You might like things just the way they were
Apple launched Apple Music on Tuesday, the company’s new Spotify-like streaming music service. iPhone and iPad users who update their devices to the latest version of iOS will see their old Music app has changed to prominently feature Apple Music and its various bells and whistles.
That’s great if you want a streaming service from Apple, but not so much for anyone who liked things just the way they were. If you would rather listen to the music you’ve purchased with no fancy-smancy recommendations or new album suggestions, there’s a simple method of doing so.
As Six Colors‘ Dan Moren explains, just go to the Settings app, then tap on the Music tab and move the “Show Apple Music” switch to the off position.
Moren notes this won’t completely change things back to the way they were—you’ll still see the Connect tab, for instance—but your Music app should look at least a little bit more familiar.
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It's the latest "literary" craze.
Coloring books: they’re not just for kids anymore.
That’s the word from The Boston Globe, which reports that coloring books for adults are flying off store shelves. The books, which the paper says are more detailed than their child-focussed counterparts, are among the top sellers on Amazon and are well stocked by bookseller Barnes and Noble.
Why are grownups buying up a genre generally targeted at younger children? The answer seems to be that coloring between the lines can be a therapeutic exercise.
“I think it probably speaks to people’s enjoyment in doing this kind of relaxing hobby or distraction from everyday life,” Sarah Deaver, president of the American Art Therapy Association, told the Globe. “It creates an object of focus, and it creates something that’s beautiful and that’s satisfying.” One best-selling coloring book is subtitled Stress Relieving Patterns, and promises to provide “hours and hours of stress relief, mindful calm, and fun, creative expression.”
Adult coloring books have become so popular that even Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin is getting in on the act. Earlier this month, Bantam books announced it would publish a GoT coloring book meant for a mature audience. The book “will feature 45 original black and white illustrations, inspired by characters, scenes, locations and other iconic images from Martin’s wildly successful ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series,” the company told the Los Angeles Times. The coloring book is scheduled for release sometime this fall.
The Donald’s official merchandise is facing some serious resistance
Donald Trump piñatas may be flying off the shelves, but The Donald’s officially licensed products are facing some serious resistance.
Quartz reports that a petition calling for Macy’s to drop Trump’s merchandise has gathered over 700,000 signatures. The petition is authored by Angelo Carusone, executive vice president for the left-leaning research organization Media Matters, and calls on the retailer to “sever ties” with Trump over the GOP presidential hopeful’s recent comments about Mexican immigrants.
“Donald Trump has attacked Mexican immigrants as ‘rapists’ and ‘killers,'” wrote Carusone. “It’s time for Macy’s to follow Univision’s and NBC’s lead and finally dump Trump.” Carusone is referring to recent decisions by the two broadcasters to split with the billionaire after he implied many Mexicans who come to America are criminals.
Trump has lent his name to a number of products, including spring water, and Macy’s currently carries the Donald J. Trump Collection line of clothing and the Empire by Trump fragrance. A Donald Trump white dress shirt is listed as regularly retailing for $69.99, while a Donald J. Trump Blue Pindot Suit can cost as much as $650. Many of the items are currently on sale. A container of Trump’s Empire perfume costs $52, but Empire-scented deodorant can be had for as little as $14.
This is not the first time the Media Matters executive has taken aim at Trump. Quartz notes Carusone also published a petition in 2012 calling for Macy’s to drop Trump’s merchandise in the wake of his comments suggesting Barack Obama might not be an American citizen. The current petition is an updated version of the previous effort, but Carusone told Quartz earlier today that 25,000 new signatures have been added in roughly the last 24 hours.
It is unclear how effective another petition against Trump will be. In an email to the Media Matters executive following the 2012 petition and published by BuzzFeed, Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren wrote that “we respect your opinion and those who have signed the petition,” but “Many of the individuals associated with products sold at Macy’s — or at any retailer, for that matter — express personal opinions that are not related to the merchandise we sell or to the philosophies of our company. That is the nature of a free society.”
