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    The phrase 'death cleaning' may sound jarring to unaccustomed ears, but the concept makes sense. It's about getting rid of excess rather than leaving a mess for your heirs to sort out. 'Death cleaning' is the literal translation of the Swedish word dostadning, which means an uncluttering process that begins as people age. It's popularized in the new book 'The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning' by Margareta Magnusson. Magnusson focuses on jettisoning stuff, but most older people's finances could use a good death cleaning as well. Simplifying and organizing our financial lives can make things easier for us while we're alive and for our survivors when we're not. This task becomes more urgent when we're in our 50s. Our financial decision-making abilities generally peak around age 53, researchers have found, while rates of cognitive decline and dementia start to climb at age 60. As we age, we tend to become more vulnerable to fraud, scams, unethical advisers and bad judgment, says financial literacy expert Lewis Mandell, author of 'What to Do When I Get Stupid.' Cleaning up our finances can help protect us. Some steps to take: CONSOLIDATE FINANCIAL ACCOUNTS Fewer accounts are easier to monitor for suspicious transactions and overlapping investments, plus you may save money on account fees. Your employer may allow you to transfer old 401(k) and IRA accounts into its plan, or you can consolidate them into one IRA. For simplicity, consider swapping individual stocks and bonds for professionally managed mutual funds or exchange-traded funds (but check with a tax pro before you sell any investments held outside retirement funds). Move scattered bank accounts under one roof, but keep in mind that FDIC insurance is generally limited to $250,000 per depositor per institution. AUTOMATE PAYMENTS Memory lapses can lead to missed payments, late fees and credit score damage, which can in turn drive up the cost of borrowing and insurance. You can set up regular recurring payments in your bank's bill payment system, have other bills charged to a credit card and set up an automatic payment so the card balance is paid in full each month. Head off bounced-transaction fees with true overdraft protection, which taps a line of credit or a savings account to pay over-limit transactions. PRUNE CREDIT CARDS Certified financial planner Carolyn McClanahan in Jacksonville, Florida, recommends her older clients keep just two credit cards: one for everyday purchases and another for automatic bill payments. Closing accounts can hurt credit scores, though, so wait until you're reasonably sure you won't need to apply for a loan before you start dramatically pruning. SET UP A WATCHDOG Identify whom you want making decisions for you if you're incapacitated. Use software or a lawyer to create two durable powers of attorney — one for finances, one for health care. You don't have to name the same person in both, but do name backups in case your original choice can't serve. Consider naming someone younger, because someone your age or older could become impaired at the same time you do, says Carolyn Rosenblatt, an elder-law attorney in San Rafael, California, who runs AgingParents.com. Grant online access to your accounts, or at least talk about where your trusted person can find the information she'll need, Rosenblatt recommends. Also create 'in case of emergency' files that your trusted person or heirs will need. These might include: ?Your will or living trust ?Medical directives, powers of attorney, living wills ?Birth, death and marriage certificates ?Military records ?Social Security cards ?Car titles, property deeds and other ownership documents ?Insurance policies ?A list of your financial accounts ?Contact information for your attorney, tax pro, financial adviser and insurance agent ?Photocopies of passports, driver's licenses and credit cards A safe deposit box is not the best repository, because your trusted person may need access outside bank hours. A fireproof safe bolted to a floor in your home, or at minimum a locked file cabinet, may be better, as long as you share the combination or key (or its location) with your trusted person. Scanning paperwork and keeping an encrypted copy in the cloud could help you or someone else recreate your financial life if the originals are lost or destroyed. ________________________ This column was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet . Liz Weston is a columnist at NerdWallet, a certified financial planner and author of 'Your Credit Score.' Email: lweston@nerdwallet.com . Twitter: @lizweston. RELATED LINK: NerdWallet: How to decide whether to roll over a 401(k) to an IRA https://nerd.me/401k-to-IRA-rollover
  • U.S. homebuilders are feeling more optimistic than they have in nearly two decades.The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Monday rose five points to 74 this month. That's the highest reading since July of 1999, more than 18 years ago.Readings above 50 indicate more builders see sales conditions as good rather than poor. The index has remained above 60 since September of 2016.The index exceeded the expectations of analysts surveyed by FactSet, who expected a reading of 70.All three components of the index rose in December. The reading gauging builders' view of single-family home sales rose four points to 81, while the outlook for sales over the next six months ticked up three points to 79. The measure of traffic by prospective buyers jumped eight points to 58.The Commerce Department reported late last month that Americans bought new homes in October at the fastest pace in a decade — a 6.2 percent monthly increase — reflecting a strong economy but also a worsening shortage of existing homes for sale.New home sales last month rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 685,000, the third straight monthly gain and the best sales clip since October 2007.Many buyers are turning to new construction due to an ongoing dearth of existing homes for sale. However, new construction has been unable to keep up with demand.Potential buyers are searching for homes amid a healthy job market with a 4.1 percent unemployment rate and attractive 30-year mortgage rates that are averaging less than 4 percent.
