Finances most likely reason for large-group doctors to seek new jobs

by Shelton on August 21st, 2012

filed under Finances

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Finances most likely reason for large-group doctors to seek new jobs –

Your Finances: Tactics for pending 2013 ‘fiscal cliff’

by Shelton on August 20th, 2012

filed under Finances

In my previous column, I wrote about the fiscal cliff, a term to describe the combination of tax increases and spending cuts due to go into effect in January 2013.

Many economists believe this could lead to a significant slowdown in the economy and maybe even trigger another recession. And lest we forget, the backdrop for all of this is an election year.

There probably will not be any joint action taken by Congress and the president to address these issues until after the election; possibly not until early next year. So, what does that mean for you, the taxpayer and investor?

It means continued uncertainty.

Uncertainty has become the new normal. The challenge is deciding how to deal with the uncertainty.

First, take a step back and consider your goals. Next, you need to develop a plan to achieve those goals. This helps you refocus on objectives rather than being swayed by market fears.

Lets say you have a 401(k) you want to roll over into an IRA. Since this is retirement money, we will assume the goal of this account is to help fund retirement. The planning would include identifying risk tolerance, time horizon and appropriate asset allocation for these funds in relation to the rest of your investable assets.

Understandably, it can be useful to work with a financial adviser to help you through this process.

Once you have gone through these steps and identified how you want to invest your IRA rollover, you may feel you dont want to pull the trigger, because regardless of your planning, you are afraid of the stock market volatility given the looming fiscal cliff.

The answer is dollar cost averaging. This is the strategy of systematically investing your money over time, rather than trying to decide when is the best time to invest one lump sum. Dollar cost averaging is a good strategy to take advantage of inevitable market volatility. So when the stock market is low, you buy more shares at a lower cost, and when the market is high, you buy fewer shares.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer as to how to prepare financially for the fiscal cliff. Instead, think of this as a reminder to discuss your specific situation with your financial planner.

Laura Medigovich is a certified financial planner and vice president for MT Banks Hudson Valley region. The views expressed by the author are her own and not endorsed by MT Bank, MT Securities or their affiliates.

Tight finances in DeKalb lead to cuts for Special Olympics

by Shelton on August 19th, 2012

filed under Finances

Jason Getz,

In this 2010 photo, Drake Lumpkin, bottom, high fives teacher Chondra Rather, left, as other teachers Tiffany Anderson, top, and Kione Thompson, right, are shown after Lumpkins throw during a bocce ball tournament in the DeKalb County Special Olympics local competition at Stone Mountain High School.

Floridians deeply worried about their finances, Medicare and Social Security

by Shelton on August 19th, 2012

filed under Finances

Floridians 50 and over register high anxiety about the economy and their prospects in retirement. And to allay those fears, they want presidential candidates to say how theyll bolster Social Security and Medicare, according to a new AARP survey.

In a divided nation, theres a consensus that Democrats and Republicans both want answers to Medicare and Social Security, said GS Strategy Group pollster Greg Strimple. Politicians who dont address those issues ignore them at their peril.

Despite Floridas relatively high unemployment and the foreclosure crisis, retirees and near-retirees here are slightly less anxious about the economy and their lifestyle during retirement than their counterparts across the nation.

However, seven in 10 Florida citizens over 50 said they plan to rely more heavily on Medicare and Social Security as a result of the economic downturn a higher proportion than those nationwide.

A lot of these people, especially in Florida, seeing the travails of the real estate market, the job market they know how bad it can be down the block, Jim Dau, director of communications for AARP, said.

In Florida, among the over 50 set who are still working, 62 percent said they expect to have to delay retirement and 49 percent said they fear they may never get to retire. The national poll found that a whopping 72 percent of working Americans over 50 worry they will have to delay retirement and half say they despair that they will have to work forever.

Floridas survey included more respondents who were already retired than those about to be retired, which could account for the slightly more positive outlook. Boomers who are working reported more anxiety in general than those who have retired. But researchers and AARP representatives cautioned that the over-50 crowd in Florida is deeply stressed.

For instance, 77 percent of employed boomers and 66 percent of retirees said they worry because prices are rising faster than their income.

Among their other worries:

73 percent of boomers and 40 percent of retirees fear they wont have financial security in retirement.

66 percent of boomers and 47 percent of retirees fear they wont be able to pay health expenses

59 percent of boomers and 46 percent of retirees fear they will have to pay too much in taxes.

