Money

5 Spot: Don’t thwart your retirement

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When financial times get tough, some people make regrettable decisions — such as taking early withdrawals from 401(k) accounts. The number of Americans doing so hit a record in 2010, and in 2011 the IRS collected about $5.7 billion in penalties on roughly $57 billion withdrawn early.

Early withdrawals can do more long-term harm than short-term good. The longer you leave your money alone to grow, the more powerful your compounded growth becomes. Check out what time, patience and an average 10 percent return can do to a steady series of $10,000 annual investments: After 10 years, you have $175,000. After 20 years, $630,000. After 30 years, $1.8 million.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that all your impressive gains can quickly fizzle if you start taking money out of your retirement accounts.


Finances key to post-recession couples

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SYCAMORE, Ill. — When Brittani Click first met her fiancé, Matt Holliday, she wouldn’t have called herself a responsible saver.

But after frequent financial talks and with a little less than two months left to go before saying “I do,” Click has learned from her future husband’s frugal ways.

Reorganize your refrigerator to keep food fresh

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The best way to extend the life of your food is to store it properly. Here are some tips to do just that.

— Find the right spot. The back of the refrigerator is the coldest area. Place milk and eggs, in their cartons, in back. Throw out milk if it’s more than a week past its sell-by date; eggs last three to five weeks from when they’re purchased.

Life insurance doesn’t have to be a mystery

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The topic of life insurance doesn’t have much going for it. First, it’s about insurance, which many people find boring and complicated. Second, it can involve paying money for something you may never use.

And it’s about death.

5 Spot: Save your skin with these sunscreen tips

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More than 2 million people are diagnosed annually in the United States with non-melanoma skin cancers. Here are ways to protect your skin — and your wallet, too.

Guard your credit from thieves

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After Target and Neiman Marcus told tens of millions of shoppers that their credit and debit card information had been stolen, the retailers offered them a year of free credit monitoring. But that service does little more than give consumers a false sense of security because it does nothing to protect them from fraudulent charges on their credit and debit card accounts.

More than 85 percent of identity theft cases involve existing account fraud, according to the Department of Justice. Credit monitoring, security freezes and fraud alerts are designed to thwart much less common — but much more serious — new-account fraud.

Beyond the oil change

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Most of us know that vehicles need regular oil changes.

But if your maintenance starts and stops with an oil change, you could be in for a bumpy ride.

First job: Summer employment can be a great learning experience for teens

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Sydney Rau was a little nervous before her first job interview.

What should she say? How should she dress?

Five Spot: Cracking the egg code

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When it’s time to buy eggs, are you chicken? There are so many choices — cage-free, organic, omega-3, vegetarian-fed, Grade AA or A, brown or white — that you might be tempted just to grab a familiar type or brand.

But think twice. Our experts recently tested different varieties and found little difference in taste although some cost twice as much. Here are some definitions of terms that might matter when you shop. Whatever eggs you choose, look for those with a carton date far away from the purchase date.

Going green: Tips to help your lawn

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If the lawn outside your window is giving you the blues, join the club. After a brutal winter walloped much of the country, the magazine’s Facebook and Twitter feeds have been buzzing with lawn care woes from exasperated homeowners (#moles #barespots, anyone?).

Fortunately, many of the most common problems have fairly straightforward fixes. Consumer Reports offers the following solutions to common problems:




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