It seems everytime I watch Clark Howard’s cable consumer show, I learn something helpful that I want to share with readers. This week’s edition was jam-packed with helpful goodies.
Here’s a sampling:
**A new rule goes into effect this week that allows mortgage lenders to do a last-minute credit report on home buyers or those refinancing their mortgages. So before closing, resist the urge to apply for instant credit to buy applicances, furniture and other big stuff for that new house. It will lower your credit score and could cost you the loan. Hold off on those purchases til after closing.
**When you buy a car, dealers make a profit on the financing not on the actual car sale. So don’t leave the financing entirely up to the dealer who could mark up loans, leaving you with high rates. Instead , before you buy, pre-qualify for a car loan at a credit union (which typically offers the lowest rates, anyway), a bank or online lender. With that information in hand, you’ll know whether the car dealer is offering you a good deal.
**It’ll cost more to fly this summer. The big, established airlines are tacking on $20 to $60 in extra fees on round-trip tickets this summer. That’s because they’re considering the whole summer as peak travel time, same as Christmas and Thanksgiving. It’ll come out to $10 to $30 more each way . Travelers may get a break flying on Tuesdays and Wednesdays – the least traveled days – with just an extra $10 fee.
Now, if you’re feeling smug, because you knew all this already, give yourself an "A" for consumer smarts… or maybe you just watched the same show I did.
Women make up more than half the workforce in the United States, more than half the college students but only 30 percent of its entrepreneurs.
So what’s up with that?
A recent study by the Kaufman Foundation provides some answers. Simply put, men are more likely to take the plunge with their great ideas than women. Women are less likely to throw caution to the wind when it comes to starting up a businesses. They worry about losing health insurance by leaving traditional jobs behind and they worry about failing.
More than men, the study found that women rely on prior experience and the encouragement of others to believe they can succeed. They rely more on a business partner’s start-up funding. They need role models, such as a family member or another entrepreneur. Mentoring and a support network contribute greatly to their success.
Women more than men feel that experience and a track record is crucial, so much so that it may hold them back.
Interestingly enough, most men and women who start their first business are similarly married, in their early 40s with one child at home. But more women who start their first company are divorced, widowed or single than their male counterparts.
Both men and women rely on personal savings (68 percent of the women, 61 percent of men) for the main funding to start their businesses and they rely on on business partners (29 percent of women, 16 percent men). But men tap into venture, private and angel investors more (42 percent of the men, 32 percent of the women).
But men have their challenges, too. For example, men feel greater pressure to keep a traditional job and be the breadwinner.
If you were laid off during the Recession, the job uptick underway may mean you could get your old job back.
But don’t expect that to happen without some self-reflection and work on your part, according to The Wall Street Journal.
A recent article in the Journal suggests:
Start with a self-assessment. Take a realistic look at why you were laid off. Was it selective? Did it go beyond cross-the-board cutbacks? How did people at work perceive you? Think about what you would do differently. How could you be more valuable to the company?
But perhaps the big questions are whether it’s even a good idea to go back, both for you and the company. Do you really want to be there?
If the answer is "yes," read on…
–The business climate probably has changed since you left. So figure out what the company needs now and in the future. How can you fill those needs? Take a class to update your skills. Do what you need to improve yourself.
–Stay in touch with former co-workers. Keep up with what’s happening in the company, staff changes and needs.
–Let your former boss know you’re interested and what you could now bring to the job. Emphasize your knowledge and experience with the company and your accomplishments. Be clear that you harbor no bad feelings about the lay off and are eager to return to work.
–Approach the application process as though you were a new candidate. When you go in for an interview, be prepared. Be ready for tough questions.
–If no full-time jobs are available, working on a contract basis could work itself into a job.
Good grief, when will this end?
Is it just me or has this rah-rah Duluth campaign to get Google to bring its faster-than-the-speed-of-light Internet service to Duluth been going on a bit too long?
(Sure, it would be great to become the next Silicon Valley… Oh, wait, what happened to Silicon Valley?)
So Tuesday, while hearing about the latest ideas of the Twin Ports Google initiative team (I pulled the short straw) to keep the "excitement" alive even though Duluth’s bid went to Google two months ago, I asked the burning question: When will Google decide?
"We’re still waiting," said an upbeat Chris Swanson, CEO of PureDriven, the initiative’s project manager. "I don’t know if we’re one of the five finalists. Google is tellilng us they will pick by the end of the year. They may have multiple cities."
My heart sank. I silently groaned, thinking about seven more months of fiber "excitement" and fiber stories.
But he raised my hopes when he added: "We think we’ll hear something formally by the end of June."
I sure hope so.
For months, a major drop in the the Northland’s unemployment rate had been expected as the Iron Range mines geared back up towards full production and some other sectors started seeing recovery.
But while jobless numbers on the Range slowly dropped, the unemployment rate throughout the region held steady or even increased, frustrating some.
That is, until the April stats came out Monday with the big payoff many economic observers were waiting for. It shows unemployment in Northeastern Minnesota dramatically dropping from 9.6 percent in March to 8.2 percent in April.
The foundation had been laid months ago for this good news, not only with the callback of many laid-off workers but with the number of jobs slowly growing, pointed out Drew Digby, regional labor market analyst for the Department of Employment and Economic Development.
It takes about seven weeks for economic changes to work themselves into the stats, he explained.
