Top Accounting Colleges and Universities Wed, 06 Dec 2017 02:12:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 8 Initiatives That Need More Tax Dollars Mon, 21 Jan 2013 11:30:20 +0000 Here are eight initiatives that we were surprised to learn don't get more love from lawmakers when it comes time to write checks with American tax dollars.

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With the start of each new year, American workers begin eyeing the calendar to determine when they can stop working for the government’s cut in taxes and start working for themselves. Lucky us, this year we’ve got Taxmageddon to enjoy, which probably means more people you know angrily wondering aloud where all that money goes. That info is fairly well-publicized, but what about the stuff that doesn’t get much of the pie? Here are eight areas that we were surprised to learn don’t get more love from lawmakers when it comes time to write some checks.

  1. Infrastructure:

    In February 2012, long before the average American had been choked on fiscal cliff news, President Obama proposed $476 billion over the next six years for bridges, highways, and mass transit. Instead, the eleventh-hour budget deal ultimately did little more than kick the can down the road. That’s a real shame, because as people who’ve been watching their bridges collapse know, the U.S. needs infrastructure spending, and fast. While certain parties in Washington push for even more cuts, spending is expected to fall behind by nearly $140 billion in the next 10 years, which ironically is very close to the amount that would be needed to add 3.5 million jobs to the economy.

  2. Disaster relief:

    As you know if you followed along with the Hurricane Sandy story (or worse, were waiting on the money), government disaster relief can be shockingly difficult to come by. Federal aid after a natural crisis is anything but guaranteed. Just ask Floridians after Tropical Storm Isaac, or Illinoisans (are we saying that right?) after the March 2012 tornadoes, or Oklahomans after the tornadoes a month later. It took weeks of wrangling and public outcry before Congress finally agreed to give Northeasterners shaken up by Sandy $50 billion in aid.

  3. Police in schools:

    In the light of recent tragic events, you may be wondering why tax revenue is not being spent to put armed guards in schools to protect the kids. Well, hold that thought, because they may be on the way. President Obama has recently voiced support for federal funding of such police, which he calls "school resource officers," and Vice President Joe Biden has been working on the gritty details of getting a plan of action in place. Of course, it’s a controversial plan that not just everybody is OK with. The National Parent Teacher Organization called the president’s stance "disappointing" and others say there is no correlation between police in schools and student safety.

  4. Border security:

    Although it often gets tied up in the immigration reform debate, border security is its own important subject. Whether it’s the Mexican border or the Canadian, knowing who and what comes and goes to and from our country is a vital part of national security. So you wouldn’t be blamed for wondering why 76% more of your tax dollars have been spent on foreign aid than on customs and border security from 2008-2011. We sent $20.599 billion outside the U.S. in 2011, while only $11.698 billion went to border protection. The former escaped the budget cuts many departments saw and should continue to account for about a percent of the federal budget.

  5. Debt relief for Americans:

    As a taxpayer, it might interest you to know that Uncle Sam still owes you $200 billion on that bailout you so generously offered to Wall Street banks. Even years later, most of us are still wondering why the feds didn’t just give that money straight to the Americans swimming in debt who needed it. In a recent book, economist Paul Krugman urged Washington to do just that: spend tax dollars on debt relief. Instead, they’re pushing the other way, toward austerity, having set up what Stone writer Matt Taibbi calls "an ungovernable, unregulatable, hyperconcentrated new financial system that exacerbates the greed and inequality that caused the crash."

  6. Army equipment that works:

    It costs somewhere between $850,000 and $1.4 million a year to post one soldier in Afghanistan. One. Makes it easy to see how military and defense can account for 20% of the federal budget. But for all that spending, puzzling stories routinely pop up that make taxpayers wonder if those dollars couldn’t be better allocated elsewhere. Like when the Pentagon turns down the cheaper, better anti-IED systems the troops prefer for costlier (crummier) versions. Or when the Army invests $5 billion in uniforms that "only work in gravel pits." Or when the Afghanistan army — the guys we spent $20 billion on in just 2010-2011 for training and equipment they’ll have to have to maintain order when our troops leave — says their guns are old, their cars are weak, and their boots are falling apart.

  7. Anti-smoking programs:

    As crazy as it may sound, given what we’ve known about the dangers of smoking for a good 40 years or so, many Americans still enjoy a good cigarette or 30 every day. States are on track to bring in a record $25.7 billion in tobacco taxes and settlement money this year, but they’re only slated to spend about $460 million on tobacco awareness — less than 2% of that figure. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however, has launched its first ever ad campaign to combat the slowed decline of smoking rates, and is not impressed with the 50 union members’ efforts. Only two states, North Dakota and Alaska, fund prevention programs at the rate recommended by the CDC, and only three more fund to at least 50% of the suggested level.

  8. PBS:

    To hear Mitt Romney tell it, the folks at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting are sipping Cristal and lighting cigars with flaming Benjamins. The reality is, yes, PBS does get federal funding, but it’s .01% of the entire federal budget, or $1.35 per American. Why does Romney think they’re always doing those fundraisers where you can get a tote bag for $150? PBS and radio station NPR are set to receive $445 million of your tax dollars over the next two years, an amount the government can spend before you’ve had your morning coffee. Smothering Big Bird isn’t going to do much for the trillion-dollar deficit.

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How Native Americans Just Made $3.4 Billion off a Giant U.S. Accounting Oversight Wed, 09 Jan 2013 00:33:47 +0000 After 16 years of contentious litigation, 350,000 Native Americans can finally expect a check in the mail from the United States government. In the landmark case ofCobell vs. Salazar, the largest and most complicated class action lawsuit against the United States, Native Americans claimed the government mismanaged federal land held in trust by the Departments […]

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After 16 years of contentious litigation, 350,000 Native Americans can finally expect a check in the mail from the United States government. In the landmark case ofCobell vs. Salazar, the largest and most complicated class action lawsuit against the United States, Native Americans claimed the government mismanaged federal land held in trust by the Departments of Interior and Treasury. Native Americans in the case also claimed that they were not paid royalties made off the land by the government for more than a century.

