200 Best Video Games of All Time - Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

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200 Best Video Games of All Time  - Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is often regarded as the bastard child of the series (though not necessarily the worst). Most of the game is viewed from a side-scrolling perspective, with only a simple overworld to travel between locations. There are numerous towns with villagers to talk to, and you gain experience points and levels from defeating enemies. Like many others, it was very obviously inspired by Dragon Quest and the wave of RPGs that were finding great success on the Famicom.

Nowadays, Nintendo is seen as such a friendly, cuddly company, it's easy to forget that their early 8-bit titles like Metroid and Nazo no Murasamejou, were brutally difficult. Zelda II falls into that same category, especially with its sprawling dungeons. You get three lives, but with bottomless pits, and the constant threat of being knocked into them, you can go through these quickly. The final dungeon is expansive, and coupled with the journey required to reach it, you can lose an hour or more if you screw up and lose all your lives.

Zelda II also has an extremely satisfying combat system. Link carries a shield, which can be used to block both projectiles and melee attacks. Many of the tougher enemies and bosses have similar shields too, but if you persistently jump and time your hits right, you can wear down their defenses. It's a very particular rhythm that you need to fall into, but it's the same kind of prowess that's required by such action classics as Castlevania and Ninja Gaiden, and it's very satisfying once you nail it down. Plus, the upward jump and downward stabs provide an extra level of versatility not typically found in action games of the 8-bit era.

It’s also a more straightforward game than most other Zelda titles. The original game, for all of its strengths, often reveled in obtuseness, requiring that you shove certain blocks or burn certain bushes, without telegraphing any of it. This trial and error aspect, or any type of puzzle solving, isn’t nearly as prevalent in Zelda II, instead replaced by dungeon crawling and exploration. It's occasionally  overwhelming, and there are still some tedious spots (like the mazes of Death Mountain) but it also keeps the momentum going.

In 1987, sequels that deviated drastically from their predecessor weren’t uncommon, and the changes here weren’t a big deal. Every subsequent Zelda built upon the first game, though, leaving the advancements made by this one widely ignored. It's an incredible shame, because even though it lacks what people look for in a Zelda game, it's also one of the finest action-RPGs on the NES. -Kurt Kalata

There are a handful of games inspired by Zelda II for the NES, including Hudson's Faxanadu, a spin-off of Falcom's PC Xanadu series, and Pack-in-Video's Rambo, which, strangely enough, stars Sylvester Stallone's war hero stabbing spiders in a jungle. The best (and most blatant clone) of these is Imagineer's The Battle of Olympus, which takes place in Ancient Greece and stars the mythical hero Orpheus. The graphics may well have been traced over Zelda II's, though the overworld map is gone, so the world structure feels closer to Castlevania II. Some other more modern games are also inspired by Zelda II, such as Wayforward's Adventure Time: Hey Ice King, Why'd You Steal Our Garbage? for the DS/3DS, and the indie game Elliot Quest for the Wii U/PC. -KK

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Re: 200 Best Video Games of All Time - Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
« Reply #1 on: July 13, 2020, 10:31:44 AM »
WATCH DOGS Vigilante justice? There’s an app for that
Watch Dogs doesn’t feel like science fiction. There’s no near-future catalyst that propels humanity down an alternate timeline – no war, terrorist attack, or miracle technological breakthrough to knock us off course. Its vision of the future is a natural extension of where we are now; of the unconscious supposition we all buy into that everything’s better when it’s digitally connected. It’s no small irony that just as Microsoft and Sony are pushing the Kinect and the PlayStation Eye into each of our living rooms, Ubisoft is releasing its cautionary tale about how gadgets like these – watching, listening, processing – could be used to hurt us. The world that Ubisoft Montreal has imagined in Watch Dogs doesn’t feel like an ‘if’. It feels like a ‘when’.

