Money Minute: U.S. Set to Lift Disco-Era Oil-Export Ban

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After a 40-year ban, a few companies have been given the green light to export unrefined oil, which could lead to higher gas prices in the U.S.

Two Texas energy companies: Pioneer Natural Resources (PXD) and Enterprise Products Partners (EPD) have reportedly just been told they can export an ultra-light oil that has become abundant thanks to the shale oil boom. For four decades there was a ban on exporting that kind of oil.

The Commerce Department says energy companies have improved their processing of the oil that now qualifies it for export. Experts say this could lead to a big chunk of the 3 million barrels a day of oil pumped from shale being exported and that could lead to higher gas prices here in the U.S.

%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%Walgreen (WAG) is the latest U.S. company trying to dodge paying U.S. taxes by buying a foreign company and relocating its headquarters abroad where the taxes are lower. Under pressure from shareholders to boost profitability, the drug store chain is considering buying the remaining 55 percent of Alliance Boots it doesn't already own and moving its headquarters to Switzerland. Doing so-called "inversions" has been a hot tactic among the pharmaceutical industry but it is unusual for a U.S. based retailer to ponder moving abroad.

Here on Wall Street on Tuesday stocks took a breather with the Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) falling 119 points, the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) losing 18 points and the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) down 12 points.

Bernard Madoff's accountant is headed for prison. Paul Konigsberg who provided tax and accounting services to Madoff for about two decades pleaded guilty to cooking the books and falsifying records. He also faces a minimum fine of $4.4 million to help compensate the victims of the Ponzi scheme. That's just a drop in the bucket when you consider victims were swindled out of billions of dollars. Konigsberg faces sentencing on Sept. 19.

And finally, Whole Foods Market (WFM), which some people call "whole paycheck" because items there are on the pricier end, is being fined $800 million for overcharging customers in California. Inspectors found that food weighed less than advertised and cashiers included the weight of salad bar containers when weighing salads. Prosecutors said that violates consumer protection laws. All Whole Foods stores in California will now face random audits. Whole Foods says it cooperated with the investigation and said prices were right 98 percent of the time.

-Produced by Karina Huber.

10 Ways to Reduce the Cost of Retirement
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Money Minute: U.S. Set to Lift Disco-Era Oil-Export Ban
Eliminating your mortgage is one of the best ways to make retirement more affordable because it removes a sizable monthly bill. While you'll still have to pay taxes and maintenance costs for your home, those expenses are likely to be a fraction of your mortgage payments.
Once your children are independent, you will likely no longer need a several-bedroom house in a good school district with a large yard that can be expensive to maintain. Consider downsizing to a smaller home in a less-expensive neighborhood, and add the proceeds of the sale to your nest egg.
Where you live plays a big role in how much you pay for food, taxes and a variety of other services. Moving to an area where the cost of living is significantly less could allow you to spend down your retirement savings more slowly.
If you and your spouse commuted to separate places each day, it is likely that you each needed a car. In retirement, you might be able to get by with one car, thus eliminating the insurance, gas and maintenance costs of the second vehicle. In walkable communities with good public transportation, you may even be able to get by without a car in retirement.
In retirement, income tax will be due on withdrawals from traditional 401(k) and individual retirement accounts, but you can space out your withdrawals to avoid a hefty tax bill in a single year. Prepaying income tax on some of your retirement savings using a Roth IRA or Roth 401(k) allows you to avoid a big tax bill in retirement.
Investing in high-cost funds reduces your return. Minimizing investment costs is especially important for retirees who are living off income from their portfolio. In this case, selecting the lowest-cost funds that meet your investment needs translates to more money in your pocket.
There are significant penalties if you withdraw money from your retirement account too soon or too late. There is also a reduction in benefits if you sign up for Social Security early, and a late enrollment penalty if you delay signing up for Medicare Parts B and D. Pay attention to important retirement deadlines to avoid paying more than you need to.
Health care is likely to be one of the biggest and least predictable costs you will face in retirement. But there are some things you can do to control your health costs. Consider purchasing a supplemental policy to Medicare to fill in some of the gaps and cost-sharing requirements traditional Medicare doesn't cover. Also, shop for a new Medicare Part D plan every year to make sure you are getting coverage for your medications at the best price.
Retirees have the luxury of being able to travel whenever they want. Traveling is often less expensive if you avoid major holidays and school breaks, and most tourist destinations will also be less crowded.
One of the major perks of growing older is getting discounts at movies, museums and restaurants. While some senior discounts are well-publicized and open to everyone old enough to have an AARP card, others are available only to those who ask. A little research can add up to big savings if you’re willing to admit your age.
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