While the $3.4 billion settlement awarded to the Native Americans is the first step toward fixing a troubled past between tribes and government, many tribal members feel this decision amounts to just a fraction of what they are actually owed.

The Charge

In 1887, in an effort to assimilate Native Americans into government-run society, land was divided up for Native Americans to use for farming and grazing purposes. Possibly intended as an act of goodwill, the decision known as theDawes Actundermined Native American culture in many ways, including taking away much of their land use and hunting rights. One provision of the Dawes Act was the establishment of a trust to collect and distribute funds made off of government lease of Native American land for uses including farming, grazing, timber-cutting and mining.

Native Americans in the class action contend that billions of dollars are owed to them since the establishment of the Dawes Act. Unfortunately, due to centuries of mismanaged land trusts, inadequate bookkeeping, siphoned budgets and even theft, the exact sum is unknown.

The Plaintiffs

Elouise Cobellwas the treasurer for the Blackfeet Tribe, founder of Blackfeet National Bank, and an activist for environmental and agricultural issues. She originally brought the case against the government in 1996 after uncovering inconsistencies in the management of land trust funds and the distribution of tribal dividends.

Tired of watching tribal members suffer poor health and poverty while their government royalty checks went unpaid, Cobell decided to take action. Her efforts led to the creation of one of the largest class action lawsuits in U.S. history. Cobell and her attorneys Dennis Gingold, Thaddeus Holt, Keith Harper and John Echohawk demanded that tribe members be remunerated for the estimated $100 billion the U.S. government owed.

The Verdict

During the course of litigation, the lawsuit went before a federal appeals court 10 times. On December 8, 2009 Congress finally approved a settlement in which the government would pay $1.4 billion to individual beneficiaries and $2 billion to buy pieces “fractionalized” land interests at fair market prices. Fractionalized land interests occur when Native Americans die and their land interests are divided up equally among their heirs. Over the course of multiple generations, this has resulted in pieces of property valued at a few cents. This part of the settlement will allow Native Americans to cull together larger, more valuable parcels of land to divide how they see fit.

In aninterviewwith National Public Radio (NPR) in 2011, it was clear that Cobell did not think the trial would come to a conclusion in her lifetime and saw the settlement as merely a resolution to the drawn out litigation. She added that she did not feel that Native Americans were awarded the amount they deserved.

“We are compelled to settle by the sobering realization that our class grows smaller each day as our elders die and are forever prevented from receiving just compensation,” she said.

In 2011, Corbell passed away in Great Falls, Montana after battling cancer.

Strengthening Relations Between Nations

Reservation life remains difficult even today. As another harsh winter closes in on impoverished Native Americans residing on government-allocated land, the initial $1,000 check they expect to receive will barely cover their basic needs.

"We’ve had 200-plus years of federal laws, statutes and regulations governing many aspects of how Indians govern their own lives," Donald Laverdure, assisting secretary with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, told NPR in aninterview. Laverdure applauded the reforms to come out of the settlement but also acknowledged the long road ahead.

There is no sum of money that could make up for the history of abuse and manipulation of Native Americans by the government, but the settlement of Corbell vs. Salazar marks the first step in attesting to the past and strengthening the future.

“With the settlement now final, we can put years of discord behind us and start a new chapter in our nation-to-nation relationship,” said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in apress release.

Related Links

Visit these websites for more information on Native American activism and advocacy:

  • United States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs
  • Friends Committee on National Legislation
  • American Indian Movement
  • National Congress of American Indians
  • National Indian Justice Center
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      ]]> 0 Defending Charitable Deductions: 10 Unlikely Partnerships We’d Love to See Tue, 08 Jan 2013 11:30:25 +0000 We'd love to see these organizations team up to fight for charitable deductions. Whether it's possible is yet to be seen.

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      The "fiscal cliff" debate may be resolved, but it’s just a temporary fix. The future of budget policy is an open question. Democrats point out that spending cuts alone will never close the deficit or pay the debt, while Republicans generally admit the need for more revenue yet always balk at increasing the nominal rates. So what solution remains? Tax reform, which both parties have hinted they’d like to achieve. During the presidential campaign, for instance, Mitt Romney’s official stance was to lower rates while "closing the loopholes."

      Though he never specified which loopholes he might eliminate, one of the write-offs that people take advantage of the most is the charitable deduction. $38.2 billion was deducted for contributions to charitable organizations last year. Americans are a giving people, even when they’re not trying to dodge taxes, and it makes sense that we would incentivize charity. Still, the debt is a problem and the money has to come from somewhere. But if this deduction is threatened, look for an unprecedented outpouring of outrage from a vast variety of groups. Here are just a few of the strange bedfellows who benefit from the status quo and would fight tooth and nail if it’s threatened:

      1. The Roman Catholic Church and Planned Parenthood

        Beginning our list are two of the nation’s most popular and lucrative charities, sworn enemies since the latter’s founding by Margaret Sanger in the early 20th century. The most intense flashpoint has been abortion, of course, but even Planned Parenthood’s broader mission of providing contraception is anathema to the Church. Still, they represent two of the largest recipients of charity dollars in the country, and you can count on both to go ballistic if those revenue streams are threatened.

      2. The National Football League and the American Ballet Theatre

        Yes, the NFL is a nonprofit, though not a charity: it’s classified as a 501(c)6, rather than a 3, but this commercial powerhouse is tax-exempt nonetheless. So they won’t have to worry about a decline in subscribers, but they’d hate to start having to pay taxes. The, um, more delicate sport of ballet does depend on the goodwill of donors rather than printing money through broadcast deals and licensing (not many ballet Fatheads or jerseys being sold). But with all the nonprofit involvement in athletics at every level, expect the fierce opposition to tax reform to look a little something like this.

      3. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the National Rifle Association

        PETA is a 501(c)3 devoted to animal rights, while the lately controversial NRA is designated as both a 501(c)3 and a 501(c)4, enabling it to both participate in political campaigning and raise money as a charity. As they’re both on the hunt for tax-free donations, look for these natural enemies to make common cause. The lion may not exactly lie down with the lamb, but lobbyists for both predators and prey are sure to rear their heads.

