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Tuesday
Apr182017

9 steps to spring clean your finances

DigitalVision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- This tax season, whether you're about to cash a hefty check or you are gearing up to pay back Uncle Sam, all of the number crunching, receipt sifting and trips to your accountant's office serve as a polite reminder that fiances can be a bit complicated (to say the least).

Since the idea of balancing a checkbook can cause an instant migraine for some, companies like LearnVest are here to help ease the tension. Vice President of Product and Financial Advice Strategy, Stephany Kirkpatrick (CFP and AIF), sat with ABC News' Amna Nawaz to share a few tips on how to smooth the path to Tax Day and get those personal finances in order.

Here are the nine steps she shared to help you "spring clean" your taxes.

Tax-specific

1) Shred financial documents older than seven years.

2) Create a financial calendar with reminders throughout the year for important tasks such as checking your credit report.

3) Save important receipts and check them against your credit card statements and other expenses.

4) Use 90 percent of your tax return to clean up your finances and achieve big goals while saving the other 10 percent for fun.

General

1) As the main money manager of your household, create an "in case of emergency" folder with important financial information in case something happens to you.

2) Set up automatic payments so the money is gone before you even see (or spend) it. Remember to always review your bills.

3) Review your beneficiaries to make sure your assets go to the right people in the unfortunate event of a tragedy.

4) Unsubscribe from retailers to help stop the temptation of online shopping.

5) Trim your wallet by only carrying a primary credit card and a back-up unless absolutely necessary, keeping any additional cards tucked away at home.

With 46 percent of parents speaking to their kids about finances before sex, according to a LearnVest 2016 Money habits and Confessions survey, it's never to early to get a little advice on how to approach the tax subject with children.

1) Explain the basics: Tell them how taxes relate to life from working, to shopping, even winning the lottery.

2) Seize teachable moments: Show them what every day features taxes pay for including the fire department, schools, infrastructure, etc.

3) Create a "tax jar": Have each family member place a small portion of their income, or allowance, into a jar and after a few months, hold a vote on how to spend it.

For more information on how to execute these steps, check. out the interview.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Apr172017

Dao video a 'watershed moment' for United, embattled CEO says

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The video of Dr. David Dao being dragged down the aisle of a United jet has been trolled by competing airlines, roundly mocked on late-night television and slammed by consumer rights advocates and PR professionals alike.

Now, after being widely criticized for his initial response to the incident, United's CEO is acknowledging that the viral video represents a "watershed moment" for the airline.

"It is obvious from recent experiences that we need to do a much better job serving our customers," United CEO Oscar Munoz said in a statement on Monday. "The incident that took place aboard Flight 3411 has been a humbling experience, and I take full responsibility. This will prove to be a watershed moment for our company."

Dao, who was forcibly removed from his seat by airport police to make room for a crew member, suffered a concussion and broken nose and lost two front teeth, according to his attorney.

Initially, Munoz defended the airline's actions, labeling Dao "disruptive and belligerent" and claiming employees "followed established procedures" while attempting to "re-accommodate" the 69-year-old doctor.

The reaction was swift and severe.

In a follow-up interview with ABC News' Rebecca Jarvis, Munoz apologized to Dao and acknowledged that he was "ashamed" of the video.

"He was a paying passenger sitting on our seat in our aircraft and no one should be treated that way, period," Munoz told Jarvis. "This is not who we are."

"He apologized -- we accept that," Dao's attorney, Thomas Demetrio, told reporters. "But that's not going to let him off the hook here."

"Bullying customers has gone to the next step," he added. "Are we all going to be treated like cattle?"

Last Thursday, Demetrio indicated that he and his client would likely file a lawsuit against United and the city of Chicago.

In his latest statement, released alongside the airline's first-quarter earnings report, Munoz said the company is "more determined than ever to put our customers at the center of everything we do."

In the aftermath of the Dao incident, United indicated that it changed its policy to prevent crew members from displacing any customers who are already seated on a plane.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Apr172017

After Dao video, Houston couple complains they were booted en route to their wedding

United(SALT LAKE CITY) -- In the wake of one of United Airlines' biggest PR fiascos to date -- a video of a bloodied passenger literally being yanked from his seat that quickly went viral -- other United customers are also complaining about alleged mistreatment by the airline.