Set in a near-future imagining of Chicago, Watch Dogs, on paper, falls somewhere between the open-world violence of Grand Theft Auto and the moody redemption story of Christopher Nolan’s Batman. Despite its citizens’ best efforts, all is not well in this city of the future, with its Orwellian automated surveillance network pushing crime off the streets and into the shadows. Fortunately, Watch Dogs’ masked vigilante anti-hero, Aiden Pierce, knows the best way to bring the city’s criminal fraternity back into the light: by clobbering it with an extendable truncheon and dragging it there, bleeding.

The gameplay hook for Watch Dogs is Aiden’s mobile phone. Through it, Aiden has access to CtOS, the hugely powerful operating system that handles the dayto-day running of the city. Street lights, bridge controls, security cameras, traffic lights – CtOS controls everything. Which, by extension, means you do too. So while you can go into a dangerous situation all guns blazing, the smart player might hack nearby CCTV cameras to scout out the location first, looking for an unguarded back entrance or learning the enemy’s movements. Then they might set off a car alarm across the street to distract a couple of guards and pick them off first, sneaking up and taking them down with Aiden’s fearsome hand-to-hand combat skills. Then they might kill the street lights and mop up the remaining enemies as they fumble about in darkness. In Watch Dogs, tackling a situation head-on is just one option. It’s street justice for the thinking man.

Aiden himself, however, remains a mystery. All we’ve been told is that he’s a man on the run who is trying to atone for some past sins. He grew up in a bad part of Chicago and made some decisions that got people he cared about hurt (we see him at one point standing sombrely over a grave – the surest mark of the troubled protagonist). This leads to an obsession with surveillance, to unmask the sophisticated criminal networks that hide behind the anonymity of the digital age. As Aiden himself puts it: “You think you’re untouchable. I’m here to shatter your illusions.” He’s the absolute zeitgeist: a superhero for the age of Anonymous and LulzSec.

But Aiden’s not as straightforwardly heroic as that setup makes out. As you progress through the story, it’s up to you how to use his god-like powers over the city to achieve your goals. While the hacking approach in games like Deus Ex: Human Revolution runs mostly counter to violent play-styles – a skill that you develop in lieu of more combat-focused specialisations – in Watch Dogs, toying with the city’s digitally controlled infrastructure can produce devastating results.

In one gameplay demo, for example, Aiden turns up at a fancy gallery opening to draw out its criminal patron, Joseph Demarco. Aiden uses his phone to jam the electronics at the rope-line, creating enough chaos for him to slip past the doorman and into the venue. Once inside, he’s spotted by one of Demarco’s associates, and Aiden intercepts a call to his mark urging him to come quickly. Armed with the knowledge that Demarco’s on his way, Aiden steps outside into the street to await his arrival. As his target’s vehicle approaches, Aiden taps an icon on his mobile to change the traffic lights. Demarco’s vehicle is smashed by oncoming traffic, and skids to a halt in the midst of the massive accident Aiden has caused.

What follows is a gunfight between Aiden and DeMarco’s goons, but it’s the background details that are chilling. As you dash between crumpled vehicles, you can clearly hear one of the drivers desperately trying to resuscitate another passenger. And failing. There’s blood. There’s broken glass. Once Aiden drags Demarco from his car, he executes him in the street. And while the following escape from the police is cool – Aiden steals a sports car and ramps it off a bridge just as he uses his phone to raise it, cutting off his pursuers – there’s no doubt that what you just saw, what you just did, was monstrous.

That sense of responsibility comes without a clearly marked morality system. There’s no ‘you’ve lost karma’ message that pings up when Aiden kneecaps a cop, no sad-face emoticon pinged to his phone. However, as you play and take on more of the optional side missions, the press and the man on the street will come to view Aiden as either a force for good or for evil. These side missions are discovered as Aiden walks around the city, using his phone to snoop on the people around him via their own, unsecured mobiles, computers and so on. As he goes, things like a person’s debts or criminal record flash up, and may lead to a side mission. If Aiden chooses to save lives rather than ruthlessly pursue his goals at all costs, public perception of him will change accordingly.

