MONEY home prices

15 Insanely Expensive Homes on the Market This Spring

It's finally beginning to feel like spring, and that marks the start of home shopping season. We've teamed up with real estate website Zillow for a peek into the most expensive listings in 15 U.S. cities.

MONEY charitable giving

3 Ways to Make Sure Your Nepal Donations Really Help the Victims

Volunteers give out packages of instant noodles to residents living in an evacuation area set up by the authorities in Tundhikel park on April 27, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. A major 7.8 earthquake hit Kathmandu mid-day on Saturday, and was followed by multiple aftershocks that triggered avalanches on Mt. Everest that buried mountain climbers in their base camps. Many houses, buildings and temples in the capital were destroyed during the earthquake, leaving over 3000 dead and many more trapped under the debris as emergency rescue workers attempt to clear debris and find survivors.
Omar Havana—Getty Images Volunteers give out packages of instant noodles to residents living in an evacuation area in Tundhikel park on April 27, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Before you open your wallet, take a minute to do a little homework.

As Nepal reels from an earthquake that left over 3,000 dead and more than 6,500 injured, people around the world are scrambling to determine how they can best contribute to the relief effort.

Unfortunately, when it comes to natural disasters, making a difference can be more difficult than it might seem. Some forms of giving are more helpful to victims than others, and some charities are better at making sure your donations have a real impact.

Here are three tips for making sure your contributions are used effectively.

1. Donate to Organizations That Make Your Money Go Further

The best relief organizations keep administrative costs low to ensure that the maximum amount of donated funds go directly those in need. Sites like Charity Navigator and GuideStar keep track of which organizations are the most efficient with their money. (Top charities generally keep overhead under 20%, although that number can be higher or lower depending on the kind of work the charity does.) Charity Navigator already has a list of seven top-rated charities planning to assist relief efforts.

Other useful tools for evaluating charities include, which provides expert reviews of charities involved in 35 different causes; and, a Yelp-like service for crowd-sourced charity reviews from volunteers, donors, and those they help.

2. Don’t Donate Physical Goods

It might seem like a good idea to send blankets, clothes, or food to an area hit by a disaster, but that’s actually not a particularly effective way to help those in need. Postal and delivery services may not be able to access disaster areas, and even when they can, there isn’t necessarily anyone on the other end who is able to distribute the goods. Charities that do have the resources and boots on the ground to effectively hand out material aid generally already have relationships with companies that provide bottled water and other necessities. Charity Navigator suggests selling old clothes instead of donating them, then contributing the sale’s proceeds instead.

3. Be Careful Whom You Trust

In the wake of a major tragedy, people are often inundated with pleas for aid via phone, social media, and email. Most of these requests are likely made in good faith, but it’s important to make sure your donations aren’t going to scammers or organizations that won’t spend your money wisely.

Be wary of telemarketers asking for donations. Instead of giving over the phone line, ask the caller for written details on their organization; if you decide to support it, donate via its website or by sending a check through the mail.

Charity Navigator also urges caution when dealing with email solicitations. Emails from strangers claiming to be victims are often part of a scam, and solicitations with attachments are likely to contain viruses.

And as always, be careful about donating to groups or websites you see advertised on social media. If a particular post resonates, do your research first (using the tools mentioned above) to make sure the organization it’s supporting is actually deserving of your money.

For more tips on how best to help those in disaster zones, see this guide from Charity Navigator.

Read next: Six Ways You Can Give to Nepal Earthquake Relief


Here’s How Much It Costs to Be an Apple Early Adopter

Tom Nicholson—Rex Features via AP Images

Apple early adopters have historically paid a big premium for early access to less-than-fully-baked products. Is the Apple Watch worth it right now?

Our long, smartwatch-less, national nightmare is finally over.

The Apple Watch was officially released today. That doesn’t mean you can walk up to the counter and buy one yet—watches may not be coming to retail outlets until May—but now is as good a time as any to ask the all-important question: Should you, gentle reader, become an Apple Watch early adopter?

