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Introducing: Friday Financial Five

Friday, July 20, 2012

 

This week kicks off my new weekly column - Friday Financial Five. It is designed to give you some realtime weekly news that you can use to make smart financial decisions.

It’s been a good week for the market so far. Let’s hope it continues today.

New municipal plan roll out

The new retirement plan for RI municipal employees, a 401(a) with TIAA-CREF, was rolled out July 1st. Employees will now contribute at least 5% of their salary to the defined contribution plan. For TIAA-CREF, the focus right now is on getting everyone enrolled, situated, and educated on the new investment choices. Those that haven’t set up their plan yet need to get the ball rolling.

Is the housing bust over?

It is, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article. Prices have begun to rise incrementally in many areas, thanks in large part to lower inventory, low interest rates, and upward pressure on rents. Here in Rhode Island, the month of May saw the median price increase in several areas of the state over last year. With 30 year rates at 3.5%, it’s possible that a housing rebound could be at the forefront of an economic recovery. However, a quarter of sales are still distressed properties, and there’s no shortage of those still being held by banks.

Rhode Island’s business atmosphere

As most people know by now, for the second year in a row, a CNBC report ranked Rhode Island last in business friendliness. The scary thing is that there didn’t seem to be a silver lining in the 10 different categories used. Other than “access to capital”, where the state placed 10th, the highest ranking for the state was 23rd for “quality of life” and “education”. In 5 of the 10 categories, RI finished 45th or lower. Obviously, any ranking of this nature is subject to debate, but many business owners in the state would argue that something needs to be done immediately to spur activity.

Financial literacy in RI

Amidst the pension debate earlier in the year, General Treasurer Raimondo’s financial literacy initiative may have been lost in the shuffle. Rhode Island has a web-based program called Ever-Fi in as many as 19 high schools across the state. Over the next year, many more are expected to be added. It’s amazing how many of us finished high school without ever talking about stocks, bonds, or mortgages, so this is a great step in preparing students to take control of their financial lives.

Neighborhood oil purchase

One of the savviest ideas I heard of recently was an entire neighborhood banding together to buy their winter heating oil in bulk. This gives the oil company a good idea of what sales to expect and allows them to give group discounts to those signing up. Talk to your neighbors about it at the next summer block party.

Dan Forbes is a regular contributor on business financial issues. His office is in Providence, RI. He leads the firm Forbes Financial Planning and can be reached at dforbes@forbesplanning.com
 

 

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