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Clark County Treasurer Doug Lasher has been in office 30 years. Challenger Lauren Colas says its time for a change and that her 25 years of business experience makes her a formidable opponent for the longtime incumbent.
During an Oct. 6 joint interview with The Columbians editorial board, Colas criticized Lasher for what she said was poor investment performance.
The treasurers office collects property taxes and assorted revenues from county departments and taxing districts.
It manages the cash, and determines if there are sufficient funds for the issuance of warrants, the equivalent of checks, so those agencies can pay their bills. The office also administers short- and long-term debt financing for the county and taxing districts.
The value of the countys investment pool varies depending the time of year, Lasher said, but its worth approximately $500 million.
Colas said it has averaged a 0.383 percent return.
You can walk into a bank with a $100 bill and open a savings account and get a higher rate of return, Colas said.
The county pool outperformed the state pool, she acknowledged, but thats pretty abysmal, too.
In addition to saying managing a multimillion-dollar investment pool cant be compared to shopping around for the best interest rates for a personal savings account, Lasher said the county runs a very conservative investment pool, prioritizing safety and liquidity over return on investment.
That is what our policy is, and thats what our taxing districts want, he said. They want to make sure when they need to make a payment, they are going to be able to get their dollars out.
A third-party investment adviser reviews the countys investments, said Lasher.
The countys finance committee -- consisting of the county treasurer, county auditor and chairman of the board of county commissioners -- sets the policy.
Colas also criticized Lasher for a weekend-long crash of the countys online Property Information Center in late April, when first-half property taxes were due.
The online system lets people look up all publicly available information about properties countywide. While both of the countys third-party payment vendors were able to accept money, people were unable to first look up their account number on the Property Information Center.
Lasher said the crash, while unfortunate, was out of his hands. The countys GIS department manages the online system, and Lasher said he had asked if it would be possible to have employees monitoring the server after business hours or over the weekend, when he knew people would be using the system in order to pay their property taxes, but was told that wasnt an option.
Colas said she would have been able to work out a solution with the GIS department.
Lasher was appointed in 1984 by county commissioners following the midterm resignation of the county treasurer. He beat an opponent that year to keep the position, and didnt receive another opponent until 2010, when he was re-elected with 54 percent of the vote.
He said he still has goals hed like to accomplish, including installing a point-of-sale system to allow for a true one-stop transaction system, and said voters should return him to office for his knowledge of property tax collection laws and treasury management.
Colas, who serves as a Republican precinct committee officer, has a masters degree in business administration from the University of Washington. She spent 23 years in Alaska before moving to Washington nine years ago, and has worked at public accounting firms as well as smaller, private businesses.
The treasurer oversees a two-year budget of $4.6 million, according to budget manager Bob Stevens.
The office has 25.75 full-time equivalent positions, including the treasurer.
The treasurer earns $100,920 annually, the same salary as the county auditor, assessor and clerk.
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If you dont have a traditional pension through your job and havent been saving a significant amount in a 401(k) or individual retirement account, Social Security is likely to be your largest source of retirement income. Almost all retirees (86 percent) receive Social Security payments, and for over a third (36 percent) of retirees, Social Securityaccountsfor 90 percent or more of their retirement income. The type of lifestyle Social Security alone will provide largely depends on how much you have earned in Social Security benefits and where you live.
The average Social Security benefit for retired workers was $1,294 per month at the end of 2013. A couple who each brought in this amount would have $31,056 in annual Social Security benefits, which will also be adjusted for inflation each year. US News analyzed Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics data to determine where a retired couple age 65 or older could cover their basic expenses, including typical costs for housing, food, utilities, transportation and health care, on this amount.
[See: 10 Places to Retire on Social Security Alone.]
It's important to note that in most places, Social Security alone barely covered these basic expenses. After paying for those five major costs, retirees living on Social Security alone likely won't have much cash left over for recreation, hobbies, clothing, consumer goods or travel. "If they are highly dependent on Social Security, it is not an easy life," says John Palmer, a Syracuse University professor and former public trustee for the Medicare and Social Security programs. "If they own their own home and don't have high medical expenses, they can probably get by."
Retirees would often be much more comfortable if they had income from another source in addition to Social Security, such as personal savings, a part-time job or a traditional pension. Taking steps to maximize your Social Security benefit is also important. "Not collecting until you are in your late 60s, if you can do it, is a good idea," Palmer says. "For every year you retire earlier than that and choose to collect Social Security, your monthly benefit is about 7 to 8 percent less, and for every year you delay up to age 70, your benefit increases by 8 percent."
In expensive cities including San Jose, California,Honolulu and San Francisco, Social Security alone did not cover the basic costs retirees face. "I wouldn't want to try to make it just on Social Security in New York City or the DC area, but in a lot of the rest of the country, the cost of living is substantially lower," says Kenneth Robinson, a certified financial planner for Practical Financial Planning in Cleveland. "Moving has expenses that go along with it, but if you have relatives who live in a less expensive place than where you are now, you might want to consider a move."
