Gas Prices Plummet in Many States, Down 30¢ in One Week

A gas attendant at a 19 Petroleum gas station pumps gas on August 25, 2015 in Woodbridge, New Jersey. Some places in New Jersey are seeing prices under two dollars as the price of gasoline continues to fall.
Yvonne Hemsey—Getty Images

After the spike in the Midwest, gas prices dip sharply.

When oil prices drop, so does the cost of filling up at the gas station. That’s how things work normally. But the exact opposite took place in much of the country in August, as gas prices soared in the Midwest—rising 40¢ overnight in some locations—despite oil prices dipping to six-year lows.

The blame for the odd, frustrating situation was cast on problems at the Midwest’s most important refinery, located in Indiana and run by British Petroleum. Now that the industry has had time to cope with the outage, prices are retreating—in some cases, almost as quickly as they shot up.

In Michigan, the statewide average dropped 32¢ per gallon over the past week. Average prices in Chicago fell around 30¢ too, though because the Windy City is so reliant on the Indiana refinery, prices remain roughly 40¢ per gallon higher compared with the rest of the state. Prices have dropped steeply in states such as Wisconsin as well, falling nearly 35¢ in Milwaukee over the past week.

The price crash in the Midwest has pushed the national average southward, reaching $2.47 as of Monday, according to AAA, down roughly 12¢ in the last week. Barring more refinery problems or other issues that could derail the current trend, the national average should keep inching toward the $2 mark this fall, as analysts have forecast.

MONEY Education

12 Big Back-to-School Trends Every Parent Should Know

Essential reading for the start of the school year.

The 2015-2016 school year is upon us. Are you ready? To get up to speed, take note of a dozen trends around the country that are having an impact on what students are wearing to school, when your child has to get up in the morning for the start of the school day, how much families must chip in for class supplies and school activities, which kids are most likely to be left behind inside and outside the classroom, and more.

  • Later School Starting Times

    girl in bed sleeping with alarm clock
    Aitor Diago—Getty Images

    The CDC and pediatricians are among the many who recommend later start times for schools in order to assure that kids get enough sleep. And slowly, schools seem to be getting the message. Three-quarters of high schools in the northern-latitude states of North Dakota and Alaska begin the day at 8:30 a.m. or later, and a trickling of schools in places like Yakima, Wash., and Denver, Colo., are joining their ranks this fall. States such as New Jersey have agreed to study the impact of later school start times as well. On the other hand, nationwide, more than 80% of public high schools still start the day before 8:30 a.m.

  • Growing Extracurricular Activity Gap

    students in theater group
    Getty Images

    Over the past few decades, researchers have traced a trend they describe as “alarming”: The percentage of upper- and middle-class kids participating in the drama program, hobby clubs, and other non-athletic afterschool activities has steadily increased, while poor students have followed the opposite trajectory. In the early 1980s, participation in such activities was measured at 65% for low-income high school seniors and 73% for their wealthier counterparts. A decade later, the numbers shifted to 61% and 75%, respectively. By 2004, extracurricular participation rates for low-income seniors were down to 56%.

  • BYO Band-Aids


    It’s not your imagination. Schools really are asking parents to buy more supplies to keep their kids’ classrooms stocked with the basics—everything from tissues to copy paper to Band-Aids. According to the annual Backpack Index from Huntington Bank, a family with three kids (one apiece in elementary, middle, and high school) can expect to pay more than $3,000 this year for school supplies and extracurricular activities. So much for the idea of a free education.

  • More and More Student Fees

    children boarding school bus
    Jamie Grill—Getty Images

    It’s not just increasing school supply lists that are pinching parents. Families are also facing new or significantly higher fees for things like riding the bus or parking a car at school, and participating in sports and other programs. Some schools simply asked students to arrive on the first day with a $50 check to serve as payment for vague “activity fees.” School districts usually cite budget cuts as the reason fees must be instituted.

  • The Lunch Lady Goes Gourmet

    Getty Images

    Forget about Sloppy Joes. Increasingly, parents and school cafeterias are catering to the dietary restrictions and preferences of young people today, with more gluten-free, organic, and vegetarian options. The cuisine at some school cafeterias is growing increasingly sophisticated as well, serving everything from butternut squash ravioli to made-to-order smoothies, and featuring bistro-style breakfasts and carving stations.

  • Free Lunch for More Students

    Getty Images

    As of the 2012-2013 school year, 21.5 million kids in American schools received free or reduced-price lunch, as part of the federally funded National Lunch Program. In most cases, free or reduced-price lunches are provided based on the student’s household income levels falling within a certain limit. And the number of students eligible for free lunch is on the rise thanks to an increased income threshold, as well as the expansion of communities that can simply forget about the paperwork and provide free lunches to all students. When 40% of the local students qualify for free lunch, the entire school system becomes eligible, allowing vast student populations in parts of Michigan, Massachusetts, Oregon, Idaho, and beyond to get free lunch at school without any stigma, and regardless of their household income.

  • Back-to-School Spending Shrinks

    school supplies
    Getty Images—iStockphoto

    Over the past decade, back-to-school spending has increased 42%, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). So the anticipated decrease in spending this season—estimated at an average of $630 per household, down from $669 last year—is perhaps more than anything else an indication that parents are realizing they’ve gone overboard in the past.