  • Twitter has begun enforcing stricter policies on violent and abusive content like hateful images or symbols, including those attached to user profiles.The new guidelines, which were first announced one month ago, were put into place Monday.Monitors at the company will weigh hateful imagery in the same way they do graphic violence and adult content.If a user wants to post symbols or images that might be considered hateful, the post must be marked 'sensitive media.' Other users would then see a warning that would allow them to decide whether to view the post.Twitter is also prohibiting users from abusing or threatening others through their profiles or usernames.While the new guidelines became official on Monday, the social media company continues to work out internal monitoring tools and it is revamping the appeals process for banned or suspended accounts. But the company will also begin accepting reports from users.Users can report profiles, or users, that they consider to be in violation of Twitter policy. Previously, users could only report individual posts they deemed offensive.Now being targeted are 'logos, symbols, or images whose purpose is to promote hostility and malice against others based on their race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity/national origin.'There is no specific list, however, of banned symbols or images. Rather, the company will review complaints individually to consider the context of the post or profile, including cultural and political considerations.It is also broadening existing policies intended to reduce threatening content, to include imagery that glorifies or celebrates violent acts. That content will be removed and repeat offenders will be banned. Beginning Monday, the company will ban accounts affiliated with 'organizations that use or promote violence against civilians to further their causes.'While more content is banned, the company has provided more leeway for itself after it was criticized for strict rules that resulted in account suspensions.There was a backlash against Twitter after it suspending the account of actress Rose McGowan who opened a public campaign over sexual harassment and abuse, specifically naming Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. Twitter eventually reinstated McGowan's account and said that it had been suspended because of a tweet that violated its rules on privacy.'In our efforts to be more aggressive here, we may make some mistakes and are working on a robust appeals process,' Twitter said in its blog post.Twitter relies in large part on user reports to identify problematic accounts and content, but the company said it is developing 'internal tools' to bolster its ability to police content.Twitter also seeks to improve communications with users about the decisions it makes. That includes telling those who have been suspended which rules they had violated.
  • Campbell Soup will spend $4.87 billion in cash for Snyder's-Lance, gorging on a snack market that has grown increasingly competitive.The soup maker said Monday that the acquisition will allow it to expand its distribution channels in the crowded field.Campbell Soup Co., based in Camden, New Jersey, is paying $50 per share, a 6.8 percent premium to Snyder's-Lance's closing price Friday. That's about a 27 percent premium to the stock's close last Wednesday, just before rumors of a deal began to circulate.Snyder's-Lance, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, makes pretzels, chips. It's most well-known brands include Snyder's of Hanover, Kettle Brand and Pop Secret. It will join the Campbell's division that makes Pepperidge Farm and Goldfish crackers.
  • Pinnacle Entertainment is being snapped up by Penn National in a deal worth about $2.8 billion as the gaming industry seeks to diversify and cut costs at the same time.Penn National Gaming Inc. is spending $20 in cash for each share, and Pinnacle shareholders will also get 0.42 shares of Penn for each Pinnacle share they own. The stock-and-cash bid is worth an implied $32.47 per share, the companies said.As part of the deal, Boyd Gaming Corp. is buying four of Penn National's newly acquired properties. Those include the Ameristar St. Charles and the Ameristar Kansas City, both in Missouri, as well as the Belterra Casino Resort in Florence, Indiana, and Belterra Park in Cincinnati. Boyd will pay $575 million for those assets.Penn says the combined company will have 41 properties in North America, not including those acquired by Boyd. The company also expects about $100 million in annual cost savings as a result of the deal.'The combined company will benefit from enhanced scale, additional growth opportunities and best-in-class operations, creating a more efficient integrated gaming company,' said Penn CEO Timothy J. Wilmott.In morning trading, Pinnacle Entertainment shares added 32 cents to $31.27. Penn National shares dipped 32 cents to $29.37, and Boyd Gaming shares rose $1.46, or 4.5 percent, to $33.78.