What those goals are, however, we can only speculate. So let’s do that. Ubisoft has deliberately left us in the dark about the game’s overarching narrative, focusing instead almost exclusively on the gameplay we just talked about. The first question has to be about the title: who or what are the Watch Dogs? Since the game’s announcement at E3 2012, a new tagline for the game has quietly slipped onto the internet, changing from last year’s ‘Everything is connected.

Connection is power.’ to ‘Hacking is our weapon’. Whose weapon? The name suggests a group of vigilantes, but is Aiden working with them, or for them? Something else we’ve noticed: Aiden’s ‘hacking’ seems to be done exclusively via one-touch apps on his phone – we’ve not seen him type a single line of code as of yet. He’s also – and you’ll pardon the stereotype – not very geeky-looking. We can picture him pistol-whipping a gang of street toughs, but reading through archive posts on Slashdot? Not so much. So are his abilities something he’s really come up with himself? Or have they been bestowed on him by someone else?

Putting those questions to one side, multiplayer also gets a spit-shine for the next generation. As the game’s senior producer Dominic Guay puts it, there’s more than enough flag-capturing going on in the world of gaming already – Watch Dogs has its own ideas on what multiplayer on PS4 should look like. For instance, with the right opt-in feature switched on, other players can jump into your world disguised as pedestrians, tailing you through Chicago and using their own smartphones to hack you – erasing your Cut The Rope scores, and possibly worse. If these undercover players succeed, Aiden will get an alert that his data is being raided, and be granted a window of time to hunt the hacker down and beat some civic responsibility into them – tricky, as the smart player will be inoffensively bumbling along, trying their best to blend in with the throng of AI civilians.

If that all sounds distinctly Assassin’s Creed-y, then gold star for you: that cat-and-mouse multiplayer isn’t strictly a new feature for Watch Dogs, with Ubisoft having deployed a similar system in Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood (albeit with less identity theft and more stabbing people in the eyes). But merciless griefing of oblivious players isn’t limited to creeping along behind them like a stalker. You can also take on the role of the authorities, using a mobile or a tablet to direct a police chase. If this were something like Black Ops II’s Strike Force missions, it might be the sort of thing you try once and then never again. But Watch Dogs’ in-game focus on Aiden’s mobile and the powers it affords him makes this sound like a natural extension of the world.

What that leaves you with is a multiplayer and single-player that are, like everything else in the Watch Dogs universe, seamlessly connected. If that doesn’t appeal to you, or you’re just wary of having your new life as a dour-faced super-hacker interrupted by hordes of squawking 12-year-olds, you can opt to leave the multiplayer elements alone. But according to Guay, the full Watch Dogs experience has been built to be enjoyed with others.

Visually, thematically and technically, Watch Dogs looks like a true nextgeneration game (although a pared-down version will also be available on PS3). Its subject matter perfectly echoes our real-world fears about the future of technology – the death of privacy, our culture of surveillance, and the nightmare vision of the machines we’ve come to depend on being turned against us. It’s a game that promises depth, focus and maturity; a violent, plausible world overcast with moral greys. If Ubisoft can deliver on this promise, the next generation of PlayStation will be off to a very strong start indeed. And if it can’t, give it 20 years and maybe you’ll be able to play it for real.

Re: 200 Best Video Games of All Time - Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
« Reply #4 on: October 15, 2020, 12:23:14 AM »
Leftists quit: France’s economy minister and two other leftists quit the government this week, saying President Fran?ois Hollande was rigidly adhering to “absurd” austerity policies that hurt workers. Hollande’s budget, enacted earlier this year, slashed spending deeply, cutting into social benefits and leaving most French people worse off. The economy has been stagnant for months. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls quickly named cabinet replacements from the pro-business wing of the Socialist Party. “We must create wealth, and we must cut our deficits,” Valls said. “France has been living beyond its means for 40 years.” With unemployment still soaring, Hollande’s approval rating is 17 percent, a record low for a French president.