Respondents are disappointed in the dialogue in Washington about how to fix the economy and secure their future.

Just 41 percent in Florida approve of the job President Obama is doing and only 10 percent approve of the job of Congress.

The national results were similar with 42 percent approving of the president and 8 percent approving of Congress.

As for the match-up between Obama and Mitt Romney, Floridians gave a slight edge to the challenger. Forty-six percent lean toward Romney compared to 44 percent for Obama. The national poll registered a dead heat at 45 percent each.

Regardless of party or inclination to support Obama or Romney, respondents said they have heard too little during the campaign so far about specific plans for Social Security and Medicare.

In Florida, 94 percent of those surveyed 94 percent among Obama supporters and 93 percent among Romney supporters said they believe Social Security is key to seniors economic security. The same percentage overall said Medicare is critical to their future.

In separate questions, more than 90 percent of those surveyed said the next president and Congress must work together to ensure both programs are available in the future. An overwhelming number also said that the problems are too big for any one party to solve and they want both to tackle them together.

A response of 90 percent to anything in polling is stratospheric, Strimple said.

You have these two critical issuesSocial Security and Medicare that voters really feel are not being addressed well, he said. This is a number that you just cannot ignore.

Teenager’s fund-raising finances family fun day

by Shelton on August 19th, 2012

filed under Finances

Chelsi Beale (17), from Yaxley, managed to raise the impressive amount thanks to two speeches she delivered for grants to be made for the Woodston Community Centre, in Belsize Avenue, Woodston.

For her efforts, Chelsi has been nominated for a YOPEY Young Person of the Year award.

The fun day, which ran from 10am to 4pm on Saturday, offered visitors the chance to engage in a wide range of fun activities, such as battling in sumo suits, jumping on a bouncy castle and listening to the Peterborough Highland Pipe and Drum Band.

Chelsi, who is a pupil at Stanground Academy, first won £500 after giving a presentation to the Cambridgeshire High Sheriff for community-related funds.

That amount was then matched by money allocated to the community leadership fund for ward’s city councillors Lucia Serluca, Nick Thulbourne and Matthew Lee.

However, Chelsie was not satisfied with just £1,000, and won a second £1,000 grant after impressing workers at the charity Young Lives with another presentation.

Chelsi said: “We just needed to get as much as possible to help the day, so I did what I could.

“I have been involved with the Woodston Community Centre for two years now.

“I am proud to have got the money to put the event on, but am already thinking about how we can do it again.

“I want it to become an annual thing, and want to have more focus on live music down here next year.”

The organising committee have been working since January to put the £2,000 raised by Chelsi to best use.

The day saw activities for all ages in the form of a football tournament, a fire engine, bowls, dancing, martial arts and a raffle.

She was introduced to the Woodston Community Centre by Sue Schofield, a community based youth worker for Peterborough City Council, who Chelsi met while she did some outreach work at Stanground Academy.

Sue said: “This is the first community event to be organised in this area.

“It came about thanks to our young people desperately wanting to create something special for the local residents.

“We’re very proud of Chelsi and all the young people involved, for taking the initiative to try and make a change within their neighbourhood.”

Natasha Ardron (26), from Stanground, went along with her children Finlay (7 months) and Millie (21 months), as well as her little brother Kaan (7).

She said: “It is a really good event.

“The atmosphere is great and the children really love it.

“You don’t get many things organised like this around here and it’s really nice.”

Amongst the attendees were leader of the council Cllr Marco Cereste, Cllr Lucia Serluca and mayor of Peterborough Cllr George Simons.

The mayor said: “It is fantastically well organised and I’m delighted they got lucky with the weather.

“We need community events like this and you can see how much everybody really enjoys themselves.”

Declining membership, dwindling finances likely to top church agenda

by Shelton on August 18th, 2012

filed under Finances


Postmedia News

Debates about church policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline will likely attract most of the media attention. But delegates to the United Church of Canada’s 41st general council, which opens Saturday in Ottawa, have a more pressing issue to confront: the future of their church.

Like all main line churches in Canada, the 87-year-old United Church — Canada’s largest Protestant denomination — is facing multiple challenges.

It has far fewer people in its pews than it once did. Since peaking at more than one million in 1965, membership has fallen by nearly half. The declines have been even steeper for Sunday school enrolment — down about 90 per cent since 1961 — baptisms and professions of faith.

Those who do come to church are predominantly older. Among the nearly 7,500 church members who responded to a major identity study last year, the average age was 65.

