AAA: Gas prices are up 22% this year, national average now $2.87/gal.

The good news & bad news about what will likely be the most expensive driving season in years.


U.S. economic growth has boosted demand for oil which means most consumers should be able to afford to pay more at the pump, BUT wildcards in oil-producing areas may mean higher prices ahead.

“Three dollars is like a small fence. You can get through it, you can get over it. But $4 is like the electric fence in Jurassic Park. There’s no getting over that.”

Patrick DeHaan, GasBuddy analyst


  • Seasonality: Federal & state laws require cleaner, costlier gas.
  • Iran: Reimposing sanctions may constrict supply & while we don’t get our oil from Iran, Econ 101 says less global supply = higher prices.
  • Saudi Arabia: World’s largest oil producer signaled it wants oil prices $80-$100/barrel. Oil just topped $70/bbl, a level not seen since 2014 & up 50% vs. last year.

Feeling Tapped Out?

Higher gas prices are on track to cost Americans an extra $38B this year, erasing about one-third of the direct benefit from Pres. Trump’s tax cuts, Morgan Stanley estimates.

If gas stays at these levels for the year, it’ll cost the average American household $450 extra.


It's expected to be the most expensive summer driving season in years -- so what can you do to lessen the pain at the pump? Click to learn the best days of week to buy gas, according to a new study from Gas Buddy.

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IRS Website Outage Means 1 More Day to File

“This is the busiest tax day of the year & the IRS apologizes for the inconvenience this system issue caused for taxpayers.”

Meanwhile, nearly half of U.S. won’t pay any federal taxes this year.



46% of Americans Pay
NO Federal Income Tax

WHY? They simply don’t earn enough money (they are either retirees or workers who owe only payroll taxes).

Very rarely, high-income earners use strategies to cut federal income tax liability.


How are your taxes?

According to a new Gallup Poll:

  • 48% say taxes are “about right” 
  • 45% say taxes are “too high”  (smallest percentage since 2012)

Gallup: Republicans feel better about their taxes. 45% think taxes are too high vs. 62% year ago & 72% in ’16.


The Case for More Taxes

“In your average social democratic European country, you pay more taxes, but you also get a lot in return: universal health coverage, free child care, generous paid family leave, & free college, for example … there are things you just don’t have to worry about, things that keep us Americans up nights.”

Paul Waldman, The American Prospect

Who Pays the Most Taxes?
Location Matters.

Adding up state & federal income taxes, property, sales & gas taxes…

  • New Jersey residents pay the highest on avg at $20K/year
  • West Virginia residents pay the lowest on avg under $7K/year
Click to see: How Your State Stacks Up

In an USA Today Op-Ed , President Trump says America's economy is back and roaring and its people are winning. Click to read & tell us what you think.

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Real Estate Gamble as Retailer Auctions Stores

16 Sears locations – all of which are profitable, according to WSJ – are up for grabs in an online auction set for next month.



Bid to be a Sears Landlord

  • Bids due by May 1st.
  • No word if there is a minimum bid.
  • Advertised as sale-leaseback deals, meaning Sears would make rent payments to the winning bidders to remain in the space.
  • BUT it’s possible, depending upon lease terms, Sears stores could close or shrink to take up less space on the property.

Sears’ Struggle

Sears unloading assets to get some badly needed cash.

Latest earnings: Sears’ revenue fell nearly 28% & sales dropped 15% – its 25th straight quarter of declines (more than 6 years).

Sears, which also owns Kmart, has closed hundreds of stores since the start of 2017.


And then there were none... Later this year, Sears will close its last department store in Chicago, where the company was based for more than 100 years.

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No Signature Needed

Death Knell For Cursive?

Nearly a century after the credit card was first introduced, the way you pay with it is about to change  starting this weekend.

“No one really signs any more; it’s all scribbles and squiggles. Some people do smiley faces.”


Change At The Checkout

Starting Saturday, American Express, Discover, Mastercard & Visa will stop requiring signatures.

  • Signatures used to help verify your identity. Now “no longer reliable.”
  • Most people just scribble an illegible signature.
  • Most businesses don’t even bother to check.

So I’ll Never Sign Again?

Not collecting signatures is optional, leaving retailers to decide.

But speeding up checkout lines is a powerful incentive. (Walmart calls signatures “worthless.”)

