Category Archives: Opinion

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Practical Money Matters – January 28, 2015

By Jason Alderman

Considering Life Without Owning a Car

Most baby boomers couldn’t envision their early adult years without a car. However, times are changing and younger commuters are leading the way.
According to an October study (http://uspirg.org/reports/usp/millennials-motion) by U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) and the Frontier Group, millennials – those born between 1983 and 2000 – are driving significantly less than older Americans. Many post-college drivers swimming in college debt are opting for urban living (http://time.com/72281/american-housing/) where walking, biking and mass transit tend to be easier options. Increasingly, those with a temporary need for four-wheel transportation can do so by smartphone.
Today, there are many options to conventional car ownership, but it’’s important to match solutions and their specific costs to your needs. Here’s a road map for exploring what’s right for you.
Start with the cost of driving. If you already drive and budget carefully, you will have an idea of what driving costs you can incur each year in financing, fuel, fees, maintenance and insurance. For averages related to a range of vehicles, look to the American Automobile Association’s (AAA) latest “Your Driving Costs” statistics. Keep in mind that smart car ownership doesn’t always mean “new.” Online references like Edmunds.com and Kelley Blue Book can help you spot used vehicles that hold their value and keep operating costs reasonable.
Would leasing be cheaper? The buy-versus-lease question has evolved over the years and many people have strong opinions about which option is better. The answer depends on your personal situation and how you plan to use the vehicle, so consider the pros and cons (www.practicalmoneyskills.com/buyorlease). Many people like leasing because they can often lease a more expensive car than they could afford to buy with no down payment. But failing to observe lease restrictions can cost plenty. Remember that all leases can be negotiated and it’s important to review the terms and fine print very closely.
Consider ride- or car-sharing. A decade ago, if you asked someone about ride-sharing or car-sharing, most would assume you were talking about carpooling. Two newer commercial options are accessible by smartphone: Ride-sharing matches car owners with passengers who need a ride at a moment’s notice, much like a taxi or private car service. Car-sharing is a new spin on the old daily and weekly car rental model. Car-sharers join a service that allows them to reserve and rent a vehicle in their neighborhood for a few hours or extended periods, such as over a weekend. However, keep in mind that some ride-sharing services may adjust fees at peak times and car-sharing companies charge steep penalties if you return rentals late or in less-than-desired condition.
Look to your employer. Commuter tax benefits allow you and your employer to save. If you plan to drive to work regularly, check out parking subsidies. If you combine driving and mass transit, check both parking and public bus or rail subsidies. Talk to your human resources department about these options and refer to Internal Revenue Service Publication 15-B for more information.
Telecommute. Many employers looking to reduce commercial rents and onsite employee costs are increasingly relying on telecommuting options for their workers. Telecommuting isn’t for everyone, but evaluate your employer’s program, talk to fellow workers about all the pluses and minuses and see if it’s a good fit for you in terms of time use and vehicle cost. A mix of telecommuting days and mass transit or ride- or car-sharing options may make car ownership less crucial.
Bottom line: Getting rid of a car is a big decision, particularly if you’re used to the convenience of having wheels at all times. But between newer forms of mass transit and new technology-driven, transport-on-demand services, now might be the easiest time to consider making it happen.

View Point – January 28, 2015

Soybean Association: Water Quality Top Legislative Priority

“Water quality is at the forefront of our minds and we support proposed funding that will enable farmers to implement practices and carry out environmentally conscious efforts,” said Wayne Fredericks, Iowa Soybean Assocation (ISA) president-elect and public affairs committee chairman. “It’s also time to work on new fuel tax alternatives that could fund the maintenance of our bridges and roads.”
Fredericks noted that ISA is working with other commodity groups and organizations to generate ideas for securing funding for transportation infrastructure initiatives. The timing seems right because Governor Branstad has indicated he will support legislation to increase funding for Iowa’s road and bridge maintenance.
“As shown by recent revenues, agriculture is clearly an economic driver for Iowa,” said Fredericks who farms near Osage. “Investments in research and infrastructure are vital to keeping agriculture strong, even during a period of lower grain prices. ISA will continue to support strategic investments in agricultural infrastructure.”
Improving environmental performance also remains a priority for the ISA. Fredericks said the extensive on-farm and environmental databases that ISA maintains is a valuable resource for farmers and legislators as they study the issue and identify practices that have a quantifiable impact on water quality.
“We concentrate on providing information for legislators,” said Carol Balvanz, ISA policy director. “We plan to participate heavily in the negotiations surrounding both road funding and funding for continuing Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy.”
Other ISA policy priorities include:

