Saving, investing and making money with technology

Month: December 2015

The Mom Next Door: How & Why Moms Make Recommendations

59cf7a_87618131acedaba8bde4f9d1262e9fcbIt’s no secret that moms turn to other moms for recommendations for just about everything. Cracking that word-of-mouth – or word-of-mom – code is the holy grail for brands today. But who’s more influential? The Facebook mom or the mom chatting up other moms at school drop-off? Is there a difference in the conversations moms have online and in-person, both in terms of what they share and how what they share is received by other moms?

 

360PR and Mom It Forward, two longtime leaders in engaging moms on behalf of a host of brands, created The Mom Next Door study to help brands better understand and calibrate their approach to fueling mom recommendations. The multi-faceted study included a blend of quantitative research (a web-based survey) and live and online events, interacting with moms in the range of ways moms interact with each other. In all, we talked to more than 1,000 US moms with kids ages 0-12.

 

Mom Next Door Study Highlights:

 

  • 93% of moms are influenced to some extent by other moms’ recommendations.
  • 50% of moms make recommendations about brands daily or weekly and another 21% make brand recommendations at least monthly.
  • In-person is the most frequent form of recommendations and in-person recommendations are viewed as more trustworthy, even by social-savvy Gen Y moms.
  • Social media is most significant for Gen Y moms of children ages 0-3, who report using social media for more than two hours each day and are paving the way on newer platforms like Pinterest.
  • 77% of all moms we surveyed follow one or more brands on social media.

 

Email Jyl Johnson Pattee at jyl@momitforward.com to schedule a presentation of The Mom Next Door study and insights by 360PR and Mom It Forward.

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The Mom Next Door

How & Why Moms Make Recommendations

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5 reasons for spreading financial literacy in india

In today’s world, it is very important for everyone to be financially literate. You have to go ahead and understand how your hard earned money can yield better returns. You have to understand how global and local businesses work on a financial platform.

According to a recent survey, we Indians stand in second position among the leading nations in the world just after Japan. But in reality, there is a great disparity among the urban and rural population. The vast majority of the population are devoid of basic education in a country where there is a separate Right to Education Act. Education is our birthright and the country’s progress are directly related to the level of education in the country. The following are the reasons why it is important for a country to be financially literate-

  1. Financial education should start at an early age – It’s always better to start early to those things which takes a long time to happen just like our equity investments. Warren Buffett has made his first investment when he was only 11 years of age and he feels that he started late. In our society, we don’t even think of making investments at the age of 21. Financial education is very relevant at an early age since younger kids have greater temptations, have more debt in general and does not understand the importance of savings. It’s very important for the parents to give this money related lessons to their kids at an early age so that they understand the value and importance of money.
  2. The problem is widespread – The problem of financial literacy is widespread in India, especially in the rural areas. It’s a matter of shame for the country that one side, we boast of landing into the second position among the top nations in the world in terms of financial literacy level. On the other hand, the vast majority of Indians are devoid of basic financial education. Around 70% of Indians still lives in the villages and have no access to basic education. Most of the problems like poverty, booming population etc stems from the lack of adequate education. The government should look into this matter seriously and should come up with a large number of schools in the rural areas with good infrastructure and skilled manpower. As we all say that food, clothing and shelter are our basic needs, but I believe education is no less important and it deserves equal importance to be included in that list.
  3. Certain group of people requires special attention – Certain section of society, especially the females, kids and the old age people requires special attention. The female literacy rate in India is very low compared to the males. Women in our society play a variety of roles from educating the kids to looking after the house to managing the family expenses. If adequate financial education is provided to them, it can be a game changer. Moreover imparting financial lessons to older people is equally important as they can guide their families to go in the right direction. Moreover, their huge experience when combined with the right set of knowledge can really help the family prosper.
  4. To avoid misleading by the agents – It is seen that most of the people are often mislead by their sales or insurance agents just for some penny benefits. Educating the common masses with the right set of knowledge would help them in understanding the questions and the solutions explained by their financial advisor. It will also help them to decide that which product would be more appropriate in satisfying their need.
  5. Teachers should be given the right set of training – Financial education is an important area and it must become the part of the curriculum in our schools just like any other subjects like science or maths. We all spend our initial 15-20 years of our life with our teachers and the guidance under a right set of mentor gives your career a good momentum. Most of the teachers in our school are not well qualified to teach financial education lessons. Hence, teachers should be provided with the right set of training to impart financial and money related lessons to the students.

These financial lessons can really be fun at times where you come to know of people who had made or lost lots of money. These lessons not only help in the development of the individuals, but also helps in the country’s progress. The higher the financially literate people in the country, higher is the investments which ultimately lead to the development of the entire nation. It also helps the country to avoid the situations of economic meltdown.

It is often seen that when a country has more well informed consumers, the higher is the level of competition in the country and more efficient is the market. You can educate yourself for free to gain financial wisdom so as to take our country to No. 1 position in the near future surpassing Japan.

