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Friday, August 26, 2011

U.S. Places To Find Jobs

Especially now, plentiful job opportunities are key to making a great place to live. These 5 counties have experienced the most job growth over the last 10 years.

1. Rockwall County, TX
Towns include: Heath, Rockwall
Job growth (2000-2010): 97.9%

Rockwall County is rockin' and rollin' at the top of our list for job creation. It may be the Lone Star State's smallest county, but it's one of Texas's fastest growing, with a population that's almost doubled in the last decade.
The county borders Lake Ray Hubbard in the northeast corner of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Development there once centered on homes and recreation, but now Rockwall wants to be a place where its wealthy residents live, play -- and work.
Like many of the counties on our list, Rockwall is luring businesses and jobs from nearby big cities with generous incentives and a higher quality of life. The latest development is Harbor Heights, a seven-story 110,000 square foot office tower slated to open next year. Major corporations like L-3 Communications and Pilgrim's Pride make their home in the Rockwall Technology Park where more companies are expected to join their ranks.

2. Loudoun County, VA
Towns include: Leesburg
Job growth (2000-2010): 75.3%

With one of the nation's highest concentrations of high-tech firms, Loudoun County has been dubbed the "Silicon Valley of the East." Anchoring one end of the Dulles Technology Corridor, the area is home to marquee names like Verizon Business, AOL and Verisign.
The region was once little more than farmland and bedroom communities for D.C.-area professionals. Now it's home to more than 9,000 firms employing more than 130,000 people, and business continues to grow. Chalk that expansion up to a decades-long effort by local leaders to beef up infrastructure. Its proximity to the nation's capital, the Pentagon and Dulles International Airport doesn't hurt either.
You don't have to work in government or high tech to find new opportunities here. Mil-Tek, a company in the recycling industry, recently moved its headquarters to the area, and is expected to bring in 200 jobs. Moving company JK Moving Services is expanding to add 140 jobs.

3. Williamson County, TX
Towns include: Brushy Creek, Georgetown, Round Rock
Job growth (2000-2010): 68.1%

What's the key to jobs growth in Williamson County? It could be smart people. Round Rock, the area's commercial hub, boasts that 40% of its residents have a college degree, with 70% of them having some sort of post-secondary education.
Providing jobs for smart people in Round Rock since 1996 is Dell Computer, Williamson County's biggest employer. Dell has some 15,000 employees here, with plans to add more to staff its new customer solutions center.
Also hiring is Emerson Process Management. The company, which creates automation technology for heavy industry, is relocating 750 employees to town, with another 125 jobs expected in the next three years.

4. Douglas County, CO
Towns include: Castle Rock, Lone Tree, Parker, Stonegate
Job growth (2000-2010): 64.5%

Perched between Colorado's two largest cities, Denver and Colorado Springs, this county is all about big business. Six Fortune 500 companies are based here, including major employers like Liberty Media, the Dish Network and Sprint Nextel.
Attracted by a great tax rate, a highly educated workforce and some of the most beautiful country on any side of the Rockies, more companies are moving to Douglas County and bringing jobs. In June, thermoplastics maker Gordon Holdings said it plans to relocate here, adding 240 jobs. Meanwhile, insurer CNA opened its western service center here, bringing 300 new positions with it.

5. Hamilton County, IN
Towns include: Noblesville, Westfield
Job growth (2000-2010): 50.8%

One of the lowest unemployment rates in the state helps make Hamilton County the place for jobs in Indiana. Located just north of Indianapolis, it's also home of the city's wealthiest suburbs.
Indiana has embarked on Hamilton County's biggest road project ever: the upgrading of Route 31, a major artery out of neighboring Indianapolis. The project is intended to relieve congestion, cut travel time and speed commerce.
Marsh Supermarkets and Freedom Mortgage are headquartered in the county, while Schwab, U.S. Foodservice and Sallie Mae maintain a regional presence. Recently, Marsh said it is shifting around its offices and adding 130 jobs. A sublease to recruiter First Advantage will bring in 340 people.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Story first appeared in USA TODAY.
After many families carefully mapped out a plan to pay for college costs, the economy's downward spiral forced them to rip it up.
Joy Erickson plans on attending Northen Arizona University in 2012 to get her bachelors in environmental education. The recession has forced many families to rip up their plans for paying for college and one expert strongly advises parents against making 401K withdrawals to pay for schooling.
State-budget cuts forced many colleges and universities to make huge tuition hikes. Job losses siphoned money for college savings accounts.
When home values nose-dived during the housing bust, students and parents lost the ability to tap home-equity lines for extra cash. The Dow's wild swings have chewed up balances in 529 college-saving accounts, which often include stocks.
Parents are desperate, said April Osborn, executive director of the Arizona Commission for Postsecondary Education, which administers several federal and state grants that go to Arizona college students.
While college costs rise, there is less grant money to go around. Three state grants that awarded up to $2,000 to college students were suspended last year.
Two federal grants, including one that provided up to $3,000 for awardees, were eliminated and won't be available starting this fall, she said.
While the economy has taken a toll, many parents are struggling to pay for college costs because they were too optimistic early on, Osborn added.
When children are young, many parents assume that they will have higher salaries when it's time to pay tuition bills or that their child will be an "A" student who'll get scholarships.
But when high school rolls around, the fact is their kid is a solid “B” student, not a super athlete and they have no savings, Osborn said.
Yet many parents still yearn to foot the entire bill — or most of the bill — for college so their kids can avoid a lot of debt.
That's a natural urge, but it's also unrealistic, said Lynda Elley, financial adviser for CopperWynd Financial in Scottsdale.
Elley said that we need to start dialing back our expectations. She said everybody wants their kids to have the very best, but we're not teaching them anything about fiscal responsibility if we are giving them the best of everything and they haven't done anything to earn it.
Paying for college
• Make children part of the saving process as early as possible. No mall jobs? Try babysitting, yard work, dog walking, etc.
• Paying for their tuition? Start with personal savings, then go to government-backed student loans — which have low interest rates — and PLUS parental loans. Private bank loans are an option but have high interest rates.
• Use your network — family, friends, church, etc. — to help your children explore careers in high school. It will focus their high school and college studies, possibly cutting down on costs.
• Consider community college, which is far less expensive, for the first two years of undergraduate work and then a transfer to a four-year institution.
• Assess your child. Not an "A" student? A bit immature? Students often drop out after one year. Consider community college before splurging on a four-year school.
• Encourage students to make the most of high school — by looking for opportunities for college credit or dual enrollment.
• Use retirement funds to pay for college costs.
• Overlook less expensive in-state schools.
• Overborrow for college costs. Keep non-tuition and academic expenses to a minimum.
• Overspend on housing, furnishings or cars for college students — especially during the first few years, when many students drop out.
• Be afraid to let children take on some college debt. It will give them a bigger stake in their college success.

