MONEY Tech

Wireless Charging Coming to an Ikea Nightstand Near You

Furniture giant Ikea is introducing lamps and tables that will recharge your smartphone — no power cord necessary.

MONEY freebies

How to Get Free Pancakes Tuesday, Courtesy of IHOP

Maple syrup runs down the side of a short stack of three pancakes at the International House of Pancakes.
Torin Halsey—AP These handsome fellows can be all yours on March 3 for the extremely reasonable price of free.

National Pancake Day, yet another made-up food holiday, is Tuesday, March 3. That means IHOP customers get a free short stack of pancakes.

Tuesday marks the tenth anniversary of National Pancake Day, an annual event in which IHOP customers get free pancakes and millions of dollars are raised for charity. This magic combo easily makes Pancake Day one of our favorite fake holidays of the year.

Getting free pancakes is simple enough. All you have to do is head to a participating IHOP—the vast majority play along—and ask for a free short stack of buttermilk pancakes. Easy as that.

In exchange for your free breakfast, IHOP will ask you to consider giving a donation to the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals or another designated local charity. For the 2015 edition of its National Pancake Day giveaway, IHOP hopes to raise $3.5 million for charity. The flapjack franchise has raised nearly $16 million in Pancake Day-related charitable donations since 2006, when the marketing stunt began.

MONEY Passwords

Skin-Implanted Chips Will Replace Passwords in the Future

NFC chip on pad of thumb
Sarina Finkelstein (photo illustration)—Getty Images (2)

It's not science fiction anymore — a chip implant can hold your passwords, credit card numbers and health information.

It was a moment out of science fiction. All eyes were on Kaspersky Lab researcher Povel Torudd as he sat center stage at the Kaspersky Security Analyst Summit in Cancun, Mexico, recently, waiting to become a cyborg.

Torudd volunteered to have a Near Field Communications (NFC) chip implanted in his hand by a professional body piercer using sterilized tools, a marker to show where the chip would be inserted, a scalpel and an imposing-looking insertion syringe.

Within minutes, Torudd was done. No hysterics (except for a few of us in the audience) and lots of curiosity.

NFC implants, such as the one now in Torudd’s hand, can be used for a variety of digital age tasks.

The chip can be used as a form of authentication in a multi-factor authentication scheme. It can store digital logins or manage public encryption keys, according to Hannes Sjoblad of the Swedish Biohacking Association.

NFC implants can also be used for personalization and user configuration. Sjoblad outlined how the chip implanted in his hand can automatically reset his car’s seat and mirror settings to account for his larger physique after his smaller-framed wife drives the family vehicle.

Sjoblad also stores information about his gym memberships and rebate memberships for retailers he frequently shops with in Sweden. “It’s made my life easier and interesting,” he said.

Torudd agreed to let the audience watch the implanting of a chip about the size of a grain of rice under his skin between his thumb and forefinger. It is powered by a tiny battery, but don’t worry about chip running out of juice too quickly. The chip is “asleep” most of the time, and wakes up only when the associated Android app attempts to read the stored data. And removing the chip is as simple as the insertion process, Sjoblad said, requiring a small scalpel cut over the insertion point.

Implants may soon supplant basic items in our pockets, such as car keys, proximity cards, and other forms of authentication, Sjoblad said, noting they can “replace all silly passwords.”

While biohacking has the potential for solving different types of authentication issues, there are unique security challenges posed by the technology. Privacy is always a concern when data can be accessed remotely, but the fact that healthcare is one of the big drivers for implants exacerbates privacy concerns.

These chips can potentially store years of data, which can be highly valuable for the attacker, as well as highly detrimental to user privacy if leaked.

More than just privacy, this kind of technology may potentially affect the person’s physical safety, Sjoblad said. Consider that researchers have already identified potential risks associated with existing human implant technology, such as insulin pumps, pacemakers, and cochlear implants. Past demonstrations have shown how insulin pumps and pacemakers can be manipulated maliciously to potentially harm the person using these medical devices.

