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What's Cool in Back-to-School

What's Cool in Back-to-School

By Alyce Lomax (TMF Lomax)
August 22, 2006

Through the end of August, go back to school with The Motley Fool. You'll find more educational book reviews, stock analysis, and financial advice here.

Back in my day, back-to-school shopping meant notebooks (paper ones, not computers), pencils, a binder, and if you were really lucky, maybe one of those newfangled solar calculators. These days, the changing definition of "school supplies" might cause many parents' wallets to have a panic attack. But that same astronomical back-to-school spending spells good news for the companies that lure back-to-school shoppers in droves.

The rising cost of education?
The National Retail Federation (NRF) has a very optimistic view estimate for this year's average back-to-school spending. The trade association's annual survey claims that the average American family will spend $527.08, up from $443.77 last year. (Another research firm, NPD, is a little bit less enthusiastic; its survey respondents said that their spending will be about the same as last year.)

Not surprisingly, some of the financial constraints facing many American families might push shoppers to the one-stop shopping of big-box discounters. After all, you can find everything you're looking for, and with gas prices so high, who wants to drive all over town? NRF says three-quarters of shoppers will hit discounters for items on their lists, although department stores and specialty stores will also experience increased foot traffic.

So what's hot as kids head back to class? Consumer electronics are big, sometimes in surprising ways, and new clothes are also in vogue, as '80s fashions creep back into current trends.

Sure beats a slide rule
Forrester Research says that PCs are the No. 1 back-to-school item. Although it's no stretch to believe that college freshmen need a computer these days, younger students are increasingly shopping for PCs as well, leaving investors wondering how the back-to-school push will benefit computer makers.

Will student sales help Dell (Nasdaq: DELL) get back in the saddle, or will its arch-rival Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) steal the show? (Laptop sales have been on fire recently, though in Dell's case, a massive battery recall has made that phrase a bit too literal.)

And what about Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL)? Its Macs were traditionally marketed toward the education market, and BusinessWeek recently suggested students are better off buying a Mac. Strange as it may seem, many kids also consider iPods must-have items. Most iPods' hard drives and flash chips may be filled up with tunes and TV shows, but some colleges have begun making educational video and audio content available for iPod playback as well.

To stretch the definition of back-to-school shopping still further, I found a Washington Post article where one teen interviewee said video games are on his end-of-summer shopping list. Game publishers like Electronic Arts (Nasdaq: ERTS) will hardly complain if lots of kids have the same idea, viewing games as a legitimate part of the back-to-school shopping tradition (as sketchy as that logic may be to us older folks).

The return of the material girl
Fashion retailers, of course, hope that kids will fill their fall wardrobes with items from their shops. They also hope that parents will fork over decent back-to-school allowances for the trendiest new gear, even though people have been sweating the slowing real estate market, inflation, and the high price of gas.

For those of us who remember the eighties -- and, er, actually wore leggings, big shirts, drop-waisted dresses, and asymmetrical collars the first time around -- the time that has filled us with dread ever since the '70s came back has arrived. Yes, it's the second coming of '80s fashions, which many of us contend didn't look so hot the first time around.

We'll just have to see how the 80s-inspired looks will go over, "skinny jeans" and all. Fashionistas claim the look's definitely hot, but teens have yet to confirm that opinion. Although many retailers had a heyday with denim over the last couple years, they might have to stay on their toes, seeding their stores with the right balance of trendy goods and more conventional duds, since the retro-'80s trend is still pretty new on the scene. This year has been a bloodbath for many retail stocks, so investors will be watching teens' shopping trends closely.

Judging by recent solid earnings reports, some of the "most likely to succeed" retailers for back-to-school wardrobes include American Eagle Outfitters (Nasdaq: AEOS) and Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE: ANF). Plenty of other retailers hope for teens' and college students' dollars as well, including J. Crew (NYSE: JCG) and Urban Outfitters.

Shop till you drop?
Although August is traditionally known as back-to-school shopping month, the season has likely only just begun: some say it's starting a bit late this year (right about now, in fact) and will bleed into September. The National Retail Federation forecasts that back-to-school spending will hit $17.6 billion this year, up 31% from last year's levels. Although that spending is expected to be dominated by electronics and apparel, many retailers hope to score by peddling furniture, decor, and gadgets that not only make dorm rooms feel like home, but help young adults express their newfound independence.

