Wall Street This Week: Forecasts by Microsoft, Ford on Deck

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From a leading automaker that's been having trouble getting its engine going again to the world's largest software company hoping to prove that it's no slouch in the booming world of cloud computing, here are some of the things that will help shape the week ahead on Wall Street.

Monday -- Every Cloud Has a Silver Connection

Microsoft (MSFT) was late to the mobile computing and cloud computing revolutions, but it's trying to make up for lost time. It will host a media event on Monday in San Francisco to show off its latest developments and recent acquisitions. "Join us to hear what's ahead for Microsoft's Cloud," reads the software giant's media invitation.

Microsoft has been busy trying to wow the media lately. It recently gave the public a sneak peek at the upcoming Windows 10 platform. Now it's hoping to get the market excited about what's possible with Microsoft's Web-based solutions.

Tuesday -- Robots on Parade

When it comes to robotics, iRobot (IRBT) has a diverse product line. This is the company behind the Roomba, the cute programmable orbs that go around floors vacuuming up dirt. It's also the company behind the PackBot military robots in active duty in combat zones to keep soldiers and civilians out of harm's way by disarming roadside explosives and performing basic surveillance.

It reports quarterly results on Tuesday afternoon. There are some amazing things being done in the field of robotics, but don't worry: Humans are still programming them.

Wednesday -- Angie's List's Buyout Rumors

Angie's List (ANGI) took off earlier this month after an analyst at Wunderlich Securities suggested that it was a potential buyout candidate. As a premium referral service for local providers, the company charges members for access to vetted reviews. The problem is that there are way too many free sources these days for crowdsourcing reviews.

Angie's List has struggled with profitability since going public three years ago as it invests in growing and promoting its site. It will get an opportunity to address buyout chatter and win back the market when it reports quarterly results on Wednesday. Analysts see a narrowing deficit on a 25 percent year-over-year uptick in revenue.

Thursday -- Mutual Interest

A couple of mutual fund companies will be stepping up with fresh financials on Thursday. Janus (JNS) and T. Rowe Price (TROW) are two of the leading fund families in the no-load realm of mutual funds.

Janus made waves recently when it hired Bill Gross, the legendary income fund manager, away from Pimco. Janus and T. Rowe Price are both expected to post modest growth in revenue, with earnings climbing slightly higher.

Friday -- Test-Driving the Automotive Industry

Fridays are usually quiet on the financial news front, but that's not the case during earnings season. Ford (F) will be a name to watch when it reports on Friday morning.

The automaker giant has hit a few potholes lately. The stock hit a new 52-week low last week despite an improving global marketplace for its cars and light trucks. The rub for Ford is that margins have been contracting as sales have stalled this year. Analysts see a sharp drop in profitability when it reports on a slight decline in sales. This brings new meaning to the "Ford Tough" marketing slogan.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Ford. The Motley Fool recommends Ford and iRobot and owns shares of Ford and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Check out our free report on the Apple Watch to learn where the real money is to be made for early investors.

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Wall Street This Week: Forecasts by Microsoft, Ford on Deck

Managed to get that raise or promotion? Fantastic -- now don't go out there and spend it all immediately. In classic "keeping up with the Joneses" fashion, too many of us see an increase in salary or a sudden windfall (like an inheritance) as an excuse to take our lifestyle up a notch. We buy bigger houses than we need, get the latest gadgets even though ours work just fine,and spring for fancy steak dinners just because we can.

​Instead, whenever your financial situation gets a boost, consider the best ways to put that money to work for you. The truly wealthy are those whose money continues to grow and earn them more, even when they're not actively doing anything with it.

The average American household that carries credit card debt holds a balance of around $15,000. If you're among those who have a credit card balance, you've probably seen the little chart on your monthly statement telling you how much you'll pay in interest over the next several years if you make only the minimum payment. (If you haven't, look at it.) The same chart will also compare that to a "suggested" payment that's slightly higher. 

​Our recommendation? Throw everything you can at paying your balances off as fast as possible. And make sure not to take on any additional debt in the future; if you can't pay for a consumer good out of pocket, don't finance it.
 
We don't demonize student loan debt the way we do credit card debt because we see an education as an investment -- and higher education often is the difference between one income bracket and another. Similarly, many people justify taking out a car loan by stating that they need a car to get to work.

​That said, debt is still debt, and the longer you take to pay it off, the more interest you'll pay. Once you've freed yourself of credit card debt, paying down your car and student loan balances should be next on your list.

Whether it's to handle an unexpected car repair, a sudden illness or a major plumbing problem, you should always have some money set aside to cover unforeseen expenses. Set up a regular monthly transfer from your checking to your savings account to earmark this money before you're tempted to touch it. If necessary, cut back in another budget category (like eating out or entertainment) to free up the funds to save more.

​Putting aside a little each month could prevent you from getting socked with a hefty bill you can't afford and then need to finance.

No matter your age, you should be adding to your retirement funds -- such as your 401(k) or individual retirement account -- each month. Just setting aside money sporadically won't cut it; you need to identify how much you'll need to live on once you stop working and monitor whether you're on track to reach that amount.

​Here's a quick-and-dirty rule of thumb: multiply your annual spending by 25. This is the amount you'll need in your retirement portfolio, if you assume that you'll withdraw 4 percent per year to live on during your retirement. In other words, you'd need $1 million in your portfolio to live on $40,000 annually. Creating a plan will help you make sure you're able to retire the way you envision.
A home is a big investment, and sometimes that investment doesn't wind up netting you the return you thought it would.

The biggest culprit is having too large a balance on your mortgage, which detracts from your own personal stake in the current market value for your home. The sooner you pay this amount down, the better your home equity will be.

​You also want to be careful when purchasing a new home. Buying in a neighborhood that's on the downward spiral or buying the most expensive home on the block, likely won't net you a good return when it's time to sell. Also take care to stay away from custom renovations (like turning the garage into a recreation room), which could negatively affect your resale value. 

Paying high investment fees eats away at your gains. And since your gains compound over time, this creates a domino effect that can really chip away at your wealth. Take a close look at your investment companies' fees and shop around to make sure they're not taking more of your money than they need to be.

If you don't have a long-term investment vision and are simply playing the market, you could seriously undermine your wealth-building potential. Stop paying attention to market fluctuations, media pundits and the stories of your friends and family. Instead, create your own long-term investment strategy that will maximize your overall returns. Resist the urge it play it ultra-conservative (or fall for get-rich-quick schemes) and educate yourself on the best way to make your dollars work for you.

​If you're having trouble making sense of your options or want a second opinion, seek the help of a trusted financial adviser.
Based on your experience and seniority level, education and industry, you should have a fairly good idea how much you ought to be making at your job. If you don't, check out a site like PayScale to get a ballpark figure.

If you're not making what you're worth, you're doing more than leaving money on the table; you're also losing all the compound growth and investment returns that money could be generating for you. Invest in yourself with professional development and continuing education, make the case for that raise or promotion, or seek out a company who will value you higher.

If you don't have proper insurance coverage, you're taking a very big risk that could come back to bite you. Too many people think the worst can't happen to them, but the hard truth is you can't predict the future, and scrimping on sufficient insurance is never a good idea.

Of all the things we're hesitate to part with our money for, adequate insurance coverage should not be one of them. No matter your age, everyone should be properly covered with:

  • Health insurance.
  • Disability insurance.
  • Homeowner's or renter's insurance.
  • Flood insurance (if you live in a flood-prone area).
  • Umbrella liability insurance (especially if you own a small business).

If a spouse or children relies on you for support, make sure you have a decent term life insurance policy, as well.

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