I've made some really good stock calls in my day, through comprehensive stock analyses on picks I've considered for my portfolio, like the stock that topped my list back in '08 in my final year of business school, Allergan (AGN). It was a thoughtful investment idea that made a fortune on paper. Unfortunately, it amounted to no real gains because I never followed through. Instead, I took a professor's advice, and put ten grand into ProShares UltraShort 20+ Year Treasury (TBT), an ETF that double shorts the U.S. Treasury Bond Index. “Interest rates have to rise," my professor said. “They can't stay at these lows for an extended period of time." I didn't know then that this specific professor was a Lehman Brother's layoff, and high interest rates were the finance world, as he knew it to be back in his short-lived career on Wall Street.

Allergan allergan-web-cdn-static-prod.azureedge.net

Allergan

Allergan (AGN) was trading at $30 at the time, and its current 52-week high is well over $300. As we now know well, interest rates fell lower, and stayed at all-time lows for the next 8 years. TBT continued to drop, before reverse splitting 1 for 4 in 2012. I was left with $1k to show for my shares purchased for $10k, which had invested in Allergan at the time would have matured to $100,000. Of course, we can all go over ideas we failed to execute—scenarios that made us miss out on some serious cash. Yet even with all the worthy calls I've made since then, I'm still hesitant in my trading until I consult with someone I believe knows more. Knowing who to trust is important, and taking just anyone's stock advice was a mistake I'd never make again.

Recently, I mentioned one of my stock ideas to a close friend who made his millions at his hedge fund. He understood my reluctance to trade, as it's a common theme among all investors. He shared with me one of the resources he used to gain a competitive edge both as an individual investor, and in his professional endeavors to benefit his fund and its clients, Real Money, a membership-based website headlined by Jim Cramer.

Jim Cramer fm.cnbc.com

Cramer's Real Money

One of Cramer's biggest philosophies is that you have to pull the trigger, and Real Money would soon become my biggest ally as it provides me with the assurance I need to take the right course of action on great ideas. It's a place where you can consult with professionals on your ideas and theirs.

Real Money members are privy to specific actionable investment ideas and the insights of more than 30 site contributors, who are not just journalists; they're chartists, financial advisors, day traders, economists, and money managers who have clients of their own, and winning track records on Wall Street. All of the contributors are handpicked by Jim Cramer through his experience with them in the industry, and most of them are still professionally investing in the ideas they share with you in real-time.

The site features exclusive stock market information that individual investors would not be privy to otherwise. Take sell side technicians and chartists, for example, who have disappeared from investment banks because of the downward pressure on costs and commissions that drove Wall Street away from transactional business. They still power their hedge funds and mutual funds, but of course there's absolutely no visibility there. Real Money's in-house chartist, Bruce Kamich has a 40-year career with a number of bulge bracket firms. He's spotted some huge trends he shared with us and executed on, like the gold stocks, where he recommended NovaGold and Yamana Gold, both for some very big gains. His charts also showed aggressive accumulation in Joy Global ahead of a very large takeover bid. His writing is breezy, and palatable with visuals that make sense.

Make the most of your money s.thestreet.com

You can follow along in the Real Money Ideas section to see which contributors' ideas pan out, and decide who to follow. Members often weigh in with their opinions, or ask questions on the site, and the contributors reply to us inline. You can even contact any site contributor via email, including Jim Cramer. I haven't emailed Jim yet, but Roger Arnold always responds. (In case you haven't heard of Roger Arnold, he's an accomplished economist currently serving as chief economist for ALM Advisors, a money management firm specializing in income-generating portfolios.)

Now, I only take investment advice from professionals who know what they're doing, and exercise transparency in the returns they have to show for it. Not Lehman Brothers' layoffs or the ones responsible for the financial crisis of '08, but rather the money managers that prevailed even during times of hardship, who give us an inside look at what they're trading day in and day out with real money on the line.


Update: The folks at TheStreet are extending a special offer to our readers! Follow this link to get Real Money FREE for 14 days with no obligations! (It's also discounted to just $3/week if you choose to continue with membership.)

PayPath
Follow Us on

Spring may be the most popular time to list, but people need to buy homes in every season. Follow some simple steps to get your home sold in the winter.

Sometimes there is no choice—a home needs to be sold in the winter.

Spring may be the most popular time to put your house on the market, but homes do sell in the colder months. With fewer houses available, your home may be someone's only choice when house hunting in your neighborhood. As your neighbors hold out until spring, you'll already be done and ready to shop for your next house!

Here are a few tips for selling a home in the winter to get you on the right track.

Keep Paths Safe and Landscaping Fresh

Landscaping is the last thing on a homeowner's mind in the winter. Everything was cut back in the fall and may now be covered in snow. Still, take a walk around the house and yard to check everything out. Branches may have fallen from heavy snow, leaving a mess in the yard. Keep everything neat and tidy.

The last thing you need is a potential buyer slipping on the ice-covered walk in front of your house. Buyers often consider those moments bad omens, and this can affect their decisions. Shovel, snow blow, spread salt—do whatever you have to do to keep the driveway and walking paths clear, and don't forget the porch and deck.

