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.

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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.)

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Over the past month, both Haiti and Afghanistan have been pummeled by tragic disasters that left devastation in their wake.

In Haiti, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake erupted, leading over to 2,189 deaths and counting. A few hours later, in Afghanistan, Kabul fell to the Taliban just after U.S. troops had pulled out after 20 years of war.

In many ways, these disasters are both chillingly connected to US interference. The United States invaded Haiti in 1915, ostensibly promising to restore order after a presidential assassination but really intending to preserve the route to the Panama Canal and to defend US creditors, among other reasons.

But the US forces soon realized that they were not able to control the country alone, and so formed an army of Haitian enlistees, powered by US air power and intended to quell Haitian insurrection against US controls. Then, in 1934, the US pulled out on its own, disappointed with how slow progress was going. Haiti's institutions were never really able to rebuild themselves, leaving them immensely vulnerable to natural disasters.

Something similar happened in Afghanistan, where the US sent troops and supported an insurgent Afghan army – only to pull out, abandoning the country they left in ruins, with many Afghans supporting the Taliban.

In both cases, defense contractors benefited by far the most from the conflict, making billions in profits while civilians faced fallout and devastation. While the conflicts and circumstances are extremely different and while the US is obviously not solely to blame for either crisis, it's hard not to see the US-based roots of these disasters.

Today, in Haiti and Afghanistan, civilians are facing unimaginable tragedy.

Here are charities offering support in Afghanistan:

1. The International Rescue Committee is looking to raise $10 million to deliver aid directly to Afghanistan

2. CARE is matching donations for an Afghanistan relief fund. They are providing food, shelter, and water to families in need; a donation of $89.50 covers 1 family's emergency needs for a month.

3. Women for Women International is matching donations up to 500,000 for Afghan women, who will be facing unimaginable horrors under Taliban control.


4. AfghanAid offers support for people living in remote regions of Afghanistan.

5. VitalVoices supports female leaders and changemakers and survivors of gender-based violence around the world.

Here are charities offering support in Haiti:

1. Partners in Health has been working with Haiti for a long time, and they work with the Department of Health rather than around them, which is extremely important in a charity.

2. Health Equity International helps run Saint Boniface Hospital, a hospital in Haiti close to the earthquake's epicenter.

3. SOIL is an organization based Haiti, "a local organization with a track record of supporting after natural disasters." They are distributing hygiene kits and provisions on the ground to hospitals and to victims of the earthquake.

4. Hope for Haiti has been working in emergency response in Haiti for three decades, and their team is comprised of people who live and work in Haiti. They focus on supporting children and people in need across Haiti.

via Tiffany & Co.

When the new Tiffany's campaign was unveiled, reactions were mixed.

Tiffany's, the iconic jewelry brand which does not (despite what some might be misled to believe) in fact serve breakfast, featured Jay Z, Beyoncé, and a rare Basquiat painting in their recent campaign.

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Road trips can be a lot of fun — but they can also drain your wallet quickly if you aren't careful.

From high gas costs and park admission fares to lodging and the price of eating out every night, the expenses can add up quickly. But at the same time, it's very possible to do road trips cheaply and efficiently. Without the headache of worrying about how much money you're leaking, you can enjoy the open road a whole lot more. Here's how to save money on a road trip.

1. Prepare Your Budget, Route, and Packing List in Advance

If you want to save money on a road trip, be sure you're ready to go. Try to count up all your expenses before you hit the road and create a budget. It's also a good idea to plan your route in advance so you don't end up taking unnecessary, gas-guzzling detours. And finally, be sure to pack in advance so you don't find yourself having to buy tons of things you forgot along the way.

2. Book Cheap Accommodations — Or Try Camping

All those motel rooms can add up surprisingly quick, but camping is often cheap or free, and it's a great way to get intimate with the place you're visiting. You can check the Bureau of Land Management's website for free campsites. Freecampsite.com also provides great information on If you don't have a tent or don't want to camp every night, try booking cheap Airbnbs or booking hotels in advance, making sure to compare prices.

Camping camping road tripConde Nast Traveler

If you're planning on sleeping in your car, a few tips: WalMart allows all-night parking, as do many 24-hour gyms. (Buying a membership to Planet Fitness or something like it also gives you a great place to stop, shower, and recharge while on the road).

3. Bring Food From Home

Don't go on a road trip expecting to subsist on fast food alone. You'll wind up feeling like shit, and it'll drain your pocketbook stunningly quickly. Instead, be sure to bring food from home. Consider buying a gas stove and a coffee pot for easy on-the-go meals, and make sure you bring substantial snacks to satiate midday or late night cravings so you can avoid getting those late night Mickey D's expeditions.

Try bringing your own cooler, filling it with easy stuff for breakfast and lunch — some bread and peanut butter and jelly will go a long way. Bring your own utensils, plates, and napkins, and avoid buying bottled water by packing some big water jugs and a reusable water bottle. Alternatively, try staying at hotels or Airbnbs with kitchens so you can cook there.

4. Avoid Tolls

Apps like Google Maps and Waze point out toll locations, so be sure to avoid those to save those pennies. (If it takes you too far off route, you might have to bite the bullet and drive across that expensive bridge).

You can also save on parking fees by using sites like Parkopedia.

Road Trip Road TripThe Orange Backpack


5. Save on Gas

Gas can get pricy incredibly fast, so be sure that you're stopping at cheap gas stations. Free apps like GasBuddy help you find the most affordable gas prices in the area. Also, try going the speed limit on the highways — anything faster will burn through your tank. Be sure that you don't wait till you arrive at touristy locations or big cities to fill up.

6. Get a National Park Pass

All those parks can get really expensive really fast. If you're planning on visiting three or more parks, it's a great idea to get an America the Beautiful National Parks Pass. For $80 you can get into every National Park for one year.