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Yahoo Finance 2015 Company of the Year: Facebook

Most companies looking for new customers and fresh revenue move upmarket. Facebook (FB) is looking in the other direction.

This fall, Facebook began a voluntary program at its Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters called 2G Tuesdays. Engineers, product developers and anybody else who’s interested can use Facebook at reduced Internet speeds approximating the patchy service users must contend with in developing markets such as India and parts of Africa. Most Americans pull their hair out when the Internet drops into low gear. Yet hundreds of Facebookers try the slower speeds every week, and their experiences have helped improve service for users with slow connections. “Images take longer to load. The service is more unreliable,” says Facebook engineering director Tom Alison. “It’s the best way to build empathy with our users in those markets.”

Other companies talk about connecting with consumers. But few do it as convincingly as Facebook has done lately. And that’s just one reason the social-media giant is the Yahoo Finance Company of the Year for 2015. Some of the other reasons:

* Facebook’s stock rose by more than 35% year-to-date through mid-December, compared with an overall market that was flat. During the last 12 months, the company has earned $2.8 billion on revenue of $15.9 billion, for a profit margin of 18% — better than Microsoft (MSFT) and close to the enviable margins Apple (AAPL) and Google (GOOG) earn.

* The company’s market capitalization soared to roughly $300 billion this year, making Facebook America’s seventh-most valuable public company — just behind Amazon (AMZN) but ahead of General Electric (GE) and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ).

* Facebook’s 31-year-old CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, is in the midst of two months of parental leave following the birth of his first child, a prolonged departure that may be unique among Fortune 500 CEOs. The company even accelerated its end-of-year product reviews to accommodate his leave, according to Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg.

* Zuckerberg also pledged this year to donate 99% of his wealth to charity and other causes he considers worthy. While some critics called Zuckerberg’s pledge self-serving, it remains a standout act of generosity in an era characterized by self-indulgent 1 percenters and a declining middle class.

[Check out our slideshow: Behind the scenes at Facebook.]

Most of all, Facebook has grown from a bumptious startup—whose famous motto used to be “move fast and break things” — into a powerful technology bellwether that seems to respect the humanity of its employees and users both. And as the biggest American company run by a millennial, Facebook is establishing corporate leadership for the next generation. “We take our responsibility as an organization seriously,” Sandberg told Yahoo Finance when we visited the company’s headquarters. “That means making work work for people.”

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The office space inside Facebook's huge new showcase building in Menlo Park, Calif., designed by architest Frank Gehry. Photo credit: Rick Newman

The office space inside Facebook’s huge new showcase building in Menlo Park, Calif., designed by architest Frank …

As Facebook has matured, meanwhile, it has modified the old motto, since breaking things doesn’t sound like something a member of the corporate firmament ought to endorse. “It’s still about ‘move fast,’” says Lori Goler, Facebook’s human resources chief. “But it’s more about ‘move fast and build responsibly.’”

Mobile dominance

Back in 2012, when Facebook went public, its future didn’t seem nearly as rosy as it turned out to be. The thoroughly hyped IPO, you may recall, was a fiasco marred by technical glitches and trading oddities. Lawsuits ensued. The shares plunged right off the bat and within a couple of months were trading at barely half the $38 listing price. Then came fears that Facebook, essentially a desktop service, would miss the mobile revolution and become irrelevant—the next Friendster or MySpace.

News flash: Instead of missing the mobile revolution, Facebook is dominating it. A couple years ago, Zuckerberg, aware that Facebook was behind on mobile, declared that every new product development or enhancement would focus on smartphones and other mobile devices first. The message didn’t sink in right away. Executives would begin meetings by opening PowerPoint presentations highlighting desktop usage. “Let’s reschedule this meeting,” Zuckerberg interrupted more than once. “Mobile first.”

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Facebook hires local artists to decorate its walls. Photo credit: Rick Newman

Facebook hires local artists to decorate its walls. Photo credit: Rick Newman

The company finally made the pivot — and execution followed. Of Facebook’s 1.6 billion users today, 1.4 billion, or 88%, use Facebook on mobile devices. About 660 million of those mobile users also log in on computers, but 730 million are mobile-only. Three-quarters of Facebook’s revenue now comes from mobile ads—those carefully targeted promotions that show up once every 20 or 30 posts as you scroll down your news feed. And the stock has soared from a low of $18 in 2012 to around $103 today.

More on Facebook: Tracing Facebook from Harvard class list to global network

Investors no longer worry about the company falling behind the technology curve. “Facebook remains in prime position to capitalize on the secular shifts to digital, mobile and video,” SunTrust Robinson Humphries analyst Robert Peck wrote after the company’s latest earnings report. And company leaders seem confident they’ve found the sweet spot. “Mobile’s gonna be huge,” Sandberg joked when we interviewed her—fully aware that it already is.