  • More School Uniforms

    Young student; school uniforms
    Getty Images—Getty Images

    One of the more interesting trends cited by the NRF for the 2015-2016 school year is that 28% of surveyed parents say their kids wear uniforms in school. That’s the highest rate ever in the poll’s history.

  • First-Day-of-School Fashion Stress

    school children chatting in hallway
    Nancy Honey—Getty Images

    According to a survey conduced for, a coupon and cash-back shopping site, parents and teenagers are in agreement that the most stressful category of back-to-school shopping is clothing. In the comment section of the survey, parents lamented, “My son is so picky,” and explained that “Having to negotiate what [my daughter] can and cannot wear to school” is what makes shopping for school clothing so stressful. As for what stresses out teens about clothes shopping, the two top factors cited were “My parents can’t afford what I want” and “My parents don’t agree with what I want.” No wonder more schools are resorting to uniforms.

  • Common Core Backlash

    Standerdized test
    Tetra Images—Getty Images

    The Common Core initiative seeks consistent educational standards throughout the country. That doesn’t sound like such a bad thing. But the Common Core and the standardized tests that come along with it have come under enormous criticism from conservatives and liberals alike. Many teachers and parents aren’t fans either, largely because the one-size-fits-all approach and the narrow focus on test preparation undermines the teacher’s ability to cater lessons to individual students, potentially leaving some kids in the lurch. Movements to opt out of Common Core tests have gained traction in New York, New Jersey, California, and Colorado, among other states, and according to a recent poll, the majority (54%) of public school parents say they oppose teachers using Common Core standards to set the agenda for what they teach.

  • Bye-Bye Lockers

    Getty Images Laptops in school

    As more traditional books disappear from schools thanks to e-books and web-based learning, schools are finding that there is less need for the lockers that have lined school hallways for decades. The disappearing locker trend began several years ago and has picked up steam around the country since. And what are schools doing with the extra space once occupied by lockers? Some are installing laptop charging stations.

  • Nobody Knows How to Pay for College

    College student
    Getty Images—Getty Images

    It’s a good thing that many colleges offer heavily discounted tuition via grants, scholarships, and such. After all, the vast majority of Americans say they could not afford the full “sticker price” college tuition. According to a new poll conducted for the financial services firm Edward Jones, a whopping 83% said they couldn’t afford the full cost of college for themselves or a loved one. Even among well-off respondents earning $100,000 or more annually, only 37% said they could cover the entire cost of a college education.

MONEY Food & Drink

Here’s Why Starbucks Loves Pumpkin Spice Latte Customers So Much

Pumpkin Spiced Latte
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Coffee shops love you even more than you love that PSL.

Talk about a win-win. If you’ve ever wondered why major coffee outlets like Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts make such a big deal about the annual arrival of pumpkin spice this and peppermint mocha that on store menus, new research provides a pretty big clue. These seasonal drinks do double duty, in that they not only boost the frequency of customer visits but also prompt customers to spend more on each “refueling” stop.

According to the industry publication Nation’s Restaurant News, the NPD Group tracked the beverage purchases at an undisclosed “major chain” last fall and winter. Customers who purchased a pumpkin spice latte spent an average of $7.81, compared with an average check of $6.67 for party poopers who ordered non-pumpkin items. There was an even bigger difference between the average check that included a white mocha purchase ($8.37), versus one that did not ($6.84).

What’s more, the NPD also conducted research correlating an increase in the frequency of visits for customers purchasing a popular seasonal shake from another unnamed “major chain” that may or may not be McDonald’s. Fans of these shakes also tended to be among the chain’s best customers. During the two months before the arrival of the seasonal shake, they made an average of 5.7 visits; once the promotional shake was on the menu, visits inched up further. Customers who didn’t purchase the seasonal shake, on the other hand, made an average of 4.7 visits during the two months prior to the limited-time offer, and 4.4 visits while the shake was available on the menu.

“These seasonal beverages have a positive impact on visit frequency,” NPD Group analyst Bonnie Riggs said. “If you can increase visit frequency by one full visit, that’s a lot of volume.”

No wonder, then, that Starbucks tries to make headlines with the announcement of when its Pumpkin Spice Latte will be back on menus (September 8 this year), and that Dunkin’ Donuts has been running a big social media campaign about the August 31 return to the menu of pumpkin-spiced products. For that matter, no wonder coffee chains and fast food franchises are constantly rolling out new limited-time offers and seasonal specialties. These items build excitement and draw in customers—who tend to spend more on each visit.

Read Next: Why McDonald’s May Start Skipping Dividends

MONEY deals

$15 Flights! Crazy Airfare Sales From 4 Airlines Right Now

Southwest Airlines
courtesy Southwest Airlines—Wieck

All four airlines have flights on sale for under $50.

The data indicates that, at long last, flights are getting cheaper. Based on this week’s crop of new airline sales—with four airlines launching sales starting under $50 a flight—it sure seems like prime time to snag a deal.

Before plotting a cheap getaway, note that availability on the fares listed below is limited in terms of both seats and dates. Be as flexible as you can to ensure the best possibility of paying the least. For the most part, forget about flying on a Friday or Sunday for a prayer of grabbing one of these bargain fares. But if your schedule allows midweek travel during the off-peak autumn season, there are some amazing deals to be had.