Ostrich Egg Purses Made By None Other Than The Wife Of The Chicken Man

Story first appeared in USA TODAY.
As hobbies go, laboriously transforming ostrich eggs into one-of-a-kind handbags using dentists' drills, a finicky epoxy resin and minuscule Swarovski crystals doesn't necessarily sound like the most appealing choice.
Not unless you're married to the "Chicken Man," that is.
It proved the perfect pastime for Mitzi Perdue, the third wife of the late poultry magnate Frank Perdue, of the iconic "It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken" TV commercial fame.
Over the past 18 years, the striking blond estimates she's fashioned more than of the 500 elaborate handbags out of hollowed-out shells.
Bedazzled with pearls or draped with delicate chains, sparkling with rhinestones or painted with pastoral scenes, Perdue's creations are like wearable Faberge eggs. There's just one difference: Unlike the legendary Imperial Easter eggs — fanciful concoctions of gold and diamonds made in the late 19th century by jeweler Peter Carl Faberge for the Russian czar — Perdue's so-called EveningEggs are made not out of precious metals but from calcium carbonate, the main ingredient in shells.
Perdue stumbled onto the pastime by accident, after a 1993 car wreck that ruptured a disc and left her bedridden for months.
After reading her way through her backlog of books and absorbing more than her lifetime dose of daytime television, Perdue was desperately seeking diversion. Inspired by a how-to arts show on PBS, she decided to overcome her utter lack of artistic ability and try her bored hand at painting.
She said that she then thought, that as long as she was going to paint, why not do it on an egg instead of a flat old piece of cardboard? She added that after all, if Frank was the Chicken Man, why shouldn't she be the Egg Lady?
Before becoming the "Egg Lady," Perdue had cycled through a whole series of iterations. The daughter of Sheraton hotel chain co-founder Ernest Henderson, Harvard-educated Perdue had previously been a California rice farmer, a newspaper columnist and star of her own syndicated television show, called "Mitzi's Country Magazine," among other things.
But all that changed when she met the man widely credited with industrializing the poultry business: Frank Perdue, a Maryland-born farm boy who turned his parents' chicken ranch into a multibillion dollar operation of global reach and whose folksy, straight-talking appearances on Perdue Farms' TV commercials made him a household name, as well as helping launch a thousand chicken casseroles.
The two met in 1988, after their respective divorces — Mitzi's first, the second for Frank, who was 21 years her senior.
She said they decided to get married about five minutes after meeting. And they did, just five months after that first electric encounter.
Perdue kept herself busy throughout their 17-year-long union by organizing weekly get-togethers with company's employees. She estimates they hosted at least 10,000 workers — half Perdue Farms' work force — at their Salisbury, Md., home.
But it wasn't till she become the "Egg Lady" that she really hit her stride.
Perdue started out decorating chicken eggs, before moving on to bigger goose and then jumbo ostrich eggs, which she sourced from a Texas-based ostrich meat farmer for $12 a piece.
She tried to convince Frank to get into the ostrich business so she could have a free supply of eggs, but the math didn't really add up: On the one hand, $12 for an egg versus $2 million to set up a business. She said with a laugh that she is still getting the eggs from Texas.
Perdue uses a dentist's drill to slice off the top of the egg, oeuf a la coque-style . Many a good egg was ruined as she learned how to handle the tool, with a blade that turns at a menacing 450,000 rotations per minute.
Once the insides are scooped out, she covers both the shell's inside and outside with a two-part resin. That, too, took a fair share of experimenting. Perdue said she tried at least 40 different formulas before finding one that goes on smoothly and dries rock-hard.
She says she thinks you could shoot one of her eggs out of a cannon and injure someone and it wouldn't break. When asked to identify the miracle resin, Perdue demurred — she wouldn't want to make it too easy for potential copycats — saying only that it's available on the market.
After upholstering the inside in plush velvet or silk and bedazzling the outside with pearls and glinting rhinestones, she attaches a shoulder strap and fits the sliced-off top back on with custom-made, gold-plated hinges.
Despite her years of experience, it remains a painstaking process. It takes at least 30 hours worth of eye-straining labor to make even the simplest EveningEgg, and the more elaborate models can take much longer.
She also makes elaborate dioramas, which she dubbed EggScapes. (Both names are trademarked.)
Perdue donates many of her creations to her non-profits of choice, and they've fetched from $1,200-$12,000 at charity auctions.
Though her output slowed from several dozen to just a handful of eggs a year following the Frank Perdue's 2005 death and her subsequent move to New York City, Perdue said she hopes to ramp up production soon.
She's moving back to Maryland to be close to her grandchildren this fall and hopes to pump out enough EveningEggs to start selling them.
Wallflowers be warned: Perdue's egg-cessories are attention grabbers, guaranteed to be the center of attention at even the chicest cocktail party.

