10 Food-Shopping Mistakes That Are Costing You a Fortune

As soon as someone finds out I’m a dietitian, they do one of two things: ask me nutrition questions or complain to me about the difficulties of healthy eating. One of the complaints I hear most often is that healthy food is “so expensive.”

Whenever that subject comes up, I try to reassure the naysayer that eating healthy on a budget is totally doable with a little bit of planning and know-how. But if you’re not careful, it’s very easy to make food budget mistakes and watch those bills add up. Luckily, we’ve got the quick fixes to help you save your money while still eating healthy (without having to channel your coupon-mad grandma.

Mistake No. 1: Buying Produce Without a Plan

Let’s be honest: Sometimes the pretty colors and unique shapes of produce lures you in. “Why yes, I do need this $3 dragon fruit for my fruit bowl.” No, you don’t—stick with more practical produce that you know you will eat. Or if you’re not sure what’s on your weekly menu, stick with heartier produce picks that won’t go bad quickly, like root veggies, hearty winter greens, squash, potatoes, apples, and citrus fruits.

Mistake No. 2: Frequenting Convenience Stores for Snacks

Do you buy a $2 mini bag of nuts at the convenience store for your afternoon snack? You might as well start lighting your money on fire right now. Just because convenience store snacks are small and, well, convenient, doesn’t always mean they’re cheap. Actually, they’re even more expensive when you opt for single-size portions.

Buy nuts and dried fruit from the bulk section at your local supermarket for a more economical option. If pretzels or chips are more your jam, purchase them online (Target, Walmart, and Jet.com have competitive prices and free shipping on larger orders) and pack your snacks to bring with you on the go.

Mistake No. 3: Buying Foods Out of Season

If you’re buying blueberries in the dead of winter, not only will they taste like crap, they will also cost you an arm and a leg. To save money, try to have a basic understanding of which foods are harvested when. This guide by the USDA is a helpful tool for picking produce that’s in season, tastes more flavorful, and is easier on your wallet.

Mistake No. 4: Ignoring Frozen Foods

We’ve been told so many times to shop the perimeter of the supermarket, but it’s time to start ignoring that outdated rec. The frozen aisle actually offers a ton of healthy goodies, like frozen fruits and veggies. Not only are these items picked and immediately frozen to lock in nutrients, but they are usually much cheaper than fresh produce. And if you really can’t live without your blueberries in the winter, this is a good way to get them.

Mistake No. 5: Thinking Canned Foods Are Gross

Some foods just shouldn’t come in a can (we’re looking at you, sugary canned peaches), but other canned varieties are low-cost nutritious options. Canned beans and tomatoes are usually available in low- or no-salt varieties and come in BPA-free cans. For less than a few bucks, you can pick up some canned plant-based protein for taco night or canned tomatoes for Italian night. The best part is that these cans will stay good for months, so even if you end up going out for Taco Tuesday, your beans will be waiting the next time you want to cook at home.

Mistake No. 6: Throwing Away Produce That’s Going Bad

When your bananas are brown or your avocados have gotten mushy, the natural reaction is to trash them. Not so fast! That overripe fruit makes a great addition to smoothies or baked goods (or even face masks). If you don’t want to use it right away, peel the fruit, store it in an airtight container, and freeze it until you’re ready. The same goes for wilted lettuce or soft veggies. Add them to a stir-fry or soup, or prep and freeze for later.

Mistake No. 7: Shopping Without a List

We’ve all been there. You go to the grocery store without a list and come home with a head of kale, a few apples, a box of cereal, a tub of hummus, a can of black beans, and a carton of ice cream. You get home to realize kale, apples, and beans don’t make the best combo, so then you immediately order takeout. Before you head out to the store, survey your cabinets for pantry staples. If you’ve got taco shells and salsa on hand, add some taco fixings to your list and don’t stray from there.

Mistake No. 8: Purchasing Bottled Water

We wish we invented bottled water. “Hey, let’s take this stuff that comes from the tap, put it in a bottle, and charge for it.” Genius! In reality, although not everyone has the cleanest drinking water, there are cheaper alternatives to bottled water. The first option is a Brita pitcher to filter impurities out of your tap water. And the second, easier option is using a recyclable water bottle. Most large offices and public places have filtered drinking fountains, and Hydroflask makes super-cute bottles that keep your water cold for hours on end.

