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National and Global, United States

Monday, February 28, 2011

A Very Bad Year for Your Wallet: This Year!

Bad weather and global instability are spurring price hikes for everything from cotton to oil.

The worrisome economic news just keeps on coming. Inflation is creeping higher, as prices rise for everything from corn to coffee. The government's Consumer Price Index — a standard measure of how much household goods and services cost — rose 0.4 percent in each of the last two months, the first back-to-back increases that big since the summer of 2008. Now, forecasters say global weather problems and instability in the Middle East could make crude oil, cotton, and other important commodities even more expensive. Here are four ways you may be affected:

Clothing prices, after falling for a decade, are expected to rise about 10 percent this spring, according to the Associated Press. The price of cotton has already more than doubled over the past year. Your cotton underwear will definitely get tighter!

Crude oil prices recently hit a two-year high, as unrest in the Middle East, particularly Libya, fed investor worry about oil production. Gas prices have risen 20 percent over the last year, and could go even higher. Even a Preus won't help the ache on this one. Try a walking-stick.

The cost of staples such as wheat, corn, and sugar has jumped dramatically in recent months, largely because of droughts, floods, and rising demand. Now's the time to plant that Kale and Collards!

Household essentials
Rising fuel and ingredient costs will also translate to higher prices for items such as toothpaste, soap, and batteries. Shower once each week, don't brush your teeth everyday, and don't use anything with a battery.

And that's all the good news fit to print!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Scared Penniless

If you are a 'boomer' you should be 'scared penniless' when you retire. The fact is the recent economic situation has destroyed whatever future you have economically. And the government doesn't care, nor does your stock broker or your banker. You are on your own buddy.

Age the oldest baby boomers are turning this year

More than 8.5 million
Projected number of Americans who will be over age 85 in 20 years

Less than 25 percent
Amount the median household headed by someone aged 60 to 62 has of the retirement savings needed to maintain his or her standard of living, according to data from the Federal Reserve. "Inevitably, we find that, for the average person, there is not enough there," says financial adviser Paul Merritt. "The discussion turns out to be: What kind of part-time work do you want to do after you retire?"

About 50 percent
Amount of wealth lost by baby boomer households between 2004 and 2009, due to shrinking 401(k) accounts and the real estate collapse

Only 50 percent
Share of working Americans that have tax-sheltered retirement accounts

75 percent
Number of Americans over 65 whose annual income (including Social Security) is less than $34,000, according to a report from the Congressional Research Service. "Furthermore, household income drops precipitously with every decade, and most of the poor in their 80s and 90s are women, who — unless their husbands possessed vast wealth — are very likely to become poorer when they are widowed."

85 percent
Assumed share of a household's pre-retirement income needed to maintain the same standard of living in retirement

Median income, in 2009, for households nearing retirements (with heads aged 60 to 62) that have 401(k)-type accounts

The 85 percent of that salary needed for retirement.

As much as $35,080 a year
Amount Social Security will provide for such a household

Amount needed from other sources to maintain pre-retirement standard of living. "Most 401(k) accounts don't come close to making up that gap,"says E.S. Browning in The Wall Street Journal.

Amount the median 401(k) plan holds, according to the Center for Retirement Research

Amount per year such an account would provide a household, less than 25 percent of the $36,465 needed

9 percent
The current median amount that people contribute to 401(k) plans, including employer contributions, according to Vanguard Group, a leading provider of the plans. "In general, people facing problems today got too little advice, or bad advice," says Browning. "They didn't realize that a 6 percent annual contribution, with a 3 percent company match, might not be enough."

12 to 15 percent
Amount, including employer contribution, that Vanguard recommends people contribute to their 401(k) plan

Sources: Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal

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