Sustainable Ag Courses Offerings Increase At Colleges

Story first appeared in USA TODAY.
Misha Manuchehri slowly picks her way through plots of barley, wheat and peas. Every so often, the graduate student in crop science at Washington State University stoops to pluck an errant weed at the farm just off campus.
With a bachelor's degree in organic agriculture already under her belt, Manuchehri plans to continue her studies and ultimately find work in sustainable agriculture.
Plenty of others are doing the same at dozens of universities that now offer courses, certificates or degree programs focused on organic and sustainable agriculture.
Experts said those graduates shouldn't have trouble finding jobs as the agriculture industry replaces aging farmers — the average age of a U.S. farmer is 57 — and farmers increasingly look to diversify their operations.
Roger Pepperl, spokesman for Wenatchee, Wash.-based Stemilt Growers, the nation's largest organic tree fruit producer said they are always looking at the university for our future ag workers.
Thirty percent of Stemilt's crops are organic, comprising 3 million boxes of apples, pears, cherries, peaches and nectarines annually.
Organic and sustainable specialists don't just bring their unique skills to the farm, Pepperl said, but can make our conventional farming better, too.
He noted, for example, that such specialists have new ideas about methods for handling pests, fungus and weeds that use fewer chemicals, making them environmentally preferable and potentially less expensive.
Washington State University, which already offered an organic agriculture degree, recently became the first school in the country to offer an organic agriculture certificate online. At the University of California-Davis, students are enrolling in a new sustainable agriculture and food systems program this fall.
Experts say the growth in alternative agriculture programs and a Horticulture Degree is fueled by consumer demand for food seen as healthier and rising demand for food that is produced on sustainable farms that are environmentally responsible and treat workers and animals humanely.
In 2003, the Organic Farming Research Foundation in Santa Cruz, Calif., surveyed land-grant universities about their organic programs. They asked about student-farm acres devoted to organics, the number of courses and degree programs.
The group found that few universities had invested much time or money in organic programs.
A similar survey this year has shown different results, says Jane Sooby, a grants program director. She said she hasn’t crunching the numbers yet, but she is finding a huge acceptance of organic at many of these schools.
Some programs have been launched in states that had little organic activity in the past, she said.
The increased focus on organics and sustainability comes as there is a long-term trend toward greater education of U.S. farmers.
Curtis Miller, director of education for the American Farm Bureau Foundation, the education arm of the American Farm Bureau, noted that about one-quarter of farmers today have bachelor's degrees and close to 70% have some college coursework. That's up from just 4% of farmers and ranchers who had college degrees in 1965.
He said everybody's going back to school because they have to. They know that equals earning potential and survivability on and off the farm. No matter how you raise your food, fiber or fuel, this diversification includes a lot of these educational programs.
Washington state is No. 2 in the country in the value of organic farm production, behind California. About 9% of U.S. organic production comes from Washington, 33% from California.
For that reason, Miles McEvoy called Washington State University's organic program forward thinking.
McEvoy headed the Washington state Department of Agriculture's organic program before being tapped to take over the U.S. Department of Agriculture's organic program in 2009.
Organics are growing. Not at the same rate as a few years ago, but it's still a growth area. Those farms and processers and other people involved in organic agriculture, they need people who have experience in that area.
In California, organics have been studied at universities for years. Now the University of California at Davis is turning its attention to sustainable agriculture.
Tom Tomich, director of the school's Agricultural Sustainability Institute, said sustainability takes into account global issues, which he argued will become increasingly important because food and agriculture are so central to issues involving environment, hunger and treatment of workers.
He said in terms of education, they are going to need a new generation of educators who can frame the great issues of this century from this perspective.
That's in line with what Manuchehri sees for her future. With an undergraduate degree in organics, her graduate work and possibly a PhD, she hopes to find work maintaining the balance between conventional and organic agriculture. She also wants to focus on sustainability issues, helping farms protect the environment while maintaining profits that keep them viable.


