Do you remember the controversy a few years ago over the ground beef additive known as "pink slime?" Well, it's back. Just in time for the summer barbecue season, beef prices are soaring and that's prompted two producers to bring back the controversial ingredient.
Now, it's important to note that there's nothing wrong or unsafe about this ingredient, made from fat trimmings from cuts like sirloins. Big globs of the stuff are treated with ammonia and then mixed in with ground beef. But it created a big 'yuck factor' in 2012 following a lot of negative publicity. Most of the factories that made the stuff closed down, but now -- with beef prices at record highs -- the Wall Street Journal reports that several have reopened.
Pfizer (PFE) has walked away from its $119 billion offer to take over British rival AstraZeneca (AZN) -- a deal that became a political hot potato on both sides of the Atlantic. Part of Pfizer's motivation for the bid was to move its headquarters to Great Britain to avoid the much higher corporate tax rate in the U.S.
Many insurance companies took a cautious approach when the Affordable Care Act was launched last year. But several big insurers are likely to expand their offerings to new states when sign-ups for 2015 begin this fall. The New York Times says UnitedHealth (UNH), Cigna (CI) and some Blue Cross plans expect to increase their participation in federal and some state-sponsored plans. Some experts forecast Obamacare enrollment will increase to about 13 million next year from more than 8 million this year.
Here on Wall Street last week, the Dow Industrials (^DJI) gained nearly 1 percent, the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) rose more than one percent, and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) jumped more than 2 percent. All three are now in the plus column for the year, and the S&P 500 closed on Friday above the 1,900 level for the first time. The index reached the 1,800 level just six months ago. Last year the S&P topped three different century marks, but before that you have to go back to March of 2000, when it crossed the 1,500 level.
-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg.
10 Easy Ways to Pay Off Debt
Money Minute: Pink Slime Is Back; Pfizer's AstraZeneca Bid Is Gone
"Your daily habits and routines are the reason you got into this mess," writes Trent Hamm, founder of TheSimpleDollar.com. "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 Mint.com, 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 Mint.com 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.