Tuesday, March 18, 2008

How to Protect Your Job When Layoffs Loom

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

2 - job security in the 21st century

If you’ve been following financial news for the last few days, you haven’t been performing your requisite Irish duty of drinking for three days straight if St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Monday. That, and you may have heard something about a company called Bear Stearns. The details of Bear Stearns’ crisis are not important to this discussion, so suffice it to say that it’s another “bank in trouble” saga but on a bigger scale than usual. Not being mentioned much in this whole affair is the fact that a lot of good people in the 13,000-employee company are probably going to lose their jobs. In cases like this—major financial disasters that wipe out huge workforce numbers—it’s almost impossible for individual employees to do anything to protect their jobs.

For every massive set of layoffs like the one that will soon rip through the remnants of Bear Stearns, there are many more smaller job reduction events due to economic pressures. In our current recession-esque economy, it’s now more important than usual for people like you and me to take measures to keep our jobs secure, especially if it’s looking like job cuts may be in store at our respective employers.

So if even the hint of layoffs is wafting in the air at your workplace, here’s a series of things you should be doing (and hopefully have already been doing) to shield yourself from the Axe of Doom.

  1. Keep up with the latest news at work. An informed employee is in a better position to make effective layoff-avoidance maneuvers than Joe Fingers-in-his-ears who turns a blind eye to office politics and obvious signs of distress.
  2. Don’t look worried about layoffs. This follows partly from the last item. If your co-workers seek your thoughts on the likelihood of layoffs, always insist that they’re not going to happen (unless you’re their boss; then you’re on a whole different playing field than them and can afford to be more honest). While this is a bit sneaky and underhanded, it can help make sure your co-workers are the ones unprepared for layoffs instead of you. In addition, by coming off as unconcerned about layoffs while your co-workers spend half the day pacing nervously, you may convince your bosses that your co-workers have better reasons to worry about layoffs—namely because they suck at their jobs.
  3. Stay on the radar. There’s a fine line between brown-nosing and hiding in your cubicle, and you’re going to want to ride it like a horse made of money when tough times are on the horizon. It’s much easier for managers to lay off no-name, no-face workers, so do what you can to keep yourself in the spotlight at work.
  4. Get along with others. You know that guy you work with that everyone loves? He’s always the first to help you out when you get hammered with lots of work, or maybe he buys a round of drinks every so often when the team goes out to eat. As long as he’s pulling his weight on paper, nobody’s going to lay off the office “friend to all.” But you know Bertha down in Accounting who talks too loud on the phone and tries to convert everyone to her cult? Yeah, she’s totally gone in the first round of layoffs.
  5. Find a safer position than your current one. If you’re on a 500-person project nearing the end of its schedule, and a great spot opens on another project within your company, you might want to jump ship as soon as you can. Similarly, if you’re in a large-sized organization that looks like it’ll need to shed some workers sooner or later, and there’s another spot down the hall on a smaller, overworked team, it might be in your best interests to give that new opportunity a shot.
  6. Resist the temptation to slack off. If the word “layoff” starts getting around your workplace, productivity almost certainly will take a hit immediately as people spend more time worrying and less time working. Don’t fall into the same trap. Keep your productivity up and a smile on your face. Complete the look with one of those hard-working cat posters so your boss knows you mean serious business.
  7. Volunteer for compromise opportunities. Some businesses these days try to avoid layoff situations by asking for people to voluntarily give up certain perks, take modest pay cuts, or switch to part-time for a while. You’ll need to weigh the cost of volunteering for these initiatives against the cost of potentially losing your job. Also, if your employer puts a call out for telecommuting (working from home) volunteers, try to be the first one to sign up since it could be a sign that your company is trying to save money on office real estate before moving on to saving money on personnel costs.
  8. Increase your value to the company. Building up your skill set, signing up for extra work, and finding ways to help your employer make more money will certainly help you differentiate yourself from the rest of the crowd.
  9. Make yourself indispensable. There are a lot of ways to help ensure you are seen as a vital (and not merely “important”) worker who should not be placed on the bad side of a layoff. Working hard and coming up with smart or money-saving ideas are two ways. Making sure nobody else knows how to do your job correctly is another.
  10. Take your job to another company. Preempt that pink-slip by moving on to another employer not facing the same economic troubles. If you have friends in your field at other companies, now is the time to start talking to them. And if you end up switching companies but you really liked your old one, keep an eye on its financial climate for the potential to move back once the storm has subsided.
  11. Get knocked up. If hard work and dedication isn’t up your alley, you can always play the sympathy and/or legal card. Loading a bun into your oven and telling the world about it has the double effect of winning you some compassion and adding you to a class of workers who could cry foul over getting canned. Watch lots of legal dramas and work on your best sobbing “They fired me because I was pregnant!” Men, please note that this tactic may not work for you (though it could qualify you for another class of protected workers—the mentally ill).