  • The European Union's executive branch is warning the United States that its planned tax overhaul could violate some of its international obligations and risks 'seriously hampering' trans-Atlantic trade.In a letter to U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, the EU Commission reinforced a similar move by Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Spain to stress it has serious concerns over several tax initiatives.EU Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said Monday that 'the draft U.S. tax bill as it currently stands contains elements that risk seriously hampering trade and investment'Schinas said EU institutions and nations 'believe that it is in the joint EU-U.S. interest to avoid this.'EU nations have been warily eyeing President Trump's domestic tax proposals and fear they might hurt world trade and EU companies in particular.
  • If you’ll be catching a flight for the Christmas holiday, you might be a little bit nervous about possible turbulence. Pilots do whatever they can to avoid turbulence — including changing the route to stay away from storms — but you should be prepared for at least a few bumps along the way. Fear of flying is quite common, but don’t let your anxiety get the best of you! Follow these tips… RELATED: Use this packing trick to avoid a checked bag fee How to fight your fear of flying For many, the nervousness kicks in before takeoff. Veteran pilot Capt. Ron Nielsen told NBC News that tightening your muscles for 30 seconds and then releasing them will help calm you down. When that turbulence hits, Nielsen suggests that you put a pen in the hand you don’t normally use and write your name. It will disrupt your thinking because using your opposite hand requires extra attention. Finally, if you still can’t calm down, Nielsen says you can breathe through a drinking straw to prevent hyperventilating. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), exposure to triggers is key to overcoming phobias because avoiding them just keeps your phobia alive. Read more tips for overcoming your fear of flying here. More Clark.com travel tips:  The best day of the week to book a cheap flight Clark’s secret to finding the best Priceline and Hotwire hotel deals Clark’s secret to finding the cheapest flights possible These 35 hotel chains offer free breakfast 8 ways to avoid car rental ripoffs this holiday season Related Articles from clark.com: Social Security's full retirement age will rise by 2 months in 2018 Read More Best cell phone plans and deals right now Read More New security warning about chip credit cards Read More
  • Chinese smartphone brand Huawei will start sales through U.S. carriers next year, a Huawei executive said Monday, stepping up the No. 3 global handset seller's presence in the home market of rival Apple Inc.The president of Huawei Technologies Ltd.'s consumer business, Richard Yu, said he would announce details at next month's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. He said sales would start with the flagship Mate 10 but declined to give a price or say through which carrier or carriers they would be sold.Huawei sells some models in U.S. electronics stores and online but has a minimal share of an American market in which most sales are through carriers. Globally, the company trails Samsung and Apple by handset shipments but leads in China, the biggest market, and says it expects to ship a total of 150 million units this year.'We will sell our flagship phone, our product, in the U.S. market through carriers next year,' said Yu in an interview. 'I think that we can bring value to the carriers and to consumers. Better product, better innovation, better user experience.'Yu expressed confidence the smartphone business wouldn't be affected by American government concerns Huawei might be a security threat, which derailed U.S. demand for its network gear.'In consumer sales, when people really start using Huawei products, they will change their minds,' said Yu.Huawei, founded in 1987 by a former military engineer, is the first Chinese brand to break into the top ranks of global technology suppliers.The company, headquartered in Shenzhen, near Hong Kong, is the world's biggest supplier of switching equipment used by telephone and internet companies. It has manufactured mobile phones since the 1990s and launched its own smartphone brand in 2010.Huawei reported 2016 profit of 37 billion yuan ($5.4 billion) on revenue of 521.6 billion yuan ($75.6 billion). The company