Author Archives: afscme

Money Matters — The Future of Water Infrastructure Asset Management, Part 2: Protect Your Funding . . . Because All Roads Lead to Finance

Source: Gregory M. Baird, Journal AWWA, Volume 105, Number 3, March 2013
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
How many master plans, project designs, and innovative engineering approaches have been shelved only to gather dust after hundreds of hours of good engineering work? How many capital-budgeted and -approved projects have been deferred or simply canceled after years of dedicated foresight, project planning, and development? The level of frustration among both public and private engineers has heightened in this new economy, which is fraught with uncertainty and doubt. Operations and maintenance personnel share in the experience, with program reductions, hiring freezes, and resources being stretched so thin that they affect service levels and customer response times.
See also:
Money Matters — The Future of Water Infrastructure Asset Management, Part 1: Organizing a Centralized Cost Database
Source: Gregory M. Baird, Journal AWWA, Volume 105, Number 1, January 2013
(subscription required)

How Public Libraries Have Become Spare Homeless Shelters (Hard Times USA)

Source: Evelyn Nieves, Alternet, March 6, 2013

As social safety nets shrink, libraries are more vital than ever as safe spaces for people with nowhere else to go…. More and more, libraries are hiring social workers, nurses and other outreach workers to serve their neediest visitors, with the Sacramento, Tulsa and Salt Lake City libraries being three of the latest. (The Greensboro, N.C. library has even started serving free meals, along with talks with prominent guests, on Mondays through the winter.) More and more, libraries are also setting rules for behavior. Many are banning sleeping, lying on the floors or bathing in the bathrooms. But striking a balance between making the destitute feel welcome and the general library public feel comfortable is proving tricky. …

Inequality in the Social Security Debate

Source: Sarah Anderson and Scott Klinger, Institute for Policy Studies, March 14, 2013

How benefit cuts would impact health industry CEOs versus home health aides…The Fix the Debt campaign, a large, well-funded corporate lobby group, has been leading the charge for massive new corporate tax cuts paid for with cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. The nearly 100 CEOs who are leading Fix the Debt have relatively little to lose from cuts to these benefit programs, particularly when compared with low-wage workers. To illustrate this disparity, we analyzed the potential impact of several proposed Social Security reforms on two Fix the Debt CEOs from the health care industry and a representative low-wage worker from that same sector….

The CEOs of CVS Caremark and UnitedHealth illustrate how lucrative the health industry can be for those at the top. At CVS Caremark, Merlo has accumulated a retirement stash of $46 million, the fifth-largest of the Fix the Debt member CEOs.2 If invested in an annuity at age 65, Merlo’s employer-provided nest egg would deliver him a monthly retirement check of $263,169 for the rest of his life. Combined with Social Security benefits, Merlo could expect monthly retirement income of $267,445 on average over the next 20 years.

UnitedHealth CEO Stephen Hemsley, after only 15 years in the job, has an $18 million retirement cache, enough to provide him a $104,671 monthly retirement check if he converted his golden egg into an annuity at age 65. Combined with Social Security benefits, Hemsley could expect average monthly retirement income of $108,607….

In contrast to the Fix the Debt CEOs, home health aide Rhonda Straw will need to rely almost entirely on Social Security in her retirement years. …Despite the high level of responsibility in her job, she has not earned enough to put much away for her retirement. Her current wage is $9 per hour. (The median wage for the nearly one million people in her profession across the country is $9.91 per hour, or $20,610 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics)….Together with her Social Security benefits, her retirement income over 20 years is expected to average about $2,704 per month.