Mexico City
Spot the migrants: Mexico has announced it will start using satellite imagery to monitor the trains that carry Central American migrants north from Guatemala to the U.S. border. Migrants often climb on top of cargo trains, known as “the Beast,” to travel across Mexico, and many are injured falling off. The interior ministry said satellite-monitored vehicles would begin accompanying the trains to check for track damage and illegal passengers. If the tracks can be maintained well enough, the lumbering cargo trains will be able to pick up enough speed to prevent people from clinging to the top or sides.

Mexico City
New police force: Mexican President Enrique Pe?a Nieto has finally created the new police force he promised during his 2012 election campaign, but it is much smaller than expected. Pe?a Nieto had pledged a new force of 50,000 highly trained officers to protect key industries from the drug cartels that routinely extort money or kidnap managers and workers. That contingent was supposed to replace the army troops who have been leading the fight against cartels, because local police—who are often on the gangs’ payroll—cannot be trusted. But the squad announced last week is just 5,000 strong and will be organized as a unit of the existing federal police. The country has failed to “define a police model that is modern, professional, and democratic,” said security expert Ernesto L?pez Portillo.

Caracas, Venezuela
Food rationing: Basic goods are now so scarce in Venezuela that the government is installing fingerprint scanners in supermarkets for a new food-rationing system. Starting next year, shoppers will not be allowed to buy bulk quantities of items such as cooking oil, flour, sugar, and toilet paper. Leftist President Nicol?s Maduro blames the scarcity on smugglers and a Western conspiracy, while economists say price controls that discourage production and subsidies that encourage a black market are responsible. Opposition leader Henrique Capriles Radonski called on Venezuelans to protest the rationing, asking, “Why should Nicol?s decide if you eat beef or chicken?”

Rotherham, U.K.
Rape ring exposed: Gangs of Pakistani men raped and trafficked at least 1,400 mostly white teen and tween girls for years in the English city of Rotherham, and authorities turned a blind eye, according to an explosive report released this week. Girls as young as 11 were given liquor and groomed for sex by a man who posed as a boyfriend, and then they were gang-raped and passed around from group to group. Over the past 16 years, the investigation found, local authorities and police ignored repeated reports of the abuse from social workers and victims. Some officials feared being called racist if they investigated a Pakistani sex ring, while others labeled the working-class girls as runaways who agreed to sex. This is the fourth inquiry since 2002 to have identified Rotherham as a hub of child trafficking, but officials refused to believe the other three reports.

Bogot?, Colombia
Hit man walks: Colombia’s most famous hit man has been released early from prison. John Jairo “Popeye” Vel?squez, who has served 22 years of his 30-year sentence, was the top henchman of late Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. Vel?squez confessed to killing some 300 people personally and said he helped arrange thousands more murders in the 1980s and ’90s, including the murder of a presidential candidate. He was able to negotiate a plea bargain by fingering the politician who ordered that hit. Vel?squez, 52, says he believes he has an 80 percent chance of being killed by former rivals now that he’s out and that he may try to move abroad.

Sanctions bite: Russia is heading for recession, thanks to the sanctions the West imposed on it over aggression in Ukraine and the ban on Western-food imports that Russia announced in response. The government wants domestic companies to increase production to make up for the lost Western goods, but they need bank loans to do that, and sanctions have severely hampered the ability of Russian banks to lend money. The farm industry alone needs $18 billion in investment if it is to meet Russian consumers’ needs. “The economy is close to recession,” said Oleg Zasov, head of forecasting at the economy ministry.

Gwoza, Nigeria
Caliphate declared: Boko Haram militants say they have made the town of Gwoza part of the Islamic caliphate. “Thanks be to Allah who gave victory to our brethren in Gwoza and made it part of the Islamic caliphate,” Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau said in a video released this week. Shekau has praised ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in the past, but it’s unclear whether he was joining al-Baghdadi’s caliphate or declaring his own. Boko Haram now controls much of northeast Nigeria. “The situation has gone beyond #BringBackOurGirls,” said the Nigerian newspaper Vanguard. “We are now faced with the national emergency and task to #BringBackOurNation.”