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More art. Photo credit: Rick Newman

More art. Photo credit: Rick Newman

There were also concerns back in the uncertain days of 2012 about Zuckerberg playing fast and loose with investor cash, such as when he single-handedly negotiated a deal to buy Instagram for $1 billion— twice its estimated value at the time. The fledgling photo-sharing company turned out to be a bargain. Analyst Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray estimates that Instagram alone is now worth at least $22 billion today, a return on investment the best venture capitalists would envy. More than that, Instagram remains one of the most popular networking sites among teenagers, while Facebook’s user base has aged. And Instagram’s visual appeal complements Facebook’s chattier mien, rather than duplicating it.

Future ideas

In 2014, Facebook bought Oculus VR, a maker of virtual-reality gear such as the Rift headset, for $2 billion. Virtual-reality is a niche sector at the moment, of interest mostly to gamers. But technologists think VR could catch on much the way social-networking did during the last 10 years, as consumers thrill to immersive new ways of watching sports, following news and enjoying concerts. Munster of Piper Jaffray predicts that Oculus could be worth $35 billion within 5 years, which would make it another Instagram-style winner for Zuckerberg. The first major Oculus product is due early next year.

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It's sort of like working in a museum. Photo credit: Rick Newman

It’s sort of like working in a museum. Photo credit: Rick Newman

New avenues for growth are important for the company, because Facebook’s rate of growth as a social-networking site is destined to slow, as the company acknowledges. For one thing, the company may have to work harder to get its next billion users than it did the first billion. That’s where 2G Tuesdays come in. “We’re working on making the product work in regions where the connection is difficult,” says Sandberg. “Where phones have less capability. We’re also working on decreasing the cost of data access.”

One change that has come from 2G Tuesdays: behind-the-scenes “prefetching” tweaks that allow the news feed to load more quickly when the connection fades in and out. Facebook is also experimenting with drones that might be able to provide connectivity in developing areas where there’s no wired Internet or wifi. In other words, Facebook may have to provide the Internet itself in order to keep expanding its reach. That’s like a Comcast (CMCSA) providing electricity so you can watch cable: Clever, but potentially costly.

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This is the nine-acre park on the roof of Facebook's new building. Photo credit: Rick Newman

This is the nine-acre park on the roof of Facebook’s new building. Photo credit: Rick Newman

Facebook, in fact, is becoming a portfolio of businesses. In addition to the namesake service, Oculus and Instagram, it also owns What’s App, the mobile-messaging service it bought last year for $19 billion, and Facebook Messenger, the new-and-improved mobile app that replaced the old chat bar. As a suite of services, Facebook is becoming mroe like Google, whereas Twitter (TWTR), by contrast, remains something of a one-trick pony–with a sagging stock price that reflects doubts about its future.

Not every Zuckerberg move has been brilliant, and the baby-faced CEO still displays vulnerabilities. Complaints about the privacy of user data still dog the company, since it knows more about many people’s online activity than their own family members—and uses that data to serve up relevant ads. Facebook has experimented with e-commerce but come up short. And so far it hasn’t developed an operating system the way Google did with Android, which some tech analysts think it should have. “Facebook is missing a lot,” says Brian Blau of the Gartner Group. “But Zuckerberg has matured quickly and he brings a lot of different ideas.”

One of those ideas is a private corporation that will distribute 99% of Zuckerberg’s wealth—currently about $45 billion—to efforts Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan believe to be in humanity’s interest. Zuckerberg took some heat for setting up a for-profit entity to dole out the cash, instead of simply donating the money to non-profit charities. Some, for instance, accused him of trying to gain credit as a philanthropist for investments he may earn a profit on. Zuckerberg countered by explaining that the for-profit arrangement allows the couple to donate to organizations that aren’t necessarily nonprofits, such as government agencies, hospitals or startups with social goals.

There’s nothing new about public criticism of billionaire spending habits. Here’s what is new: Zuckerberg responded to the criticism on Facebook, where, at last count, 13,000 people had left comments sounding off on his plan. Some praised it. Others voiced suspicion. “Just a way to get your billions tax free,” wrote a user named Aaron Wood, in a post that garnered 72 likes.

“This isn’t correct,” Zuckerberg responded. “We will pay tax just like everyone else.” That remains to be seen, but if the next generation of CEOs finds time to chat regularly with their critics on Facebook—or whatever the preferred app happens to be—Facebook is heralding a friendlier future. There aren’t many companies that can match that.

 Rick Newman’s latest book is Liberty for All: A Manifesto for Reclaiming Financial and Political Freedom. Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman.

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Tech Q&A: Xmas gifts not to buy, safety on the go

 

File photo - A woman uses Apple Watch that is on display at an electronics store in Omotasando in Tokyo April 24, 2015.

File photo – A woman uses Apple Watch that is on display at an electronics store in Omotasando in Tokyo April 24, 2015. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter)

Gifts you shouldn’t buy

Q. I’m thinking of buying my wife an Apple Watch for Christmas. Good idea or bad idea?

A. Bad idea. People either love or hate the Apple Watch, and at $349 minimum, it’s an expensive gamble. The same is true of other smartwatches and fitness bands. Unless she specifically asked for one and was clear on the model and band style, go with something else. Learn about two more types of gadgets that aren’t the best and two specific products you need to avoid. And be sure check out the Q&A here to learn about this year’s hottest gifts.