The answer may simply come down to your feelings about the product, which the reviewers tell us is a cool, somewhat flawed, but legitimately mainstream first foray into wearable technology. If the idea of literally strapping an Apple mobile device to your body doesn’t sound very appealing, then the decision isn’t complicated: Skip it for now. At the other end of the spectrum are tech junkies like me for whom a first-generation Apple Watch isn’t a question at all, but an inevitability.

But for many normal people who make rational purchasing decisions based on costs and benefits—let me know what that’s like sometime!—the Apple Watch presents a real dilemma: Do you take the plunge and get in early on the smartwatch trend, or do you wait until the kinks have been worked out?

A short history of Apple price cutting

Your decision should largely depend on two variables: How much cheaper and better will the Apple Watch be in the future, and how long will one have to wait until that future arrives?

A look at Apple’s major new product categories going back to the beginning of the millennium gives us some insight into both of these unknowns.

The original iPod. Released in October of 2001, it cost $399 and shipped with five gigabytes of storage. A year and a half later, the first major hardware revision—which introduced the dock connector and a greatly improved and less break-prone interface—doubled the base model’s storage and dropped the price down to $299.

The iPhone. A cautionary tale for early adopters if there ever was one. Launched in late June 2007 with the 8 gigabyte model retailing for $599, the iPhone’s price was cut to $399 less than three months later. And just over a year after the original release, Apple shipped the iPhone 3G at $199, a 66% price reduction.

Apple TV. Not all of Apple’s new product categories have seen their price fall quite so fast. The Apple TV didn’t get cheaper for three and a half years; but between March 2007 and September 2010 it went from basically a $299 media center PC to a $99 streaming box.

The iPad. Some might argue that the price of the iPad hasn’t changed much at all. More than four years after its release, the base model still sells for the original sticker price of $499. That said, the many consumers who waited two and a half years for the $329 iPad Mini feel they made a very wise decision—and it’s hard to argue considering that sales estimates suggests it’s the iPad most people actually wanted.

So what’s the bottom line? Well, I crunched the numbers together (you can see my admittedly unscientific methodology in the footnote below) and found that since 2000, the average major new consumer-product category from Apple fell 48% in price between the original launch and the first major price cut, which on average took 2 years and 3 months.

Here’s two graphics I put together with the data:



(Source: Money research,

One might look at the graphic and argue that the average obscures two dramatically different stories: The iPhone and Apple TV experienced very large price cuts, while the iPad and iPod saw more modest reductions. But even the smallest price drop, the iPod’s, was 25% in less than 18 months.

So there’s a clear lesson in the big picture: Early adopters have paid a significant premium to be among the first to own a new line of Apple devices.

The Product-Isn’t-Good-Yet Tax

Then there’s another big cost to early adopters: purchasing something that’s about to get a lot better very soon.

To a certain extent, this phenomenon is built into every electronics purchase. The computer you buy today won’t be quite as good as the computer you could buy a few months, let alone years, from now.

But it’s especially true when it comes to brand new product categories. It isn’t just that the price of Apple’s post-2000 innovations fell when the first serious revisions hit the market. It’s that the new and less expensive versions were much better than the originals.

It’s hard to believe now, but the original iPhone didn’t ship with an app store, group messaging, high-speed internet, or even the ability to copy and paste text. It was also exclusive to one carrier, AT&T, which at the time was notorious for spotty service. “The iPhone was crippled when it first came out,” recalls Jean-Louis Gassée, a former Apple executive interviewed in the recently released biography, Becoming Steve Jobs. It was only a year later, when the iPhone 3G was released, “that the iPhone was truly finished.”

One could argue the Apple Watch is similarly crippled. Cupertino’s latest widget completely depends on the iPhone for a GPS and data connection, turning the watch into a slightly souped-up timepiece when worn on its own. It’s not hard to imagine that a future Apple Watch model that could exist indepently, making it a truly revolutionary device instead of an (extremely advanced) accessory.

The question for prospective early adopters, then, is how long are they willing to wait until the Apple Watch is also “truly finished.” And how much are they willing to pay right now?

*Here’s how I crunched the numbers: The average includes the iPad, iPod, iPhone, and Apple TV. I didn’t consider the Macbook and Macbook Pro to be new products because both were extensions of a previous product line—the iBook and Powerbook, respectively—and launched at the same price points as their predecessors. I didn’t include the iPod touch, which Apple considers an extension of the iPod brand, for the same reason. I counted the original iPhone’s 8GB as the base model because the 4GB version was discontinued after less than three months.

