Archive for July 14th, 2008

Study: Most middle-class retirees WILL OUTLIVE savings

Posted on July 14, 2008. Filed under: -- Building Wealth, -- For The Investor In YOU, -- Money Help (in simple terms), -- Saving Money And YOU, -- YOUR Retirement | Tags: , |


By Molly Greaves

I am a proud subscriber of the Austin Business Journal, and wanted to pass along this posting today that I found…

Monday, July 14, 2008 – 12:38 PM CDT

Study: Most middle-class retirees will outlive savings

Austin Business Journal

Almost three out of five new middle-class retirees will outlive their financial assets if they keep up their pre-retirement ways of living, according to an Ernst & Young LLP study on behalf of Americans for Secure Retirement.

The study found that Washington, D.C. residents, along with those from Rhode Island, Utah and New York, are the least likely to outlive retirement savings.

But on average, middle-income Americans entering retirement now will have to reduce their standard of living by an average of 24 percent to ensure they don’t outlive their financial assets.

“Many Americans envision a retirement where their lifestyle continues much as before,” says Tom Neubig of Ernst & Young. “Our work shows that this is not a realistic expectation and that, with the current state of savings and potentially very long life expectancies, many retirees will have to cut back far more on expenditures than they had ever expected.”

People seven years out from retirement will have to reduce their standard of living an average of 37 percent, the study says.

Retirees with a guaranteed source of retirement income beyond Social Security are more likely to salvage their assets.

“As a guaranteed source of retirement income, life annuities relieve the risks and burdens of managing a nest egg and can maximize savings’ value over the course of an individual’s retirement years,” says Joe Reali, chairman of the D.C.-based Americans for Secure Retirement coalition.

The study found that Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota citizens have the highest likelihood of outliving retirement savings.

Under legislation before Congress, The Retirement Security for Life Act would create federal tax incentives that encourage Americans to invest retirement assets in an individual life annuity.

Americans for Secure Retirement bills itself as a coalition of more than 50 organizations representing women’s, small business, agriculture, Hispanic, and African-American groups, as well as the life insurance industry.

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U.S. proposes plan to help troubled mortgage giants

Posted on July 14, 2008. Filed under: -- Economic Week In Review | Tags: , , , |


U.S. proposes plan to help troubled mortgage giants

Officials would get power to inject billions of federal dollars into Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac through investments and loans.


ASSOCIATED PRESS
Monday, July 14, 2008

WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department announced steps Sunday to shore up mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, whose shares have plunged as losses from their mortgage holdings threaten their financial survival.

The moves also are intended to send a signal to nervous investors worldwide that the government is prepared to take steps to prevent the credit market troubles that started last year from engulfing financial markets and further weakening the economy and housing markets.

The Fed said it granted the Federal Reserve Bank of New York the authority to lend to the two companies “should such lending prove necessary.” They would pay 2.25 percent for any borrowed money — the same rate given to commercial banks and big Wall Street firms.

The Fed said that should help the companies’ ability to “promote the availability of home mortgage credit during a period of stress in financial markets.”

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said the department is seeking expedited authority from Congress both to expand its current $2.25 billion line of credit to each company should they need to tap it and to make an equity investment in the companies if needed.

“Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac play a central role in our housing finance system and must continue to do so in their current form as shareholder-owned companies,” Paulson said Sunday. “Their support for the housing market is particularly important as we work through the current housing correction.”

The companies own or guarantee more than $5 trillion of home loans — about half of all the mortgage debt that is outstanding in the United States.

Treasury’s plan also seeks a “consultative role” for the Fed in any new regulatory framework eventually set up by Congress for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The White House said in a statement that President Bush directed Paulson to “immediately work with Congress” to get the plan enacted.

Investors may not be as sanguine, however, said Chris Johnson, an investment manager and president of Johnson Research Group in Cleveland. Stocks of financial institutions “are going to get clobbered,” he said. “It is a situation where regulators and the government are trying to play catch-up, and that means everything is not discounted in the stock prices yet.”

The Dow Jones industrial average on Friday briefly fell below 11,000 for the first time in two years, and Johnson expects shares of investment banks and regional banks could fall as investors react to the developments.