is owned by its employees, with no publicly traded shares, but reports financial results in an effort to allay security concerns in the United States and Europe.Helped by a strong position in China, India and other developing markets, sales by its premium-priced Huawei and mid-market Honor smartphone brands have grown faster than those of Samsung or Apple. That prompted suggestions Huawei might pass its American rival.In the latest quarter, Huawei's handset shipments rose 16.1 percent over a year earlier to 39.1 million, well ahead of Apple's 2.6 percent growth to sales of 46.7 million, according to IDC. Samsung sales expanded 9.5 percent to 83.3 million units.'We are a Top 3 smartphone supplier but we are very close to the Top 2. So maybe quickly we can be Top 2,' said Yu.The Mate 10, unveiled in October, offers an extra-wide display, high-end cameras and other advanced features at prices 15 to 30 percent below those of Samsung and Apple.Yu said the Mate 10 will be 'competitively priced' in the United States but Huawei expects to compete on performance instead of cost.'Our strength is in developed markets,' where consumers will pay for performance, said Yu. 'We are not a cheap, low-cost company.'Also next year, Huawei plans to start selling through carriers in Japan, where its phones already are sold in stores, Yu said.'I think next year is a very important year for Huawei,' he said.Huawei's U.S. business suffered a setback when a congressional panel recommended in October 2013 that phone carriers avoid doing business with it or a smaller Chinese rival, ZTE Corp. Beijing rejected the report as false and an effort to block Chinese companies from the U.S. market.Huawei denied being a security threat and rejected the U.S. complaints as politically motivated or possibly an attempt by competitors to keep it out of the market.'They are lying,' said Yu. 'We are a company that really cares about cybersecurity and privacy protection. We do a lot better than the other vendors.'___Huawei Technologies Ltd.: www.huawei.com
  • A new security based on the price of the digital currency bitcoin was trading slightly higher Monday after its debut on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, a week after another such security launched on a rival exchange.The CME Group, which owns the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, opened up futures of bitcoin, which has soared in value and volatility this year, for trading on Sunday evening. By 7:50 a.m. EST (1220 GMT) Monday the futures contract that expires in January was at $19,560, up $60.The CME futures, like the ones that CME competitor the Cboe started trading last week, do not involve actual bitcoin. The CME's futures will track an index of bitcoin prices pulled from several private exchanges. The Cboe's futures track bitcoin prices on the particular private exchange known as Gemini.Each contract sold on the CME is for five bitcoin.Bitcoin's price has skyrocketed on private exchanges this year, largely under its own momentum, piquing interest on Wall Street. The virtual currency was trading below $1,000 at the beginning of the year, and rose to more than $19,000 on some exchanges in the days leading up to its debut on the Cboe and CME. Bitcoin was trading at $18,981 Monday morning on Coindesk.The growing enthusiasm for bitcoin has raised questions over whether its value has gotten too frothy. The Securities and Exchange Commission put out a statement last week warning investors to be careful with any investment in bitcoin or other digital currencies. Further, the Commodities Futures Trading Commission has proposed regulating bitcoin like a commodity, not unlike gold, silver, platinum or oil.Futures are a type of contract where a buyer and seller agree on a price on a particular item to be delivered on a certain date in the future, hence the name. Futures are available for nearly every type of security out there, but are most familiarly used in commodities, like oil wheat, soy and gold.Bitcoin is the world's most popular virtual currency. Such currencies are not tied to a bank or government and allow users to spend money anonymously. They are basically lines of computer code that are digitally signed each time they are traded.A debate is raging on the merits of such currencies. Some say they serve merely to facilitate money laundering and illicit, anonymous payments. Others say they might be helpful methods of payment, such as in crisis situations where national currencies have collapsed.
