies. expects 2014 online holiday sales to increase between 8 and 11 percent over last holiday season to as much as $105 billion. But that’s not the whole story: Deloite found that 50 percent of in-store retail sales, or $345 billion, will be influenced by digital interactions this holiday season.

For those inclined to get a jump on shopping, research from Adobe Digital has found that online prices will hit rock bottom on Thanksgiving Day, where consumers will see an average discount of 24 percent. (The average item will be 20 percent off during Thanksgiving week; prices will increase the Tuesday after Cyber Monday.) The second best day to shop online is the Monday before Thanksgiving.

Finally, despite the pain of the past credit bubble bursting, Americans are still willing to go into hock during the holiday season. According to a survey commissioned by NerdWallet and conducted by Harris Poll, families with household incomes between $50,000 and $75,000 will take an average of 2.6 months to pay off holiday debt, whereas families with household incomes below $50,000 will take an average of 2 months.

MARKETS: Stocks reached a milestone last week: For the first time since the dotcom bubble (14 years), the S&P 500 hit a new all-time, inflation-adjusted high.

  • DJIA: 17,810, up 1% on week, up 7.4% YTD
  • S&P 500: 2063, up 1.2% on week, up 11.6% YTD (45th record close of 2014)
  • NASDAQ: 4712, up 0.5% on week, up 12.8% YTD
  • Russell 2000: 1172, flat on week, up 0.9% YTD
  • 10-Year Treasury yield: 2.31% (from 2.31% a week ago)
  • January Crude Oil: $76.51, up 0.9% on the week (snaps a seven-week losing streak)
  • December Gold: $1197.70, up 1% on the week
  • AAA Nat'l average price for gallon of regular Gas: $2.83 (from $3.24 a year ago; AAA projects 46.3 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the Thanksgiving weekend, the highest volume since 2007 and a 4.2 percent increase over 2013. Almost 90 percent will celebrate the holiday with a road trip.)

THE WEEK AHEAD: Despite the Thanksgiving holiday, it will be a big week for economic data.

Mon 11/24:

8:30 Chicago Fed National Activity Index

10:30 Dallas Fed Manufacturing Survey

Tues 11/25:

8:30 Q3 GDP – 2nd Estimate (Initial reading: +3.5%)

9:00 Case-Schiller Home Price Index

10:00 Consumer Confidence

Weds 11/26:

8:30 Weekly Claims

8:30 Durable Goods Orders

8:30 Personal Income and Spending

9:55 Consumer Sentiment

10:00 New Home Sales

Thurs 11/28: Thanksgiving Day: ALL US Markets closed

The OPEC oil cartel meets in Vienna: Most experts say that even if the group were to agree on an export cut, it is unlikely to have a meaningful effect on prices, due to increased production by non-members

Fri 11/29: Black Friday

1:00 US markets close early