MONEY Odd Spending

Drivers Snatch Cash Flying Out of Armored Truck Near D.C.

Flying Money
Kyu Oh—Getty Images

Thanks to a broken door, a gust of bills spilled out of a truck onto I-270 this morning.

At around 8 am Friday it was raining cash on a Maryland section of Interstate 270, about 40 miles north of Washington, D.C., after a malfunctioning lock on an armored vehicle caused a bag of money to scatter onto the highway. Early reports claimed the broken lock resulted from a collision with a dump truck.

Unsurprisingly, so many drivers stopped to grab the cash that traffic on the northbound lane came to a virtual standstill, and by the time troopers got there, most of the bills were gone—leaving only a little more than $200 for police to collect.

While authorities are still figuring out how much money was taken, at least $500 flew out, according to the Maryland State Police. Other reports say thousands are still missing and one good samaritan has already returned more than $1,000.

Anyone with the good fortune to have picked up the flying cash might want to think twice before spending it: State police told the Washington Post that those caught on traffic camera grabbing the money can be charged with theft.

TIME Money

These Are the Wealthiest Cities in America

Golden Gate Bridge by Joseph Baermann Strauss
The Golden Gate Bridge by Joseph Baermann Strauss, with the bay and the city of San Francisco in the background, California, United States of America. DEA / M. SANTINI—De Agostini/Getty Images

The city proper has seen its fair share of change over the years.

One facet of that change has been the creation of wealth. Here at FindTheBest, we analyzed the most current Five-Year American Community Survey (ACS) data released by the Census Bureau in late 2013 to determine which cities in America contain higher proportions of wealthy households. Defining a wealthy household as one with an income of more than $150,000, we lined up U.S. cities with more than 500,000 people in them to see how America’s biggest cities compare.

Here are the 34 cities in the U.S. with a population greater than 500,000, listed in descending order by the percentage of households with incomes exceeding $150,000. We’ll take a look at some of the wealthiest big cities in America and discuss one important commonality among those cities. You can click into the table below to learn more about each city:

At first glance, you can see that the West Coast is well represented near the start of the list, with four cities out of five right at the top. Of these five cities, at least 14 percent of households in each qualify as wealthy (San Francisco and San Jose push the upper bound by breaking 20 percent). What’s also interesting about these two is that they are distinct cities, but geographically, they are adjoined as part of the San Francisco Bay Area. That two of the wealthiest cities by household income are also geographic neighbors is striking, but it’s not surprising.

In 2012, urban economist Edward Glaeser made the case for the genius of cities in his fascinating book, Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier. Glaeser devotes ample time in his book to the notion that one of a city’s greatest assets is its ability to enable innovation-driving spillovers. Education, as it turns out, is an important force behind generating the knowledge for such cross-pollination. Glaeser makes his point this way: “This agricultural community [Silicon Valley to be] became a world capital of high technology because Senator Leland Stanford, a railroad magnate, decided to build a university on his eight-thousand-acre horse farm.”

While a slight oversimplification that Glaeser duly unpacks, the point remains the same: education and wealth strongly correlate with one another. Common among the ten wealthiest cities by household income is the presence of at least one major world-class research university. The fact that these cities also have proportionally higher levels of graduate-degree holders living in them only strengthens this observation.

We also can explore a larger sample size to frame this in broader terms, say, by plotting the percentage of a city’s residents with at least a bachelor’s degree against the percentage of households with more than $150,000 in income. Again, there is a strong correlation between educational attainment and higher incomes:

Where the education-to-wealth comparison suffers slightly is in explaining why a city like Seattle—where 56.6 percent of the adult population holds a bachelor’s degree and 23 percent holds a graduate degree—doesn’t have a higher percentage of so-called wealthy households (15.2 percent). To be sure, San Francisco and San Jose rank highly in the scatter plot. But Seattle clearly reports a broader college-level educational base.

It’s often tempting to look at compelling data-driven evidence and deduce a singular conclusion. But we can’t. The best we can do is note correlations, holding constant what we have not accounted for. Do wealth and education always align? While we see a noticeable correlation for America’s most populated cities, data never prove anything. Indeed, it could be that wealth begets education and not the other way around (recall, for example, that Senator Stanford was a rich man). Moreover, education doesn’t necessarily capture the role of a city’s cost of living. The bang of $150,000 fluctuates by city.