More from Credit.com

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

MONEY Odd Spending

‘Spocking': The Weird Way to Ruin Money and Pay Tribute to Leonard Nimoy

To honor Leonard Nimoy and the iconic character he played on Star Trek, all you need is a $5 Canadian banknote and a black marker.

Sir Wilfrid Laurier was a prime minister in Canada from 1896 to 1911, and his face is featured on the Canadian $5 bill. Apparently, some feel his face also resembles Leonard Nimoy, the instantly recognizable actor who served as Star Trek‘s Spock, and who died last week.

Starting a few years back, someone thought it would be funny to take older versions of Canada’s $5 banknotes and artfully add some black ink to the profile of Laurier—darkening and extending the eyebrow, sharpening up the tip of the ear, scratching in a dark bowl-shaped helmet full of hair—so that the resulting image looked like Spock. (Another version of this game turned Laurier’s mug into Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series.)

Now that Nimoy has passed away, fans of the actor and the highly logical Vulcan he played on TV and the movies are being encouraged to “Spock” their Canadian $5 bills in tribute. The “Spock Your Fives” Facebook page—yes, there is such as thing, founded in 2008—has heralded the “revival” of Spocking Fives. As you’d guess, word of this curious activity has spread on social media, like so:

The parody Twitter account @PMLaurier—yes, there is such a thing—recently wished “Adieu to the great Leonard Nimoy” in a Tweet that showed one of the manipulated bills, noting that he was “Honoured so many Canadians thought we looked alike and would ‘Spock’ their $5 bills.”

As for where and how, exactly, the idea of “Spocking” currency first began, the “Spock Your Fives” Facebook page only has this to say: “The origins of this mysterious tradition are shrouded in secrecy, although it is widely believed to be totally awesome.”

MONEY lifehacks

10 Life Hacks That Will Make You Richer

150302_HO_LifeHacks
Sarina Finkelstein (photo illustration)—Mark Anderson/Corbis (woman); Getty Images (buckle)

These clever shortcuts will help you earn more on the job and cut down on needless costs.

Picking up new skills as an adult can be tricky, especially when your energy and free time is precious. But prowess in different areas is not all created equal. Investing in certain abilities can get you big rewards for relatively little effort.

MONEY interviewed dozens of experts in different fields to find out which skills, tricks, and workarounds are most financially worthwhile. Here are 10 moves you can make without much preparation.

1. Master the meeting

The average pay bump from a promotion is about 7%, though it can be even more once you’re a manager, according to Mercer. But how do you get one?

“The meeting room is where we exert leadership and develop credibility,” says corporate trainer Dana Brownlee of Professionalism Matters. Don’t dominate—nudge the group toward concrete goals. If someone can’t let go of a point, try saying, “Good idea! I’m writing it down.” You’ve now freed a room of grateful co-workers to move on.

2. Lend a hand at work

Research by Adam Grant at the Wharton School has shown that successful people do more favors at work, but don’t be afraid to ask for tiny favors too. We may actually feel more warmly toward people after lending them a hand—our brains figure we must have done so because we like that person. It’s been called the Benjamin Franklin effect: The Founding Father recalled winning over a legislative rival after borrowing a book from him.

“Our attitudes often follow our behavior instead of vice versa,” says David McRaney, who writes about such psychological quirks in his book You Are Now Less Dumb.

3. Learn a language

It’s easier than ever to dip a toe into languages with free tools like Duolingo, a site and app that make learning like a game. If you then want to ramp things up, real-world classes run about $300 for 20 hours of instruction.

Invest your time and money wisely: The payoff is in less commonly studied languages. A Wharton/LECG Europe study found that speaking German translated into a higher wage premium than for second languages overall. Ambitious? There’s a big market for Mandarin.

4. Get techy

Computer-science grads earn $700,000 over the average B.A. holder in a career, but those with English and psych degrees aren’t out of luck: There are ways to use technology smarter—and get recognized for it—at all levels.

For example, if there’s any need to quantify your business’s activity, being the office Excel guru makes you valuable. Two skills to focus on: building charts (great for presentations) and pivot tables (to summarize lots of data). The ExcelIsFun YouTube channel is loaded with lessons.