A Utah couple en route to their wedding on Saturday told ABC affiliate KHOU that United kicked them off a flight to Costa Rica after they moved up a few rows to avoid disturbing a man they said was sleeping in their assigned seats. The couple, Michael Hohl and Amber Maxwell, said the incident took place on United Airlines Flight 1737 between Houston and Liberia, Costa Rica.

"They said it was not their problem -- their words exactly, not their problem," Hohl said. "Life goes on, but the way United handled this was absolutely absurd."

According to Hohl and a statement United provided to ABC News, the incident began when the couple, who had purchased seats in economy class, instead moved to "upgraded seating." The couple had moved from a standard row in the economy cabin to "economy-plus" seats, which boast a few extra inches of legroom. What happened when crew members noticed that the couple had changed their seats is a matter of dispute and a classic case of he said, she said.

Hohl said he and his fiance offered to pay for the upgraded seating. United said that the passengers were "offered the opportunity to pay the difference in fare" but "declined" to do so.

Hohl said the pair eventually moved back to the right row, while the airline contends they refused to follow crewmember instructions to return to the seats they'd originally purchased.

Hohl said they were escorted off the aircraft by Federal Air Marshals. But both United and the TSA, which runs the air marshal service, denies FAMS officers (or any other law enforcement personnel, for that matter) were involved.

"We're disappointed anytime a customer has an experience that doesn't measure up to their expectations," United said in a statement. The airline added that it offered the couple a discounted hotel rate and rebooked them on a flight the following day.

But for his part, Hohl warned: "They're gonna start losing money if they keep treating their patrons like this."

Already, the high-profile video of Dr. Dao, the passenger involuntarily bumped off the flight and dragged down the aisle last Sunday -- as well as the incidents that have come to light since then -- have hit a chord with consumers. In the immediate aftermath of the Dao video, United stock plunged 4.4%.

In a statement on Monday, United CEO Oscar Munoz called the incident with Dr. Dao "a humbling experience" and said it would "prove to be a watershed moment" for the company.

The incident also puts the airline in a particularly precarious position when it comes to dealing with aggrieved passengers.

Immediately dismissing customers' concerns could put United at risk of being called tone-deaf -- an accusation leveled against Munoz after he initially defended his employees and accused Dao of being "disruptive and belligerent."

(He later clarified on ABC's "Good Morning America" that his initial response failed to communicate "what we were feeling...shame and embarrassment." He also apologized publicly to Dr. Dao, saying, "no one should be treated that way, period.")

However, as ABC's legal analyst Dan Abrams points out, quickly settling lawsuits with passengers could encourage more of them.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Apr172017

US stocks climb as investors focus on earnings

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Wall Street snapped back with gains after the Easter holiday weekend as the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose in the triple-digits.

The Dow Jones jumped 183.67 (+0.90 percent) to finish at 20,636.92.

The Nasdaq gained 51.64 (+0.89 percent) to close at 5,856.79, while the S&P 500 finished at 2,349.01, up 20.06 (+0.86 percent) from its open.

Crude oil prices were about 1 percent lower; under $53 a barrel.

Winners and Losers: Shares of Netflix climbed 3 percent, but in after hours trading, the streaming service fell about 1 percent. In its earnings report released after the bell, Netflix said it added fewer than expected subscribers domestically and internationally.

Still recovering from its over-booking scandal, United Continental Holdings Inc. also released earnings in the first-quarter, reporting a stronger than expected net income of $96 million (although the PR nightmare did not happen during that quarter). United's stock closed 2.5 percent higher and was trading about 1 percent higher in the after-market.

A treatment by OncoMed Pharmaceuticals Inc. for small cell lung cancer reportedly missed its goals in a mid-stage clinical trial. Shares in the pharmaceutical company tanked 17 percent.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Apr172017

Instagram adds "collection" feature to app

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Instagram users can now organize the photos they save with the app's new "collections" feature.

Created as an add-on to its bookmarking tool that was released over the winter, "collections" allows users to organize the posts they save into private groups in their Profile tabs.

It is a similar to a feature on Pinterest, in which users can place photos of travel destinations, recipes, and other items in separate groups, called boards. Unlike Pinterest, however, Instagram collections are private and cannot be seen by other users.

