Anne Schieber

Running Bet with Jack

April 30th, 2010 at 7:16 pm by under Uncategorized

I have a “running” bet with Jack Doles who, as you may know, is doing his first 25K River Run.  Jack tells me he really doesn’t like running and that when this nuisance race is over, he’s quitting.  My money is down he’ll do otherwise.

Why?  Because Jack has yet to experience true running nurvana.  I’m not talking the “second wind” you get when you’re running, when you feel so energetic and powerful, you feel like you can run a marathon and back.  That never happens,by the way.   It is a rare good day when you feel good while running.

I’m talking the nurvana you notice when you’re not running.  Ask anyone who has had an injury, what it feels like when they’re benched for a week or more.  Their injury is gets better but their mind is a mess.  All of a sudden, they feel more stress.  They’re cranky.  They feel fat and unworthy.   And this, I bet is what’s going to happen to Jack and why he will find it impossible to give up running.

Running’s biggest benefit, at least for me, is the endorphin fix you get after you run.  Every time I complete a good, long run, something happens to my head.  The world is a little easier to conquer.  My teenage daughters  become reasonable and selfless.  Road construction’s not so much a bother and the bills become manageable, even fun.    Yes, Jack’s going to miss running.  Check in with him late May or June.   I look forward to his 25K next year.


Begging for Higher Fares?

March 5th, 2010 at 2:42 pm by under News

Maybe it’s the airport’s fault that fares in Grand Rapids are so high.  That’s what James Terlecki was wondering when I was compiling my story on the AirTran effect last month.  Terlecki knows fares like no other.  He has flown hundreds of thousands of miles in his lifetime, many flights out of Grand Rapids.  Like many, Terlecki has been frustrated by rising fares and declining service out of the Ford Airport.  He’s not sure if the introduction of Air Tran in May will knock down fares as much as everyone’s expecting.

Terlecki says it may be time to reevaluate the way West Michigan funds its biggest airport.  It is one of the few airports in the country that does not impose a county or regional tax to cover operating expenses.  Instead, it relies on the fees it charges airlines, concession stands, and parking.  Forty two percent of the airport’s operating budget comes from the airlines alone and Terlicki says that’s too much for the airlines to bear given today’s tight profit margins. Terlicki believes the airlines do what any business would do in that situation – pass the fee onto its customers. 

Terlecki and others have raised the idea of imposing a couple of dollar tax on hotel rates, for example, and using that money to help subsidize airport operating expenses.  What’s more, he’d like to see the tax apply to hotels in the entire 9 county region that the airport supposedly serves.

“That should do it,” he says.

Terlecki says he has brought the idea up at several commission meetings but there’s been little interest.  He believes the airport authority does not want to lose control.  If you tax a broader region, those local governments could then have say in operation.

Brian Piccolt, the Ford Airport’s Financial chief says in his time he has never heard the airlines complain about landing fees.  He says they are less than 50 dollars a square foot and that they are only 4 – 5 percent of an airline’s total cost in doing business in Grand Rapids.   There is also a belief that those who use the airport should be the ones who pay for it.   Even if it means having to cover the airline’s higher operating expenses to do business out of Ford.  For now the issue is in a “holding pattern,” but if Air Tran, Frontier, Allegient don’t have and impact soon, there is no doubt that discussion on this issue will “take off.”


Coming to Terms with Loss

February 11th, 2010 at 11:54 am by under News

There is a time after major loss when you question everything. There’s the shock and grief of course, and the obvious question, why.  But for me, it’s been more the “what.”  What if you did this, or that, would the outcome have been different?

I poured through medical records.  I ordered an autopsy.  I wanted to know what we missed, what turned my husband’s case from a set of seemingly manageable complications into a terminal lost cause. I was not use to seeing doctors dumbfounded.  When they told me after he went into respiratory distress that would not survive without a ventilator, I didn’t believe them.  If his lungs were so bad, why didn’t anyone mention a lung transplant, for example. After all the rescue attempts, why did the road stop here? (more…)


Will non-residents fight city tax hike?