Frontier Airlines: From $15
Like Spirit Airlines, Frontier runs on a business model of cheap flight prices and few (read: almost no) complimentary extras. The tradeoff for having to pay for basic amenities like carry-on baggage is inexpensive airfare, especially when there’s a sale—like now. One-way flight prices start at just $19 or $20 for select Tuesday, Wednesday, and (sometimes) Saturday departures on routes such as Phoenix to Chicago, Denver to Portland (OR), Cleveland to Raleigh-Durham, and St. Louis to Orlando. In most cases, flights must be booked by August 26. In many cases, the fare is lowered to $15 with use of the code SAVEBIG when purchasing.

Spirit Airlines: From $34
Low-fare, high-fee Spirit Airlines lists select dates this fall when fares start at just $34 each way on routes such as Atlantic City to Atlanta, Philadelphia to Myrtle Beach, New Orleans to Chicago, Las Vegas to San Diego, and Orlando to Cleveland. Longer routes like Fort Myers to Minneapolis and Los Angeles to Cleveland are priced starting at just $63. These sale prices must be booked by August 26, and availability and dates are limited. Members of Spirit’s $9 Fare Club can save up to $10 or so more on each flight, though paying the $60 annual fee is probably only worth it if you fly Spirit a few times a year.

Southwest Airlines: From $39
Because Southwest is the lone airline that still allows passengers to check two bags at no extra charge, this is arguably the best value of the bunch. The airline is discounting flights all over the country, and sale airfares are valid for purchase through September 3. Still, availability is limited so it’s probably best not to wait too long. The best fares start at $39 each way on a few routes to and from Washington, D.C. (Reagan) and Indianapolis, Akron, and Columbus (OH). Among the other intriguing deals are Orlando to Indianapolis ($102), Seattle to Orange County ($94), Oakland to Las Vegas ($63), and Baltimore to Fort Lauderdale ($88).

JetBlue: From $49
Bookings must be made by Wednesday, August 26, to snag JetBlue fares such as Detroit to Fort Lauderdale ($79), Hartford to Washington, D.C., ($79), Charlotte to Boston ($79), New York-JFK to Jacksonville ($99), Long Beach to Sacramento ($59), Las Vegas to Long ($49), and Boston to Richmond ($49). Fares on valid on Monday-Thursday and Saturday departures from September 8 to December 16, with a few blackout dates around holidays.

Read next: This Is the Cheapest Time of Day to Book a Flight

MONEY online shopping

The Reason You First Started Shopping at Amazon Is Disappearing

An employee pushes a cart past bays of merchandise as she processes customer orders at the Inc. fulfillment center in Poznan, Poland, on Friday, June 12, 2014.
Bartek Sadowski—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Amazon's reputation for low-price supremacy is called into question.

First and foremost in its rise to the top of retail, Amazon grabbed the attention of consumers simply by undercutting the competition on price. It started in the mid-’90s with books “priced close to cost, in order to increase sales volume,” as an in-depth New Yorker story about the company put it. In lieu of profits on book sales, the business plan was this: “After collecting data on millions of customers, Amazon could figure out how to sell everything else dirt cheap on the Internet.”

And that’s pretty much what Amazon did. The Jeff Bezos aphorism “Your margin is my opportunity” became the unofficial Amazon mantra, and the world’s biggest e-retailer competed ruthlessly on price. The advent of “showrooming”—in which shoppers scoped out merchandise in stores, then whipped out smartphones to see how much they’d save by purchasing it at Amazon—hammered home the idea that saving money was the biggest reason to do business with the world’s largest e-retailer.

Why, then, does it seem that more and more consumers are grumbling that Amazon’s prices aren’t that cheap lately? In a thread on Reddit posted this week that’s gathering a lot of attention, the initial commenter griped about Amazon’s “pricing getting a little ridiculous,” explaining, “Most of the stuff I’m trying to buy, from clothes to food, is way overpriced, sometimes marked up 100%.”

Many of the 400+ comments that followed were in agreement that Amazon’s prices aren’t as cheap as they used to be. What’s especially frustrating is that shoppers routinely see that prices for many items are higher if they qualify for free two-day delivery via Amazon Prime, which costs $99 per year. So in one way or another, consumers are getting the strong impression that shopping at Amazon isn’t quite the savings proposition it once was.

This is hardly the first time that Amazon’s status as the retail world’s low-cost leader has come into question. During the 2014 winter holiday season, Amazon’s online customer satisfaction ratings dropped significantly, and the overwhelming reason cited for the decrease is that pricing didn’t meet up with consumer expectations. In many instances, Walmart had cheaper prices than Amazon.

Research released just after the holidays revealed some of the strategies behind Amazon prices: While the e-commerce giant tended to have the cheapest prices on the most popular items, prices for many other goods were far higher than what shoppers might find at Walmart and other retailers. What Amazon appears to be hoping is that, after seeing low prices on one or two popular items, customers are lulled into believing that the site has the cheapest prices for everything—and this is just not the case.

Based on the recent discussion at Reddit, though, more and more consumers are becoming aware that the competition may be able to beat Amazon on price. This could be a huge problem for Amazon—after all, low prices were what originally attracted most people to the site—but at the same time, it seems as if shoppers’ main reason(s) for using Amazon are shifting.

Instead of always having the rock-bottom cheapest prices, Amazon now reliably has prices that are decent, if not the absolute lowest available. What keeps Amazon’s sales humming along, then, is that it’s convenient. The site that used to be all about saving money is now the Internet shopper’s “prime”—pun intended—resource for saving time.