Retail investors like me, whose chosen companies might benefit from a back-to-school buying frenzy, are surely hoping that kids and parents alike consider the stores behind our holdings "too cool for school."

American Eagle Outfitters, Dell, and Electronic Arts are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. Dell is also an Inside Value selection. To find out how our advisors are schooling the market, click on the newsletter links and take a free trial.

Alyce Lomax owns shares of Urban Outfitters, but of none of the other companies mentioned.

Stocks for Teens to Consider

Stocks for Teens to Consider [Teens &Their Money]

http://www.fool.com/teens/teens08.htm

By Selena Maranjian (TMF Selena)

Here's a list of some companies that you might consider learning more about. Note that while each of them is generally well regarded by many people, you shouldn't run out and immediately buy shares in any of them. For one thing, some or all of them might be overpriced right now. Also, some of them might be headed for a stretch of poor performance or sinking share prices. Also, a few of them are included not so much because they're great American companies but more because they're companies that many teens buy stuff from and are familiar with (Vans, bebe, Pacific Sunwear, etc.).

Each is worth learning more about. Each has an interesting business that might reward you well over the coming years. And regardless, just learning about any business will help you understand and evaluate other businesses. Below the list are links to Fool articles on some of the companies. Remember that there are many other interesting firms -- ones you might know more about and might be more interested in.

Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE: ANF)
American Express (NYSE: AXP)
AOL Time Warner (NYSE: AOL)
Apple Computer (Nasdaq: AAPL)
bebe Stores (Nasdaq: BEBE)
Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK.A, BRK.B)
Clorox (NYSE: CLX)
Colgate-Palmolive (NYSE: CL)
Costco (Nasdaq: COST)
eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY)
Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F)
General Electric (NYSE: GE)
General Mills (NYSE: GIS)
General Motors (NYSE: GM)
Harley-Davidson (NYSE: HDI)
Hershey (NYSE: HSY)
Home Depot (NYSE: HD)
Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ)
Kellogg (NYSE: K)
McDonald's (NYSE: MCD)
Medtronic (NYSE: MDT)
Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT)
The New York Times Co. (NYSE: NYT)
Nike (NYSE: NKE)
Pacific Sunwear (Nasdaq: PSUN)
PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP)
Pixar (Nasdaq: PIXR)
Pfizer (NYSE: PFE)
Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG)
Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV)
Tiffany (NYSE: TIF)
Tootsie Roll (NYSE: TR)
Vans (Nasdaq: VANS)
Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT)
Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS)
The Washington Post Co. (NYSE: WPO)
Wendy's (NYSE: WEN)
Wrigley (NYSE: WWY)

Below are some Fool articles and discussion board posts on many of the above companies (many are not recent, but they will still inform you about the companies):

Want to trade ideas of interesting companies with other teens, or just discuss some of the companies above? Drop by our Teens and Their Money discussion board.

This article was adapted from The Motley Fool Investment Guide for Teens: 8 Steps to Having More Money Than Your Parents Ever Dreamed Of. For many more ideas and guidance on how to make and save money, check out the book. It also includes a lot of tips on how to land jobs and succeed at them.

Here's a list of some companies that you might consider learning more about. Note that while each of them is generally well regarded by many people, you shouldn't run out and immediately buy shares in any of them. For one thing, some or all of them might be overpriced right now. Also, some of them might be headed for a stretch of poor performance or sinking share prices. Also, a few of them are included not so much because they're great American companies but more because they're companies that many teens buy stuff from and are familiar with (Vans, bebe, Pacific Sunwear, etc.).

Each is worth learning more about. Each has an interesting business that might reward you well over the coming years. And regardless, just learning about any business will help you understand and evaluate other businesses. Below the list are links to Fool articles on some of the companies. Remember that there are many other interesting firms -- ones you might know more about and might be more interested in.

Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE: ANF)
American Express (NYSE: AXP)
AOL Time Warner (NYSE: AOL)
Apple Computer (Nasdaq: AAPL)
bebe Stores (Nasdaq: BEBE)
Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK.A, BRK.B)
Clorox (NYSE: CLX)
Colgate-Palmolive (NYSE: CL)
Costco (Nasdaq: COST)
eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY)
Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F)
General Electric (NYSE: GE)
General Mills (NYSE: GIS)
General Motors (NYSE: GM)
Harley-Davidson (NYSE: HDI)
Hershey (NYSE: HSY)
Home Depot (NYSE: HD)
Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ)
Kellogg (NYSE: K)
McDonald's (NYSE: MCD)
Medtronic (NYSE: MDT)
Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT)
The New York Times Co. (NYSE: NYT)
Nike (NYSE: NKE)
Pacific Sunwear (Nasdaq: PSUN)
PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP)
Pixar (Nasdaq: PIXR)
Pfizer (NYSE: PFE)
Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG)
Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV)
Tiffany (NYSE: TIF)
Tootsie Roll (NYSE: TR)
Vans (Nasdaq: VANS)
Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT)
Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS)
The Washington Post Co. (NYSE: WPO)
Wendy's (NYSE: WEN)
Wrigley (NYSE: WWY)

Below are some Fool articles and discussion board posts on many of the above companies (many are not recent, but they will still inform you about the companies):

Want to trade ideas of interesting companies with other teens, or just discuss some of the companies above? Drop by our Teens and Their Money discussion board.

This article was adapted from The Motley Fool Investment Guide for Teens: 8 Steps to Having More Money Than Your Parents Ever Dreamed Of. For many more ideas and guidance on how to make and save money, check out the book. It also includes a lot of tips on how to land jobs and succeed at them.

Nine Rules to Money Management

 

Nine Rules to Money Management

 

1.     PLAN – Plan for the future. Plan for major purchases and periodic expenses like car insurance, Christmas and taxes.

2.     SET FINANCIAL GOALS – Determine your family's short, intermediate and long range financial goals.

3.     KNOW YOUR FINANCIAL SITUATION – Determine monthly living expenses, periodic expenses and monthly debt repayments. Compare monthly outgo with monthly take home income. Be aware of your total indebtedness.

4.     DEVELOP A REALISTIC SPENDING PLAN – Follow your plan as closely as possible. Evaluate your plan by comparing actual expenses with planned expenses.

5.     DON'T ALLOW EXPENSES TO EXCEED INCOME – Don't charge more every month than you are repaying to your creditors. Avoid paying only the minimum on your revolving charge cards.

6.     SAVE – Save for expenses, which occur infrequently, such as car and home maintenance. Save 5 to 10% of your net income. Accumulate 3 to 6 months' salary in an emergency fund.

7.     PAY YOUR BILLS ON TIME – Maintain a good credit rating. If you are unable to pay your bills as agreed, contact your creditors and explain your situation. Contact Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Southwestern Virginia at 1-866-889-9347 for professional advice.

8.     USE CREDIT WISELY – Use credit for safety, convenience and planned purchases. Determine the total you can comfortably afford to purchase on credit. Don't allow your monthly credit payments (minus your housing expense) to exceed 20% of your net monthly income. Avoid borrowing from one creditor to pay another.

  1. KEEP A RECORD OF DAILY EXPENDITURES – Be aware of where your money is going. Use a spending diary to assist you in identifying where adjustments need to be made.

 

How big media is wooing the MySpace set

http://money.cnn.com/2006/07/21/news/companies/media_teens/

Wireless Companies Keen On Teens As Growth Driver

http://www.cellular-news.com/story/15388.php

business ethics

business ethics
the study and evaluation of decision making by businesses according to moral concepts and judgments. Ethical questions range from practical, narrowly defined issues, such as a company's obligation to be honest with its customers, to broader social and philosophical questions, such as a company's responsibility to preserve the environment and protect employee rights. Many ethical conflicts develop from conflicts between the differing interests of company owners and their workers, customers, and surrounding community. Managers must balance the ideal against the practical–the need to produce a reasonable profit for the company's shareholders with honesty in business practices, safety in the workplace, and larger environmental and social issues. Ethical issues in business have become more complicated because of the global and diversified nature of many large corporations and because of the complexity of government regulations that define the limits of criminal behavior. For example, multinational corporations operate in countries where bribery, sexual harassment, racial discrimination, and lack of concern for the environment are neither illegal nor unethical or unusual. The company must decide whether to adhere to constant ethical principles or to adjust to the local rules to maximize profits. As the costs of corporate and white-collar crime can be high, both for society and individual businesses, many business and trade associations have established ethical codes for companies, managers, and employees. Government efforts to encourage companies to adhere to ethical standards include President
Clinton's Model Business Principles (1995), in a program overseen by the Dept. of Commerce.