Bonus tip: if you’re slacking off and reading this article at work right now, your chances of getting laid off just went up 12%. Go tell your boss you like his new tie—yeah, the ugly neon “power tie”—to undo the damage.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Get Your Bank to Drop Your Mortgage Interest Rate In Three Easy Steps

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

1 - you must be at least this stupid to ride this government bailout

So you’re sitting in your home that you purchased sometime in the last few years, reading news of economic woes and various proposed bail-out plans for stupid homebuyers who bit off more than they could chew in the housing market, and you’re thinking, “Man, why couldn’t I have been stupid with my money too!”

I’ve been thinking that a lot lately myself. Sure, I can afford my mortgage payment, I have a hefty emergency fund and growing retirement savings, and things look pretty nice. But you know what? If my fixed-rate loan were at 5% instead of the 6% I’m paying now, I’d have a good bit of extra money each month I could devote to my ceramic rooster collection. The trouble is:

  • I pay all of my bills, including my mortgage, on time and in full every month.
  • My credit rating is awesome. Seriously, I can make women faint just by telling them my credit score. Some men too.
  • No bank in their right mind is just going to give me a free interest rate drop just because I want it, especially since it looks like I’ll have no problem paying my mortgage forever.

Sure, I could refinance, but rates are not yet (and probably won’t be) at the point where I’d break even unless I were committed to staying in my current residence for a decade or so, which I’m not.

There are other ways I could convince my bank to drop my interest rate. For example, I could stop paying my mortgage for a couple of months. Then I bet I’d get a call from my lender asking if there’s anything they could do to help encourage me to start sending them thousands of dollars again. “Of course! Just drop my interest rate by 1% so I can afford my payments again.” And depending on how desperate my lender would be to keep my mortgage checks coming in, they might just agree. Think it’s not possible? There has been more than one instance of people getting free interest rate drops for doing just that.

Of course, if I stopped paying my mortgage for 60 or 90 days, I risk plunging my creditworthiness into an unforgiving abyss, and there’s no guarantee the bank would even agree to drop my rate. Still, wouldn’t it be worth a 200-point credit score drop for a few years to save myself $250 or more each month for as long as I owned my home? Some might say yes, and if this scheme were a sure thing, I’d gladly trade score for cash.

But is there another way to frighten your lender into giving you a break on your interest rate? What if you made them think you were going to stop paying your mortgage without actually doing it? I guess you could simply call up your bank and say, “Drop my interest rate or I’ll stop paying next month” to which your bank would likely reply “To reach someone who thinks you actually have the balls to do that, press 1. Otherwise, stay on the line while our call center employees laugh at you while you’re on hold.”

Someone who has a strong credit history saying that they’re willing to throw it all away probably won’t scare a bank into a free rate drop. But what if you gave the bank some evidence that you might really stop your payments? Say, for example, you loaded up on credit cards, maxed them out as much as you could, and then went to your lender asking for help. If your bank sees that you’re charging a bunch of credit cards left and right, they might be more willing to buy into your threats of defaulting on your mortgage.