The announcement marked the latest move by the government to bolster confidence in the mortgage companies. A crucial test of confidence will come today, when Freddie Mac is slated to auction a combined $3 billion in three- and six-month securities.

Fannie Mae was created by the government in 1938 as a way to give more Americans the chance to own a home by giving financial institutions an outlet to sell mortgage loans they originated. That freed up cash for more home loans. Fannie Mae moved from government to public ownership in 1968; Freddie Mac was started two years later.

Sunday’s announcements are likely to raise anew criticism that the government should have moved sooner to rein in the two companies, especially since investors assumed they would be bailed out if they got into trouble.

The government denied it, but what was seen by investors as an implicit guarantee of support allowed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to borrow at rates only slightly higher than the Treasury and lower than what their banking competitors paid.

“This really blows away the notion of an implicit guarantee,” independent banking consultant Bert Ely said of the Treasury’s plan to ask Congress to allow it to make equity investments in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. “It suggests a greater concern about how these companies are doing. It says the problems are deeper.”

The Fed’s offer of money is viewed as a temporary backstop until Treasury can get its plan in place.

Paulson’s goal is to get his plan attached to a sweeping housing-rescue package. The Senate and House have each passed bills, and a final package has to be hammered out. The centerpiece of the legislation is to help strapped home-owners avoid foreclosure, but it also contains provisions to revamp oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Confronted by record foreclosures, the Fed is also ready to give home buyers more protection from the types of shady lending practices that have contributed to the housing crisis.

Chairman Ben Bernanke and his central bank colleagues were expected to approve a plan today that would crack down on dubious lending practices that have hurt many of the riskiest borrowers.

Proposed rules made public in December would restrict lenders from penalizing risky borrowers who pay loans off early and bar lenders from making loans without proof of a borrower’s income, among other measures.

 

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Austin companies considering four-day workweeks. Switch cuts costs, saves energy, boosts morale, employers say.

Posted on July 14, 2008. Filed under: -- Austin Related, -- Saving Money And YOU | Tags: , , , , |


Austin companies considering four-day workweeks

Switch cuts costs, saves energy, boosts morale, employers say.


AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Monday, July 14, 2008

With energy costs on the rise and gas prices hovering around $4 a gallon, some employers are proposing a solution likely to delight many workers: mandating a four-day workweek.

The notion of ditching the traditional five-day workweek in favor of a shorter week with longer daily hours has caught on with some Central Texas employers, who say that having a four-day workweek reduces operating costs, conserves energy and helps boost employee morale and productivity.

Hays County could move to a four-day workweek to save fuel and utility costs under a proposal by County Judge Liz Sumter that is being considered by the Commissioners Court.

“Fuel is eating our budget quite a lot,” Sumter said.

The Travis County sheriff’s department has long had patrol officers work four 10-hour days per week. Maj. Darren Long, who heads the corrections bureau, said the department schedules officer shifts to overlap during the peak patrol hours each day, between 9:30 p.m. and 2 a.m.

Long said the department is considering implementing four-day workweeks in other areas in hopes of reducing costs and conserving energy. Some offices might be able to shut down for one day a week, which could significantly reduce utility costs, he said.

At St. David’s HealthCare, nurses can use a self-scheduling system to create their own workweek. A supervisor monitors the staffing to make sure the nurses are available when they are most needed throughout the day.

“In health care, it works very well,” said Bonnie Clipper, chief nursing officer at St. David’s Medical Center. “It promotes a lot of flexibility in the work schedule, so our nurses can work any days they want as long as they communicate with their supervisors and the needs of the department are met.”

Newly elected Austin City Council Member Laura Morrison said during her campaign that she would push larger companies to switch to four-day workweeks.

“People spend a lot of time traveling to and from work and being jammed in traffic,” she said. “If you could do that for four days instead of five, it gives back some of that time to your own life, and it will get some of the cars off of the road and hopefully decrease some of the congestion.”

Next month, Utah will become the first state to switch to a four-day workweek for thousands of government employees in a yearlong experiment aimed at reducing the state’s energy costs and commuters’ gasoline expenses.