      4. The Association on American Indian Affairs and the Professional Cowboy Association

        The great "horse operas" of the American mythology known as the Western have always pitched the cowboys against the Indians. But these two nonprofits will circle the wagons if their tax exemptions are called into question. One seeks to sustain an occupation and lifestyle, the other the welfare of an entire people. They demonstrate, to different extents, the fact that America counts on charitable giving to preserve much of what we value.

      5. Focus on the Family and the American Civil Liberties Union

        James Dobson’s socially conservative advocacy group doesn’t think Americans should be allowed to gamble, look at porn, have abortions, have various kinds of sex, or wed someone of the same gender. The ACLU thinks Americans should be free to do pretty much whatever they please. Talk about an odd couple. Can this marriage last? Doubtful. But look for them to be (closeted) partners in fighting any attempt to limit the deductibility of charitable gifts.

      6. The Human Rights Campaign and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

        Speaking of same-sex marriage, California’s Proposition 8 fight pitted gay rights groups against defenders of "traditional" unions. In a pungent historical irony, the most prominent financial powerhouse supporting the ban was the Mormon Church. Though history seems to be breaking in the HRC’s direction, there’s one status quo they’ll want to preserve, along with their opponents: the tax structure that allows them to operate a 501(c)3, 501(c)4, and a political action committee, all ostensibly separate.

      7. Campus Crusade for Christ and the Freedom From Religion Foundation

        Whether you’re tired of being proselytized to, or just tired from proselytizing all day, one thing that puts the fear of God back into you is facing a bevy of new levies from the IRS. Infidels and believers alike can rest easy knowing that their deductions for donating to these groups are likely to remain in place. Here we have a case of the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object, but when it comes to tax avoidance, even the atheists will find themselves on the side of the angels.

      8. The Heritage Foundation and the Center for American Progress

        Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina recently made news by resigning his safe seat in the world’s greatest deliberative body in favor of heading up the Heritage Foundation. Whether that speaks to the sclerosis of the Senate or the power of political machines posing as think tanks (and which of those is worse news), we couldn’t say. But if ever the liberal Center for American Progress can get behind its right-wing counterpart’s anti-tax stand, it’ll be the day that it and its donors are asked to pay the piper.

      9. Forgotten Cats and Dogs Finding Dogs

        One of these charities traps, neuters, and releases feral cats. The other employs the famed olfactory tracking skills of dogs to locate other lost dogs. Normally the furry populations they serve would be fighting like, well, you know. But if Washington ever passes tax reform, the prophecy uttered by Dr. Peter Venkman in Ghostbusters will come to pass: "This city is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions … Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together … mass hysteria!"

      10. The American Heart Association and the Brain Research Foundation

        If Congress did try to abolish tax-free donations, these two medical philanthropies would be in perfect concord. Hearts and minds would be won for the cause of the charitable deduction, whether motivated more by cold deductive logic or charitable big-heartedness. In the end, these exemptions are likely to remain untouched. If they only had the nerve, politicians could patch a big hole in the government’s revenue collection, but they would end up looking pretty brainless and heartless.

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      Accountants in the Big Data Age Better Know Statistics Sat, 05 Jan 2013 00:26:42 +0000 In an age of Big Data, statistical analysis is becoming an increasingly powerful tool for accountants. Taking a course in introductory statistics will help every accountant improve their efficiency and help their clients make better decisions. How Accountants Use Statistics Auditors Accountants who perform audits benefit greatly from understanding and using statistical analysis. For example, […]

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      In an age of Big Data, statistical analysis is becoming an increasingly powerful tool for accountants. Taking a course in introductory statistics will help every accountant improve their efficiency and help their clients make better decisions.

      How Accountants Use Statistics


      Accountants who perform audits benefit greatly from understanding and using statistical analysis. For example, when conducting a reliability assessment, one of the accountant’s first tasks is to gather evidence. Auditors know that the easiest way to do this is by looking at a portion of the whole, rather than gathering every bit of data available. Statistically representative samples are preferred in this area as they help auditors work more efficiently and objectively.

      Benefit Accountants

      Accounting standards are front and center when managers determine retirement and other benefits. Accountants set premium adjustments to account for future risk and account for artificial fluctuations in short-term interest rates using statistical models and methods. Recently, accountants and others with the American Benefits Council used historical statistical data to develop policy recommendations to help control defined benefit plans and promote retirement security.


      Jacks-of-all-trades, controllers typically work for a single company, overseeing all of its finances including cost analyses, budget reports and forecasting, as well as giving financial analysis and advice to the head of the organization. Having a thorough understanding of the statistical principles used in creating analyses and forecasts, controllers ensure that their organization operates profitably and efficiently.


      Accountants use statistics to forecast consumption, earnings, cash flow and book value. Simply put as accounting for the future, forecasting involves an amount of guesswork about the future – and when people guess, they frequently make errors. Having a thorough understanding of the distribution and metrics for evaluating that error, accountants are better able to more efficiently make predictions about the future.

      Forensic Accounting

      The detectives of the accounting world, forensic accountants use accounting and legal principles to ferret out financial fraud and deceit. With today’s incredibly complicated financial instruments like credit default swaps and collateral debt obligations, forensic accountants need to understand how statistical principles were used to value and anticipate risk in those securitization products.

      Mortgage Underwriter

      With foreclosures at near record levels, anticipating and predicting the risks associated with any given loan has never been more important. Mortgage underwriters assess that risk, and, therefore, need to have a thorough understanding of statistics in order to set a premium price that is reasonable for the borrower and profitable for the lender.

      Risk Managers

      Hand in glove with forecasting is risk management. Accountants are frequently required to specify a premium that reflects the risk, or range of error, with any given forecast. Known as the discount rate, accountants often use statistical principles, such as correlation and distribution, to anticipate this risk and account for it when setting a valuation. More recently, accountants are using more sophisticated statistical techniques, such as co-variance and beta models, to limit valuation error.

