EndZone

 A couple of weeks ago I made a post about the  Financial Soccer game created by Visa and accessible via PracticalMoneySkills.com. Now, its time to shine some spotlight on the Financial Football game. When you click on the play button you are asked to pick a level based on your age; Rookie is between 11 and 14, Pro is between 14 and 18, and Hall of Fame is over the age of 18. Once a level is picked you are asked to select the game length which ranges from 5 to 20 mins. Afterwards, a visitor is able to pick the home and away team. The game is described by PracticalMoneySkills.com as “Give your financial knowledge a workout with the latest version of Financial Football, a fast-paced, NFL-themed video game developed by Visa. Test your money management skills by answering financial questions that allow you to move down the field and score touchdowns. Are you warmed up and ready to compete?” So far the top five teams are :

1. New England Patriots

2.Buffalo Bills

3.Greenbay Packers

4.Baltimore Ravens

Click here for the game.

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The Heartland

Tuesday November 27th I picked up the USA News Paper and I came across a fascinating article called “Wealth Rises in USA’s Heartland”. The main idea of the article is that a boom in oil and gas production is driving up wealth in some rural and small communities while the rest of the country is recovering at a slower drive. According to the article, average income per person fell 3.5% in metropolitan areas between 2007 and 2011 according to data released by the Federal Bureau of Economic Analysis. Despite the downturn in metropolitan areas small towns saw income rise 3.8% per person since 2007. If you want to see a place that highlights this new trend than visit North Dakota; by the way North Dakota is now the nation’s number two oil producer. The richest metro area is Bridgeport-Stamford CT at an income of $78,000 per person. Bridgeport-Stamford was followed by Midland Texas which is rich in oil deposits, followed by San Francisco and San Jose which has a booming tech industry.

If the boom of natural gas continues the rise of wealth in small towns will be a growing trend. For major metropolitan areas of the U.S.A which are concentrated on the coast it doesn’t signal their demise. I actually think it will make major metropolitan areas stronger.

Increase production of natural gas is a great for energy independence. It creates jobs and makes our economy more diverse plus its cleaner than oil. On the other hand its can have a negative impact on the environment if its not done safely. Strong oversight is needed in order to continue natural gas exploration while protecting the environment.

Sales Force

Salesforce.com is a cloud computing company. The first product being offered is something called sales cloud and according to the company Sales Cloud, “Super-charge your sales with the world’s #1 sales and CRM application. Sales Cloud helps sales reps close bigger deals faster and connect with customers on any device.” The second product being offered is Service Cloud and is described as , “Transform customer service and support with the #1 customer service application. With Service Cloud, you’ll increase customer satisfaction, improve agent productivity, and lower overall support costs.” The third service is something called Marketing Cloud and is described as “Engage customers everywhere with the leading social marketing application. Marketing Cloud helps you listen, gain insight, and respond to customers in real-time.” A third product being offered is something called a Sales Force Chatter and is described as “Transform the way you work with the leading enterprise social network. Sales force Chatter makes business processes social, so you can collaborate in real time—in context—from anywhere.”

The stock is at $ 158 per share. Some traders think the company will continue to grow while others are less optimistic. According to CNNMoney “ Any company that is trading for such a high earnings multiple runs the risk of stumbling hard if numbers miss estimates. It doesn’t matter that Salesforce may continue to post strong growth … it also has the burden of needing to top estimates all the time and issue good guidance. So far that hasn’t been a problem though. “

I think the company is noteworthy because it’s on the forefront of innovation and it actually does something meaningful. In other words it’s less of a fashion stock like Facebook and Twitter. As always look at all of the information before investing in it.

Click here to get the full CNNMoney article.

Something Unheard of (Free in NYC)

If you are a resident of New York City (NYC) or just visiting and want to find some fun free activities there are three great sources. The first is Time Out NYC, Club Free Time and NYC’s government website.

A visitor to Time Out NYC’s website can search for events based on location, date, and cost. You can find free live music, museum shows, free attractions and days out and if you looking for inexpensive date ideas you can find Free date ideas.

Club Free Time is full of events. However, in order to get full access to the website a person has to pay membership fees. Lastly, NYC’s government website is also another source for finding free things to do in NYC.

Out of the three options, Time Out NYC and the NYC’s government website are the best sources of information on finding free great things to do in NYC. The links to these sites are below:

http://www.nycgo.com/free 

http://www.timeout.com/newyork/things-to-do/free-things-to-do-in-new-york-city-1

http://www.clubfreetime.com/free-events-things-to-do-in-new-york-city.asp

Financial Soccer. Goooooooooooooooooollllll!

I came across Financial Soccer as I was looking for a fun and interactive game that would be educational. I found Financial Soccer on PracticalMoneyskills.com. The game’s website describes Financial Soccer as “Financial Soccer is a fast-paced, multiple-choice question game, testing players’ knowledge of financial management skills as they advance down field and try to score goals”.  The questions get harder as you move closer to the goal. If you don’t want to download directly from the website an option would be to have the game directly mailed to you. At the present moment there is a leaderboard where the U.S.A is ranked #1, followed by Brazil, Mexico, Ecuador and Belarus. I would highly recommend this game for some fun while still getting educated.Click on the link below to go directly to the game.

Financial Soccer.

Financial Tools

I am always looking for financial tools to help me make better decisions. With so many options it can be a bit overwhelming deciding what to do. In my search for some great financial tools I came across Bankrate.com and Mint.com. You have probably heard and or use both of these sites.There is a lot to love about Bankrate.com because it has everything for everyone.