Mistake No. 9: Opting for Organic Only

Organic Gatorade, anyone? No? Bueller? You can find almost everything in an organic variety these days (yes, organic Gatorade exists). Certain studies show that organic produce may have slightly more nutrients than the conventional variety, but that doesn’t mean you should skip produce altogether if you can’t afford the organic variety. Eating any produce, even the conventional kind, is much better than eating none (just be sure to give them a good rinse before diving in). As for organic packaged goods, some products are more worth it than others.

Mistake No. 10: Going With the Name Brand Every Time

If there’s one thing you should’ve learned from over-the-counter medicine, it’s that name brands aren’t always better. Flip the package over and you’ll find the pharmacy brand ingredients are EXACTLY THE SAME as the name brand and usually cost a few bucks less. The same goes for some common pantry staples, like oats, rice, and beans. Go with the cheapest option and buy yourself a fancy latte with the money you saved. You deserve it.

This investing pro learned there’s more to financial planning than money

Mark Boujikian woke up one morning in March 2017 with no feeling in his left arm. Even though he couldn’t type and battled headaches, he made it through his workday.

By the evening, his condition worsened. A visit to a local urgent care facility led to an MRI and an appointment six days later with a spinal specialist. The diagnosis startled him.

“You’ve got a broken neck,” the spinal expert said.

At the time, Boujikian was about to launch his financial advisory firm. But first, he needed neck surgery.

A certified financial planner, Boujikian underwent surgery in April and opened his firm in late May — in a neck brace and weathering severe pain.

When prospectve clients asked what happened, Boujikian told them. The 30-year-old described the anxiety that comes with a sudden health crisis.

“At my old firm, I was taught to use stories but don’t get too personal,” said Boujikian, founder of Keymark Financial in Rolling Hills Estates, Calif. “They couldn’t be more wrong. I never held back my story, and now my client relationships are stronger than ever.”

Granted, his story proved unusually compelling. In 1998, a preteen Boujikian suffered two skull fractures and significant brain trauma in a serious car accident. He has struggled with muscular discomfort ever since, seeking relief from chiropractors and massage therapists.

He had no idea that lingering fractures in his neck were threatening his spinal cord until that fateful day when part of his body shut down.

“After the car accident, I was told that I’d have more problems than other people,” he said. “But I never thought something missed from the accident would lead to this injury.”

He has discovered that his story can serve as a motivational tool. When he urged a client — a self-employed physician in her late 30s — to set up a corporation and take other steps to save for retirement, she demurred.

Six months later, she still hadn’t followed through. So Boujikian told her about his surgery and how he relied on others for support and guidance.

“Anarchy and mayhem always rear their head,” he told her. “We want to make sure you’re protected if life-changing events occur, and these are the means to help you succeed.”

Fully convinced, the client complied with Boujikian’s recommendations.

“She saw that I wasn’t just preaching on my soapbox, that I had lived it,” he said.

Boujikian finds that opening up helps him forge an emotional connection with others. This adds a level of depth to the interaction. He emphasizes to prospects that his approach to financial planning combines quantitative analysis with a focus on underlying emotions. He often follows up their comments by asking, “How does that make you feel?”

As a result, his conversations transcend money matters. He estimates that more than 90% of his prospect meetings result in tears as visitors confide in him and raise their deepest fears or concerns. “Emotion itself is a powerful sales tool,” Boujikian said. “It pulls down the walls.”

Despite wearing a neck brace in the weeks after launching his firm — and operating on a limited diet while sleeping upright — Boujikian won over new clients. They appreciated his perseverance and seized the opportunity to discuss their own challenges.

Over the next six months, business took off. Beyond his ability to connect emotionally with prospects, he credits three other factors for his early success: establishing a strategic partnership with two accountants who work next door; giving free presentations at local libraries on financial literacy, and hiring a digital marketing specialist to boost his visibility.

Read: How to teach your children to be investors rather than spenders

“Dealing with massive anxiety that comes with severe trauma was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to deal with,” he said. “But I leaned on my family and friends for support, and I saw therapists who opened doors I didn’t know existed.”

He cites two pieces of advice from his therapy sessions that he took to heart. He learned that in order to understand others, you have to understand yourself first. And he embraced his anxiety rather than avoiding it or pretending it didn’t affect him.