Even so, it would be difficult to present data on the wealthiest cities in America without also discussing the strong correlation between wealth and education. And much like the persistent change that imbues the history of the American city, it’s also worth mentioning that wealth can be defined in more ways than one.

More from FindTheBest

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How Much Are You Paying for Prisoners in Your State?

The 10 Most Diverse Colleges in America

TIME

This Is the Most Depressing Number in Personal Finance

Money
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It's the shocking amount we spend to be in debt

How much do you think you’ll spend servicing the cost of borrowing on credit over the course of your life? A few thousand dollars? Maybe 10 or 20 grand? The real amount will floor you.

How about almost $280,000 ($279,002, to be exact). In many parts of the country, that’s enough to buy you a house and a car. It’s more than the $245,340 the government estimates it will cost to raise a child born in 2013. And this is for people with middle-of-the-road credit scores. If medical bills or a job loss torched your credit, you could be paying much more for the privilege of borrowing money.

A lot of people only think about their debt in monthly terms — how much their mortgage or car payment is, or how much they need to pay to make the minimum payment on their credit cards. But a new tool from Credit.com pulls back the curtain and shows how much we’re really paying over time.

The penalty for having poor credit is steeper than the benefit that comes from having good credit. “If you have really bad credit, you’re at a definite disadvantage,” says Gerri Detweiler, president of consumer education at Credit.com.

According to Credit.com, somebody with top-notch credit would pay $209,590 in interest, while people with bad credit would be on the hook for $369,054, on average. “However, this is over an entire lifetime and everyone has the opportunity for a fresh start,” Detweiler says. Even bankruptcies come off your credit file after 10 years, and most other negative information doesn’t last that long.

Those figures are national averages; the calculator lets you add in where you live, what range your credit score falls in and details about your debts. Playing around with the variables can show you, for instance, how much you might be able to save in interest payments if you hang onto your car for a few more years, put a little extra towards your mortgage principal or credit card balance every month, or take steps to pull your credit into a better tier.

One thing the tool doesn’t do, though, is factor in the enormous amount of student loan debt many Americans today carry. For the more than seven in 10 students who graduated with an average of $29,400 in debt in 2012, according to The Institute for College Access and Success, that amount can inflate quickly if loans are deferred or put into forbearance.

“For some students, their student loan is like their mortgage,” Detweiler says.

TIME facebook

Why Facebook Suddenly Wants to Handle Your Money

Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg Hosts Internet.org Summit
Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer of Facebook Inc., speaks during the Internet.org summit in New Delhi, India, on Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014. Udit Kulshrestha—Bloomberg/Getty Images

It's quickly becoming the biggest battle zone in tech

Facebook already handles your social life; now it wants to handle your money. Hacked screenshots released this month show a hidden payment option inside Facebook’s popular Messenger app, which is used by 200 million people around the globe. The feature—discovered by a Stanford computer science student snooping around existing code—would potentially let users send money to one another in a message using debit card information. Facebook hasn’t commented on the hack or when, if ever, it might activate the feature.

But, for the moment, a far more interesting question is why would Facebook consider going down this road at all. Behind Facebook’s foray into payments is a thrilling possibility. Could the world’s largest social network be gearing up for a future showdown with the world’s largest credit card companies? At stake is a potentially massive jackpot: the $40 billion to $50 billion a year (in the U.S. alone) that credit card-issuing banks make off the so-called interchange rate, i.e. the hefty transaction fee that merchants have to cough up whenever customers use credit cards. The company announces earnings Oct. 28.

But do a few hacked screenshots really spell the upheaval of the entire payments industry? Maybe. For starters, Facebook hasn’t exactly been coy about its interest in payments. Back in June, the company poached PayPal president and payments guru David Marcus to head up Messenger, a move that now makes a lot of sense. Meanwhile, in a Q2 earnings call, as reported in TechCrunch, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was quite explicit in saying that “over time there will be some overlap between [Messenger] and payments.” The groundwork for a Facebook payment service, in other words, has already been laid.