While we have a ways to go to get to pre-Recession jobless levels of around 6 percent, there’s reason to celebrate Duluth’s current 7 percent rate and what’s happening in other Northland cities: Hibbing’s rate is 8.4 percent, down from a high of 18.4 percent last June and Virginia is at 9.5 percent, down from July’s high of 17 percent.
Besides an improving economy, the increase in employment can be attributed to an early start to seasonal hiring due to employer confidence and maybe even the early spring. A later hiring of census workers here than in some other areas also contributed to the April numbers, Digby said.
That proposed merger of United Airlines (serving Duluth with Chicago flights) with Continental Airlines, won’t get the needed nod from the feds without some intensive antitrust scrutiny.
Among the biggest critics in what would result in the world’s biggest airlines is expected to be our own U.S. representative, Jim Oberstar. The deal goes before the House Subcommittee on Aviation which he heads in a hearing June 16. Oberstar has urged the Justice Department to reject the deal, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The merger, anounced May 3, is expected to get greater scrutiny by Obama Aministration than Delta Air Lines’ acquisition of Northwest Airlines did in 2008 under President George W. Bush
Among the anti-trust concerns is whether the resulting mega airlines will have too much power to raise prices and ability to reduce customer service, the Journal said.
Still, the United-Continental marriage is expected to get government approval, though some strings may be attached.
But with the review process taking longer than Delta’s six months, the deal may not close by year’s end as corporate officals had hoped.
During a recent stop in Duluth, a top official with the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce had some interesting observations about Allete.
"Allete is very different form other utilities," said William Blazar, the chamber’s senior vice president for public affairs and business development. "Their customer base is dominated by very few customers."
He was referring to the big manufacturing companies that use the bulk of Allete’s energy: six taconite companies on the Iron Range and several paper mills, he said.
"They probably use more than half the company’s load," he said.
Compare that to Xcel energy, which serves the Twin Cities and has hundreds, maybe thousands of major customers, Blazar said.
But when Minnesota’s taconite production plummeted more than 50 percent in 2009, Allete’s market also shrunk dramatically.
Blazar noted that Allete was able to recover most of its lost margin by selling power in the wholesale market, probably to other utilities.
So the taconite companies returning to full production has more repercussions than putting people back to work and boosting local economies. It means a returning market for Allete. Moreover, the addition of Mesabi Nugget as an Allete customer and potentially PolyMet and Essar Steel means even more market expansion for Allete, he said.
So what do you think about your bank? How about your credit union?
If you’re anything like the 400 Minnesota residents surveyed in March, you have a higher opinion of credit unions than banks, as a result of the financial industry’s recessionary troubles.
The survey showed that 20 percent of bank customers now see credit unions as more attractive. And while 40 percent of consumers trust banks less, their trust in credit unions hasn’t wavered.
The results suggest credit unions have been insulated from the negative opinions surrounding the financial industry during the Recession.
The Minnesota Credit Union Network hired Minneapolis-based Padilla Speer Beardsley and Information Specialists Group, a national polling firm to conduct the independent survey. According to Mark Cummins, MCUN president and CEO, the study was done to get an objective view of how Minnesotans view credit unions and banks. The MCUN represents the state’s 154 not-for-profit cooperative credit unions.
The survey also found that for 82 percent of those surveyed, trust in credit unions hasn’t changed while 18 percent trust them even more. And credit union members are twice as likely to recommend their credit unions to others than bank customers are to recommend their banks.
The perceived problem of illegal signs (see story in Wednesday’s News Tribune), isn’t the only issue facing Lakewood Township these days.
The township board asked zoning administrator Ryan Mears to look into the accumulation of signs posted along township roads without the required permits and in violation of a 300-foot rule.
But he’s also tackling other problems in the township just north of Duluth.
“The township is just looking to enforce the rules on the books, not just signs,” Mears said. “We’re going after people with a lot of junk in their yards. If they have more than three cars rusting in the ground… you can’t do that either.”
It’s a mentality that has existed in the township for years, he says.
“There has been a certain segment of the population of Lakewood over the last 30 years, who have felt, ‘this is my land, I can do anything I want with it,’ ” Mears said. “We’ve had people build buildings without permits. We have had people with 20 acres of land take in construction debris and burn it off.”
Much of it comes done to zoning and what’s allowed.
When he came to the job about a year ago, the message he got was: We got to fix this, stop this. And not just the signs.
It’s a big job. Maybe that’s why the two previous zoning administrators didn’t last long.
Now’s a good time to buy many fruits, vacuum cleaners and refrigerators, we learned from a recent edition of "Clark Howard" on the Headline News cable channel.
Cost of many fruits plummets in May because it’s their bloom time. Well, not here, but somewhere.
So good deals can be found this month at the grocery store for blueberries, strawberries, pineapples, cantaloupes, cherries and some other seasonal produce. What makes these deals even sweeter is the fruits also are at their tastiest now.
OK, so we understand fruit in season is abundant and cheaper. But why is now a good time to buy vacuum cleaners and refrigerators?
We also learned from that consumer program that a lot of vacuum cleaners are made by Japanese companies who end their fiscal year March 31. That’s when they roll out their new models and old ones get discounted. So look for these clearance sales to get a good deal on perfectly good, band new vaccuums.
The same’s true with refrigerators this time of year. New models are being moved in, so prices on last year’s models are slashed to clear out last year’s stock.