Money Minute: Penney Dealt Blow in Legal Battle With Macy's

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Struggling retailer J.C. Penney gets hit with another blow, this time for its relationship with Martha Stewart.

In an ongoing legal battle between three retail giants the New York Supreme Court has ruled that J.C. Penney (JCP) "interfered" with a contract struck between Macy's (M) and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSO) in 2006.

Macy's claims it had signed an exclusive deal then to carry Stewart's branded products but in 2011 Stewart struck a deal with Penney. Macy's sued both parties and settled with Stewart but not Penney. Monetary penalties will be decided later on and Penney is considering appealing. The wardrobe drama continues.

%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%If you've ever thought of speaking out about malfeasance at your firm but were afraid of being demoted here's a bit of encouragement. The Securities and Exchange Commission has just fined hedge fund Paradigm Capital Management $2.2 million for punishing a whistle-blower who filed a complain with the SEC. It's the first time an investment firm has been punished by the SEC for punishing those with the guts to speak up.

From a PR perspective BP (BP) may be on the path to recovery. The energy giant has just been awarded its first Pentagon contract since it was barred from doing business with the U.S. government following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. The $43 million natural gas deal comes after BP agreed to improve its safety record, operations, corporate governance and ethics.

Here on Wall Street on Monday, the Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) rose 5 points, while the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) gained 10 and the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) rose 1 point.

Finally, if the Ford Escape is your favorite vehicle you have something in common with car thieves. According to a new study by the National Insurance Crime Bureau it is the most favored SUV among auto thieves. From 2010 through 2013, 1,421 Ford Escapes were stolen. The other top favorites are also Ford (F) models: the Edge and the Explorer. The states most vulnerable to SUV thefts are California, followed by Florida, Michigan, Texas and New York.

-Produced by Karina Huber.

How to Talk Money With Your Honey, in 4 Easy Steps
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Money Minute: Penney Dealt Blow in Legal Battle With Macy's

A money date is a time when the two of you get together for an hour or two to review your finances and have an open and honest conversation and what's transpired during the month in terms of spending, savings and goal progress. In many couples, one person takes responsibility for paying the bills. In others,  finances are managed separately, with joint expenses divided 50/50. Or perhaps one of a host of other methods for managing the money may work in your relationship.

No matter what your situation is, make sure the two of you are chatting about the details at least monthly. Put your money dates in on the calendar for the first of each month, the last Thursday or whatever works for you –- just be sure to set it as a recurring meeting. And take it seriously. Open communication is key.

Your money dates should follow the same format each time with an option at the end to bring up any issues or concerns. Before your first money date, spend time separately reflecting on the goals that are most important to you as an individual, as well as for your household, and then come together to review and prioritize as a couple. Initially, you'll also want to spend time reviewing where you stand on spending, savings, and debt. You'll almost certainly want to map out a plan to cut expenses, increase savings or put more toward paying down debts in the future.

When prioritizing savings goals, it's best to turn future expenses for travel and vacations into monthly savings amounts to better track your progress and ease cash flow strain.

Your agenda should include the following points:

  • Review monthly expenses. Which categories are you above and under on?
  • Track Savings. How much have you added to your net worth in the past the month?
  • Review progress on paying down debt. Did you add to balances, pay down debt, or stay even for the month?
  • Track goals. How much do you have left to save to meet your goals for emergency savings, retirement, travel and other priorities?
  • Make adjustments. Where do you need to change to stay on track?
  • Celebrate wins.
As you would with any other meeting, take time to prepare on your own before coming to the table for a conversation. Review the agenda, jot down any issues or concerns you have and -- ultimately –- just breathe. Talking about money can bring up a lot of issues and anxieties in all of us. If something occurred during the month that you're not proud of, reflect on it. What led to the slip-up? Could it have been prevented? What steps can you take to better control things next time? If there's an emotional element to some of your spending patterns, talk about those with your partner as well.
The time is here to meet. Following through is the only thing that is going to get you comfortable with these talks and keep you in the habit of having them. Make them fun by including a glass of wine (but not too much) or some food as you crunch numbers. Set small incentives to reward yourselves for reaching goals. And finally, remember that you're a team -– there's no reason for either of you to be trying to handle the fiscal burdens alone.
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