It’s important to note that, as leaked, Facebook Messenger’s payment feature would only allow peer-to-peer transactions, i.e. money transfers between the banks of ordinary users, not retailers or companies. Speculation is that a service like this might be especially popular among foreign workers sending money to relatives back home. Currently, the remittance industry charges notoriously high fees: By undercutting them, Facebook could find a healthy revenue source, should it choose to ultimately monetize the tool.

But—and here’s where things get really interesting—there’s nothing stopping Facebook from ultimately opening up the payment service to merchants, as well, allowing them to accept debit card payments from customers via Messenger. (Zuckerberg has hinted as much, noting that the planned tool will ultimately “help people share with each other and interact with businesses.”) For merchants, this would have some huge advantages. While credit cards, not to mention PayPal, Stripe, Square and other services, all charge interchange fees ranging from around 2- to 4-percent of total purchase price (an amount considered exorbitant by critics), debit card swipe fees in the U.S. are currently capped at a mere 21 cents.

With this kind of savings hanging in the balance, it’s not difficult to image millions of merchants and potentially hundreds of millions of consumers signing on. Consider that there are currently 79 million Mastercard credit card holders in the U.S.—a sizeable number. But there are nearly 200 million monthly active Facebook users in the country. Facebook, in other words, has the potential to create a payment network that rivals and, in some cases, dwarfs the major credit cards, virtually overnight.

Once merchants and consumers are hooked, Facebook may ultimately turn its focus to profits. Again, Zuckerberg has already signalled this aspiration, explaining to revenue-hungry investors in July that the company is planning “to take the time to do this in the way that is going to be right over multiple years.” With credit card interchange fees currently set so high, Facebook would have plenty of room to make money from merchants while still undercutting traditional credit cards by a wide margin. If the network were to eventually charge a $1 fee (as has been suggested) or even retain just a fraction of a percent of each transaction, the revenue stream could be enormous.

All of this might seem a bit far-fetched, if some of tech’s biggest players weren’t already pursuing similar strategies. In September, for instance, Apple unveiled Apple Pay, a mobile wallet app that lets users store credit card information and then “tap and pay” with their iPhones. For the moment, Apple is content to act as something of a middleman in this process, making it easier for customers to use their existing credit cards and collecting a tiny fee from the banks in the process. But with time, consumers and merchants may well get used to the idea of using Apple for their transactions, with credit cards playing an ever diminishing role and—maybe one day—slipping out of the picture entirely.

What’s clear from these efforts, as well as recent maneuvers by Square, Stripe and even online payment veteran PayPal, is that the stodgy old payments space, dominated for so long by traditional banks and their credit cards, is finally beginning to face some serious challengers. For consumers and merchants, there’s much to gain and little to lose aside from high fees. Meanwhile, for tech players like Facebook, payments may well represent the latest, greatest path to monetization.

And what about for social media users? Are we headed toward a future where social networks like Facebook are actually online, interactive malls where we happen to bump into friends and socialize as we shop? Both Facebook and Twitter are already beta-testing special “buy” buttons that pop up in users’ news streams with targeted offers based on demographic and psychographic information. This kind of one-click shopping – with limited-time deals flying by, meticulously targeted to users’ interests and shared virally among friends – hints at the dramatic changes in store. It’s an endgame that Zuckerberg likely never imagined but one that seems increasingly likely and lucrative: social network as advertiser, shopping mall and credit card – all rolled into one.

Ryan Holmes is CEO of Hootsuite. Follow him @invoker

TIME Money

Yes, I Bring My Poor Children Trick-or-Treating in Your Rich Neighborhood

Halloween candy in basket
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I am angry because the rich pass on all the resources possible to their children while depriving poor children of access

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This article originally appeared on Patheos.

I know I’m late to the party, but I only just came upon that viral Dear Prudence letter about poor kids trick-or-treating in rich neighborhoods.