So, for those of you out there with entirely too much courage, a credit score you don’t mind trashing for a few months, and a mortgage lender with real people who might be willing to listen to you, here’s how to command a mortgage rate drop in three simple steps:

  1. Go after every bit of credit you can. We’ve talked briefly about credit card app-o-ramas on here before, but what you want to do is apply for pretty much every darn credit card in existence. If you can rack up around $250,000 in new credit, you’re probably in good shape going into step two.
  2. For added effect, use as much of that credit as possible. If I were a bank and I saw you with $250,000 of new credit lines in one month, I’d be pretty scared that you’re about to make a financial mess of yourself. But if you really wanna make your lender poop its pants, you could try spending that quarter-million dollars. Obviously you don’t want to buy anything you can’t return for a full refund later. Your best bet may be hitting some electronics superstores and loading up on a few hundred 50″ televisions. But for the love of all that is holy, study their return policies like it’s your final exam in astrophysics and don’t open the boxes.
  3. Go to your lender and beg for help. Make an appointment with someone at your bank (the one that holds your mortgage loan). You should experience a conversation that goes something like this:
    You: Hi, I can’t afford my mortgage payment anymore. Can you drop my interest rate a point or two?
    Bank Person: (Typing.) Well let’s just take a look at your credit report here and HOLY RAVIOLI YOU’RE ABOUT TO DECLARE SUPER-BANKRUPTCY WHICH IS 500 TIMES WORSE THAN REGULAR BANKRUPTCY!!!
    You: Yeah, can you help me out with that?
    Your maxed-out, multi-hundred-thousand-dollar credit lines should be enough to convince your lender that you are indeed in some sort of financial trouble. But it’s up to your lender to decide if they want to help you and themselves avoid a foreclosure situation which could cost the bank tens of thousands of dollars.

Whatever the outcome, be sure to return everything you bought in step two and pay off your credit cards in full. It may take a few months, but your credit rating should stabilize once your balances return to zero. Any credit hits from all those inquiries when you opened your new credit lines should be partially or completely offset by your massive new total available credit line.

While most of the actions above should only have temporary effects on your credit score, I cannot put enough disclaimers on all of this because any number of things could go wrong. At the very least, you could piss off your bank and they’ll leave a nasty note in your mortgage account’s record saying “Does not play well with others.” Or your credit card issuers might see your massive credit grab as a sign of financial struggle (which is the illusion you’re trying to create, right?) and decide to close down some or all of your accounts. Or you could screw up the whole buy-and-return process and end up with 250 HDTVs that are yours to keep and pay for. So proceed with this plan at your own risk and only if you think you have the discipline to carry out the plan in its entirety… or at least up to the point where you can send me a funny e-mail that starts “So the bank foreclosed on my house today thanks to you….”

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Get Paid Hundreds of Dollars Just to Interview For Jobs

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: , ,

...like free donuts every Friday.

Hopefully you’re like me and are able to resist throwing yourself at all of the web startups du jour that keep popping up all over the place. A couple of years ago it was MySpace that drove all of the kiddies to hurl themselves like lemmings at a cliff. Now you’ve got websites with names like Fwurgle, Choopsey, and Hobnobble promising to do something to improve people’s lives when really all they’re doing is complicating them even further in order to make a quick buck.

So when I first heard about NotchUp a few months ago, I totally passed it off as another internet startup that would make a bang for a few days, maybe rake in a few dollars for its creators, and then make way for the next one-hit e-wonder. But then NotchUp resurfaced a couple of weeks ago, still alive, still promising to make people’s lives better, and (almost) ready to open for business.

So what is this NotchUp I keep talking about? Well, it’s a lot of things. On the surface, NotchUp is a service that connects prospective employees with businesses looking to hire. In other words, NotchUp is a headhunter—someone paid to help companies find good workers. If this were all NotchUp were, it would already be out of the picture because the world has more than enough headhunters already.