The church’s 1,970 ordained ministry personnel are also aging. As of April 2011, their average age was 56. Just six (0.3 per cent) were under age 30.

In a country in which most people live in large cities, more than 50 per cent of the church’s congregations and 30 per cent of its members reside in communities of less than 2,000. Another 23 per cent of congregations and 26 per cent of members live in communities with populations between 2,000 and 30,000.

It’s hardly surprising, then, that the church’s finances are dire. It currently spends more than it takes in, and many, if not most, congregations are struggling to pay their bills. It has already had to close churches and lay off staff, and more hard decisions lie ahead.

Yet in an interview with the Citizen this week, Mardi Tindal, the United Church’s outgoing moderator, declared that she’s “more hopeful about the future of the church than I’ve ever been.”

Faith fuels part of Tindal’s optimism. “It’s important that we, as followers of Christ, trust in God’s abundance,” she says.

She’s encouraged by more tangible things, as well. For example, this triennial gathering of the general council includes an “extraordinary number” of delegates — known as commissioners — under age 30, she says.

It has also attracted a record 15 candidates seeking to succeed Tindal as moderator. “This is a sign of abundant leadership in the church,” she says. The general council will elect the new moderator Thursday.

(One candidate is Rev. Tom Sherwood of Ottawa. From 1999 to 2009, he was ecumenical chaplain at Carleton University, where he has taught for three decades. In 2009, the United Church appointed him McGeachy Senior Scholar and commissioned research into the religiosity, spirituality and values of Canadians born in the 1980s.)

Tindal has also been deeply impressed by the young ministers the church has been able to recruit. “Even in small numbers, they’re making quite an impact.”

And while there are fewer people in the pews, those who do come to church “are there because they are taking their spiritual lives very seriously,” Tindal says. That wasn’t always the case in the 1950s and 1960s, when going to church was the thing to do. It’s that depth of faithfulness, more than anything else, that gives Tindal hope for the church’s future.

Despite her upbeat assessment, there’s little doubt the United Church is facing an existential crisis. Its dimensions are catalogued by a “State of the Church” report prepared by the church’s general secretary, Nora Sanders, and distributed to all general council commissioners.

The financial challenges are most pressing. Though contributions to the Mission and Service Fund — which supports the central church’s activities — remained constant at about $30 million a year from the mid-1980s to 2009, inflation has eroded the fund’s purchasing power by about half.

Moreover, contributions have fallen in the past couple of years. “We can no longer rely on Mission and Service donations, since giving patterns to this fund are in flux,” the State of the Church report says.

That has already resulted in significant staff reductions at the General Council office in Toronto as well as cuts to grants and programs. Since the General Council is the major funder of the United Church’s 13 Conferences and outreach ministries, “future reductions will affect all parts of the church as we know it today,” the report warns.

To date, the church has been able to supplement Mission and Service income by drawing from the church’s assets. But, says the report, “this practice cannot be continued in the long term without injecting significant new resources into the church’s reserves.”

In view of the deteriorating balance sheet, church closures and amalgamations are inevitable. “Letting go of treasured buildings and all that they represent of our past life is a painful part of our transformation as a church,” the report says.

“At this point, the minor tinkering that could be done has been done. A good hard look at our structures is needed to determine the scale of our work that is appropriate — and possible — in our future.”

A finance report to delegates underlines the challenge ahead. It says the United Church will have depleted its available financial reserves by 2014 and will need to implement “substantive changes. We recommend that commissioners carefully evaluate both the short-term and long-term affordability of each proposal being considered.”

Amid the gloom, though, there are glimmers of light. As overall contributions to the Mission and Service Fund have declined, the amount donated per person has risen. And contributions to congregations have been stronger than those for the Mission and Service Fund.

Tindal finds hope in the fact that the church’s financial crisis won’t hit full bore until 2014, because that provides time to make the necessary adjustments. She’s confident the church is up to the task.

“The church at large has now recognized that the status quo is not an option,” Tindal says. “We are an adaptive church. That is one of our great strengths.”

Sanders observes that members are guided by scriptures that have been around for thousands of years. “The way that we worship, the formats, the institutions have changed many, many times over that time,” she says. “And we’re in one of those times of change.

“I think it’s time for us to think and pray about what’s most important to us. In our lives we can’t do everything or have everything, and in our church, we can’t either.”

Some changes will directly affect worshippers. More churches will sold, with money invested to generate a stream of income that can support the development of new forms of ministry. More congregations will share worship space, sometimes with people of other faiths.