Restaurants may still ask so the customer has the opportunity to tip.


Is Your Safety in Jeopardy?

“Our fraud capabilities have advanced so that signatures are no longer necessary to fight fraud.”
Jaromir Divilek, American Express

  • Microchips in credit cards create unique codes for each purchase, making cards harder to copy.
  • Once merchants upgraded swipe technology, signatures became “largely irrelevant.”

But seriously, when was the last time you signed your name? Mastercard says consumers don't want to sign anymore. See the 4 reasons why by clicking here:

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Facebook’s Security Fix Impacts Instagram & Others



FB’s attempt to increase user security after a major loophole may change the way you shop & connect with friends. But are you safer?


New From Facebook

87M (not the estimated 50M) FB users had their private information shared with a third party without their permission.

FB says you should assume your info has been “scraped” if you allowed people to search for you using your email or phone number. FB has now disabled that feature.


Facebook Drama

  • Remember FB owns Instagram (and other HUGE social network companies like WhatsApp). This is why the security “fumble” is so significant.
  • Your user experience on FB or Insta may change. For example, accounts where you “like” a photo so you can shop the product have likely been altered until a full security assessment is completed.

Breaking-Up With FB?

  • New study asked participants to stay off FB for 5 days.
  • Participants’s stress hormone (cortisol) levels dropped, although they did not perceive themselves as LESS stressed.
  • Participants felt less happy with their lives because of the “social disconnection.”

Is this the beginning of the end for FB? Do you even use the site? Tell us your favorite social media platform: Here's one take

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Walmart May Buy Humana

4 in 10 Americans shop at Walmart each week, but competition has the world’s largest retailer eyeing expansion into health insurance.

“If this deal could happen there could be synergies that will drive more people into the stores.”

Oliver Chen, Cowen senior retail analyst to CNBC

What’s in it for Walmart?

  • $eniors: Humana’s core customer (as the 2nd largest provider of Medicare Advantage plans).
  • Complete Control: Operate as pharmacy, insurance & pharmacy benefit managers (negotiating costs of medicines for plans).
  • Increased profitability: Retail margins slimmer than health care.
  • Data: Knowing more about you & how to better sell to you.

Why a Walmart-Humana Tie-Up Now?

  • Rapid consolidation: Health industry merging for efficiencies.
  • Regulatory concerns: A federal judge blocked Aetna & Humana merger. Insurers forced to look for new partners – like retailers.
  • Amazon: Walmart’s biggest threat is teaming up with Berkshire Hathaway & JPMorgan in an effort to lower health care costs.

Remember: There's no official Walmart-Humana deal yet, but there's potential for this to be a major game changer. Did you know: 90% of America is within 10 miles of a Walmart? Wow.

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Oldest U.S. Gun Maker
Files For Bankruptcy


After weathering more than 200 years in business, Remington can’t survive current climate.

Founder Eliphalet Remington built his first gun in 1816.


Why Now?

  • Slumping sales year-over-year (dropped 30% in 2017)
  • Mounting debt ($100M – $500M)
  • Private equity firm that owns Remington has been trying to sell it for years, but never found buyer.
  • High-profile case: Remington waiting on big ruling on whether victim families of the Sandy Hook school shooting can sue because shooter used a Remington gun.

To Blame? “Trump Slump”

  • Prior to election of President Trump, gun sales spiked because those who expected Hillary Clinton to win (with a platform of stricter gun control) bought weapons in advance of election.
  • With gun control NOT a big part of President Trump’s platform, buyers are less motivated.

Fact Check: AR-15

  • “AR” does NOT stand for “automatic rifle” or “assault rifle.”
  • AR = stands for ArmaLite.
  • AR-15 = a specific model of a semi-auto rifle produced by ArmaLite. Other gun makers have their own model numbers for similar style weapons. Though often used as a general term, an “AR” is a specific gun by a specific company. 

Remington reportedly secured $300M in loans from U.S. banks to proceed through bankruptcy. Can the company be saved? Some smaller gun dealers say Remington made the wrong business decisions along the way - Read More:

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Stocks Suffer Worst Week in 2 Years

“We need things to calm down in Washington a little bit to get things going.”