Story first appeared in USA TODAY.
With the U.S. unemployment rate at 9.1 percent as of July 31 and a fragile economic recovery underway, many workers feel they are left with no choice but to take their careers into their own hands.
Employees are bidding farewell to corporate America in the hope of finding a more secure, or at least fulfilling, future. They are reinventing themselves by starting their own companies or by pursuing long-put-off dreams that include creative or charitable endeavors.
While it might seem like a bold move, countless workers believe the abundance of uncertainty in today's job market mitigates the fear factor.
When self-proclaimed "cubicle monkey" Charlie Avallone, a technical writer in the investment field, realized his superior was planning to stick around for at least another 20 years, the 37-year-old from Los Angeles felt he was running out of options.
Underwhelmed by his lateral move choices and faced with a shortage of other opportunities in the marketplace, Avallone decided to opt out. Taking a home equity loan to cover health care and day-to-day living expenses, Avallone started his own consulting business.
Avallone says it was very satisfying to leave his job and support himself and be able to think that he was my own boss.
In a challenging economy, the freelancer took on as many assignments as he could handle, often not knowing where his next job would come from. After a three-year time out, Avallone was able to re-enter the corporate world at a level above the one he left.
He said it was a leap of faith, but for him it worked out. He added that it's great knowing that if he had to do it on his own again, he could.
In Search of Balance
Michelle Lawton, who spent two decades in a successful career in branding and marketing, left it all behind to start her own business, Joyful Plate, seeking to strike a better sense of balance in her life.
Lawton decided to use her savings to invest in herself. She said she was at a point in her life where she was looking for a real shift, and realized she had a life opportunity. She had a strong network, and she will be 44 this year. This is the time. She wanted to somehow give herself a portal to use her talents to do something that she is really passionate about. But also, from a strategic standpoint, she wanted to figure out an infrastructure that would allow her to pave her own way moving forward.
Lawton notes when she was in the corporate world working for companies like Procter & Gamble Pepperidge Farm, Lavazza Coffee and Remy Cointreau, she was compensated very well but still not nearly enough considering the hours she was putting in.
She added that it's so hard to find a happy medium, and the stress level is so high, you indulge in unhealthy ways to compensate, emotionally treating yourself, whether it's overeating or overdrinking or overspending.
As her own boss, Lawton makes time for things she never could during her years in the business world, such as lunchtime yoga and pilates classes.
She said it's something she can't quantify, and she has never been healthier. What she is not gaining in financial rewards, she has gained in personal well-being. It sounds like a cliché, but it's a trade-off.
Dr. Kevin Brennan, a New York City-based psychologist who concentrates on helping young professionals, said the pressures of choosing the right career and the right time to follow one's passions are the centerpiece of his practice.
He said this generation's parents said we could do anything we want, just be 'happy, thus, happiness is now our only benchmark, and it is often the hardest. The previous generation of workers may have also wanted to quit and pursue their passions, but there was an overwhelming expectation to stay put, so there was less anxiety about settling with the dead-end job. Happiness was simply not their primary value, allowing them to settle and put off their passion-hunting until their responsibilities diminished, a.k.a. mid-life crisis.
Two years ago, Brennan saw 10 percent of his patients lose their jobs. The other 90 percent put economic distress on the top of their weekly dance card. Some are looking for promotions in a dry well. Everyone—except the recently unemployed—is feeling the vice tighten at work through increased hours and responsibilities due to a job market into which bosses know employees won't dare venture.
Brennan encourages those who are confused about their careers to think not only outside the box, but outside themselves.
Brennan advises that when in doubt, help others out. Ask 10 people who engage in activities that help the world if they love what they do, and nine will say 'absolutely.' If you are bright, capable and bewildered, then why not do something useful for others?
A man who knows what Brennan's talking about is 25-year-old Andrew Flavin, who specialized in corporate loan syndication. He and his wife, a recruiter for a hedge fund, turned their backs on careers bringing in over $100,000 annually to build homes for the poor in Tijuana, Mexico, with Amor Ministries. Flavin, whose father is a minister, relished the opportunity to help others ever since he began going on the mission trips with his church as a young boy.
They had worked at their jobs in New York for about two years when they felt it was time to actually do something that mattered to them for 40-plus hours each week. He said that making 70 percent less money made them rearrange their life and the decisions they make, but he would argue those were rearrangements that were long overdue.
They had to give up weekly sushi. No more cable TV. They couldn't be constantly buying new clothes and shoes, and they actually had to live with a budget. But what was the alternative, to keep living life comfortably yet without passion and with terrible flaws in their priorities?
For those thinking about starting a new chapter, entrepreneurs offer hard-won insights from their first-hand experiences.
Get Your Finances In Order
Take a look at what you earn every month in your salary. Figure out in your business plan how you could realistically survive knowing that you may only get a third, or half of that, for a few years. Make sure you are truly ready and make sure you are not disappointing anyone else.
Both Avallone and Lawton said their decisions were easier to make because neither is married or has children.
Build a Strong Foundation
Get training or additional education to help support you in your new career. Not only will this give you credibility in your new field, but it will give you the inner confidence you need as you are getting started.
Find A Mentor
Nik Mody, who spent more than a decade climbing the corporate ladder only to leave to start the travel savings club MHNSaves.com, says to seek guidance from seasoned professionals in that niche when developing your concept. Don't think you know it all, because you don't. Form an advisory board or get personal mentors in your business. Leverage the experience of others.
Mody also recommends seeking advertising assistance, noting that in most cases entrepreneurs will face stiff competition, making branding that much more important.
Go Solo
Be prepared to be a one-man show for a while, said Lawton, who went from having ample resources to tap into on the corporate side to being completely on her own.
You might be doing everything for yourself for a while. You have to be nimble and sometimes make decisions quickly. She says to trust your gut, and to try, while you have your job, to get your concept really clear. Try early on to get a lot of the logistical stuff ready. Contracts and separate bank accounts can take up valuable time once you're trying to run your new business.
Mody concurs saying be prepared to give up free time at least in the very beginning. After all, if you are passionate about it, you will want to keep at it forever.
Be Disciplined
Lawton said she is at her desk, albeit one in her home, at 9 a.m. every morning with coffee in hand, dressed and ready to work.
Have An Exit Strategy
Know your backup plan. When all else doesn't work out, you will need to know your next chapter in life.
For those ready to roll the dice, a question to consider: Do the rewards of freedom, autonomy and the chance for personal happiness outweigh those of following the traditional path?