The importance of Amazon Prime cannot be understated in Amazon’s quest to increase profits. Early on, Amazon discovered that Prime subscribers overwhelmingly made their online purchases via Amazon, and therefore they stopped shopping elsewhere. Naturally, a customer’s Amazon purchases skyrocket once he or she is signed up for Prime. With the assurance of free two-day shipping on most purchases, and the assumptions that Amazon’s prices are at least in the same ballpark as the competition, it might seem unnecessary for a Prime member to bother taking the time to shop around for a better deal.

What seems to be happening is that as more customers automatically, almost unconsciously turn to Amazon out of habit, convenience, and the desire to get the most out of one’s $99 Prime membership, the door has opened and it has become easier for Amazon to raise prices.

When you look at it this way, that “free” shipping that comes with Amazon Prime might not seem quite so free.

Read next: 5 Ways That Amazon Is Still Far Superior to New Upstart

MONEY Entrepreneurs

13 Hip-Hop Artists Who Make Millions as Successful Entrepreneurs

These rappers know how to get paid.

Jamie Trueblood—Universal Pictures/courtesy Ever “Straight Outta Compton,” produced by rap titans Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, has been the #1 movie at the box office for two weeks.

“Straight Outta Compton,” which earned $60 million at the box office during its opening weekend, was America’s #1 movie for the third weekend in a row, making it one of the biggest-ever August releases. Made for $29 million, the biopic of gangsta rap group N.W.A. crossed the $100 million ticket sales mark less than 10 days after its debut.

Among other things, what this means is that the rap world can add “blockbuster movie producer” to the long list of successful entrepreneurial endeavors it has spawned. The movie was produced by Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, the leading creative members of N.W.A. Dre and Cube are not only legends in the rap game, they’re representative of the many hip-hop artists who have been phenomenally successful outside of music, launching fashion lines, restaurant chains, luxury electronics, and liquor and beverage brands.

At first glance, it may seem odd that so many rappers become entrepreneurs. But think about it: Rappers use carefully crafted words, style, swagger, and images to sell themselves to the masses. They’re experts at making “Something from Nothing,” as the title of the 2012 rap documentary by Ice-T put it, and the most successful rappers know their audience incredibly well. After working so hard to sell themselves and their music, many rappers find it fairly natural to cross over and market other products and lifestyle brands to fans. And no matter if we’re talking song lyrics or the creation of a luxury brand of headphones, artists with roots in rap have an uncanny ability to remain relentlessly focused on money and “getting paid.”

  • Dr. Dre

    Dr. Dre speaks onstage at WSJ. Magazine's "Innovator Of The Year" Awards at Museum of Modern Art on November 5, 2014 in New York City.
    Mike Coppola—Getty Images

    In addition to being a gangsta rap pioneer with N.W.A., Dr. Dre is also the visionary who produced and called the world’s attention to rap superstars like Snoop Dogg and Eminem. And he’s been a hugely successful artist on his own, starting with his multi-platinum solo debut album “The Chronic” and continuing with this summer’s “Compton: A Soundtrack,” which was streamed 25 million times during the first week it was available on Apple Music.

    Speaking of Apple, in 2014 the tech giant acquired Beats Music and Beats Electronics, the music subscription streaming service and maker of flagship $300 headphones founded by Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine, for $3 billion. Dre’s net worth hit around $800 million as a result—and that was before the release of “Straight Outta Compton.” The deal landed Dre on Entrepreneur magazine’s list of “10 Entrepreneurs Who Defined 2014.” Also on the list: fellow musician Beyoncé, whose roots are in R&B, not rap.

  • Kanye West

    Kanye West during London Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2015/16 on February 20, 2015 in London, England.
    Danny Martindale—WireImage/Getty Images

    Kanye West is no stranger to haters. At the start of his career as a producer-turned-hip-hop artist, he struggled to be taken seriously as a rapper given his middle-class background and an aesthetic that didn’t match the stereotypical industry apparel. Well into his fame, President Obama called West a “jackass” for his infamous “Imma let you finish” interruption of Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the 2009 VMAs. But haters have hardly gotten in the way of West amassing his $130 million fortune—as he rapped, borrowing from 50 Cent, in The Good Life: “If they hate then let ‘em hate and watch the money pile up.”

    Beyond being one of the best-selling and most award-winning artists of all time—he’s sold over 21 million copies of his just six albums, and won 21 Grammys—he’s also founded his own record label, G.O.O.D. Music, is a part owner of the Jay Z-owned streaming service Tidal, and has directed a number of short films. And as the New York Times has pointed out, his movement into the world of fashion—from collaborating with A.P.C., Adidas, and Louis Vuitton to launching a women’s clothing label, DW Kanye at the 2011 Paris Fashion Week—has “widened the genre’s gates… for high-fashion and high-art dreams.”

  • Ice-T

    Actor Ice-T during an interview with host Jimmy Fallon on July 30, 2015.
    Douglas Gorenstein—NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

    Known mostly today for his starring role in both the reality TV show “Ice Loves Coco” and the 15-year-running cop drama “Law & Order: SVU,” Ice-T first came to fame as a groundbreaking gangsta rapper with hot-selling tracks like “Colors.” But Ice-T has been many things beyond actor and rapper. Before making a living from rap, he was a pimp, thief, and all-around hustler. A partial list of his non-rap ventures once he became famous include creating and fronting a thrash metal band (Body Count), founding an online music label way back in the Napster era, launching a podcast, doing voices for multiple video games, serving as a producer for 18 TV shows and movies, co-authoring three books, and organizing this summer’s first-ever Art of Rap Festival—a concert series that takes its name from the Ice-T-directed 2012 documentary, “Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap.”