Abdullah rebels: The validity of Afghanistan’s presidential recount is in doubt after Abdullah Abdullah pulled his observers out, saying the United Nations process was not invalidating enough fraudulent votes. Abdullah, a former foreign minister, came in first in the April vote, taking just under the 50 percent needed for an outright victory. Ashraf Ghani, a former finance minister close to the family of President Hamid Karzai, was proclaimed winner in the June runoff, but Abdullah charged massive ballot stuffing, and both sides agreed to participate in an audit. After Abdullah pulled out, the U.N. ejected Ghani’s observers as well and said the audit would proceed. Analysts fear a prolonged dispute could tip the country back into civil war and divert forces from fighting the Taliban insurgency.

Aleppo, Syria
American jihadist killed: A Midwest man has become the first American known to have died fighting for ISIS in Syria. Douglas McCain, 33, born in Illinois and raised in Minnesota, converted from Christianity to Islam in his 20s. In high school, he was close friends with another American jihadist, Troy Kastigar, who died in Somalia fighting with al-Shabab militants. McCain’s uncle Ken McCain described him as “a good person, loved his family, loved his mother” and said the family was horrified to hear he had joined ISIS. The State Department estimates that up to 100 Americans are fighting in various militant groups in Syria.

Hainan, China
Near miss: China has asked the U.S. to stop flying spy planes close to its territory after a near collision in the air. Last week, a Chinese plane almost crashed into a U.S. Navy patrol plane over international waters about 100 miles from Hainan Island. The Pentagon said the Chinese fighter flew within 20 feet of the spy plane and did a barrel roll to show off its weapons; China said its jet stayed at a safe distance. The encounter raised fears of a repeat of a 2001 incident when a Chinese fighter jet collided with a U.S. surveillance plane in the same area. The Chinese pilot died, while the U.S. crew of 24 was held captive on Hainan for 10 days. Chinese Col. Yang Yujun said U.S. surveillance flights, not Chinese monitoring of them, would be “the root cause behind any accidents.”

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Surge in beheadings: Saudi authorities beheaded at least 23 people in August, including several convicted of low-level drug possession and one convicted of sorcery. Amnesty International said many sentences were based on confessions extracted through torture. “The use of the death penalty in Saudi Arabia is so far removed from any kind of legal parameters that it is almost hard to believe,” said Amnesty’s Said Boumedouha. Capital offenses include adultery, robbery, blasphemy, drug smuggling, rape, and witchcraft.

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Re: 200 Best Video Games of All Time - Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
« Reply #6 on: October 18, 2020, 10:04:11 AM »
5 Tips to Prepare for Your Property Settlement

1. Insurance

Haven't organised insurance yet? Get it now! It can be a risky practice to rely on the vendor's  insurance cover (or lack thereof) if something happens to the property during the period from exchange to settlement. Having adequate insurance in place will give you peace of mind.

2. Keys, codes and passes

Make sure you organise who has the keys and when you can collect them from the agent or your legal representative. Also, make sure you have the alarm codes (if any) and instruction manuals. Some purchasers want to collect the keys that day from the agent; others have the keys delivered to their solicitor after settlement. By sorting out the logistics beforehand, you can enjoy your property sooner (without setting off any house alarms!).

3. Final inspection

This is probably the most important inspection you will undertake, so you should organise it during daylight hours as close as possible to settlement and really take your time with it. Has any debris been left behind? Do the fittings and fixtures remain? Are the contractual inclusions actually in place? Have the exclusions been disposed of?

4. Final Title Search

Just like a final inspection, a final title search will inform you if there have been any dealings with or new interests in the legal ownership of the property. After all, you can't buy something from someone if they don't own it. You'll also need to remove any caveat you've placed on the title to enable the change of ownership to take place.

5. Cheque directions

Your legal advisor and lender will organise the cheques on your behalf, but it's up to you to make sure the settlement amounts and payees are correct before property settlement. Also, make sure the cheques have correct spellings - incorrectly issued non-negotiable bank cheques can hold up and delay a settlement, and that's the last thing you want!