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Article First Appeared In The New York Times:
McGraw-Hill is now weighing what to do with one if its oldest businesses: education.
The company has retained an investment bank, Evercore Partners, to explore a possible spinoff of the business, which accounts for more than a third of its revenue, to McGraw-Hill shareholders, people briefed on the matter said Wednesday.
McGraw-Hill could also sell the division, most likely attracting private equity bidders because of its steady cash flow, though the people briefed on the matter said this option was less likely at the moment. They cautioned that no final decisions had been made and that all options remained on the table.
For years, shareholders and others have complained about the company’s stock performance, arguing that the education business has been a drag on the double-digit growth and profit of the company’s financial unit. The education business and the financial services business at McGraw-Hill have different capital and operational requirements, and create few if any synergies, analysts have said.
This year, the company announced it was conducting a comprehensive review of its holdings to ensure it was spending money on the right things. Harold W. McGraw III, the company’s chief executive, has promised a major announcement in the second half of this year, and the company has hired a number of investment banks, including Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, to assist with its review.
People close to the company have said that all options are on the table when it comes to the company’s promised portfolio review. Some have estimated that if the conglomerate were broken up through a spinoff, the company’s share price could soar as much as 20 percent.
The company has made a few announcements already. In June, McGraw-Hill put its television stations on the block. In late 2009, the company sold BusinessWeek to Bloomberg for $5 million. Evercore advised McGraw-Hill on the sale.
But there has been pressure from investors recently amid concerns that McGraw-Hill was moving too slowly in its review, or that it might not take bold enough actions to prune its portfolio. Some have suggested that spinning off Standard & Poor’s could be another option.
The activist hedge fund Jana Partners, in conjunction with the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, recently bought a stake in McGraw-Hill, increasing the pressure on the company to take steps. Jana Partners, which announced its stake this month, has met once with the company for about 40 minutes and plans to meet again next week, the people briefed on the matter said. They said the conversation was cordial.
The hiring of Evercore, however, indicates that the company was taking the review seriously before Jana Partners announced its stake alongside the Canadian pension plan.
With a market value of about $11.7 billion, McGraw-Hill is one of the biggest targets of activist investors this year. And with its rich history of publishing educational books that touch students from kindergarten to professional school, it may also be the best known. And though Mr. McGraw owns less than 4 percent of the company, McGraw-Hill has long been seen as a family business.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Story first appeared in Bloomberg News.

Record-high prices for used luxury automobiles are driving more buyers to new-car lots and the business of auto transport is also increasing.

Bayerische Motoren Werke AG’s 2011 3-Series compacts and M3 sedans now cost $34 more a month than one-year-old used models, according to Edmunds.com . General Motors Co.’s Chevrolet Corvette is about $12 a month cheaper to buy new than used, the auto-pricing website says.

There is an industrywide shortage of used cars in the U.S., the product of manufacturing cuts amid slumping sales the last three years. That means some people have effectively been priced out of the used-car market and into brand-new models. As many as 500,000 new vehicles by mid-2012 may have been sold to people who would have bought used.

There’s a substitution effect going on between new and used. When you get those price gaps closing, you get people that are willing to shop new that wouldn’t have before.”

Two years after U.S. auto sales plunged to their lowest level in almost three decades, the supply of used cars coming off leases or out of rental fleets is at a trickle. With deliveries rebounding slowly, low-mileage used cars will remain so scarce that many shoppers will buy a new vehicle instead of used.

‘Significant Run-Up’

The Manheim Used Vehicle Value Index, determined through the largest auto-auction company’s more than 5 million annual U.S. sales, reached a record 126.6 this April and rose to 127.8 in May. It held at 125.9 in July.

The luxury segment’s index reached a record 109.74 in June. Manheim started its value index in 1995.

Used prices have had a significant run-up from late 2008. The shortage of low-mileage used models will last for some time.

While GM and Ford Motor Co. forecast about a 10 percent boost in U.S.
new-vehicle sales this year, deliveries will remain well below the pre- recession pace. GM and Ford are forecasting at least 13 million sales this year, including medium- and heavy-duty trucks. The U.S. averaged annual light- vehicle deliveries of 16.8 million vehicles from 2000 to 2007, according to researcher Autodata Corp.

With Toyota Motor Corp., maker of Lexus luxury cars, losing production after the March earthquake in Japan, BMW and Daimler AG’s Mercedes- Benz have taken the lead in high-end new-vehicle sales. U.S.