Want to compete with true techies? Codecademy.com can get you started for free learning code for building websites. Expertise in Ruby on Rails—certification testing is $150—snags an average salary of $110,000, says data crunched by qz.com.

If all this sounds like too much work, at least Google better. Seriously. Say, for example, you need stats about a product’s market share: Use “OR” (in caps) to Google for different words that might capture the same thing (like “percent” and “proportion”). And check the image search results: The data you need may be in a chart someone has posted. Go to Google’s help center for more power tips.

5. Write better

A clear, unfussy writing style will get your ideas heard at work. (HR pros ranked writing second, behind only computer aptitude, among skills applicants most often lacked.) Harvard professor Steven Pinker, author of the new book The Sense of Style, gave us these tips for better writing:

Avoid fancy words you don’t need or understand. “Fulsome” (as in “fulsome praise”) does not mean full; it means insincere. If you use hoity-toity words to sound posh, you will look pompous and may say the opposite of what you mean.

Cut unnecessary words. John Kerry once said, “The President is desirous of trying to see how we can make our efforts in order to find a way to facilitate.” What he meant was, “The President wants to help.” Much better.

Revise. And better still, show it to someone. What’s clear to you may not be clear to someone else.

6. Learn social savvy

If you run a business or work in marketing, social media like Twitter seem like a great way to get your message out. But remember that users have zero interest in following companies that clutter their feed with ads. Use social to establish your expertise or spark ideas; then when people are in the market for what you sell, they’ll remember you.

Hannah Morgan, co-author of Social Networking for Business Success, explains that a good tweet is self-contained and has a discrete piece of information worth sharing. What works well is language like, “Baking cookies? Add eggs one at a time so you can mix in evenly. For more tips check out our Baking 101 guide.” Then add a link.

A less effective tweet is something like, “We’re having a sale on tins of our delicious chocolate chip cookies. $19.99 all day Friday” because it reads like an advertisement and is therefore is unlikely to be shared.

7. Take back your workday

If you get paid a flat salary, turning a 10-hour day into nine more-productive hours is like giving yourself an 11% hourly raise.

Try three key moves from former Fidelity president Bob Pozen, author of Extreme Productivity: First, handle each email just once. Reply, file, or trash—don’t come back to it later.

Second, hide that extra chair; you’ll discourage chatty co-workers from lingering. Finally, you might want to consider timing your breaks, since research shows your brain loses focus on a task after about 90 minutes.

8. Sell yourself

“Ten years ago job seekers would write a full-page cover letter,” says executive résumé writer Wendy Enelow. A better approach now is an email designed to cut through the electronic clutter.

Use the subject line to note your key selling points. Instead of “Director of sales position,” write “Director of Sales—10 Years of Exceeding Sales Quotas—MBA.” In the body of the email, spotlight a major accomplishment. Follow up with three big career wins in bullet points.

9. Learn to DIY

Some jobs always require a professional but, with a little prep, tasks like painting a room or replacing your car’s air filters can be a piece of cake—and save you a solid amount of money. A painting pro, for example, could easily charge $1,600 for a big job, vs. up to $400 in materials on your own.

Rich O’Neil of Masterwork Painting & Restoration in Woburn, Mass., explains that to get professional results you must dust surfaces and tape up edges and moldings you don’t want painted. Painting should go in two types of strokes: First apply a thin layer for coverage. Then paint over it to even and smooth.

You can replace your car’s air filters yourself every 12,000 miles on newer cars. You’ll save about $50 in labor costs, says Mike Forsythe of Haynes, an auto-repair guidebook publisher, and pay 25% less for the filter by getting it at a parts store. To change an engine filter, check the housing in the engine compartment; in most cars there’s a cover you can unlatch with your fingers. You’ll typically find the cabin filter inside the car, behind the glove box.

10. Get organized

Everyone hates paying a late fee just because of a forgotten reminder to pay a bill on time. And few tasks are as irritating as foraging for receipts from months and months ago.