February 5th, 2010 at 5:34 pm by under News

Higher Income Tax for the City of Grand Rapids

This week, City Manager Greg Sundstrom announced intentions to increase the city’s income tax.  Until recently, the trend in some cities has been to eliminate the personal income tax -  not add to it.  The thinking has been by reducing income tax, cities might be in a better position to attract employers.  After all, city income tax makes paychecks smaller and that could put pressure on employers to cough up the difference.

There are 22 cities in Michigan with an income tax.  Grand Rapids charges residents 1.3% and .65% for non-residents who work in the city. The proposal would raise rates to 1.5% for residents and .75% for non-residents.  On a salary of $50,000 a year, the increase would cost residents an extra $100 per year, non-residents, an extra $75 annually.

Income tax raised $58,259,600 for the city in 2008.  Roughly one-third of that, $17,023,591 came from non-residents.  The remainder came from residents and business. Sundstrom wants to put the increase proposal on a ballot, however only residents will be allowed to vote.  It will be interesting to see how the city’s non-resident workers.  Will they ask, taxation without representation?


Dollar Store Daze

June 4th, 2009 at 12:31 pm by under News

Tonight we look at prices at those “dollar” stores.  Sales at these stores are increasing which prompted us to see if these places really can save you money.  The danger, however, is falling into that “bargain” trap which we’ll explain more in detail tonight.  Interestingly, Dollar Tree, the largest chain in this genre, attracts  more affluent consumers -  than budget shoppers.  What does that tell you?


Buying a House or Buying an Albatross

June 4th, 2009 at 12:26 pm by under News

A home is the biggest investment you’ll make.  Unfortunately, it is the most emotional one which is never a good ingredient for making a wise money decision.  In any case, it may not matter in Michigan.

Have any of you applied the 6% rule mentioned in my story last night? (your house is suppose to gain 6% in value every year,  2 to 3 percent from plain old inflation, 2% due to normal population growth, and 1 % from other factors like changes in local personal income levels). It can be pretty shocking.

My house should be selling double the price I paid for it 14 years ago.  I’m lucky I could get 27% more than I paid, and I’ve owned the home 14 years.

It’s an big problem if you have to leave the state.   I looked at this issue once before  in 2007 and heard from a former Pfizer executive who moved to California to take a high paying executive job.  Because this person was unable to sell their Kalamazoo home at a break even level (or sell it at all!), this person was renting, paying twice as much as the mortgage payment in Michigan.  This person could make it work because they were getting paid a lot.  Not everyone is in this category, and I’m afraid as more jobs continue to get lost,  people will start seeing their Michigan homes as an albatross.


Put on your Brakes: $3.6 Million Rest Stop Opens

May 21st, 2009 at 6:23 pm by under Uncategorized

Maybe I’m not up to speed on these things  but a rest stop costing $3.6 million dollars? I’m referring to the new rest stop MDOT will unveil Friday on eastbound I-196 between Zeeland and Hudsonville.  It’s a nice looking building.  There’s lots of new concrete  and I’m sure it was time for new toilets but aren’t we suppose to be putting the brakes on this kind of thing or at least finding other uses for this money like fixing pot holes without having to raise the gas tax even more?

MDOT says the 30 year old building was in deep need of updating.  It must have been in really bad shape because the whole building had to be knocked down.   My house is 30 years old.  Should I be knocking it down?  The new building is more “energy efficient.”   When will we see the return on this investment?  I hope it’s sooner than 30 years.  The new rest stop  is now “no longer in the flight path of planes at a nearby airport.”   I bet the motorists stopping for a few minutes are relieved to hear that.  And why stop there?  Why not move the entire highway?  And nearby houses , the farms and the stores?

Some of the money went to pay for more truck parking.   There’s also room more room for tourists.  We can appreciate that in a recession.     MDOT  points out that 85 percent of the money is coming from the federal government.  Glad to hear that.  I thought maybe is might have been tax dollars or something.


What’s the beef about food prices?

April 20th, 2009 at 5:47 pm by under Your Money

“Why are you making so much fuss about food prices? “a member of my family asks.  For the past month, I’ve done several reports on food prices, first comparing prices among the various grocers.  Tonight, we look to see if a retailer could be even WalMart’s prices.

Food prices are compelling simply because so much of the family budget goes to paying for food.  Most consumers became aware of the fact when gas prices skyrocketed last year and there was less change in the purse to buy other stuff, like bread and milk.  I looked at my own personal budget and found my yearly bill for food was exceeding $11,000 a year!

