Financial advice from Money heroes

Updated: Jul 31, 2014 10:19 PM UTC | Originally published: Nov 23, 2012

The people Money has saluted over the past year for improving others' finances have some more help to offer: sound advice for you.

Snowpocalypse or Not, 2013 Was One of the Warmest Years on Record

As I write this, I can see snow falling heavier and heavier outside my office window in midtown Manhattan. Up to 14 inches (36 cm) are projected to accumulate by Wednesday morning, part of major winter storm that's spreading from South Carolina to Maine. Temperatures are predicted to stay well below normal for the rest of the week, as we all remember what winter used to be like. In short, it's going to be cold, snowy and brutal, and Americans might feel as if warm weather will never return.

But don't worry—on a global climatic scale, the heat is still on. That's the takeaway from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) annual analysis of global climate data, which was released Tuesday. The red-hot numbers:

  • 2013 ties with 2003 as the fourth-warmest year globally since records began in 1880.
  • The annual global combined land and ocean surface temperatures was 58.12 degrees Fahrenheit (14.52 degrees Celsius), 1.12 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average (the warmest year on record is 2010, which was 1.19 degrees Fahrenheit (0.66 Celsius) above the average.
  • 2013 was the 37th consecutive year that the annual global temperature was above the average, which means that if you were born any year after 1976, you've never experienced a year when the global climate was average, let along cooler.
  • Including 2013, 9 of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred in the 21st century, and just one year in the 20th century—1998—was warmer than 2013.

(MORE: Climate Change Might Just Be Driving the Historic Cold Snap)

The NOAA report, coming out in the middle of a major snowstorm and during a U.S. winter that's been marked by the polar vortex, is a reminder that climate isn't about the day-to-day changes in the weather (Note: NASA came out with its own report on 2013, using a different calculating method than NOAA, and found 2013 to be slightly cooler, but still the seventh-warmest year on record). It's about the very long-term, as Gavin Schmidt, the deputy director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, said on a conference call with reporters Tuesday afternoon:

The long-term trends in climate are extremely robust. There is year-to-year variability. There is season-to-season variability. There are times such as today when we can have snow even in a globally warmed world but the long-term trends are very clear. They’re not going to disappear.

Not only is climate change a long-term phenomenon, it's also a global one, though it's easy to get lost in our weather. Case in point: the average temperature in the continental U.S. in December was 30.9 F (-0.6 C). That's 2.0 F (1.1 C) below the 20th century average. That's the 21st coldest winter on record for the U.S. You weren't just a wimp—December really was chilly for much of the U.S.

But the globally the picture was very different. The worldwide average temperature in December was 55.15 F (12.84 C), which is 1.15 F (0.64 C) above the 20th century average. While the U.S. was shivering, on a global scale December 2013 was the third warmest December on record. That's global warming.

And 2014, despite the snowy and chilly start in the U.S., could be even hotter. Scientists now say that an El Nino seems likely to develop later this year, which is likely to push temperatures up in 2014 and 2015, since El Nino years tend to be warmer. So enjoy the snow while you can—it will likely be a faint memory by time Americans are sweating in July.

(MORE: Arctic Blast: The Northern Air Mass Bringing Record-Breaking Cold to the U.S.)

30-Second Tech Trick: How to Unsend Email with Gmail

If you don't have 30 seconds to watch the above video, here's how to do it:

1. Launch Gmail.

2. Click the gear icon in the upper-right corner, then Settings.

3. Click the Labs tab.

4. Find Undo Send and click Enable.

5. Scroll down and click Save Changes.

The next time you send an email, you'll have 10 seconds to undo it. That's all she wrote.

Other tech tricks:

Meet The Women in Hillary Clinton's Inner Circle

Hillary Clinton has had a successful and trailblazing career as First Lady, New York senator, and Secretary of State. Over the past 25 years, she has been surrounded by a fierce circle of female advisers who make up a large part of her team.

Who are the women who have helped Hillary become Hillary? And how will their roles change if she runs for President in 2016?