Where NotchUp distinguishes itself from your everyday headhunter is that 1) you don’t pay them a penny; the company looking to hire you does; 2) NotchUp passes on some (likely most) of the money it gets from prospective employers to you, the job candidate; and 3) you don’t even need to be hired by the company to get your money. In short, NotchUp helps you get paid to interview for jobs. And not just a few pennies per interview either. NotchUp claims that qualified candidates could demand in the neighborhood of $500 per interview.

At this point you probably just quit your sub-$30,000 a year job after doing the math that you could make your entire annual salary in a few months with just 60 job interviews at $500 apiece. If so, you may want to start interviewing for real because there’s a few things you should know about NotchUp:

  • They haven’t really started operating yet. Yes, you can sign up for a NotchUp account today, but nobody’s getting paid for interviews quite yet.
  • There’s a lot of competition. NotchUp recently hit all of the big social networking sites, so they’re probably already in the six figures for membership numbers. That said, I would expect that fully 90% of NotchUp’s current enrollment would be lucky to pass an interview for the position of 2nd Dishwasher Assistant. So if you have high-demand skills, there’s still hope for you.
  • Nobody really knows how it’ll turn out. NotchUp may or may not already be in talks with prospective employers and interviewers, but its claims of “$500+ per interview” are really just conjecture at this point. Maybe a few high-demand positions could fetch that much when NotchUp first launches, but I would expect the actual returns to fall a good bit short.
  • It’s just asking to be abused. When all you have to do to get paid is interview for the job, you’re opening up the possibility of people who become professional job interviewees—folks who sign up for interviews left and right while knowing full well they’re not really looking for a new job. If the abuse is bad enough, it could be the undoing of NotchUp.
  • Your current boss might see you. While NotchUp appears to have some rudimentary filtering techniques designed to help you hide your NotchUp profile from unwanted attention (say, from your current employer), they may be easy to get around. So unless you think your boss will buy into your explanation that you’re “just interviewing for jobs for fun and profit,” beware that potentially anyone could see your profile and assume you’re looking for new work.

Right now, NotchUp has a lot of promise but not much more than hype and resumes to show for its efforts so far. But if you’re okay with putting yourself out there on the internet, then you’ve got nothing to lose by signing up with NotchUp for free and seeing where it goes.

Oh, and while anyone can sign up for NotchUp, if you get referred by an existing member, you don’t have to wait for your application to be reviewed and possibly rejected. So if you want an invite, send me an e-mail. Note that I do get a 10% bonus for interviews completed by people I refer, so I especially encourage top-level astronaut baseball players who will fetch $50,000 per interview to ask me for an invite.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Absolute Best, Must See Financial Web Pages Ever

Author: Nick
Category: Money

For a long time, I’ve been wanting to put together sort of a Master List of really excellent personal finance website links and post it here. The problem is that every single personal finance writer on the internet has already done this, and I try to avoid doing The Same Old Thing as everyone else here.

So I figured I’d try something new and put together a small collection of the best single pages of the internet that are just so full of amazing financial information that you should print out every single one of them and carry them around in your pocket all of the time. Putting this collection together was no easy feat; it took at least ten solid minutes of using Google and digging through my bookmarks to come up with this list.

Again, the criteria for this list are as follows:

  1. Only single web pages. Sure, the entire site as a whole might be nice, but I’m looking for one page or document that’s just bursting with personal finance flavor in every bite.
  2. Must be awesome. Lack of awesomeness is an immediate disqualification.
  3. Must be useful. A web page with lots of pretty numbers that aren’t of any real use is not going to help anybody. Users of this page should leave it having accomplished or learned something.

I considered having some little award statuettes made for this, but I figured just the honor of being selected would be recognition enough.