Dear Prudence,

I live in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the country, but on one of the more “modest” streets—mostly doctors and lawyers and family business owners. (A few blocks away are billionaires, families with famous last names, media moguls, etc.) I have noticed that on Halloween, what seems like 75 percent of the trick-or-treaters are clearly not from this neighborhood. Kids arrive in overflowing cars from less fortunate areas. I feel this is inappropriate. Halloween isn’t a social service or a charity in which I have to buy candy for less fortunate children. Obviously this makes me feel like a terrible person, because what’s the big deal about making less fortunate kids happy on a holiday? But it just bugs me, because we already pay more than enough taxes toward actual social services. Should Halloween be a neighborhood activity, or is it legitimately a free-for-all in which people hunt down the best candy grounds for their kids?

—Halloween for the 99 Percent

Guess what? I am one of those “poor” parents who takes their children trick-or-treating in “rich” neighborhoods. I’ve done it for years, and I’ll be doing it again this Friday. Why? Well if you must know, we live in an area of town that is not set up for trick-or-treating so we have to travel regardless, and I happen to love taking long, beautiful walks through a wealthy neighborhood a mile or so away. But honestly, my reasons shouldn’t matter, because when I read this letter, I see one more desired boundary to circumscribe and trap poor children—to keep them in their “proper” places, the places they deserve.

My kindergartener attends a “poor” school. I’ve looked at the boundary map for her school, and it looks like someone went out of their way to piece all of the poor neighborhoods together while leaving out the wealthier ones. And guess what? Someone did. I researched the backstory, and it turns out that my daughter’s school boundaries were drawn in the midst of some pretty heavy advocacy by some wealthy neighborhoods to stay out. Because apparently my children aren’t good enough for them to send their children to school with.

And I am angry. I am angry because this is about resource hoarding. It’s about the rich passing on all the resources possible to their children while depriving poor children of access to equal resources, and it’s disgusting. We give all sorts of lip service to equality of opportunity in this country, but in actually our social mobility is abysmally low. It is difficult for the children of the rich to fall into poverty, and difficult for the children of the poor to get out. And it is not this way by accident—it is this way because this is how the system set up.

I’m not even angriest for my own children. My children, you see, are not poor-poor. They are graduate-student-poor. Graduate-student-poor is a sort of temporary poor that avoids much of the resource deprivation that accompanies being poor-poor. Other children are not so lucky. Other parents are stuck. It is for these children, and for these parents, that I am angriest.

My husband and I grew up in upper-middle class families. Our parents have college degrees and stable, well-paying jobs. Yet when my husband and I first married, we lived on very little. I learned what it was like to look through the food budget for something to cut or trim so that we could afford to have meat a few times a month. I learned what it was like to beg rides or figure out how to navigate convoluted bus routes because we did not have a car. Our children have been on Medicaid, and our daughter now attends a low-income school. I have learned a lot since my privileged upbringing.

Yet I have not experienced true poverty. Our family has always been there to help us if we really needed, and we have always known that our current state was temporary. Indeed, things are already looking up for us! Someday we will finish graduate school and move, and then be faced the question of choosing a school district. It will be tempting to choose the neighborhood with the best schools, and at that point we will likely have the means to do so. But then, that is what perpetuates the system—everyone grabs the most they can for their children, and at that point I will be in a position to grab more than others.

I can’t say for sure what I will do in the future until I live it. I hope I won’t forget my experience being graduate-student-poor. I hope I’ll live by my principles. I hope I’ll remember what it was like to stand at the checkout shuffling through WIC coupons and holding up everyone behind me, only to learn that I grabbed the wrong brand of grape juice. And I hope I’ll remember what it was to take my “poor” children trick-or-treating in a “rich” neighborhood.

I hope I’ll be part of the solution rather than becoming part of the problem.

Libby Anne is a blogger for Patheos.

Read more from Patheos:

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Saving & Spending

The 10 Most Livable Countries in the World

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Michael Echteld—Getty Images/Flickr Select

A surprising number one pick

This post is in partnership with 24/7 Wall Street. The article below was originally published on 247WallSt.com.

Based on the most recent release of the Human Development Index by the United Nations Development Programme, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the most and least livable countries. Data from the Human Development Index is based on three dimensions of human progress — having a long and healthy life, being knowledgeable, and having a good standard of living. According to the index, Norway is the most livable country in the world, while Niger is the least livable.