    It’s understandable, then, that the word most commonly associated with Ice-T is hustle. “New Jack Hustler” was one of Ice-T’s most popular songs—used in the 1991 movie he also starred in, “New Jack City”—but “hustle” has been part of vocabulary for a long time. In fact, instead of focusing on rap for its artistry and insights into urban culture, Ice-T has referred to it as just another way to get rich. “Rapping is a hustle to me,” Ice-T said on the VH1 documentary “Behind the Music.” “I’m not one of those guys that’s like, ‘Oh I love the music.’ Nah. I love money.”

  • Vanilla Ice

    Robert Van Winkle attends the Student Filmmakers showcase at the 2015 Palm Beach International Film Awards on March 12, 2015 in Boca Raton, Florida.
    Larry Marano—Getty Images

    It’s hard to say which is more improbable—that a middle-class white kid named Rob Van Winkle would turn into the rapper Vanilla Ice and have the first rap song to top the charts with “Ice Ice Baby”? Or that a decade after he’d had a hit song, he’d reinvent himself as a home-flipping construction guru on the DIY Network reality TV show “The Vanilla Ice Project.”

    As he told the New York Times in 2010, when the show debuted, Vanilla Ice unwittingly got his start in real estate by purchasing several homes when he was “young and dumb,” and at the height of his fame and riches. After spending barely any time in any of them, he decided to sell—and made several hundred thousand dollars in profit on each sale. He then took up the idea of “Hammer Time” more seriously, strategically buying lots and foreclosed homes in Florida, adding some value with smart improvements, and (hopefully) flipping them for easy money.

    It’s hardly an easy thing to do, though. “Fixer-uppers can be a dream or a nightmare,” he has said. “Expect the unexpected. You have to have carpenters and know how to budget projects. There are a lot of growing pains you’ll experience in your first few projects. But if you play it smart, you will find success.”

  • Nicki Minaj

    Nicki Minaj at the Marc Jacobs Fall/Winter 2015 Fashion Show at the Park Avenue Armory, New York City, February 19, 2015.
    David X Prutting—

    The reasons Nicki Minaj is everywhere—all over social media with 20 million followers on Twitter, inside Madame Tussauds in wax, and soon, even on her own mobile game app—are only partially due to rap. Throughout her career, Minaj hasn’t been focused simply on making music, but on building a brand.

    And she’s been able to extend her unique mix of attitude, sass, flash, smarts, and sex to her own personal brands of perfume and beauty products (sold at HSN), a women’s wear collection for Kmart, and a fizzy wine called MYX Fusions Muscato, among other ventures. In fact, her approach to business is often used as a paragon for how young people—women especially—should handle themselves in the workplace, including lessons on how to take charge at the office, how to rebrand yourself when switching careers or companies, and the necessity of being bold and assertive.

  • Ice Cube

    Actor Ice Cube visits 106 & Park at BET studio on January 16, 2014 in New York City.
    Bennett Raglin/BET—Getty Images

    What with the “Friday” films and family-friendly fare like “Are We There Yet?” Ice Cube’s career in movies has been arguably just as successful as his experience in rap, first as a member of N.W.A. and later as a solo artist. Both of Cube’s worlds collide in “Straight Outta Compton,” the highly profitable film released this summer that tells N.W.A’s story. Ice Cube not only served as a producer on the movie, his son O’Shea Jackson Jr., plays the role of his dad on screen.

    Ice Cube’s transition to film started while he was at the top of the rap game, in 1991, when he was cast as Dough Boy in the critically acclaimed “Boyz N the Hood.” (Ice Cube actually wrote a song with the same name a few years earlier.) He has also been in the director’s chair, for the 1998 film “The Players Club” and the ESPN documentary “Straight Outta L.A.,” about the period when the NFL’s Raiders were based in Los Angeles rather than Oakland.

  • 50 Cent

    Curtis Jackson, aka 50 Cent, in Manhattan on Tuesday, July 21, 2015.
    Joe Marino—NY Daily News/Getty Images

    Given he launched his music career with the nine-times-platinum album Get Rich or Die Tryin’, it’s perhaps no surprise that Curtis Jackson, better known as 50 Cent, has long been a hustler. He got his moneymaking start as a 12-year-old on the streets of Queens in the late ‘80s; by the age of 18, he was raking in $5,000 a day on crack and heroin sales. Jackson’s time as a dealer culminated with a 2000 shooting outside his grandmother’s home that left him with a hole in his jaw, a piece of bullet lodged in his tongue, and a new sound: as he told Rolling Stone for a 2003 cover, “Getting’ shot just totally fixed my instrument.”

    Since his rise to music fame as the protégé of Dr. Dre and Eminem in the early 2000s, Jackson’s business spirit hasn’t let up. In 2003, he founded his own record label and clothing company, both called G-Unit. A partnership with Vitamin Water soon after landed him a minority stake in the company, which he later sold and then rapped about in his 2007 song I Get Money: “I took quarter-water, sold it in bottles for two bucks. Coca-Cola came and bought it for billions. What the f***?” 50’s more recent ventures include a headphone competitor to Beats, a high-end vodka label, and patented support technology men’s underwear.