Make the Inside Warm and Cozy

In cold weather, buyers won't spend a lot of time examining a home's exterior. Instead, impress them with the inside by creating an atmosphere which causes them to want to move in.

When there's time, leave wintery types of snacks and drinks, such as hot cocoa and cookies, available on a table during showings. This gives your home a welcoming feel to buyers.

Light the fireplace (if you have one) for a lovely ambience and set your thermostat to a comfortable setting. A warm home in the winter is much more appealing than a chilly one.

Make Your Home Less Personal

Understandably, this can be a tough thought for homeowners. After all, you've spent years creating memories in your home. To buyers, though, they need to picture it as their own. Too much personality makes that difficult.

It's always important to stage your home in a way that makes it look clean, comfortable, and move-in ready. Don't feel offended by the idea of taking family pictures down and replacing them with generic décor. This will help your home sell faster by helping buyers envision their own things there.

Cleanliness and Maintenance

Clean, clean, and clean some more. Make appliances, counters, and floors shine. No matter how old your home is, it needs to feel like new to potential buyers. If you aren't into dusting, now is the time to try. Don't forget window coverings that might need washing.

Be prepared ahead of time for home inspections by taking care of maintenance now. HVAC systems, plumbing, and electrical should all be up to code and running smoothly.

Use these tips for selling a home in the winter, exercise patience during the slower months, and your home will sell before you know it.

Entering your 20s means you'll quickly need to learn how to navigate the world of personal finances, much of which you probably didn't learn in college or high school courses.

Without any previous lessons on finances, it can be challenging to know where to start. Follow this guide as we outline the financial decisions you'll need to make in your 20s.

Setting a Budget

The first step to being a fiscally responsible young adult is setting a budget. Your budget will determine many future financial decisions, from where you can live to what splurges you can make. Look at the expenses you currently owe every month and your projected income to determine how much you should be spending on bills, daily expenses, etc.

Tackling Debt

Getting rid of your debt as early as possible is a critical step for newly independent 20-year-olds. However, some may not be able to get rid of debt as soon as they hope. Once again, look at your budget, then decide if you'd like to put more toward tackling debt now or pay your loans as they come.

Getting Coverage

While you may be able to hold onto your parents' insurance until 26, you'll have to choose your own plans sooner or later. From health insurance to renter's and car insurance, you shouldn't skip an opportunity to cover yourself in the case of an accident. Find a provider and plan you're comfortable with, and get your coverage as soon as possible.

Saving for a Rainy Day

Navigating how to save is another critical financial decision you'll have to make in your 20s. Living paycheck to paycheck is not a sustainable course of action. Even putting a small portion of your wages into a savings account can make a big difference—especially if an emergency you didn't prepare for occurs.

Starting To Invest

Investing is a scary topic for young adults, but it's a great way to build wealth. Starting to invest as a young adult will set you up for success on your long-term financial plan. However, be sure to conduct research before jumping into the market to decide when, where, and how much you'd like to invest.

Your 20s are an optimal time to learn and grow. One area of life you'll undoubtedly learn a lot about is managing finances. Use this guide to help you get started on the path to becoming a fiscally responsible adult.

Tax deductions can be tricky to understand if you're new to the finance world.

One of the biggest sources of confusion is knowing what you can and can't deduct from your taxes. Deductions can be a massive financial boon for a lot of people, yet not everyone files for them correctly. This causes people to miss out on money that should be theirs. We'll go over some of the most common tax deductions that are overlooked, so you don't get shortchanged when Tax Day comes.

Charitable Contributions

When you start regularly giving to charity, even if the donations are small, you'll want to start getting itemized receipts for your donations. These receipts will help you write off these charitable contributions on your taxes. You can even write off supplies that you bought for use in a charitable cause or any miles you drove on your car while in service to a charity. Make those donations to the Purple Heart Pickup with an open heart, but make sure you get your deduction on top of that.

Student Loan Interest Payments

Student loans take up a significant amount of a lot of people's money. If you're one of these people, make sure that you get a deduction on the amount of interest you paid off in the last year. What's important to remember is that even if you aren't someone's dependent, you can write off the money someone else gave you to pay for said student loans. If someone else helped you pay off part of your loan, don't think that means you can't still get a deduction on that sum.

Child and Dependent Care Credit

If you have a reimbursement account through your job that pays for child or dependent care, you might be forgiven for forgetting about this particular tax credit. However, you can use these funds for a tax credit if you file for them correctly. This is hugely important because this is an opportunity to receive a full tax credit, not just a deduction. You're losing money you could be directly receiving if you don't file for this credit.

Jury Pay Given to Your Employer

A lesser-known tax deduction that often gets overlooked is the money you can deduct from jury pay you gave to your employer. It may not be the most exciting thing to come out of jury duty, especially after handing over any money you receive to your employer, but you do get to deduct however much money your employer made you hand over after you finished jury duty.

Credit for Saving

While this credit is more for people that are working part-time or for those that have a retired spouse, you can get a tax credit for contributing to a 401(k) or another retirement savings plan. This is also a great incentive for those that are just starting out in their careers and need another reason to start saving for the future.