One factor that influences a country’s development is its income. The U.N. used gross national income in its calculation of the Human Development Index to reflect the standard of living in a country. In the most developed countries, gross income per capita is generally quite high. All of the world’s 10 most livable countries had among the top 30 gross national incomes per person. The top-rated country, Norway, had the world’s sixth highest gross national income per capita of $63,909.

At the other end of the spectrum, the world’s least developed countries typically had very low incomes. Six of these 10 least livable nations were among the bottom 10 countries by gross national income per capita. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, which had the lowest gross national income per capita in the world, at just $444 last year, was the second least developed country worldwide.

Click here to see the 10 most livable countries

Similarly, these countries also generally had extremely high percentage of their populations living on just $1.25 a day or less, adjusted for purchasing power. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Burundi, more than 80% of the population lived on less than $1.25 per day.

Life expectancies, another factor considered in the Human Development Index, were also far better in highly developed nations. Switzerland, Australia, and Singapore were all among the top rated countries with life expectancies greater than 82 years for individuals born in 2013. By this metric, the United States is a relative laggard. The median life expectancy at birth in the U.S. of 78.9 years was ranked just 38th worldwide.

For individuals born in the world’s least developed nations, the average life expectancy was far lower. In all but one of these nations, a person born in 2013 had a life expectancy of less than 60 years. Sierra Leone, the fifth-lowest ranked nation, had the worst life expectancy, at just 45.6 years.

Sadly, among the factors contributing to these low life expectancies are, almost certainly, high mortality rates for infants and young children. Sierra Leone, which had the lowest life expectancy, also had the highest mortality rates for infants and children under five, at 117 deaths and 182 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Education also plays a role in determining development. In all but one of the most developed countries, residents aged 25 and older spent an average of more than 12 years in school. By contrast, in all of the world’s least developed countries, adult residents had less than four years of education on average.

ALSO READ: America’s Most (and Least) Educated States

The most and least developed nations also tend to be clustered geographically. Five of the 10 most developed countries are located in Europe. All of the least developed nations, on the other hand, are located in Africa, where political turmoil, health crises, and lack of infrastructure are far more common.

Despite their low scores, however, several of the world’s least developed nations have worked towards improving their economies in recent years, and their Human Development Index scores have improved as well. Mozambique is perhaps the best example. While it is still the 10th lowest rated nation, its score had risen by 2.5% per year between 2000 and 2013, faster than almost all other countries globally. Burundi’s score also rose substantially, by 2.3% per year in that time.

To identify the most and least developed nations, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the latest Human Development Index figures published by the U.N. The index included three dimensions made up of select metrics. The health dimension incorporated life expectancy at birth. The education dimension was based on the average and expected years of schooling, for adults 25 and older and newly-enrolled children, respectively. The standard of living dimension was determined by gross national income per capita. We also considered other statistics published by the U.N. alongside the index, including inequality measures, mortality measures, poverty rates, and expenditures on health and education as a percent of gross domestic product (GDP). All data are for the most recent period available.

These are the most livable countries:

1. Norway

> Human Development Index score: 0.944
> Gross nat’l income per capita: $63,909 (6th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 81.5 years (13th highest)
> Expected years of schooling: 17.6 years (6th highest)

According to the Human Development Index, no country is more livable than Norway. Relative to the country’s population of just 5 million, Norway’s economy is quite large. Norway had a gross national income of $63,909 per capita last year, more than all but five other nations. Oil revenue has helped Norway become quite wealthy and accounts for a majority of the country’s exports. Like several other highly-developed countries, and Scandinavia in particular, 100% of retirement age Norway residents receive a pension. Norwegians also enjoy particularly good health outcomes. There were just two deaths per 1,000 live births in 2012, tied for the lowest infant mortality rate.

