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Tips & Tricks for Smart Holiday Shopping

Dec 9, 2013
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For many people, one of the joys of the holiday season is shopping.  For others it's a chore that brings on stress.  In either case, our post this month provides lots of information that will make you a more informed consumer.  

New York's health insurance marketplace has been running relatively smoothly, compared with healthcare.gov, the site the federal government is running for 36 states.

But that's a low bar, and even though about 50,000 New Yorkers had signed up in the first two months, almost every day still brings complaints and glitches. Donna Frescatore, the head of the New York State Of Health, says there are no serious patterns of trouble, just individual issues that the state and its contractors address one by one.

Is Mining On The Moon's Horizon?

Dec 8, 2013

A U.S. company is taking what it hopes to be a small step toward eventually mining the moon.

Moon Express, based in Mountain View, Calif., just unveiled the design for a small robot spacecraft about the size of a coffee table that it says could move about the moon's surface powered only by solar panels and hydrogen peroxide.

In recent years, Domino's Pizza has rapidly expanded overseas — helping it open stores at a faster clip than Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts, according to Forbes. Part of that growth is in India, which company CEO J. Patrick Doyle says is poised to supplant Britain as the chain's largest market outside the U.S.

(This post was updated at 10:15 a.m. ET)

The nation's unemployment rate dropped to 7 percent — the lowest mark in five years — and employers added 203,000 jobs to payrolls last month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.

The latest data could build anticipation that the Federal Reserve might taper its stimulus program.

Amazon is looking at drastically reducing its delivery times — to 30 minutes or less — as it plans a new service called Prime Air that it says could debut in a few years. In an interview on CBS' 60 Minutes, CEO Jeff Bezos said the giant online retailer plans to use semi-autonomous drones to carry purchases to customers.

That's got tech experts buzzing about whether the idea will fly.

You are not imagining it, the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season starts earlier and earlier. Black Friday has been around for decades — that's the point where retailers hope to begin to make a profit.

Shoppers looking to get a jump on deals can shop on Gray Thursday – think Black Friday intruding into Thanksgiving Day.

This Turkey Day, many national chains will open their doors early in an effort to boost sales. K-Mart opened at 6 a.m.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

While home prices rose in major cities across the nation during the third quarter, data suggest that the housing market is beginning to shift to a slower rate of growth, according to the economists who put together the latest S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices report.

Their statistics show prices rose 3.2 percent in the quarter and were up 11.2 percent from a year earlier.

In Nevada, there is no income tax. And if you've ever been to Las Vegas then you know why — they don't need one.

More than 30 million tourists a year stumble down the Las Vegas Strip, and many of those tourists come to gamble, leaving behind a ridiculous amount of money. For decades, business boomed.

Chornyak Assoc.

It's time to start thinking about taxes again!  Here at Chornyak & Associates we have a highly qualified tax-planning department, headed by Adam Smetzer, CPA, prepared to serve you.  In the video for this month, Adam tells you about himself and his interests.

There's a land rush going on right now. At least that's how everyone seems to be describing the opening up of vast amounts of Internet real estate with so-called top-level domains.

Pretty soon, there's going to be a lot more than .coms out there, and a lot of big companies and a few upstarts are bidding huge amounts to get the new Internet addresses.

$18 Billion Of Unclaimed Cash, In 1 Graph

Nov 11, 2013

The federal government is sitting on $18 billion in unclaimed money — money that's owed to ordinary people and businesses who never swung by to pick it up. This is a tiny fraction of the federal budget. But it's still, you know, a lot of money.

A few notes on some of the key agencies:

Treasury

This post was updated at 8:40 a.m. ET

The U.S. economy grew at a better-than-expected 2.8 percent annual rate in the third quarter, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported Thursday morning.

That's a bit faster than the 2.5 percent pace of the second quarter. According to the BEA, consumer spending, inventory investment and exports helped fuel slightly stronger growth.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

Two wily veterans of Congress' fiscal wars will lead the budget talks scheduled to start Wednesday: Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the heads of the House and Senate budget committees.

As the 29 lawmakers on the budget conference committee — 22 from the Senate and seven from the House — sit down to begin negotiations, they'll have in Ryan and Murray two lawmakers who from most accounts get along well despite their many differences.