MONEY credit cards

One Easy Way to Get 20% Off Your Uber Rides

Uber on mobile phone
Victor J. Blue—Bloomberg via Getty Images

A new promotion from CapitalOne and Uber could save certain cardholders big money.

CapitalOne cardholders, rejoice. Your Uber rides just got cheaper.

Starting April 21, the ridesharing giant is offering a 20% credit on all rides to CapitalOne customers who use a Quicksilver or QuicksilverOne credit card. Uber users simply need to add an eligible card to the app and select it as a payment option, and the credit will be applied on their statement automatically on every ride through April 30, 2016. Cardholders new to Uber can sign up anytime before June 30 with the code CAPITALONE and receive their first two rides (up to $30 each) free .

If you don’t already carry one of these cards and you use Uber often enough, it might make sense to apply.

Quicksilver, which was featured in the 2013 edition of MONEY’s Best Credit Cards, offers 1.5% cash back on anything you buy and a $100 bonus reward if you spend $500 in the first three months. There are more generous cash-back cards out there—the Chase Freedom card offers 5% cash back on certain categories of purchases and 1% back on everything else, and the Citi DoubleCash card gives 2% cash back on all items—but if you’re an avid Uber user, there are significant savings to be had with Quicksilver.

The same may not be true with QuickSilverOne. The card, which is targeted to buyers with “average” credit instead of the “excellent credit” the basic Quicksilver requires, offers no $100 bonus and charges an annual fee of $39. If you can’t qualify for the standard card and you’re using Uber often enough that the cash-back savings add up to a lot more than $40, then QuickSilverOne might still be for you. But Uber fans with good enough credit should stick with the Quicksilver.


MONEY bonds

Germany’s Bond Market is Kind of Crazy Right Now. And it Affects You.

A German flag flies in front of the Bundesbank headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany.
Ralph Orlowski—Bloomberg via Getty Images A German flag flies in front of the Bundesbank headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany.

German 10-year bond yields are about to go negative. Here's what that means for you.

Imagine a world where you have to pay to loan the government money. Sound strange? It’s already the reality in Germany, where yields on government bonds, including those maturing as far away as eight years from now, have fallen into negative territory. The 10-year Bund, the German equivalent of a U.S. Treasury and a benchmark for long-term interest rates in Europe, is just a hair away from zero. If (or when) long-term German rates go negative, expect to see headlines about the the global economy’s strange new post-financial-crisis rules.

How are negative rates possible? And why would anyone invest in something that they knew would be unprofitable? Before we dive into those questions, here’s some background on the whole situation.

Bonds go negative when they get expensive

On the most basic level, Bunds, like Treasuries, are essentially a cash IOU from the government that needs to be paid back in a certain timespan. Since government bonds from solid countries like Germany are all but certain to be paid back, investors snap them up when they’re concerned the economy will be sluggish and don’t see any better investment opportunities.

Europe’s economy has been stalled for a while, and prospects are dim. That drives up the price of bonds (their current market value), which has an inverse relationship on their yields (their rate of return over time). Meanwhile, the European Central Bank (Europe’s version of the Federal Reserve) has been trying to stimulate the economy with “quantitative easing,” a bond buying program that puts further downward pressure on rates. Over the past year, yields on 10-year German debt have fallen from roughly 1.5% to 0.07%.

Why would investors pay to lose money?

The idea that someone would pay for negative-returning asset might seem crazy, but it’s not quite as strange as it sounds. Investors are always expected to accept lower returns for safer assets. Cash, the safest asset of all, often loses value over time due to inflation.

But inflation is not a big worry for Europeans right now. In fact, they are more worried about deflation, or falling prices. If Europe has low inflation or deflation, the real yield on Bunds won’t be as low—and could even be positive while nominal rates are negative.

It’s worth noting that sub-zero bond yields aren’t exclusive to Germany. In the U.S., the inflation-protected Treasury bonds (called TIPS) also went just slightly negative last week. So real, inflation-adjusted 10-year yields are near zero in the U.S. too. The demand for safe money is a global thing.

