Driving You to the Poorhouse?
The 2006 edition of AAA’s “Your Driving Costs” study shows the overall average cost of owning and operating a passenger vehicle is 52.2 cents a mile, or $7,834 per year based on 15,000 miles of driving. AAA estimates driving costs based on an extensive list of factors, including gas, maintenance, tires, depreciation, finance charges and insurance. As motorists are only too aware, gas prices have risen 15.8 percent from last year, and now average 9.5 cents per mile compared to 8.2 cents last year.
Other key figures are:
Depreciation: $3,392 per year for the average new car
Full insurance coverage: $926 per year
Routine maintenance: $552 per year
Finance Charges: $716 per year
Bad news for owners of SUVs: they were not included in this study, which only looked at small, medium and large sedans.
Best of Both Worlds
Meeting both business and personal demands has long been a juggling act for professionals. New surveys of employees and executives, however, show companies are responding. Fifty-three percent of workers said their employers are very supportive of their efforts to achieve work/life balance; 45 percent of executives echoed the sentiment. Only 10 percent of employees and 5 percent of managers said their companies are unsupportive of work/life balance concerns.
The surveys were developed by OfficeTeam, a staffing service specializing in the placement of highly skilled administrative professionals. They were conducted by an independent research firm and include responses from 150 senior executives at the nation’s 1,000 largest companies, and 539 full- or part-time workers 18 years of age or older and employed in office environments.
Executives and employees were asked, “How supportive is your company of its employees’ efforts to achieve work/life balance?” Their responses:
|Not supportive at all||5%||0%|
“Companies today cannot afford to ignore the issue of work/life balance,” said Diane Domeyer, executive director of OfficeTeam. “Providing employees the flexibility to address personal commitments, without compromising the needs of the business, can make the difference between a good working environment and a great one.”
Healthy, Wealthy and Wise
Health-related issues, in the form of rapidly rising healthcare costs and personal and spousal health, may significantly affect the ability of high-net-worth households to enjoy retirement, according to a recent study conducted by Northern Trust, one of the nation’s largest private wealth managers. Its study, “Wealth in America,” surveyed 1,014 households with $1 million or more of non-real estate, or liquid, assets.
Ninety percent of high-net-worth households are concerned that spiraling healthcare costs night affect their ability to enjoy retirement. “Our research shows how critical the issue of healthcare costs is to everyone, regardless of income,” said Tom Hines, senior vice president of Northern Trust. “With life expectancies rising, and as many as 30 million individuals expected to reach retirement over the next 10 years and remain in retirement far longer than previous generations, it’s imperative that families begin factoring in the additional cost of long-term care, home healthcare or nursing home care.”
In addition to concerns about healthcare, affluent households also named as potential threats to retirement: a possible stock market decline (85 percent); inflation (83 percent); tax increases (81 percent); and terrorism (77 percent). A sizeable 48 percent of affluent people now in the workforce anticipate working either full- or part-time after they retire, compared to 22 percent of current retirees.
Success Through Eating Spiders
Bob Davies, president of High Performance Training, tells of a woman who came up to him after a presentation and said, “I had to eat a spider because of you!” Davies had explained in a previous program that people are all wired to instinctively avoid pain and seek comfort, and if you want to excel, you need to tap into your avoidance mechanisms.
For example, you may have decided you need to contact 20 prospective clients this week. Before you take action, however, your brain will search like a computer looking for any links between this activity and pain or discomfort. When it pulls up a record of a previous rejection, the instinct of avoidance kicks in, and your brain compels you to avoid this “painful” activity. Once you avoid, you further protect yourself from the pain of feeling guilty by rationalizing your actions – for example, you believe you are just too busy.
Davies says the solution to this problem is to imagine an even more painful consequence that will override your fear of taking action. In the case of the woman mentioned above, she made a contract with herself that she would eat a spider if she didn’t show her business opportunity to five people within the week. When that didn’t happen, she did eat the spider, but it gave her a powerful incentive not to fail the next time.
“Try this yourself,” suggests Davies. “Make a commitment to a specific activity you will do over the next seven days, and then place a horrific penalty for non-performance. Your brain will see the consequences as a higher level of pain and activate your avoidance mechanisms. You can avoid your way to the top.”
Government’s 10,000 Commandments
A recent Competitive Enterprise Institute report on federal regulation finds that while the number of new rules issued in 2005 declined slightly from the year before, costs are at record levels compared to other economic measures. Clyde Wayne Crews, Jr., author of the report “Ten Thousand Commandments,” says regulatory costs exceed all pre-tax corporate profits ($874 billion) and all personal income taxes ($894 billion).
President Bush proposed $2.77 trillion in discretionary, entitlement and interest spending in the federal budget. However, environmental, safety/health and economic regulations add an estimated $1.13 trillion in off-budget costs every year.
Currently, 4,062 new rules and regulations are at various stages of implementation throughout 50-plus federal departments, agencies and commissions. Of these, 137 are expected to have annual economic impacts of over $100 million each, according to the report. These new “economically significant” regulations are expected to add another $13.7 billion in future off-budget costs.
“At the very least, future federal budgets need to acknowledge and document the ‘off-budget’ costs of regulation. Only then will Americans have the real truth about the federal government’s reach in their lives,” Crews concludes.
Nevada 33rd in Tort Reform
It’s hard to pick up the paper without reading about an over-the-top lawsuit. Whether it’s the woman claiming she found a finger in a bowl of chili, or the man who sued for wrongful termination after showing up for work with cocaine in his blood, newspapers are full of signs that our nation is litigation-mad.
A recent study by the Pacific Research Institute, U.S. Tort Liability Index, ranks states by their success in creating a fair and efficient state tort system. Nevada was ranked 33rd.
The goal of tort law is to fairly compensate victims for their losses. Over the years, according to the report, tort law has been twisted into a system that not only punishes the accused, but often punishes people for actions only remotely related to the victim’s injuries, and in amounts that are wildly disproportionate to the harm caused.
Liability insurance to protect against lawsuit costs is an ever-increasing operating expense for businesses. The looming threat of lawsuits also stymies innovation. In 2000, the President’s Council of Economic Advisers estimated that nationwide, the excessive costs of the tort system were $136 billion.
While many parts of the country are undertaking reforms, Nevada has been slow off the mark. For example, it has not enacted reforms tightening the rules on class action lawsuits. On the other hand, it has taken steps to limit non-economic damages in medical liability suits. “By continuing to pursue common-sense reforms like these, Nevada leaders will lure businesses and jobs, and create a stronger state economy for the next generation,” says the report.