Archive for June, 2011

Still get health insurance from your employer?

Do you still receive medical insurance from your company?

The share of Georgians who got health insurance through an employer dropped sharply between 1999 and 2009, AJC writer Carrie Teegardin reports, citing a new study.

Rising costs prompted fewer small companies to offer coverage and the recession forced some workers out of jobs with benefits, Teegardin writes.

Among Georgians under 65 years of age, 59.8 percent had employee health plans during 2008 and 2009 — down from 69.3 percent during 1999 and 2000, according to a study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The change was also fueled by a decline in the share of Georgia employees willing to pay rising premium and out-of-pocket costs for employer-based coverage, Teegardin writes.

What is your situation?

Has your company eliminated or reduced benefits? Raised employee costs?

How have you responded and why?

- Henry Unger, The Biz Beat

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

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Power Breakfast: Metro home prices tick up but still way down, insurance, schools, Hyundai, Greece

Metro Atlanta’s housing market has a long way to go.

The metro area’s median price of an existing home ticked up about $4,000 in May, compared with last winter. But that was still $21,200 lower than May 2010, AJC writer Christopher Quinn reports, citing new data from the National Association of Realtors.

Foreclosures and short sales are continuing to keep prices depressed, Quinn writes.

The organization’s monthly report also showed a little progress on the sales front — up 1.1 percent compared to May of last year, Quinn writes. The 18 other metro areas tracked by NAR showed an average drop of 12.8 percent.

Also in the AJC:

Continue reading Power Breakfast: Metro home prices tick up but still way down, insurance, schools, Hyundai, Greece »

Has your hard work reduced the need to hire others?

Is your increased productivity taking a job from someone else?

Despite sales growth, consumer products companies are holding back on hiring, largely because their current workforce is more productive, AJC writer Jeremiah McWilliams reports.

Instead of expanding payrolls, McWilliams writes, consumer products companies are squeezing more Coke or bleach or breakfast cereal from the proverbial turnip.

Meanwhile, AJC reporter David Markiewicz writes that it will be 2014 or 2015 or 2016 before metro Atlanta returns to its pre-recession employment levels.

What’s been going on with your job? Are you working 1.5 or twice as hard to keep it? How long has that been going on? Are you burning out?

Many companies — especially the large ones — are sitting on a pile of cash. What’s it going to take for them to use it to hire more people?

- Henry Unger, The Biz Beat

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

Continue reading Has your hard work reduced the need to hire others? »

Manage your money like the wealthy do

Embrace risk, despite the uncertain times. Even if you’re a conservative investor and even if you’re retired, a portion of your money should be in stocks.

Jack Markwalter

Jack Markwalter

Those words come from someone with a far better track record than I have. In fact, I don’t know a better way to get financial advice than to talk to a manager of rich people’s money. A local firm, Atlantic Trust, just came in first place in a national survey of wealth management firms by the Luxury Institute research firm.

So I sat down with Atlantic Trust CEO Jack Markwalter to see what his firm is telling clients — those with at least $5 million in liquid assets — and what average investors might be able to apply. As a division of Atlanta-based Invesco, Atlantic Trust manages $17.6 billion for 2,200 families. (Put away the calculator — it’s an average of $8 million per family.)

“We’re not trying to hit home runs. We’re trying to hit singles and doubles,” said Markwalter, an Augusta …

Continue reading Manage your money like the wealthy do »

Power Breakfast: Atlanta jobs recovery several years away, Delta, immigration, toll, schools, Wal-Mart

When will the 200,000 jobs that metro Atlanta lost in the recession return?

2014? 2015? 2016?

A national report and local economists can’t seem to agree, AJC writer David Markiewicz reports.

On Monday, a national report prepared for the U.S. Conference of Mayors said the region won’t return to pre-recession employment levels for three more years, Markiewicz writes.

As sobering as that is, local economists insist it likely will take longer than that, with jobs unable to bounce back until 2015 or 2016 — making for a lost decade for workers, Markiewicz reports.

“I would call that optimistic,” UGA economist Jeff Humphreys said of the report’s 2014 projection.

The metro Atlanta area and the state overall will lag behind others largely because of the bottoming out of the construction industry, which helped fuel the region’s growth, Humphreys said.

The Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta metro market, the report showed, reached its pre-recession employment peak in the third …

Continue reading Power Breakfast: Atlanta jobs recovery several years away, Delta, immigration, toll, schools, Wal-Mart »

Georgia is No. 6 among tax-friendly states for retirees

Georgia came in sixth on a new list of the most tax-friendly states for retirees, according to a report by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine.