Ethics after Enron

Ethics after enron
 

This article first appeared in the Summer 2006 issue of Business Ethics, Volume 20, No. 2.

The guilty verdicts were not the end of the story. Only six weeks after his conviction for conspiracy and fraud, Enron founder and former chief executive Kenneth Lay was dead, the victim of a heart attack. Jeffrey Skilling, Lay's successor at the now defunct energy giant, continues to maintain his innocence and has vowed to appeal; nonetheless, he's likely to receive a hefty prison term when sentenced. As the drama plays to its final conclusion, corporate America watches with bemusement and searches for lessons. Is the Enron case a "Verdict on an Era" gone by -- as The New York Times suggests? Or do the "Guilty Verdicts Provide 'Red Meat' to Prosecutors Chasing Companies?" -- as The Wall Street Journal speculates?

There's probable truth in both scenarios. In interviews we've conducted with executives of companies large and small, it's clear that the Enron case will influence discussions and decisions in corporate boardrooms for years to come. Here's a look at some of the lessons already learned -- and how many executives are gearing up to meet the challenges of increased scrutiny and expense, organizational change and a mandate for measurement to help ensure ethics programs are far more than just corporate window-dressing.

New Players in the C-Suite

Perhaps the most noticeable change is in the new roles and titles to which Enron has given life. One of the newest is chief accounting officer.

"Enron has made us all just nervous," says Joyce Bastoli, vice president and regional director of Ajilon Finance Solutions. "CFOs don't want to be blamed for weaknesses in accounting functions, so companies are bringing in this extra layer of management, hiring chief accounting officers to handle reporting and compliance and work with outside auditors. And they have found that their stocks usually rise when they do."

Ajilon, headquartered in Saddle Brook, N.J., provides companies with senior level finance and operations professionals on a project or interim basis. But like many of its clients, Ajilon is cleaning its own house, "enforcing the rules a lot more and not letting it slide when there's no process in place," Bastoli says. In fact, the company recently dismissed one employee for misreporting his key-performance indicators. "We're really holding managers accountable for ensuring their numbers are accurate, and doing more due diligence to make sure the people we hire are credible and ethical."

Steve Skalak, partner in the corporate investigations practice of PricewaterhouseCoopers in New York, agrees that "the whole area of forensic accounting is being pretty aggressively installed in major companies, though the jury is out on whether the measures are worth the cost." In early returns, the data suggest that one area where the return on investment is palpable is the lessening risk of legal actions. There were 168 securities-related, class-action cases last year, down from more than 200 for the first time in 10 years, he notes. According to PwC's Global Economic Crime survey, a company's two most effective investments are in whistleblower access and internal audit.

The big-picture lesson, Skalak says, is that whatever the specifics of a corporate system of internal controls, ethics office and hotline, it's important to constantly reinforce the concept of "We trust our employees but we verify what they do." He suggests a supervisory review by management, scheduled on an appropriate cycle, at all levels of the organization. In corporate governance, for example, that means questioning what management is doing deep in the clerical operations. And it translates into making sure payments for routine goods and services are being properly reviewed at all levels.

Skalak says companies also shouldn't forget one of the most important --  and most counter-intuitive -- lessons learned from Enron and other business- ethics scandals. The old saw that communicating stories of bad behavior only inspires others to try it themselves has proven untrue. "One key best practice in corporate investigations is communicating that you have detected and mitigated a problem," he says. "That has a substantial deterrent effect and is definitely preferable to keeping everything confidential."

For ethics and compliance officers, the most obvious post-Enron trend is the evolution of their job responsibilities into a field in itself, separate from law, human resources and audit. The Ethics and Compliance Officer Association, Waltham, Mass., reports that in the five years since Enron collapsed, the association has grown more than 70%, to 1,260 members.

One ongoing challenge for most compliance and ethics professionals is that they "still don't really have the power to say no to a CEO or CFO," says Joseph E. Murphy, partner in the Compliance Systems Legal Group, Warwick, R.I. Murphy suggests that compliance officers be accountable to corporate boards, not to senior management, with employment agreements that need the approval of a company's full audit committee.

Adding It All Up

Measurement. That's what companies are increasingly looking for with regard to their ethics and compliance programs, partly to determine whether the programs are working but also to tweak and fine-tune business systems and processes in the hopes of recouping some return on the vast sums being spent on post-Enron compliance.