Save big on Christmas purchases

Q. I don’t have a lot of money for presents this year. What’s a good way to make every dollar count?

A. Be sure to use coupons and promo codes for every purchase, both online and offline. These can net you straight savings, special deals and free shipping. It’s easy to find promo codes. There are specialty websites that collect and post money-saving deals. Click here to discover three of those sites and start saving today.

Before you travel …

Q. When I travel, I usually have a friend stop by to pick up mail and check on things. She isn’t available for my next trip. How should I handle mail and security?

A. You can put a hold on your mail on the Postal Service’s website. As for safety, you can put a light on a timer or get a gadget that simulates having the TV on for a few hours a night. That way it looks like someone is still at home. Get more tips for keeping your home safe while you’re away, and some things not to do.

Safety on the go

Q. My daughter likes to go running. What app or gadget can I get her to help keep her safe?

A. The best thing would be a running companion or a large dog. The next best thing is an app called Companion (Android, Apple; free). It lets you keep an eye on her location and signals an alert if she falls or changes her usual path. Plus, in an emergency, it plays loud alarm noises that she can use to signal for help. Learn more about apps and cool hardware anyone can use to improve their safety.

A great gift for budding engineers

Q. I’m looking for a gift for my son who likes to build things. He likes Legos but I want to expand his horizons. What would you suggest?

A. Check out the LittleBits Gizmos & Gadgets Kit (Amazon, $200). It includes 15 electronic building blocks that can be combined to build 12 different projects. Your son can easily combine the parts to create things like an automatic bubble blowing machine or a remote control race car. Click here for more of this year’s hottest gift suggestions for kids, along with gifts that moms and dads will love as well.

Bonus: Tools for getting ahead in business

Q. In 2016, my goal is to build a business, and I’m having trouble getting organized. What are some ideas?

A. Grab a book called “Organize Tomorrow Today” by Dr. Jason Selk, Tom Bartow and Matt Rudy (Amazon, $22). It outlines eight steps to become better organized and maximize your time. Plus, they give tips to train yourself to be more confident, energetic and focused. When you’re done with that, here are four more business-focuses books you should read. Good luck! I started my own national radio network and web company 20 years ago and it’s been a great adventure!

On the Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show, Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com. Kim also posts breaking tech news 24/7 at News.Komando.com.

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Wall St. drops as oil’s multi-year low adds to investor fears

U.S. stocks closed sharply lower on Friday, with the S&P 500 ending its worst week since August, as plunging crude oil prices compounded investor nervousness on expectations for the first U.S. interest rate hike in nearly a decade.

Oil dragged down market as a whole, as investors worried whether a weakness in commodities signaled a broader slowdown.

Furthermore, investors were worried about declines in China’s yuan and in high-yield debt markets.

“Positioning has been clearly along the lines of taking risk exposure off,” said Michael James, managing director of equity trading at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles.

The sell-off gained ground ahead of the close as investors took profits on stocks such as Amazon.com (AMZN.O), which had performed well this year, said Dennis Dick, head of markets structure at Bright Trading LLC in Las Vegas.

“If you had a large oil position you need to raise cash, probably from some of your winners,” he said.

The Dow Jones industrial average (.DJI) fell 309.54 points, or 1.76 percent, to 17,265.21 with every component in the index ending down. The S&P 500 (.SPX) lost 39.86 points, or 1.94 percent, to 2,012.37 and the Nasdaq Composite (.IXIC) dropped 111.71 points, or 2.21 percent, to 4,933.47.

For the week, the S&P 500 fell 3.8 percent in its worst week since Aug. 21. The Dow fell 3.3 percent and Nasdaq dropped 4.1 percent for the week.

Small caps sold off as well. The Russell 2000 index (.RUT) fell 5.1 percent for the week, its biggest weekly percentage decline since May 2012.

The continued plunge in oil prices added to investor uncertainty ahead of the Federal Reserve’s expected rate hike after the U.S. central bank’s Dec. 15-16 meeting.

Brent futures (LCOc1) fell to an almost seven-year low, while U.S. crude futures (CLc1) fell to just above $35 a barrel after the International Energy Agency said it expected the supply glut to worsen in 2016 as demand slows and OPEC shows no signs of slowing production in its fight for market share.

Adding to the somber mood, China’s yuan currency (CNY=) fell to its lowest in 4-1/2 years on concerns about the country’s slowing economy and expectations of a U.S. rate hike.

James of Wedbush said investors are worried about high-yield markets, especially as it relates to high-yield debt and energy needs after New York-based Third Avenue Management said Thursday it was trying to liquidate a roughly $1 billion junk bond fund in the biggest failure in the U.S. mutual fund industry since the 2008 financial crisis.