    It was no small blow when the loss of a high-profile lawsuit forced the rapper to file for bankruptcy in July, just two months after having ranked fourth on Forbes’ Hip Hop’s Five Wealthiest Artists 2015, with an estimated net worth of $155 million. But the Chapter 11 filing doesn’t mean 50 Cent is broke—just a little low on cash.

  • Jay Z

    Rapper Jay-Z acknowledges a fan in Los Angeles April 16, 2014.
    Kevork Djansezian—Reuters

    Though Jay Z—whose real name is Shawn Carter—has gone in and out of music retirement over the past decade and a half, his status as an entrepreneur and entertainment mogul hasn’t wavered much. In addition to having owned his own nightclub, vodka company, and fashion line, Rocawear—which he sold in 2007 for over $200 million—Carter has also owned a lucrative share of the New Jersey Nets, which he later sold for a 135% gain. And in 2008, Carter founded the entertainment company Roc Nation, which in 2013 came to include a sports agency, new territory for the mogul.

    Jay Z’s net worth now sits somewhere around $550 million, but his investments haven’t all exactly gone swimmingly: Tidal, a subscription-based music streaming service owned by media technology company Aspiro, which Jay Z acquired in March 2015, was served with a $50 million lawsuit this summer. The news has prompted “99 Problems” jokes galore.

  • Snoop Dogg

    Recording artist Snoop Dogg arrives at the iHeartRadio Music Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on March 29, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.
    Christopher Polk/NBC—NBC via Getty Images

    Hardly ever known by his real name, Calvin Cordozar Broadus, and most recently known as the “born again” Rastafarian Snoop Lion, Snoop Dogg boasts some of the most unique business ventures on our list. A major player in ‘90s West Coast gangster rap, Broadus was ushered onto the scene by Dr. Dre, who featured him on his first solo album following the break-up of N.W.A. in 1992; by 1993, Snoop was topping the Billboard 200 chart with his album Doggystyle. But Snoop’s image wouldn’t be complete without his ventures in filmmaking in the early 2000s—including the fist hardcore porn video to make Billboard’s music video sales charts and the Adult Video Network award-winning Snoop Dogg’s Hustlaz: Diary of a Pimp. In 2005, he founded his own production company, Snoopadelic films, dedicated to Snoop-themed films.

    In addition to having released his 13th studio album this May, Snoop Lion has become active in the world of venture capital. His estimated $135 million net worth includes a stake in Reddit, a high-end dog food company called DOG for DOG, and, as of earlier this year, Eaze, a California-based start-up that aims to deliver medical marijuana in 10 minutes or less. Dedicated Snoop lovers can also download his free sticker app, Snoopify, complete with not-free stickers of joints, chicken and waffles, Snoop’s face, and much else. According to the Wall Street Journal, the app was earning him $30,000 weekly in sales a month after its launch.

  • Pharrell Williams

    Pharrell Williams attends The 57th Annual Grammy Awards at the Staples Center on February 8, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.
    Dan MacMedan—WireImage/Getty Images

    By the time Pharrell Williams launched the funk/hip-hip trio N.E.R.D. in 1999, he’d already spent several years as part of the Virgin Records production duo The Neptunes. But cash wasn’t necessarily flowing: Pharrell told Seth Meyers on his show in April that he was fired from three different McDonald’s gigs in the late ‘90s: “I was only good at eating the chicken nuggets.” (He later got even by writing the “I’m Lovin’ It” jingle used in the company’s ads.)

    The new millennium ushered in a number of production successes for The Neptunes, including Britney Spears’s 2001 “I’m a Slave 4 U” and Nelly’s “Hot in Herre” in 2002. In 2003, Pharrell released his first solo single, and it helped prompt plenty of new business ventures. Beyond founding his own record label, Star Trak, in 2002, Pharrell has amassed some of his $80 million fortune in the fashion industry. He has two clothing labels (Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream), has co-designed a line of jewelry and glasses for Louis Vuitton, and last year designed a line of T-shirts for the Japanese clothing company Uniqlo. He’s also a co-owner of Brooklyn Machine Works and textile company Bionic Yarn, both of which fall within his creative collective, iamOTHER. And somehow, he still finds time for some killer creative collaborations, including with starchitect Zaha Hadid and, more regularly, the internationally acclaimed fine artist Takashi Murakami.

  • Mark Wahlberg

    Mark Wahlberg during the premiere of "The Gambler" in Los Angeles, California November 10, 2014.
    Kevork Djansezianmdash;Reuters

    Long before he was an actor starring in blockbuster movies like “The Departed” and “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” Mark Wahlberg emerged on the early ’90s hip-hop scene as Marky Mark—a pseudo-rapper name he took on perhaps to distance himself from the boy band roots of his brother Donnie, a member of New Kids on the Block. Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch had one major hit rap-dance song (“Good Vibrations”), and his six-pack abs and proclivity for dropping his pants helped Wahlberg become an iconic Calvin Klein underwear model long before Justin Bieber.

    As his music career fizzled out, Wahlberg turned to acting, earning critical acclaim for his starring role in 1997’s “Boogie Nights.” Dozens of films followed, and he evolved from an actor into a major Hollywood player, serving as producer (and real-life inspiration) for the HBO show and 2015 movie “Entourage.”