"The new wave is business-process improvement through accurate, real-time reporting," Ajilon's Bastoli says, "looking at how finance can leverage technology to capture efficiencies, savings and activity-based costing, to trace profits and be sure you're running a lean operation."

At Boeing Co., the huge Chicago-based aerospace company, the goal is to "be in a position to see ahead, predict what's happening and get ahead of it," rather than responding after the fact to negative behaviors or publicity, says Martha Ries, vice president of ethics and business conduct. Ries told a packed room at a recent Conference Board conference on ethics and compliance, "We're starting to take our survey data, our H.R. data, data from a number of companies we benchmark within the defense industry and focus-group data, and look at it altogether."

In January, each business head at Boeing identified three key business risks to focus on for 2006. They each get a daily summary report that tracks current cases, backlog, cycle time and customer satisfaction. An internal Ethics Report, posted on the corporate intranet, communicates the disposition of any cases that arise for all employees to see, with only the names of the perpetrators deleted.

Dow Chemical Co., Midland, Mich., is also looking at the numbers and the data, trying to measure how employees perceive it's ethics program. It's also working to develop a standard process and database to identify and track issues, apply consistent discipline or remedial action and eliminate the possibility of double standards based on management levels, says director of global ethics and compliance Tom McCormick.

At PBS&J, a Florida-based, employee-owned engineering firm with 3,800 employees, chief ethics and compliance officer C. Lee Essrig identifies best practices as focusing on risk assessment, measuring program effectiveness and putting a real emphasis on culture and leadership. "The key is to encourage and reward right behaviors instead of punishing after the fact," she says. They're also "relentless about communicating with employees. The point is to breathe life into the program by following through on what you promise."

"Does your company have mandatory ethics training?" she asks. "Is it truly mandatory? What happens to people who don't go?"

The question of over-promising also concerns Lisa Ruca, director of corporate compliance at law firm Holland Knight LLP. "Enron is the perfect example of a window-shelf compliance program," she notes, with a state-of- the-art ethics program and a CEO who talked the talk. The lesson? It's not what you put in your code; it's about how your executives embrace and own the program. "The important thing is to integrate compliance and ethics into the business. Companies don't know how to do that yet, but they have learned that paper programs just aren't going to work. There's more of an emphasis on measurement than ever, even though it's very difficult," Ruca says.

Looking to the Future

In the autumn of 2001, Enron was beginning its final slide into corporate oblivion, taking with it the Arthur Andersen accounting firm and the jobs of thousands of employees. Few could have imagined then what has unfolded since. Certainly no one could have predicted that the financial and business ramifications of the Enron debacle would continue on into the second half of the decade.

Yet that's what is happening. In Washington, the debate continues regarding Sarbanes-Oxley and required levels of compliance, especially for smaller publicly-held businesses. Ajilon's Bastoli predicts a wave of small companies privatizing as their executives simply give up trying to meet the compliance standards. "We'll see a lot of activity in investment banking and M&A in 2007," she says.

But larger companies also will continue to search for efficiencies. "There's no question that investors are better served today than before Enron, and that the system has delivered better processes," says PricewaterhouseCoopers partner Ray Beier. "But the question is, at what cost? I do see where the system has acknowledged that maybe there's too much regulation. What's the balance between regulation and getting things done in the marketplace? That's the debate that will go on. That's going to be one key question for 2007.

Meanwhile, getting the accounting right is particularly important, Beier says. The IRS likely will be looking carefully at how companies account for liabilities in terms of reserves and complex hedging transactions, and whether they account for revenue properly. Executive compensation will draw attention in 2007 -- and so will the role of the board.

And the age-old question will remain: "How do you make sure your people do the right thing? Are your incentives directing behaviors the way you want them directed?"

Former federal prosecutors Chuck La Bella and Thomas McNamara, now white-collar, criminal-defense lawyers at their own San Diego firm, predict that enforcement activities by the Securities and Exchange Commission will continue at the current level, "though federal prosecutions may have reached a peak." Regulators and law enforcement agents have been so aggressive that companies are starting to fight back a little. Still, they note, "the SEC is pooling hundreds of millions of dollars in resources (into) an enforcement apparatus it didn't have five years ago. They have to do something."