What all this means for you

Germany’s oddball bond market isn’t just interesting in an abstract sort of way. It’s also very significant for American investors. First of all, lower yields on European investments send some investors looking for other assets that have a higher return—which means they’ve been sending capital to the U.S., where nominal rates are higher.

International demands for American bonds is one reason the U.S. dollar has become so strong in recent months. A strong dollar is good for your travel budget, but it’s been putting a drag on the economy by making American exports more expensive.

Low European yields are also keeping a lid on how high U.S. interest rates can go. The 1.8% yield on regular 10-year Treasuries is pretty attractive compared with German and other sovereign bonds, so that’s helped keep global demand for Treasuries high.

Falling Treasury yields mean rising bond prices, which has been good to the total return of bond mutual funds over the past year or so. But anyone relying on bond yields for a steady stream of income is not going to be happy with the direction things are headed. Broadly diversified bond funds are paying income of only 2% or so. If you are putting your savings in cash, of course, you’ve been earning even less.

House hunters, on the other hand, might be quite pleased. Mortgage rates are generally tied to the 10-year Treasury, so if yields stay low, so will the price of owning a home. The same is loosely true with credit card interest rates.

In short, keep your eye on those Bunds. In global economy, what happens in Europe doesn’t stay in Europe. Not for a second.


Digital Music Revenue Beats Global CD Sales for the First Time Ever

spotify on cell phone

Streaming revenue alone increased 39% since last year, taking in a total of $1.6 billion.

The CD is one step closer to death.

A new report from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, a recording industry trade association, shows that 2014 was the first year in which digital music revenue exceeded physical music sales. Streaming services and sales of digital downloads generated $6.85 billion worldwide last year, while sales of CDs and LPs took in $6.82 billion.

The rise of digital music over the last two decades has been extraordinarily painful for the music industry. The IFPI’s report also shows overall industry revenue has now fallen below $15 billion. If revenues are adjusted for inflation, that number is roughly 2.5 times less than the recording industry made during the late 1990s, when revenue approached $40 billion in today’s dollars.

The good news for music publishers is that revenues from streaming services like Spotify have continued to expand rapidly. Streaming accounted for almost $1.6 billion in revenue for the industry, up 39% year-over-year, and streaming services now claim about 140 million users. Back in March, the Recording Industry Association of America reported streaming and downloads together accounted for 64% of the total U.S. music market, with streaming revenue passing CD sales alone for the first time.

Downloads still make up slightly more than half of digital revenue both internationally and domestically, but that may soon change. Edgar Berger, CEO of Sony Music Entertainment International, told the Telegraph that streaming had already overtaken digital downloads in 37 markets.

Despite the streaming market’s lucrative prospects, some artists have revolted against the prevailing ad-supported model, which allows customers to listen in for free. Taylor Swift has been especially vocal, pulling her music from Spotify in protest of the service’s free tier. In March, Jay Z announced Tidal, a new pay-only streaming service that seeks to place pricing power back in the hands of artists. However, reviews of Tidal have been largely negative, and Swift’s battle against Spotify may ultimately prove unwinnable as streaming comes to further dominate how we listen to music.


Google Fiber Has Internet Providers Scrambling to Improve Their Service

Google Fiber
Matthew Busch—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Time Warner Cable is the latest ISP to promise better service in advance of a Google Fiber rollout

Here’s a three step plan to getting a free internet upgrade:

  1. Convince Google to announce that it’s bringing Google Fiber to your city. (Note: All you need is a credible-sounding promise.)
  2. Wait for your local internet service provider to freak out and increase your internet speed six-fold.
  3. Sit back and watch all the Netflix you want in 4K “Ultra-HD” resolution.

That’s what’s happened in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Time Warner Cable has announced it will make subscribers’ internet speeds up to six times faster just as Google prepares to enter the market. The search-giant-turned-ISP previously announced plans in January to expand its high-speed internet business to a number of metro areas, including Charlotte. According to Ars Technica, Google is currently finalizing designs with local officials to clear the way for the network’s construction.