“Having all my plans thrown out the window made me a better adviser,” he said. “I could understand the depth of anxiety that comes with big ventures and unexpected moments in life.”

How major companies handle – and botch – public relations crises

Starbucks CEO apologizes after arrest of 2 men

Over the past several days, two major American companies found themselves facing public relations disasters.

A fatal engine failure aboard a Southwest (LUV) flight left the airline scrambling to ensure passengers that its planes are safe. And Starbucks (SBUX) was in the spotlight after two black men were arrested while waiting for a friend.

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Before Southwest and Starbucks came Equifax (EFX), Facebook (FB), United Airlines (UAL) and Wells Fargo (WFC).

Each of these companies has had to navigate a public relations crisis over the past year and a half. Some have been more successful than others.

“Every crisis is different,” said Andrew Gilman, CEO and founder of the public relations firm CommCore Consulting Group. But there are a few things companies can do to manage a PR disaster.

“You need to have a crisis plan,” Gilman said. “That’s step one.”

Once a scandal breaks, crisis managers need to figure out a response, quickly. “You don’t have to take every and all action right away,” he said. But you need to decide what to do, even if that means monitoring the situation.

Companies must also show genuine concern for the injured party. “If you don’t demonstrate care and concern” for the people affected, Gilman said, “It’s like going to church and [not saying the prayers]. You notice it when it’s missing.”

And if possible, Gilman said, companies should “regain or control the narrative.” That’s not easy to do.

“Crises will happen,” Gilman said. “You’re measured by how well you respond.”

Southwest is still in the thick of its response to last Tuesday’s tragedy, which left a passenger dead. We spoke to experts about how Equifax, Facebook, Starbucks, United Airlines and Wells Fargo dealt with their prominent crises.

Equifax: Lack of clarity

richard smith equifax hearing senate
Former Equifax CEO Richard Smith appears before Congress in October 2017.

What happened: In September of last year, the credit reporting agency announced that the personal information of as many as 143 million Americans — almost half the country — was compromised in a giant cybersecurity breach. In October, the company revised the number up, saying an additional 2.5 million people were impacted. Cyber criminals accessed sensitive information including names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and the numbers of some driver’s licenses.

The company said at the time that the breach occurred between mid-May and July, and that it learned about the hack in late July — months before it shared the information with the public.

In March, the company revealed that another 2.4 million Americans’ names and drivers license numbers were compromised — bringing the total to about 148 million people.

The response: Equifax’s Richard Smith stepped down after 12 years as CEO and said he was “deeply sorry” for the breach. The company directed people who feared their data may have been accessed to a website, and offered free credit monitoring. At first, it required enrollees to waive their right to sue the company, but later backtracked. It also waived fees to freeze credit — the best way to protect compromised data — for a month, but only after consumers complained.

How they did: The company caught flak for failing to alert affected customers and for a general lack of transparency about what had happened. Experts said that it seemed the company did not have a plan, and was improvising its response as it went along.

Now, the company thinks it could have acted differently. “We should have been quicker, more frequent and more transparent in our customer communications immediately following the incident,” Julia Houston, the company’s chief transformation officer told CNNMoney on Friday, adding that the company was trying to balance speed with accuracy. “We are committed to being as proactive as possible in the way that we communicate and rebuild trust,” she said.

Related: Equifax turned its hack into a public relations catastrophe

Facebook: Slow but effective

zuckerberg testimony
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before Congress in April.

What happened: Last month, Facebook found itself in the middle of a scandal when news broke that Cambridge Analytica, a data firm with ties to President Donald Trump’s campaign, improperly accessed the data of tens of millions of Facebook users. Outraged users considered deleting their accounts.

The response: Facebook said it learned about the breach in 2015, and that Cambridge Analytica assured the social media platform that it had deleted the ill-gotten data. Lawmakers called for Mark Zuckerberg — who didn’t speak out for a few days after the scandal broke — to testify before Congress, and he did. Zuckerberg took responsibility for the breach in a Facebook post, and apologized repeatedly.

How they did: People wondered why Facebook didn’t do more to ensure that the information was really gone when it first learned of the breach, and how it plans to protect user information more broadly.