      Statistical Accounting Resources for Professionals

      Accountants can find the latest research on applied and pure statistical analysis in accounting from Contemporary Accounting Research and the Journal of Financial and Strategic Decisions.The latest statistical data is available from FedStats.

      Statistical Accounting Resources for Students

      Would-be accounting students can get started on their exploration of statistics with these free and open introductory statistics material online:

      Coursera, which offers courses from top universities like Duke, CalTech, Johns Hopkins, Columbia and Princeton, has a variety of statistics courses including Statistics One and Introduction to Computational Finance and Financial Econometrics. A little more complex, the latter course offers students instruction in computing asset returns, covariance, characteristics of distributions, autocorrelation, descriptive statistics, risk budgeting, hypothesis testing and standard errors of estimates.

      The Massachusetts Institute of Technology shares its course materials online at MIT Open Courseware. Among these materials, readers will find the full coursework from MIT’s Introduction to Probability and Statistics course. In addition to text materials, students can download lecture notes and exams. This course covers probability models and distributions, random variables, statistical estimation and testing, confidence intervals and linear regression.

      With Udacity’s Introduction to Statistics, students learn to visualize data relationships, estimate, determine probability, examine distribution including the normal distribution and outliers, hypothesis testing and confidence intervals and linear regression.

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      What America Buys & Sells Thu, 03 Jan 2013 15:16:43 +0000 Discover what the average American is spending his or her hard-earned money on, and what U.S. goods other countries are purchasing from us.

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      12 Real-Life Misers Who Put Scrooge to Shame Fri, 21 Dec 2012 03:38:08 +0000 These real-life misers lacked generosity or were frugal to a fault, making them even Scroogier than Scrooge in our book.

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      Before we get to the hardcore humbug, a few heavy disclaimers are in order. The archetype of the miser is inherently judgmental, a way of shaming something that’s often considered a virtue: thrift. It’s also often ageist, as the penny-pinching rich person is typically an old man (for an early example, see the Roman comedy Aulularia or "Pot of Gold," by Plautus). This makes sense, as frugality often results from painful life experiences of poverty. The miser character has also been inextricably linked to stereotypes about the alleged stinginess of certain ethnic groups, such as Jews and Scots. As impossible as it is to condone these prejudices, it’s just as difficult to separate them from this colorful tradition, whose denunciation of mean-spiritedness can, itself, be mean-spirited.

      There’s the further problem of definition: must a miser be someone lacking in generosity toward others, or simply someone who lives pathologically cheaply compared to their means? We’ve included examples of both, though they carry very different implications. Finally, we’ve avoided some still-living cheapskates since, as they say, you can’t libel the dead. To the heirs of the rest—whether they hit the jackpot or got frozen out completely—we mean no offense. Like Tiny Tim said, "God bless us, every one!"

      1. John Elwes

        Our first miser was the real-life inspiration for Ebenezer Scrooge in that holiday perennial, A Christmas Carol. Though the imagination of Charles Dickens synthesized many inspirations to create the character (including a gravestone he saw in Edinburgh belonging to one Ebenezer Lennox Scroggie), he later admitted to modeling Scrooge on the 18th century Member of Parliament and moneylender John Elwes. Though Scrooge’s physical appearance and concern for personal economy were modeled after Elwes, he was different in many ways. Elwes would do absolutely anything to cut costs in his own life, but was generous enough in lending to friends. He wasn’t parsimonious in a spiteful way, he was more of a paranoid eccentric. One example: he once ate a piece of pancake that he had kept in his coat for two months. There are many more such anecdotes, bizarre and well worth reading.

      2. Ephraim Lópes Pereira d’Aguilar, 2nd Baron d’Aguilar

        We glanced upon the anti-Semitic tinge that’s often implicit in the miser image (even the Scot that inspired Dickens had an unusual Old Testament name), but in real life, this Portuguese Sephardic Jew was famous among his own community for his extraordinary thrift. Born in Vienna in 1739, he lived most of his life in London, selling off his property and holing up at an estate known as "Starvation Farm" (because he would barely feed his cattle), where £200,000 was found hidden in various places after his death.

      3. Morgan "Blewbury" Jones

        This Welsh miser inspired a character mentioned in a different Dickens book, his last one, Our Mutual Friend. A certain Blackberry Jones is held up as an example of stinginess in this novel, which is much concerned with the topic. (Dickens, bleeding heart that he was, had a persistent fascination and horror toward misers.) Jones was a vicar who apparently took his clothes from scarecrows, and visited members of his congregation at mealtimes so they would offer him some free food. However, when he died it was found that he had amassed a large fortune.

      4. Daniel Dancer

        Daniel Dancer, like many compulsive cheapskates, came from a family that put a premium on extreme economy. His grandfather, father, sister, and brothers were all well-known skinflints, but Daniel outdid them all. He refused to change or wash his clothes, or to bathe, lest he be forced to spend money on soap. It is said that he once "found a partly decomposed sheep, which his sister transformed into a two-week supply of meat pies." Dancer was also referenced in Our Mutual Friend, where a character asserts that he "lived and died in the foulest and filthiest degradation."

      5. Homer and Langley Collyer

        The Collyer brothers are often cited not only as misers, but as another type of character that seems to fascinate our present age more: hoarders. Hailing from a wealthy old New York family, they lived together in a brownstone in Harlem, where they allowed telephone service to be cut off in 1917, and then all utilities in 1928. Their reclusive life in the house was broken only by nighttime journeys to collect scraps of junk and food from the garbage. The brothers came to a grisly end when one of the booby traps they had set up to thwart robbers crushed Langley, causing the blind (and thus appropriately named) Homer to die of starvation.

      6. Hetty Green

        Hetty Green was known as "the Witch of Wall Street." This daughter of Quaker whaling magnates inherited $7.5 million in 1864 dollars, a fairly vast sum of money. She turned out to be an investing genius and a groundbreaking woman in American business history. Her fame, however, derived from her extremely modest, even compulsively cheap lifestyle. She wore the same old black dress every day (thus the nickname), refused to use heat or hot water, and reportedly spent an entire night searching for a two-cent stamp. Her desire to avoid medical bills may have cost her son his leg. But by the time she died she was worth around $200 million in 1916 dollars, making her possibly the richest woman in the world.