2. Australia
> Human Development Index score: 0.933
> Gross nat’l income per capita: $41,524 (20th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 82.5 years (4th highest)
> Expected years of schooling: 19.9 years (the highest)

Australia had one of the longest life expectancies in 2013, at 82.5 years. Residents 25 and older had also spent more time in school than adults in any other country, at 12.9 years on average as of 2012. Australia’s per capita gross national income of $41,524 last year was roughly on par with other highly developed countries. Additionally, at 5.2% last year, the country’s unemployment rate was far lower than similarly developed countries in Europe as well as the United States. Australia’s economy has benefitted tremendously from a mining boom in recent years, although the economy is currently rebalancing as iron ore prices have dropped and gorwth in China — a major trade partner — has slowed.

3. Switzerland
> Human Development Index score: 0.917
> Gross nat’l income per capita: $53,762 (9th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 82.6 years (3rd highest)
> Expected years of schooling: 15.7 years (28th highest)

Known for its political and economic stability, Switzerland also had the third highest life expectancy out of all countries reviewed, behind only Japan and Hong Kong. Switzerland’s gross national income was $53,762 per capita in 2013, higher than all but a few countries reviewed. Switzerland also scored among the highest in terms of gender equality, with exceptionally high female labor participation and educational attainment rates. In addition, there were less than two teen pregnancies per 1,000 people reported in 2010, nearly the lowest adolescent birth rate. Foreigners, however, may not necessarily have option of moving to this highly livable country. Switzerland, which is not part of the European Union, recently approved quotas and other controls on immigration.

4. Netherlands
> Human Development Index score: 0.915
> Gross nat’l income per capita: $42,397 (17th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 81.0 years (18th highest)
> Expected years of schooling: 17.9 years (5th highest)

The Netherlands is among the more equitable countries measured by the United Nations, with a Gini coefficient far lower than that of the United States and a number of other highly developed nations. The country also scored well in gender equality due to its low maternal mortality rate, low teen birth rate, and the high level of female representation in parliament. Last year, 37.8% of representatives in parliament in the Netherlands were women, well above the 18.2% in the U.S. Congress.

For the rest of the list, please click here.

TIME Money

This Is the Scariest Number Facing the Middle Class

Official Figures Indicate Britain Is Heading Into Recession
Christopher Furlong—Getty Images

The $20,000 retirement plan

The average middle class American has only $20,000 in retirement savings, according to a new survey that shows large swathes of the public are aware of those shortfalls and feeling anxious about their golden years.

Wells Fargo surveyed more than 1,000 middle class Americans about the state of their savings plans. Roughly two-thirds of respondents said saving for retirement was “harder” than they had anticipated. A full one-third of Americans said they won’t have sufficient funds to “survive,” a glum assessment that flared out among the older respondents. Nearly half of Americans in their 50s shared that concern.

But perhaps the most startling response came from the 22% of Americans who said they would prefer to suffer an “early death” than retire without enough funds to support a comfortable standard of living.

TIME relationships

Why You Need to Talk About Your Partner’s Credit Card Debt

couple-talking-credit-card-laptop
Getty Images

This article originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

The modern dating scene is tough — we know that all too well. Finding a great partner feels like hitting the jackpot, so you might be tempted to overlook certain serious red flags in the name of love. But, what if you’re ready to take the next step with your partner and discover that he or she is deep in credit card debt? This is an issue you definitely shouldn’t dismiss — money is one of the main reasons couples fight. Failing to address your partner’s debt before you move in together or get married could cause heartache down the road. So, should you move forward or hit pause? Here’s how to decide.

Consider The Why
Discuss your financial situations. It’s important to get to the bottom of why he or she is dealing with debt. Asking specific questions about how the balance was incurred will give you a better sense of your beloved’s overall level of financial responsibility.For instance, did your partner face a major emergency that they didn’t have the cash to cover? In this case, the debt can be chalked up to an expensive, one-time event. It doesn’t indicate a pattern of irresponsible financial behavior. But, if your partner carries credit card debt due to reckless spending, you should give this some thought. If you budget carefully and live within your means, you might have a hard time coupling up with someone who doesn’t share your values.