Bryan Reber, a public relations professor at the University of Georgia, thinks Zuckerberg performed well when he testified before Congress — but that it was pretty obvious he didn’t want to be there. “Was it a brilliant performance? No,” he said. But it was effective.

Gilman added that though Facebook was slow to respond at first, it “did all the right things,” when it did.

Related: Congress grilled Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg for nearly 10 hours. What’s next?

Starbucks: Reclaiming the narrative

gma starbucks arrested men
The two men who were arrested discuss the incident on “Good Morning America.”

What happened: Two black men were arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks while waiting for a friend. The men entered the location and asked to use to the bathroom. An employee told them it was only for paying customers. When they then sat in the store without ordering anything, the manager called the police and the men were arrested for trespassing. No charges were filed. The incident sparked protests and garnered national attention.

The response: Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson apologized personally for the incident, and said the arrest “should not have happened.” The company added that the manager is no longer working at the store, and announced that there will be a racial bias training for all employees next month.

How they did: Starbucks was able to reclaim the narrative. “People were talking about Starbucks, not what happened,” said Gilman.

Reber added that it was smart of Starbucks to respond immediately, but schedule the training for the end of May. “You fill the information vacuum with what you’re going to do,” he said, and have a “quiet cooling down period before you make news again with doing the right thing.”

Related: Starbucks has a bold plan to address racial bias. Will it work?

United Airlines: Tone deaf response

Dao daughter
David Dao’s daughter and lawyer take questions during a press conference.

What happened: Last year, passenger Dr. David Dao was dragged off an overbooked flight to make room for a crew member who needed his seat. The incident was caught on tape and went viral. More recently, a passenger’s dog died after a flight attendant told the owner to put the pet in an overhead bin.

The response: United CEO Oscar Munoz initially called the incident involving Dao an “upsetting event.” At first, the company partially blamed Dao, describing him as “disruptive and belligerent.” But as outrage over the incident continued, the company softened its reaction. Munoz said what happened was “truly horrific,” and offered an apology to Dao. United’s response to the pet’s death was swift and immediately remorseful. “We assume full responsibility for this tragedy,” the company said.

How they did: Reber described United’s initial reaction to Dao’s incident as “completely tone deaf.” The company did a better job in its response to the pet’s death, Gilman said. But a “reputation is a hard thing to protect,” Gilman noted, and the botched reaction to the dragging of a passenger means United “didn’t have as much slack from the public and the media the second time it happened.”

Related: Oscar Munoz’s tough ride as United CEO

Wells Fargo: Something fishy

elizabeth warren john stumpf split
Senator Elizabeth Warren had tough questions for former Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf when he testified before Congress in 2016.

What happened: In September 2016, Federal regulators slapped a $185 million fine on Wells Fargo after revealing that employees had secretly created millions of unauthorized bank and credit card accounts without their customers’ knowledge. Soon after, the Department of Justice accused the bank of illegally repossessing service members’ cars. In 2017, Wells Fargo was accused of modifying mortgages without authorization from the customers — causing some customers to pay unnecessary fines. It also charged at least 570,000 customers for auto insurance they did not need.

The response: First, Wells Fargo fired 5,300 employees over the fake accounts scandal. Some executives also left, and then CEO John Stumpf, who got much of the blame, agreed to forfeit pay. Later, the company clawed back $75 million from former executives, including Stumpf. It agreed to settle charges of illegally repossessing cars and to refund mortgage customers. It received a severe penalty from the Federal Reserve and, this week, a $1 billion fine from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. Stumpf apologized to customers before he stepped down. New CEO Tim Sloan also apologized. The company has focused on being transparent with its customers about the steps it is taking to win back trust and ensure the violations aren’t repeated.

How they did: Wells Fargo is in a uniquely difficult situation, Reber said. While other companies have to manage crises that resulted from mistakes or negligence, Wells Fargo has had to come back from intentional acts: Employees were pressured by the company to create fake accounts to fulfill unrealistic goals.

“[It’s] kind of hard to plead for mercy when it looks like there’s something fishy that’s going on,” said Reber. That doesn’t mean consumers will never trust Wells Fargo again, he added. But it will take longer.

Gilman pointed out that because of the government’s involvement, Wells Fargo doesn’t have full control of its message. “I bet they thought they were back,” he said. But this week’s massive fine reminds people of what happened and “reignites” the scandal.