Another "subtle aftermath of Enron" is the increased role of the institutional investor. "They're flexing their muscles, and we're going to see more and more of that," LaBella and McNamara predict. Insurance companies and pensions funds are going to demand good corporate governance -- and their involvement "is a much more effective solution than an Enron trial, because they are interested in the survival -- the growth and prosperity -- of companies, and in creating real value."

Smart companies will fine-tune their use of good governance not just to satisfy market analysts but as a public relations vehicle, the former prosecutors predict. "Good corporate governance," they note, "can be as effective a marketing tool as a good quarter."


A Little Light in Portland
Enron may be gone, but its legacy continues in a most unlikely place.

In April, on the same day former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling took the stand in his own defense, Enron subsidiary Portland General Electric spun off from its bankrupt parent and made its debut on the New York Stock Exchange. Enron creditors received 27 million newly-issued shares of the utility, or about 43% of its outstanding stock, for a payout worth $568 million. The remaining shares are being held by a disputed claims reserve for future distribution to Enron's creditors -- including the 401(k) accounts of Portland General's retirees.

Portland General, Oregon's oldest utility, delivers electricity to about 780,000 customers. When it was bought by Enron for $3.1 billion in 1997, its pension plan largely remained unchanged -- but its 401(k) plan shifted to Enron securities, which today are virtually without value.

"It's a relief to have the Enron chapter behind us and we're excited to be an independent company again," CEO Peggy Fowler told Business Ethics. Now, the remaining issue is personal, as employees "are still dealing with their 401(k) losses in varying ways and are watching closely how the 401(k) settlements will work out, including if there will be any noticeable recovery of those lost investments."

Some folks have delayed their retirement plans and stayed on longer than they had planned. Others are hoping for a successful outcome to Portland General's efforts to convince Congress to pass catch-up retirement legislation for employees of companies like Enron. Portland General, meanwhile, is offering retirement planning advice and job training for workers who want to move into other areas of the company.

"Most of us have moved on," says Fowler, and certainly her focus is on the future rather than the past. In the works at the newly public utility are an infrastructure investment plan that will add the 400 megawatt (MW) natural gas-fired Port Westward Generating Plant by 2007, and a wind project that will produce 450 MW more, as well as new metering technologies and information platforms to better monitor customers' daily needs.

But the lessons of Enron are not forgotten -- especially not by Fowler. "Would Enron have been different with different people? Probably," she says. "It's important to have the right people in the right jobs, especially when they are key leadership positions. And it's extremely important to protect your company's reputation. It's far too easy to damage or lose your reputation these days -- and far harder to earn it back."

Cheryl Rosen ( crosen2@optonline.net ) is a New York-based freelance
business journalist.

Potential Bosses May be looking at you on MySpace

Potential Bosses May be looking at you on MySpace

By De Anna Sheffield
WTSP

ST. PETERSBURG, FL -- Myspace.com is a popular website for teens-and older-who want to post their pictures and profile for the whole World Wide Web to see. And knowing just how many people log on, the University of South Florida-St. Petersburg decided it would be the perfect place to advertise.

"It's a way to reach our target audience," said Frank Hohengarten, the Dean of Enrollment Services at USF-St. Petersburg. "We found out 87% of the targeted students, 15-years-old to 18-years-old, are on the Web. "

That's a lot of eyes looking. And while USF wants to get the attention of prospective students, they also give a warning--they're not the only ones logging on. During orientation and in the University's code of conduct, school officials remind students just how a not-so-positive website could affect life after college.

"In the future, when they're looking for a job, and the employer has seen whatever kind of picture and statements are available, you can hurt yourself, people need to be aware, whatever they put up will be available."

Larissa Mone is a Freshman, and uses MySpace.com to look up old school buddies. And while she understands the website is free access and people have the right to express themselves, she understands the concerns.

"When you see something else (that's questionable) about their profile, you want to get in contact with them, and tell them to get it off their profile," said Mone.

http://www.firstcoastnews.com/news/florida/news-article.aspx?storyid=56383


50 Simple Tips for Big Savings

50 Simple Tips for Big Savings
By Elizabeth Brokamp

Gas prices have taken a bite out of our pocketbooks, the stock market's summer slide packed a punch, and the downfall in housing is looming large. What does a Fool do in the face of such uncertainty?

The answer is: save.

Spending less and saving more won't turn the tide on the economy, but it will help you to ride out the storm. Use these 50 simple tips to help you sure up your finances for the tough times ahead.