The key to never losing track of important papers is to keep just one bin and make sure to empty your pockets and purse into it every night. Then set a regular date on your calendar to empty the bin and organize the receipts. “If you wait too long, you may not even remember your purchase,” says professional organizer Andrew Mellen.

If you find it hard to even check your calendar on a routine basis, pair a daily check with your morning coffee—or any other routine you already have.

MONEY cellphones

How to Slash Your Cell Phone Bill in 7 Minutes or Less

$100 bills peeling off screen of cell phone
iStock

Knowing how much data you actually use is the key to getting the best deal.

As part of our 10-day series on Total Financial Fitness, we’ve developed six quick workouts, inspired by the popular exercise plan that takes just seven minutes a day. Each will help kick your finances into shape in no time at all. Today: The 7-Minute Cell Plan

Dread getting your monthly cell phone bill? There’s a good chance you’re paying for too much data. According to the CTIA-Wireless Association, smartphone users consume an average of 800 MB of data per month—less than the 1GB or larger plans pushed by most cell providers. Here’s how to find out how much you actually need.

0:00: Surf to your wireless provider’s site and log into your account. Look for a tab or section that displays your usage summary. For example, Verizon has a “View My Usage” tab on the left side of the page. Click it, and you’ll see an overview of how many minutes you spent on the phone, how much data you consumed, and how many messages you sent per billing cycle. Print out the totals from three or four months.

2:13: Visit whistleout.com, a site where you can compare various cell plans. The site will prompt you to enter the number of lines you have and select a type of phone. If you’re not in the market for a new handset, choose the “BYO Phone” option.

2:30: Now, grab those usage printouts. Use the sliders in the center of the screen to fill out the largest amount of minutes, data, and texts you used during a single billing cycle. Next, you’ll click through a series of drop-down menus to specify whether you require full-speed data at all times, want a monthly or contract plan, and which provider you use. Click “Compare Cell Plans.”

3:15: WhistleOut will show you a range of cell plans that fit your needs, starting with the cheapest.

4:52: Of course, if you’re thinking of switching carriers, you’ll want to make sure the firm offers adequate coverage where you live and work. Go to Rootmetrics.com, a site that lists coverage maps and quality ratings for the major four wireless carriers and dozens of smaller ones. For local details, search for your metropolitan area.

5:45: Now you have all the information you need to switch to the right plan. Going with a new carrier? Give them a call to sign up. Or, if you want to stick with the same company (or must stick with them, thanks to your contract), have them downsize your plan or point out that a competitor is offering a better plan and request a discount.

Previous 7-minute Workouts:

MONEY Viewpoint

Montel Williams Got Called Out On Twitter For Endorsing Payday Loans—And He Didn’t Handle It Well

Montel Williams
Danny Johnston—AP

You may have heard of Montel Williams, actor, producer, and host of the long-running but now-defunct Montel Williams Show. You may also know that Williams is a spokesperson for Money Mutual, a lead generator for so-called payday lenders.

On Thursday, that side-business got a little awkward for the former host when an education activist named André-Tascha Lammé called out Williams on Twitter for “Support[ing] the *most* predatory of loans in existence, PayDay loans. Designed to prey on the poor.”

Williams denied the charge, which prompted the following exchange:

150227_FF_MontelPayday_Tweet2
@Montel_Williams via Twitter

 

Montel is either being disingenuous—deliberately not addressing Lammé’s point—or he just doesn’t understand the real-world effect of payday lending. The truth is that a large portion of payday customers end up in dire financial straits because of these seemingly innocuous loans.

Here’s what happens. The average payday loan charges a fee of about $15 for every $100 borrowed. That might sound like an interest rate of 15%, but that’s the fee for a two-week loan. On an annualized basis—which is how most people think about interest rates, or should—that translates into a rate of 391%.

Montel apparently thinks it’s unfair to think about it this way, since borrowers are supposed to pay back their loan in two weeks.

But here’s the thing: Four out of five payday loan borrowers are not able to pay off their debt in such a short time period, so they go back to the payday loan shop and take out another loan to pay off the first one—for an additional fee, of course—and a cycle of debt begins.