— CNN’s Matt Egan, Sara Ashley O’Brien and Chris Isidore contributed to this report.

7 ways to save on your next trip to a national park

America’s national parks are brimming with natural wonders: cascading waterfalls, towering redwoods, white sand beaches. But visiting these gems can cost money and soon will get a little pricier: Many national parks will increase their entrance fees by $5 beginning June 1.

In honor of National Park Week April 21-29, here are seven ways to plan a cheaper national park trip:

1. Travel off-peak

Mikah Meyer, 32, wants to become the youngest person to visit all 417 National Park Service sites. In the past two years, the Nebraska native has crossed more than 300 off the list while living out of his trusty 2014 Ram ProMaster, a white, windowless cargo van he’s dubbed “Vanny McVanface.”

He’s just one of the more than 330 million people who visited the national park system in 2017. Rooms and campsites fill up fast during weekends, spring break and summer. Meyer suggests visiting offseason to save money and avoid crowds. But there are trade-offs.

“Sometimes you’ll go to parks like Yosemite where certain trails and waterfalls are closed because they’re snowed in,” Meyer says.

Research seasonal conditions to prevent surprises, and note that some destinations have atypical high seasons. Warm-weather parks such as Death Valley and Everglades are busiest in winter.

2. Visit for free

More than two-thirds of national parks are free year-round. The others waive entrance fees on certain dates. The remaining fee-free days in 2018 are:

First day of National Park Week: April 21

National Public Lands Day: Sept. 22

Veterans Day: Nov. 11

With free days dwindling — down from 10 in 2017 to four in 2018 — and potential fee hikes looming, take advantage.

3. Annual passes and discounts

An annual pass costs $80 and can pay for itself if you plan to visit multiple parks in a 12-month period.

U.S. military members can get the annual pass for free, as can fourth-grade students and certain volunteers.

For seniors, annual passes cost $20 and lifetime passes $80. Lifetime passes are free for those with permanent disabilities.

Travelers can also leverage perks offered by wholesale clubs, frequent flier programs and other memberships, such as AAA.

4. Skip the expensive lodge

Camp by tent or vehicle to cut costs. Backcountry campsites, which are generally in remote areas accessible only on foot, are usually cheaper than developed campsites, says Kathy Kupper, public affairs specialist for the National Park Service. Campsites at Glacier National Park cost a maximum of $23 per night during peak season, for example, compared with the hundreds of dollars a night you might pay to stay in a lodge.

To avoid camping fees outright, Meyer parks in Walmart or hotel parking lots that allow it. He also camps free in U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management areas near national parks.

“Sometimes they have actual campsites with running water and bathrooms, and other times it’s just wherever you can fit your car, there you go,” Meyer says. Contact your local agency offices for details.

If roughing it doesn’t appeal to you, try hotels or rentals in gateway communities. Neighboring towns typically have more rooms and are less expensive than park lodges.

5. Buy supplies beforehand

Don’t wait until you’re near or inside the park to stock up on food, gas and other essentials.

“The closer you get to these places, especially when they’re out in the wilderness, there’s going to be that convenience charge,” Meyer says. “Something you might buy for $3 at your local grocery store could be $7 or $8 in the middle of nowhere.”

6. Explore your backyard

Every state has at least one national park site, so you don’t necessarily have to spend a lot of money to travel to one.

“It’s not always saving up for that once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Grand Canyon. You can go for a day or a weekend to a park near you,” Kupper says.

7. Look for free activities

National Park Service programming, with very few exceptions, is free, Kupper says. That includes activities like ranger-led hikes, snowshoe walks and kayak tours.

You can see potential itineraries and book tours at the National Park Service website. Once in the park, stop by a visitor center for more information.

“Spending time in nature is good for body and soul,” Kupper says. Doing it cheaply can be good for your wallet, too.

Related links

NerdWallet: How to save money nerd.me/how-to-save-money

National Park Service: nps.gov/planyourvisit/trip-ideas.htm

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Banking royal commission: AMP head of compliance grilled over financial planners – live

“While One Nation have shown its support for reducing company tax to 25%, banks should not receive the benefit of these cuts until customers who have suffered are compensated for the wrongdoing they’ve experienced.”

