Lisa Scherzer

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Lisa Scherzer is a personal finance editor at Yahoo! Finance. She has previously written about retirement, real estate, taxes, health insurance and other consumer topics. Before joining Y! Finance, she was a writer and editor at

Blog Posts by Lisa Scherzer

  • 7 Signs You’re a Paradigm of Financial Health

    Set up an emergency fund. Diversify your portfolio. Reduce your debt load. Bring your lunch to work once in a while. So goes the conventional finance wisdom consumers have heard so often that they tune it out.

    You can be taking homemade turkey sandwiches to work everyday, clipping coupons and maxing out your 401(k) plan, but still not really be in tip-top financial shape.

    Last month we wrote about the tell-tale signs you’re living above your means (your mortgage payment is more than one week’s salary was one example). On the other side of that equation, how do you know if you’re really on the right track money-wise?

    We spoke with a few certified financial planners to get their thoughts on what kinds of benchmarks people can use to gauge their financial health. One caveat: It’s important to note that everyone’s situation is unique and it’s not very useful to apply a blanket rule across all age groups. (Also note this list is by no means exhaustive. There are surely other ways to measure

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  • Don't use these three ATM PIN codes

    Yahoo! editors have selected this article as a favorite of 2012. It first appeared on Yahoo! Finance in September and was one of the most popular stories of the month. Readers joked about people who use the most common PIN codes, and shared how they came up with their own. "My pin number is my post office box number from my time in the Air Force 30 years ago on a base that no longer exists," wrote user Nick. "Feel free to hack that."

    If you lost your ATM card on the street, how easy would it be for someone to correctly guess your PIN and proceed to clean out your savings account? Quite easy, according to data scientist Nick Berry, founder of Data Genetics, a Seattle technology consultancy.

    Berry analyzed passwords from previously released and exposed tables and security breaches, filtering the results to just those that were exactly four digits long [0-9]. There are 10,000 possible combinations that the digits 0-9 can be arranged into to form a four-digit code. Berry analyzed those to

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  • Which company asks the toughest interview questions?

    Want a job at McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group, or Oliver Wyman? Prepare to go through the mental wringer. These top-notch management consulting firms put up some of the highest barriers to entry through intellectually demanding interviews, according to the latest survey, Top 25 Most Difficult Companies to Interview.

    The top honor for the toughest interview process went to McKinsey & Company, with an interview difficulty rating of 3.9. It was followed by Boston Consulting Company (3.8) and Oliver Wyman (3.7). Bain & Company of Mitt Romney fame placed seventh with a 3.6 difficulty rating. (To come up with the list, Glassdoor sifted through more than 80,000 interview ratings and reviews shared throughout the past year.)

    Here's a sample brainteaser: How many people would use a drug that prevents baldness? That's not a question most people have thought of, or could even consider answering correctly — unless they just invented a baldness cure you're ready to patent.

    Some of

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  • Unlimited vacation time: The ultimate work benefit?

    In April Donny Salazar, vice president of customer experience at Gilt Groupe in New York, took three weeks off to travel through Southeast Asia. He got massages every day on the beach at Ko Phi Phi in southern Thailand, went on a cruise through Halong Bay in Vietnam, and saw the bustle of Ho Chi Minh City.

    The trip was a combined two-week sabbatical — which every salaried Gilt employee is entitled to after three years of continuous service — and an unlimited vacation time policy. "I really took advantage of recharging," says Salazar, 32, pictured below, who timed the trip to coincide with a promotion and transition to a different department within the company.

    Unlimited vacation days. It sounds like the holy grail of perks, the work equivalent of a $7.95 all-you-can-eat buffet: Take as many days off as you want, whenever you want to take them, as long as you get your work done.

    A number of companies, particularly the Silicon Valley, start-up kind, are moving away from the traditional

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  • Beef: It's what's (expensive) for dinner

    Planning a Father's Day barbeque this Sunday?

    Throwing a few steaks and burgers on the grill, you might have noticed, has gotten more expensive as the cost of beef has climbed over the past year. And it's only going higher, say economists.