Deliveries of BMWs through July rose 13 percent to 135,114, and Mercedes sales increased 7.3 percent to 129,932, while Lexus’s fell 19 percent to 102,549, meanwhile those providing enclosed car haulers for sports cars have seen steady business.

Corvette Cruising

Corvette sales have increased 8.4 percent this year through July to 8,187, outpacing the luxury sports-car segment’s 2.9 percent growth, according to Autodata. Sales of Nissan Motor Co.’s Z cars, the second most-popular model in the segment, have dropped 22 percent.

As Toyota and Honda Motor Co. rebuild new-car inventories in the second half, executives at the largest U.S. automakers and retailers expect spending on incentives and marketing to rebound from five-year lows. That would make new vehicles even more affordable compared with used ones.

Sweetened deals for 2011 Tacoma pickups and FJ Cruiser sport-utility vehicles have reduced typical payments for each model to less than $490 a month, Edmunds says. The monthly discount for used Tacomas and FJ Cruisers has narrowed to about $20 for each model.

18 Months

One analyist said he doesn’t expect any dramatic decreases in used prices for at least 18 months. More than 70 models are cheaper or nearly the same price new as used.

Honda’s Acura TL sedan, has a monthly payment of $583 new and $601 used, putting the savings over a 60-month term at $1,080.

Used pricing will show continued strength for at least 18 to 24 more months. Demand from price-conscious buyers that was already strong because of the slow economic recovery was exacerbated by Japan’s production disruptions and the shortages of new vehicles that followed.

New lease sales fell to 1.96 million in 2008 and 1.13 million in 2009, according to Manheim. Lease originations that averaged 2.78 million during the previous 10 years dried up as lenders such as GMAC Inc. and Chrysler Financial Corp. withdrew financing offers.

Leased vehicles’ input to used-vehicle supply will be 2.08 million units this year, a 40 percent drop from 2002 levels, according to Manheim. Off-lease volumes will keep declining through at least next year, to 1.53 million, Manheim says.

Rental Inputs

Sales to rental fleets, which fell to 1.13 million vehicles in 2009 from more than 2 million in 2006, may not exceed 1.5 million until after this year, according to Manheim. The 2011 contribution to used- vehicle supply from rental fleets will be about 1.4 million vehicles, a 30 percent drop from 2005 levels.

Ford’s chief financial officer, said they had two or three years of very suppressed industry levels, which means that the normal availability of used cars is lower than you’d expect.

Higher values for used cars make trading in for a new vehicle more attractive and may help boost sales, according to Booth and GM’s Don Johnson, vice president of U.S. sales.

That’s bringing a lot of people into showrooms because they can get a great value on their used vehicle, which helps them get into a new vehicle a lot quicker.

Robert Anckaitis is in the market for a Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Fiesta or Kia Forte, which would be his first purchase of a new vehicle since driving an Oldsmobile station wagon home from a dealer 41 years ago. He is considering using car shipping to get his old car hauled away.

A recently retired township manager from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Anckaitis, 66, said he usually buys bigger, two-or three-year-old Mercedes-Benzes or Cadillacs. Now he sees value in smaller new cars for $5,000 less.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Story first appeared in USA TODAY.
Exxon ended the week holding the title of the most valuable company in America after earlier being passed by Apple.
Exxon Mobil shares rose 42 cents Friday to $72, although still down for the week. The oil company now has a market capitalization of $350.1 billion, compared with Apple's $349.5 billion. Shares of Apple, which makes the iPhone and iPad, rose $3.29 to $376.99.
Apple first surpassed Exxon on Tuesday afternoon, but settled at No. 2 by the time the stock market closed. On Wednesday it kept the top spot after the close, with a market cap of $337 billion versus Exxon's $331 billion. Exxon, which had held the top spot since 2005, regained it Thursday, helped by 3.4% increase in the price of oil.
Oil ended 34 cents lower Friday at $85.38. It's down 10.5% for the quarter.
Many analysts can understand why investors may view Apple as the more valuable company.
Exxon's growth is tied to the price of oil and to the discovery of new oil sources. Apple, meanwhile, is limited only by innovation and ongoing demand for its products. That demand, for now, seems insatiable. Apple also has room to grow, since it commands just a small fraction of the smartphone and personal computer markets.
Exxon shares are still down 11.5% since June 30, a time period when oil prices have also dropped 10 percent. Apple shares have gained 12.3% in the same time frame.


Story first appeared in USA TODAY.
The age of free driving could be coming to an end. With the advent of GPS navigation that electronically tracks how far you drive; more states are looking at charging drivers by the mile.
Oregon, for instance, is among several states that are taking a hard look at the idea. As proposed in the Oregon legislature, drivers could be charged 0.85 cents per mile through 2015, with the figure jumping to 1.85 cents per mile by 2018. The bill, for the moment, appears stalled. Texas and Minnesota are reportedly also taking a look.
Mileage fees would take the place of gasoline taxes, which will decrease as more fuel-efficient and electric cars are introduced. The Detroit Bureau says the typical American motorist getting a combined 25 mpg today pays just under 2 cents a mile in gas taxes.
Still, the Big Brother aspects of taxing by the mile are sure to make any such plan an uphill battle.