Until now, I paid no attention to food prices.  Sure, I noticed when things went on sale, and I’d stock up.   If I saw the same item elsewhere for 30 or 40 cents less, it didn’t really bother me.  Time and convenience were more important.  I shopped in places where I could get in and out quickly.  I also liked the little services,  like someone carrying my bags to the car.

But then retirement funds plunged and more friends of mine were losing jobs.  I decided it was time to pay attention to food price and so I’ve been on a mission.  My goal is to trim at least $2000 off my food bill this year and if the surveys we presented mean anything, it is possible to do that.

Tonight, you will see how the lowest priced grocer we found is nearly 48 percent lower than the highest priced grocer in our survey.   On my grocery bill, that’s a savings of nearly $5000 a year.   But like everything in life, there is trade-off.  There are some brands I simply cannot give up.  The deep discounters don’t carry everything I need or want, so then I have to evaluate the loss in time I’ll suffer going from store to store.

I think it’s worthwhile to pay at least one visit to the deep-discounters, just to see what you don’t get that you’re really paying for everywhere else (someone has to be paid to collect your cart in the parking lot!)


Wal Mart Raises Ire

March 24th, 2009 at 11:39 am by under Uncategorized

As I expected, there was strong response when I reported last night that WalMart’s food prices came in 28% lower than the competition.

GVSU Marketing Professor Ben Rudolph told me  about this love/hate relationship that America has with its largest company:

“…there  are so many people that hate Wal Mart, actually.   People can get bargains and actually raise their standard of living by shopping there and if you’re having a hard time making a living, it’s wonderful what they do.  On the other hand if you’re affluent, it is sort of bare bones.”

Here’s one letter from a viewer:

Your story on the price of a list of groceries at various stores in an area of Grand Rapids just ran on the 5 o’clock news.  What you failed to mention is that, although WalMart had the lowest price for the items on your shopping list, they use a BIG hammer to force their suppliers to reduce their prices down to a point that very nearly leaves the suppliers with no profit.  The other stores in your story, since they are smaller and have less “buying power,” do not have the access to a “big hammer.”  Years ago, WalMart made it a point to advertise that most of their products were “Made In The USA.”  Just go in any WalMart store now, pick up ten items at random, and see where they were made.  You will find that most of the items were made in China.  Although manufacturing employees in the US must become comfortable with earning less of an hourly wage than what they have been enjoying for years, US employees will not be willing to accept the 10-to-20-cents-per-hour that Chinese employees receive.  The bottom line is that WalMart will do anything to maximize the difference between their buy prices and sell prices for all of the products they sell (the WalMart bigwigs are just as greedy as any of the bigwigs on Wall Street).  The citizens of the US who have understood this reality about WalMart have already stopped giving WalMart business.  Many citizens of the US could care less–they want the LOWEST PRICE irrespective of other considerations.  The rest of the citizens of the US have not yet realized what WalMart is doing.  It is VERY UNFAIR for your station to characterize WalMart as being the low-cost source when you look only at the bottom line.  If you are not willing to look at the TOTAL PICTURE, do not do the story.  You have a responsibility to your viewers, and to the public in general, to provide an ACCURATE picture of EVERY story you do!
My response,  I  play no favorites.  Our survey looks strictly at price.  There are other factors that may be more important to shoppers and the retailers know that, I believe.   We will be staying on top of prices  on all things and I welcome your suggestions for future comparisons.
Please email me at anne.schieber@woodtv.com


Temporary pain for permanent gain

February 24th, 2009 at 11:09 am by under News

Temporary gain for permanent gain.  I’m hoping that is the case with the stock market.  The only thing that keeps me hopeful are those reinvested dividends in my retirement account.  With stock prices so low, you can really rack up those shares so when the market comes back…..

I don’t know what to think about the market.  It is no doubt unsettling.  Some retired people I know are trying to gain back some of their losses by selling now and reinvesting shortly later.   They calculate that the losses have been so great that they can now offset  their capital gains for the rest of their lives.    That’s a big tax savings, especially if you believe the capitol gains tax rate will go up. (more…)