Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Carryon dos and don'ts for the holidays

Well, the Thanksgiving holiday begins and about a 20 million Americans will be traveling by air this long weekend. Yes, the rules about carryon luggage have been challenging to keep up with as pesky terrorists get more creative with ways to blow up airplanes. So to help ease the confusion, the Tranportation Safety Administration has posted a list of items that passengers can carry onto airplanes and those items that need to be checked or left at home.

A quick look at the list reveals a few not-so-obvious items that you cannot carry onto a plane:

Ice axes/ice picks
Meat cleavers
Bows and arrows
Spear guns
Cattle prods
Billy clubs
Brass Knuckles
Stun guns
Throwing stars

OK, so I guess it makes sense that these items can't be carried onboard, I just never thought about taking my cattle prod to Thanksgiving dinner.

If you're traveling by air this holiday season, you might want to check out TSA's list!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Cartoon Tuesday

Nick Anderson, The Houston Chronicle

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The week in review

  • DJIA shot up 234.13 this week, 1.93% and closed Friday at 12,342.56.
  • Nasdaq Composite also gained a very healthy 56.14 points, 2.35% and stands at 2445.86.
  • Crude oil fell $3.78/barrel to $55.81.
  • New home construction plummeted 14.6% in October to a six-year low and has many economists revising downward their estimates of U.S. economic growth. This is further evidence that the Federal Reserve, as it so often does, has overshot neutral by raising interest rates too much and too quickly.
  • Nymex became a publicly traded company on Friday and debuted with the best first-day IPO performance in over a year. The stock priced at $59 and finished Friday at $132.99 after trading as high as $152 during the day.
  • Rumors continue to swirl around Charles Schwab and the future of the company as its 69 year-old founder and CEO has stated that he will retire in 2007 or 2008. Some speculate that Bank of America might be involved with Schwab in talks of some sort of merger or acquisition.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

O.J., Pensions, ERISA and Golf

The following little essay was originally published on this blog on August 14th, 2005 and attempts to explain why O.J. Simpson continues to live a rather lavish lifestyle and appears not to work while the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman have never received any of the judgement against Simpson. With the announcement today of his new book, If I did it, and accompanying television appearance, it seems like a good time to re-run this post.
Eight years after the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman won $33.5 million judgments against O. J. Simpson, many are still scratching their heads that Simpson is living lavishly while much of the award remains unpaid. How can this be?

The answer is that O. J. had some pretty smart financial advisors. During his years as an NFL star and advertising pitchman, Simpson built up hefty sums in his NFL pension and personal pensions set up through various companies he established. Then he left the money inside the defined benefit plans rather than rolling it into an IRA where he may have had more flexibility with investments. Today he draws $25,000 per month from the NFL pension alone.

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) states that employer retirement plans including all types of defined benefit plans "may not be assigned or alienated." The Browns and the Goldmans can't touch O. J.'s pensions.

Despite the Simpson case, it is in society's best interest to protect retirement assets from judgments and other creditors. With an already dismal national savings rate, further discouraging participation in retirement plans wouldn't be in the country's best interest. But ERISA and the subsequent 1992 Supreme Court case, Patterson v. Shumate, extended protection only to ERISA plans. IRAs, Roth IRAs, SIMPLE IRAs, SEPs, etc. were not protected.

Finally, the courts and congress have moved to extend protection to nearly all forms of retirement accounts. On April 4th of this year the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Rousey v. Jacoway that IRAs are "similar plans" and deserved the same sort of protection afforded to ERISA plans.

Additionally, The Bankruptcy Abuse Protection and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (BAPCPA), signed into law on April 20, 2005, and effective on October 17, 2005, has substantially increased and simplified bankruptcy creditor protection for retirement accounts. Virtually all retirement accounts will now be exempt assets in bankruptcy proceedings.

One last word about O.J.--Simpson chooses not to work since any earned income would only be seized by the court. So he is forced to play golf every day...something's just not right.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Cartoon Tuesday

John Trever, The Albuquerque Journal

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The week in review

  • DJIA gained 122.39 points this week, 1.02% to 12,108.43. The rally continues.
  • S & P 500 gained 16.60, 1.22% to close the week at 1,380.90.
  • Crude oil rose 45 cents this week, 0.76% and stood at $59.59 yesterday afternoon.
Results of this week's election had an entirely benign, if not negative, effect on the financial markets this week as stocks finished Friday lower than where they stood mid-day election day. While American liberals are giddy and gleeful about the new influence Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid will likely possess for the next two years, investors' reactions were a bit more realistic. The burden is now on Democrats, who have spent the last six years complaining, to actually present ideas and solutions.

Number one on democrats' to-do list appears to be a hike in the national minimum wage. Gee, what a compete waste of time. More than half of U.S. states already have minimum wages above the federal level and those states are discovering that employers are quick to automate, outsource, go underground and hire illegal workers or just quit business altogether rather than pay unskilled workers more than they are worth. Higher minimum wage policy creates more problems than it solves.

Democrats need to really step up to the pump and present some concrete solutions rather than a just a bunch of fluff designed to excite uninformed, unsophisticated voters. I'll be waiting.