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Re: 200 Best Video Games of All Time - Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
« Reply #7 on: October 18, 2020, 10:05:01 AM »
7 Tips Every Homeowner Need to Know About Insurance
Most home insurance policies will pay for damage to your home & possessions in the events of storms, fire, theft, or vandalism. Home insurance also provides liability insureance if someone gets hurt on your property and decides to file a lawsuit. Home insurance can also cover the costs of a hotel if you are temporarity displaced from your house.

Standard policcies have exclusion, including; earthquakes, power failure, war, nuclear hazard, government action, faulty zoning, bad repair or workmanship, and defective maintenance. Flooding and water damage are usually only covered in certain conditions

Take the time to research your prospective insurance agencies before you commit to a policy. Read reviews and consider recommendations from friends and family. Finding a cheap rate is great - but remember that in the case of an emergency you will need to be dealing with the insurance company directly. Having an insurance company with great customer service can really help alleviate some of the stress in an already stressful situation with your home.

Did you know that having things like a working smoke detector and burglar alarms can lower your rates Preventative actions can reduce premiums. Insurance agents typically price your premium based on how much risk they foresee. So, by reducing your liability risks, you can qualify for lower rates.
You may also save some money by bundling your other insurance policies, like car or life insurance, with your home owners.

Make sure you report any possible claims as soon as possible. Many insurance companies have a time limit for reporting claims. If you wait too long, you may not be eligible for benefits, especially if waiting has caused the problem to worsen. This is especially true in instances of water damage - where mold can set it quickly and raise the costs of repair.

It is important to document everything that occurs during a loss. Write down the damages, and what you have done to help mitigate the damages.
In addition to saving receipts, contracts, and appraisals, document phone calls by writing down who you spoke to and when. Insurance claims can be cumbersome and confusing. Don't depend on your memory alone to remember all the details.

Jewelry is usually covered in a homeowner's policy - but beware - it is typically only covered to a certain amount. When you sign up for homeowner's insurance, be sure to ask your agent about the limits. If you own jewelry which has a value that exceeds the standard policy, you may want to consider buying supplemental insurance so that incase it is lost or stolen- you are covered 100%.

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Re: 200 Best Video Games of All Time - Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
« Reply #8 on: October 18, 2020, 10:06:28 AM »
Purchases that turn into savings
Sometimes you have to spend money to make money, said Meg Favreau in USNews.com. While frugal shoppers might fret over purchases, some can actually save money in the long run. If you live in an area where it’s feasible to forgo a car, buying a bike or transit pass will save thousands in car expenses each year. And with monthly cable bills averaging around $123, a one-time investment in a TV-streaming device like Apple TV, Roku, or Amazon Fire can add up to thousands in annual savings. For caffeine addicts, an espresso machine is a smart buy. While one “can cost anywhere between $100 and $1,200,” the initial investment will pay off down the road. Just think: “If you buy a $4 latte 250 days of the year, that’s $1,000,” and you still won’t have coffee on weekends.

How to build a college fund
If you’re planning to send a child to college some day, start saving now, said Dan Caplinger in DailyFinance.com. One of the best tools for building a college fund is a tax-advantaged 529 plan, which allows you to put away cash “on a tax-deferred basis, meaning that even if the investments you select pay interest, dividends, or other forms of income, you won’t have an immediate tax bill.” And if the money pays for educational expenses—tuition, fees, or housing—even the withdrawals are tax-exempt. Contribution limits vary from state to state, but most 529 plans have caps of between $235,000 and $400,000. That’s enough to “give most families all the flexibility they need to save for their children’s college education.”