From Huma Abedin, the political staffer who has been an integral part of the Clinton team since she started as a White House intern in 1996, to Cheryl Mills, a savvy political insider who is often described as the gatekeeper to Hillaryland, here’s a closer look at some of the women in Hillary Clinton's inner circle who have been advising, handling and image checking Clinton for the past two decades.

(MORE: Hillary Clinton’s Unapologetically Hawkish Record Faces 2016 Test)

©2012 Kelvin Ma

Scholarships for students

Irving Fradkin

Founder, Scholarship America

"If you believe in something, ask for money. You don't ask, you don't get. Ask for $1. Everyone can afford that."

Anti-government protesters wave national flags as they block the street in front of the Office of the Defence Permanent Secretary during a rally in Bangkok on Jan. 22, 2014AFP / Getty Images

Thai State of Emergency Throws Polls Into Fresh Doubt

A state of emergency was declared in Bangkok from Wednesday, as embattled Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra attempted to tackle antigovernment rallies that have ensnared the world's most visited city for almost two weeks.

"The cabinet decided to invoke the emergency decree to take care of the situation and to enforce the law," said Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul.

The carnival atmosphere that characterized the start of Operation Bangkok Shutdown on Jan. 13 has quickly dissipated amid a marked escalation in violence. Since Friday, one person has been killed and scores injured as three grenades were hurled at antigovernment rallies in the Thai capital.

On Wednesday, a progovernment Red Shirt leader was shot with outside his home in northeastern Udon Thani province and now lies in a critical condition. Witnesses saw a gunman spray 20 rounds from an AK47 before speeding away in a pick-up truck.

Despite the bloodshed, protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban has scoffed at the 60-day emergency decree and vowed to fight on. “I know about this [decree] well,” he told reporters. In 2010, Suthep used the same provision to order a crackdown on Red Shirt demonstrators that led to around 90 deaths and 2,000 injuries.

Of course, back then the burly 64-year-old was less sympathetic to demonstrators besieging state institutions and haranguing civil servants. "If they violate the laws, such as blocking roads and intruding into government offices, we will have to disperse the protesters," Suthep said in March 2010, while serving as Deputy Prime Minister for the now-opposition Democrat Party.

“The situation is larded with massive ironies on all fronts,” says Anthony Davis, Bangkok-based analyst for defense-and-security-intelligence firm IHS-Jane.

For almost two weeks, tens of thousands of protesters have tried to topple Yingluck’s administration, claiming that she is a stooge for her brother, exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Thaksin is a polarizing figure treated with adoration by the rural poor of the north and northeast, but opprobrium by royalists and voters in Bangkok and southern provinces. Protesters want to purge Thailand of Thaksin’s influence, believing this panacea will allow the country to be “reset” and started afresh.

To this end, they want democracy suspended for up to two years while a unelected people’s council carries out nebulous reforms. Given that Thaksin-backed parties have won all five elections since 2001, the opposition has no interest in contesting the snap poll Yingluck has called for Feb. 2 in order to reassert her popular mandate.

According to Pavin Chachavalpongpun, associate professor at Kyoto University’s Centre for Southeast Asian Studies, the emergency decree is “designed to make the government appear it is control. But I’m not sure it is.” Nevertheless, any crackdown is extremely likely; amid turmoil on the streets, the police — understood to be pro-Thaksin — have remained largely invisible.

Yingluck is simply “banging a drum” after criticism that she sits torpid while mayhem unfurls around her, says Davis. “This is not a prelude to a crackdown, but they are trying to dispel the notion that they are losing control of the situation before the elections,” he tells TIME.

Pavin agrees, warning that Yingluck “would lose the moral authority” and possibly spur the powerful military into taking sides by trying to disperse the protests.

The government already has the necessary tools to crush the protests, says Davis, pointing to how the Internal Security Act has been in place in Bangkok since late November. Nevertheless, “major areas of the capital have been disrupted and taken over, people are setting up stages and doing essentially whatever they want with absolutely no let or hindrance from the police.”