If you are in the market to buy a home it can help you find a mortgage by state,city, amount and the product. There is a mortgage calculator for Mortgage  (includes amortization schedule), you can compare Fixed or adjustable rate mortgage?, there is a Loan-to-value calculator, Mortgage annual percentage rate calculator and Adjustable-rate mortgage calculator. Also, Bankrate.com posts news related specifically to homeowners such as the mortgage rate trend index. If you are in the market for refinance than Bankrate also has something for you by using the same tools for finding a mortgage. If you aren’t a homeowner Bankrate.com still has something for you.

For those looking to invest in CD’s, a visitor is able to compare the different rates offered by banks as well as the minimum deposit and comments by independent sources. Additionally, you can receive news related to CD’s. If you are an investor you get limitless information from Bankrate.com. An investor is able to get the most up to date news on Stocks, ETF’s, Mutual Funds and he or she will be able to calculate how to reach savings and investment goals. Also, an investor will be able to compare online brokers if he or she is looking for one. A very exciting part of Bankrate.com is the attention they pay to college students.

As I said in the about me section of this blog I graduated from SUNY Cortland in 2009 and I trully wish I had known more about finance. The good news is that I feel like financial institutions are paying more attention to college students. Bankrate.com allows students to look for student loans with the lowest rates and find a 529 College Savings plan. There are Student budget calculator, Loan calculator,Credit risk assessment calculator, Spending calculator and Lunch savings calculator. Mint.com is another good tool to get your financial house in order.

When you first go to mint.com and sign up they will ask for all of your financial information and then determine how much you spend and where you spend it. Furthermore, mint.com will be able to use that information to determine a budget for you. I will post more about it as I get more experience.

In conclusion, both tools are worthy of exploration to see if it’s a good fit for you.

What in the World ?

There are several trends that we should be following due to economic and political implications to the United States of America.

The first one is the growing strength of China. Currently, China is the second largest economy in the world with its economic growth outperforming many western nations and it has a strong military. Furthermore, China is in territorial disputes with Japan, Taiwan and several other SouthEastern countries. China is projected to overtake the U.S.A as the worlds largest economy by 2028. China as a civilization is very old and it makes me wonder if China will think of revenging( in whatever form possible) the perceived historical insults that China sustained. With the new Chinese leadership taking office soon I don’t know what to make of China. Will they go to war over territorial dispute ? Will China continue to invest in the U.S.A ? Will China be more assertive on the international stage ?

The second trend we should be following is the drama of Europe. Greece is going through tough economic times with high unemployment rate and increase in poverty. In Spain they are also going through some hard economic times. According to NY Times “The number of Spanish families facing eviction continues to mount at a dizzying pace — hundreds a day, housing advocates say. The problem has become so acute that Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has promised to announce emergency measures on Monday, though what they may be remains unclear.” In Portugal there has been protests over deep budget cuts. With Spain, Portugal and Greece in trouble some are wondering if the Euro will break and you might be thinking that’s another continent it wont effect me. That type of thinking is living in ignorance; you should pay attention because our markets are interconnected which means that American companies have some sort of European investments. If the Euro breaks there could be a serious economic disruption in the U.S.A. Will the European Union break up ?  and  Will there be a United States of Europe?

The third trend is the idea of fiscal cliff in the U.S.A. I still think that Congress and President will ultimately come to a solution. The decisions of China will influence what we do internationally and affect our economy. The European Union is a big trading block and for the most part our closes ally.

Groupon

According to BusinessInsider.com “Groupon’s stock has crashed to a new all-time low below $3 a share. The stock is now down more than 85% from its $20 IPO price a year ago.” Not only is the stock dropping but the company is laying off staff.  I am not sure Groupon will survive or that its stock will rise. 
 
According to Business Insider Groupon has been able to stay afloat by slashing jobs, it still has significant money from its IPO and by delaying payments to its merchants. For all you future or current investors Information is key in making any financial decision.
 
Do you think Groupon will survive ? and what effect will this have on Twitter IPO ( if it goes that way) as well as future of Facebook stock. ? Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/groupon-analyst-cuts-target-to-2-2012-11#ixzz2Bl35NZBz

Fiscal Cliff

http://video.about.com/entrepreneurs/Entrepreneur-Profile–William-Penn.htm

The video is from about.com

The greatest question to be answered after this election is Will politicians save us from the fiscal cliff ? Ultimately, they will because both Republicans and Democrats understand the damage this will cause to our economy. What do they mean by fiscal cliff ?, according to about.com, ““Fiscal cliff” is the popular shorthand term used to describe the conundrum that the U.S. government will face at the end of 2012, when the terms of the Budget Control Act of 2011 are scheduled to go into effect.” This means that automatic budget cuts will take place, there will be changes to the temporary payroll tax cuts, the end of certain tax breaks for businesses and others. There are at least three possibilities.

They can uphold the current policy scheduled for the beginning of 2013 –that have a number of tax increases and spending cuts that are expected to weigh heavily on growth thereby causing a great recession. The second option is to cancel some or all of the scheduled tax increases and spending cuts, which would add to the deficit or they can compromise. If they don’t compromise taxes across the board will go up, there could be devastating budget cuts and the credit worthiness of the U.S could be in danger.  What think will happen?

President Obama will  keep the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and in return he will ask the Republicans to work with him on tax reform so that wealthy individuals could pay more money even if it’s at the same rate. As far as the middle class tax rate is concern I think that ultimately we will have to pay a bit more whether the Bush tax cuts are kept or taken away.  I also think Democrats will be forced to give up on not touching Social Security and other entitlements. There will also be modest budget cuts. No matter how this issue is resolved both sides will have to give up something. The President doesn’t have to get re-elected but House and Senate members do.