“I’m not talking about a carve out. I’m suggesting the government quarantine the 5% saving so that customers who have been wronged can be repaid and compensated in full.” Under the government’s enterprise tax plan, banks would not expect to receive corporate tax cuts until 2026-27, with Senator Hanson suggesting the sector would need to settle with victims early to avoid losing any potential tax cuts.

Blackstone Wants to Manage More Insurance Money

Bets on Spanish housing and oil assets helped Blackstone Group LP mitigate stock market jitters that weighed on it in the first quarter, with earnings at the world’s largest manager of alternative assets falling less than expected.

Profits have soared at private equity firms such as Blackstone in recent years, as a U.S. stock market rally allowed them to sell assets for top dollar. That rally came to an end in the first quarter, amid a trade dispute between the world’s two largest economies, the United States and China.

Blackstone reported a 20 percent drop in economic net income per share on Thursday but still beat Wall Street’s expectations.

“We had a solid start to the year,” President and Chief Operating Officer Jon Gray said in a call with reporters.

Economic net income per share came in at 65 cents in the quarter, down from 81 cents a year ago. Analysts on average expected 45 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

“This backdrop for the first quarter was a bit more challenging than we’ve seen in some time in terms of just the broader markets, but they’ve performed pretty well against that,” said JMP Securities analyst Devin Ryan, who rates the stock “market outperform.”

Blackstone’s assets under management swelled to $449.6 billion from $434 billion at year-end 2017, and a 14 percent rise in fee-related earnings that are linked to a management fee on the assets held for investors also supported results.

As a sweetener for investors, Blackstone said it plans to pay a 30 cent special dividend in 2018, returning to shareholders a portion of the proceeds from the conclusion of its partnership with FS Investment Corp.

Shares closed 1 percent higher at $32.12.

Gray’s Focus

Blackstone presented results for the first time since its Gray, formerly its real estate chief, was made president and COO earlier this year, a promotion which set him up as successor to Chief Executive Stephen Schwarzman.

“I start with a Hippocratic oath: to do no harm,” Gray said. “But I do have a few key areas of focus.”

Gray indicated Blackstone wants to manage more money for retail and insurance investors and bolster growth investments in emerging markets and in areas like life sciences and technology.

Blackstone Aims to Grow Insurance Asset Management to $100 Billion

Attracting more retail and insurance money is not a new initiative for Blackstone – around 20 percent of its $18 billion inflows in the quarter were from retail investors – but Gray said this is still in “very early days.”

“Retail is a $50 trillion market, insurance $30 trillion. Both have low single-digit exposure to alternatives,” he said.

Blackstone could broaden its appeal to retail investors by meeting requirements to trade more easily in and out of their investments and to insurers by having more structured products with appropriate ratings, Gray said.

In January, Blackstone agreed to buy a majority stake in the Financial and Risk business of Thomson Reuters Corp , the parent company of Reuters News, in a $20 billion deal. Reuters News will remain part of Thomson Reuters.

(Reporting by Joshua Franklin in New York; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Cynthia Osterman)

Related:

Bring financial stability to your household with these tips | Ask Ken

I keep hearing people say they are having a hard time putting any financial stability in their households.   

After listening to the various discussions and the reasons “why” things aren’t working, I have come up with a couple of suggestions that might help.

First, get rid of your excuses. Guess what? It isn’t always someone else’s fault. I have heard all kinds of excuses: either the job doesn’t pay enough, the spouse spends too much, you are too deep in debt, the credit card company should have known better than to give you that high of a credit limit, all the bills come due at the same time of the month, or something else.

Second, think about how, what and why you are spending money. Are you thinking about how you are spending your money? Are you an impulsive buyer? Do you spend more on payday than the rest of time until payday? Are you spending money on the things that will make a difference in your life?

Is spending on a meaningful vacation or a clothing item that will revolutionize your wardrobe a good spending decision? Do you ever ask yourself “why” you are spending money on what you are spending money on?  Do you need it or just want it?

RELATED:Can I ask grown children to help with household expenses?

RELATED:Questions to ask before you retire

Third, prioritize what matters most to you. I don’t care what it is. Decide what those priorities are, then live accordingly, by cutting out the spending in other areas. By the way, eventually you will get back to the basics of food and housing. 

Fourth, if you really want control and to put stability in your life, figure out how to live on your income. Over the years, I have worked with a wide range of incomes, and they all start out by thinking they just need more money. But once they accept it isn’t how much they make but what they have left that matters, they start realizing the importance of looking at all their options and how to take control of their finances.