Despite the unlikelihood of confrontation, concerns remain. Yingluck has “jumped the gun” by declaring a state if emergency that amounts to a “blank check for abuses,” warns Sunai Phasuk, Human Rights Watch’s senior researcher on Thailand. The decree means that officials “shall not be subject civil, criminal or disciplinary liabilities arising from the performance of functions” and it should only be implemented when there is a threat against the survival of the nation. Hence, “there is no legitimate justification” at the present time, adds Sunai.

Already the Feb. 2 ballot faces challenges from the Democrat Party boycott and disruptions to candidate registration. In addition, “the state of emergency undermines the very concept of free and fair elections,” says Sunai, citing censorship and restrictions on assembly, expression and association. “How can we see election campaigns and the communication of platforms in the media?” he asks.

Although this might provide another opportunity for the establishment-leaning Election Commission (EC) to challenge the result, most observers believe the polls will proceed. Aside from the EC, the National Anti-Corruption Commission is investigating Yingluck and 308 MPs, mainly from her Pheu Thai party, over a raft of alleged offenses, with yet more possible charges in the pipeline. “There’s all sort of potential impediments immediately before, during and after [the elections],” says Davis. “It’s going to be messy.”

Observers believe a key indicator will be whether advance and absentee ballots are filed on Jan. 26. Thailand experiences huge labor migration from rural areas to cities and famed tourist resorts, and if these voters face significant disruption then it is unlikely that the Feb. 2 vote can proceed. If so,“we could see Thailand falling deeper into crisis for many more months to come,” warns Pavin.

Thai State of Emergency Throws Polls Into Fresh Doubt

A state of emergency was declared in Bangkok from Wednesday, as embattled Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra attempted to tackle antigovernment rallies that have ensnared the world's most visited city for almost two weeks.

"The cabinet decided to invoke the emergency decree to take care of the situation and to enforce the law," said Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul.

The carnival atmosphere that characterized the start of Operation Bangkok Shutdown on Jan. 13 has quickly dissipated amid a marked escalation in violence. Since Friday, one person has been killed and scores injured as three grenades were hurled at antigovernment rallies in the Thai capital.

On Wednesday, a progovernment Red Shirt leader was shot with outside his home in northeastern Udon Thani province and now lies in a critical condition. Witnesses saw a gunman spray 20 rounds from an AK47 before speeding away in a pick-up truck.

Despite the bloodshed, protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban has scoffed at the 60-day emergency decree and vowed to fight on. “I know about this [decree] well,” he told reporters. In 2010, Suthep used the same provision to order a crackdown on Red Shirt demonstrators that led to around 90 deaths and 2,000 injuries.

Of course, back then the burly 64-year-old was less sympathetic to demonstrators besieging state institutions and haranguing civil servants. "If they violate the laws, such as blocking roads and intruding into government offices, we will have to disperse the protesters," Suthep said in March 2010, while serving as Deputy Prime Minister for the now-opposition Democrat Party.

“The situation is larded with massive ironies on all fronts,” says Anthony Davis, Bangkok-based analyst for defense-and-security-intelligence firm IHS-Jane.

For almost two weeks, tens of thousands of protesters have tried to topple Yingluck’s administration, claiming that she is a stooge for her brother, exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Thaksin is a polarizing figure treated with adoration by the rural poor of the north and northeast, but opprobrium by royalists and voters in Bangkok and southern provinces. Protesters want to purge Thailand of Thaksin’s influence, believing this panacea will allow the country to be “reset” and started afresh.

To this end, they want democracy suspended for up to two years while a unelected people’s council carries out nebulous reforms. Given that Thaksin-backed parties have won all five elections since 2001, the opposition has no interest in contesting the snap poll Yingluck has called for Feb. 2 in order to reassert her popular mandate.

According to Pavin Chachavalpongpun, associate professor at Kyoto University’s Centre for Southeast Asian Studies, the emergency decree is “designed to make the government appear it is control. But I’m not sure it is.” Nevertheless, any crackdown is extremely likely; amid turmoil on the streets, the police — understood to be pro-Thaksin — have remained largely invisible.

Yingluck is simply “banging a drum” after criticism that she sits torpid while mayhem unfurls around her, says Davis. “This is not a prelude to a crackdown, but they are trying to dispel the notion that they are losing control of the situation before the elections,” he tells TIME.