In these cities, a household with typical expenses and two average Social Security checks coming in could get by on Social Security income. Here are 10 places where it's possible for retirees to cover basic costs on Social Security alone:
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albuquerque homeowners age 65 and older pay a median of $1,078 per month if they have a mortgage and just $368 monthly if they have paid off the mortgage. Senior citizen renters pay a median of $686 monthly to live in Albuquerque. The city also provides many services to retirees who don't have a lot of extra cash. There are six senior centers where people age 50 and older can become members for just $13 a year. The Albuquerque 50+ Games is an athletic competition that includes bocce ball, tennis and pickleball exclusively for people 50 and older. And New Mexico residents age 65 and older can take classes at the University of New Mexico for just $5 per credit hour.
The low housing costs in Texas are drawing people to the state. A home in Austin costs retirees a median of $1,395 monthly with a mortgage and $545 if they own their home debt-free. The median rent for retirees age 65 and older is $887 monthly. Texas doesn't have a state income tax, but it's important to carefully consider the property tax you might face on any home purchase. This state capital city typically has mild and sunny winters that largely eliminate high heating bills, although you may pay significant cooling costs during the hottest summer months. Seniors age 65 and older even qualify for a tuition wavier on up to six credit hours at the University of Texas at Austin.
Buffalo, New York
If you can tolerate the cold and snowy winters in this upstate New York city, you'll be rewarded with a very low cost of living. Senior citizen homeowners pay just $466 monthly in housing costs if they have paid off their mortgage and $1,009 monthly if they are still making payments on their home. The typical rent for retirees age 65 and older is $611 monthly. The City of Buffalo also provides a senior discount card that entitles retirees to a percentage off their purchases when they shop at local businesses, including restaurants, salons and pharmacies.
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Source: Flickr user Justin.
The fact that the United States is an economic superpower is beyond dispute.
There are a number of things Americans simply do really, really well compared to the rest of the world. The US is leading the world in high-technology products, its the leading stomping ground for corporate investors, its home to the worlds most followed stock exchanges, and it lays claim to 17 of the worlds top 20 universities, according to a survey by Jaotong University.
Where the US falls far short
But, for all of the United States glory, we really, really stink when it comes to saving money.
According to data from the US Department of Commerce found at the St. Louis Federal Reserve, the July personal savings rate was just 5.7%, up 0.3% from the 5.4% savings rate reported in May. Admittedly, this is considerably higher than the sub-2% savings rate of nine years ago, implying that consumers are being a bit more prudent with their paychecks lately.
US personal savings rate. Source: St. Louis Federal Reserve.
Yet US savings rates are abysmal on a historical basis. Between 1999 and 2008 the Eurozone countries averaged an 8.93% household savings rate. Over that same time span, American households managed to sock away just 2.83%!
This lack of savings is a potentially huge problem because it could 1) put families at a severe disadvantage if the economy dips into recession and they have no emergency savings to fall back on, and 2) hamper peoples ability to retire on their own terms. Generally speaking, the earlier you start investing, the more you can use the power of compounding gains to your advantage. Individuals and families who arent saving are potentially leaving huge long-term investment gains on the table.
Saving money: 40% of the nation is doing it wrong
This leads us to Bankrates recently released monthly personal-finances report, the Financial Security Index. For the month of August, Bankrate surveyed 1,003 people and asked them at what age they began saving for their retirement. As you can see below the results were all over the place.
Graph by author. Data Source: Bankrate August Financial Security Index.
Although Bankrate highlighted the fact that college graduates were more than twice as likely to begin saving for retirement in their 20s as people without a college degree, I think the much bigger highlight is the cumulative 41% of respondents who havent started saving, never plan to retire, or started saving in their 50s or 60s.
Using Bankrates return-on-investment calculator, I created the following hypothetical but reasonable scenario to show the power of saving as early as possible:
- All persons start with an initial investment of $0.
- All persons contribute $1,200 annually to their investment portfolio ($100/month).
- The annual rate of return on their portfolio is 7%, which is fairly conservative relative to the stock markets long-term gains.
- All persons pay a tax rate of 15%.
- All persons retire at age 66, currently considered the full retirement age by the Social Security Administration.
Under this scenario I ran return-on-investment calculations for people who began investing at the ages of 20, 30, 40, 50, and 60. Here are the results:
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State Bank of India (SBI), the countrys largest bank, introduced on Friday personalised savings accounts for anyone below 18 years of age.
The PSU-lender introduced this product three months after the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) issued guidelines allowing minors over 10 years to operate bank savings accounts independently and use facilities such as ATMs and cheque books.
Pehli Udaan is a singly operated savings bank account for a minor aged 10 years and above and who can sign uniformly, while Pehla Kadam is a savings bank account for minors of any age operated jointly with his/her parent or guardian, SBI said in a statement.
Specially branded passbook, cheque book have been designed for these products. All the account holders will be given an exclusively designed personalised photo ATM-cum-Debit card, it said.
Other features include internet banking with limited transaction facilities like bill payment, opening of fixed deposit, recurring deposits, etc. with per day transaction limit of Rs 5,000, it said.
Besides, such account holders can avail the benefits of mobile banking with limited transaction facilities like bill payment, top-ups with per day transaction limit of Rs 2,000.
Auto sweep with a minimum threshold of Rs 20,000 and in multiples of Rs 1,000 with a minimum of Rs 10,000, it said.
While launching these products SBI Chairperson Arundhati Bhattacharya emphasised the importance of cultivating savings habits from childhood, managing and spending money wisely and also stressed upon the importance of inculcating good spending habits early in life.