Entries Tagged as 'Finance'

Taxing Non-Profit

The red ink on the balance sheets of many state and local governments seems to be causing them to re-think the tax-exempt status of many non-profit organizations.

There seems to be every thing from legal/administrative challenges to organizations non-profit status to requests to non-profit organizations for tax “donations”.  Some localities are considering totally revoking non-profit exemptions, and others are simply creating hidden fees for services that are not exempt-able.

Clearly we as American’s need to re-think the non-profit tax exempt status totally.

Personally I think tax exemption for an organization should work more like “homestead exemption” — that they can be allocated a given amount of tax credit by each of their “supporters”.

Consider a system where every American is allocated a non-profit tax exemption that they can transfer to any organization (or split between organizations) that they desire; or choose not to… this gives each non-profit the ability to have a tax exemption proportional to their supporters.

What this prevents is large non-profit organizations (including faith based organization) from operating for-profit businesses or holding large tracts of real estate on which no tax is paid… but for modest non-profit organizations there would likely be minimal tax impact…

I personally believe that organizations that help society should be encouraged and supported – but organizations that simply try and evade taxes should not force the general public to support them.

Take a hard look at non-profits; ask how much of every dollar provided to them actually is delivered to the cause it is to help; ask how many employees are supported by the organization and whether their salaries are comparable those employed by for profit; and ask the same of the administrators of non-profit and who well they are compensated…

Originally posted 2010-05-27 02:00:45.

My Admiration

There are three (living) individuals who I have a great deal of respect and admiration for.

They all happen to be Americans, and they all happen to be male — but neither of those are really factors in why they have earned my respect and admiration.

The order below should not be considered random.


Jimmy Carter

Former president of the United States of America, a brilliant man with a deep rooted sense of honor and a desire to improve the human condition.  Quite possibly the last great president the US had; and he should definitely be considered the last to truly serve his country.


Warren Buffet

One of the wealthiest individuals in the world, money is not his defining characteristic.  He has a deep social conscience and has repeatedly displayed a desire to leave the world a better place.  An exemplary model for successful and sustainable business.


Bill Gates

A man I have met (and worked for).  Also one of the wealthiest individuals in the world.  For him, money is not nearly as important as his commitment to doing what he believes is right.  He’s far more of a man who wants to improve the world, than merely change it. Even to his detractors he is consider a man who has had profound influence on shaping the course of human kind.

Originally posted 2010-03-22 02:00:05.

Apple – Double or Nothing?

Yesterday Apple announced another record quarter in sales.  In fact, iPhone sales doubled in Q4 2009 (a good holiday present for Apple).

Tomorrow Apples announces a new tablet computer (at least that’s the rumor of what they will announce).

Google has a lot of ground to catch up with Apple in the phone market, and it certainly doesn’t appear that Apple is going to just stand by and wait for them.

I guess the one thing that Apples numbers show is that there is money to be made in economic hard times if you’ve got something people want.

Originally posted 2010-01-26 01:00:44.

Amazon Merchants

Once again I’ve been disappointed with the “service” and “products” provided by an Amazon merchant.

I’ve ask Amazon how to inhibit the display of any and all items except those sold by them; I don’t care to deal with the questionable merchants that use Amazon’s sites.  And obviously Amazon doesn’t stand behind them either (look over their A-Z Guarantee, and notice that a person who buys an item every day has the same lifetime limits as one who rarely buys — sounds to me like Amazon is afraid to offer a real guarantee — why should I have more confidence).

Anyway, rather than play the game with Amazon I’ve just opened a charge dispute with my credit card company (which in this case happens to be an Amazon credit card).

If Amazon doesn’t have a way to block the display non-Amazon merchandise I’ll close my account (and credit card).

Originally posted 2009-04-08 12:00:24.

Goog-rola

What does $12.5 billion get you in today’s economy?

For Google, it just might get them Motorola Mobility.

For me, I’m wondering what’s going to happen to the Open Handset Alliance.

Motorola is a very large manufacturer of mobile devices (cell phones, smart phones, and tablets) — and it’s roots are over 80 years old.