Story first appeared in USA TODAY.
Starting this fall, Virginia high school students will need more than reading, writing and arithmetic to snag a diploma. Incoming high school freshmen will be required to take a one-credit course outlining the ABCs of economics and personal finance.
Virginia joins a handful of states, including Missouri, Utah and Tennessee, that mandate a class in financial education. Similar legislation aimed at improving students' financial literacy has been introduced in Maryland, while several states require teachers to weave personal finance lessons into existing coursework.
Combined with grassroots efforts by non-profits and financial institutions, it's all part of a nationwide push to keep Generation Y from making money mistakes that could haunt them long after they graduate from college.
For younger children, the "Money Matters: Make it Count" partnership between the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and the Charles Schwab Foundation has brought financial literacy lessons to more than 245,000 students since it made its debut in 2004.
The effort extends beyond grades K-through-12. Starting last year, an eight-part course in personal finance became part of the four-year curriculum for Champlain College in Burlington, Vt. Students who don't complete a seminar on time lose their ability to schedule classes for the next semester, says John Pelletier, head of Champlain College's Center for Financial Literacy.
A recent Teens & Money Survey by Charles Schwab found that 16-to-18-year-olds are more likely to own an iPod, cellphone or computer than they are to have a savings or checking account. The survey also found that parents are more likely to nag their teens about cleaning their rooms or discuss the dangers of drugs and alcohol than talk about smart money management.
Teaching the teachers
Students aren't the only ones with a steep learning curve. More than half of teachers say they feel unqualified to use their state's financial education standards, and few feel very competent lecturing a class on topics such as risk management and debt. If states are serious about students' financial education, Pelletier says, they need to be equally serious about ensuring that teachers are qualified to take on these concepts.
This month, Champlain and Pelletier hosted the third Jump$tart Teacher Training Alliance pilot this year, which is testing a training model for personal finance teachers.
Laura Levine, executive director of the non-profit Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Finance Literacy, says the pilot program is designed to develop a model that can eventually be used to prepare teachers around the country to tackle financial issues.
Levine says the need to address financial education isn't new, but it hasn't been a high priority, usually falling somewhere behind basket-weaving.
The real wake-up call for many, she says, came in 2008, adding that it might be one of the silver linings of the recession that this has been front and center on people's minds.
High-risk behavior
A University of Arizona analysis of college students' financial strategies before and after the recession found significant increases in "risky" coping strategies, such as dropping classes or postponing health care. The number of students who used one credit card to pay off another increased by 26%.
Shan Shafiq, who spent the past three years at a community college near his home in Calif., said he's seen this pattern play out.
While his vigilance when it comes to saving money has enabled him to transfer to the University of Southern California next semester, not all his friends have been as frugal, he says.
He added that they're cutting back on classes, not going to classes, not paying for class rather than not paying for other stuff. He said it has been a motivation for him to not go in their tracks and not be as miserable.
Poor budgeting today could be more costly than ever when it's time to enter the job market. President and CEO of the National Endowment for Financial Education Ted Beck says the rules of the game have changed for Shafiq and his peers.
For twentysomethings, he says, the prospect of finding a job with defined benefits and pension programs — if they find a job at all — is especially slim, post-recession.
In addition, many graduates will have to cope with student loan payments. In 2008, the average college student graduated with more than $23,000 in student loan debt, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
When he talks about personal finance education, Beck likes to point to the Thorndike Arithmetics textbook as one model that's been used to bring everyday money management into the classroom. The textbook includes sections on calculating interest on loans, understanding insurance rates and making a purchase using an installment plan. The date on the book's copyright page? 1917.
Beck states that this is how you learned arithmetic around World War I, and these were skills people needed then, and they're skills that people need now.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Story first appeared on WSJ.com.

Assembling diverse classes is an oft-stated goal among New York City private schools, with brochures featuring beaming multicultural students.

But this September Dalton will approach a rare benchmark: Nearly half of the incoming kindergarten class will be students of color.

Dalton will dramatically exceed the citywide average for kindergarten diversity at New York's private schools, which was 30% students of color last year, according to data from the National Association of Independent Schools.

It's a milestone in an aggressive campaign by the admissions director, Elisabeth "Babby" Krents, to broaden the school's reach since she assumed the position in 1996. The previous year, the kindergarten class was 6% diverse. This year, it will be 47% of the 97-member incoming class.

Ms Krents stated that years ago, she thinks primarily kids at Dalton were from the Upper East Side and homogenous in lots of ways. She said that they sat down to see what they could do to widen that a bit.

Dalton isn't alone: Brearley will be 41% students of color next year, according to school officials, while its kindergarten class will be 45%. But it is a significant shift for Dalton, a school that had long been known as a neighborhood destination in the city's most exclusive East Side ZIP Codes.

The push has added to the mystique of Ms. Krents, who is known only by one name in some parenting circles—"Babby"—and whose every expression is scrutinized for the tiniest flicker of intent.

Diversity has become one more factor to add to the obsessions of parents, fueling debates on websites such as Urbanbaby.com. One post stated that people begrudge Dalton for emphasizing too much on diversity and not on brains. Ms. Krents said she was sympathetic, but not surprised.

She said that people just look for something to blame for why their child didn't get in, so she thinks it's inevitable that those comments are going to happen.

School officials said they believe the diversity push has been embraced while admissions standards have remained rigorous.

Ms. Krents said that it was their strong belief that having a school that was more heterogeneous in lots of different ways would be more like the world, and it would be a better place for all children to learn.