Protect yourself from cybercrime
Your PIN isn’t the only number you need to keep safe, said Adam Levin in Credit.com. These days, data breaches are a “certainty in life.” But credit card numbers, email addresses, and passwords aren’t the only things hackers are “gunning for.” Phone numbers, significant dates—like birthdays and graduation dates—Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, and even IP addresses can all be exploited by identity thieves. The best defense is to avoid posting sensitive data online whenever possible. But as cybercrime becomes a fact of life, “the smartest thing you can do is assume the worst” and be vigilant about monitoring your accounts, bank statements, and credit reports for signs of fraud.

Deciding to retire early
Stocks have been on a tear, said Liz Moyer in The Wall Street Journal, and the five-year bull market has allowed many investors to “at least ponder the possibility” of retiring early. But there are some important questions to ask before you cash in your nest egg ahead of schedule. First, have you saved enough? The market will inevitably dip, so it’s important to “discount the current value of your portfolio” to account for future drops in the market. Retirement also means lifestyle changes, including learning to live on a leaner budget. Drawing on other accounts—like 401(k)s, IRAs, or Social Security—ahead of selling assets can make your money last longer. Finally, have a backup plan prepared. “Retirement isn’t for everyone,” and “resting early could leave you bored and restless.”

When to buy a new car
When is the right time to spring for new wheels? asked Gerri Detweiler in Credit .com. With the average car payment hovering around $350 a month, buying a new car is “not a decision to be taken lightly.” So before you head to a dealer, make sure the time is really right. Safety is first on the checklist. If your vehicle isn’t safe, or you fear it will break down and leave you stranded, it’s time for something more reliable. “Keep the hassle factor in mind as well.” If your car is racking up repairs, replacing it may be a better option for your budget. Finally, check that it fits your lifestyle. A new job or growing family could mean your current car no longer makes sense.

Beware of debit cards on campus
Debit card fees are the latest “campus peril” for college students, said Kelley Holland in CNBC.com. A new report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has found that debit card issuers are frequently charging “hefty overdraft fees,” which “are hitting Millennials and college students especially hard.” That’s because debit cards are increasingly replacing credit cards on college campuses, partly because schools “have lucrative deals with outside companies to provide the cards in exchange for payments to the schools.” And while those products aren’t always a bad deal—many of the fees are “roughly in line with those of competing banks”—it’s still “important for students to make sure the card their school offers is the best one for them.”

Save money on winter heating
“Americans could save a fortune this winter, if only they understood their thermostats,” said Chris Mooney in WashingtonPost.com. Residential thermostats control an incredible 9 percent of all U.S. energy use, but even though money-saving programmable thermostats have been available for decades, only about 3 in 10 households have them installed. And many of those consumers “just don’t understand how to use” them. Thankfully, the latest generation of smart thermostats moves “beyond the realm of merely ‘programmable,’” automatically adjusting to a homeowner’s location. Honeywell’s Lyric thermostat, for instance, can be operated remotely from your phone, and Google’s Nest “‘learns’ your behavioral patterns—and selfprograms to save you energy.”

Year-end tips for retirement savers
Before we ring in the New Year, “retirement savers of all ages need to check their to-do lists,” said Mark Miller in Reuters.com. If you’ve already retired, make sure you take your required minimum distribution, which must be taken from all retirement accounts starting at age 70 and a half. “It’s important to get this right: Failure to take the correct distribution results in an onerous 50 percent tax—plus interest—on any required withdrawals you fail to take.” If you are near retirement, “consider moving part of your annual contribution” to a Roth IRA. Your aftertax savings will then grow tax free. And if you are young, make a resolution to increase your 401(k) savings for 2015. “Getting an early start is the single best thing you can do” for your future.

A safe, global portfolio
“Foreign stocks are in the red this year,” said Jason Zweig in WSJ.com, so it’s no surprise that many investors have pulled their money out of international-stock mutual funds in recent months. But “there are plenty of reasons for U.S. investors to hold foreign stocks.” For one, they can be “an effective hedge against a rise in U.S. interest rates.” You’ll also get more bang for your buck overseas, since “U.S. stocks have become much more expensive than those in the rest of the world.” For a safe international exposure, consider an  exchangetraded fund like Schwab International Equity or Vanguard Total International Stock, both of which charge low fees. “Or you can opt for a low-cost mutual fund that also spreads its bets widely outside the U.S., such as Fidelity Diversified International.”