      7. Wellington R. Burt

        A very different type of stinginess qualifies Wellington R. Burt for our list. This timber baron from Saginaw, Mich., was one of the richest men in America at the turn of the last century. He lived well enough, though not ostentatiously, and was a generous philanthropist in Michigan. Yet what he’s most remembered for is his tight-fistedness toward his own family. After his death in 1919, his will was found to contain smaller annual payments to his children and grandchildren than to his domestic servants. A "spite clause" specified that none of Burt’s descendants could receive the bulk of his fortune until 21 years after the death of his last grandchild. The outraged offspring appealed, but to no avail. The condition was finally fulfilled in 2010. Just last year, more than $100 million was distributed between 12 of Burt’s great-, great-great-, and great-great-great-grandchildren.

      8. John P. Davidson

        This miser was also a miner forty-niner. All the information we have on him is a bit sketchy, but he was apparently a Kentucky-raised Irishman who, after some time spent as captain of a steamer on the Mississippi, made his fortune in the gold rush, and settled in San Francisco. He was a devout Presbyterian who always went to church but never chipped in for the collection. Unlike many of our misers, he really was just plain greedy. He stiffed workers and business partners but was always on the lookout for another moneymaking scheme, including an extended boondoggle involving buying hogs in the South Pacific. Davidson fled to England to evade taxes when the Civil War broke out, but returned afterward and died a rich man in San Francisco.

      9. J. Paul Getty

        Getty, the oil tycoon who was the richest man in the world for a time in the 1950s and 1960s, was hardly a miser in the sense of leading a life of personal deprivation. He lived the jet-set lifestyle of your typical 20th century billionaire, but he was also a serious, shrewd, and hard-working businessman who ended up writing a book called How to be Rich. A couple of anecdotes qualify him as an extreme penny-pincher, however. First, he had a payphone installed in his house for the use of guests. Second, and most notoriously, he refused to pay a ransom when his grandson was kidnapped, even after his ear was sent in the mail. Though Getty’s stated reason (negotiating with terrorists would only encourage these acts in the future) had its logic, he later acceded to the demands — but only if the boy’s father would return the money with interest.

      10. Leona Helmsley

        The prototypical rich witch of the 1980s and 1990s was "The Queen of Mean" herself, hotel and condo maven Leona Helmsley. She became famous for a 1989 conviction on extortion and tax evasion charges, and for her quote, "we don’t pay taxes; only the little people pay taxes." When she died she left $12 million to her Maltese dog, Trouble.

      11. Andrew Carnegie

        But wait, you say: the Carnegie who left so much money that half the nonprofit entities in America still seem to be named after him a century later? Yes, the very one. His story is remarkably similar to Scrooge’s and shows the complicated interplay between thrift and generosity. Carnegie helped build America out of steel, and made himself an entrepreneurial giant, in large part thanks to his legendary Scottish parsimony. However, this tight-fistedness at a time of great social turmoil led to one of the most appalling labor battles in history: the Homestead Strike. Gunfire, dynamite, flaming trains, the Pinkertons, state militia, an attempted assassination attempt: it was a flat-out civil war, with dozens of casualties. This economic street fight changed his perspective in a downright Dickensian way. He had long professed to abhor great concentrations of money, saying "the amassing of wealth is one of the worst species of idolatry!" and he followed through: much as Bill Gates is doing today, Carnegie devoted the second half of his career to planning his giving.

      12. Yossele

        Yossele the Holy Miser is one of the great stories of Jewish folklore, and it does seemingly have a historical basis. Yossele lived in Kraków, Poland in the 1600s and was famous as the richest and stingiest man in the city’s Jewish community. The people resented his hoarding and when he died they delayed his burial and threw him in a pauper’s grave. But then all the charitable funds in the community mysteriously dried up, and it turned out that Yossele had been anonymously supporting the poor villagers, never allowing his involvement to be known. So be careful before you judge another’s generosity; the purest charity of all is given without thought for reputation.

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      The Guide to Researching a Company’s Finances Online Sat, 08 Dec 2012 00:54:18 +0000 Twenty years ago, finding information about companies that impact our lives was often a very difficult task. Prior to the web, few resources were available for those researching companies for investment or career opportunities. Nowadays, researching everything you need to know about a company can is as easy as typing a few words into a […]

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      Twenty years ago, finding information about companies that impact our lives was often a very difficult task. Prior to the web, few resources were available for those researching companies for investment or career opportunities. Nowadays, researching everything you need to know about a company can is as easy as typing a few words into a search engine.

      Researching Companies Online the Right Way

      The New Jersey-based Duns and Bradstreet has provided individuals and businesses with quality commercial information and business insight for over 170 years. Hoovers, an offshoot of the D&B brand, gives direct access to the company’s over 205 million business records. In addition, Hoovers does a great job at converting much of this data into actionable sales leads and industry analysis to help you develop your CRM portfolio and marketing plan.

      For those of us who are more interested in gathering information about publicly traded companies on the New York Stock Exchange or NASDAQ, Public Register’s Annual Report Service should have everything you need. This simple site offers a search engine that will find records on the publicly traded company you are interested in finding more about. Should you find what you’re looking for, Public Register will have an annual report about the company sent to you in one business day.

      If you are looking to find out more about companies you hope to have a career with, Quintessential Careers offers a world-class breakdown of the best companies to work for across several different categories. This site is also a great alternative to online job boards, as it provides direct access to the job postings and career pages for the companies they showcase. Quintessential Careers also offers a host of great information and tips for job seekers who are looking for a head start in today’s ultra-competitive job market.

      For research that needs to focus on both international and domestic companies, CorporateInformation should have all the records you need. Since 1960, the Wright Investors’ Service has worked tirelessly to analyze and create informative records for over 35,000 companies across 65 countries throughout the world. For a monthly or annual subscription fee, Corporate Information can provide you with access to these valuable records to help you get your company research done in no-time flat.