Art Cashin, UBS Dir. of Floor Operations to CNBC March 23, 2018


  • 3 major stock indices (The Dow 30, S&P 500 & the Nasdaq Composite) dropped about 6% on average last week – worst weekly performance since 2016.
  • The Dow ended at a 2018 low.
  • And it’s not just the US… Globally, stocks shed $2.4 trillion in market value last week.



Why? Pick Your Poison:

  • Trade War: $60B in tariffs on China which threatens to retaliate.
  • Russia Probe: Trump vs. Mueller uncertainty.
  • Int Rates: Raised .25% (higher rates = more expensive to borrow $$ = *could* slow economy).
  • Facebook: Calls for privacy regulation may upend tech world.
CLICK: Trade Refresher

Will the Hits
Keep on Coming?

Most analysts still consider this a “normal correction” – not a “bear market” with continued selling.

However, the losses are unsettling after a really strong 2017, the 1st year in history where the S&P 500 showed gains EVERY month.



Stocks may be at the mercy of politics for now – but here are 2 things to watch that could help stabilize the markets:

  • Economic Data: Investors will be watching housing & personal income/spending data this week, markets closed Fri. for holiday
  • Earnings season: Begins late April




Some Perspective

  • Despite the stock market’s recent struggles, the Dow remains up about 30% since Trump’s election.
  • The Dow closed at 19,827 on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 2017, which means the Dow is still up 3,700 points in the ‘Trump rally.’



Setting the tone for the trading week? The Trump Admin. says its not bluffing, vowing to push ahead on China tariffs despite market turbulence. Read what the Treasury Secretary said on Sunday - click here.

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Your Money At Work?

Congress passed a $1.3T $pending bill that keeps the government funded until October (approx. 6 months).

It’s all your money.


“But I say to Congress: I will never sign another bill like this again.  I’m not going to do it again.  Nobody read it.  It’s only hours old.  Some people don’t even know what is in — $1.3 trillion — it’s the second largest ever.”

President Trump, remarks after signing spending bill, White House, March 23, 2018

Highlights: Spending Bill
Where The $$ Goes

  • $80B increase in military spending.
  • $1.6B for the border (the equivalent of 1-yr of work or 33 miles of fencing on Texas border; WH wanted $25B for wall)
  • $4.5B+ for opioid addiction
  • $2B for school security (including mental health)

Why Some Don’t Like It:

“2,232 pages. $1.3 trillion. 48 hours.”

Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), Twitter, March 21, 2018 ~ Some feel there's TOO much spending and not enough public debate.

“Victory for conservatives today is that all of America now knows what a budget busting bomb this bill is. Hopefully, today’s battle will embolden conservatives to descend on Congress and demand Constitutional government.”

Sen Rand Paul (R, KY) Twitter, March 22, 2018 (He doesn't like the bill either)

Bipartisan Support

While some of the loudest critics came from conservative corners, the bill did receive some bipartisan support and that’s how it passed.

“This is a bill that puts the middle class and those struggling to get there first.”
Senator Chuck Schumer (D, NY) WSJ


Why Pres Was Angry:

“I am considering a VETO of the Omnibus Spending Bill based on the fact that the 800,000 plus DACA recipients have been totally abandoned by the Democrats (not even mentioned in Bill) and the BORDER WALL, which is desperately needed for our National Defense, is not fully funded.”
Pres. Trump, @Twitter, Friday March 24, 2018 8:55 a.m.


For Your Consideration:

  • If Pres. did not sign spending bill by Saturday, gov’t would’ve shut down for the 3rd time this year, but ultimately he signed it.
  • The issue of immigration reform and $$ for a border wall (not a fence) continue to linger.
Click Here For Catch-Up On Daca

Interesting Side-Story:

  • Despite the spending bill passing with majority support, one senator tried to derail it.
  • Idaho Republican Sen. Jim Risch didn’t like that his late “nemesis” was getting a forest renamed after him & tried to stop the bill passing because of it.
  • Proving the 2200+ page bill may have a lot of overlooked line items.



Meanwhile, witness your tax dollars hard at work as two senators from across the aisle hold a snow ball fight on Thursday. Fun or wasted time? Should we just decide legislation this way from now on? SmartHER lawmaking ;)

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Are You Saving Enough?

65% of Americans save little or no money.