Tracking oil prices, the S&P energy index (.SPNY) fell 3.4 percent, leading the decliners among major S&P sectors. The index has lost 11 percent since the beginning of the month in its worst month since September 2011.

The materials index (.SPLRCM) was down 2.7 percent, weighed down by DuPont and Dow.

Both DuPont (DD.N) and Dow Chemical (DOW.N) shares were down following a deal valuing the combined entity at $130 billion, falling 5.5 percent and 2.8 percent respectively.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 2,745 to 376, for a 7.30-to-1 ratio on the downside; on the Nasdaq, 2,388 issues fell and 448 advanced for a 5.33-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.

Adobe Systems (ADBE.O) was the S&P 500’s sole new 52-week high for the day. The index had 43 new lows; the Nasdaq recorded 19 new highs and 187 new lows.

About 8.3 billion stocks traded on U.S. exchanges compared with the 6.98 billion average for the last 20 sessions, according to Thomson Reuters data.

(Reporting by Marcus E. Howard; Additional reporting by Sinead Carew; Editing by James Dalgleish)

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Pogue’s Picks: 7 Terrific Holiday Gifts You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

You already know that high-tech products dominate holiday gift-giving. This year, the world’s stockings will be stuffed with an awful lot of the obvious ones: Amazon Echos, Chromecast Audios, Surface Pros, iPads, and so on.

But there’s more to life than the big names. Every year, the market overflows with new and obscure products, all scheduled to come out just in time for the holidays. And in there, buried among the boring and the doomed, are some genuinely great ideas for holiday gift-giving.

And so, as a service to you, the busy person with better things to do, I’ve winnowed down all those products to just seven, ranging in price from $2 to $300, that are beautifully done, non-obvious, and sure to please the lucky recipients.

Ready? Let the grab bag opening begin!

Magnetic Notes

These crazy, self-sticking pages look exactly like Post-it notes, but there’s a big difference: They don’t use adhesive. Instead, they adhere with static cling.

To anything: glass, stone, plastic, wood, metal — anything. And since there’s no gumminess, you can pull them off and stick them back on over and over again.

(They came about from a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign.)

They come in a crazy number of sizes, styles, and colors — including transparent, which is something you won’t find in regular Post-it notes. They also come in large, very large, and super-large sizes — so big, they’re like portable wipe-off boards that you can stick anywhere.

(The pages stick equally well front or back. The front has the color; the back is shiny white plastic, which you can use as a “white board” with wipe-off marker.)

Everyone who sees these things thinks of another idea for them. “Put the big ones on the walls and let the kids draw on them!” “Put one inside your windshield to leave a note!” “They’d be great for family Dictionary!”

Staples will carry them eventually; for now, you can order them from the company’s site.

Yoshirt

Send these guys a photo (using the Yoshirt app, if you like), and they send you back the coolest T-shirt ($40). It features your photo or design, covering the fabric completely, front and back.

This is no iron-on. They actually print the color of your design directly onto the sections of the garment and then sew them together into a shirt.

I sent them this picture of my cat Wilbur (left), and this is what they sent me back:

I’ve had four people ask where they can get my cool cat T-shirt. Guess what? They can’t. I have the only one!

A Yoshirt makes a spectacular gift, one that won’t wind up forgotten in some gadget drawer. Just be aware that these shirts are made by hand — so if you want your shirt for sure delivered in time for Christmas, place your order in the next couple of days.

SleepPhones

Plenty of people like to fall asleep to music, podcasts, or audio books — or would like to, anyway. But how are you going to do that? Not with hard plastic earbuds, that’s for sure — they’d kill your ears after a while (if you don’t get strangled by the cord first). Not with traditional headphones, either; they’ll come off if you turn onto your side.

Here’s the ingenious solution: SleepPhones. It’s an incredibly soft, fleece headband that contains soft, flexible, flat speakers aligned with your ears and a soft, flat, rubber control panel in the front. Whoever’s next to you in bed won’t be disturbed by your own private audioscape.

There’s a $30 model with a cord that plugs into your phone or whatever audio source you have. But the real magic is the wireless Bluetooth model ($90 on Amazon). It lets you drift off to music with your head in any position on the pillow, without feeling any lumps or getting tangled in any cords.

You have to recharge the little control pod daily, and getting it in and out of the headband can be a struggle. But at least you can take the speakers and control pod out when you want to wash the headband.

Zolt charger

It’s the smallest, lightest laptop charger in the world, according to the company.

Well, I can tell you for sure that it’s much smaller and lighter than my MacBook Air’s traditional charger, which I no longer carry.

Despite consuming so much less space and weight in my bag, the Zolt charger (a) has two additional USB jacks for charging phones and things simultaneously, (b) has only two prongs, not three, so it fits into more outlets, and © has rotating prongs, so you can make your charging cables sprout in the right direction from a crowded power strip.

It comes with tips for every conceivable brand of Windows laptop, and for $20, you can get a MagSafe 2 cable for Mac laptops. (The Zolt Website is wrong when it says the charger isn’t compatible with larger Mac laptops, like the 15-inch MacBook Pro. It is — it just doesn’t charge them as fast as the Apple charger.)