Drink your latte.
Whether you think of yourself as money-savvy or you’re acutely aware of where your personal-finance knowledge is lacking, it’s always good to make sure you aren’t managing your money on assumptions that are faulty to begin with.
Here are a few common money myths to kick to the curb.
Myth No. 1: Credit cards are evil
With the average credit card debt sitting at just over $15,000 per household, it’s easy to think that plastic is the irresponsible way to pay. Not so fast.
It’s not the method of payment that’s the problem; in fact, having credit cards can actually help your credit score. A full 10% of your credit score depends upon having a mix of credit types — installment credit, like a car loan, and revolving credit, like credit cards.
In addition, credit cards offer more security than any other form of payment, allowing you to dispute fraudulent activity without footing the bill.
Myth No. 2: Skipping your morning coffee will make you rich
Cutting back on small expenses might offer some breathing room in your budget over the long term, but money not spent doesn’t necessarily equal money saved. To grow that money, it would need to be put into a place where growth can occur — like an investment account or, at the bare minimum, a savings account.
You may think cutting out a daily expenditure is putting you on a path to financial independence, but that’s only step one.
Myth No. 3: It’s too risky to invest your money
The truth opposing this myth is simple — it’s too risky to not invest your money.
If you’re already diligent about socking away money each month, that’s a great start. But with interest rates sitting so low, money put into a savings account will likely lose more to inflation than it can make up in growth. That’s where investing comes in.
Through the power of compounding, a single $500 investment made at the age of 20 earning a conservative 5% return would be $4,492.50 at the age of 65. Imagine that scenario with ongoing contributions and larger returns. It would put any savings account to shame.
Myth No. 4: All debt should be paid before saving
Unfortunately, emergencies and unexpected expenses occur at all stages of life — even when you’re working to pay off student loans or crawl out from underneath credit card debt.
A study recently released by Bankrate found that 60% of Americans wouldn’t have the funds available to cover even small hiccups — like a $500 medical bill or car repair. Think about how many of those expenses you’ve run into in the last six to 12 months; probably at least one.
If you want to avoid incurring more debt as a result of life’s curveballs, work to save while paying off debt. This will give you a better chance of smooth sailing to the finish line.
Myth No. 5: You should borrow the most money offered to you
Wondering how much house you can afford? Don’t let the loan amount offered by the bank be your guiding light.
Those in the business of making loans are incentivized to offer the biggest loan possible that you’ll be approved for. So while they may be checking out your debt-to-income ratio, this simple equation doesn’t always offer an accurate snapshot of what you can actually manage to pay each month.
The same goes for credit card limits — having a $20,000 limit doesn’t mean your finances can easily handle paying back $20,000 worth of purchases.
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"This pinata especially is the one everyone wants to break."
Mexicans have found a way to hit back at Donald Trump. Literally.
Reuters reports that piñatas bearing Trump’s likeness, including “a flange of blonde hair and a big mouth,” have hit store shelves in Mexico and are proving popular among customers eager to protest the billionaire’s recent remarks against immigrants.
Trump, who is a Republican candidate for president, drew criticism after declaring in his campaign announcement speech that Mexican migrants were bringing “drugs, crime, and rapists” to the United States. He later called his comments “100 percent correct,” but insisted he was a strong supporter of Mexicans. “How can I not love people who give me many millions of dollars for apartments?” Trump said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
The Donald’s comments prompted piñata maker Dalton Remirez to design an extremely bashable piñata bearing Trump’s visage. The candy-filled sculpture retails for about $40, and Ramirez says it has been flying off shelves. “This piñata especially is the one everyone wants to break,” the artist told Reuters.
Thanks, but no thanks.
An offer of $25, $50 or even $200 to switch your accounts to a new bank can be very tempting. Who wouldn’t want the extra cash? But before you agree to move your money to a new institution, read the small print that comes with the offer, and consider other factors, such as account fees, restrictions and how happy you are with your current bank.