Best Financial Calculator

dinkytown calculatorDinkyTown’s Benefits of Spending Less Calculator

It’s almost a given that DinkyTown.net has the best financial calculators for virtually every situation involving money, but selecting just one was no easy task. The Benefits of Spending Less Calculator struck me as the most awesome and useful of the roughly four billion calculators on that website because absolutely anybody can use it to see what would happen if you cut out, for instance, your weekly visit to the local brothel. (Now I can retire at 50!)

Best Cheat Sheet

ivrThe IVR Cheat Sheet

When Paul English put together his list of phone numbers and dialing sequences that will get you a real human when calling a mega-corporation, it was all you heard about on the internet for about three weeks. The IVR (interactive voice response) cheat sheet has since been replaced by the gethuman website; but unless you carry an internet-talkie device in your pocket all of the time, you’ll have much better luck on the road and away from home with this printable version of the original cheat sheet that contains some of the more frequent companies you may find yourself calling. Now you can call a live person at the Department of Homeland Security from anywhere!

Best Beginner-Level Investing Guide

sec financial statements guideBeginners’ Guide to Financial Statements

If you ever decide to ramp up your personal investment activities and you’re looking for companies to invest in, you’ll need to do your homework to make sure you don’t inadvertently throw your cash into a business with hidden financial troubles. This guide from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission will teach you the basics of understanding a company’s financial statements—from footnotes to shareholder equity—so you can judge for yourself if that business is a smart investment or another Enron waiting to happen.

Best Resource for Maximizing Student Financial Aid

princeton federal student aid tax guideA Step-by-Step Guide to the Federal Income Tax Form

Once you’re filling out your FAFSA form to apply for Federal student financial aid, it’s probably too late to find any significant moves that will increase your aid allotment. The best time to do this is when you’re filling out your tax forms (well, really before you fill out the forms) because reducing your amount of taxable income will help to increase your financial aid eligibility. This guide from the folks at The Princeton Review highlights the parts of the 1040 you’ll want to pay particular attention to in order to help maximize your student aid prospects.

Best Guide to Saving Money on Energy Costs

mahalo.com energy guideHow to Save on Your Energy Bill

I’ve seen parts of a list like this on more than a dozen different web pages, but this is the first time I’ve seen practically every energy-saving tip imaginable in one place. You’ll find a lot of great How-Tos on Mahalo.com, a community-driven knowledge repository not unlike Wikipedia, but this is definitely one of my favorite guides in their growing Finance section.

Best Resource for People Who Always Lose Stuff

wheresmycellphone.comWhere’s My Cell Phone?.com

You swear you just had your cell phone in your hand, but now you don’t. After digging around in your desk for a while and trying to call your cell phone from a different phone to locate it, you’re about to give up and spend $200 on a new one. But wait! Simply enter your phone number into this website and it will keep your cell phone ringing until you find it and hang up (or until the battery dies). What’s that? You left your cell phone in your mistress’s pants which your wife found under your bed because it kept ringing until she came home? Hooray! Another owner reunited with their cell phone thanks to Where’s My Cell Phone?.com.

Best Place to Find Top CD Rates

fatwallet cd rates threadFatWallet.com CD Rates Thread

The CD Rates Thread over at FatWallet.com is the first place you should look if you’ve got a few K burning a hole in your pocket and you’re looking to stash it away in a safe place for some number of months. The rates in the Quick Summary area are constantly updated by real people to include the latest CD rate deals available both online and off. Rates are conveniently organized by rate term and include summaries of when the rate was spotted and the minimum amount of money that must be invested in the CD at opening, if any.

Best Money Resources for Kids

federal reserve comicsFree Comic Books from the Federal Reserve

Visit this page to order your free copies of money-related comic books for your kids to enjoy. Topics covered include banking, saving, the economy, monetary policy, and more. You can preview one of the comics, Wishes and Rainbows (PDF), online. Unfortunately the rest of the comics only come in tree murderer-friendly format.

This is a work in progress, and new resources will be added to this page as they are found. If you have a suggestion for a one-page resource you’d like to see added to this page, please send it to Nick with the subject line “Another Absolute Best Financial Web Page.”