    In 2011, he and his brothers Donnie and Paul opened a fast-casual burger restaurant concept called Wahlburgers, which inevitably became a reality show of the same name on A&E. This past spring the company announced plans to open 66 new locations over the next few years, including 20 Wahlburgers in the Middle East, two at airports (Boston, Toronto), and a sprinkling of new restaurants in places such as Long Island, Florida, Philadelphia, and Las Vegas. Eventually, the Wahlberg brothers say there could be as many as 300 franchises around the globe. As Marky Mark once rapped, “If you ain’t in it to win it / Then get the hell out.”

  • arrives at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.
    Chris Pizzello—Invision/AP

    It seems appropriate that William Adams—or—had a couple of false starts before making it big as the founding member of the Black Eyed Peas. A debut album for Eazy-E’s Ruthless Records was shelved in 1992, and later fell through altogether when Eazy-E tragically died of AIDS in 1995. There was also a stint in the “Black Eyed Pods” before a name change and the addition of Fergie to create the rave-inspired hip-hop group we know today. After all, these days, Adams identifies himself primarily as an entrepreneur and businessman, with music coming second.

    But just as The Black Eyed Peas garnered enormous success—they’ve sold over 76 million records to date— has arrived at no shortage of success in the world of innovation. He’s channeled classes he took at LA’s Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising into creating +, a fashion tech start-up most recently known for Puls, a competitor to the Apple Watch, and has partnered with Coke on Ekocycle, a project that promotes the use of recycled materials in the fashion world. He owned a founding share in Beats Electronics alongside Dr. Dre, and reaped the rewards when Apple bought the company for $3 billion last year. He’s Intel’s Director of Creative Innovation. And in 2012, he became the first artist to ever debut a song from another planet, when he premiered “Reaching for the Stars” from the Mars curiosity rover.

  • Diddy

    Sean 'Diddy' Combs attends the Sean "Diddy" Combs Fragrance Launch at Macy's Herald Square on May 6, 2015 in New York City.
    Ilya S. Savenok—Getty Images

    It’s been years since Sean Combs was topping the charts with songs like “I’ll Be Missing You,” his 1997 tribute to the passing of friend and musical partner Notorious B.I.G. But don’t feel sorry for Combs—a.k.a. Diddy, P. Diddy, Puff Daddy—who currently has a net worth in the neighborhood of $735 million, according to Forbes.

    With his Sean John clothing line sold in mainstream outlets like Macy’s, and with investments and partnership deals with huge companies like Diageo and upscale brands such as Aquahydrate and Ciroc vodka, Combs is the very picture of rapper turned entrepreneur. As for his advice about being a successful businessman, Combs told that it’s essential to research and understand a company before getting involved. Above all, pay close attention to how the business will make a profit. He’s a believer in the phrase, “If it don’t make dollars, it don’t make sense.”

MONEY Gas prices

$2 Gas Should Be Making a Comeback Soon

Arco gas station, Riverbank, Stanislaus County, California, January 21, 2015.
Don Bartell—Alamy

Gas prices are expected to plunge this fall.

The current disconnect between low oil prices and relatively expensive gas prices has understandably been frustrating for American drivers. Oil prices are at a six-year low, so on the surface it makes little sense that prices at the pump would be soaring.

For the most part, gas prices are out of whack in two areas of the country—the Midwest and West Coast—and high prices there have driven the national average upward, to $2.66 today from $2.58 a week ago. Thankfully, the reasons for disproportionally high prices in these regions are expected to be addressed in the near future, and experts say we should be back on track for $2 gas by this autumn or early winter.

Specifically, refinery problems in California and Indiana have been blamed for the broader gas price hikes. An explosion at an Exxon Mobil refinery in Torrance, Calif., earlier this year has led to stubbornly high gas prices in California, including a few dramatic price hikes this summer as demand seems to have exceeded supply. (High prices in California and the West Coast have also led drivers to complain of price gouging.) Similarly, the recent outage at the BP refinery in Whiting, Ind., has caused ripples throughout the Midwest, with overnight increases of 40¢ per gallon in cities like Cincinnati. In Chicago, the current average is $3.46 for a gallon of regular, up 70¢ in a single week.

Industry experts say that these price hikes are temporary, however, and that the refinery issues in both California and Indiana will be less of a problem starting in September. Consequently, gas prices are expected to plummet this fall—assuming no other refinery problems or other complications arise.

Tom Kloza of the Oil Price Information Service told USA Today that as the industry manages to better cope with the Indiana refinery shutdown, he expects the national average to drop 10¢ to 15¢ in early fall, followed by further decreases of perhaps 50¢ per gallon by year’s end. Seeing as the national average is currently $2.66, that could mean $2 gas for much of the country by Christmas.

The Exxon Mobil refinery in California, meanwhile, is hoping to use some older equipment and make other adjustments by next month that would allow it to significantly increase production, which has been operating at just 20% capacity for months. For a variety of reasons, though, California always has among the nation’s most expensive gas prices, and drivers there will have to be patient as prices will likely ease down slowly.

Speaking specifically about California, Gordon Schremp, senior fuels specialist at the California Energy Commission, told Reuters last week, “We are going to have very expensive gasoline at least through Thanksgiving.”


Why the Dream of Buying a Car in an Hour Might Never Be Reality

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"To have a proper experience, buying a car is not done in an hour."

We live in a time when cars drive themselves, people can buy stuff by tapping their phones, voice-controlled virtual assistants can save your life, and when even the U.S. Postal Service is pushing the boundaries of what once seemed possible by shipping groceries and offering same-day delivery

Yet despite our whiz-bang, one-click-purchase times, buying a car still takes forever. OK, it only feels like forever. Research from Edmunds indicates purchasing a car eats up 4.3 hours, on average, or more than half of a standard work day.