You may decide that a sign-up reward isn’t a good enough reason to switch. Here are five reasons why it may make sense to skip the bonus offer.
1. You could end up paying more in bank fees
Many banks that offer sign-up bonuses require you to keep a minimum balance, and that amount could be as high as $1,500. If your account dips below that level, you may have to pay monthly fees of $12 or more, which could eventually wipe out the bonus.
The account could also have overdraft fees, which are often around $25 per instance. You might be careful with your budget, but one overdrawn check could be costly. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, overdraft and non-sufficient-funds fees “represent 60% or more of consumer checking account fee income” for banks.
If you’re trying to cut expenses, a free or low-cost checking account at a bank that doesn’t offer a sign-up bonus but has lower fees could be a better deal.
2. The bonus may not be as big as it seems
Shantel Moses of Brooklyn, New York, says she received a sign-up bonus of $50 to join an online bank a few years ago.
“Everything was great until it came time to do my taxes,” Moses says. That’s because the bank sent her a form stating that the bonus should be counted as taxable income, she says. When you consider the tax bite, the size of any bonus may not be worth the hassle of switching accounts.
“After taxes, the 50 bucks was really more like 30 bucks,” Moses says.
3. There will probably be restrictions
Some banks require you to enroll in direct deposit before you can receive the bonus offer. If an automatic deposit isn’t received within a certain timeframe — say, 60 days — you might not get the benefit at all.
Another common requirement is to complete a certain number of debit-card transactions each month. If you sign up for a checking account to get a cash bonus, but then have to use your debit card to make eight purchases every 30 days, you might end up spending the bonus just to meet the terms of the account.
Banks may also require you to keep your account open for 90 days before you’re eligible for the reward. Even then, it could take an extra couple of weeks for the funds to arrive.
4. You could get hit with an account closing fee
If you choose to switch from one bank to another to get a sign-up bonus, but you opened your last account within the past year, your old bank may charge you money to close the account. Some financial institutions have fees of around $25 to close an account that was opened within the previous 180 days.
5. You could still get a bonus without switching
When Moses joined her online bank, she decided there was no need to switch again. After a while, she noticed the bank was offering rewards for referrals.
“I referred my niece, and got another bonus,” Moses says. She was able to get a reward without having to change banks.
If you receive a sign-up bonus offer from a bank, it’s smart to compare that offer with your other options. You may decide that it’s better to pass on the bonus in favor of another financial institution’s offerings that could give you more bang for your buck.
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The new policy makes clear that “you do not have to consent to receive autodialed or prerecorded message calls or texts".
PayPal has backed down on its robocalling and robo-texting policy.
The online money company sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission on Monday saying it will change its terms of service to clarify when it will use automated calls or texts, and offer an easy way for users to opt out of them.
The change comes just days before the policy was to take effect as PayPal formally splits from eBay.
Earlier this month, I wrote a story calling attention to PayPal’s upcoming terms of service, in which the company granted itself broad rights to robocall or robo-text consumers for almost any reason, at any telephone number the firm could connect to a user.
The new policy is much more specific. Gone is the “at any telephone number that you have provided us or that we have otherwise obtained” language. Also gone is language saying use of the service grants PayPal the right to use texts or calls to market products to consumers.
The new policy indicates PayPal can use autodialers in three specific situations: to contact consumers to collect a debt, to investigate fraud or to provide notices about account activity. The policy then makes clear that “you do not have to consent to receive autodialed or prerecorded message calls or texts in order to use and enjoy PayPal’s products and services,” and provides an opt-out link.
The notice also makes clear that PayPal can only use automated tools for marketing purposes if it obtains additional express written consent.
“I commend PayPal for taking steps to honor consumer choices to be free from unwanted calls and texts,” said Federal Communications Commission Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc. “The changes to PayPal’s user agreement recognize that its customers are not required to consent to unwanted robocalls or robotexts. It clarifies, rightly, that its customers must provide prior express written consent before the company can call or text them with marketing, and that these customers have a right to revoke their consent to receive robocalls or robotexts at any time. These changes, along with PayPal’s commitments to improve its disclosures and make it easier for consumers to express their calling preferences, are significant and welcome improvements.”