    The average retail price of beef from January through April this year is 7.7% higher than the same period a year ago, according to the USDA's Economic Research Service data, while it's remained steady over the past few months, says John Michael Riley, an assistant professor in Mississippi State University's department of agricultural economics. And the average price in 2011 was 9.8% higher than in 2010.

    Higher Prices Will Continue

    Shoppers are going to continue to see higher prices at the meat counter — and not just for beef. Chris Hurt, a professor of agricultural economics at Purdue University, says he expects the average price of beef to rise to about $5.30 a pound next year. So far this year through May, retail prices have averaged $5.03 a pound

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  • Attention lawyers: Get your...$10,000 a year salary?

    Attention college students applying to law school: put down the LSAT prep book. You might want to consider another line of work.

    In what could be either a sign of the economic times or simply an extreme case, a law firm in Boston posted a position on Boston College Law School's career site for an associate position with a less-than-generous salary of $10,000.

    The job is for a full-time associate at Gilbert & O'Bryan LLP, a Boston law firm specializing in domestic relations, estate planning, bankruptcy and civil service law. The Boston Business Journal got a tip from a currently employed Boston College Law School graduate who spotted the posting and said the ad was "demoralizing." (Here's their screen shot of the post.)

    Compensation for the full-time associate position — suited for a new lawyer or "someone returning to a legal career" — is based mainly on a "percentage of work billed and collected," which means a percentage of what's billed to the firm's clients. (Larry O'Bryan, partner

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  • Seeing the doctor online

    You notice a mysterious rash on your forearm. With no idea as to what might be causing it —  not bedbugs! — you take to the Web. Not to check WebMD for a quickie self-diagnosis but to Skype with your dermatologist and show him the affected patch of skin.

    Online doctor visits are becoming increasingly common as cheaper videoconference tools and more high-speed Internet connections make it a cheaper and more convenient alternative to in-person consultations. Some specialties in health care, including online therapy and teleradiology, have gone mainstream.

    Over 10 million Americans use a form of telemedicine each year, according to the American Telemedicine Association, a group that promotes the use of remote medical technologies. ("Telemedicine" or "telehealth" includes the diagnosis, consultation and treatment of patients via videoconference, phone and other applications.) And 15 states have passed laws requiring private insurers to cover services provided via telemedicine. Basic email

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  • New Canadian $20 Bill Too Provocative for Some

    If there was ever a need to confirm how badly U.S. currency needs a makeover, this is it. Our neighbors to the north just introduced a new $20 bill in Ottawa, and the redesign has garnered a bit of controversy.

    The bill features Queen Elizabeth II, who is celebrating her Diamond Jubilee this year, on the front of the note. The back pays tribute to the sacrifices of Canadian men and women in military conflicts with an image of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. (Watch the Bank of Canada's video introducing the new bill and the significance of Vimy here.)

    However, some people have called elements of the bill "pornographic," while others have noted a resemblance to the Twin Towers that used to stand in lower Manhattan.

    The main reason for issuing a new $20 is to prevent counterfeiting threats, said the bank. The new polymer notes are also cheaper and have a smaller environmental footprint. (An image of the back of the $20 note is below.)

    Images of 9/11?

    The bank hired a research firm

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  • Herbalife chief tops 2011 highest-paid CEO list with salary of $89 million

    Americas' obesity epidemic and continuous struggle to shed pounds has been a boon to some weight-loss outfits, not to mention NBC's "The Biggest Loser." The biggest beneficiary is arguably Michael Johnson, CEO of the nutrition company Herbalife (HLF), who was paid $89.4 million in 2011, making him the highest-paid CEO, according to a report from research firm GMI Ratings. (Here's the survey.)

    Last year was the second year of double-digit pay increases, according to GMI. On average, pay to CEOs of companies in the Russell 3000 went up by more than 15% in 2011.

    The top 10 highest-paid CEOs thus far in 2011 earned about 77% of their total realized compensation through stock option exercises and vested equity.

    A not-so-close second behind Johnson in terms of total 2011 compensation are some familiar names:

    --IBM's (IBM) Sam Palmisano ($63.2 million);
    --Tyco International's (TYC) Edward Breen ($63.1 million);
    --Honeywell's (HON) David Cote ($58.2 million).

    Compensation includes base salary,

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