Withings Activité watch

Fitness bands are great and all. But in general, they’re ugly, especially compared with the other kind of gadgets we’ve been wearing on our wrists for hundreds of years: watches.

This year, it occurred to a few companies that they could put fitness-tracking guts into actual wristwatches. D’OH!

This one is fantastic. It’s the Withings Activité, with a special dial dedicated to showing how close you’ve come to your daily step count.

It also tracks your sleep pretty well (and can wake you with a silent vibrating alarm). All of this health data shows up on your phone in handsome, well-organized graphs.

The best parts: The watch is truly waterproof. You can shower with it, no problem — in fact, it’s a great swimming tracker. And the button battery lasts eight months. Let’s see you do that, Fitbit!

What’s crazy is that you can make the hands of the watch spin around fast — when the time zone changes, for example, or when you double-tap the watch to check the alarm time. The hands fly around, pause at the alarm time to show you, and then fly back into place at the current time. So cool.

The watch models range from the Activité Pop ($100 on Amazon, choice of colors) to the Activité Steel shown in the video above ($170) to the Activité (Swiss-made, calf-leather band, $450). I miss having a heart-rate monitor, but waterproofness and an eight-month battery are pretty sweet consolations.

Blaze Laserlight bike light

Here’s another Kickstarter success story: A great-looking, waterproof, rechargeable, 13-hour, aluminum-clad bike light.

I thought $200 was a lot for a bike light, but every biker I know who saw this thing went nuts. They loved both the very bright, 300-lumen LED light (choice of brightness; blinking or continuous) — and, in particular, the picture of a bicycle projected 15 feet ahead of you by a green laser. The idea is to let cars and people know that you’re coming while there’s still time to react. (The company says that 79 percent of biking accidents happen when cars maneuver into a bike’s path.)

The light itself pops off of the handlebar bracket with a quick trigger pull so that thieves can’t make away with your $200 light. The laser doesn’t operate when the light is off its bracket, for safety.

Here’s a surefire way to make a beloved bike rider in your life very, very happy.

Bose QuietComfort 25

Bose dominates the noise-canceling headphones market for one simple reason: Nobody else has managed to duplicate the effectiveness of its noise cancellation. I’ve tested several dozen pairs (looking truly absurd on long flights during testing), and Bose’s are simply the quietest.

But Bose knows that it’s the 800-pound gorilla. That’s why it can get away with charging $300 for these babies.

Anyway, the QuietComfort 25 headphones are new, and they’re a big step forward. They sound better than their predecessors. They don’t give some people the uncomfortable sensation of — what’s the word? — ear vacuum, as the QC 15s did.

And unlike previous Bose models, these work as headphones for music even when they’re not turned on or the battery’s dead.

Finally, the 25s fold up smaller into a more compact case.

Truly, if you spend much time on planes or trains, or your loved one does, you’ll have a hard time finding a better designed noise-canceling headphone.

Holly happidays

There you have it — seven ideas you probably didn’t think of yourself. May your days be merry, your family gatherings harmonious, and your battery life exceptional.

Check out these other awesome Yahoo Tech stories:

David Pogue is the founder of Yahoo Tech; here’s how to get his columns by email. On the Web, he’s davidpogue.com. On Twitter, he’s @pogue. On email, he’s poguester@yahoo.com. He welcomes non-toxic comments in the comments below.

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Regions Bank’s Latest On-the-Go Solutions Are the Wave of the Future

This  post was sponsored by Regions Bank.  All opinions are my own.

Since 1971, Regions Financial Corporation has provided millions of people in the United States with commercial banking, retail banking, mortgage banking, asset management, investment banking, and insurance. This financial institution has also become well-known for going the extra mile to bring their clients a comfortable experience when it comes to paying for things. Regions helps you to bank the way you want, especially this holiday season. There are a couple of innovative solutions that Regions is currently offering, which are already making headlines due to their innovation, quickness, effectiveness and the comfort that they provide.

This is a digital payment service that makes online shopping easy and fun. It is a simple way to check out and allows customers to make quick purchases at participating merchants. One can utilize this method on a tablet or computer. Once you register with Visa, Visa Checkout eliminates the need to type in your card number and address each time you checkout when making online purchases at participating merchants. Checking out online is now simpler and faster!

Apple Pay®

This payment method is a new and innovative way to access your money. Apple Pay® allows you to store your Regions cards on a variety of Apple products (iPhone 6® or iPhone 6 Plus® and later, Apple Watch® paired with iPhone®, iPad Pro®, iPad Air 2®, iPad mini 3®,iPad mini 4® and later). With just a touch of your Apple Pay® enabled mobile device, one can make purchases at participating locations. There’s no need to swipe a card! Apple Pay® has combined Apple’s built-in unique security features with security and acceptance of one’s Regions Visa credit card. Here’s a guide to how it works: (1)one just integrates your Regions card to Apple Pay® utilizing Wallet application; (2) at checkout, one uses the Touch ID on your iPhone®by placing it near the merchant’s card reader; you may also use Apple Pay® to pay online with your fingerprint in many merchant apps with your compatible Apple® device. Apple Pay® has quickly become the go-to option due to its simplicity, convenience and security. This payment method is accepted at participating merchants who acceptcontactless Visa® payments – just look for the contactless symbol or Apple Pay® icons at checkout . This payment method offers greater security because your card number is not being shared with the merchant.