Google’s CEO Larry Page stated that (at least for the time being) Google intends to run Motorola Mobility as a separate company, and that there will still be the exchange of license fees for Android, and that they will need to bid on manufacturing future Nexus phones just as every other vendor would.

Right…  I believe all that.

My gut tells me this is all subject to change (quickly) that Google will use it’s acquisition of Motorola to change the landscape of Android devices and they won’t be a separate company; while they might not be tightly integrated into Google they will be very coordinated with Google.

One has to wonder, what’s next for Google — a cellular carrier (or maybe a few)…

Originally posted 2011-08-15 10:00:59.

Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union

Much of this post is comprised of excerpts of a letter sent to Chris Rutledge, President/CEO, and Jearil Crawford SVP Operations of Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union, Pensacola, Florida.

Here’s how I opened…

Over the many years I’ve had dealings with financial institutions, it’s generally been my finding that credit unions offer a much better value to a consumer as well as much better service. And further I’ve found that smaller institutions are generally better focused on customer satisfaction.

I can assure you that in the case of Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union the level of service is much worse than many large faceless banks, the focus on customer satisfaction is non-existent, and while the rates your institution pays for deposit account might be good, they in no way make for a better value to a consumer given the nightmarish customer (dis)service which seem to be deeply ingrained in your institutions culture.

What happened?

Well, Gulf Winds offers a higher interest rate (up to the first $15K) in your checking account if you accept electronics statements, make at least one ACH/direct deposit, and do twelve transactions using their (VISA) debit card.

So I stopped on first of July to make one of those twelve transaction, and had my card declined because it was expired.  Sure enough, the expiration date was clearly embossed 06/12 on the card.  But I decided to stop at one more retailer to make sure it gave me the same message and that there was no grace period (though I knew that the magnetic strip would have the same expiration date encoded on it that was embossed on the card)… and sure enough, a second time I got a card expired message from a point of sale terminal.

When I got home, I sent an online message requesting a replacement card.  The reply I got told me the card I had was still good.  WRONG.  I had to send a second message for the exact same issue.  Clearly the customer (dis)service person was in too much of a hurry dismissing customer issues to really care to look into what the issue might be.

Then I was told that I’d have to drive to the corporate branch during business hours; a drive which would be one hundred miles round trip for me; so I ask if it would be possible to transfer to a closer branch (which they indicated yes, but I never actually ask them to do the transfer).

I drove to the corporate branch; stepped in, no one was at the receptionist desk, so I had to wait… finally a young woman told me that the high interest checking account cards weren’t in yet; then she checked again (at my request), and told me my card was at the branch I inquired about having it transferred to; then I ask to speak to someone who actually might have a clue what was going on… and I was ask to wait.

I waited until I’d been at the branch nearly half an hour then left.

One the way back I got a call from a woman there who told me that my card had been at the corporate branch all this time.  And I (not so politely) told her to throw it in the trash, that I would never step foot in a Gulf Winds branch again.

After another half hour I got a call from a man at the branch I normally do business with offering to bring the card to me (he had no idea of the distance), and I told him that Gulf Winds didn’t deserve my business.

I’ve put all this (and more) in a letter (as I said) to Gulf Winds, but to me (since this isn’t the first time I’ve had issues like this with Gulf Winds; nor did the pathetic customer service on this instance only involve one individual)  this is a cultural issue where Gulf Winds people do not take ownership of issues, and only care about going through the motions and moving customers through a (broken) system.

Even though you might be able to get better rates at Gulf Winds than other local institutions, I highly recommend putting your assets in an institution more deserving of your support.

After all, I wasted more than two hours of my life that I will never get back, and will never be compensated for… as far as I’m concerned there’s nothing at Gulf Winds for me.

Originally posted 2012-07-08 02:00:30.

A Pledge of No Privacy

Part of the intent of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (aka the Financial Modernization Act of 1999) and the rules and regulations for federal banking and credit unions was to put into effect requirements on financial institutions1 to safe-guard the personal, confidential, and financial information of their customers2.

On of the main parts of the law was that it required institutions to provide customers with their privacy policy which explained their information sharing and information safeguarding.  However, because the law was heavily effected by lobbying, and even reviewed by large financial institutions before being considered by congress there are cases where institutions aren’t really subject to many limitations on what they can do with your information.