      If your company research needs are more general in nature, Fortune Magazine publishes an annual list of the top publicly and privately traded companies in the United States. Known as the Fortune 500, the magazine ranks each business by their gross revenue over the course of the financial year. Even if you don’t subscribe to the magazine, CNN Money does an annual recap of the Fortune 500 companies on their website for all to see.

      For information on industries themselves, Industry Portals offers an excellent breakdown of several different industries from Adhesives & Sealants to the Workboat industry. This site is great for researchers who may not have a specific company in mind, but know exactly the type of industry they want to find out more about. Each link on this site will deliver you to some of the best resources available for each specific industry.

      In addition to knowing where the best resources are for researching companies and industries online, knowing where to find professional associations can also be of value. The American Society of Association Leadership (ASAE) offers a robust search engine on their site that will help you find information about the professional associations that interest you. The ASAE gateway also showcases informative articles on topics that range from leadership and human resources to marketing and technology.

      The resources discussed above are really only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the massive amount of business-related data available to us on the web. As businesses and the economy slowly begin to perk up, staying updated with current and potential professional relationships is crucial for taking advantage of the rising tide. By using the internet to research potential clients, employers or business partners, know that you are already doing the right things to stay ahead of the rest.

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      Mobile Commerce Crime: 10 Scary Trends to Watch Out For Fri, 07 Dec 2012 04:19:21 +0000 Here are some mobile commerce crime trends to watch out for as criminals look to take advantage of the security flaws of mobile browsing and shopping.

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      Cybercrime has been around since there was a cyber world to abuse, with criminals stealing information, money, and identities, shutting down businesses, and compromising security all over the world. As more and more of us have taken to using our mobile phones for browsing the web, banking, and shopping (smartphone-only mobile commerce was up 221% this Thanksgiving), the risk of cybercrime grows ever larger on mobile devices, which criminals are increasingly eyeing as a promising new source of revenue.

      Thankfully, mobile cybercrimes are still relatively rare, but in recent years major security scares, viruses, and other mobile crimes have become bigger issues, and it’s only a matter of time before mobile devices are seeing a scourge of cybercriminal attacks. In fact, 92% of information security officers believe that mobile payments will cause a serious increase in cybercrime over the next few years. Here are some m-commerce crime trends to watch out for now and in the coming years as criminals look to take advantage of the security flaws and popularity of mobile browsing and shopping.

      1. Rootkit installation.

        A rootkit is a particularly stealthy type of software that installs itself on a user’s device and hides itself from the normal modes of detection, letting it operate in secret to get privileged access to a computer and its user’s information. In the past, these malicious programs were limited to laptops and desktop computers, but they’re becoming a threat from mobile phones as well, as revealed by research at Rutgers in 2010. A rootkit, when installed on a phone, could affect every part of the phone from the touch screen to the passwords. These programs can not only steal information, they could potentially even reroute calls from legitimate businesses to criminal operations. That’s not a threat to take lightly, and many are advising mobile users to be careful what they view, and with certain operating systems, use anti-virus and anti-malware software.

      2. Risky QR codes.

        QR codes can be a cool way for consumers to find out more about products and find a wealth of information with very little effort, but they’re not always safe. Mobile phone users never quite know where the codes will take them once scanned, and in a growing number of cases, QR codes are leading to sites that download a virus or malware onto the user’s mobile device. Mobile security experts are already seeing a rash of QR code problems, and expect them to grow significantly in number over the next year.

      3. Theft of digital certificates.

        If thieves can bypass a mobile phone’s security they can steal digital certificates. What are digital certificates? They’re what verify that a user sending information is who she or he claims to be. As you might guess, someone else having access to the ability to pretend to be you could be a pretty serious security risk. While that risk already exists when you use a PC, it’s increasingly becoming a concern for mobile users as well, and was identified by AVG Technologies as being one of the most pressing issues in mobile security.

      4. Smishing.

        Like its cousin phishing, smishing tries to trick individuals into revealing personal, private information. Smishers send their victims an SMS (text) message, baiting them into divulging personal details like bank account, credit card, or social security numbers. Smishers often pose as businesses, drawing in those who believe they’re simply helping keep their accounts in good standing, avoiding bogus charges the smishers say they’ll owe if they don’t comply, or sometimes even trying to win a (fake) prize. Sometimes, smishers aim to collect personal information directly and other times they are trying to install malware that can allow a phone to be controlled remotely. Recent reports place smishing as one of the most common reasons for criminal data loss.

      5. Social engineering.

        Sadly, there’s such a big business built up around this kind of mobile crime that there are even common job titles associated with it (confirmer is one big one). Social engineers scam mobile users by either tricking them into giving them private information or by tricking companies that the individual uses. Sometimes, criminals will hack into bank accounts and change customer contact information. When frauds occur, the bank will contact not the customer but the criminal, who will verify the charges (these are those pesky confirmers). Social engineering occurs in such a wide variety of ways that it’s hard to fight. Consumers will just need to be on their toes and watch out for any unusual activity to avoid becoming victims.

      6. Unsecured Wi-Fi threats.

        Think you’re safe from cybercriminals when you’re sitting at home using your Wi-Fi to browse the web? You may not be. Wi-Fi offers many criminals easy access to your information if you’re not careful. While a secured home Wi-Fi network offers some protection, many mobile consumers use public networks for Wi-Fi, too, which can open them up to criminals who steal their personal information or hijack their interactions with banks and businesses. Some tests have found that most Wi-Fi networks can be hacked in five minutes or less, so mobile users should do any private business on their cells while on their mobile plan, not Wi-Fi.

      7. Viruses and malware.

        According to McAfee, a leading antivirus provider, mobile security threats rose by 46% in 2010. Yet a whopping 70% of mobile phone users felt that their smartphones were safe from these kinds of attacks. That false sense of security may be leading many mobile users to become unwitting victims of cybercrimes. While viruses and malware that attack mobile phones are still rare in comparison to those designed to attack PCs, the growing number of smartphones and tablets has become a new, ever bigger target for criminals. Experts advise not only mobile customers but also businesses to prepare for a growth in this kind of attack by creating more secure apps or payment systems, and offering better support to consumers.