Pavin agrees, warning that Yingluck “would lose the moral authority” and possibly spur the powerful military into taking sides by trying to disperse the protests.

The government already has the necessary tools to crush the protests, says Davis, pointing to how the Internal Security Act has been in place in Bangkok since late November. Nevertheless, “major areas of the capital have been disrupted and taken over, people are setting up stages and doing essentially whatever they want with absolutely no let or hindrance from the police.”

Despite the unlikelihood of confrontation, concerns remain. Yingluck has “jumped the gun” by declaring a state if emergency that amounts to a “blank check for abuses,” warns Sunai Phasuk, Human Rights Watch’s senior researcher on Thailand. The decree means that officials “shall not be subject civil, criminal or disciplinary liabilities arising from the performance of functions” and it should only be implemented when there is a threat against the survival of the nation. Hence, “there is no legitimate justification” at the present time, adds Sunai.

Already the Feb. 2 ballot faces challenges from the Democrat Party boycott and disruptions to candidate registration. In addition, “the state of emergency undermines the very concept of free and fair elections,” says Sunai, citing censorship and restrictions on assembly, expression and association. “How can we see election campaigns and the communication of platforms in the media?” he asks.

Although this might provide another opportunity for the establishment-leaning Election Commission (EC) to challenge the result, most observers believe the polls will proceed. Aside from the EC, the National Anti-Corruption Commission is investigating Yingluck and 308 MPs, mainly from her Pheu Thai party, over a raft of alleged offenses, with yet more possible charges in the pipeline. “There’s all sort of potential impediments immediately before, during and after [the elections],” says Davis. “It’s going to be messy.”

Observers believe a key indicator will be whether advance and absentee ballots are filed on Jan. 26. Thailand experiences huge labor migration from rural areas to cities and famed tourist resorts, and if these voters face significant disruption then it is unlikely that the Feb. 2 vote can proceed. If so,“we could see Thailand falling deeper into crisis for many more months to come,” warns Pavin.

british_virgin_islands_0122

A bird's eye view of the entrance to Cane Garden Bay, Tortola's most popular beach, British Virgin Islands

No, There’s Not a Marijuana Pet Poisoning Epidemic

A report Tuesday indicated that marijuana poisonings among pets are on the rise, but pot-smoking animal lovers shouldn't freak out just yet.

The Animal Poison Control Center, which is part of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), says it received approximately 320 calls about marijuana poisoning in 2013. Compared to the 213 calls received in 2009, that's quite a spike—about 50 percent, and NBC News proclaimed that "this is your dog on drugs." But even despite the rise, 320 is still a very low number in the grand scheme of things. The Animal Poison Control Center handled about 180,000 animal poisoning cases in 2013, so the calls about marijuana poisoning amount to about 0.18 percent of the total—hardly cause for bong-induced alarm.

That's not to discount the damage marijuana can do to a pet, of course. Dr. Tina Wismer, the director of the Animal Poison Control Center, told NBC that when an animal consumes marijuana, symptoms can range from sedation to increased agitation, distress, and high heart rates. Most poisoned dogs will become incontinent, she said.

But while marijuana consumption in pets may be rising incrementally, other substances should be of far greater concern. The most common single item that causes pet poisoning is chocolate, according to the Animal Poison Control Center, followed by human medications like pills or pain killers or allergy medications. Pets are also at a risk of consuming insecticides.

Hey Dove, Don't 'Redefine' Beauty, Just Stop Talking About It

Dove is famous for making two things: soap, and long-winded advertisements aiming to "redefine beauty" in the name of selling soap.

Their latest ad, titled "Selfie," debuted Monday at Sundance, like a real-live movie. It's a heartwarming tale of a bunch of normal-looking girls who have absolutely no discernable interests in anything except how they look. They all thought they were ugly until Dove told them they were beautiful, and then the world was illuminated with their beaming smilies, because they are beautiful, and feeling beautiful makes you happy, according to Dove. Also, smelling good!

Here's Dove's "groundbreaking" indie film: