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Thursday, June 5, 2014

How costs and income generators impact retirement

Negative effects of retirement planning fees
Financial planning expenses reduce available retirement income
By Ed Dressel

If you are trying to maximize your retirement income, one of the most crucial areas to focus on in regards to your IRA and 401(k) income is your insurance and investment costs, which people sometimes overlook or tend to underestimate. According to a study that was conducted by the Society of Actuaries (SOA) and the Stanford Center on Longevity (SCL), these costs are very important and even seemingly minor charges can impact how much retirement income you will generate. You may want to consider using high-quality retirement planning software or work with advisors utilizing such tools in order to help you reduce the costs associated with generating retirement income and forecast growth in a more accurate and efficient manner.

Make the right decision

When you take advantage of the best income generator, you can look forward to a better retirement. A post on CBSNews.com outlines ways to ensure that you select an ideal retirement income generator and get the best deal on that type of financial product. When it comes to income generation, your decision will play a critical role in how much money you will have throughout retirement.


Investors have a lot of options when it comes to selecting a retirement income strategy, some of which include:
  • Systematic Withdrawals - usually associated with IRAs and 401(k)s. Systematic withdrawals are often set up using the "four percent rule," which means that you take out four percent of your assets on a yearly basis and also adjust upwards each year for inflation. This plan gives one a 90 percent chance that there will be retirement income for roughly 30 years.
  • Immediate Annuities - typically a fixed dollar amount. Immediate annuities ensure that you will receive your retirement income regardless of how long you live or what happens in the markets.
  • GMWB Annuities - hybrid products that offer some protection as well as some potential increase. These can allow you can enjoy the perks of both immediate annuities and systematic withdrawals.

In order to benefit from the strategy that works best for you, it is important to thoroughly evaluate them and their associated costs. With retirement planning software and future retirement paycheck analysis, you can develop a solid understanding of your situation and which strategy will work best for you.


to the SOA/SCL study, wise investors now have a better idea of how much their retirement income could grow with different generators. For instance, there is data on six different generators that shows the differences over a 30 year period for a couple that is 65 years old and has $100,000 in retirement savings.

With systematic withdrawals, the report stated that after 20 years, income could be boosted by as much as 21 percent. With regards to immediate annuities, thanks to competitive bidding you could see income increased by 10 to 20 percent. Finally, GMWB annuities could offer a 19 percent increase after 20 years.

Regardless of which method will work best for you, be sure to capitalize on everything that retirement planning software and an ideal income generator can offer.

About the author: Ed Dressel is a financial planning consultant who writes on topics related to Ask Trak calculators, Ask Trak is a financial planning software development company based in Dallas, OR.

Image license: Chris Potter, CC BY-SA 2.0

Top energy-saving gadgets

Home energy efficiency
Small household energy savings add up over time
By Sam Travers

You’ll find hundreds of energy-saving gadgets and gizmos on the market, all promising to save you a packet on your energy bills. But are they really worth your time and money in the first place? We give a run-down of our favourites.

Owl Micro+ Energy Monitor

This small battery-operated device pinpoints your power use around the house and shows which appliances are costing you the most. Rather than saving you energy directly, it can give you the incentive to curb your current energy habits.

The Radiator Booster

This white tube sits on top of your water-filled radiator and uses a small fan to suck up and redistribute lost heat. It works by plugging into a nearby electrical socket.

Eco Showerdrop

A digital calculator which hangs by the shower control and shows the flow of water while you wash. It can be used in combination with a special showerhead designed to provide barely noticeable interruptions to the water flow.

Water tank jackets

By wrapping your water tank in a jacket, you will cut the amount of energy it takes to keep your hot water hot. You can get your hands on a jacket for around £10 and make your money back within 6 months.

Heatkeeper radiator insulation panels

Easy to install, these panels slot behind your radiators and reflect the heat back into the room to save you up to 30% on your heating costs. You can get a pack of 5 panels (enough for 2 - 3 standard sized radiators) for approx. £20.

ECO kettle

This nifty kettle is supported by the Energy Saving Trust and uses 31% less electricity to boil water compared to a standard kettle. It works by boiling exactly the right amount of water and no more. Prices start from £20.

Eco button

A power-saving device for your computer, the Eco Button will switch your computer to ‘energy saving’ mode at the touch of a button. Your computer will switch back on with mouse movement or the press of a keyboard button. The Eco Button costs around £5 - £10 and could save you up to £40 a year.

Eco Flap

Experience unpleasant draughts and rattles in cold or windy weather? You can most likely point the finger at your letter box. The brushes designed to block draughts become worn out over time, so the EcoFlap functions as a draught exclusion method by slotting neatly over your letterbox. Prices start at around £27.


Far more promising than dim energy-saving bulbs we’re used to, the BioBulb saves you money and brings sunshine indoors. This bulb uses 75% less energy than a standard bulb and emits three-times more lumens (a measurement of natural light) to replicate sunlight. A Bio Bulb costs around £10 and can last for up to 10,000 hours.

Once you’ve run an energy price comparison and weighed up switching to a cheaper tariff or supplier, you may want to invest in some of these nifty devices. Chances are you’ll save ever more energy and reduce your carbon footprint at the same time.

About the author: Sam Travers is an eco-warrior of sorts. He works for a green charity and blogs regularly with help and advice for those looking to make the planet a better place.

Image license: Dominque Chappard; Public Domain

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Latin America receives record foreign investment

Latin American foreign direct investment
Foreign Direct Investment helps boost national GDP
By Bradley Shore

Latin America and the Caribbean have experienced a significant boom in foreign direct investment, with just under $185 billion poured into the region last year, an all-time record, the UN stated on Thursday.

The biggest beneficiaries of the surge in foreign investment were Brazil and Mexico, with region-wide figures up 5 per cent year on year until Q4 2013, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) said.

China are one of the main countries that have pushed their investment in Latin America, with a massive 13 per cent ($11.4bn) of their total foreign investments, invested in the region. According to Boston University, in the 8 years, between 2005 and 2013, China has invested $102.2 billion in the region, with an average of $12.8 billion per year. The majority of China’s Latin American investments have been pumped into deepwater oil projects such as Brazil’s offshore ‘Libra’ site, estimated to hold over 12 billion barrels of oil.

Another country keen to jump on the Latin American foreign investment train is Israel, whose government approved a three-year NIS 50 million plan to strengthen its economic ties with at least five Latin American countries, meant to help Israel reduce its dependency on Europe as its primary trading partner. 

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said at Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting that “we are making a very concentrated and focused effort to vary our markets from our previous dependence on the European market, to the growing Asian and Latin American markets, in which Israel needs to take a small market share and bring about growth, employment and social welfare in the State of Israel.”

He added that “this is strategic and - I think - a very promising effort. It has already begun to show results and will continue to do so. I would like all ministers, each in his or her own field, to join this important effort.”
Despite all the positivity around the region, the ECLAC expect the amount of investment to drop in 2014, and have attributed this forecasted drop in FDI to slow economic growth over the last two years and a drop in prices of metal, one of the regions most rewarding exports.

FDI in the region is expected to vary between a 9 per cent drop and a 1 per cent increase in 2014 “depending on whether or not big company acquisitions are carried out.” Brazil, Latin America’s biggest economy, received over a third of the region’s entire FDI in 2013, around $64 billion, almost double that of the second biggest, Mexico, who received $38 billion, much of which can be attributed to Anheuser-Busch InBev’s buyout of Mexico’s Grupo Modelo.

Europe as a group was the main source of FDI, although inflows from crisis-hit Spain, traditionally a major investor in its ex-colonies, were much lower in 2013. Total global FDI in 2013 reached $1.46 trillion, with over $750 million of that being invested in new and emerging economies, according to the UN body.

About the author: Bradley Shore is an experienced travel and investment blogger, he writes for clients such as Emerald Knight trying to share his experiences and help guide people with there investments.

All statistics and quotes obtained from www.reuters.com
Image license: Nazir Amin, CC BY-SA 2.0

There's a phantom in your house and it's costing you big time

Home energy saving tips
Leaving unused gadgets plugged in uses energy
By Rebecca Borchers

You pride yourself on doing your part on saving energy. You always turn out the lights, turn off the water while you're brushing your teeth and set the thermostat to the most efficient temperature. I'm sorry to break it to you, but despite your efforts, countless watts of energy and hundreds of dollars are still being wasted. The culprit? Phantom energy. 

Every time you leave an appliance or electronic of some sort plugged in, it slowly sucks away energy. Now I'm not saying unplug your oven every time you leave your house, but here are five ways to say goodbye to that pesky phantom and truly be energy efficient.


1. Use power strips

Unplugging electronics if you know you will not be using them for an extended period can help cut back on phantom energy usage. Power strips ease this process because it can stay plugged into an outlet with all of your electronics plugged into it. Then when you leave, or are done using the power, you can just press one off button.

There is no point in leaving things plugged in while they are not in use. Even leaving your cellphone charger plugged into an outlet without your phone attached can use energy. Do a little research online and find the best power strips for your needs.


2. Look for products that use less power in standby

When you are shopping for electronics, there can sometimes be an option to buy something that uses less energy when it is in standby mode. Companies are switching to this option as the attention is brought to this issue of phantom energy usage.

You should be looking for EnergyStar certified products. They can be trusted to make a significant impact on your monthly power bill.


3. Only leave on electronics you use daily

If there is a room in your house or multiple rooms that you are never in think about shutting off and unplugging the electronics that are in those rooms completely. Unplug TVs and cable boxes most importantly. They can be major players in phantom energy usage.


4. Buy some gadgets

There are things such as smart power strips that can help fight this battle of phantom energy usage. They have all kinds of smart power strips that will turn off and on depending on various situations.

In a recent article, the Alliance to Save Energy (ASE) discusses some of these smart power strips. Timer-equipped, current sensing and occupancy sensing are smart power strips talked about within the article.

Timer-equipped smart power strips are what they sound like-- you can program them to turn off on their own at a certain time and turn on at a certain time. These are great if you are out of town because they can control the light to turn on, so it looks like you are home! This is great for protecting your home from burglary, too.

Occupancy-sensing smart power strips just have motion detectors to turn on the electronics around you, or at least turn them on to standby mode, so they are ready to for use.

Current-sensing smart power strips are probably the coolest out of these three. They can sense when something is not being used for a while and has been in standby. It turns the electronics off that are in standby for a significant amount of time.


5. Gain more knowledge about phantom energy usage

Buying your own power meter can help you discover what is using the most energy in your home, which can be an interesting learning experience. You can share what you find out with friends and family and help them out, too.

Finding out what is using the most phantom energy usage and doing something about it is great on your pockets. You can feel better about your usage and feel like your effort has paid off.

About the author: Along with the majority of her fellow Gen-Y's, Rebecca Borchers is fully aware of the mess preceeding generations have left the future. Between a LEED certified house complete with solar panels and her trusty bike, she does her best to leave as little of a footprint on this earth as possible. While she isn't out saving the world, you can find Rebecca sitting at a quaint coffee shop exercising her talents as a professional writer for Bob Heinmiller Solar. Be sure to follow her on Google+!

Image license: Scot Rumery, CC BY-SA 2.0