Disseminating information generated by the Soy Transportation Coalition to pursue a state bridge evaluation study to determine whether rural bridge embargoes have been correctly assessed. By using instrumentation to physically assess bridge strength, Iowa may be able to reduce the number of bridges that need replacement and repair across the state.
Encouraging legislation that would implement a state income tax credit for farmers who spend their own money on water quality and soil-saving efforts.
Working with the Ag Appropriations committee to obtain approval for the Integrated Farm and Livestock Management (IFLM) program which will be leveraged with checkoff and industry dollars to provide more research of benefits to farmers and the state as a whole.
Supporting funding for the ISU Ag Experiment Station and ISU Extension.

Letter to the Editor – HPEA Executive Board

To the Editor:

The Hawkeye Professional Educators Association HPEA Executive Board Faculty members express our appreciation to all voters in our service areas who have supported Hawkeye Community College’s previous public measures. Your support changes lives, and we are so lucky to see it firsthand. Your support enables our main and outlying campuses to be the physical environments in which learning occurs, skills are polished, mentors are connected, and futures emerge. Your support also enables us to connect skilled workers with employers, employers with workforce training, and community members with careers. It is because of your support that Iowa is rich with graduates who serve in so many varied professional and skilled capacities in our communities.
As Faculty, we owe you our gratitude for the facilities and equipment that enrich our ability to serve our students and communities. We are ever conscious that the places we occupy and the equipment we have are a product of your public trust. We appreciate that our students enjoy a safe and comfortable environment enriched with current technology in which to learn and train for the careers they seek. We, as community college faculty, are proud to be connected with a college that places community foremost in its title, mission, and service.
On February 3, 2015, voters in a ten-county region will be asked to consider a $25 million bond issue for Hawkeye Community College. As proposed, Hawkeye plans to provide additional workforce development programs and services for adult students, expand capacity in high-demand fields such as healthcare/advanced manufacturing, and additional career academies in high schools and the College’s outreach centers. And because an existing levy is expiring, homeowners will not see an increase in Hawkeye’s overall tax rate. As Faculty we appreciate your support, and thank you for the ability to serve our communities. Please join us in voting on Tuesday, February 3.

Hawkeye Professional Educators Association (HPEA) Executive Board:
Carol Luvert, president
Jane Wagner, vice president
Rod Holke-Farnam, treasurer
Patty Crowe-Rubino, secretary

Healthy Conversations – January 21, 2015

Technology Can Help Keep New Year’s Resolutions

With the beginning of 2015, thousands of Americans are getting started on their New Year’s resolutions. A number of these resolutions are health related. In fact, losing weight is the most common New Year’s resolution, while staying healthy and quitting smoking come in at No. 5 and No. 7 respectively. It can be difficult to keep many of these resolutions, but there are millions of apps available for download that are perfect for helping you stay on track. Below is a list of apps you can download at little or no cost that might prove helpful in keeping your resolutions, whatever they may be.

Better Exercise Habits
Nike Training Club (Free) Apple App Store and Google Play. This app lets you select a goal and creates several workout options based on that goal. Each workout comes with instructional photos and videos.
GymPact (Free) Apple App Store and Google Play. The GymPact app gives monetary punishment and rewards for attending the gym. Users submit credit card information and pledge to attend the gym a certain number of times each week. Users check in with their phones every time they work out, and each missed session incurs a fine, which helps fund the rewards for those who do make their goals.

Healthier Eating
My Fitness Pal (Free) Apple App Store, Google Play and Windows. With extensive analytic and tracking features, and a database of nearly 4 million foods and exercises, this app allows users to easily note calorie intake and calories burned.
Fooducate ($3.99 for Plus version) Apple App Store and Google Play. Fooducate allows the user to scan barcodes at the super market for a “nutrition grade.” With a database of more than 200,000 packaged foods and a system created by dieticians and scientists, this app makes shopping for healthy food easy.
SparkRecipes (Free) Apple App Store and Google Play. This recipe app features more than 450,000 user-submitted recipes. Recipes can be searched by ratings, cuisine, course prep-time and dietary needs like vegan, gluten-free or low carb. Each recipe includes detailed nutritional information.
These are just a few of the apps available to help you keep your New Year’s resolution. For more tips, visit Wellmark on social media and at www.wellmark.com.