In fact, according to the CFPB, the median payday customer is in debt for 199 days a year, taking out new payday loans along the way as they struggle to pay down the initial loan amount. That’s more than 14 times longer than the period Williams was talking about. As a result, more than half of payday loans are made to borrowers who end up paying more in interest than they borrowed in the first place. The median loan recipient ends up paying $458 in fees and an effective interest rate of 130%.

A representative for Williams defended the tweet, telling MONEY by phone that Williams was specifically referring to loans that are paid off within two weeks, and not payday loans in general.

But since that’s a only small fraction of payday loans, we’re wondering if Montel accepts only that portion of the fees he gets for endorsing this dangerous lending practice.

The rep also emailed this statement:

As someone who used short term lending while in College, Mr. Williams understands that a large number of consumers, like he once did, have no access to traditional credit products. His endorsement of Money Mutual – which is not itself a lender – is reflective of the code of conduct it requires the lenders in its network adhere to and its historically low complaint rate. Certainly we believe consumers should make sure they fully understand the terms of any financial product they may be considering and would note Money Mutual encourages consumers to fully review and understand the terms of any loan, including the cost of any renewals, offered to them via its network of lenders.

MONEY The Economy

Americans Don’t Want to Climb the Income Ladder — Just Hold On to It

Americans' financial confidence is at its best in years, according to researchers, but people are lowering their expectations nonetheless.

MONEY home maintenance

Here’s How to Avoid 5 Hidden Costs of Winter

frozen pipe
Mike Kemp—Getty Images

All that winter snow can take a big chunk out of your budget. Here's how to avoid the worst home problems the chill can bring.

As I type this article, the temperature outside is negative 17 degrees Fahrenheit. The wind chill? Negative 32. And this is, like, our fifth round of this frigid nonsense this year. We’ve gotten used to the cold, so I complain mostly to establish my clout as a northern girl who knows her winter weather and storms. As you might not know, there are costs hidden in the feet of snow dumped on our streets, the ice coating the trees overhanging our homes, and the plunging temperatures that seem unrelenting. (See also: 9 Things You Need to Do Now to Prepare for Winter)

Here’s how to avoid paying them.

1. Frozen Pipes

We had a plumber over the other day, and he was telling us about all the frozen pipes his team has been dealing with this winter. When pipes burst, they don’t only dump water into your home. They run a path of destruction, ruining flooring, flooding furnaces, and more. The costs can be staggering. To avoid this unfortunate situation, make sure your pipes stay warm. The plumber explained to us that problems often arise when people go away and turn their heat down low, so keep your thermostat on a toasty 65 or higher. And learn where your main water shutoff valve is so you can stop the worst damage before it starts.

2. Fire Hazards

When the weather gets frightful, people often turn to secondary heating source to supplement the furnace. They switch on things like electric or gas heaters, gas or wood stoves, and light up fireplaces. Whenever you’re using a flame inside your home, make sure you’re watching it carefully. Fire is one of the most costly tragedies because you could lose absolutely everything you own, including your home. Get your chimney cleaned annually to eliminate the risk of fire. And always open your flue the whole way, which will keep the airflow in proper order.

3. Fallen Trees

With all that ice and snow and wind, there’s a risk that trees around your home might fall without notice. We’ve never experienced this one ourselves, but we did almost buy a home where several sick-looking trees were overhanging the property. I still walk by that place and wonder when the damage is going to happen. Although there’s not a lot you can do to ensure those trees won’t come crashing down onto your roof or worse, you can be proactive — especially since costs aren’t always covered by insurance. If you have trees hanging close to your house, consider trimming them back. Remove rotting or sick trees entirely. You can often get a free quote for the work (get several), and though it might cost a lot upfront, you’ll save costs later on.

4. Ice Dams

We’ve had some impressively long icicles this year. They’re both beautiful and slightly terrifying at the same time. Not only do ice dams pose dangers to people hanging below, but they can also cause some major roof problems by blocking water from flowing freely. Try removing as much snow as possible from your roof. If that’s not a viable option, try removing icicles or hire a professional to come out and do it for you. It will cost less to take care of an issue before it gets downright nasty. To prevent the dams next year, add more insulation to your attic and check out heated wires you can install on gutters that melt ice away.