      8. Crimeware.

        App stores open up a wealth of opportunities for criminals to fill your mobile device with crimeware. No one would willingly download a program onto their smartphone that would cause them to be the victim of fraud, but crimeware is disguised as being a different type of program altogether, perhaps a game or a useful utility. In fact, the app may actually run in that fashion. The problem is, however, that it comes with a tagalong malware or other tracking device that lets criminals access information, control the phone, and a range of other malicious activites. Think it can’t happen to you? The BBC reports that the proliferation of these apps has increased from just 29% to 62% of all smartphone malware this year.

      9. Encryption hacking.

        You, and the businesses you frequent, might think encrypting data keeps you all safe. For sophisticated cybercriminals, however, encryption may not be a roadblock to stealing your personal information, your money, or your identity. It’s becoming increasingly easy for criminals to crack the most common types of encryption, and with many governments blocking the use of high-level encryption technology (so that they can break the codes if necessary for law enforcement purposes) consumers and businesses alike are stuck in a particular sticky situation. Your best bet? Be as careful as you can, watch for any indications of fraud, and use the highest-level encryption possible for all sensitive data.

      10. Electronic eavesdropping.

        Whether you’re calling a business to order goods or taking a photo of your home, someone can be listening in. Unfortunately, electronic eavesdropping is possible via a number of different methods. It can occur over unsecured Wi-Fi networks or through malicious apps, but no matter how it happens, it’s a very serious security threat that could result in large amounts of critical personal information being compromised. With a recent report by the Government Accountability Office finding a rise in malicious software aimed at mobile devices of about 185% in just a year, there’s reason to worry for both businesses who want to keep transactions secure and customers who want to keep information out of the wrong hands.

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      Your Smartphone or Your Dinner Mon, 03 Dec 2012 18:14:14 +0000 In monitoring your personal finance, it’s a good practice to routinely check up on your bills and daily spending to account for everything you spend money on. While most people are guilty of sometimes splurging on the less important things, like dining out or picking up an overly expensive pair of shoes, most truly high-cost […]

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      In monitoring your personal finance, it’s a good practice to routinely check up on your bills and daily spending to account for everything you spend money on. While most people are guilty of sometimes splurging on the less important things, like dining out or picking up an overly expensive pair of shoes, most truly high-cost spending all makes sense—groceries, housing, utilities: Your big expenses are typically things you actually need. But if you’re like a lot of people, your cell phone bill probably makes less sense, and you probably keep paying for it anyway. With the saturation of smartphones in the world of communication, cell phone bills in general have grown at an alarming rate. And while consumers may have balked at high-cost data plans at first, for many, these expenses now just come with the territory of owning a mobile phone. Despite the fact that an average smartphone bill is 90% higher than a regular cell bill, people are still buying smartphones in droves, and the cost can be huge. In recent surveys of the American public, research shows that more and more frequently, consumers are paying their phone bills at an alarming rate, often surpassing the more necessary expenses in life. It’s normal to love your phone, but is it normal to pay more for it than for your food?

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      25 Essential Personal Finance Tips for Cohabitators Tue, 27 Nov 2012 04:15:48 +0000 If you're among the millions of couples cohabitating, here are some personal finance tips to take to the bank.

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      Motivated by changing social mores and economic concerns, more than eight million unmarried couples, both same-sex and opposite-sex, live together today, making this kind of arrangement more common in 2012 than it has been at any other point in American history. While books, magazines, and websites are often full of financial advice for those who are engaged or married, little exists to advise those who are living together before marriage or who don’t plan to marry. If you’re among the millions of couples cohabitating, you deserve some sound financial advice, too. Here are a few personal finance tips that will help you to better manage your own financial interests and to establish a sound financial future for you as a couple.

      1. Be open about your income and expenses.

        Money is one of the biggest things couples argue about, so if you want to avoid some big fights in the future, it’s better to be honest and open before you move in together and start sharing expenses. That includes communicating with your partner about what you make and spend each month. Once you’ve shared that information, the two of you can start working out a budget and will be better able to figure out how to divide up expenses and what you can afford as a couple and individually.

      2. Draft a cohabitation agreement.

        Many financial experts advise couples to draw up a cohabitation agreement before moving in together. These agreements lay out important details like who gets the apartment if you should break up and what financial obligations each person will have. It may not be fun to think about these things while you’re feeling good enough about your relationship to take it to the next level, but these kinds of agreements can save you big headaches, not to mention money, down the road.

      3. Don’t share a bank account.

        There’s one thing that nearly every financial advisor will tell you when you’re living with a significant other: don’t put your money in a shared account. At least not all of it, anyway. In some cases, it may be useful to have a shared account for household expenses, but in the interest of protecting yourself, always keep a separate account that holds the bulk of your income.

      4. Keep credit cards separate, too.

        Even if your significant other is frugal, it’s smart to keep credit cards separate for the time being. When you have shared costs, simply write each other a check or alternate who pays, rather than having a shared card in both of your names. Sometimes, even those who seem financially together can have very expensive guilty pleasures or bad habits, which could leave your credit score damaged for years if you share a card.

      5. Talk about your financial goals.

        Moving in together is a big step in a relationship, one that calls for more than just a discussion of who will be responsible for washing the dishes. It’s also a smart time to start talking about your financial goals for the future. Do you want to start saving for a house? A wedding? An amazing trip to Europe? Figure out what it is you want, and ensure both of you are working toward a common goal.

      6. Decide who will be responsible for what.

        In order to ensure that you both know what will be expected of you financially when you move in together, sit down and figure out each person’s sphere of responsibility. You may want to designate a person to pay the bills or assign certain costs to each of you. Different things will work best for each couple, and as long as things are fair, there’s no wrong way to do it.

      7. Split costs fairly.

        Many cohabitators choose to split costs right down the middle, but the 50/50 model sometimes doesn’t work if one person makes significantly more than the other, or in situations where one person is temporarily making less or nothing at all, whether because of a loss of a job, a baby, or going to school full time. In these cases, it can be smart to adjust responsibility according to income, meaning some couples will divide things up more along the lines of 60/40 or in some cases even 90/10.