(MORE: Why I Don’t Feel Guilty About My Credit Card Debt Anymore)

Consider The How
Next step? Consider how your significant other is dealing with the shortfall to decide if the relationship is worth pursuing. Even if a mountain of credit card debt is the result of frivolous spending, your partner may have realized the blunder. If your mate is taking steps to pay off the balance — moving to a smaller apartment, going out less, taking on an extra job — count these as good signs. Everyone makes mistakes, and working hard to correct a financial misstep means your partner is trying to get on the right track.However, if he or she seems unconcerned about the debt and isn’t making an effort to pay it off, you should take a step back. Credit card debt is a serious financial burden, and your partner should be treating it as such. Ignoring a lingering balance could signal a lack of judgment when it comes to money.

(MORE: Do You Really Need A Credit Card?)

In The End, It All Depends — But Tips Help
Money is a highly personal and emotional topic, so only you can decide if your partner’s credit card debt is a deal-breaker. The important thing is to discuss the issue before taking a major step in your relationship, and keep the lines of communication open. This will help you assess the direction of your partnership and keep you informed about how your mate’s financial situation is evolving.If you want to help improve your partner’s credit card habits, consider sharing these tips: Keep a budget and track your spending — this will keep you from spending more than you can afford to pay off. Pay your bill in full by its due date — you’ll stay out of debt and keep your credit score healthy. Never use more than 30% of your available credit — this will help you achieve and maintain good credit. Read your monthly statement carefully — you’ll be able to spot fraud if it occurs.

The Takeaway
Understanding why your partner is in credit card debt and how he or she is dealing with it is an important step to take before getting serious. Consider it one more stepping stone on the road to finding “the one.”

(MORE: How to Keep Your Finances Safe After a Breakup)

MONEY Love + Money

5 Super Easy Online Tools that Can Help Couples Feel More Financially Secure

hearts made out of money
iStock

Can't seem to get on the same page with your partner when it comes to money? Help has arrived.

In order to achieve common goals, getting on the same financial page with your romantic partner is critical—but it’s also challenging.

As our own MONEY survey recently revealed, a majority of married couples (70%) argue about money. Financial spats are, in fact, more frequent than disagreements over chores, sex and what’s for dinner.

The Internet can offer some strategic intervention. From budgeting to paying off debt, saving to credit awareness, these five online financial tools can help everyone—and, in particular, couples—get a better handle on their money.

The best part: They’re free.

1. For help reaching a goal: SmartyPig

SmartyPig is an FDIC-insured online savings account that—besides paying a top-of-the-heap 1% interest rate—is designed to help consumers systematically save up for specific purchases using categorized accounts like “college savings,” “summer vacation” or “new car.” Couples can link their existing bank accounts to one shared SmartyPig account and open up as many goal-oriented funds as they desire. You see exactly where you stand in terms of reaching your goals, which can motivate you to keep saving.

Additionally, SmartyPig has a social sharing tool that lets customers invite friends and family to contribute to their savings missions. Don’t want people to bring gifts to your child’s next birthday? In lieu of toys, you can suggest a ‘contribution’ to his SmartyPig music-lessons fund and provide the link to where they can transfer money.

2. For help boosting your credit scores: Credit.com

If you and your partner need to improve one—or both—of your credit scores and seek clarity on how, Credit.com can help. The Web site offers a free credit report card that assigns letter grades to each of the main factors that make up your score: payment history, debt usage, credit age, account mix and credit inquiries.

A side-by-side comparison of each person’s credit report card can—even if the scores are roughly the same—actually reveal that one spouse scored, say, a D for account inquiries, while the other has a C- under debt usage. From there you can tell what, specifically, each person needs to improve upon. “It may lead to some friendly competition,” says Gerri Detweiler, Director of Consumer Education at Credit.com.

3. For help tracking your expenses: Level Money

Called the “Mint for Millennials,” Level Money is a cash-flow-management mobile app that automatically updates your credit, debt and banking transactions and gives a simple, real-time overview of your finances. It includes a “money meter” that shows how much you have left to spend for the remainder of the day, week and month.

A spokesperson tells me that couples with completely combined finances can share a Level Money account and see all bank and credit card accounts in one place. They can get insight into when either partner spends money and how that affects cash flow. The company says it’s continuing to build out tools for couples.