To service rural churches, the Ottawa general council will look at a back-to-the-future circuit rider model, with one minister serving several different congregations. Some of the 130 different proposals the commissioners will consider involving giving lay members a greater role.

“This is not about diminishing the importance of an educated, well-prepared clergy,” Tindal says. “But there are some things that lay people need to be empowered to do as well.” With training, they can even be lay worship leaders, she says, filling in while the minister is leading services at other churches.

Sanders concedes that the State of the Church report, at first blush, “could seem pretty discouraging. But once you absorb that, and you realize that change is going to happen — it’s not a choice — that frees you up to start thinking what changes might be wonderful.”


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Postmedia News
Original source article: Declining membership, dwindling finances likely to top church agenda   

Director: Finances are in order

by Shelton on August 15th, 2012

filed under Finances

In the wake of failed low-income housing provider Lompoc Housing and Community Development Corp., Fred Lamont, executive director of the Housing Authority of Santa Barbara County, assured the community this week that his organization’s finances are in order.

Since LHCDC started unloading its properties, more people are paying attention to affordable housing — including recent question raised by a Lompoc Record columnist regarding the Housing Authority’s working relationship with nonprofit low-income housing developer Surf Development Company.

Lompoc Record columnist Ron Fink has referred to Surf Development in columns as a “shell corporation” created primarily for the Housing Authority to apply for funding sources that the organization is prohibited from receiving. Fink has also raised questions about the autonomy of the two organizations, including where Surf’s developer fees go and salary issues related to Housing Authority members.

Mayor John Linn recently made Surf Development a City Council agenda item and submitted three pages of questions about the nonprofit.

Lamont said he went before the Rotary Club of Lompoc on Wednesday evening to clear up any confusion about Surf Development.

Lamont told the Rotary that Surf Development has a seven-member board that manages its affairs separately from the Housing Authority.

Surf Development has no employees, instead relying on the Housing Authority for staffing, but he said that the Surf Development board chooses to go along with this arrangement and can end the partnership at any time.

“It can’t be a shell company because there are two completely separate boards,” Lamont said Thursday. “It’s a legally constituted organization that can stand on its own.”

The Housing Agency, which is autonomous from county government, currently oversees a combined agency-wide budget of

$45 million and serves 4,557 households. It also is involved in the construction of two prominent multimillion dollar projects on Ocean Avenue — the Cypress Court Project and the Santa Rita Village Project.

The projects will be managed by the Housing Authority and funded through federal tax credits allocated by the state to private firms.

Surf Development works closely with the Housing Authority to build affordable housing for low-income families throughout Santa Barbara County.

“(The Housing Authority and Surf Development) are cooperating entities working toward a common goal and toward making more affordable housing,” Lamont said.

Lamont also said that the Housing Authority’s finances are audited by multiple agencies, including the state, IRS, HUD and private organizations.

In response to a Rotarian who asked about the distribution of low-income housing in Santa Barbara County, Lamont said Lompoc has slightly more low-income units than other cities, but not significantly more than that of other cities in North Santa Barbara County.

Lamont also said that once Cypress Court and Santa Rita Village have been completed there will no more low-income projects in Lompoc for some time.

“We feel at Lompoc we are where we need to be,” Lamont said.

He said the Housing Authority is aware that some community members have stated there are too many low-income homes in Lompoc.

“Our shareholders are the general public, so we need to be sensitive to the mandate from the general public,” he said.

Asked about the high cost of low-income affordable housing, Lamont said that there are additional costs associated with building low-income homes.

The structures have to be able to serve for 55 years, Lamont said, and there are large legal fees because of the complex financial structure and the need to work with the federal government.

These complexes also need to provide services, such as a laundry room and community facilities for the residents.

Rotary member George Bedford asked Lamont to explain the differences between the Housing Authority from LHCDC.

Lamont stated that the Housing Authority has never defaulted on a loan, has never made a late payment, has never “absconded” with a tenant’s deposit payment and has received high marks from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Postal Service Finances: Yes, It Can Get Worse

by Shelton on August 15th, 2012

filed under Finances

It is becoming hard to keep the billions of dollars in missed payments and recorded losses by the US Postal Service (USPS) straight. Today, tack another multibillion-dollar chunk of change onto the list: The USPS reported a third-quarter net loss of $5.2 billion, bringing year-to-date losses to $11.6 billion.