  • Toyota plans to offer more than 10 purely electric vehicle models in its lineup by the early 2020s, marking the Japanese automaker's commitment to that growing technology sector.Toyota Motor Corp. now offers no purely electric vehicles, although it leads in hybrid models, which switch between an electric motor and a gas engine.Executive Vice President Shigeki Terashi said Monday that Toyota's EVs will be first offered in China, a nation that's encouraging electric vehicles with subsidies and other policies, and is expected to drive massive growth in that technology.Terashi says Toyota's EVs will also later be offered in Japan, India, the U.S. and Europe.The company says that by about 2025, every model it sells will have some kind of 'electrified' version, such as hybrid, electric or fuel-cell.Last week, Toyota announced it will set up a joint auto battery business with Japanese electronics maker Panasonic Corp. Terashi stressed the deal with Panasonic is 'a crucial piece' in Toyota's strategy, and that it wanted to promote a Japanese partnership.Advances in battery technology are vital for the success of EVs. A major shift toward their use would require more use and recycling of the rare and expensive materials used in batteries, such as lithium.Toyota announced other goals on green vehicles. By about 2030, it hopes to sell 5.5 million electrified vehicles a year. Toyota sells about 10 million vehicles globally a year.The company said it will invest 1.5 trillion yen ($13 billion) to realize its 2030 goal, more than half of it on making batteries.Other automakers, including Nissan Motor Co., Volkswagen AG and Honda Motor Co., offer or are working on electric vehicles. That means competition among battery makers is heating up. It is unclear whether Panasonic will emerge the victor in the race.Toyota has generally sought to develop key technologies in-house, rather than purchasing them from outsiders. That includes knowhow for computer chips and robotics, which are also expected to be pillars of growth for the auto sector in coming years.___Follow Yuri Kageyama on Twitter at https://twitter.com/yurikageyamaHer work can be found at https://www.apnews.com/search/yuri%20kageyama

The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

  • John Skipper, the president of ESPN, resigned from his position Monday citing a substance addiction problem, according to the sports network. >> Read more trending news The network announced that former ESPN president and executive chairman George Bodenheimer will serve as acting chair for the next 90 days. He worked for ESPN from 1981 to 2014. Check back for updates on this developing story.
  • Officials responded Monday morning after a train derailed over Interstate 5 near Mounts Road in Pierce County, Washington. >> Read more trending news All lanes were blocked on Monday morning.
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden is coming to Orlando next month. Biden will bring his American Promise Tour to the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts January 29 for a special one night event. Joe Biden has always believed that when given a chance, ordinary people can do extraordinary things. As a scrappy kid from Scranton who rose to the Office of Vice President, he is no exception. During his 45 years of public service, one of Vice President Biden’s greatest strengths has been his ability to bring people together, even in crisis, even across difficult divides, all the while, respecting everybody at the table. In 2018, Vice President Joe Biden continues his American Promise Tour, a series of conversations that will go beyond the 24-hour news cycle and 140-character arguments to connect friends and neighbors around the topics that matter most. Vice President Biden will reveal the big political moments of his career, the life-altering choices he made, and the key traits that have helped him persevere through challenges. He will share how the loss of his son Beau tested his resolve, and how he is finding new purpose in a time of uncertainty. Tickets to the event start at $68.  VIP packages are available for $128. For more information on the event, or to purchase tickets, click HERE.
  • The man infamously acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin has found himself in the middle of another feud -- this time with rapper Jay-Z. According to The Blast, George Zimmerman threatened to feed Jay-Z to an alligator after a production team harassed his family. The rap star is reportedly producing a documentary on the death of Trayvon Martin. “I know how to handle people who f*** with me, I have since February 2012,” Zimmerman told the publication. February of 2012 is the month of Martin’s death. Zimmerman claims his parents or family members are not being paid for their roles in Jay-Z’s documentary. To make matters even more controversial, the 6-part documentary is being produced by The Weinstein Company. The squabble even prompted a response from Snoop Dogg on Instagram.
  • This is heart-wrenching to watch: a bystander’s dash cam video captures a dog being dragged behind a car for at least two blocks in Hawaii. The dog appears to be tied by a leash to the back of an SUV as it drives down a road in Honolulu. YouTube user Johnny Chang noticed the dog and followed the SUV to try and catch up with the driver. When the vehicle stops, the dog stands up and limps around a little. That’s when the driver gets out slowly.  According to the Daily Mail, the 40-second clip ends with another woman running up to the scene. So far the driver has not been identified. It’s not known if the dog was injured. **WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT** (VIDEO) More stories: Atlanta airport employee slides down crowded escalator to help stranded passengers