Android Pay™

Android Payallows you to use your Regions cards with your Androiddevice. This payment method is fast and convenient in stores because you can now make purchases with just a touch of your mobile device. It’s easy to set up and use. The best part is that your device doesn’t send your actual card number with your payment.

Instead, Android Payuses a virtual account number to represent your account information. Here’s a guide to how it works: (1) one downloads the free Android Payapp from the Google Play Store; (2) one adds their Regions card and make sure to select it as your default payment choice, (3) one pays with a tap of their phone. That’sall there is to it.

Regions Personal Pay® fills the gap between setting up online bill payments and writing a check. It is an easy online personal payment solution available to Regions’ Online Banking customers to pay for items like holiday dinners with friends, gifts,and fundraisers.Personal Pay® provides safe and secure electronic personal payments. Another feature is that one can schedule recurring and future-dated payments. With Regions Personal Pay®, in as little as a few business days, one can receive or send funds to your family and friends with only an email address, mobile phone number, or account number.

It is safe to state that Regions is standing out from other financial institutions due to a variety of different things, especially for providing these four innovative ways to pay,which are being considered as the wave of the future!
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What investors are doing wrong: Wealthfront’s Malkiel has some answers

Are you invested the right way for 2016? Automated investing startup Wealthfront peered into its clients’ portfolios and discovered some surprising data.

In January Wealthfront launched tax-minimized brokerage account transfers, which aim to let users move their money from a brokerage account to Wealthfront and in the process reduce the tax cost. Over the course of the year, Wealthfront was able to analyze data on their investors’ portfolios before they were transferred.

On Thursday, Wealthfront announced some of the findings. Just 8% of the investment portfolios linked to the company so far in 2015 were built properly, says CEO Adam Nash. The rest were challenged by a combination of high fees, poor diversification and excessive risk.

Wealthfront saw that 35% of their investors were holding at least 10% of their portfolio in cash. Nash says investors are likely foregoing much in the way of returns by gravitating toward the safety of cash. “In the short term you may have cash needs and we even advocate that young people have an emergency fund for unexpected expenses or a change in employment,” he says. “Now over the long term — 10, 20, 30 years — having a significant portion of your portfolio in cash really lowers the returns that you can expect, especially if you’re planning for a long-term goal like retirement.”

Another alarming finding: One-third of Wealthfront’s investors were overly concentrated in U.S. equities, and hold just one or a handful of stocks.

Wealthfront CIO and renowned economist Burton Malkiel cautions that investors need to ensure they aren’t too fixated on return that they overlook risk. “Diversification is really one of the only free lunches there is in investing. That with a broadly diversified portfolio, you can get a reasonable return and lower your risk as much as possible. And broad diversification is well known as a technique that lowers risk,” he says.

In 1973, Malkiel took the investing world by storm with the release of the investing guide “A Random Walk Down Wall Street.” It’s now in its 11th edition and having sold nearly two million copies, it’s considered one of the most insightful books written about the market (and thought of as instrumental in the creation of index funds).

It might seem odd that Malkiel, a two-time chairman of Princeton’s economics department and director at mutual fund giant Vanguard for 28 years, is now a CIO at a trendy robo-advisor. But Malkiel says, “I have believed in what Wealthfront does all my life.” After all, Malkiel was one of the original people to espouse index funds as a superior method of investing in stocks — primarily because of their low costs and the fact that stock picking was not something ordinary investors were good at.

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What exactly does Wealthfront do?

Wealthfront, founded in 2008 and based in Palo Alto, Calif.,is an automated investment service — one of a handful of so-called robo-advisors — that offers clients a low-cost and diversified portfolio of index funds and ETFs.

“We automate all the little things that experts have been telling people they should do with their money, but never have the time or inclination to do,” says Nash.

Wealthfront currently has $2.6 billion in assets under management. The company doesn’t charge an advisory fee on the first $10,000 invested; above $10,000 customers pay an annual fee of 0.25%. Advisory firms normally charge 1% of your account balance per year.

New technology rooted in old beliefs

Malkiel has been a longtime proponent of passive investing, and first purported the idea of an index fund in “A Random Walk Down Wall Street” three years before the launch of Vanguard’s First Index Investment Trust, the first-ever index fund in 1976.

“Low-cost index funds didn’t exist then. But what I did suggest was index funds, rebalancing, reinvesting your dividends, being tax aware and most active funds are very tax inefficient,” says Malkiel. “And for me it was like dying and going to heaven that I could work with a company like this that was able to do this, automate it, and be able to charge a small fraction of what people are paying for investment advice.”