5. Utility Costs

Now, with the electric components, especially heaters, utility costs can climb. Your heater could be costing you between $50 and $120 per month to run — and when you consider that winter lasts forever some places, that adds up fast. Try running your heater at minimum and — instead — layering up with warm clothes for free. Otherwise, some general home maintenance can take care of a lot of the dollars that are literally flying out your windows. Check around for drafts and cover them up. Get your furnace serviced to ensure it’s running properly. Use thermal curtains to block cold air out on the worst days. (See also: 7 Easy Ways to Lower Winter Utility Costs)

Read more great articles from Wise Bread:

MONEY Love and Money

What Fifty Shades Gets Wrong About Money and Sex

FIFTY SHADES OF GREY
Chuck Zlotnick—Focus Features/Courtesy Everett Collection

The hit novel turned film suggests wealth makes men sexy to women. That's misleading.

Does money make men more attractive to women? On the surface, both popular culture and social science research seem to say yes.

You can’t take a step into the academic literature without tripping over a study showing that women place higher value than men on a partner’s wealth, that women are more attracted to men with nice cars, or that women orgasm more with rich partners.

The standard social science explanation for this phenomenon gets expressed in evolutionary terms: Because impregnating as many women as possible gives a man’s genes an evolutionary advantage, men are more superficial and promiscuous. Conversely, because of the time and energy required for a single pregnancy, women are choosier and more preoccupied with finding a mate rich with resources to provide for offspring. Or, at least, that’s the theory.

The success of the Fifty Shades of Grey franchise certainly does little to dispel all this. The story—for those living under a rock—details the sexual awakening of a young woman seduced by a billionaire, whose physical attractiveness is matched only by his fleet of luxury cars, helicopter, penthouse apartment, and cushy CEO job running his own company. In other words, as author E.L. James has put it, Christian Grey is “every woman’s dream.”

“He’s very good looking, he’s very good at sex, he’s disgustingly rich,” she told TIME.

To be fair, it’s intuitive that a partner with means is more desirable than one without, all else being equal. A recent poll found that 78% of coupled Americans of both sexes say they’d prefer a partner who is good with money over one who’s physically attractive. And if you are a man who feels pressure to impress women with your money, or a woman who felt titillated reading about Christian Grey’s alpha status, you probably buy into the theory without even realizing it.

But as it turns out, this popular narrative about men, women, sex, and money isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

A recent study has found that the common depiction of women primarily seeking out rich and powerful men (and men seeking out young and attractive women) is fairly uncommon in practice and—crucially—doesn’t reflect the reality of successful relationships or what actually makes people happy.

The research, by University of Notre Dame sociologist Elizabeth McClintock, has found that gender differences more or less disappear when you discard self-reported attraction scores and instead examine how real couples pursue one another, date, and settle down. In reality, rich women are just as likely as rich men to use their status to snag a more-attractive mate. And across the board, relationships in which people are essentially trading status for sex tend to be uncommon and short-lived.

Instead, McClintock found that the biggest force that predicts a successful match between people is actually how well all of your qualities match up. That means, for example, that people of similar physical appeal tend to pair off, and those with comparable educations and financial means are drawn together.

What’s perhaps counterintuitive, then, is that a woman seeking a rich man is actually better off getting herself a raise than a makeover. Likewise, a man seeking an attractive lady will see higher returns investing in a gym membership than a brokerage account.

So why does the tale of the rich, experienced man seducing the pretty ingenue persist in popular imagination, not to mention the academic literature? McClintock found that many existing studies took for granted the very gender roles they were supposed to be measuring, examining only women’s attractiveness and men’s status or money, while ignoring men’s appearance and the wealth and education of women.

As Northwestern University psychologist Eli Finkel told New York magazine: “Scientists are humans, too, and we can be inadvertently blinded by beliefs about how the world works.”

Indeed, we’re all better off disposing of our blindfolds—even if they’re made of the finest satin.

 

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