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Making money: Calculating retirement costs, and more
Three top pieces of financial advice — from the danger of specialized study to early door-buster deals
Let the sales begin!
Let the sales begin! (Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)

Calculating retirement costs
Figuring out how much you need for retirement "can be a complicated affair," said Robert Powell at USA Today. But it doesn't have to be a painful one. A simple "cash-flow analysis" takes into account your annual expenses in retirement, multiplied by the number of years you'll need to fund. Be sure to factor in health care, housing, transportation, food, and discretionary expenses; actuary tables can give you a rough idea of average life spans. "If you have enough income — from all of your sources of capital — to fund those expenses, you're in good shape." If a detailed cash-flow analysis sounds like too much work, a general guideline is to replace 85 percent of your pre-retirement income to stay afloat in your twilight years.

The danger of specialized study
Students are often told to "learn the subjects that will best land them a job when they graduate," said Peter Cappelli at The Wall Street Journal. That has boosted specialized majors like hospital financing and casino management. But flocking to "fields where the job market is hot right now" may not be the best strategy in the long run. "The trouble is that nobody can predict where the jobs will be — not the employers, not the schools, not the government officials who are making such loud calls for vocational training." Choose your school not by its majors, but by its graduation rates, job-placement rates, and starting salary statistics. And remember the pitfalls of specialization: "It may be worse to have the wrong career focus in college than having no career focus — because skills for one career often can't be used elsewhere."

Early door-buster deals
Black Friday is coming early this year, said Danielle Kurtzleben at US News. Most big-box retailers — including Walmart, Best Buy, Macy's, Target, Sears, Kmart, Kohl's, and Target — plan this year to give "shoppers the jump on Black Friday by opening on Thanksgiving evening." According to the National Retail Federation, more than 25 percent of consumers shopped on Thanksgiving last year, up from 11 percent in 2005. So while critics rail against retailers for "impinging" on Turkey Day, the stores may simply be capitalizing on a growing trend. The earlier door-buster deals amount to a bid by retailers to add extra hours to the shopping season: This year's window between Thanksgiving and Christmas is the shortest in a decade.

Sergio Hernandez is business editor of The Week's print edition. He has previously worked for The DailyProPublica, the Village Voice, and Gawker.

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