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Better Off BONUS call 036 - Rent vs Buy

This week on the BONUS call it's Chipper from Atlanta with the age-old question of renting vs. buying. There is no rule that says it's always better to own. For some, renting can be a better long-term option. Chipper, currently a renter who despises debt, is wondering if he can make more in the stock market instead of tying up his cash in a house? Good question!

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Ep. 042 - The Road to Black Monday, the Worst Day in Wall Street History with Diana Henriques

Ask some Wall Street veterans where they were on October 19, 1987 and they will likely regale you with details of any crisis. My life changed that day in ways that often creep up on me. Indeed, Black Monday was the single worst day in Wall Street history, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunging by more than 22 percent in one session--that’s the equivalent of the blue chip index diving by more than 5,000 points today.

It was a “First Class Catastrophe”, according to our first class guest and storyteller supreme, Diana Henriques, who dropped by the studio to help us retrace the events that led up to that day.

Diana joined us on the podcast earlier this year when her book, The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust, was made into an HBO movie. This time around Diana is joining us to discuss her latest book, A First-Class Catastrophe: The Road to Black Monday, the Worst Day in Wall Street History. As Diana recounts, Black Monday was more than seven years in the making and threatened nearly every U.S. financial institution.

There were missed opportunities, market delusions, and destructive actions that stretched from the “silver crisis” of 1980 to turf battles in Washington and a rivalry between the New York Stock Exchange and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

Here’s the crazy thing...you’d think that after Black Monday, lessons would be learned. But in her analysis, Henriques demonstrates how that Monday in the fall of 1987 was the predicate to the financial crisis of 2008. Sadly, investors, regulators, and bankers failed to heed the lessons of 1987, even as the same patterns resurfaced.

This was a fascinating interview for me because I lived through this period. I had just started my career on Wall Street, as the chaos was unfolding. I watched firsthand as my father nearly lost his business. This chat was like going down memory lane and it’ll give you guys a good glimpse of the life I used to live before I started hosting podcasts and radio shows!

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Better Off BONUS call 035 - Pensions

Does having a job with a great pension mean you should stay there no matter what? That's what Nathan from Upstate New York is trying to decide. Nathan has a solid job with an awesome pension but was recently offered a new job without a pension. As I like to say, money makes life easier, but doesn't guarantee happiness.

Have a finance related question? Email us at askjill@betteroffpodcast.com.

We love feedback so please subscribe and leave us a rating or review in iTunes!

“Better Off” is sponsored by Betterment.

Have a finance related question? Email us here or call 855-411-JILL.

We love feedback so please subscribe and leave us a rating or review in iTunes!

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"Better Off" theme music is by Joel Goodman, www.joelgoodman.com.

Ep. 041 - The Equifax Data Breach with Credit Expert John Ulzheimer

How many of you were impacted by the recent Equifax data breach? I was, Mark was, and considering 145.5 million other Americans were impacted, I’m going to guess that includes many of you too.

Now that the news is out, heads have rolled (CEO Richard Smith has stepped down), Congressional hearings have taken place, where do things stand? More importantly, what should you do? Who should you trust?

In times like these, there’s one go-to person: John Ulzheimer, the foremost authority on anything involving credit scores, credit reports, breaches, etc. John is so good that we did this interview on the phone!

Formerly of FICO, Equifax and Credit.com, John is the only recognized credit expert who actually comes from the credit industry. He has served as a credit expert witness in more than 270 cases and has been qualified to testify in both Federal and State court on the topic of consumer credit.

We’re going to get into all the dos and don’ts with John, but so you also have the vitals to reference, here are the main takeaways:

  • Contact one (under Federal law, each is obligated to notify the other two) of the three credit bureaus Equifax (800-766-0008), Experian (888-397-3742) and TransUnion (800-680-7289) to put a free fraud alert on your credit report. You should also contact a fourth, lesser known company Innovis. The alert makes it harder for an identity thief to open more accounts in your name, but experts note that alerts usually just slow down the process of criminals opening accounts in your name, they don’t prevent it.
  • If someone has used your information to make purchases or open accounts, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and print your Identity Theft Affidavit. Use that to file a police report and create your Identity Theft Report.
  • Place a credit-freeze on your credit file, which generally stops all access to your credit report. Unfortunately, you need to contact all the companies to freeze your file. Here are the links: Equifax; Experian; TransUnion and Innovis. Important note about a freeze: If you need to access credit, you have to unfreeze your records, which can take a few days. Some states charge a fee for placing or removing a credit freeze, but it’s free to place or remove a fraud alert.

I’m not trying to freak you out or make you even more paranoid, but the reality of the situation is not if your information will be compromised, but when.

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"Better Off" theme music is by Joel Goodman, www.joelgoodman.com.

Better Off BONUS call 034 - 401(k)

Nowadays it's becoming more and more common for employers to offer a traditional 401(k) as well as a Roth 401(k). Our BONUS caller today, Andrea from Minnesota, has both options and is wondering which one she should use? Or should she use both?