Doing the Math: The Cost of Publicly Funded ‘Universal’ Pre-K

Source: Alex Holt, New America Foundation, Education Policy Program, March 14, 2013

During the media frenzy that followed President Obama’s unprecedented call for expanding pre-K to all four-year-olds in the United States, we estimated that the additional cost to states and the federal government, combined, to be somewhere between $10-15 billion per year. We estimate that the feds and the states currently spend about $9 billion on pre-K for four-year-olds. We wanted to explain exactly how we came to that conclusion…

Trends in 401(k) Plans and Retirement Rewards

Source: WorldatWork and the American Benefits Institute, March 2013

From the press release:
Even through volatile economic conditions, employers have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the 401(k) system according to a study released today by WorldatWork, a global HR association, in partnership with the American Benefits Institute, the research and education affiliate of the American Benefits Council. Despite anecdotal reports of companies suspending or eliminating their 401(k) match to cut costs during the depths of the recession, 88% of respondents said their company maintained matching contributions during the previous five years.

The 2013 Trends in 401(k) Plans and Retirement Rewards survey of 476 American Benefits Council and WorldatWork member companies provides a snapshot of defined contribution plan activity at major American companies. The report summarizes findings on participation and contribution rates, plan design and withdrawal activity. The 2013 Study is a continuation of a survey released first in 2002 and most recently in 2009….

Key Findings:
– For more than three-quarters (77%) of surveyed companies, there has been no change in the 401(k) matching formula during the past 12 months, nor are they currently considering a change in the near future.
– In 2012, for companies providing investment advice services to employees, 67% reported that advice is provided through an independent adviser. This is a significant increase from the 47% who reported using an independent adviser to provide investment advice in 2008.
– A strong majority (73%) of companies in the survey reported that 70% or more of their eligible employees currently participate in their organization’s 401(k) plan.
– Compared to 2008, fewer employees are now taking hardship distributions and loans from their 401(k) plans.

A Reporter’s Guide to the Goldwater Institute: What Citizens, Policymakers, and Reporters Should Know

Source: Center for Media and Democracy and Arizona Working Families, March 2013

The Goldwater Institute is a special interest group in Arizona that also influences law outside the Grand Canyon State. This tax-exempt group — registered as 501(c)(3) non-profit –says its mission is “to advance freedom and protect the Constitution.”

This report outlines the following key findings on the Institute:
• Goldwater & ALEC’s Shared Agenda
• Goldwater Executives Get Bonuses while Arizona’s Middle Class Gets Less
• Attacks Government Spending, But Takes Taxpayer Dollars
• Its Tax Forms Reveal Murky Internal Financial Dealings: up to $1.9M in Cash Was Loaned to a Board Member’s Company
• Funded by Special Interests and Out-of-State Right-Wing Ideologues
• A Powerful Influence in the Arizona Statehouse that Reports Very Little Lobbying

2013 Retirement Confidence Survey: Perceived Savings Needs Outpace Reality for Many

Source: Ruth Helman, Nevin Adams, Craig Copeland, and Jack VanDerhei, Employee Benefit Research Institute, EBRI Issue Brief #384, March 2013

From the summary:
• The percentage of workers confident about having enough money for a comfortable retirement is essentially unchanged from the record lows observed in 2011. While more than half express some level of confidence (13 percent are very confident and 38 percent are somewhat confident), 28 percent are not at all confident (up from 23 percent in 2012 but statistically equivalent to 27 percent in 2011), and 21 percent are not too confident.

• Retiree confidence in having a financially secure retirement is also unchanged, with18 percent very confident and 14 percent not at all confident.

• One reason that retirement confidence has remained low despite a brightening economic outlook may be that some workers may be waking up to a realization of just how much they may need to save. Asked how much they believe they will need to save to achieve a financially secure retirement, a striking number of workers cite large savings targets: 20 percent say they need to save between 20 and 29 percent of their income and nearly one-quarter (23 percent) indicate they need to save 30 percent or more.

• Aggressive as those savings targets appear to be, they may not be based on a careful analysis of their individual circumstances. Only 46 percent report they and/or their spouse have tried to calculate how much money they will need to have saved by the time they retire so that they can live comfortably in retirement. …