According to a TechCrunch report, Instagram says since it released its bookmarking feature in December, almost half of users have saved at least one post.

The collections feature is now available on iOs an Android devices as part of the Instagram version 10.16 download, which can be accessed through the Apple App Store and Google Play.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Apr172017

Tesla drops price on entry-level Model S

File Photo iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Saving up for a Tesla? Good news: the company dropped the price on the entry-level Model S by $7,500. It now starts at $69,500 according to TechCrunch.

TechCrunch adds that the car comes with upgraded standard equipment, giving buyers better overall value. The standard features now include an all-glass overhead roof and an automatic powered rear lift gate.

The price dip applies to the 75 kilowatt per hour (kWh) vehicle after Tesla dropped its 60kWh model, which it recently discontinued selling.

A spokesperson for Tesla provided an official statement, which says the price decrease will be followed by increases on their 100D and P100D models. Those price increases will come into effect next week.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
Apr162017

How a bunny, baskets and eggs got connected with Easter

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The commercialization of Easter is something many Christians are familiar with. But some do not know the history behind the treats and gifts given during the springtime religious holiday.

Why are kids given Easter baskets with chocolate and candy in them?

During Lent -- the 40 days leading up to Easter -- many Christians give up treats such as chocolate. The dietary restraint is meant to symbolize the sacrifice Jesus Christ made by dying on the cross to absolve believers from their sins.

Historically, when Easter arrived, feasts in large baskets were brought to churches to be blessed by religious leaders.

This also explains why chocolate is often given as a present on Easter -- to reward those who gave up eating it during Lent.

Where did the Easter bunny originate?

Some historians claim Easter comes from Eostre, the pagan goddess of fertility and spring.

According to the tale, Eostre found a bird freezing to death and turned it into a rabbit to keep it warm. But the rabbit still laid eggs like a bird.

In the tale, the bunny decorated her eggs to show her appreciation for what Eostre did.

What about Easter egg hunts?

Easter eggs also have a religious connotation.

According to the Bible, Mary Magdalene was the first person to see Jesus following the Resurrection after he was crucified, died and was buried.

When she told people what she witnessed, she was holding an egg in her hand as a symbol of rebirth and the circle of life, Eastern Orthodox tradition states. Then, Emperor Tiberius Caesar heard her proclamation and said "Christ has no more risen than that egg is red."

According to the religious story, Mary's egg turned bright red while the emperor spoke.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Apr152017

Atlanta couple who met on Twitter have Twitter-themed wedding

Events By SPL(ATLANTA) -- An Atlanta couple who met on Twitter decided to have a Twitter-themed ceremony during three days of wedding festivities.

Sumita Dalmia met her future groom back in 2013 after she reached out to Anuj Patel on Twitter.

"I wanted to attend a local event at the zoo, but tickets were sold out so I decided to search Twitter," she told ABC News of their first encounter. "When I came across Anuj's tweet stating he had an extra ticket [to Jazzoo Atlanta], I didn't think much of it."

Dalmia, 28, added that she "just reached out to him asking if I could have it, but then his profile caught my attention ... Before we knew it, we were exchanging almost 75 emails in the first day of chatting!"

The couple got engaged two years later on December 19, 2015. Of course, Patel, 27, proposed on Twitter, and it went viral.

When the tweet-hearts wed last November at the Marriott Evergreen Resort in Atlanta in front of approximately 450 guests, they decided to use their favorite social network as a theme in the festivities, which included six wedding events over three days.

Photos of their wedding have recently gotten attention online.

"Twitter is an integral part of our relationship," Dalmia noted. "We wanted our wedding guests to experience our love story and understand why it is so important to our relationship. Plus, you can't deny that the little blue birds add a nice touch."

Along with having a customized wedding hashtag -- #TweetHearts2016 -- the couple also had graphic designers add the Twitter logo to their seating charts and welcome bags.

They also had blue-hued specialty cocktails, a cake topper and a SnapChat filter that was a nod to Twitter.

Dalmia said her wedding guests "absolutely loved it."

The two haven't gone on a honeymoon just yet, deciding instead to save for a house first. Still, they plan to trek to Hawaii when the time is right.