The order, issued by Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., will affect 17,000 of the 24,000 state workers. Turning off the lights, the heat and the air conditioning on Fridays in 1,000 of 3,000 government buildings will save about $3 million a year in a state budget of $11 billion, according to the governor’s spokeswoman, Lisa Roskelley. The state will also save on gasoline used by official vehicles, but authorities have not figured out how much.

Though Texas state agencies might voluntarily offer flex scheduling for employees, a mandatory four-day workweek for all state employees — which would shut state offices on Fridays — would require legislative action, said Allison Castle, a spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry. The governor’s office has not heard any buzz about a shortened workweek, but Perry probably would not support the idea, Castle said.

“Texans expect their state government to earn a week’s pay for a week’s work, just like they do,” she said.

Katie Buster works at the Austin Humane Society from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday. She said the longer hours are worth it for the extended weekends.

“I’d rather work longer shifts anyway because it makes the week go by a lot faster, and you get an extra day to do whatever you want,” she said.

Lisa Starr, a spokeswoman for the Humane Society, said 10-hour shifts work better because shelter workers spend three hours each day cleaning and disinfecting the animal containment areas before they open to the public for seven hours.

Though having the four-day shifts does not raise or lower costs for the shelter, it does improve staff morale, she said.

“The nature of this job is so physically and emotionally taxing that having three days off in a row is very much needed, and it allows for more of a respite for the employees,” Starr said.

rdennis@statesman.com; 445-3851

Additional material from staff writers Corrie MacLaggan and Andrea Lorenz and The Associated Press.

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30 GREAT things to do in Central Texas

Posted on July 14, 2008. Filed under: -- Austin Related, -- Top 10..., -- Uncategorized, Texas | Tags: , , , , , |


30 great things to do in Central Texas

Because there’s no place like home for vacation

Hello friends! Thanks for checking out my blog. I want too be sure that ya’ll know that I got this article from the local Austin newspaper, the Austin Statesman, which is currently renovating their office, and is looking awesome.   The author’s information is below, so please do not think I’m the author =)
AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Sunday, July 13, 2008

There’s only one thing wrong with living in Central Texas: Living here means working here, and that means we sometimes don’t have time to do all those fun things that made us move here.

So, take a vacation at home this year and enjoy all the things this area has to offer. Here are 30 to get you started, many of them iconic Austin experiences.

1. See a vintage summer movie on the big screen at the Paramount Theatre, 713 Congress Ave. Tonight: “The Last Picture Show” and “Hud.” See the whole list on http://www.austintheatre.org.

2. Explore new parts of the Lady Bird Lake hike-and-bike trail. If you’re like me, you have one particular circuit you always hike or bike (or, in my case, trudge). Branch out and try new segments of the 10-mile trail. See a map at http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/parks/trails.htm.

3. Quick now, what state park is just minutes from Austin’s bustling downtown? McKinney Falls is sometimes overlooked as a getaway, but it’s there, tucked into the southeast corner of the city, closer than the airport. Two falls on Onion Creek form swimming holes, and trails, picnic spots and campsites dot the 744-acre wooded park. 808 McKinney Falls Parkway. 243-1643, http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us

4. Take a good, long look at Lady Bird Lake on one of numerous cruises (daytime, sunset, dinner). Try Lone Star Riverboat, (512) 327-1388, or Capital Cruises at (512) 480-9264.

5. If you haven’t seen the terrific Beat Generation exhibit at the Ransom Center (300 W. 21st St. (512) 471-8944, http://www.hrc.utexas.edu), you have until Aug. 3. Don’t miss it.

6. Grab someone you love and drive up to Mount Bonnell (3800 Mount Bonnell Drive, off West 35th Street) at sunset. Climb to the top and, once you’ve caught your breath, bestow an eloquent declaration of your feelings.

7. Take a dip in Barton Springs Pool, then have a hippie sandwich at Shady Grove (1624 Barton Springs Road).

8. Find the round rock in Round Rock. It’s near Chisholm Trail Street in the middle of Brushy Creek. (It’s a rock on which the city’s founders sat and fished.)

9. Visit Aquarena Center, formerly Aquarena Springs, in San Marcos (921 Aquarena Springs Drive, (512) 245-7593, http://www.aquarena.txstate.edu). Alas, Ralph the Swimming Pig is no longer there, but you can still ogle algae, fish and turtles through the glass-bottom boats.