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Seven Pending Class Action Lawsuits That May Show You The Money

Author: Nick
Category: Money

You may recall the announcement of a settlement in the De Beers diamond lawsuit class action that could put money back in your pocket for your recent diamond jewelry purchases. And even more recently in the news is word that those popular Airborne anti-sickness supplements probably don’t work, and a class action lawsuit against Airborne’s makers could give you a decent-sized refund.

At this point you may be sitting there thinking, “Hmm, maybe I could make a living buying all sorts of garbage and waiting for the manufacturer to get sued so I can cash in on the settlement.” But before you quit your job and set up a tent in the back of your local courthouse, keep in mind that relying on class action lawsuits for a steady income is, to put it gently, super-duper retarded.

That said, there are still some class actions on the horizon (either just being filed, in the process of being considered in court, or going to settlement) that could net you a few bucks based on your past purchases or actions. Below you’ll find a list of some of the more interesting lawsuits making headlines that might include you in their affected classes.

It’s Not So Comcastic After All!

comcastWho’s Getting Sued: Comcast, everyone’s favorite cable and internet services provider.
What’s It About? Comcast is being sued in California and Washington D.C. for interfering with popular peer-to-peer downloads, allegedly slowing their speeds or sometimes preventing them altogether. Comcast may argue that it can do whatever the hell it wants with its internet tubes, while the consumers bringing the suits will probably throw Comcast’s claims of unfettered internet access back in its face.
How Much Money Could I Expect? Don’t worry too much if you’re a Comcast user but you don’t live in California or D.C. It’s only a matter of time before one of these lawsuits transforms into a nationwide action or a separate one pops up in your neighborhood. If Comcast loses or agrees to settle, you may be able to get a partial or full refund for your internet access fees over a certain time period—anywhere from a few months to a few years.
How Do I Track This Case? Subscribe to Google News updates on “comcast class action” in your RSS reader.

Never Get Between a Gamer and His Fun

xbox liveWho’s Getting Sued: Microsoft, maker of the Xbox, Xbox 360, Windows, and other things that tend to break a lot.
What’s It About? Millions of gamers seeking to unwind over the December 2007 holiday break instead ended up breaking Microsoft’s Xbox Live online videogame service which couldn’t handle the extreme load on its servers, resulting in an outage of the service that lasted for days. A handful of enraged gamers in Texas, not satisfied with Microsoft’s apology which came with a free arcade game dowload, filed a class action suit in January seeking $5 million in damages.
How Much Money Could I Expect? If you’re lucky, you might get a free month of Xbox Live service or a refund for the alleged outage period. One month of Xbox Live service runs for about $8.
How Do I Track This Case? Subscribe to Google News updates on “xbox live class action” in your RSS reader.

Two Cases Sprint-ing to the Courthouse

sprintWho’s Getting Sued: Sprint Nextel Corp., provider of cellular phone services and constant buyer’s remorse.
What’s It About? Sprint Nextel saw itself hit with two class action lawsuits in February 2008—one alleging it illegally extended cell phone contracts for pretty much any reason (You like the color blue? That’s a two-year contract extension.), and another claiming it improperly charged roaming fees.
How Much Money Could I Expect? Your guess is as good as mine. Depending on how the proceeds of any settlement or award are split, you might see anywhere from a few bucks to a bucket of cash if you were hit with unfair roaming fees or contract extensions. Just the contract extension suit by itself could bring in hundreds of dollars of monthly fee refunds for consumers who were wrongly locked into longer contracts.
How Do I Track This Case? Subscribe to Google News updates on “sprint nextel class action” in your RSS reader.