That’s probably four times longer than it should take, according to many consumers—75% of whom said in a recent survey that they’d happily conduct the entire purchase online if only it was feasible. There have been efforts to speed things up and appease customers. One car dealership has an ongoing campaign to seal each deal in 45 minutes or less. The Toyota brand Scion is embarking on an experiment to allow purchases to be handled entirely online or be completed in less than an hour at the dealership.

These examples are anomalies, however, and the standard process remains slow, confusing, and antiquated in light of modern-day consumer expectations.

The industry publication Wards Auto recently gathered several industry insider opinions on the pros and cons of car sales taking one hour or less, and if there’s a consensus, it’s that completing such a speedy sale is impossible—and even if it were possible it would be bad for business.

The logistics make it extremely difficult to get the deal done in an hour, one dealership owner said: “In the state of California, it can’t be done because there are too many regulations to cover (at the closing). Two or three hours, that’s where we want to be.”

“To have a proper experience, buying a car is not done in an hour,” another dealership owner said flatly. “There are clear pitfalls in a 1-hour deal,” yet another explained. “People don’t want to feel rushed. That’s not a collaborative effort.”

Based on these responses, it seems pretty clear that many dealerships simply aren’t bending over backwards to get customers speedily on their way. It’s just not their priority, so it’s a virtual impossibility for their customers. So if there’s one more industry consensus, it’s that dealerships think they know what’s best for consumers more so than consumers themselves—who, remember, would at least like the option of not needing an entire afternoon to complete a car purchase.

Read next: 23 Tricks to Save Thousands on Your Car

MONEY Food & Drink

What Americans Are Ordering Even More of at Lunchtime

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It ain't health food, that's for sure.

Generally speaking, Americans say they want healthier diets—more organic foods, more vegetables, less sugar, salt, and fat, and so on. But trends like the rising popularity of grab-and-go food at convenience stores, as well as the long list of “healthy” fast foods that failed to catch on with consumers indicates that often, we don’t put our money where our mouths are.

So it shouldn’t come as a total surprise that lunchtime consumption of the all-American burger is on the rise. A new study from the NPD Group refers to burgers as the “Heavy Artillery in Restaurant Lunch Wars,” providing 8.9 billion servings for the year ending in June 2015. (This is strictly an estimate for restaurant servings, not backyard barbecues and such; the total burger tally for the entire country is roughly 50 billion burgers per year.)

It bodes well for the economy that lunchtime restaurant visits in general are up, increasing 2% at casual-dining (sit-down) chains—the first time in five years midday traffic has risen for this struggling category—and increasing 1% at quick-serve (fast food) establishments as well. And it’s the humble burger that’s having an outsize influence in driving sales higher. Burger orders at casual-dining restaurants are up 3% year over year, the only part of the menu to record an increase.

Even if they’re not the healthiest options out there, the fact that burgers are tasty and ubiquitous and tend to be on the less-expensive end of the menu has certainly boosted sales. “Successful casual dining operators offer burgers that meet the tastes of their customers and are priced competitively,” NPD restaurant analyst Bonnie Riggs said. “As a result, they gain lunch visitors.”

Read next: Best Places in the U.S. for Foodies

MONEY Workplace

Jeff Bezos Told Princeton Grads Kindness Is More Important Than Brains

Amazon Unveils Its First Smartphone
David Ryder / Getty Images

Amazon's Jeff Bezos has preached kindness over cleverness.

Do Amazon’s employees suffer in a cruel, ultra-competitive, cult-like dystopian nightmare of a workplace? Or are Amazon employees “having fun working with a bunch of brilliant teammates, helping invent the future, and laughing along the way,” as Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos wrote in an internal company memo recently?

This is the debate that’s been sparked by a brutal company expose in the New York Times over the weekend. The portrayal showed a Darwinian, data-driven company seriously lacking in empathy, with backstabbing colleagues and harsh punishments for employees who allowed their personal lives to get in the way of work.

Certainly, Amazon didn’t come out sounding like a kind environment in which to work. Yet as a Bloomberg story noted, Jeff Bezos has emphasized the importance of kindness in the past. In his 2010 commencement speech at Princeton, Bezos told a story cited in the New York Times article, about how at the age of 10 he used data to show his grandmother that her smoking habit had taken nine years off her life. The Times used this anecdote to demonstrate Bezos’s devotion to data, but when you read the full Princeton speech, the larger point is that, in fact, there are more important things than being good with math.

Instead of being applauded for his brains, Bezos was given a word of caution from his grandfather, whose wife was driven to tears by her grandson’s arithmetic. “Jeff, one day you’ll understand that it’s harder to be kind than clever,” Bezos’s grandfather told him.

What’s more, Bezos ended his speech with a series of questions posed to the new grads, each one explicitly pointing out that there’s a right and wrong way to conduct oneself. The last question is this: “Will you be clever at the expense of others, or will you be kind?”

Some of the Amazon workers interviewed in the Times piece clearly think that some of their colleagues—and perhaps the company structure itself—focus on cleverness at the expense of others over kindness. That’s why Jeff Bezos is so upset, and why he responded to the company’s depiction in the article by saying, it “doesn’t describe the Amazon I know or the caring Amazonians I work with every day.”

Read next: You Won’t Believe How Much Some Commencement Speakers Get Paid

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