10. See why the Long Center (701 W. Riverside Drive) was worth the long wait. Austin Chamber Music Festival performances continue through July 26; for a list of all performances, visit http://www.thelongcenter.org.

11. Graze Whole Foods at Fifth Street and Lamar Boulevard. Chow on free samples, then decide what you’re having for dinner. Eat a scrumptious dessert on the rooftop and gaze across at Mecca health club. Fit City meets Fat City.

12. Drive out to Hamilton Pool (24300 Hamilton Pool Road off Texas 71 in Dripping Springs), one of the best swimming holes ever. Call (512) 264-2740 first to make sure it’s open.

13. Sit in on an Austin City Council meeting (10 a.m. Thursdays at 301 W. Second St.) Better: Find something on the agenda that makes you mad and sign up to speak about it.

14. Take a tour of Austin. Choose a Segway tour (699-6051, http://www.glidingrevolution.com or 402-9299, http://www.segcity.com), the amphibious Austin Duck Adventures (477-5274, http://www.austinducks.com), a ghost tour (853-9826, http://www.hauntedtexas.com) or a Texpert Tour (383-8989, http://www.texperttours.com), an insider tour of the Capitol or “weird Austin” with the incomparable Howie Richey.

15. Hit the outlet malls in San Marcos. They’re clustered around exit 200 off Interstate 35.

16. Visit one of the oldest museums in Texas, the Elizabet Ney Museum (304 E. 44th St. 458-2255). The 19th century sculptor’s former studio not only contains her portrait collection; it also tells her story, and it’s a unique one. The museum’s owned by the city, and it’s free.

17. Grab a burger and root beer float at Sandy’s (603 Barton Springs Road).

18. Cruise through IKEA in Round Rock (exit 256 off I-35) and find something you can’t live without. Then try finding your way out in less than 10 minutes.

19. When was the last time you went to the Continental Club (1315 S. Congress Ave.)? That’s too long ago. Dale Watson couldn’t stay away; you shouldn’t either.

20. Take yourself out to the ball game: Go to a Round Rock Express game at Dell Diamond. Don’t worry about the heat; most summer games are at night. Find them at http://www.roundrockexpress.com.

21. Get in touch with Texas writers and photographers with a visit to the Wittliff Collection at Texas State University in San Marcos. It’s hard to find, but there are good directions on thewittliffcollections.txstate.edu.

22. Visit the best dive in high-priced Austin: Dry Creek Saloon, 2912 Mount Bonnell Road. Unfortunately, Sarah Ransom’s no longer there to yell at you to bring your empty beer bottles back downstairs. But it’s still cool.

23. See a free demonstration of glass blowing at Wimberley Glass Works, 6469 RM 12 at Hugo Road. (800-929-6686)

24. Drive half an hour to Kreuz Market in Lockhart (619 N. Colorado St. at U.S. 183) and have yourself a fine piece of brisket or shoulder clod. Then stop at the farm stand about a block north on U.S. 183 and see if they have any peaches left.

25. Go to any local coffee shop — Little City, Sweetish Hill, Jo’s Coffee, Austin Java — and eavesdrop on coffee-stoked conversations. (It’s hard not to.)

26. Don’t forget the bats. Until about October, the bats pour out from under the Congress Avenue bridge at about dusk. Coolest place to watch them on a hot summer night: The Lobby Bar at the Four Seasons, which has balconies with views of the bridge.

27. Check out the history of firefighting at the Georgetown Firefighters Museum at 816 Main St.

28. Visit the charming Austin Zoo (10807 Rawhide Trail; see http://www.austinzoo.org for directions) and find Tink, the tortoise that runs. (Now they need to get a slacker hare.)

29. Go to the Capitol, find a guard and ask him or her if the building’s haunted. You’re likely to hear some interesting stories. (If not, ask a different guard.)

30. Grab dinner and some music at Threadgill’s at 301 W. Riverside Drive. It’s near where the Armadillo World Headquarters stood and keeps up the revered venue’s spirit.

handers@statesman.com; 912-2590

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