      8. Determine your marriage plans.

        Is cohabitation a path to marriage for you or a means to an end in itself? If you plan to marry (or are legally allowed to, as some same-sex couples may not have the option), your financial plans may be a bit different than those who don’t intend to marry. You’ll not only need to budget for future wedding expenses, but can also plan to enjoy some future benefits that non-married couples do not.

      9. Document all of your major purchases.

        During your time living together, you may want to make some major purchases as a couple. In some ways, this can be smart, as your pooled incomes allow you to increase your purchasing power. Yet it can get complicated if things don’t work out between you. Anytime you make a purchase, keep a record of how much each of you contributed to buying it. That way, you’ll know how to divvy things up later, if things should go awry.

      10. Don’t contribute money to things your name isn’t on.

        If you and your significant other decide to buy something really big, like a car, make sure that both of your names are on the title if you’ll both be contributing financially. If you don’t, you could be paying toward something that you’ll have no claim to if you should break up, which could leave you thousands of dollars in the hole.

      11. Remember your own financial goals.

        When you’re caught up in the wonderful glow of couplehood and cohabitation, your personal financial goals can sometimes get sidelined. Make sure you’re not letting your own financial ambitions (like, say, paying off your loans or saving up for something big) get lost in all the financial obligations of living together.

      12. Talk about money on a regular basis.

        Talking about money is rarely ever a fun discussion, but it should be one that you and your significant other have on a regular basis. Every few months, sit down and reassess your situation. You may have new bills, responsibilities, or even income that changes your goals, your budget, and how you want to divide up your bills.

      13. Know your legal rights as a cohabiting couple.

        Do you know what legal rights you enjoy as a cohabiting couple? Probably not, at least not entirely. There aren’t usually many legal protections, but there are some. Do a little research on the laws in your state to find out what protections, rights, and assurances you can rely on after you move in together, especially if you don’t plan to marry.

      14. Be careful about becoming financially dependent on your partner.

        While you might want your relationship to last for the rest of your lives, there’s always a chance that it won’t. Knowing that, be very careful not to become too financially dependent on your partner, as it can leave you in serious trouble if you should break up and with few legal options to get support or help. On the flip side, if you are the one doing the supporting, make sure you’re really OK with providing that much financial assistance to your partner. If you’re not, bitterness and resentment could arise and eat away at your relationship.

      15. Learn about your options for buying a home.

        Things can change quite a bit if you and your partner decide to go from renting to buying. There are some tricky legal issues with regard to ownership for those who aren’t married but want to buy a home together. These things can work out well for some, but may prove troubling to others, so make sure you know all of your options before taking the plunge to ensure both you and your partner will be financially protected.

      16. Know your credit scores.

        Knowing your credit score is kind of a big deal, especially if you want to get a nice place, open a credit card, or even buy a home. What’s more, when you partner up with someone, suddenly your score isn’t the only one that matters. Before taking the leap to cohabitation, do a check on both your credit reports and, if possible, find out your credit scores. If either of you have a low score, you can work together to help raise it so you can both benefit from better credit in the future.

      17. Be willing to adapt as things change.

        If there’s one sure thing about life, it’s that it changes. In financial terms, that can mean that you could be dealing with some different issues six months from now than you are right now, which could invalidate or sideline many of the plans you’re currently making. Don’t get frustrated; instead, be willing to adapt and figure out new ways to work with your partner to pay the bills and meet your financial goals as a couple and individually.

      18. Figure out insurance.

        There are a number of financial considerations with respect to insurance that need to be addressed if you’re going to be living together for the long haul. For instance, you could both save money by combining your auto insurance policies. Or if one of you has insurance and the other doesn’t, you may be able to extend benefits to your partner, too, though there are some serious tax issues to consider.

      19. Know your partner’s financial pitfalls.

        Living together means signing on to share much more than space. You’re also sharing financial obligations. If your significant other has serious credit card debt, gambling problems, or other financial issues, these can become major stumbling blocks in everything from finding an apartment to building a stable financial future together. While you may be able to cope with some kinds of financial pitfalls, make sure you know what you’re getting into first.

      20. Know the emotional impact of financial decisions.

        Money is hard to talk about for many people, not only because it’s stressful, but because there are so many emotions attached to it. Financial decisions are often made not by logic, but by emotion. Whether this is smart or not is up for debate, but the impact is true regardless, so before you announce any financial plans to your partner, consider the emotional impact. It’s not all about you, especially when you’re sharing space and a potential future with someone.

      21. Review all joint bills.

        Every month, you and your partner should sit down and look over all your bills. Why? To make sure that you aren’t the victims of unjust charges or mistakes, and to make sure one person isn’t adding charges another didn’t approve. It happens more than you think, and unless you double-check, you could be paying for things you didn’t use or want in the first place.

      22. Avoid helping a cash-strapped partner live outside their means.

        What happens when your partner can’t afford some object of desire, but you can? Ideally, nothing (unless it’s an essential … or a birthday’s coming up). You aren’t doing yourself or your romantic roomie any favors by lending money to finance something that he or she can’t afford. Both of you should live within your means, not outside them.

      23. Don’t wait for problems to arise to deal with money issues.

        It’s incredibly tempting to avoid talking about finances until you absolutely have to, but that may not be the way to go if you’re looking to live in harmony. If you sense there are issues that could pose a problem later on, sit down and talk about them before they’ve done any damage, not after.

      24. Designate a bill payer.

        It can often be much easier to make sure that all the bills are paid each month and that finances are shared equally if you designate one person to do the dirty work. He or she can write the checks or set up automatic billing for all of your monthly expenses. Then, all the other person needs to do is write a check for whatever portion he or she owes (if any).

      25. Don’t try to manage your partner’s money.

        While you may cringe at your partner’s spendthrift ways, you might create more problems than you solve if you try to control his or her spending, especially if that discretionary income is sitting in his or her own account. So long as your partner is able to pay the bills and isn’t destroying his or her credit score, stick to managing your own money and common expenses.

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