This isn’t the first time an internet provider has dramatically improved service in response to competition from Google. Back in February, AT&T began offering Kansas City internet subscribers up to one gigabit per second for $70 a month, essentially duplicating Google Fiber’s price and level of service. Time Warner Cable also increased speeds in Kansas City following Google’s arrival.

The “Google Fiber Effect” would seem to confirm what some experts, like Columbia computer science professor Vishal Misra, have said for a while: The only way to improve America’s internet service, which lags badly behind other industrialized countries, is through increased competition. And right now, competition is sorely lacking in the broadband space.

According to FCC data from 2013, 55% of American households have no choice in their broadband provider, and the agency has since reported that a Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger would result in nearly two-thirds of consumers having only one choice for broadband internet.

Recent legislative efforts, like new net neutrality regulation, should protect consumers from the worst abuses of dominant ISPs. However, government action probably isn’t enough to incentivize businesses like Comcast and Time Warner Cable to actually make your service better because they know their customers generally don’t have the option of jumping ship and signing on with another broadband company.

Luckily, Google is one of the few companies with enough cash to build its own broadband service, and it seems intent on gradually expanding its fiber network into more and more cities—much to the chagrin of existing ISPs.

Here’s hoping Google Fiber comes to your market next.


450 Billion Reasons Why John Oliver Is Right About the IRS

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver
Eric Liebowitz—HBO/Courtesy Everett Collection

The Last Week Tonight host argues for increasing the IRS's budget. Here's why doing so could save taxpayers money in the long run.

On last night’s Last Week Tonight, John Oliver made news with an argument he acknowledged many viewers might find hard to believe: The Internal Revenue Service, the most maligned of all government organizations, needs more money, not less.

The whole segment is worth watching. (Mostly safe for work, depending on where you work. Maybe use headphones.) But the key point is that the IRS has had its funding cut by about 10% in the last five years, and by nearly 20% if you adjust for inflation. In that same time period, the IRS has also significantly cut enforcement staff.


So what if enforcement is weaker? It may mean more people are getting away with paying less than they owe. Every five years, the IRS calculates what’s known as the “tax gap”—the amount of taxes owed minus what is actually paid—and the results are a pretty ugly. The most recent report, produced in 2012 for tax year 2006, puts the tax gap at $450 billion dollars. (The gap shrinks to “only” $385 billion once you take into account late payments and money recouped through enforcement.) Think of it like this: Every dollar someone gets out of paying ultimately has to be made up by the rest of us taxpayers, in the form of higher taxes.

It’s important to note that closing this entire tax gap is likely impossible. The U.S. tax system is build on voluntary compliance, and a very large portion of the government’s losses come from people underreporting their incomes from sources that are hard to verify, such as a self-employed person understating profits.

Detractors have argued the IRS shouldn’t get more funding until it improves its performance. The agency has been rocked by allegations that it targeted conservative non-profit groups in delaying their tax exempt status, and Republicans, like Senator Rob Portman, still harbor deep mistrust toward the agency.

That said, the Treasury Department estimates a $1 investment in the IRS’s enforcement ability returns $6 in revenue, and that’s not counting the deterrent effect on potential cheats, which Treasury says may be three times higher. Finding a way to close just a small portion of the tax gap would save the public huge amounts of money.

Read Next: 3 Ideas That Could Make the Tax System Work Better for Everyone


15 Very Cool Money Apps for the Apple Watch

Soon, you'll be able to track your finances with a flick of the wrist.

person checking Apple Watch
Marcio Jose Sanchez—AP

Apple Watch preorders start Friday, and even though it’s not exactly cheap—the low-end version will cost $350—money-minded consumers might do well to take note. Smartphones have in some ways transformed personal finance, putting powerful budgeting, bill-paying, and market-tracking software in the pockets of millions. Now the Apple Watch promises to give us essential financial information right on our wrists.

Consumers can’t even get their hands on it until April 24, so not every company has gotten around to porting their software to the smaller screen, or announcing app prices. And we haven’t been able to try them out yet. But we’ve hunted around and compiled a list of the 15 coolest looking personal finance apps for the Apple Watch that we know about right now.