Money matters
1. Eliminate unnecessary fees. Avoid ATMs outside your network, except in an emergency. Check with your bank to make sure you have the best type of account for your needs; often, if you maintain a minimum balance or get at least one check automatically deposited each month, you can qualify for free or reduced-rate checking. Buying standard issue checks (think generic blue) can save a few bucks as well.

2. Sign up for automatic bill pay to avoid late fees and tarnished credit. While you'll typically have to pay a monthly fee, it's a small price to pay for peace of mind and an unblemished financial record.

3. Monitor your mortgage. Is now the time to refinance? Do you need to shop around to replace your ARM? Keeping on top of your mortgage situation can help you save big.

4. See if the Geico gecko really can save you a lot on car insurance. All it takes is a phone call!

5. Contact your lender about consolidating your school loan.

6. Shred old financial documents. According to the Better Business Bureau, the average identity fraud case cost consumers $6,383 per incident. While most banks and credit card companies offer protection against fraud and end up footing the bill themselves, you will still be out some time and money while the case is investigated.

Household
7. Maintain, maintain, maintain. Taking good care of your furnace, roof, air conditioning, and appliances, among other things, can save big bucks.

8. Hold a yard sale. It will force you to get rid of clutter in your garage, basement, and attic, as well as pad your pockets.

9. Turn off the lights when you're not using them.

10. Treat your plumbing like the delicate flower it is. No Hot Wheels down the toilet or pasta, rice, or beans down the drain.

11. Update your household inventory for insurance purposes. Video is the best vehicle for documenting what you own. Save a copy off-premises and one in a fireproof safe in case of disaster.

12. Watch less TV. Do you really need 300 channels? Going down even one tier in your cable service may save you $50 a year or more.

13. Know your cell phone personality. Match your usage as closely as possible to a plan so you neither pay for service you don't use or have to pay outrageous overage charges.

14. Ask your utility companies to perform energy audits (they'll do it for free). You may be able to save hundreds per year on the cost of heating or cooling your home by following their recommendations.

Medicine
15. Check the expiration date. Buying outdated or soon-to-expire medication is as good as throwing money away.

16. Buy the small size. Unless you have a large family or a documented need for more, think small. Sure, the larger package has a better per-ounce price, but odds are you will have plenty left over to pour down the drain when the expiration date comes around.

17. Think generic. Ask your doctor if you can safely substitute a generic brand for your prescription drug needs.

18. Ask your doctor for free samples of the drugs she's prescribed for you, especially if it's a new medicine you're not sure your body will tolerate.

19. Use your insurance company's mail-order prescription program. Chances are you will save money and time, in addition to avoiding the tempting candy bars by the Walgreen's checkout.

20. Shop around. Believe it or not, there are price differences between pharmacies. While it's advisable (for safety's sake) to establish a relationship with one pharmacist for your prescription drug needs, she may be willing to match another pharmacy's lower price if you ask.

General shopping
21. Compare costs via the Internet. Cost-comparison sites like Froogle can help you to save big.

22. Familiarize yourself with seasonal sales.

23. Use coupons (and not just the pesky ones you have to cut out from the Sunday paper either). Anytime you buy online, open another browser and do a quick search for online coupons for that retailer. You can sometimes save as much as 15% with a quick click of the mouse.

24. Make your credit card work for you. In addition to using your plastic wisely, research which cards offer perks such as cash back, airline miles, or even money toward college tuition.

25. Make secondhand a way of life. Shopping at yard sales, consignment stores, eBay, and Craigslist are great ways to cut costs immediately.

26. Shop tax-free. Take advantage of the tax-free shopping weekends in several states. Be forewarned that many states schedule these for early August, long before some of us feel ready to think about winter clothes.

27. Why pay retail for a toy that may only hold your child's attention for a second or two? Discount stores such as TJMaxx, Marshalls, and Tuesday Morning offer great bargains on quality toys.

28. Forbid yourself from buying things simply because they're on sale or promise a rebate. Regardless of the bargain price, an extra expense is just that -- yet another drain on your resources.

29. Be a smart shopper by buying quality when it counts. Consumer tools such as Consumer Reports and Good Housekeeping reports can help you to get the best quality for the least money.

30. Cultivate the ability to delay gratification. Giving yourself more time to think about a purchase means you'll make a more informed, less impetuous decision.