After my initial story, the FCC sent a letter telling PayPal that its terms “raised serious concerns,” and would potentially violate the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. An FCC official met with PayPal’s legal team last week, which led to the change.
“We greatly appreciated the opportunity to share with you … our sincere regret for any concern or confusion this updated provision has caused the (FCC) or our customers,” the letter said. It was signed by Louis Pentland, PayPal’s general counsel.
A notice about the change will be emailed to PayPal users soon, the letter said.
In reaction to the initial report about the change, PayPal said consumers could opt out of robocalls and texts, but it wasn’t initially clear how to do so. Also, the firm had told a customer weeks earlier that no opt out was available. When PayPal consumer Robert Pascarella questioned PayPal about the terms of service on the company’s Facebook page recently, he requested an opt-out for the provision and was shot down.
“Regrettably, there isn’t an opt-out option to certain items within our User Agreement,” PayPal wrote on Facebook.
Thanks again to Ed Hasbrouck for initially calling attention to the issue …. several years ago.
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Spoiler: it's a lot
Tuesday, June 30, will be exactly one second longer than the typical day. That’s thanks to the “leap second,” which gets added on to a day every now and again to compensate for a constant gravitation tug-of-war between Earth and the moon that very gradually slows our planet’s rotation.
The leap second made us wonder: exactly how much do America’s largest companies make during that extra second?
- Walmart, the largest company in the world, makes enough in one second ($15,390) to feed a family of four for over 14 months.
- It takes Exxon Mobil one second to generate enough revenue ($12,124) to buy one half of a Toyota Prius.
- Chevron makes enough in one second ($6,457) to buy 2,333 gallons of gasoline.
- Berkshire Hathaway takes in enough in one second ($6,169) to buy almost 16,000 cans of Coke, the favorite soda of Berkshire founder Warren Buffett.
- With the amount Apple makes every second ($5,793), the company could buy nine new unlocked iPhones.
And how much does the average American household make in one second? According to the U.S. Census, the answer is less than a cent. It’s pretty good to be a giant corporation.
Costs decrease for a holiday weekend feast.
Feel free to fire up the grill for the Fourth of July weekend. You can afford it.
According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, the cost of a typical summer cookout that feeds 10 people is 3% cheaper than it was a year ago. The total cost of a barbecue feast, including eight burgers, eight hot dogs, pork spare ribs, potato salad, baked beans, corn chips, watermelon, plus drinks, condiments, and buns, comes to $55.84, or a little over $5.50 per person. The estimate is based on price checks at supermarkets in 30 states, and the total cost is lower than it was in 2014, when the same barbecue cost an average of $57.57.
This year’s lower cost comes as a result of decreased prices for many items on the shopping list. The price of ribs, hot dogs, baked beans, watermelon, hot dog and hamburger buns, and American cheese all inched lower this year, collectively shaving a couple bucks off the total.
Rising production of pork and dairy products is the main reason that hot dogs, spare ribs, milk, and cheese prices are all on the decline. Bloomberg News noted that wholesale pork prices have dropped 28% over the past year, while milk production in the U.S. hit a record high in May 2015—causing the retail price of American cheese to fall by over 8%.
The same group that does the July 4 cookout estimate also puts together an annual price roundup on the cost of a standard Thanksgiving dinner that’ll feed 10. Interestingly enough, Thanksgiving is cheaper than the barbecue—about $50 versus $55.
While pork and dairy products have gotten cheaper this summer, not all items on the cookout shopping list are less expensive. Ground beef prices are up 2% compared to last year.
Still, thanks to falling pork prices, you might be more willing to splurge with some bacon on your burger. As of May 2015, bacon prices were down 18% year over year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. The average price of a pound of bacon was over $6 last summer. It dropped to about $5.50 at the start of 2015, and now it’s down under $5.