Is college choice important?
Your alma mater may not matter, said Mitchell D. Weiss in Credit.com. According to a new Gallup survey, while 80 percent of Americans think school choice is either “very” or “somewhat” important “when it comes to finding well-paying employment,” employers don’t always agree. “Of the 623  business leaders who were also surveyed, only 9 percent responded that where a job candidate earns a degree is very important, while 37 percent said it is somewhat so.” And as college tuitions continue to rise, “that’s good news for students and their families” feeling increasingly stressed by education expenses at brand-name schools.

Rethinking Roth IRAs
It may be time to rethink your Roth IRA, said Dan Caplinger in DailyFinance.com. While paying taxes up front on long-term savings may protect you from higher rates in the future, that benefit could come at “too high” a cost for many taxpayers. For instance, Roth IRAs are a good choice for workers “who are just getting started and are in low tax brackets,” since they’ll pay a lower tax rate on their savings now and get to withdraw their money tax-free later. But savers in the prime of their career who are currently getting taxed at high rates would be better served by the tax break they can get now with pretax contributions to IRAs or 401(k)s. And if your employer offers a 401(k) plan with matching contributions, that will help you build up your nest egg faster than contributing to a Roth on your own.

The ‘new math’ of car leases
When you’re shopping for a car, does it make more sense to buy or lease? asked AnnaMaria Andriotis in The Wall Street Journal. Many “automobile-makers are trying to make leasing a new car more appealing by lowering the cost of monthly payments,” which could translate to “significant savings” over the course of a standard three-year lease. But there are some significant pitfalls to be wary of. While leasing has become increasingly popular lately, it “makes less sense if you are looking at a brand that doesn’t retain its value,” if you are likely to exceed the mileage limit, or if you “plan on owning a car long-term.” But leasing may be worthwhile for drivers who are looking to frequently upgrade to new cars, which should also save on the cost of maintenance “since new cars tend to break down less often.”

Zombie bills can ruin your credit
Don’t let moving wreck your credit, said Gerri Detweiler in Credit.com. When you’re switching addresses, it’s important to make sure final or unexpected bills don’t go unnoticed. If accounts still have a balance and remain unpaid, they could go into collection and ding your credit score. To avoid that scenario, send a letter to any accounts you need to update or close and ask for a confirmation number. Remember to “check your balances the month you move, the month after you move, and six months after you move” to make sure no wayward bills or balances are lingering on your report. Monitor your credit, too, since “any unexpected drop in the score could indicate a problem.”

Life insurance mistakes to avoid
Common life insurance gaffes can cost you a bundle, said Hank Coleman in DailyFinance.com. For one, don’t “leave savings on the table by blindly renewing” your policies. If your insurance automatically renews, give your carrier a call to try to “negotiate a discount.” And remember to “re-examine your coverage” every few years, especially after any significant life events, such as the birth of a child, marriage, divorce, or major purchases like a new home. Finally, remember that there’s safety in numbers. “If you want a good deal on products and services, life insurance included, you need to get multiple quotes.” That includes premiums, but also benefits. “Read all of the clauses in your policy” and “understand exactly which perils” the insurance will cover. “While price of the premiums may be the same among many policies, the terms and clauses may be the differentiating factor.”

Using rewards cards responsibly
If you use credit cards to rack up rewards, beware, said Kristin Wong in Lifehacker.com. Many cards offer “great incentive programs,” but the rewards game can be “like playing with fire,” especially if you use the cards to pay for everyday expenses. Opening a new card can shave a few points off your credit score, but so can closing one, since it reduces your debt-to-income ratio. A better approach “is to leave the card open and simply not use it after you’ve earned whatever sign-up bonus it offers.” For heavy rewards cards users, the best way to protect your score is to pay the cards in full every month and never pay interest. Stick to your budget and never “use rewards as an excuse or reason to spend more.”