4. For help eliminating debt: ReadyForZero

If you and your partner need some nudging to get out of credit card debt once and for all, ReadyForZero may be of service. Launched three years ago, it’s an online financial tool that aims to help people pay off debt faster and protect their credit. The free membership gets you a personalized debt-reduction plan with suggested payments. The site tracks your progress so you can see how well—or how poorly—you’re doing and regularly posts “success stories” on its site to motivate users. You also get access to the ReadyForZero mobile app which sends you push notifications suggesting an extra payment towards your balance if you just placed a larger than normal deposit in savings or checking.

For couples, the tool can help one or both partners to stop living in denial and to come to terms with their financial obligations. Says CEO Rod Ebrahimi, “it demystifies the debt.”

5. For help syncing up generally: Cozi

When I asked attendees at the annual Financial Bloggers Conference last month about what sites, apps and online tools they like to use to keep their finances in check in their relationships, a few pointed to the website and app Cozi. It’s not a financial tool per se, but Cozi helps households stay organized, informed and in sync with master calendars and household to-do’s like food and meal planning, shopping and appointments.

Want to schedule a meeting to talk about holiday gifting and how much to spend? Put in in Cozi. Want to plan meals for the week so you’ll know exactly what to buy at the market and not be tempted to order in? Tap Cozi to make a list.

Ashley Barnett who runs the blog MoneyTalksCoaching.com says she and her husband have been using Cozi for years. “My favorite part is that the calendar syncs across all devices, so when I enter an event into the calendar, my husband will also have it on his,” she says. Cozi’s actually gone so far as helping the couple minimize childcare costs. “Before Cozi, if I accidentally booked a meeting on a night my husband was working late, I had to either pay a sitter or reschedule the client, which is unprofessional and hurts my business,” says Barnett. “Now when I pull up my calendar I see his work schedule as well. No more surprise sitters needed!”

[Editor's Note: Cozi was recently acquired by Time Inc., the company that owns MONEY and TIME.]

Farnoosh Torabi is a contributing editor at Money Magazine and the author of the new book When She Makes More: 10 Rules for Breadwinning Women. She blogs at www.farnoosh.tv

TIME

Tour de France Prize Money Way Up

Tour de France 1934
Frenchman Rene Vietto tries to break away from Spanish rider Vicente Trueba as they climb the mountain pass of the Tourmalet (Col du Tourmalet) on July 23, 1934 during the 18th stage of the 28th Tour de France AFP / Getty Images

With Wednesday’s official announcement of the route for the 2015 Tour de France, the best cyclists in the world know exactly where they’ll be next July. They also know what they stand to win: there are about 2 million euros (about $2.6 million) at stake, with a €450,000 prize for the final winner and €22,500 for the winner of each stage (that’s about $576,000 and $28,800, respectively).

That’s considerably less than the prize pool available for the famously lucrative International Dota 2 video game championships, but it’s plenty to get excited about — especially compared to the money that used to be available for Tour de France winners.

When TIME first covered the world’s most famous cycling event, in 1934, only 60 competitors were entered (versus 198 today) and the stakes were much lower:

L’Auto, Paris sportpaper, founded the race in 1903 as a circuit of the Auvergne highlands, enlarged it by stages to its present scale. L’Auto foots the bills for meals & lodging, furnishes to each contestant his bicycle, as many tires as he can wear out, $2.64 per day for pin-money. This year publicity-seeking merchants have scraped up 800,000 francs ($52,800) for prizes. The winner of each of the 23 daily laps gets 1,.000 francs ($660).

Even accounting for inflation, that’s not much compared to today’s prizes: $52,800 in 1934 dollars is $937,207.88 today, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator, and $660 is $11,715.10. That means the winner of each stage stands to make twice as much as he did 80 years ago, and the overall prize pot is nearly three times as big. And the prizes haven’t exactly climbed steadily: in 1954, TIME reported that the winner of each stage would take home a mere $570 (about $5,000 today).

At least 1934’s racers could afford a train ticket, if not necessarily first class. And, as TIME wrote in its coverage of the race, that was important: “One race was so swift and grim,” reported the magazine, “that after the finish a rider was reported to have bought a train ticket over the route so that he could inspect the scenery.”

Read more: A Brief History of the Tour de France

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