Your Blu-ray Player Doesn’t Work? Uh, It’s Supposed to Do That

samsungWho’s Getting Sued: Samsung, manufacturer of electronic toys for girls and boys.
What’s It About? This one’s pretty straightforward: buyers of Samsung’s early generation of Blu-ray players insist they (the players) are pieces of junk that won’t play the latest awesome Blu-ray movies like Fantastic 4 and The Land Before Time 47: Hi-Def Dinos. Samsung responded to the lawsuit saying, “Oh crap, we were hoping nobody would notice that.”
How Much Money Could I Expect? Samsung should settle this one pretty quickly since it’s so obvious they’re in the wrong. Expect a lame settlement though—something like discount vouchers for another piece of crap Samsung Blu-ray player.
How Do I Track This Case? Subscribe to Google News updates on “samsung blu-ray class action” in your RSS reader.

Yeah, This PC’s About As Vista Capable As My Game Boy

vista capableWho’s Getting Sued: Microsoft, software giant that gets sued for every product it ever makes.
What’s It About? Consumers allege that Microsoft, in order to keep PC sales going during the multi-year delays of its new Vista operating system, slapped “Vista Capable” stickers on PCs and laptops originally equipped with Windows XP that can now barely run the most basic version of Vista. PC buyers are mad that they spent money on machines that are already out-of-date.
How Much Money Could I Expect? I think Microsoft knows it screwed up badly on this one, so expect a speedy settlement. Depending on how stupid the plantiff’s attorneys are, you could personally see anything from a free copy of “Vista Basic, Lawsuit Edition” for your woefully inadequate PC to a partial or full refund of your machine’s purchase price.
How Do I Track This Case? Subscribe to Google News updates on “vista capable class action” in your RSS reader.

Buy This .com Domain Today For Just $5. No, $10. Now It’s $30. No Wait…

network solutionsWho’s Getting Sued: Network Solutions, overpriced domain name registrar.
What’s It About? Domain name hunters claim that popular but pricey registrar Network Solutions would put a hold on domain names when users searched for them on its website, preventing the searcher from buying it on a competing registrar’s website at a much lower price. Network Solutions charges roughly $35 a year for domain name registrations; for comparison, I paid GoDaddy.com about $7 to renew punny.org this year.
How Much Money Could I Expect? The typical personal payout for this lawsuit could be some fraction of that $35 a year fee if you found yourself forced to buy a domain from Network Solutions due to their automatic holds. But if you decided not to give in to NetSol’s extortion, you may be better off filing your own suit against them (and excluding yourself from this class during the award distribution phase) to recover whatever actual damages you experienced not being able to get your desired domain name.
How Do I Track This Case? Subscribe to Google News updates on “network solutions class action” in your RSS reader.

90% Efficient… About 50% of the Time

carrierWho’s Getting Sued: Furnace manufacturers Carrier, Bryant, Payne, and Day & Night.
What’s It About? This lawsuit is already in the settlement phase, but it slipped under a lot of people’s radars due to lack of mainstream media coverage. In short, those 90% efficiency furnaces that are supposed to save you money on your heating bills will end up costing you more in the long run because they break down far more often than their 80% efficient counterparts.
How Much Money Could I Expect? Current or previous owners of certain furnace models will get $270 and an enhanced warranty. You have until August 1, 2008 to submit your claim form at www.furnaceclaims.com.
How Do I Track This Case? Subscribe to Google News updates on “carrier bryant class action” in your RSS reader.

Now before you start planning a trip to Jamaica using your chunk of the awards from these lawsuits, remember that there are a few things standing in your way of cashing those settlement checks:

  • They have to, like, win the case first. Or at least push the defendants into a settlement.
  • Lawyers get their huge cut of the money first.
  • Big business lawsuits can drag on for years.
  • You’ll probably need receipts for your affected purchases. If you didn’t keep them, your benefits may be reduced or eliminated altogether.
  • Anyone named Nick gets his check first. It’s the law. Look it up in this law book of mine that I wrote just now.

Your best bet for keeping up with these class action suits so you don’t miss out on your piece of the settlement pies is by subscribing to the RSS feeds posted with each story above. Each one should monitor Google’s news service for updates to each case and notify you in your feed reader if the suits are settled, won, lost or dismissed.