Money Minute: Workers' Wages Inch Up; Netflix Raises Rates

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Most workers should expect just a small increase in pay this year.

After adjusting for inflation, most employers expect to give pay hikes of zero to three percent. The good news is: that's actually better than we've seen in recent years. Inflation-adjusted pay actually fell slightly over the past three years. The outlook for hiring is slightly improved, too. The survey by the National Assocation of Business Economics shows 40 percent of employers plan to increase hiring this year.

Netflix (NFLX) is raising prices over the next month or two. It says the monthly cost of its streaming service will go up by $1 or $2, but only for new subscribers. The rate for existing subscribers will hold steady. (AMZN) recently raised the price for its streaming service by $20 a year to $99, but the company's Prime service also includes free two-day shipping for most Amazon purchases. You might recall, the last time Netflix tried to impose a price hike, there was a mini-rebellion, and the company quickly rescinded the increase.

%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%The United Auto Workers unions has decided not to challenge the vote against unionizing a Volkswagen plant in Tennessee. The union dropped its appeal just before a National Labor Relations Bureau hearing Monday to review the vote by workers there back in February. They had voted down a union by a narrow margin, but the UAW alleged the vote was unfairly influenced by comments from the state's governor and one of its senators.

Here on Wall Street on Monday, the Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) gained 40 points, the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) rose 26, and the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) added 7 points. The S&P is now riding a five session winning streak, its best since last October.

Finally, a book on the rising problems created by income inequality by a French economist tops Amazon's best-seller list. The book by Thomas Piketty, "Capital in the Twenty-First Century," has sold out. In fact, it has sold more copies than any other book in the 101-year history of Harvard University Press.

-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg.

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Money Minute: Workers' Wages Inch Up; Netflix Raises Rates
"Your daily habits and routines are the reason you got into this mess," writes Trent Hamm, founder of "Spend some time thinking about how you spend money each day, each week and each month." Do you really need your daily latte? Can you bring your lunch to work instead of buying it four times a week? Ask yourself: What can I change without sacrificing my lifestyle too much? 
Remove all credit cards from your wallet and leave them at home when you go shopping, advises WiseBread contributor Sabah Karimi. “Even if you earn cash back or other rewards with credit card purchases, stop spending with your credit cards until you have your finances under control,” she writes.
If you do a lot of online shopping at one retailer, you may have stored your credit card information on the site to make the checkout process easier. But that also makes it easier to charge items you don't need. So clear that information. "If you’re paying for a recurring service, use a debit card issued from a major credit card service linked to your checking account," Hamm writes.  
Reward yourself when you reach debt payoff goals. "The only way to completely pay off your credit card debt is to keep at it, and to do that, you must keep yourself motivated," Bakke writes. Just make sure to reward yourself within reason. For example, instead of a weeklong vacation, plan a weekend camping trip. "If you aim to reduce your credit card debt from $10,000 to $5,000 in two months," Bakke writes, "give yourself more than a pat on the back." 
“Establish a budget,” writes Money Crashers contributor David Bakke. “If you don't scale back your spending, you'll dig yourself into a deeper hole." You can use personal finance tools like, or make your own Excel spreadsheet that includes your monthly income and expenses. Then scrutinize those budget categories to see where you can cut costs.    
Sort your credit card interest rates from highest to lowest, then tackle the card with the highest rate first. "By paying off the balance with the highest interest first, you increase your payment on the credit card with the highest annual percentage rate while continuing to make the minimum payment on the rest of your credit cards," writes spokeswoman Hitha Prabhakar.
To make a dent in your debt, you need to pay more than the minimum balance on your credit card statements each month. "Paying the minimum -– usually 2 to 3 percent of the outstanding balance -– only prolongs a debt payoff strategy," Prabhakar writes. "Strengthen your commitment to pay everything off by making weekly, instead of monthly, payments." Or if your minimum payment is $100, try doubling it and paying off $200 or more. 
If you have a high-interest card with a balance that you’re confident you can pay off in a few months, Hamm recommends moving the debt to a card that offers a zero-interest balance transfer. "You’ll need to pay off the debt before the balance transfer expires, or else you’re often hit with a much higher interest rate," he warns. "If you do it carefully, you can save hundreds on interest this way."
Have any birthday gifts or old wedding presents collecting dust in your closet? Look for items you can sell on eBay or Craigslist. "Do some research to make sure you list these items at a fair and reasonable price," Karimi writes. “Take quality photos, and write an attention-grabbing headline and description to sell the item as quickly as possible." Any profits from sales should go toward your debt. 
If you receive a job bonus around the holidays or during the year, allocate that money toward your debt payoff plan. "Avoid the temptation to spend that bonus on a vacation or other luxury purchase," Karimi writes. It’s more important to fix your financial situation than own the latest designer bag.

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