You might find it interesting that every large financial institution I have dealt with since the law was passed (ie Chase, Citi, Bank of America, Barclay, etc) have specifically allowed for an “opt-out” of the sharing for personal information for use both inside and outside the company (effectively limiting the information to be used only as require by law and as necessary for the maintenance of your account).

However, you have to be very careful about smaller institutions.

Credit Unions are in general very customer oriented, and most the time “do the right thing” — particularly when it comes to building a solid, long term customer relationship based on trust and respect.  However, take a look at the “Privacy Pledge” for Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union3 (formerly Monsanto Employees Credit Union) http://www.gogulfwinds.com/page/privacy — WOW — that’s a really nice pledge to no privacy.  In essence what it says is that they’ll use any information they collect on you (both public and non-public) and use it to the full extent allowed by law (I’d guess to profit from) and won’t allow a customer (or consumer) to “opt-out”.

How many ways can you say “non-customer focused”???

The moral of this, don’t assume you’re better off dealing with small “local” financial providers that might seem to have your interests in mind — you might actually end up getting better over all service and respect from a much larger financial provider.

I for one will be re-assessing my financial relationships; and likely terminating a few — and trying to convince congress to stand up to the financial services companies and actually pass a law that protects me.

REFERENCES:

In Brief: The Financial Privacy Requirements of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act

NOTES:

1 The Financial Modernization Act of 1999 apply to banks, credit unions, securities firms, and insurance companies as well as a number of other type of companies providing financial services to consumers and is part of a larger framework of federal, state, and local banking laws.

2 The Financial Modernization Act of 1999 privacy requirements apply to customers; which are defined to be consumers (not business) with which the institution has a “long term” relationship (ie holds an account), and does not necessarily cover all consumers who might interact or transact with an institution.

3 You can find the same type of non-privacy policy at a number of smaller financial institutions; Gulf Winds is particularly sad because they refer to it as a “Privacy Pledge” rather than just a “Privacy Policy”.

Originally posted 2010-07-05 02:00:15.

Occupy Wall Street

Occupy Wall Street
Occupy Wall Street
By Adam Zyglis, The Buffalo News

Originally posted 2011-10-10 02:00:28.

Ups and Downs

Just as the trucking industry tells us that delivery volume has been steadily increasing since the beginning of the years; retailers tell us that consumers are beginning to spend less.

And the Commerce Department announced that the recession was deeper than previously estimated.

Who’s doing the estimates?

Anyone with any sense knew the economy was in bad shape, and that it would likely take a number of years before there was any real improvement, and potentially a decade before we truly recovered.

You have to ask yourself are the people in Washington DC and on Wall Street stupid — or do they just think the American public are so stupid they will believe anything?

Personally I feel this is a catastrophic event in World history that requires leadership to acknowledge it’s severity and begin making long term plans for recovery while creating short term safety nets to keep society afloat.

Just one more sign that anyone who’s been in office in this country isn’t part of the solution — they’re part of the problem.

INCUMBENTS

Originally posted 2010-08-05 02:00:45.

Nothing but the necessities…

In a school district that is struggling to keep teacher’s it’s amazing that that the Santa Rosa County Florida School District can find the money (and need) for 90 iPad2s for administrators (it’s also amazing that there are 90 administrators in a  county with only about 150,000 residents).

I’m glad to see that my tax dollars are well spent on essential items to insure that today’s school children will be properly educated and that the administrators responsible for overseeing that education will have new toys at the disposal to sit mostly unused in their desks — after all, an edict has been issued by the school district that these devices are only to be used in a professional capacity.

I wonder, will it be grounds for immediate termination the first time a games is played on,, a facebook post is made from or personal email is sent via one these essential educational tools — inquiring minds want to know.

My personal feeling would be this money would be better spent offsetting the $4.4 million dollar shortfall for the 2011-2012 school year that is necessitating the layoff of teaching staff — of course, why should I be surprised about iPad2s for administrators, after all most of them just got raises to address the inequities in their pay (I guess they couldn’t afford their own iPad2s — though they seem to expect teachers to buy a great deal of supplies for their classrooms out of their considerably smaller salaries).

Originally posted 2011-08-15 02:00:22.