He had first written “A Random Walk” against a dismal investment backdrop, as U.S. equities were experiencing the worst bear market since the Great Depression. And despite the less dramatic markets we’re seeing this year, Malkiel says his diversification philosophy remains constant and Wealthfront helps investors achieve long-term returns.

“What automation can do is the moment there’s an opportunity to gain a tax saving we can do it,” Malkiel says. “And it’s just so very exciting to be able to take all of the good lessons that we know about finance and do it in the most efficient manner possible.”

Malkiel is referring to Wealthfront’s tax-loss harvesting software, which is a technique that lowers your taxes while maintaining the expected risk and return of your portfolio. It harvests investment losses to offset taxes due on your other gains and income.

The future of investing

Wealthfront was the industry leader in online investment services (in terms of assets under management) until recently, when competitor Betterment crossed the $3 billion mark. And now banking behemoths like Bank of America (BAC) and Charles Schwab are planning to roll out — or have already launched — their own versions of an automated investment service. Nash says he sees it as a positive that the financial services industry is entering the digital realm.

“We really only have two advantages. One is focus and trying to build the next generation of technology from the ground up. And then we have our pace of innovation,” he says. “I’m excited that [Bank of America] will roll out what we had in 2012 in 2016. Our job is always to be years ahead and really proving what technology can do for people.”

Note: Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer was an early investor in Wealthfront

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Tech Jargon Removal Tool for Start-Ups

I’d like to introduce you to our free tech jargon removal tool, PitchGlitch.com.

Most tech correspondents, VCs, analysts and M&A advisors that we speak to have their share of horror stories about the over-use of tech jargon. Investors tell us that pitches from promising start-ups are weakened by the use of jargon or hyperbole, with ‘fashionable’ language often obscuring the story.

As one contributor put it: “Spacecraft arriving from the 8th dimension and delivering world peace might be ‘awesome’. A new app which promises to be a Tinder for cauliflowers isn’t.”

PitchGlitch is a sort of anti-virus tool for the worst Tech terminology. It is designed to automatically strike a red pen through terms that are tired and annoying. All a user has to do is paste the text of their pitch deck or announcement or elevator pitch into the box on the site, press ‘Disrupt’ and we look after the rest in an instant. All terms in our database have been submitted by tech correspondents, VCs and analysts.

Admittedly the design of PitchGlitch is a bit Web 20 B.C., and the code is not much more than two bits of coconut connected by string, but we think it does the trick. If there’s a start-up that you know that could use a ‘helping hand’, feel free to send them a link to PitchGlitch.

I should add that we’ve dealt out our fair share of jargon in the past. If there are any terms you’d like us to add, please send them through.

With best wishes for a jargon-free inbox.

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Cramer: Sellers just don’t understand the game

With major averages closing in the red on Tuesday, Jim Cramer reminded investors to think of the stock market like a card game and play the hand they have been dealt. As bad as it is out there, you cannot throw it back and give up. The trick is to look at the cards and figure out how to make something work.

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“Today’s action represents attempts by several different card players to augment their hands in this new environment where most stocks go down anyway,” the “Mad Money” host said. (Tweet This)

The problem right now is that Cramer sees two different groups of investors playing their cards. The first group has resigned itself that the Fed will be raising rates. This group just took their cards and threw them back with the reasoning that if the Fed is going to tighten and the global economy weakens—then it is time to get rid of everything.

Cramer hates this type of thinking, but he sees it all the time. This negative perspective is rarely right.

The other card players are the ones that recognize they have a not-so-hot diversified hand. They think about the stocks they can throw back into the pile, and look for better ones. This group will tend to toss out industrials, oils and anything connected to machinery.

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The key is that this group does not leave the table. They use the weakness caused by investors selling everything in order to pick up high-quality stocks. What are the high-quality stocks to look for in a slowdown?

“How about the companies that can outrun a slowdown, especially one that is exacerbated by the Fed tightening when it is obvious that, despite the strong employment numbers, things are looking real bad in many other areas of the economy,” Cramer said.

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One group that emerged as a winner was biotech, with both Biogen (NASDAQ: BIIB) and Celgene (NASDAQ: CELG) rallying on Tuesday morning. Netflix and Amazon also rebounded, along with a few of the high growth semiconductors.

However, Cramer warned that there are more bad cards in the deck right now than good ones. If the Fed will indeed tighten, then that means there won’t be a recovery in housing stocks. If the airlines go back into price war mode, then there won’t be money going into that group, either, and that means investors should not buy more Boeing (NYSE: BA).

Industrials will have estimates cut, and if Anglo American (London Stock Exchange: AAL-GB) is laying off 85,000 workers then they won’t need more Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT) machines.

“Not for one minute am I saying that the entire market can rally off of slow economic growth,” Cramer said. (Tweet This)

But there are still a limited group of high cards that are worth picking up, even if they were the stocks sold by investors who just don’t understand the game.

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