"We are looking forward to just building a life together and starting a family," Dalmia added.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Apr152017

NYPD: Taser sparked false report of gunfire at New York's Penn Station

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- What began as long delays at Pennsylvania Station in New York turned into a nightmare on Friday after a false report of shots fired caused a stampede.

Photo and video from the scene showed luggage, clothing, and food left behind as travelers fled the train station in a panic. Approximately sixteen people were hurt with non-life-threatening injuries, according to FDNY.

The chaos began after Amtrak Police deployed a taster when taking two people into custody for disobeying orders at Penn Station. NYPD Manhattan South Chief Bill Morris said at a press conference Friday night the Taser was "the likely source of the sound and the ensuing 911 calls."

 

 

"Given our experience, dealing with similar situations, we were able to quickly review all of the 911 calls and determine that there were no actual shots fired," he said.

Penn Station was packed with commuters when the incident unfolded. Right before rush hour, a New Jersey Transit Northeast Corridor train headed into New York became disabled in a Hudson River Tunnel due to loss of power. Because of the power problem, NJ Transit trains were subject to 90-minute delays just as people were trying to get home for the holiday weekend.

Officials said they noticed the mass panic just as they finished treating six passengers from the disabled train for non-life-threatening injuries.

"We were about to start to wrap up our operations when we saw the ensuing panic begin to start on the platform," FDNY Deputy Fire Chief Tom Currao said Friday night.

The chaotic scene happened about a week after an NJ Transit derailment caused mass delays and cancellations for commuters for several days, and three weeks after an Amtrak derailment created similar problems.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Apr152017

Holiday-loving couple shows off their epic Easter decorations, including 6,000 eggs

Courtesy of Debbie Strickland(NEW YORK) -- Easter has “egg-sploded” at this Suffolk, Virginia home.

Debbie and Jim Strickland are winning the holiday décor game with their epic springtime trimmings.

“It really is the holiday section of Wal-Mart on steroids,” Debbie, 61, told ABC News. “We’ll have people ask for pictures with their kids in the yard.”

Their amazing Easter home, a 1910 Queen Anne Victorian they’ve lived in for nine years, is the perfect backdrop to help Debbie carry on the family traditions she grew up loving.

“I always remembered those people who decorated on our street,” the Pittsburgh native recalled. “And at some point, I hope someone thinks of us and says, ‘There was this couple who used to decorate when we were growing up.’ My dad was the first person who got the plastic nativity sets for the front yard and I thought that was such a big deal, and it’s nice to carry that on.”

Some of the Stricklands' elaborate Easter decorations include, 6,000 Easter eggs strewn across their garden, two large inflatable decorations blown up in their yard, Easter bunnies galore, pink pastel furniture cushions, and Easter egg garland twirling around their stately columns.

But the creative couple goes big for more than just Easter. They said there are only two months of the year when their home isn’t decorated for a holiday: May and August.

“Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day...Fourth of July, and in September, we just do fall,” Debbie explained. “And then mid-October we switch over to Halloween. It’s really fabulous and over the top. We even have a 7-foot coffin."

“When we got the coffin, it was too big to put in the attic,” she said with a laugh.

Christmas is Debbie's all-time favorite holiday, however.

“For Christmas, we do eight trees inside,” she said. “Outside, we have a big sleigh and reindeer and I cover each cushion with material that matches the holiday. Right now for Easter, we have pink with white polka dots. It’s really cute.”

But Debbie’s decorating hobby isn't a cheap one.

“Thousands is an understatement,” she said, reflecting on what she has spent over the years. “But we’ve been collecting for 30 years now. After every holiday I hit the store for the sales. There are things I may not need but I’ll put them in the attic for my kids to come and grab.”

As for her husband’s involvement?

“He really loves Christmas and he kind of likes the Halloween,” she said. “I think he’s ok with the Easter stuff but he’s the one who cleans up all the eggs, God bless his soul.”

And that’s no easy feat when you've got 6,000 eggs, she added.

“It looks like an Easter bunny threw up in our yard. You don’t expect somebody to put that many eggs out,” said Debbie. “A large lawn trash bag will hold about 1,800.”

As of Monday morning, “He will be picking up every single one of those eggs,” she added. “They’ve been out since the beginning of April. We’ve had bad storms so the eggs were floating down the street. He does all the heavy lifting. God bless him.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.







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