Fifth, not saving something is dumb. Again, my experience tells me that someone can save money if they have a reason to save. Most people haven’t figured out this fact. Once you put yourself in the position of knowing what you are saving for, savings becomes easier. You must think about the rewards of giving up something today for something better in the future.

Lastly, if what you are doing isn’t working, get some help. Get on a budget. You can contact your financial institution, insurance company, a counseling agency, or even the internet for ideas and suggestions.   

The key to financial stability in any household is getting everyone on the same page, husband, wife, the kids and anyone else in the household. Take these suggestions, set some goals, discuss the points above with everyone and make it a team effort. Household financial stability will reduce the stress and conflicts in the household.

Need answers to your financial questions? Email Ken King, at ken_king47@yahoo.com.
 

My husband and I use this budget spreadsheet to manage our money, and it completely changed our lives


Two years ago, my husband and I were living in Manhattan and struggling to make ends meet. We had more money going out than coming in, and we knew we needed a way to do better when it came to managing our finances.

So, my husband, like the total Type A personality he is, turned to Excel to fix our financial woes. I, the polar opposite of Type A, was hesitant about this plan and cringed at the thought of documenting my each and every financial move.

But as time passed and the balance of our accounts started to grow each month, I realized that tracking every dollar that goes in and out is the key to gaining control of your money.

Initially, we went developed this plan of action to be more conscious about our spending — we didn’t have any specific savings goals in mind. But within two years, we were able to save enough money to purchase our first home.

Here’s how we did it:

(These are example spreadsheets, not our actually monthly totals, to give you an idea of how it should work. I’m not bold enough to show you how much I actually spend on clothing each month.)

Add up your income sources and fixed costs

First, we added up all of our income for each month. For us, income is subject to change frequently, because I freelance on top of my 9-5 job.

Then we factored in all of our monthly costs, like rent, utilities, cable, the car lease, and my train pass. We don’t factor in our 401(k) or HSA accounts into this sheet, because they are taken directly out of our paychecks before they hit our accounts.

We then subtracted the fixed costs from our income to determine our leftover money for each month.


Christine Kopaczewski

Set savings goals

We have leftover money each month after covering our fixed costs, but that doesn’t mean we spend it.

Once we grew accustomed to tracking our expenses each month and realized we had leftover money, we began to set savings goals. We added another column for goals like vacations, buying a house, and a small emergency fund.

We ranked those goals by importance to decide what percentage of leftover money would go toward each.


Christine Kopaczewski

Set your budget amounts

Once we had our fixed costs and savings goals determined, we set up a budget for remaining monthly necessities like groceries, a weekly date night, and a clothing budget.

I am an admitted shopaholic, so a shopping budget was something very important to me. I enjoy spending my extra money on clothing and shoes, while my husband likes craft beer.

Whatever your passions or hobbies are, don’t be embarrassed or ashamed to set money aside for them. This will be crucial in making you feel like you’re being responsible and productive rather than boring and like you’re just buckling down to stay afloat.


Christine Kopaczewski

Other factors to consider

Depending on where you are in life, you’ll need to add additional columns. Since I freelance a lot, I have to factor in owing taxes at the end of the year. I added a column to document my jobs and calculated the percentage I would need to take from each freelance check to put away for taxes.

I was so relieved that when it came time to pay taxes, I had more than enough saved to cover what we owed. If you have debt, consider adding columns for each of your credit cards or student loan payments so you can set realistic monthly goals to pay them down. You’ll feel so proud and satisfied to see that number get smaller and smaller each month that passes.


Christine Kopaczewski

Balancing the spreadsheet

Once we had our fixed costs, savings goals, and budget set, we subtracted that number from our monthly income column.

At the end of each month, I adjust our cost amounts to reflect what we actually spent (not just our projections) and then adjust our savings column. If we consistently have a decent chunk of saved money leftover, I increase the amount we contribute to our 401(k)s and HSA accounts. By taking advantage of employment benefits like retirement and healthcare savings, we’ll end up saving a lot more money in the long run.


Christine Kopaczewski

Key points to remember

Saving money is like going on a diet. You can still enjoy everything life has to offer, just in moderation. If you love to go out to dinner, go out to dinner — just don’t do it five times a week. Scale back to one or two nights.