Only 1 out of every 6 people save more than the recommended 15% of what they make, according to a new survey from Bankrate.


Encouraging Economy = NOT Encouraging Savings

  • Unemployment Rate is at a post-Recession low = more employed
  • Best wage growth since 2009 = making more money
  • Consumer sentiment at 14-year high = growing confidence in the economy
  • S&P 500 (a gauge of stock market performance) is up 3% in 2018, after 21% rise last year.


  • 39% cited “expenses” as the biggest obstacle
  • 16% blamed their crummy job (which presumably means they aren’t earning enough)
  • 16% said they aren’t saving more because they “haven’t gotten around to it.”


“With a steady, significant share of the working population saving nothing or relatively little, it’s virtually guaranteed that they’ll be unable to afford a modest emergency expense or finance retirement.”

Mark Hamrick, Bankrate Analyst

So How Much Do I Need To Retire?

Experts recommend saving at least 10% of your income each year.

Aim to save at least:
1x your income at age 30
3x at age 40
7x at age 55
10x at age 67


Ready to Retire? See how your savings stack up here:

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The End of An Era

Toys ‘R’ Us Is Closing

“We’re putting a for sale sign on everything.”

David Brandon, CEO, quoted by Wall Street Journal, Mar 14, 2018

What It Means:

  • 33,000 U.S. workers to lose jobs.
  • Potentially 700 stores closing in America; including Babies ‘R’ Us.
  • CNBC reports 200 U.S. stores may be spared in a deal that would also sell off its Canadian locations.
  • During the holidays, Toys R Us employs over 100,000 workers.
Read CNBC's report

“The last six months have been pure hell.”

  • CEO as quoted by WSJ in a conf. call to employees Wednesday.
  • Toys ‘R’ Us filed for bankruptcy protection in Sept. 2017. The goal was to emerge with fewer stores & less debt so it could better fight rivals.
  • Instead, THIS is how the CEO describes the company’s fight for survival.

Why This Matters

U.S. Toy Industry = $27B

  • Toys ‘R’ Us = 2nd largest U.S. toy retailer, represents 15% of sales.
  • But, you guessed it, Amazon is #1 as more shop online.
  • Lesson in debt: Toys ‘R’ Us had billions in debt – couldn’t invest in changes to help it modernize.
  • Major fallout for Mattel, Hasbro & smaller toy makers.

The American Dream:

  • Toys ‘R’ Us founder Charles Lazarus dreamed of having a store of his own when he went to visit his dad’s bike shop.
  • 1948: When Lazarus returned from fighting in WWII, he opened a children’s furniture store in D.C., just as the Baby Boom began.
  • 1950s: Expanded to toys, built store to look like the cutting-edge “self-service” supermarkets.

Geoffrey The Giraffe first appeared in 1965 - See more history here:

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Tech Spy Games?

High-stakes battle over bringing you faster internet

The US government is looking into the “possible” $117B takeover of US chipmaker Qualcomm by Singapore’s Broadcom.

What’s at stake? Potentially your internet access and the safety of our entire telecommunications system.


Why Such Drama?

  • Qualcomm = crown jewel of the United States tech industry.
  • Its chips are used in most mobile phones, and its semiconductors will be used in the next generation of ultrafast wireless networks known as 5G.
  • Whoever buys it, buys its competitive advantage AND literally a way “in” to our electronics.

“National Security Threat”

  • Trump Administration warns of Broadcom’s foreign ties and risks of possible gov’t spying.
  • U.S. Govt intervention is unusual because the deal is not finalized.
  • If deal is de-railed by U.S., Broadcom has no option to appeal, according to CNBC.

The U.S. Govt Fears…

*If* Broadcom takes over a major U.S. company (Qualcomm), leadership will prioritize short-term profits & cut back on research, causing America to lose its competitive advantage, especially in 5G (5G = 5th generation ultra-fast wireless connections) and allow Chinese competitors to gain ground.


Why Broadcom Says Critics Are Wrong

  • Promises to maintain 5G investment levels
  • Plans to move its company HQ to U.S.A by May 6.
  • 25K Broadcom employees will be here in the US = American jobs.
  • Creating a $1.5B investment fund to train American engineers

A new $229 smartphone -- but the CIA, FBI & NSA warn Americans don't buy it! Click for more on the China vs. US tech war.

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