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"Better Off" theme music is by Joel Goodman, www.joelgoodman.com.

Ep. 040 - The Surprising Power of a "Useless" Liberal Arts Education

So often on this podcast, and on my radio show, we field questions from recent grads with insane amounts of student loan debt. Sometimes it’s enough debt to wreck a life.

There’s enough blame to go around, but so often it’s a case of students feeling the pressure to go to fancy, high priced colleges to study what seems like an obscure major. But before you think that I am about to argue that every able-bodied student should be studying for a degree in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) field, read on...

Let me pose a question. What is wrong with a well-rounded liberal arts degree? A degree, which I might add, can be earned at countless reasonably priced colleges.

George Anders, our guest this week on Better Off makes a strong case in his recently released book, You Can Do Anything: The Surprising Power of a "Useless" Liberal Arts Education.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist or know how to write computer code to succeed in today’s work environment.

When you really think about it, it’s amazing how many doors a so called “useless” liberal arts education can open.

As George says, you can be yourself, as an English major, and thrive in sales. You can segue from anthropology into the booming new field of user research; from classics into management consulting, and from philosophy into high-stakes investing. At any stage of your career, you can bring a humanist’s grace to the rapidly evolving high-tech future.

If you’ve got kids starting the college application process, who are resisting calls to declare a STEM major or if you’re thinking about furthering your education by going to grad school, listen to this episode before making any decisions.

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"Better Off" theme music is by Joel Goodman, www.joelgoodman.com.

Better Off BONUS call 033 - Saving Money

I love when we get calls from young people, and that's the case on the latest BONUS call with Ruth from Cleveland. Ruth, just 24 years old, is already a great saver but she's wondering if there's a better alternative to a plain old savings account?

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"Better Off" theme music is by Joel Goodman, www.joelgoodman.com.

Ep. 039 - Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy with Tim Harford

How many of you rode an elevator today? Or Googled something? Or use index funds in your financial lives?

I’m going to guess all of you did at least one of those things. I’m also going to guess that you probably didn’t realize that those three things are among the 50 inventions that shaped the modern economy.

That’s according to the list compiled by BBC and Financial Times journalist Tim Harford, our guest this week on Better Off and author of the new book, Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy.

The book paints a picture of change by telling fascinating and compelling stories of the tools, people, and ideas that had far-reaching consequences for the global economy. From the plough to air conditioning, from Gillette’s disposable razor to IKEA’s Billy bookcase, Tim is able to recount each invention’s own curious, surprising, and memorable journey.

We also touched on Tim’s previous book, Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives, which comes out in paperback this October. As someone who could be described as a bit compulsive, especially when it comes to my email inbox, I loved this book because it celebrates the benefits of messiness in our lives: why it’s important, why we resist it, and why we should embrace it.

Little did I know that a bit of mess lies at the core of how we innovate, how we achieve, how we reach each other – in short, how we succeed.

I enjoyed this interview so much that, yep, you guessed it, no call this week! I don’t think you’ll mind...this was a fun one.

“Better Off” is sponsored by Betterment.

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"Better Off" theme music is by Joel Goodman, www.joelgoodman.com.

Better Off BONUS call 032 - Student Loans

This week on the BONUS call we've got Samantha from North Carolina. Samantha, who is currently in grad school at Duke University, will be entering the real world in May of 2018 and wants to know what steps she should take to immediately pay off her student loans. The good news is that Samantha had some soccer scholarships along the way so the damage isn't too severe.

“Better Off” is sponsored by Betterment.

Have a finance related question? Email us here or call 855-411-JILL.

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"Better Off" theme music is by Joel Goodman, www.joelgoodman.com.

Ep. 038 - How Wall Street Destroyed Main Street with Rana Foroohar

As you’ll recall, we did our fair share of explaining why Wall Street matters, on the episode featuring Bill Cohan.

Today we’re doing a 180 with financial journalist and author Rana Foroohar. Rana’s book, Maker and Takers: How Wall Street Destroyed Main Street, doesn’t exactly paint our economic system in the best light.

The book, just released in paperback, explores how the misguided financial practices and philosophies that nearly toppled the global financial system have infiltrated many US businesses.

Rana shows how the “financialization of America,” the trend by which finance and its way of thinking have come to reign supreme, is perpetuating Wall Street’s reign over Main Street, widening the gap between rich and poor, and threatening the future of the American Dream.

And since it’s not everyday that we have a Financial Times columnist in the studio, we also talked a good bit about the global economy, including Germany, Brexit, and China.

Rana is a great storyteller, and it’s through stories of both “Takers,” those stifling job creation while lining their own pockets, and “Makers,” businesses serving the real economy, that she shows how we can reverse these trends for a better path forward.

“Better Off” is sponsored by Betterment.

Have a finance related question? Email us here or call 855-411-JILL.

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"Better Off" theme music is by Joel Goodman, www.joelgoodman.com.