Like many of the city's elite private schools, Dalton remains a reach for many families. Even as diversity has increased, the number of students in kindergarten receiving financial aid has remained steady, school officials said. Tuition for the coming year is $36,970.

The shift in the school's racial make-up, however, has influenced everything from the curriculum to the faculty.

Ms. Krents and other officials including Head of School Ellen Stein began by visiting pre-schools across the city, venturing downtown and out of Manhattan, developing relationships with dozens of schools. They relied on word of mouth from parents, some of whom hosted admissions events in their homes.

In 2007, Dalton named diversity as an integral part of school life in its mission statement.

But Ms. Krents also credited the fire that drove her and other school officials in convincing applicants that diversity mattered. She stated that people respond to a genuine commitment.

When Kelvina Butcher, who helps shape curriculum for grades K through 3, arrived in 1995 she said students from the Upper West Side were considered a novelty, and now the school reflects the population of the city.

The changes have been large and small. As children began traipsing in from corners of the city, early-morning programs were instituted.

The pink flesh-colored crayons have been exchanged for multicultural hues; students can choose from a range of materials to mimic hair textures.

Pictures along the wall were reassessed. The school felt it was important not to just have all of one background in a picture.

When some parents began complaining about arranging playdates across a larger geographical area, Dalton expanded its after-school program.

When Roy Swan, who is black, and his wife, Taran, who is biracial, began looking at private schools for their older daughter, they had some concerns.

They understood that if they wanted their kids to go to one of these schools, there very well may be some characteristics of the school that they might not feel great about.

But friends told them Dalton was different. Not only did their daughter enroll, but her little sister just finished her kindergarten year there.

Monday, August 8, 2011


Story first appeared in the Associated Press.

Americans borrowed more money in June than during any other month in nearly four years, relying on credit cards and loans to help get through a difficult economic stretch.

The Federal Reserve said Friday that consumers increased their borrowing by $15.5 billion in June. That's the largest one-month gain since August 2007. And it is three times the amount that consumers borrowed in May.

The category that measures credit card use increased by $5.2 billion, which is the most for a single month since March 2008 and only the third gain since the financial crisis. A category that includes auto loans rose by $10.3 billion, the most since February.

Total consumer borrowing rose to a seasonally adjusted annual level of $2.45 trillion. That was 2.1 percent higher than the nearly four-year low of $2.39 trillion hit in September.

Borrowing is usually a sign of confidence in the economy. Consumers tend to take on more debt when they feel wealthier. But an increase in credit card debt could also signal that people are falling on harder times.

Americans have been struggling this year with high unemployment, scant raises and steep gas prices. For the first six months of the year, the economy grew at an annual rate of only 0.8 percent. That's the weakest stretch since the recession officially ended.

While many consumers leaned on their credit cards in June, a separate report this week showed they cut spending that month for the first time in 20 months.

Hiring has picked since then. Employers added 117,000 jobs in July, and the unemployment rate ticked down to 9.1 percent, the Labor Department said Friday. The figure was the best in three months. And the job totals for May and June were revised up.

Still, twice as many jobs are needed to lower the unemployment rate. The July figures are barely enough to keep up with the population growth.

Households began borrowing less and saving more when unemployment spiked during the Great Recession. Many have resisted pulling out their credit cards in the two years since the downturn ended.

Economists do not expect consumers will load up on debt the way they did during the housing boom in the middle of the last decade. During that period, Americans felt wealthier and more willing to take on increased debt because of the soaring value of their homes.

The Federal Reserve's borrowing report includes auto loans, student loans and credit cards. But it excludes mortgages and loans tied to real estate.


Story first appeared in USA TODAY.

As is usually the case, there is far more than meets the eye to the Labor Department's report that the economy added 117,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate fell to 9.1%.

Let's start with the reality that fewer people actually were working in July than in June.

According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics breakdown, there were 139,296,000 people working in July, compared to 139,334,000 the month before, or a drop of 38,000.

But the job creation number was positive and the unemployment rate went down, right? So how does that work?

It's a product of something the government calls "discouraged workers," or those who were unemployed but not out looking for work during the reporting period.

This is where the numbers showed a really big spike—up from 982,000 to 1.119 million, a difference of 137,000 or a 14 percent increase. These folks are generally not included in the government's various job measures.

So the drop in the unemployment rate is fairly illusory—stick all those people back in the workforce and you wipe out the job creation and the drop in unemployment.

For once, some of the government's other tools of economic voodoo didn't help the count.

The vaunted birth-death model, a byzantine approximation of business creation and failure, actually subtracted 18,000 from the total job creation after a five-month run where it added a total of 741,000 positions to the count.

And the so-called "real" unemployment rate, which adds in discouraged workers and others not counted as part of the headline unemployment rate, actually pulled back one notch to 16.1 percent.

But there's plenty of bad news to go around otherwise.

The average duration of unemployment rose for the third straight month and is now at a record 40.4 weeks—about 10 months and now double where it was when President Obama took office in January 2009. The total number unemployed for more than half a year now stands at 6.18 million, 130 percent higher than when the president's term began.

Among the nuggets of good news—the jobless rate for blacks slipped to 15.9 percent and for Latinos to 11.3 percent, both at four-month lows.

But how good or bad the unemployment picture really may not come into view until next month, because of distortions from seasonal adjustments.

Including teachers and others who experience seasonal unemployment, total joblessness actually rose 1.23 million.