Making small changes now will greatly impact your future. You’ll be able to buy that dream car or house, take the trip of a lifetime, or maybe even make the bold career switch you’ve always wanted to.

Best Windows 10 apps this week

Two-hundred-and-seventy-nine in a series. Welcome to this week’s overview of the best apps, games and extensions released for Windows 10 on the Windows Store in the past seven days.

Microsoft released another potential RTM candidate for the Windows 10 Spring Creators Update recently; the company postponed the launch of the update due to a reliability bug that was discovered before release.

As always, if I’ve missed an app or game that has been released this week that you believe is particularly good, let me know in the comments below or notify me via email.

The following list is a selection of the best deals. Make sure you check out the Store for all offers.

Some apps are discounted for more than one week. Only new apps and games are listed below. Check out the previous post in the series for past offers that may still be valid.

New apps and games

Easy Writer

Easy Writer is a distraction-free writing application for Windows that syncs data with Microsoft Azure automatically.

The app requires that you sign in to a Microsoft account to get started using it. There is a free and a subscription-based version. The core difference between the two is that the free version is limited to three “ideas” that you can work on in the app and it does not support version control.

Ideas may be divided into sections; the easiest way to think about this is that sections are like chapters of a book and ideas the titles.

Money Goal

Money Goal is a savings calculator that you may use to set up goals to save money. All that is required is to set the amount of money you plan to save, the frequency of saving the amount, and the overall time period. The app calculates how much you get out in the end.

You may add multiple saving goals, and add an amount that you have already saved as well.

Penguin Memory

Penguin Memory is a memory game for children that is all about matching penguins to beat the clock in six different levels.

The game comes with two additional memory sets, monsters and fish, but these need to be purchased.

XYZ Anime Player EX

XYZ Anime Player EX is a media player for anime shows and movies. The player ships with support for hundreds of anime, many subbed or dubbed, so that you can start streaming shows right away.

The interface is a bit noisy but you can play anime in fullscreen to limit that.

The player supports a watchlist to add anime to, reviews and ratings, and more.

Notable Updates

Microsoft Photos update introduces Timeline slider.

Netflix update introduces picture in picture support.

Would you try any of these money-saving ideas?

PUBLISHED: 18:03 21 April 2018

As more of us feel the cost of living squeeze we're coming up with increasingly inventive ways to save money, a Carphone Warehouse survey reveals.Photo: Thinkstock.

As more of us feel the cost of living squeeze we’re coming up with increasingly inventive ways to save money, a Carphone Warehouse survey reveals. Photo: Thinkstock.

Archant

I’ve been attempting to live more thriftily for a few years now, both to cut costs and tread a little more lightly on the Earth. In that time I’ve embraced charity shop buying, no spend days, growing my own, making newspaper ‘brickettes’, mending, sewing, reusing, recycling, voucher offers, shopping around and not shopping at all.

It can be an exhausting business. So when others have good ideas that I haven’t thought of myself, I view it as a bonus.

And with more and more people feeling the cost of living squeeze it seems we are getting increasingly inventive when it comes to being thrifty.

A new survey of 5,000 people by Carphone Warehouse reveals more about the lengths people will go to in order to save money. Some, such as taking your own bags to the supermarket (is there anyone who doesn’t?), are fairly standard but others are more unusual. Here’s a selection of some of the ones that caught my attention because I might want to try them – or because I definitely don’t. I’ll leave you to work out which is which…

1. Save water by not flushing the toilet every time (25% of people surveyed said they did this, although it may be one to check with your family or house-mates before adopting).

2. Become your own hairdresser to give yourself a DIY haircut (23%).

3. Drink only tap water when eating out (20%).

4. Charge your phone or laptop at work (20% did this, but be careful, it could land you in trouble with the boss).

5. Share bath water (13%).

6. Stockpile free condiments from restaurants (11%). I’ve also done this with freebie soaps/shower gels in hotels.

7. Brew your own beer or wine (7%).

8. Water down drinks such as juice or milk (7%).

9. Ask shop assistants for discounts on damaged goods (4%). Good negotiation skills can go a long way when it comes to saving money.

10. Watch TV with the lights off (2%).

Have you got any others to add to the list? Email sheena.grant@archant.co.uk.