But increasingly, the focus of concern is when the USPS will run out of cash. With less than $500 million on hand, that day may come as early as October.

In a conference call today, postal management downplayed the cash-flow problem–pointing out that they may be able to delay a payment due to the Labor Department for worker’s compensation costs–and held out hope that election-year mailings will give them a boost. At any rate, they said that priority will be given to payroll obligations and suppliers in the event the tiller is emptied.

Most likely, the postal officials are right: Some way to fudge the shortfall will be found, pushing the day of reckoning into next year–assuming that Americans send Christmas cards liberally. But it’s never a good sign when a firm has to talk about making deals with creditors and prioritizing debts. It’s just more evidence that the USPS needs to change; if it doesn’t, it will die.

Postal officials, to their credit, recognize this. “This is no way to run a business,” said USPS CFO Joe Corbett, pointing out the need for swift action to address the problem.

Exactly. And that action needs to come from Congress, which has hamstrung USPS’s ability to make the restructuring and cutbacks that will be needed to give it a fighting chance at survival. But so far, Congress seems more interested in adopting “reforms” that simply give the USPS temporary infusions of cash while continuing or tightening statutory restrictions on real change. Real reform–such as that being pushed by Representative Darrel Issa (R-CA) and others–is a castor oil that Members don’t want to swallow.

No way to run a business, indeed.

After A Trim, State Finances Looking Better

by Shelton on August 14th, 2012

filed under Finances

Getting the facts about our states finances now is all the more important because its an election year, and when attacks and campaign promises take center stage, it will be much harder to separate fact from fiction.

Here are the facts:

The huge deficit that was staring us in the face on January 1, 2011, is gone. At that time, outgoing GovM Jodi Rellpredicted that in the year ahead we would have $16.5 billion in revenue against $19.7 billion in spending, for a whopping deficit of $3.2 billion or 19 percent of our revenue.

This shortfall was the result of a weak economy and low tax collections, and was made much worse by the fact that the state funded $2.3 billion of the prior years needs with one-time revenues and gimmicks. It was a great place to start a new administration nowhere to go but up!

Gov.Dannel P. Malloyencouraged an approach of shared sacrifice. By the time the budget was finalized last summer the largest per capita deficit in the nation was closed, leaving a small surplus. This was accomplished by roughly equal measures of new taxes, spending reductions and employee give-backs.

As the 2012 fiscal year progressed, state spending was on budget despite an increase in Medicaid costs of $82 million. On the revenue side, the recession has proved to be longer and harder than anticipated. As a result, our revenue for the year was $194 million below what we expected, about a 1 percent shortfall.

We made some mid-year adjustments, including $42 million in rescissions mid-year cuts on top of meeting the $1.6 billion in cuts that were in the adopted budget.

When the final tallies are in, we expect to have about $100 million left to put into the states rainy day fund.

Contrary to whats been claimed by the governors critics, we have met the goals for savings from the labor agreement. We reduced spending across state government and cut the state workforce by 5 percent. Agencies have implemented dozens of individual savings initiatives aimed at controlling their costs. For example:

bull;The Department of Labor instituted a no more paper checks policy for its payment system, achieving cost savings of $235,000 per month or $2.8 million annually

bull;The new Lead by Example program is a three-pronged approach to reducing energy consumption in state and municipal buildings. Connecticut taxpayers will save $1.52 million per year through reduced state energy bills as a result of this 9-month-old program. Significantly higher levels of savings can be expected in the future

bull;Changes to state property leases and renegotiating rental rates on buildings that the state leases will save more than $900,000 in 2012.

In addition to attacking our immediate problem, we have also made real progress toward solving our serious long-term challenges.

We are on pace to convert to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.

We expect to save $20 billion over the next 20 years because of the long-term approach we took to funding our pension liabilities through both benefit reductions negotiated at the bargaining table and sensible changes to our funding method.

And we have found creative ways to control our employee health benefits costs through better management of employee health.

So, what do I tell my barber?

After a much-needed haircut, we are looking much better, thank you.

Ben Barnes is secretary of the state Office of Policy and Management.

Cyberattack on Lebanese Banks —Are Iran, Syria Finances the Target?

by Shelton on August 13th, 2012

filed under Finances

A sophisticated virus has been spying on Lebanese bank accounts for months. Mustapha Hamoui gives context for understanding what may be part of a campaign to use Lebanese banks to pressure the Iranian nuclear program, and might also target the finances of the Syrian regime and Hezbollahs money-laundering operations.