Wyoming was ranked No. 1 and Vermont came in last.

Social Security income is exempt in Georgia, and so is up to $35,000 of most types of retirement income if you’re at least 62, Kiplinger’s said in its report.

“Beginning in 2012, taxes on retirement income will be phased out” in Georgia, Kiplinger’s said. “The statewide sales tax is 4 percent, but local jurisdictions can add up to 4 percent of their own taxes. Full-time residents qualify for a homestead exemption, and residents 65 and older may qualify for additional deductions from property taxes.”

Most tax-friendly states for retirees

1. Wyoming – a tax haven for cowboys and retirees alike. There is no state income tax.

2. Mississippi – offers a sweet income-tax deal for retirees. It not only exempts Social Security benefits from state income taxes, but it also excludes all …

Continue reading Georgia is No. 6 among tax-friendly states for retirees »

Prepared for a financial emergency?

Are you prepared for a financial emergency?

Even after the jolt of the Great Recession, a new study finds that most Americans are not, Associated Press reports.

A survey released Monday by financial data publisher Bankrate.com found that only 24 percent of consumers have the recommended cushion of at least six months’ expenses set aside, AP writes. The vast majority aren’t ready for contingencies; another 24 percent don’t have any emergency savings at all.

With 6.2 million people out of work for half a year or longer, the results underscore just how unprepared many are at a time when both job security and the economy pose concerns, AP writes.

How about you? Are you trying to build up a financial cushion? Or is it impossible given your situation?

If you are not building up your savings, are you at least paying down your debt?

- Henry Unger, The Biz Beat

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

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Time for another corporate tax break?

Devil’s bargain or good idea?

The New York Times reports that some of the nation’s largest corporations have amassed vast profits outside the country and are pressing Congress and the Obama administration for a tax break to bring the money home.

Apple has $12 billion waiting offshore, Google has $17 billion and Microsoft, $29 billion, the Times writes.

Under the proposal, known as a repatriation holiday, the federal income tax owed on such profits returned to the United States would fall to 5.25 percent for one year, from 35 percent, the Times reports.

In the short term, the Times writes, the measure could generate tens of billions in tax revenues as companies transfer money that would otherwise remain abroad — and it could help ease the huge budget deficit.

Corporations and their lobbyists say the tax break could boost the weak recovery by inducing multinational corporations to inject $1 trillion or more into the economy, the Times reports. They promoted the …

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Power Breakfast: Fate of immigration law in court today, Delta and Deal, Atlanta pensions, taxes, Greek debt

Today is a big day for the state’s new anti-illegal immigration law.

A federal judge in Atlanta could decide the law’s immediate fate and trigger a chain of additional legal challenges that could reach the U.S. Supreme Court, AJC reporter Jeremy Redmon writes.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Thrash has scheduled a 10 a.m. hearing for several civil and immigrant rights groups to make their case for halting Georgia’s law, Redmon reports. The American Civil Liberties Union, National Immigration Law Center and others argue the law is unconstitutional and are asking Thrash to put the law on hold pending the outcome of a lawsuit they have filed to block it.

Thrash is also planning to hear a request from Republican state Attorney General Sam Olens to dismiss the ACLU’s lawsuit, Redmon writes. Olens’ office argues the state and U.S. constitutions grant Georgia immunity from such lawsuits.

Thrash, who was nominated to the court by President Bill Clinton, recently indicated …

Continue reading Power Breakfast: Fate of immigration law in court today, Delta and Deal, Atlanta pensions, taxes, Greek debt »

Small business owners are unprepared for retirement

Nearly two-thirds of small business owners fear outliving their retirement money and one-third plan to work into their 70s, according to a new study.

The retirement views of the nation’s small business owners are “radically shifting,” said a news release about the study conducted by the Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute. The Institute, part of Guardian Life Insurance Co., polled 1,433 small business owners who operate companies with two to 99 employees.

The impact of the recession and longer life expectancies have caused a majority of small business owners to shed “a traditional view of retirement, in which individuals stop working in their mid-60s for a life of leisure –- something fewer than 10 percent foresee themselves doing,” the news release said.

The study of small business owners found:

– Less than half — 45 percent — feel very or fairly well prepared for retirement

– 39 percent expect to go back and forth between periods of work and periods of …

Continue reading Small business owners are unprepared for retirement »