  • Citi Mobile Lite


    Citi, early to jump on the Apple Watch bandwagon, is one of the first banks to announce an app for the new device. Citi Mobile Lite promises to let users check their balances, see their most recent transactions, and get real-time notifications for credit card purchases.

  • iBank


    iBank is already one of the more popular personal finance apps for the iPhone and Mac, and now it’s heading to the Apple Watch as well. The app’s glance screen will show users their budget and expenses and how their investments are doing. Dig into the app further, and you can check on each account you’ve connected to iBank, including checking account and credit card balances and each item in your investment portfolio.

  • Redfin


    Redfin, the technology-focused real estate brokerage, will be releasing an Apple Watch app to help homebuyers get an edge on the competition. The app will show what nearby homes are for sale—and which ones are holding open houses—along with detailed listing information. You’ll also be able to dictate notes on a home using Siri (maybe don’t do this within earshot of the seller) and get alerts when homes you’ve favorited change their status or price.

  • Trulia


    Not to be outdone, real estate listings site Trulia is also set to release an Apple Watch app. The company hasn’t announced many details yet, but from the image we were provided it looks like Trulia’s app will show nearby listings along with information like the address, price, square footage, and total number of beds and baths.

  • Mint


    Mint, Intuit’s blockbuster budgeting app, will provide spending and budget information at a glance, and let watch wearers track their progress against monthly saving goals.

  • MoneyWiz 2


    MoneyWiz 2 already allows iOS and Mac users to manage their budgets, track spending, view bank accounts, and more. The Apple Watch version puts some of those features at arm’s length, letting consumers see account balances and log income and expenses from the watch’s touchscreen face.

  • Daily Bread


    Daily Bread is a grocery lists app designed to help you remember to grab everything you need at the store. In addition to scrolling through your whole shopping list, you can also enter “shop” mode, and items will pop up on the watch face one by one. Once an item is taken care of, just press the screen, and up pops the next one on the list. When you’ve got everything in your basket, the app lets you know and you can head to the checkout counter without worrying you forgot the milk again.

  • Unspent


    Unspent is a handy little app that lets you create one-off budgets and log spending. The Apple Watch app extends the iPhone version’s functionality, allowing users to view their various budgets and enter in each new purchase.

  • PortfolioWatch


    PortfolioWatch is a portfolio monitoring app for the iPhone and, soon, the Apple Watch. The watch app’s glance view gives users a look at their portfolio’s daily performance. Or drill down to display individual stock performance, both daily and over time.

  • BillGuard


    BillGuard is an iOS and Google Play app that promises to track consumers’ spending and alert them to any fraudulent transactions. The Apple Watch version gives users a glanceable look at where their money is going and quick alerts for any suspected fraudulent activity.

  • 24me


    24me isn’t strictly for personal finance, but that doesn’t mean it can’t help you with your money. The app, also available for iPhone, is a personal assistant and calendar that alerts you to important events. Those can include anything from a future dinner date to a bill that’s about to come due.

  • Discover


    Discover cardholders will soon be able to monitor their credit and bank accounts through the Apple Watch. The upcoming Discover app will let users check available credit, payment due dates, bank balances, and other financial information.

  • Chronicle


    Chronicle is a bill reminder app that’s already available for the Mac and iOS. The watch version of Chronicle has a glance view that shows your next due bill. Users can drill deeper to see a list of upcoming bills, each of which can be tapped on for additional details. The app will also send bill notifications that can be snoozed for later with a tap.

  • Pennies


    Pennies for iOS lets you keep your spending in check by creating a collection of one-off and repeating budgets. After you buy something, just log it in the correct category, let’s say “coffee,” and Pennies will show how much more cash you can drop on java this week. The Apple Watch edition of Pennies brings that workflow to your wrist, letting users see their daily and weekly budgets, log spending, and view their most recent transactions.

  • Fidelity


    Fidelity’s upcoming Apple Watch app brings up-to-the-minute stock market information to your wrist. Users can view real-time quotes and market data, along with push notifications for Fidelity orders and price alerts. The app also syncs with the iPhone version, allowing you to easily switch between the two devices, and features a “market movers” screen dedicated to the most active stocks and the day’s biggest winners and losers.

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