Only a relatively low 130,000 jobs were added to private employers' payrolls in October and the labor market in September was even weaker than first thought, according to the latest data from the ADP National Employment Report.

We told you last week about how bicycles are outselling new cars in almost every European country.

When we delved a little deeper into the numbers, we found that while bicycle sales remained steady in a six-year period that began in 2006 (the top chart), sales of electric bikes exploded (the second chart).

Have you ever wished that your iPhone could bring you the smell of coffee, curry or steak?

No? Well, there's a gadget for that.

You're on Amazon.com. You're buying, say, a toaster, and you're checking out the customer reviews. You assume the people writing these reviews are people like you — people who wanted a toaster, went online and bought one. As it turns out, a lot of reviews on Amazon are written by people who are nothing like you. They're written by elite reviewers who are sent free merchandise to review products. In other words, it's possible that the guy reviewing that toaster you're looking at wasn't in the market for a toaster to begin with and didn't pay a cent for it.

The 16-day partial shutdown of the federal government and the wrangling in Washington over the nation's finances combined to shake consumers' confidence sharply in October, the private Conference Board reported Tuesday morning.

Its widely watched consumer confidence index dropped to 71.2 from 80.2 in September.

Good Tuesday morning, fellow political junkies.

As you go through your day, keep this in mind: at least you're not Marilyn Tavenner. When critics of the Obama administration's botched launch of the Affordable Care Act call for heads to metaphorically roll, Tavenner, the top official of the Health and Human Services agency that oversaw the ill-fated website project, is high on that list.

Under online marketplace Etsy's new policies, vendors can now use an outside manufacturer to help make their goods.

That is not going down well with some longtime sellers, who are calling the new policies a turnaround from the site's original mission.

"Their moniker is, you know, a place to buy handmade. It doesn't say a place to buy factory-made," says Rae Padulo, a potter who began selling dishes and ornaments on Etsy in 2009.

San Francisco's Mission District is a cultural crossroads for food, where Mexican bodegas and burrito shops meet gourmet bakeries and cutting-edge California cuisine. It's also home to a kitchen where some of the most promising food startups in the region are getting a boost.

When 52-year-old Alicia Villanueva migrated to San Francisco from Mexico in 2001, she began preparing tamales at home to make a living. She found clientele for her authentic, quality food easily, but says that she struggled to grow the business.

There's one area of the economy that's growing faster than business or government.

According to the Urban Institute, in the 10 years between 2001 and 2011, the number of nonprofits increased 25 percent. But most of them aren't very good at measuring their effectiveness — at least, that's the conclusion of the nonprofit watchdog Charity Navigator, which rates thousands of nonprofits to help donors make decisions on their giving.

After production problems and delays, the Federal Reserve will finally circulate a new $100 bill on Tuesday. The aim of the redesigned bank note is to make it harder to fake: For example, when you tilt the note, the bells and numbers inside a 3-D security stripe will move, and a bell hidden inside the gold inkwell will change color.

In a New Orleans courtroom this week, BP and the federal government are arguing over how much oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon explosion in 2010.

Oil flowed from the out-of-control well for nearly three months. Just how much oil spilled will be key in determining the amount BP will have to pay in federal fines and penalties.

The government is just 10 days away from defaulting on its debt. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has said that by Oct. 17, the department will likely have less money on hand than it needs to pay all its bills.

"The reality is that if we run out of cash to pay our bills, there is no option that permits us to pay all of our bills on time, which means that a failure of Congress to act would for the first time put us in a place where we're defaulting on our obligations as a government," Lew said on NBC's Meet The Press on Sunday.

Over the last year of so, Tesla motors has received some really good press. But this past week, it's been knocked off its pedestal.

"We're a country that likes to put things up on pedestals and then tear them down from pedestals. We do that with people, I think we do that with things," says Jack Nerad, an analyst with Kelley Blue Book.

Chornyak Assoc.

I hope you'll take a look at our video for this month.  It's a personal message from me to our clients, potential clients, and friends.  I want you all to know that I love what I do and I'm highly motivated to provide you the best financial counseling possible.  It's a goal that all management and staff at Chornyak & Associates share and strive to achieve in our everyday dealings with you.

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