Groceries
31. Grocery shop on a full stomach. Anyone else drawn to junk food in the store when they shop hungry? A bag of sweets, potato chips, and soda look that much more tempting on an empty stomach.

32. Arm yourself with a list. It tends to focus us on what we need, rather than whatever strikes our fancy in the aisle at Safeway.

33. Plan your meals. Hand-in-hand with carrying a list, meal planning will help to eliminate random purchases. Stay focused on Monday night's pot roast, rather than the Utz potato chips on sale.

34. Go natural. Prepackaged foods cost more and are generally not as good for you.

35. Buy a deep freezer. You can buy big quantities of items when they're on sale and save over the long haul.

36. Cut out the beef. Decreasing your meat consumption or eliminating it altogether can spell big savings over the course of a year.

37. Buy non-groceries at a non-grocery store. Purchasing pharmaceutical items like eye-care products can ratchet up your grocery bill unnecessarily; better deals can be had elsewhere.

38. Go solo. Kids tend to toss high-priced, ooey-gooey cereals into the cart when you're not looking or pressure you to buy items that you weren't planning on buying.

39. Don't get fooled by clever advertising. If the grocery store's sales price says "Four for $1," it doesn't mean that you automatically have to buy four, a quantity that may be too much for your family. Unless the fine print has a caveat (e.g. "Four for $1 OR $0.37 each"), then each item will cost $0.25 and you'll still save when buying a smaller quantity.

Lifestyle
40. Make saving a family affair. Like dieting, it's much easier to trim the fat from your budget if your loved ones are right in there with you.

41. Kick some of your more expensive habits. Alcohol and cigarettes are line items that can pack a punch to a budget.

42. Get organized. When we can't find a household item we need, what do most of us do? Purchase it again, of course. Why else would my husband and I have six spackle tools from Lowe's with nary a home-fixer between us?

43. Get it out of sight. Getting money immediately withdrawn from your paycheck and put into savings is a great way to create a nice little nest egg.

44. Windfalls = savings. Use unexpected refunds, monetary gifts, and freak acts of the money gods to pad your savings rather than fund splurges.

45. Learn to love home-cooked meals.

46. Turn frugality into a game. Instead of force-feeding budgeting tips to yourself, look at this as an adventure. Try to top your own savings each week or compete with a friend.

Automotive
47. Keep your tires properly inflated. You'll prolong their life, as well as saving on gas.

48. Buy regular gasoline. No need to buy premium when regular will get you there just as handily.

49. Like your home, your vehicle will last longer if you invest in regular maintenance. Make it part of your routine to check the car's fluid levels and tire pressure. Copy the manufacturer's recommended maintenance schedule and put it in your glove compartment for handy reference.

50. Keep your old car another year. Should you have to purchase one now, follow our Foolish advice for getting insider deals.

Implementing small cost-saving measures may not be as fun as, say, winning the lottery, but it's a 100%-guaranteed way to keep more money in your pocket. Those are odds a Fool can love.

Want more valuable money-saving tips? Give our new personal finance service, Motley Fool GreenLight, a try. It's free for 30 days. We'll get you on the road to financial freedom in no time.

Fool contributor Elizabeth Brokamp is a licensed professional counselor who regularly talks money with her honey, Robert Brokamp, editor of The Motley Fool's Rule Your Retirement newsletter. To get your money and relationship questions answered, send her an email.

 

Basics of Buying a House

http://michaelbluejay.com/house/basics.html

Here's your free 33-page guide

I'm a real estate investor. I've bought and sold a few homes so I'm in a good position to explain how to buy a house to first-time home buyers. I'm not a realtor, and I'm not trying to sell you anything. I created this site only to share my knowledge of home-buying with others; I wanted to create the guide that *I* wish I had when I was a rookie home buyer.

This is not an exhaustive guide -- I don't cover every single possible detail related to buying a house. On the other hand, this site contains a lot more than a typical pamphlet or even what you'd learn from most realtors. Certainly many people have bought houses without knowing nearly this much . (Including me, when I bought my first home.) We'll cover such things as:

...and lots more. The full list of topics is on the left, and you can step through them one at a time by following the "Next:" link on the bottom of each page.

I believe everything here to be accurate, but of course it's "use at your own risk". And by the way, I have no idea whether the house-buying info listed here applies anywhere outside the USA.

Ready to get started? Then go to the first lesson: The Basics of Buying a House.

-- Michael Bluejay